Letter to Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky, January 27, 1887

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 27 January 1887


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First published, in English, slightly abridged, in Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von Job. Phil. Becker, Jos Dietzgen, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx u. A. an F. A. Sorge und Andere, Stuttgart, 1906 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works First Russian Edition, Vol. XXVII, Moscow, 1935

Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence; International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 48

To Florence Kelley Wischnewetsky in Zurich


London, January 27, 1887

122 Regent’s Park Road, N.W.

Dear Mrs Wischnewetzky,

Herewith I send you, at last, the Preface. No sooner had the Avelings returned when I was seized with a slight conjunctivitis which was however sufficient to prevent all regular work especially as the short time I could each day devote to writing was unavoidably taken up by urgent correspondence. Although my eye is not yet quite free from inflammation, yet I have managed to get through the Preface and hope the delay will not have inconvenienced you too much.

As I have not been able to keep a copy I must request you to return me the MS when done with. I suppose you will be good enongh to see it through the press.

I hope Dr Wischnewetzky has arrived safe after a good passage. I regret that I could not have him all to myself for a couple of hours, but he just dropped in at an evening when, for the time being, the old ‘International’ was made to undergo a practical revival.

The movement in America, just at this moment, is I believe best seen from across the ocean. On the spot personal bickerings and local disputes must obscure most of the grandeur of it. And the only thing that could really delay its march would be a consolidation of these differences into established acts. To some extent that will be unavoidable, but the less of it the better. And the Germans have most to guard against this. Our theory is a theory of evolution, not a dogma to be learned by heart and to be repeated mechanically. Je weniger sie den Amerikanern von Aussen eingepaukt wird und je mehr sie sie durch eigne Erfahrung—unter dem Beistand der Deutschen—erproben, desto tiefer geht sie ihnen in Fleisch und Blut Über.[1] When we returned to Germany, in spring 1848, we joined the Democratic Party as the only possible means of getting the ear of the working class; we were the most advanced wing of that party, but still a wing of it. When Marx founded the International, he drew up the General Rules in such a way that all working-class socialists of that period could join it -- Proudhonists, Pierre Lerouxists and even the more advanced section of the English Trades Unions; and it was only through this latitude that the International became what it was, the means of gradually dissolving and absorbing all these minor sects, with the exception of the Anarchists, whose sudden appearance in various countries was but the effect of the violent bourgeois reaction after the Commune and could therefore safely be left by us to die out of itself, as it did. Had we from 1864, to 1873 insisted on working together only with those who openly adopted our platform where should we be to-day? I think that all our practice has shown that it is possible to work along with the general movement of the working class at every one of its stages without giving up or hiding our own distinct position and even organisation, and I am afraid that if the German Americans choose a different line they will commit a great mistake.

I hope you are by this time perfectly restored to health and that your husband and children are well too. Kind regards to Dr Wischnewetzky.

Very truly yours

F. Engels

  1. The less it is drilled into the Americans from outside and the more they test it with their own experience--with the help of the Germans--the deeper will it pass into their flesh and blood.