Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, September 14, 1891

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To Friedrich Adolph Sorge in Hoboken

Helensburgh, Scotland, 14 September, 1891[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

I’m up here on a lightning tour with Pumps and Louise Kautsky; the past week has been spent either in the Highlands or on the water and it has done me a power of good. We shall be home a week from now.

There’s nothing one can do about the Schlüters. He can’t help chasing after this petticoat or that and she[1] can’t help burying the hatchet and forgiving him the moment she feels she has taken things as far as she dares. But if this time she nevertheless remains in Germany— which I’m inclined to doubt—, it will be because people there have talked her into it.

Mr Ferdinand Gilles, a scoundrelly man of letters, who was made to come over to us from the Party of Progress, though we in Germany didn’t want him, has joined forces in London with Hyndman & Co. and actually has a party all of his own in the Communist Society.[2] The man has been denounced to us as a police spy by a reliable source whose identity, however, cannot be divulged, which also explains his otherwise inexplicable source of funds (he contributes £ 6 a year to a school founded over here by Louise Michel). At the Brussels Congress the fellow tried to gain currency among the Germans for the lies about Aveling being disseminated on the sly by Hyndman, Mother Besant, her lover Herbert Burrows and others to the effect that when Aveling married Tussy he had abandoned a wife and three children in a state of utter destitution and that his fatherinlaw was intent on beating his brains out. (Well, Aveling and his wife parted by mutual consent 8 years ago, she took back her fortune which brings her in over £500 a year, there were never any children and her father had died long before.) Since this fell flat, he sought to find a receptacle for these lies among the correspondents of the bourgeois newspapers and that, of course, proved successful. The entire press was full of it. In Brussels Aveling could do nothing for fear of giving the Belgian police an excuse to disrupt the Congress. But when he returned to London and placed the whole matter before us, we unanimously fell in with his view that Gilles must be given a thrashing.

After an attempt to do so in the German Society had been frustrated, Aveling, accompanied by Louise Kautsky as witness (lest he should falsely maintain that he had been floored by two men), proceeded to his house last Tuesday, the 8th, and gave him two hearty punches in the face. No doubt that will have a somewhat more salutary effect. Whether anything further came of the business I don’t know, as we left the same day and have been unable to receive any news.

Aveling at once advised Liebknecht of the facts of the case for publication in the Vorwärts[3] and so the affair will no doubt also be discussed in America.

Of the American delegates, those I saw were Mac Vey and Abraham Cahan, the apostle of the Jews; both of them pleased me much.

The Congress has proved a brilliant success for us ALTER ALL — the Broussists stayed right away while Hyndman’s chaps withdrew their opposition. And, best of all, the anarchists have been shown the door, just as they were at the Hague Congress. The new, incomparably larger and avowedly Marxist International is beginning again at the precise spot where its predecessor left off.

The Newcastle Trade Union Congress is also a victory. The old unions, with the textile workers at their head, and the whole of the reactionary party among the workers, had exerted all their strength towards overthrowing the eight-hour decision of 1890. They came to grief and have only achieved a very small temporary concession. This is decisive. The confusion is still great, but the thing is in irresistible motion and the bourgeois papers recognise the defeat of the bourgeois Labour Party completely and with terror, howling and gnashing of teeth. The Scottish Liberals especially, the most intelligent and the most classic bourgeoisie in the kingdom, are unanimous in their outcry at the great misfortune and hopeless wrongheadedness of the workers.

Warm regards to you and your wife.



  1. Anna Schlüter
  2. Engels means the German Workers’ Educational Society in London, which was founded by Karl Schapper, Joseph Moll, Heinrich Bauer and other members of the League of the just in 1840. After the establishment of the Communist League, its local branches played the leading role in the Society. In 1847 and 1849-50, Marx and Engels took an active part in its work. On 17 September 1850, they and a number of their followers retired from the Society because most of its members had sided with the adventurist sectarian minority (the Willich-Schapper faction) which was challenging the Marx- and Engels-led majority in the Central Authority of the Communist League. Marx and Engels resumed their work in the Society in the late 1850s. When the First International Working Men’s Association was founded, the Society — then led, among others, by Friedrich Lessner— became its member. The London Educational Society was closed by the British government in 1918.
  3. E. Aveling, 'In der Rheinisch-Westfälischen Leitung vom 22. Aug. findet sich ein Artikel...' and 'Der Urheber der über mich in der Deutschen Presse...', Vorwärts, Nos. 211 and 212; 10 and 11 September 1891