Letter to Friedrich Engels, February 18, 1865

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 18 February 1865


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 94;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

To Engels in Manchester

[London,] 18 February 1865[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Enclosed 2 letters from Liebknecht, 1 to you and 1 to me. Ditto an earlier one from Schweitzer.

My view is this:

Once Liebknecht has given in his notice, il faut en finir [we must put an end to it]. If he had put the matter off, we could have done so, too, since your pamphlet is on the stocks.

I consider Schweitzer to be incorrigible (probably has a secret arrangement with Bismarck).

What confirms me in that view is

1. the passage I have underlined in his letter of 15th enclosed;

2. the timing of the publication of his ‘Bismarck III’.

To do justice to both points, I shall now copy out for you word for word a passage from my letter to him of 13 February:

‘...since our statement has become partially out-of-date, following the correspondence from M. Hess in No. 21 received today, we will allow the matter rest there. Our statement did, of course, contain another point as well: praise of the anti-Bonapartist stance of the Parisian proletariat and hint to the German workers that they should follow this example. We regarded this as more important than our sally against Hess. Meanwhile, we shall set out our views in detail elsewhere on the relation of the workers towards the Prussian government.

‘In your letter of 4 February you say that I warned Liebknecht myself not to overstep the mark, so that he would not be sent to the devil. Quite right. But I wrote to him at the same time that one could say anything if one put it in the right way. A form of polemic against the government which is “possible” even for the Berlin meridian is certainly very different from flirting with the government or even pretending to compromise with it! I wrote to you myself that the Social-Demokrat must eschew even the appearance of doing so.

‘I see from your paper that the ministry is making ambiguous and procrastinatory statements with regard to the repeal of the Combination Laws. On the other hand, a Times telegram reports that it was in favour of the proposed state aid for the co-operative societies. It would not surprise me at all if The Times had for once telegraphed a correct report!

‘Combinations and the trades unions they would give rise to are of the utmost importance not merely as a means of organising the working class for the struggle against the bourgeoisie — just how important is shown among other things by the fact that even the workers of the United States cannot do without them, in spite of franchise and republic — but in Prussia and indeed in Germany as a whole the right of combination also means a breach in the domination of the police and the bureaucracy, it tears to shreds the Rules Governing Servants and the power of the aristocracy in rural areas, in short, it is a step towards the granting of full civil rights to the “subject population” which the Party of Progress, i.e. any bourgeois opposition party in Prussia, would be crazy not to be a hundred times more willing to permit than the Prussian government, to say nothing of the government of a Bismarck! As opposed to that, however, the aid of the Royal Prussian government for co-operative societies — and anyone who is familiar with conditions in Prussia also knows in advance its necessarily minute dimensions — is worthless as an economic measure, whilst, at the same time, it serves to extend the system of tutelage, corrupt part of the working class and emasculate the movement. Just as the bourgeois party in Prussia discredited itself and brought about its present wretched situation by seriously believing that with the “New Era” the government had fallen into its lap by the grace of the Prince Regent, so the workers’ party will discredit itself even more if it imagines that the Bismarck era or any other Prussian era will make the golden apples just drop into its mouth, by grace of the king. It is beyond all question that Lassalle’s ill-starred illusion that a Prussian government might intervene with socialist measures will be crowned with disappointment. The logic of circumstances will tell. But the honour of the workers’ party requires that it reject such illusions, even before their hollowness is punctured by experience. The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing.

Well! He replied to this letter of mine of 13th with his letter of 15th, in which he demands that in all ‘practical’ questions I should subordinate myself to his tactics; he replies with ‘Bismarck III’ as a fresh specimen of these tactics!! And really it now seems to me that the impudent manner in which he raised the question of confidence apropos of the statement against Hess was not due to any tenderness for Moses but to the firm resolution not to give space in the Social-Demokrat under any circumstances to our hint to the German workers.

So, as a break must be made with the fellow after all, it had best be done at once. As far as the louts in Germany are concerned, they can scream as much as they like. Those of them who are any good will after all have to rally round us sooner or later. If the statement given below seems all right to you, make a copy of it, sign it and send it to me. As it was scrawled in great haste, alter anything that seems unsuitable to you, or re-write the whole thing, just as you wish.

Your
K. M.

To the Editor of the ‘Social-Demokrat’[edit source]

The undersigned promised to contribute to the Social-Demokrat and permitted their being named as contributors on the express condition that the paper would be edited in the spirit of the brief programme submitted to them. They did not for a moment fail to appreciate the difficult position of the Social-Demokrat and therefore made no demands that were inappropriate to the meridian of Berlin. But they repeatedly demanded that the language directed at the ministry and the feudal-absolutist party should be at least as bold as that aimed at the men of progress. The tactics pursued by the Social-Demokrat preclude their further participation in it. The opinion of the undersigned as to the royal Prussian governmental socialism and the correct attitude of the workers’ party to such deception has already been set out in detail in No. 73 of the Deutsche-Brusseler-Zeitung of 12 September 1847, in reply to No. 206 of the Rheinischer Beobachter (then appearing in Cologne), in which the alliance of the ‘proletariat’ with the ‘government’ against the ‘liberal bourgeoisie’ was proposed. We still subscribe today to every word of the statement we made then.

I'll send the Weydemeyer back to you tomorrow. What do you say to the ‘Freiligrath-Blind’ Eidgenossenschaft [confederation].

For a couple of days now, I have had a carbuncle on my posterior and a furuncle on my left loin. All very nice.