Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, June 18, 1887

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 18 June 1887


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First published, slightly abridged, in Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von Joh. 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

Extract: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 350;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 48

To Sorge in Hoboken

London, June 18, 1887[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

I shall send this letter to Rochester or better still, perhaps—to abide strictly by your instructions—to Hoboken.

Postcard received. You guessed aright. The delay was all Wilhelm's[1] fault and I have had to hold a pistol to his head. Meanwhile you will have had the circulars (6 English, 6 German), sent off in my parcel of 4 June. End of the Schack affair: after I had thanked her heartily for proposing not to visit me any more, Tussy and Aveling went to see her on

Friday, 10 June. She received only Tussy, who demanded to know what facts she had to adduce against Aveling, and upon what evidence.— Reply again refused.—Tussy observes:-—Mrs Kautsky being present— That’s a filthy thing to do.—La Schack: I won’t let anyone speak to me like that.—Tussy: In that case, I shall repeat, here in the presence of Louise Kautsky, that to bring charges against someone else and not have the courage to substantiate them is a filthy thing to do.—Thereupon la Schack flounced out of her own bedroom, where this was taking place, and that was the last Tussy saw of her. A few days later she left for Germany. She is one of the most vulgar scandalmongers I have ever known, typical Prussian Junker aristo.

I shall for the time being go on sending you the Commonweal because of the debate between Bax and Bradlaugh. Bax will hardly get the better of the crafty Bradlaugh—in the eyes of the public at large. He is very talented, studies a lot, but is still deeply immersed in German philosophy, which he will, no doubt, get over in the long run, but has as yet by no means digested.

In the interests of accuracy I should rectify the assertion in my last letter about Aveling’s first wife running away with a parson; in fact, they separated by mutual consent, so I shall let the matter of the said parson—although he did play some part in the affair—rest at that.

The Socialiste has resumed publication. Having had a legacy from his old man, Deville put 12,000 francs at its disposal. I shall write and tell Lafargue to have it sent to you, but whether or not this is done, I shall presumably learn only from yourself. I know how they go about things over there.

Yesterday evening the Irish Coercion Bill was clause by clause hurried through the House of Commons in two minutes.[2] It is a worthy counterpart of the Anti-Socialist Law and opens the door to completely arbitrary action by the police. Things regarded as fundamental rights in England are forbidden in Ireland and become crimes. This Bill is the tombstone of today’s Tories, whom I did not consider so stupid, and of the Liberal Unionists[3], whom I hardly thought so contemptible. It is moreover intended, not to last for a limited period, but indefinitely. The British Parliament has been reduced to the level of the German Reichstag. Though certainly not for long.

It will soon be time to publish Marx’s letter to you about Henry George. Maybe after next November’s elections in New York when George is again throwing his weight about there. He should be given enough latitude, either to develop further or to run to seed, the latter course being evidently the one he prefers.

Another parcel will be going off to you. I have not yet had the last Commonweal; will follow shortly.

I hope a rest in Rochester will soon put you to rights again. In this marvellous weather the enforced idleness, due to the condition of my eye, suits me very well. Let’s hope it goes on like this.

Your

F. E.


  1. Liebknecht
  2. During the first half of April 1887, the House of Commons discussed the draft Crimes Bill for Ireland, which provided for the introduction there of a simplified judicial procedure with a view to quelling the growing peasant disturbances. The executive organs were to be granted the right to outlaw various societies, and sentences on charges of conspiracy, illegal meetings, insubordination, etc., could be passed by the judiciary without a jury. Mass meetings in protest against the Bill, held on April 11, 1887, in Hyde Park, were attended by 100,000-150,000 people. The meetings called by various organisations were addressed by speakers from the Liberal Party (Gladstone and others), the Social-Democratic Federation (Bateman, Williams, Burns and others), the Socialist League (Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Edward Aveling and others) and from other organisations.

    In its report on the meeting entitled “Irish Crimes Bill, Great Demonstration in Hyde Park, Processions and Speeches” the Daily Telegraph said on April 12, 1887, that Eleanor Marx-Aveling’s speech had evoked lively interest and had been greeted enthusiastically.
  3. Engels is referring to differences within the Liberal Party. In 1886, the wing opposed to the granting of self-government to Ireland split away to form the Liberal Unionist Party under J. Chamberlain. On most issues the Liberal Unionists supported the Conservatives.