Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, May 17, 1893

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 17 May 1893


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

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 50

To Sorge in Hoboken

London, May 17, 1893[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

The Lincoln affair happened while I was still in Manchester—at the end of 1864—but I have no more than a hazy recollection of it, nor, amongst Marx’s and my papers, have I ever set eyes on Lincoln’s reply. Maybe I shall come upon it tucked away somewhere, if ever I get round to sorting out and classifying the chaotic mass of stuff, but of that there can be no question unless I have three or four weeks to devote to it. All I can find is in Eichhoff’s pamphlet on the International, Berlin, 1868 (based on notes and material of Marx’s); p. 53 reads:

‘Lincoln’s re-election on 8 November 1864 was an occasion for the General Council to send him an address with its best wishes. At the same time, it called mass meetings in support of the Union’s cause. That was why Lincoln, in his message of reply, expressly acknowledged the services of the International Working Men’s Association for the good cause.’[1]

In short, all I can say is that such material as I have on the International Working Men’s Association before 1870 is very incomplete—some of the General Council’s minutes, Marx’s and Lessner’s, and also partly Becker’s[2] collections of newspaper cuttings and, finally, Marx’s letters to myself. I haven’t even got a complete set of the General Council’s official documents, proclamations, etc., let alone the correspondence of the secretaries who retained virtually all of it. There are no official Congress minutes at all. Nevertheless, it’s far better than anything anyone else has got, and I shall classify it as soon as I can. But when?

Volume III is progressing steadily. I have reached the two final sections[3] and here too, I think, the worst is now behind me. But there’s still several weeks’ work to be done on them, after which I shall proceed to the final editing. I should like to send part of it to press before the summer holidays but don’t know whether I shall manage this. The final editing can be done while printing is actually in progress. And the matter is becoming urgent, for it looks as though we in Germany are about to enter a period of great turmoil and struggle which means that the thing has got to be finished before then.

What my views are concerning German affairs you can see from the interview in Le Figaro[4] which I am sending you by the same post as this. As in all interviews, the text has in parts become somewhat insipid and the thread sometimes gets lost, but otherwise it has been correctly reported. The morale of our people in Germany is altogether excellent; so far as they are concerned, the election campaign is a real boon and they revel in it, despite all the trouble and effort it costs them. Bebel, who spent a week here at Eastertime —after the Brussels Conference —is a new man and writes to say that; in addition to Hamburg, he has been asked to stand for Strasbourg in Alsace where in 1890 we had 4,800 votes as against 8,200, and where a lot of the Francophils will vote for him. There are between a hundred and a hundred and ten constituencies in which we shall be kicking off with more than one third of the total poll (to go by the 1890 results) and in some eighty of the constituencies we shall, I think, either get in straight away or else in the second ballot. How many will fall by the wayside in the latter depends on the opposition candidate. Against Conservatives or National Liberals our chances are very good, less so against Freisinnige and still less so against the Centre supposing our opponents’ candidate sticks to his guns over the military question. Bebel hopes for 50 or 60 seats in all.

The atmosphere in Germany has changed a lot and, though the bourgeois press may still vociferate as loudly as ever, the respect our people now command in the Reichstag has gained for them a position very different from before. Nor is it possible for anyone to turn a blind eye to the ever-growing might of the party. If, at the next elections, we again show a marked increase, respect may grow on the one hand but so, on the other, will fear. And the latter will drive the worthy philistines of one accord into the government camp.

The May First demonstration here was very nice; but is already becoming somewhat of an everyday or rather an annual matter; the first fresh bloom is gone. The narrow-mindedness of the Trades Council and of the Socialist sects — Fabians and the S.D.F. — again compelled us to hold two demonstrations, but everything went off as we desired and we — the Eight-Hour Committee — had many more people than the united opposition. In particular, our international platform had a very good audience. I figure that there was a total of 240,000 in the park, of which we had 140,000 and the opposition at most 100,000.

Champion, with his TORY and LIBERAL UNIONIST funds (allegedly £100 for each of the 100 working-class candidates agreeing to stand in hopeless constituencies merely in order to deprive the Liberals of votes), has been made a thorough fool of by our old friend Maltman Barry. This blockhead, if Scottish speculator, has joined the Tories of whom, by his own admission,a he is the paid agent, and would seem to have been planted alongside Champion, whom the fund-dispensing Tories do not altogether trust, as a sleeping partner and watchdog—what the Jesuits call a socius. Thus, during Champion’s illness, he was sole editor of the Labour Elector, and told such improbable tales out of school that he quite spoiled his own little game, thus temporarily saving the Independent Labour Party from becoming the pawn of the aforesaid gentry. Unfortunately Aveling has been seriously ill for a month now; in view of the constant caballing that goes on here, he cannot well be spared. He has gone to Hastings to recuperate for a while. If we should poll a considerably larger number of votes in Germany, this will have a favourable effect on the elections this autumn in France. If our people there get a dozen men into the Chamber (they are counting on getting four seats in the Département du Nord alone), it will mean they’ll have a nucleus there that will be strong enough to compel the Blanquists and Allemanists to join forces with them.

I am glad that your wife and you are better again. Warm regards to her and to yourself from L. Kautsky and

Your

F. Engels

  1. W. Eichhoff, Die Internationale Arbeiterassociation...
  2. Johann Philipp Becker
  3. Sections VI and VII
  4. Interview of Frederick Engels to the correspondent of Le Figaro on 11 May 1893