MIA History Section: Portugal: The Lafargues in Portugal

The Lafargues in Portugal

Title: Letter to Engels, 8th August 1872
Author: Paul Lafargue
Source: Correspondence: Frederick Engels & Paul and Laura Lafargue, Volume 3 (Supplementary), Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow
HTML: Graham Seaman
Last updated: February 2024

My dear Engels,

Laura and I have now been in Portugal for eight days. The journey was a trifle long, a trifle hot and a trifle arduous: thirty hours in the train in heat that would have hatched out lice on a pane of glass. Fortunately we had bought an enormous sandia (water melon) weighing 18 1bs. which slaked our thirst in the La Mancha desert, the country of Don Quixotes and windmills. Once we were in Lisbon we felt capital. Thanks to the sea, the climate is very cool and Lisbon is the most picturesque city we have ever visited. Its inhabitants are exquisitely kind and courteous. Our people here with whom we are in touch are charming and extremely intelligent. Portuguese is much like Spanish: Laura and I talk to them in Spanish and they talk to us in Portuguese, sometimes we make howlers, but we succeed in understanding each other. During the last few days in particular, our ears begin to grow accustomed to the ção-s and ch-s which grace all Portuguese words, making the language sound like a perpetual whistling.

Our people here could not be more favourably disposed; they welcomed me in the most affable way and, by the same token, they are very ill-disposed towards the Alliance. The Portuguese Int[ernationalists] began by being Alliancists before they were Int[ernationalists]. Tedeschi told me that they had looked upon the All[iance] as a bridge leading to the Int[ernational]. Morago, with a view to exercising control over Port[ugal], organised a group of the worst kind in opposition to these people; that is what has given rise to their hatred of the Al[liance]. However, they have seen through the Jura intrigue and have refused to publish anything against the General Council. There is a letter here from Papa B[akunin] which I have not read wherein he applies himself to attacking the G[eneral] C[ouncil]. I shall do what I can to have it sent to you in London; Mora also has a letter from B[akunin], but I do not know whether he will wish to let you see it. Mora is a rum customer. They will not be able to send a delegate from Portugal, but I have advised them to send an endorsement of the organisational plan published in La Emancipación and at the same time to ask for the dissolution of the Al[liance] and the expulsion of all its members, but leaving the members with the option of rejoining the Int[ernational] after publicly denouncing the Al[liance] and undertaking never again to belong to a secret society. This is the same proposition that La Emancipación is going to make. I am trying to put another idea into their heads, namely, that you should be empowered to represent them at the Congress, where it would be better if you figured as the Port[uguese] delegate rather than as a member of the Council.

The question of politics is a great problem to them here. All Portuguese politics are confined to, as they say, palaciano politics, in which it would be most unwise to involve the working class. There are some men with the gift of the gab in the Int[ernational] who long to become deputies and form a Socialist Party in Parliament, and these men are trying to use the Int[ernational] purely for their own personal ends. In consequence, the better elements here are opposed to any political action before the organisation of the working class. Since the Int[ernational] cannot come out into the open, they have set themselves to organise resistance groups, which has greatly annoyed the politicals; that is why I wrote an article, called "Working-Class Solidarity" for O Pensamento, which pleased them very much.

I look to you to set them on the right path and have offered them your collaboration, which they accepted with enthusiasm. The German Social-Democratic Party worries them a good deal here and the politicals, in opposing them, are always citing this Party to them. I told them I would ask you for a history of that Party's organisation, which will serve as a model to constitute their political party; I shall ask Mesa to translate these articles for La Emancipación, which would be a way of helping forward the Int[ernational] on the peninsula. We shall be seeing each other at the Congress and talk the matter over. These articles could be written in French which they understand well.

França, one of the best people here, tells me that he has written to you twice without receiving any answer. Do not reply to me, for it may be that before my letter reaches you I shall have left Lisbon.

Our love to the whole Marx family and your own.

Ever yours,

Lisbon, August 8th, 1872

MIA History Section | Portugal