Letter to Eduard Bernstein, May 22, 1886

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To Bernstein in Zurich

London, May 22, 1886[edit source]

Dear Ede,

I am sending you Thursday’s Parliamentary debates (Daily News) on the Irish Arms Bill, which restricts the right of the Irish to own and carry arms. Hitherto it was directed only against the nationalists, but now it is to be turned also against the Protestant braggarts of Ulster, who threaten to rebel.[1] There is a remarkable speech by Lord Randolph Churchill, the brother of the Duke of Marlborough, a democratising Tory; in the last Tory cabinet he was Secretary for India and is thus a member of the Privy Council for life. In face of the feeble and cowardly protestations and assurances made by our petty-bourgeois socialists regarding the peaceful attainment of the goal under any circumstances, it is indeed very timely to show that English ministers, Althorp, Peel, Morley and even Gladstone, proclaim the right to revolution as a part of constitutional theory — though only so long as they form the opposition, as Gladstone’s subsequent twaddle proves, but even then he does not dare to deny the right as such — especially because it comes from England, the country of legality par excellence. A more telling repudiation could hardly be found for our Vierecks.

I’m glad to see from the Sozialdemokrat’s renewed verve that you are in good shape again.

I’m up to my eyes in the English translation of Capital. Aveling fixed up everything with the publishers mis morning and the contract will be signed in a day or two, after which comes the printing, 5 sheets a week minimum. Unfortunately I haven’t finished revising it, but pp. 1-450 of the original are ready for the press; ditto, almost, pp. 450-640. But please don’t make any announcement yet, as nothing has been signed so far.

Our Frenchmen are doing splendidly. Over here, on the other hand, everyone is playing about like a bunch of amateurs. The anarchist follies in America may prove advantageous; it is undesirable that the American workers, given their present wholly bourgeois level of thinking — high wages and short hours — should win victories too quickly. That might unduly reinforce the biassed TRADES UNION spirit.

The most powerful TRADES UNION over here, the AMALGAMATED ENGINEERS, had to allocate from its reserve funds more than £43,000 for its unemployed members, bringing the reserves down from approx. £165,000 to approx. £122,000. Not until this fund is exhausted, and only then, will it be possible to do something with those chaps.



I am sending this to Schlüter as I don't know the new number of your house.

  1. The debates on the Irish Arms Bill mentioned by Engels were held during its second reading in the House of Commons on May 20, 1886. The Bill was to prolong the ban established by the 1881 law on the sale, import and carrying of arms in some districts of Ireland. John Morley, the Secretary for Ireland, in bringing the Bill before Parliament, said that it was particularly important for Northern Ireland (Ulster), where open agitation was being conducted among the Protestant population for the organisation of armed resistance against the introduction of self-government in Ireland on a Home Rule basis. Randolph Churchill said in his speech that these actions were legitimate and referred to Althorp and Robert Peel, who in 1883 had said that civil war could be morally justified in the face of a threat to the integrity of the British Empire. In his reply Gladstone reproached Churchill for supporting resistance to government measures. The Bill was passed in the House of Commons by 353 votes to 89.