Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, November 29, 1871

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 29 November 1871


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First published, in the language of the original (English), 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

Extract published in Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, 1971;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 44

To Sorge in Hoboken

London, November 29, 1871[edit source]

My dear Sorge,

I hope you have at last received at New York the Resolutions of the Conference and the different letters I sent you. I send together with this letter the 3 last Eastern Post reports on the sittings of the General Council. They contain, of course, only what is meant for public use.

In regard to financial matters I have only to remark:

1) the New York Committee 151 has nothing to pay but 2d per piece for the pamphlets on the Civil War it has received. It will pay 1d per piece for the Statutes and Regulations à fur et mesure that they are sold. But you ought to write us how many French and German editions of the Statutes etc. you are in want of. Besides what you want immediately, you will perhaps find useful to have a certain stock in reserve.

2) With regard to the money sent us for the refugees, the General Council wants an express written declaration that the General Council alone is responsible for its distribution amongst the French refugees, and that the so-called ‘Society of French refugees at London’ has no right of control over the Council. This is necessary, because, although the mass of the abovenamed society are honest people, the committee at their head are ruffians, so that a great part—and the most meritorious part of the refugees—does not want to have anything to do with the ‘Society’ but to be relieved directly by the Council. We, therefore, give a weekly sum for distribution to the Society, and distribute another sum directly.

It is the above said ruffians who have spread the most atrocious calumnies against the General Council without whose aid (and many of its members have not only given their time, but paid out of their own purse) the French refugees would have ‘crevé de faim[1].


I come now to the question of MacDonnell.

Before admitting him, the Council instituted a most searching inquiry as to his integrity, he, like all other Irish politicians, being much calumniated by his own countrymen.

The Council — after most incontrovertible evidence on his private character — chose him because the mass of the Irish workmen in England have more confidence in him than in any other person. He is a man quite superior to religious prejudices and as to his general views, it is absurd to say that he has any “bourgeois” predilections. He is a proletarian, by his circumstances of life and by his ideas.

If any accusation is to be brought forward against him, let it be done in exact terms, and not by vague insinuation. My opinion is that the Irishmen, removed for a long time by imprisonment, are not competent judges. The best proof is their relations with The Irishman whose editor, Pigott, is a mere speculator, and whose manager, Murphy, is a ruffian. That paper — despite the exertions of the General Council for the Irish cause — has always intrigued against us. MacDonnell was constantly attacked in that paper by an Irishman (O'Donnell) connected with Campbell (an officer of the London Police) and a habitual drunkard who for a glass of gin will tell the first constable all the secrets he may have to dispose of.

After the nomination of MacDonnell, Murphy attacked and calumniated the International (not only MacDonnell) in The Irishman, and, at the same time, secretly, asked us to nominate him secretary for Ireland.

As to O'Donovan Rossa, I wonder that you quote him still as an authority after what you have written me about him. If any man was obliged, personally, to the International and the French Communards, it was he, and you have seen what thanks we have received at his hands.

Let the Irish members of the New York Committee not forget that to be useful to them, we want above all influence on the Irish in England, and that for that purpose there exists, as far as we have been able to ascertain, no better man than MacDonnell.

Yours fraternally,

Karl Marx


Train has never received credentials on the part of the General Council.

  1. starved to death