Marx-Engels Correspondence 1894

Engels to Sorge


Source: Marx Engels On Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

London, May 12, 1894

Here things go on as before. No possibility of bringing about any kind of unity among the labour leaders. Nevertheless the masses are moving forward — slowly, it is true, and at first struggling towards consciousness, but unmistakably, the same will happen here as is happening in France and earlier in Germany: unity will be gained by compulsion as soon as a number of independent workers (in particular those not elected with the aid of the Liberals) have seats in Parliament. The Liberals are doing their utmost to prevent this. In the first place, they don’t even extend the suffrage to those who on paper are already entitled to it; on the contrary, in the second place, they are making the electoral registers even more expensive for the candidates than they were before, because they are to be drawn up twice a year and the costs of a proper registration are to be defrayed by the candidates or the representatives of the respective political parties and not by the State; in the third place, they expressly refuse to have the State or the community assume the costs of the election; fourthly, the question of salaries and, fifthly, a second ballot. The preservation of all these old abuses amounts to a direct denial of the eligibility of working-class candidates in three-fourths or more of the constituencies. Parliament is to remain a club of the rich. And this at a time when the rich, because satisfied with the status quo, all become Conservative and the Liberal Party is dying out and getting more and more dependent upon the labour vote. But the Liberals insist that the workers should elect only bourgeois, not workers, and certainly not independent workers.

This is what is killing the Liberals. Their lack of courage estranges the labour vote in the country, reduces their small majority in Parliament to nothing, and if they do not take some very bold steps at the last minute they are most likely doomed. Then the Tories will get in and accomplish what the Liberals really intended to carry out, and not merely promise. And then an independent labour party will be fairly certain.

The Social-Democratic Federation here shares with your German-American Socialists the distinction of being the only parties who have contrived to reduce the Marxist theory of development to a rigid orthodoxy. This theory is to be forced down the throats of the workers at once and without development as articles of faith, instead of making the workers raise themselves to its level by dint of their own class instinct. That is why both remain mere sects and, as Hegel says, come from nothing through nothing to nothing.