Letter to Eduard Bernstein, June 17, 1879

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 17 June 1879


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First published, in Russian, in Marx-Engels Archives, Vol. I (VI), Moscow, 1932

Source: Marx Engels on Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 45
Collection(s): Marx Engels on Britain

To Bernstein in Zurich

London, June 17, 1879[edit source]

Replying respectfully to your lines of the 13th, which arrived only yesterday, I regret that I am not in a position to name anybody who would be capable of supplying you with the articles desired in a really competent manner.[1]

... For a number of years past (and at the present time) the English working-class movement has been hopelessly describing a narrow circle of strikes for higher wages and shorter hours, not, however, as an expedient or means of propaganda and organisation but as the ultimate aim. The Trade Unions even bar all political action on principle and in their charters, and thereby also ban participation in any general activity of the working-class as a class. The workers are divided politically into Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, into supporters of the Disraeli (Beaconsfield) ministry and supporters of the Gladstone ministry. One can speak here of a labour movement (proper) only in so far as strikes take place here which, whether they are won or not, do not get the movement one step further. To inflate such strikes — which often enough have been brought about purposely during the last few years of bad business by the capitalists to have a pretext for closing down their factories and mills, strikes in which the working-class movement does not make the slightest headway — into struggles of world importance, as is done, for instance, in the London Freiheit, can, in my opinion, only do harm. No attempt should be made to conceal the fact that at present no real labour movement in the continental sense exists here, and I therefore believe you will not lose much if for the time being you do not receive any reports on the doings of the Trade Unions here.

  1. Bernstein had asked Engels whether he could recommend someone able to write a series of articles on the British labour movement for the Jahrbuch für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik (published in Zurich). He presumably hoped that Engels would offer to contribute the articles himself and did not like to ask outright – Progress Publishers.