Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892

Engels To August Bebel


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 355;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

July 7, 1892

In brief, the Labour Party has declared itself clearly and unequivocally [362], meaning that in the next election the two old parties will offer it alliance. The Tories are out of the question so long as they are led by the present dolts. But the Liberals must be considered, and likewise the Irish. Since the public outcry for that ridiculous business with adultery [363], Parnell has suddenly become friendly to the workers, and the Irish gentlemen in Parliament will follow suit once they see that only the workers can get them Home Rule. Then there will be compromises, and the Fabians [364], conspicuous by their absence in this election, will come forward again. But that is unavoidable in the circumstances. There is headway, as you see, and that is what matters.


362. Engels is referring to the success of the workers and socialists in the Parliamentary elections in England in the summer of 1892. The English workers’ and socialist organisations nominated a large number of candidates, three of whom — Keir Hardie, John Burns and J. H. Wilson — were elected to Parliament. The elections were won by the Liberals.

363. Engels is referring to the persecution by English and Irish reactionaries of C.S. Parnell, the leader of the Irish national movement. At the end of 1889, the Liberal Unionists (former members of the Liberal Party, who left it in 1886 because they opposed Home Rule) had Parnell brought to court on a charge of adultery. The court (November 1890) found Parnell guilty and this let loose a smear campaign against him. Both Liberal and Conservative M.P.s demanded that he be removed from the post of leader of the Irish Parliamentary faction. The attacks against Parnell, which played on bourgeois hypocrisy in questions of morals, pursued the aim of removing him from the political scene and weakening the Irish national movement. The smear campaign against Parnell was supported by the Right wing of the Irish faction and the Irish Catholic clergy, who feared his influence and did not share his aspirations for Home Rule. All this led to a split of the Irish Parliamentary faction and weakened the Irish national movement. The campaign was largely responsible for Parnell’s early death in 1891.

364. The Fabian Society was founded in 1884. The name was derived from Quintus Fabius Maximus, a Roman general of the 3rd century B.C., nicknamed the “Cunctator” (or Delayer) because he achieved success in the second Punic war against Hannibal by avoiding direct battle and using dilatory tactics. Most of the Fabians were bourgeois intellectuals, chief among whom were Sidney and Beatrice Webb. They rejected Marx’s teaching on the class struggle of the proletariat and the socialist revolution and maintained that a transition from capitalism to socialism could be effected by petty reforms and the gradual transformation of society, through so-called municipal socialism. The Fabian Society diffused bourgeois influence among the working class and propagated reformist ideas in the English labour movement. Lenin defined Fabianism as “the most consummate expression of opportunism and of liberal-labour policy.” In 1900 the Fabian Society was incorporated in the Labour Party. “Fabian socialism” is still one of the sources of the ideology of class conciliation.