Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, February 11, 1891

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To Sorge in Hoboken

London, February 11, 1891[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

Letter of 16 January received.

I am delighted to hear that you propose to do away with the Nationalist. Over here I can find no one, not a solitary soul, who is prepared to read it, and I myself have not got the time to scrutinise the sagacious lucubrations of all the various RESPECTABLE panjandrums.

I would have suggested such a course long since had I not thought that, if a chap like you sent me the thing, there was bound to be something in it some time.

The photograph is in the offing. Heinrich Scheu wishes to do a wood-cut of me, for which reason I recently had to position myself before the lens again. Of the seven pictures, one will presumably turn out well.

I trust your wife[1] will have completely recovered by the time you get this; also you yourself.

I cannot tell you anything about the AMERICAN EDITION OF Capital, since I have never seen it and do not know what it contains. That the people over there can pirate our stuff, we are aware. That they do so proves that it’s a good speculation and is gratifying, although detrimental to the heirs. But it was something we had to reckon with the moment sales assumed significant proportions over there.

By now you will presumably have had the fourth ed.[2]

You will have read Marx’s article in the Neue Zeit[3]. To begin with it aroused great wrath in the socialist powers-that-be in Germany but now they appear to be simmering down a bit. In the party itself, on the other hand, there was great rejoicing, except among the old Lassalleans. The Berlin correspondent of the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitung, which you will get by the next post, actually thanks me for the service I have rendered the party (I believe it’s Adolf Braun, Victor Adler’s brother-in-law and Liebknecht’s deputy editor on the Vorwärts). Liebknecht, of course, is furious, since all the criticism was aimed specifically at him and he was the progenitor, together with that bugger Hasselmann, of the rotten programme. I can comprehend the initial dismay felt by the chaps, who have hitherto insisted that ‘comrades’ should approach them only with the utmost delicacy, on finding themselves being handled thus sans façon[4], and their programme unmasked as pure rubbish. According to what I hear from K. Kautsky who has behaved very courageously throughout this affair, the parliamentary group intends to issue an edict to the effect that publication took place without their knowledge and is deplored by them. They’re welcome to that gratification. However, it may come to nothing if the party increasingly voices its assent and the fuss about ‘placing a weapon against ourselves in the hands of our foes’ is found to be without substance.

In the meantime I am being boycotted by the gentlemen, which suits me very well as it saves me quite a deal of time. Not that it’s likely to last for long.

After Bradlaugh’s death, Aveling was invited to stand in Northampton and by none other than the local BRANCH OF THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC FEDERATION, i. e. nominally Hyndman’s people. Because of the leap forward made by the movement generally in the past 18 months, the FEDERATION has acquired a large following. These people are glad to leave foreign policy (plotting with the Possibilists, etc.), which is quite outside their ken, to Hyndman & Co., but are completely unaware of the said gentry’s previous plotting and intriguing at home, and would certainly deny all responsibility for the same; — IN FACT, it is only because Hyndman & Co. have, since that time, pretty well eluded attack at home that they have acquired the afore-mentioned following. Hence the move made by the Northampton people which seriously alarmed Hyndman, the more so since the BRANCH immediately informed the Executive Council of what they had done. A certain amount of plotting ensued, but to no avail. Aveling went down and was given a brilliant reception, but it was only 4 days until nomination day, and a £100 deposit had to be raised for election expenses. Twenty working men undertook to put up £5 each, and a man turned up who offered to provide the money against that undertaking. But upon closer investigation this man proved to be one of the Conservatives’ principal agents, whereupon Aveling refused the money with a proper display of righteous indignation and withdrew. This must have been doubly vexatious for Hyndman in as much as, 5 years ago, he and Champion accepted £250 or £350 from the TORIES for electoral purposes. At all events, Aveling is now the workers’ nominee for Northampton and stands a good chance of obtaining an increasing number of votes. On this occasion he would have received between nine hundred and a thousand.

The young man I recommended to you[5] will already have come to see you. The Romms, by the by, know him personally, something of which I was unaware at the time.

The French are very angry because this year the Germans intend to celebrate May Day on the 3rd of May, and not the 1st. It’s all nonsense; by celebrating on 1 May last year, the Hamburg chaps involved themselves in a LOCKOUT (for which, having no contracts, the manufacturers yearn); it cost the workers there 100,000 marks — not counting outside contributions — broke the backs of their TRADES UNIONS, which were the best organised, and crippled them for a long time to come. In Germany today there is chronic overproduction in all branches of industry and, since a general celebration throughout Germany could not be held on 1 May without breach of contract and would thus bring about a general LOCKOUT, use up all our funds, disrupt all our TRADES UNIONS and engender discouragement rather than enthusiasm, it would be madness. However, at the Paris Congress, our people evinced such enthusiasm for the 1st of May, that this now looks like a retreat. And again the parliamentary group’s proclamation is a deplorably feeble affair.

Here in England the day is to be decided next Sunday. Realising what a mistake they had made last year, Hyndman and Co. are intent on somehow pushing themselves to the fore on this occasion, and 1 May will find many supporters. But since the capitalists in this country are ever eager to seize on any pretext for disrupting the two best hated TRADES UNIONS—the DOCKERS and more particularly that BOSSED by Tussy, the GASWORKERS AND GENERAL LABOURERS, Tussy is going to do all she can to avoid providing them with the pretext of breach of contract and will propose 3 May as being a Sunday. The gasworkers now have the most powerful organisation in Ireland[6] and will put up their own candidates in the next election, unconcerned over either Parnell or MacCarthy. That Parnell is now so friendly with the workers, he owes to encounters with these same gasworkers, who had no compunctions about telling him the truth. Michael Davitt, too, who had at first wanted independent Irish Trades Unions, has learned from them: their constitution secures them perfectly free home rule. To them the credit for giving impetus to the labour movement in Ireland. Many of their branches consist of agricultural labourers.

Kindest regards to your wife,



  1. Katharina Sorge
  2. of the first volume of Capital
  3. Critique of the Gotha Programme
  4. rudely
  5. Stanislaw Padlewski
  6. The National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers of Great Britain and Ireland, founded in April 1889, had over 100,000 members. It was the first trade union in the English and Irish labour movements to organise unskilled workers. Its chief demand was the introduction of an eight-hour working day. Eleanor Marx-Aveling played a major role in its organisation and leadership.

    The active dissemination of socialist ideas among the trade union members by Eleanor Marx and her comrades helped the Union exert a major influence on Ireland’s working-class movement. Its example promoted the formation of the dockers’, agricultural workers’ and other trade unions.