Marx-Engels Correspondence 1893

Engels to Sorge

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

London, December 2, 1893.

Dear Sorge:

Many thanks to you and your wife for your friendly wishes and your letter of November 19th.

I am very sorry that you are suffering from gout; I hope it will come around with time. It is a tricky disease.

The repeal of the silver purchase law has saved America from a severe money crisis and will promote industrial prosperity. But I don’t know whether it wouldn’t have been better for this crash to have actually occurred. The phrase “cheap money” seems to be bred in the bone of your Western farmers. First, they imagine that if there are lots of means of circulation in the country, the interest rate must drop, whereby they confuse means of circulation and available money capital, concerning which very enlightening things will come to light in Volume III. Second, it suits all debtors to contract debts in good currency and to pay them off later in depreciated currency. That is why the debt-ridden Prussian Junkers also clamor for a double currency, which would provide them with a veiled Solonic riddance of their debts. Now if they had been able to wait with the silver reform in the United States until the consequences of the nonsense had also reacted upon the farmers, that would have opened many of their dense heads.

The tariff reform, slow as it is in getting started, does seem to have caused a sort of panic among the manufacturers in New England already. I hear — privately and from the papers — of the layoff of numerous workers. But that will calm down as soon as the law is passed and the uncertainty is over; I am convinced that America can boldly enter into competition with England in all the great branches of industry.

The German socialists in America are an annoying business. The people you get over there from Germany are usually not the best — they stay here — and in any event they are not at all a fair sample of the German party. And as is the case everywhere, each new arrival feels himself called upon to turn everything he finds upside down, turning it into something new, so that a new epoch may date from himself. Moreover, most of these greenhorns remain stuck in New York for a long time or for life, continually reinforced by new additions and relieved of the necessity of learning the language of the country or of getting to know American conditions properly. All of that certainly causes much harm, but on the other hand, it is not to be denied that American conditions involve very great and peculiar difficulties for a continuous development of a workers’ party.

First, the Constitution, based as in England upon party government, which causes every vote for any candidate not put up by one of the two governing parties to appear to be lost. And the American, like the Englishman, wants to influence his state; he does not throw his vote away.

Then, and more especially, immigration, which divides the workers into two groups: the native-born and the foreigners, and the latter in turn into (1) the Irish, (2) the Germans, (3) the many small groups, each of which understands only itself: Czechs, Poles, Italians, Scandinavians, etc. And then the Negroes. To form a single party out of these requires quite unusually powerful incentives. Often there is a sudden violent élan, but the bourgeois need only wait passively, and the dissimilar elements of the working class fall apart again.

Third, through the protective tariff system and the steadily growing domestic market the workers must be exposed to a prosperity no trace of which has been seen here in Europe for years now (except in Russia, where, however, the bourgeois profit by it and not the workers).

A country like America, when it is really ripe for a socialist workers’ party, certainly cannot be hindered from having one by the couple of German socialist doctrinaires.

Part I of Volume III (246 pages of ms., dating from about 1850) is ready for the printer. This is between the two of us. It will now go ahead rapidly, I hope.

Cordial regards to your wife and yourself, and wishes for your recovery, from L. K. and

F. Engels