Marx-Engels Correspondence 1894

Engels to Plekhanov


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

May 21, 1894

Here things are moving, though slowly and in zigzags. Take for instance Mawdsley, the leader of the Lancashire textile workers. He’s a Tory: in politics a Conservative and in religion a devout believer. Three years ago these gentry were violently opposed to the eight-hour day, today they vehemently demand it. In a quite recent manifesto Mawdsley, who last year was a fierce opponent of any separate policy for the working class, declared that the textile workers must take up the question of direct representation in Parliament, and a Manchester labour newspaper calculated that the Lancashire textile workers might control twelve seats in Parliament in this county alone. As you see, it is the Trade Union that will enter Parliament. It is the branch of industry and not the class that demands representation. Still, it is a step forward. Let us first smash the enslavement of the workers to the two big bourgeois parties, let us have textile workers in Parliament just as we already have miners there. As soon as a dozen branches of industry are represented class consciousness will arise of itself.

The height of comedy is reached in this manifesto when Mawdsley demands bimetallism to maintain the supremacy of English cotton fabrics on the Indian market.

One is indeed driven to despair by these English workers with their sense of imaginary national superiority, with their essentially bourgeois ideas and viewpoints, with their “practical” narrow-mindedness, with the parliamentary corruption which has seriously infected the leaders. But things are moving none the less. The only thing is that the “practical” English will be the last to arrive, but when they do arrive their contribution will weigh quite heavy in the scale.