Marx-Engels Correspondence 1893

Engels to Sorge

Source: Science and Society Volume II, Number 3, 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins.

London, March 18, 1893.

Dear Sorge:

We were at the seashore for two weeks, in Eastbourne; we had splendid weather, and came back very much refreshed. Now we can get back to work. But now, to be sure, visiting time starts. Next Sunday (a week from tomorrow) there is the Brussels Conference regarding the Zurich Congress, so Bebel will drop in for a few days on his way back, and the Lafargues will come at about the same time. I am glad to have that youngster here again in order to talk over French affairs thoroughly with him. Still, enough time is left me to finish Volume III, as the chief difficulties are now behind me.

The matter of the Socialiste has been settled.

The silver business in America does not seem to be able to settle down otherwise than through a crash. Nor does Cleveland seem to have the power and courage to break the necks of this bribery ring. And it would be really good if things came to a head.

A nation — a young nation — so conceited about its “practice” and so frightfully dense theoretically as the Americans are, gets thoroughly rid of so deep-rooted a fixed idea only through its own sufferings. The plausible idea of imagining that there isn’t enough money in the world because one hasn’t any when one needs it — this childish idea common to the paper currency swindle la Kellogg and to the silver swindle is most surely cured by experiment and bankruptcy, which may also take a course that is very favorable for us. If only some sort of tariff reform is effected this fall, you may be quite satisfied. The rest will follow; the main thing is that American industry is enabled to compete in the world market.

Here things are going very well. The masses are unmistakably in motion; you are getting the details from Aveling’s somewhat longwinded reports in the Volkszeitung. The best evidence is that the old sects are losing ground and must fall into line. The Social-Democratic Federation has actually deposed Mr. Hyndman; he is allowed to grumble and complain a bit about international politics here and there in Justice, but he is finished — his own people have found him out. The man provoked me personally and politically wherever he could for ten years; I never did him the honor of answering him, in the conviction that he was man enough to ruin himself, and in the end I have been justified. After all the ten years’ persecution they have recently asked Tussy to write reports on the international movement for Justice, which she refused to do, of course, as long as the infamous slanders that Justice has heaped on Aveling and her for years are not publicly withdrawn.

The same thing is happening to the Fabians. The branches in the provinces are outgrowing these people, as well as the S.D.F. Lancashire and Yorkshire are again taking the lead in this movement, too, as in the Chartist movement.

People like Sidney Webb, Bernard Shaw, and the like, who wanted to permeate the Liberals with Socialism, must now allow themselves to be permeated by the spirit of the workingmen members of their own society. They are resisting with might and main, but it’s no use; either they remain alone, officers without soldiers, or they must go along. The former is more likely and also more desirable.

The Independent Labour Party — as the most recent arrival — has brought with it fixed prejudices; it has good elements — the workers of the North in particular — and so far is the most genuine expression of the present movement. To be sure, there are all sorts of funny people among the leaders, and most of the best of them, even have the annoying clique habits of the parliamentary regime, just as with you in America, but the masses are behind them and will either teach them manners or throw them overboard. There are still blunders enough, but the main danger has been weathered, and I now expect rapid progress, which will also react upon America.

In Germany the situation is coming to a crisis. A compromise is hardly possible after the recent reports of the military commission’s sessions; the government is making it impossible for the gentlemen of the Center and the Liberals to change sides, and without forty to fifty of them no majority is feasible. Hence dissolution and new elections. I expect 2,500,000 votes for us, if things go well, as we have grown at a great rate. Bebel expects fifty to sixty seats, as we have the election district gerrymander against us and all the others are combining against us, so that we cannot convert even big minorities into’ majorities on the second ballots. I should prefer the thing to proceed peacefully until 1895, when we would create an altogether different effect, but whatever happens; everything must help us along, from the judge to Little Wilhelm.

F. Wiesen, a young man of Baird, Texas, has asked me for a statement against the putting up of candidates “for President,” as we want to abolish the President and that is a denial of revolutionary principle. I have sent him the enclosed reply; if it be published in curtailed form, please have it printed in the Volkeszeitung.

I trust your health and that of your wife are better now; cordial regards to both of you from Frau K. and your

F. Engels

We have sent you the debate on the future state. The newspapers were sent somewhat irregularly while we were away, but they should be complete.


Mr. F. Wiesen,

Baird, Texas, U. S. A.

Dear Comrade:

London, March 14, 1893.

Accumulated work prevented me from answering your lines of January 29th any earlier.

I do not see what violation of the social-democratic principle is necessarily involved in putting up candidates for any elective political office or in voting for these candidates, even if we are aiming at the abolition of this office itself.

One may be of the opinion that the best way to abolish the Presidency and the Senate in America is to elect men to these offices who are pledged to effect their abolition, and then one will consistently act accordingly. Others may think that this method is inappropriate; that’s a matter of opinion. There may be circumstances under which the former mode of action would also involve a violation of revolutionary principle; I fail to see why that should always and everywhere be the case.

For the immediate goal of the labor movement is the conquest of political power for and by the working class. If we agree on that, the difference of opinion regarding the ways and means of struggle to be employed therein can scarcely lead to differences of principle among sincere people who have their wits about them. In my opinion those tactics are the best in each country that lead to the goal most certainly and in the shortest time. But we are yet very far from this goal precisely in America, and I believe I am not making a mistake in explaining the importance still attributed sometimes to such academic questions over there by this very circumstance.

You may publish these remarks — unabridged.

Yours very sincerely,
F. Engels