Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, August 4, 1874

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 4 August 1874

Extract published in Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 45

To Sorge in Hoboken

London, August 4, 1874[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

My long silence cannot be excused at all; cependant il y a des circonstances atténuantes[1]. That damned liver complaint has made such headway that I was positively unable to continue the revision of the French translation[2] (which actually amounts almost to complete rewriting), and I am very unwillingly submitting to the doctor’s[3] orders that I go to Karlsbad. I am being assured that after my return I shall be fully able to work again, and being unable to work is indeed a death sentence for any man who is not a beast. The journey is expensive and so is the stay there, and what is more, it is not certain whether the foolish Austrian government might not expel me! The Prussians would scarcely be so stupid, but they like to talk the Austrians into such compromising measures; and I actually believe that the false newspaper reports that Rochefort wants to go to Karlsbad, etc., stem from Mr Stieber and are, in the final analysis, aimed at me. I have neither time nor money to waste and have therefore decided to apply for British naturalisation, but it is very likely that the British HOME MINISTER,[4] who decides on naturalisation like a sultan, will upset my plans. The matter will probably be decided this week. In any event, I am going to Karlsbad, if only because of my youngest daughter[5] who was seriously, dangerously ill, is only now able to travel again, and has also been told by her doctor[6] to go to Karlsbad.

About a week ago we were afflicted by a great misfortune, the death of Jenny’s (Mme Longuet’s) eleven-month-old BABY[7], a truly lovable child. He fell victim to a foudroyant[8] attack of gastroenteritis. I have given Beifuss a receipt for the monies transferred to me (and which would have been of much greater use in New York, since I need American things from time to time, publications, I mean). You must also convey my thanks to Section I for the splendid box of cigars.

The few Frenchmen (I mean of those who still stuck to us in The Hague) later turned out for the most part to be rascals, in particular M. Le Moussu, who cheated me and others out of significant sums of money ‘ and who then resorted to infamous slanders in order to whitewash his character and present himself as an innocent whose beautiful soul has gone unappreciated.

In England the International is as good as dead for the present, although some of its members are active individually. The great event over here is the reawakening of the agricultural laborers. The miscarriage of their initial efforts does no harm, au contraire. As for the urban workers, it is regrettable that the whole gang of leaders did not get into Parliament. That is the surest way of getting rid of the rascals.

In France workers’ syndicates [trade unions] are being organized in the various big cities and are in correspondence with one another. They confine themselves to purely professional matters, nor can they do anything else. Otherwise they would be suppressed without further ado. Thus they keep some sort of organization, a point of departure for the time when freer movement will again be possible.

By their own practical impotence, Spain, Italy, and Belgium demonstrate the content of their super-socialism.

In Austria our people are working under the most difficult conditions; they are compelled to move with the greatest caution. Nevertheless they have made one great advance: they have prevailed upon the Slav workers in Prague and elsewhere to act together with the German workers. During the final period of the General Council in London I had tried in vain to achieve an understanding of this sort.

In Germany Bismarck is working for us.

General European conditions are such as to increasingly wage a general European war. We shall have to pass through it before there can be any thought of decisive overt activity on the part of the European working class.

My wife and children send you their best regards.


Karl Marx

Despite errors of all sorts, the publication of B. Becker’s pamphlet on Lassalle’s movement[9] is very useful in putting an end to the sect.

You will have noticed how semi-taught philistine fantasies make their appearance in the Volksstaat from time to time. Such stuff emanates from schoolmasters, doctors and students. Engels has told Liebknecht off about it, which he seems to need from time to time.

In judging conditions in France, especially those in Paris, it should not be forgotten that alongside the official military and political authorities the gang of epauletted Bonapartist blackguards is still secretly active out of which the great republican Thiers formed the military courts for slaughtering the Communards. They constitute a sort of secret tribunal of terror; their mouchards[10] are everywhere, making the Parisian workers’ districts, in particular, unsafe.

  1. however, there are extenuating circumstances
  2. of the first volume of Capital
  3. Eduard Gumpert's
  4. Robert Lowe
  5. Eleanor
  6. Elisabeth Anderson-Garrett
  7. Charles
  8. sudden and terrible
  9. B. Becker, Geschichte der Arbeiter-Agitation Ferdinand Lassalle's
  10. police spies