Marx-Engels Correspondence 1893

Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge


Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

January 18, 1893

Here there has been a Conference in Bradford of the Independent Labour Party, which you know from the Workman's Times. The S.D.F. on the one hand and the Fabians on the other have not been able, with their sectarian attitudes, to absorb the mass pressure for socialism in the provinces, so the foundation of a third Party was quite good. But the pressure has now become so great, especially in the industrial districts of the north, that the new Party came out already at this first Congress stronger than the S.D.F. or the Fabians, if not stronger than both put together. And as the mass of the membership is certainly very good, as the centre of gravity lies in the provinces and not in London, the home of cliques, and as the main point of the programme is ours, Aveling was right to join and to accept a seat on the Executive. If the petty private ambitions and intrigues of the London would-be-greats are slightly held in check here and the tactics do not turn out too wrong-headed, the Independent Labour Party may succeed in detaching the masses from the Social-Democratic Federation and in the provinces from the Fabians too, and thus forcing unity.

The Fabians are an ambitious group here in London who have understanding enough to realise the inevitability of the social revolution, but who could not possibly entrust this gigantic task to the rough proletariat alone and are therefore kind enough to set themselves at the head. Fear of the revolution is their fundamental principle. They are the "educated" par excellence. Their socialism is municipal socialism; not the nation but the municipality is to become the owner of the means of production, at any rate for the time being. This socialism of theirs is then represented as an extreme but inevitable consequence of bourgeois Liberalism, and hence follow their tactics of not decisively opposing the Liberals as adversaries but of pushing them on towards socialist conclusions and therefore of intriguing with them, of permeating Liberalism with Socialism, of not putting up Socialist candidates against the Liberals but of fastening them on to the Liberals, forcing them upon them, or deceiving them into taking them. That in the course of this process they are either lied to and deceived themselves or else betray socialism, they do not of course realise.

With great industry they have produced amid all sorts of rubbish some good propagandist writings as well, in fact the best of the kind which the English have produced. But as soon as they get on to their specific tactics of hushing up the class struggle it all turns putrid. Hence too their fanatical hatred of Marx and all of us – because of the class struggle.

These people have of course many bourgeois followers and therefore money, and have many active workers in the provinces who will have nothing to do with the S.D.F. But five-sixths of the provincial members agree more or less with our point of view and at the critical moment will certainly fall away. In Bradford, where they were represented, they several times decisively declared themselves against the London Executive of the Fabians.

You see that it is a critical moment for the movement here and something may come of this new organisation. There was a moment when it nearly fell into the clutches of Champion-who consciously or unconsciously works just as much for the Tories as the Fabians do for the Liberals – and of his ally Maltman Barry, whom you knew at the Hague (Barry is now an acknowledged and permanent paid Tory agent and manager of the Socialist wing of the Conservatives!) – see the Workman's Times for November and December. But in the end Champion preferred to start publishing his Labour Elector again and has thus placed himself in opposition to the Workman's Times and the new Party.

Hardie brought off a clever stroke by putting himself at the head of this new Party, while John Burns, whose complete inactivity outside his constituency has already done him a lot of harm, committed a fresh piece of stupidity by holding back here too. I am afraid he is heading straight for an impossible position.

The fact that here too people like Keir Hardie, Shaw, Maxwell and others are pursuing all sorts of secondary aims of personal ambition is of course obvious. But the danger arising from this becomes less according to the degree in which the Party itself becomes stronger and gets more of a mass character, and it is already diminished by the necessity for exposing the weakness of the competing sects. Socialism has penetrated the masses in the industrial districts enormously in the last years and I am counting on these masses to keep the leaders in order. Of course, there will be stupidities enough, and cliques of every kind too, but so long as it is possible to keep them within decent limits – – .

At the worst, the foundation of the new organisation has this advantage that unity will be more easily brought about between these competing sects than between two which are diametrically opposed.