Letter to Friedrich Engels, September 26, 1868

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 26 September 1868

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43, p. 114;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

To Engels in Manchester

London, 26 September 1868[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Best thanks for £5. These lousy little shopkeepers are a wretched class. My wife immediately took the money to the house of the dun. The man himself had ‘made himself scarce’ for the time being (and he is in his way quite a decent fellow); his wife, dripping with tears, accepted the money for him. Many, in fact most, of these shopkeepers experience all the misery of the proletariat, plus the ‘fear’ and ‘serfdom of respectability’, and without the compensating self-esteem of the better workers.

Apropos. The squabble among the authorities of the trades unions, which in fact paralysed them for years, has at last been settled. The London Trades’ Council (Odger et Co.), London Workingmen’s Association (Potter et Co.) and the Amalgamated Trades Unions (I believe the main office is at present Sheffield, it changes annually) have finally agreed on joint action. This is the outcome of the bourgeois campaign against the trades unions.

I return the last numbers of Schweitzer, since you may need them in the article for Wilhelm. Keep them in Manchester, but in such a way that they can be found again if needed. I do not believe that Schweitzer had an idea of the impending blow. Had this been the case he would scarcely have clucked so triumphantly about the ‘tight organisation’. I believe it was the ‘International Workingmen’s Association’ that moved the Prussian government to this decisive blow. As for the ‘warm fraternal’ letter from Schweitzer to me, this is explained simply by his fear that following the Nuremberg decision I might now publicly speak up for Wilhelm and against him. Such a polemic would certainly be awkward after the Hamburg affair (le bonhomme had written to me requesting me kindly to come to Hamburg in person, ‘to have the well-earned laurels placed upon my brow'!).

The most essential thing for the German working class is that it should cease to agitate by permission of the high government authorities. Such a bureaucratically schooled race must undergo a complete course of ‘self help’. On the other hand, they undoubtedly have the advantage that they are starting the movement at a period when conditions are much further developed than they were for the English and that, as Germans, they have heads on their shoulders capable of generalising. Eccarius is full of praise for the parliamentary propriety and tact that reigned at the Nuremberg congress, particularly compared with the French at Brussels.

In Spain things still look doubtful; but it appears to me that the movement can be suppressed only for a short time at the most. One thing I do not understand is that the leaders did not wait until the ‘Innocent Lady’ had left Spain and was visiting Bonaparte. Could it be that the latter himself had a hand in the game?


K. M.

One of Schweitzer’s most ridiculous operations — to which, however, he is absolutely forced by the prejudices of his army and as the president of the General Association of German Workers — is that he regularly pledges himself in verba magistri, and each time he makes a new concession to the needs of the real workers’ movement he argues timidly that this does not contradict the dogmas of the Lassallean faith, the only guarantee of eternal salvation. The Hamburg Congress instinctively and quite correctly recognised that the General Association of German Workers, as the specific organisation of the Lassallean sect, was endangered by the real workers’ movement operating through trades unions, etc., and that by participating in these officially it would forfeit the distinctiveness that constitutes its point d'honneur and raison d'être.