Letter to Friedrich Engels, January 13, 1869

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To Engels in Manchester

London, 13 January 1869[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Thanks for the numbers of Zukunft. (Thesmar and Georgios Jung!)

I put off writing to you from day to day because of a frightful cold which, for about 2 weeks, has been absolutely besieging my eyes, ears, nose and entire head. Since, however, this damned foggy weather still gives no hope of an early delivery from the evil, I shall wait no longer. Is it so pleasant at your place in Manchester too? Little wonder that suicides are in full blossom here now. Only an Irishman, even in Seven Dials, says that ‘He would rather commit suicide on any one than himself’.

Did the young Th. von Gimborn from Emmerich, manufacturer in nuce, present himself to you? It is not quite clear to me what he wants. First, he told me he wanted to go into a factory as a technician for a certain period, say half a year, or as a simple worker, in order to study the organisation, etc., of English factory work. Now it is only a question of a 14-day stay in a factory supplying agricultural machinery. Does Gimborn, after all, simply wish to discover English factory secrets? He won’t find it easy.

Now a short report about the ‘international incidents’.

a) ‘Alliance Internationale de la Démocratie Socialists':

On 22 December 1868, a unanimous decision of the General Council which stated: 1. All the articles of the Rules of the Alliance, etc., laying down its relations with the International Working Men’s Association, are declared null and void. 2. The Alliance, etc., is not admitted as a branch of the International Working Men’s Association. The reasoning behind this decision (which I edited), is stated completely in legal form, and shows the conflict between the statutes of the planned Alliance and our Rules, etc. A final considérant, which must show old Becker, in particular, his asininity, is that the Brussels Congress already set a precedent with respect to the Ligne de la Paix et de la Liberté. With regard to this organisation, which wanted to be recognised by the International Association, the Congress declared: Since the League claims to follow the same principles and to pursue the same aims as the International Association, it has no ‘raison d'etre’ and, considérant this, stated finally, ‘a number of members of the Geneva initiating group’ also voted in this sense in Brussels.

In the meantime, we have received letters from Brussels, Rouen, Lyon, etc., declaring unconditional support for the General Council decision. Not one voice has been raised in support of le groupe initiateur de Genève. That this group did not act quite honestly is clear from the fact they only informed us of their establishment and their activities after they had already tried to win over the Brussels people, etc. I regard the matter as closed, though we have not yet received an answer to our ‘judgement’ from Geneva. The attempt has, in any case, failed.

b) Ad vocem Bakunin:

To understand his enclosed letter, you must know the following: D'abord, this letter crossed our ‘message’ regarding the ‘Alliance’. Bakunin is thus still under the pleasant misapprehension that he will be allowed to go his own way. Further: The Russian Serno was, in his earlier correspondence with Borkheim, decidedly against Bakunin. In my reply to Serno I wished to use this young man as an informant about Bakunin. Since I trust no Russian, I did it in this form: ‘What is my old friend (I don’t know if he still is) Bakunin doing, etc., etc.’ The Russian Serno immediately informed Bakunin of this letter, and Bakunin used it for a sentimental entrée!

c) Ad vocem Old Becker:

He has got himself badly stuck. D'abord he sends us, dated Geneva, 21 December, a 4-page letter about the Basle business, but without a single fait précis. We should, however, act immediately. At the same time, he writes to Lessner that we (the General Council) had already ‘compromised’ ourselves in the Geneva affair, and this should not happen again. Or, he says in these precise words (in his letter to Lessner),

‘does the General Council, like God, exist only in the faith of fools?’ In Geneva, people only speak of us with a shrug of the shoulders, etc.

Thereupon Becker received the reply from Jung that his 4-page epistle contained nothing. How can he expect to receive money in London on the basis of such a vacuum?

In his letter of 21 December, Becker announced a further elaborate report. Instead of this we receive the Vorbote. You saw for yourself that the Vorbote in fact only reported on the ‘concluded’ lockout of the Ribbon Weavers, and certainly did not make clear how the conflict has developed since. In short, to this very moment we know no more than is reported in Vorbote. Not only can no step be taken with the Trades Unions on this basis, but it is impossible to publish anything about the affair on behalf of the General Council. We cannot expose ourselves to a reply from the usurers of Basle that we are shouting to the world without knowing the facts.

Summa summarum, a week ago the General Council decided to reprimand both Becker and Perret (the French correspondent for Geneva) for not providing us to date with the necessary information on the Basle affair. The matter will rest there for the time being. I'm sorry for Old Becker. But he must realise that we hold the reins, although we refrain from direct intervention as long as possible.

d) Strikes in Rouen, Vienne, etc. (Cottonspinning):

Are about 6-7 weeks old. The interesting thing about the case is that, some time ago, the master-manufacturers (and spinners) in Amiens held a General Congress under the chairmanship of the maire of Amiens. Here it was decided — on the suggestion of a certain faiseur [intriguer] named Vidal, who had hung out in England for a considerable time — that competition should be offered to the English in England, etc. Namely, by establishing depots for French yarn, etc., in England, both for sale there and to overseas merchants who trade directly with England. And this should be brought about by a further reduction of wages, after it had already been admitted that, in France itself, assuming the present tariffs, English competition was only being withstood through the low wages (relative to the English ones). In fact, after this Amiens congress, they began with wage reductions in Rouen, Vienne, etc. Hence the strikes. We have let the people know, through Dupont, about the bad state of business here (especially also the cotton trade), and thus the difficulty of raising money at this time. Meanwhile, as you will see from the enclosed letter (Vienne), the strike in Vienne has come to an end. For the present we have sent to those in Rouen, where the conflict is still going on, a draft for £20 on the Paris bronze-workers, who still owe us this money from their lockout. Incidentally, these French workers act much more rationally than the Swiss and are, at the same time, much more modest in their demands.

Hoping that your head is not so sneezily and villainously idiotised as mine,

K. Moro