International Socialism and Italian Socialism

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At a time when the young Italian Socialist Party is suffering the blows of the most violent government reaction, it is our duty, as socialists from across the Alps, to try to come to its aid. We can do nothing against the dissolution of sections and societies. But perhaps our testimony will not be entirely useless in the face of the odious and brazen slanders of an unofficial and corrupt press.

This press reproaches the Italian socialists with having deliber-ately simulated Marxist propaganda,[2] in order to hide a quite different politics behind this mask, a politics which proclaims the “class struggle“ (something that “would take us back to the Middle Ages”) and whose aim is to form a political party aspiring to the “conquest of power in the state”; whereas the socialist parties of other countries, and the Germans in particular, “do not concern themselves with politics, do not attack the form of the government in power”, indeed they are simply harmless good chaps and one can make jokes about them!

If anyone is being made a joke of here it is the Italian public. One would never dare peddle them such stupidities if one did not take them to be wholly ignorant of what goes on in the world outside. If the Italian socialists proclaim the “class struggle“ as the dominant fact of the society we live in, if they form themselves into a “political party aspiring to the conquest of public power and the management of the nation’s affairs”, they are making Marxist propaganda in the most literal sense of the word; they are following exactly the line indicated in the Manifesto of the Communist Party published by Marx and myself in 1848; they are doing precisely what the socialist parties of France, Belgium, Switzerland,[3] Spain an above all Germany are doing. There is not a single one of all these parties that does not aspire to the conquest of public power, just as the other parties, the conserva- tives, liberals, republicans, etc. etc.

As for the "class struggle", it takes us back not just to the "Middle Ages " but to the internal conflicts of the ancient republics: Athens, Sparta, Rome. All those conflicts were class struggles. Since the dissolution of primitive communities, the struggle between the different classes of which every society was composed was always the great driving force of historical progress. This struggle will not disappear except with the disappearance of these classes themselves, in other words after the victory of socialism. Until that day, the opposing classes, the proletariat, bourgeoisie and landed nobility, [4] will continue to fight amongst themselves, whatever the unofficial Italian press may say.

For the rest, Italy at this moment is undergoing the same test that Germany [5] underwent during the twelve years of the Anti-Socialist Law. [6] Germany defeated Bismarck; socialist [7] Italy will get the better of Crispi.

London, October 27, 1894

Frederick Engels

  1. Engels wrote this letter when, on behalf of the leadership of the Socialist Party of the Italian Working People, Filippo Turati asked him (in a letter of October 24, 1894) to contribute a piece to the Critica Sociale journal exposing the slanderous fabrications spread by the Italian bourgeois press about the activities of the Italian socialists in an effort to vindicate government repressions instituted against them (see Note 436). Engels’ letter to the journal under the editorial heading “II socialismo internationalee il socialismo italiano “was supplied with the following editorial note: “This letter sent to us by the oldest leader of all the socialist parties of the world we dedicate to ignorant tricks of the Italian press which has been, or is being, corrupted. “Following in the steps of the Critica Sociale, Engels’ letter (translated from the Italian) was published by the Arbeiter-Zeitung, No. 89, November 6, 1894 in the newspaper report entitled “Die kläglichen Ausflüchte und Lügen”, and in the Vorwärts, No. 263, November 10, 1894, in the report “Italien”.
  2. The manuscript has: "...Marxist propagand a in the manner of the German socialists".— Ed.
  3. The word is not in the manuscript. — Ed
  4. The words "the proletariat, bourgeoisie and landed nobility" are not in the manuscript.— Ed
  5. The manuscript has: "socialist Germany". — Ed.
  6. See Note 2
  7. The word is not in the manuscript. — Ed