Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, September 16, 1887

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To Sorge in Rochester

London, September 16, 1887.[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

Letter of 1 September received. I hope your leg will gradually improve again; rest and patience, that's the main thing.

I am having a dreadful amount of commotion this summer: visits from all countries, which will keep on until the middle of October as I expect Bebel in about two weeks. I shall be able to look for and find Marx’s letter on George only when I begin putting things in order, that is, as soon as some new bookcases I have ordered to give me more room arrive. Then you'll get a translation at once. There’s no hurry — George must still compromise himself some more. His repudiation of the socialists is the greatest good fortune that could happen to us. Making him the standard-bearer last November was an unavoidable mistake for which we had to suffer. For the masses are only to be set in motion along the road that corresponds to each country and to the prevailing circumstances, which is usually a roundabout road. Everything else is of subordinate importance, if only the actual arousing takes place. But the mistakes unavoidably made in doing this are paid for every time. And in this case it was to be feared that making the founder of a sect the standard-bearer would burden the movement with the follies of the sect for years to come. By expelling the founders of the movement, establishing his sect as the special, orthodox, George sect, and proclaiming his narrow-mindedness as the borne of the whole movement, George saves the latter and ruins himself.

The movement itself will, of course, still go through many and disagreeable phases, disagreeable particularly for those who live in the country and have to suffer them. But I am firmly convinced that things are now going ahead over there, and perhaps more rapidly than with us, notwithstanding the fact that the Americans will learn almost exclusively in practice for the time being, and not so much from theory.

The New York Executive’s reply to my note is deplorable. Nor do I expect very much of their congress. The chaps in the east—the sections—don’t seem to be up to much and yet there seems little likelihood of the Social Democratic Party’s centre of gravity shifting to the west. The Trades Union Congress over here has again gone to show that a revolution is taking place within the old trades unions. It was resolved, in opposition to the leaders, notably Broadhurst, and to the other labour members of parliament, to form an Independent Labour Party. An armchair socialist and Austrian parliamentary deputy[1] was quite amazed at the vast changes that had come about since he was last here in 1883. I haven’t heard a word, or seen anyone, from France since Lafargue left for Jersey, where he is spending a week or two.

I shall write to you about Germany as soon as I have discussed things over here with Bebel.

As regards politics generally, everyone is getting ready for old William’s[2] death, whereupon the Russians will behave rather more cockily in the East and Bismarck will egg them on in order to maintain his own position. But I hardly suppose it will come to a war. The uncertainty of what a war might entail is so great, the reciprocal intention of cabinets to betray each other so manifest, the certitude that the war would be more violent, bloody, costly and prostrating than any previous war (10 or 12 million soldiers locked in battle) so indubitable, that everyone is uttering threats but no one has the courage to begin. But it’s a game that may unleash a war without their wanting it, and therein lies the danger.

Five thousand copies of Kautsky’s work on Marx’s theory[3] have already been sold.

And there I must stop for today—time for the post and for dinner.


F. E.

  1. Joseph Maria Baernreither
  2. William I
  3. K. Kautsky, Karl Marx's oekonomische Lehren, Stuttgart, 1887