Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, February 23, 1894

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To Sorge in Hoboken

Eastbourne[1], February 23, 1894[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

Because of temporary lameness I am again spending a few weeks here—shall be back in London in six days’ time.

You will have received the card announcing Louise’s marriage. Her husband, Dr Freyberger, is a young Viennese doctor who gave up his career at Vienna University because they refused to let him tell the workers about the social causes of their illnesses; he has now established himself here and has already shown the English that more medicine is to be learned on the Continent than in this country. For the time being we shall all continue to live together at Regent’s Park Road.

The Holy Family has arrived safely in Rome and will be returned to me in the middle of March, when it will at once be sent on to you.

Our strange socialist group in the French Chamber is still something of a mystery. It is not yet very clear how many of them there are or what their standpoint is. Guesde tables vast numbers of Bills none of which, needless to say, goes through. Jaurès is unlikely to see a repetition of his first sensational victories, since the immediate effect of the anarchist gentry’s bombing exploits has been to provide the Ministry and the cause of law and order with a solid majority.

Complete disintegration prevails among the official politicians here, both Liberal and Conservative. The Liberals can keep going only by means of new political and social concessions to the workers; but for that they lack the courage. So they try an election cry against the House of Lords, instead of proposing payment of members, payment of election expenses by the Government, and a second ballot. That is, instead of offering the workers more power against the bourgeois and the Lords, they only want to give the bourgeois more power against the Lords; but the workers no longer fall for such bait. At any rate there will be a general election here this summer and if the Liberals do not summon all their courage and make real concessions to the workers they will be beaten and go to pieces. At present they are held together only by Gladstone, who may die any day now. Then there will be a bourgeois-democratic party favourably disposed to the workers and the rest of the Liberals will go over to Chamberlain. And all this by mere pressure of a working-class that is still internally split and only half politically conscious. Should it gradually gain consciousness things will take a quite different turn.

In Italy something violent might happen any day now. The middle classes have retained all the abominations of a feudalism in decay and used them as an excuse for their own infamies and tyrannies. The country is at the end of its tether, there has got to be a change there, but the Socialist Party is still very weak and very muddle-headed, although among its number it can boast some really capable Marxists.

In Austria, too, something is to be anticipated. The funny part of it is that Socialists there are looking for support to the Emperor 1 who, by giving his blessing to Taaffe’s proposal for electoral reform, has declared himself in favour of something that comes close to universal suffrage, in the genuine belief that this is a necessary counterpart to general conscription. The coalition government won’t succeed in doing anything or, if it does succeed in enacting an electoral Bill, this will be regarded simply as a bonus, while the movement, with the Emperor’s tacit consent, will proceed on its way at any rate until such time as Taaffe’s reform is put through. And then our chaps will see to the rest.

In short things are proceeding very merrily everywhere, and prospects for the fin de siècle look better every day.

To judge by appearances, the Workman’s Times is at the point of death.

Nor is the INDEPENDENT LABOUR PARTY very much more lively; it’s strange how slow and circuitously everything proceeds over here.

Many regards to you and your wife from the two Freybergers and


F. Engels

  1. Engels left for Eastbourne on 9 February or thereabouts because of poor health; he stayed there until 1 March 1894.