Letter to Friedrich Engels, December 17, 1869

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To Engels in Manchester

London, December 17, 1869[edit source]


BEST THANKS for £ 100. Yesterday I couldn’t acknowledge because of the sudden appearance of Strohn. The poor fellow had his blood relapse again in May. Because of his health, he has had to hang around since then in Switzerland, etc.; looks very poorly and is very peevish. The doctors recommend him to marry.

Strohn will be returning from here to Bradford, and desires you to return him the Urnings or whatever the paederast’s book is called.[1]

As soon as he goes (on Monday) I shall myself buzz around town to raise the Prendergast.[2] I couldn’t do it last week because of the filthy weather, which I couldn’t risk TO UNDERGO in my not-yet-restored state of health. I remember vaguely that, in his introduction, Prendergast depicts the Anglo-Norman period, it seems to me, in fantastic-uncritical-optimistic radiant colours. The book must be obtained for you also to consult for the first period. Our Irish resolutions have been sent to all TRADES UNIONS that maintain ties with us. Only one has protested, A SMALL BRANCH OF THE CURRIERS, saying they are political and not WITHIN the sphere of action of the COUNCIL. We are sending a deputation to enlighten them. Mr Odger has now noticed how useful it was for him to vote for the RESOLUTIONS despite all sorts of diplomatic objections. As a result, the 3-4,000 Irish electors in Southwark have promised him their votes.

From the enclosed Egalité, which I must have back, you’ll see how impudent il Signor Bakunin is becoming. This fellow now has control over 4 organs of the International (Egalité, Progrès in Locle, Federacion, Barcelona, and Eguaglianza, NAPLES). He is trying to gain a foothold in Germany through alliance with Schweitzer, and in Paris through flattery for the newspaper Le Travail. He believes the moment has come to start an open squabble with us.

He is playing himself up as the guardian of real proletarianism. But he’s in for a surprise. Next week (luckily the Central Council has adjourned until the Tuesday[3] after New Year’s Day, so we on the SUBCOMMITTEE are free to work without the cosy intervention of the English) we shall be sending a threatening MISSIVE to the Romance Federal Committee[4] in Geneva, and since the gentlemen know (incidentally a major part, perhaps the greater part are against Bakunin) that, according to the resolutions of the last Congress, we can suspend them if necessary, they will consider the matter twice.

The main point on which our MISSIVE turns is this: the only representation with regard to us of the branches romandes en Suisse[5] is the Federal Committee there. They have to dispatch their demandes and reprimandes tous PRIVATELY, through their secretary, Perret. They have absolutely no right TO ABDICATE THEIR FUNCTIONS INTO THE HANDS OF THE Egalité (a NONEXISTENCE for us), and to expect the Central Council to get involved in public explanations and polemics with this remplaçant. Whether or not the rejoinders of the General Council are published in the organs of the international branches, the whole thing depends on the decision of the General Council, which alone is directly responsible to the Congress. At this opportunity, blows will fall upon certain intrigants who are usurping undue authority, and who wish to subject the International to their private control.

Regarding the tumult of the Cossacks[6] about the Bulletin, the matter is as follows:

It was decided at the Brussels Congress that we should publish ‘IN THE SEVERAL LANGUAGES’ bulletins on STRIKES etc., ‘AS OFTEN AS ITS (THE GENERAL COUNCIL) MEANS PERMIT’. But on the condition that we, for our part, received reports, documents, etc., from the FEDERAL comités at least every 3 months. Since we have received neither these reports nor the MEANS to print reports, this resolution naturally remained a dead letter. In fact, it became superfluous as a result of the founding of numerous international newspapers, which exchange with one another (Bee-Hive as register of English STRIKES, etc.).

At the Congress in Basle, the question was raked up again.

The Congress treated the Brussels resolutions on the Bulletin as NON-EXISTENT. Otherwise, it would simply have charged the Central Council with carrying them out (which would, once again, without the provision of MEANS, have remained a lettre morte[7]). At issue was a bulletin in a different sense (not, as before, a resume of STRIKES, etc., but RATHER GENERAL REFLEXIONS ON THE MOVEMENT). The Congress did not, however, come to a vote on this point. There is, therefore, at present no resolution IN THIS QUESTION. But what a marvellous policy it would be to inform the public, through an open reply to Egalité that, at an earlier date, the Brussels resolutions remained unfeasible, 1. because the MEMBERS did not pay their PENCE, and 2. because the FEDERAL comités did not perform their functions!

With regard to Schweitzer, Mr Bakunin, who understands

German, knows that Schweitzer and his gang do not belong to the International. He knows that Schweitzer publicly rejected Liebknecht’s offer to appoint the General Council as arbiter. His interrogation is all the more villainous since his friend Ph. Becker, the president of the German language groups, sits on the Geneva FEDERAL COUNCIL, in order to give them the necessary information there. His aim is simply to gain a grip on Schweitzer. Mais il verra![8]

I have written fully to De Paepe about the affair (to lay before the Brussels Central Committee).

As soon as a Russian gets a foothold, there is the devil to pay. Borkheim has now plunged into Turkish.

Will you be going to Germany?



K. M.

  1. K. H. Ulrichs, 'Argonauticus'. Zastrow und die Urninge des pietistischen, ultramontanen und freidenkenden Lagers
  2. P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland.
  3. 4 January 1870
  4. K. Marx, The General Council to the Federal Council of Romance Switzerland.
  5. Romance branches in Switzerland
  6. An allusion to Mikhail Bakunin and his supporters.
  7. dead letter
  8. But he will see!