Letter to Ion Nadejde, January 4, 1888

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To Ion Nadejde in Jassy

Dear Citizen,

My friend Karl Kautsky, editor of the Neue Zeit, has sent me several consecutive numbers of La Revista Sociala and of Contemporanul containing, amongst other things, your translations of some of my works, in particular my Origin of the Family, etc. Allow me to proffer my sincere thanks for the trouble you have been so good as to take in making these writings accessible to the Romanian public. In addition to the honour you have thus done me, you have also rendered me, personally, the service of enabling me at long last to learn something of your language. I say at long last because, almost fifty years ago, I tried to do this, if in vain, with the help of the Grammaire comparée des langues romanes by Diez. Recently I succeeded in getting hold of Cionca’s little grammar but, having no texts to read and no dictionary, I did not get on very well. But with your translation I have been able to make some progress, the original text and the Latin and Slav etymology having taken the place of the dictionary and now, thanks to you, I can say that Romanian is no longer, for me, a completely unknown language. However, if you could tell me of a passable dictionary, whether Romanian-German or Romanian-French or -Italian, you would be doing me another signal service; for it would help me the better to understand your original articles and the pamphlets Ce vor socialistii romîni? and Karl Marx si economistii nostri, which Kautsky likewise sent me.

From these I have, with much pleasure, gained the conviction that the socialists of your country have adopted in their programme the fundamental principles of the theory formulated by my late friend Karl Marx – a theory which has succeeded in welding together into a single fighting force the vast majority of European and American socialists. At the time of that great thinker’s death, the social and political situation, and the progress being made by our Party in all civilised countries, enabled him to close his eyes in the conviction that his efforts to unite the proletarians of the two worlds into one big army and under the same flag would ultimately be crowned with success. But if only he had been able to catch a glimpse of the immense strides we have since made in America no less than in Europe!

So great have been those strides that, for the European party at any rate, a common international policy has become imperative. In this regard, I again have the satisfaction of seeing that you agree, in principle, with ourselves and with the large majority of western socialists. Your translation of my article ‘The Political Situation in Europe’, as also your letter to the Editor of the Neue Zeit, are proof enough of this.

Indeed we are all confronted by the same great obstacle that is hampering the free development of all the nations and of each individual nation; in the absence of that development we could not embark upon, still less accomplish, social revolution in the various countries merely by means of mutual cooperation. That obstacle is the old Holy Alliance between the three assassins of Poland, led since 1815 by Russian Tsarism and surviving until today despite occasional domestic squabbles. It was founded in 1815 to combat the revolutionary spirit of the French people; in 1871 it was ratified by the annexation of Alsace, which turned Germany into the slave of Tsarism and the Tsar into the arbiter of Europe; in 1888 it is maintained for the purpose of crushing the revolutionary spirit within the three empires – the national aspirations no less than the political and social movements of the working classes. Since Russia enjoys a virtually impregnable strategic position, Russian Tsarism forms the nub of that alliance, great repository of all European reaction. To topple Tsarism, to destroy that incubus which lies heavy on the whole of Europe, such, in my eyes, is the first condition for the emancipation of the nationalities of central and eastern Europe. Once Tsarism has been crushed, the nefarious power represented today by Bismarck will in turn crumble. Austria will fall to pieces, having lost its only raison d’etre, that of preventing by its very existence the annexation by conquering Tsarism of the scattered nations in the Carpathians and the Balkans. Poland will be reborn, Little Russia will be free to choose its political position, the Romanians, the Magyars and the South Slavs will be able to settle their own affairs and their new boundaries amongst themselves, unhampered by any foreign meddling and, finally, the noble nation of Great Russia, no longer engaged in pursuing chimerical conquest for the benefit of Tsarism, will be free to carry out its true civilising mission in Asia and to develop its vast intellectual resources in exchanges with the West, instead of squandering the best of its blood on the scaffold or in the katorga.

You in Romania must know what Tsarism is, having had more than enough experience of it through Kiselev’s ‘réglement organique’, through the intervention of 1848, through the theft-perpetrated not once, but twice – of Bessarabia, through the innumerable invasions of your country, a mere Russian staging-post, no more, on the way to the Bosphorus, and through the sure knowledge that your independent existence will cease on the day the Tsar fulfils his dream-the conquest of Constantinople.

At this moment the alliance appears to have disintegrated and war to be imminent. But even if war does come, it will be merely in order to make recalcitrant Prussia and Austria toe the line. I hope that peace will be maintained: in such a war it would be impossible to sympathise with any of the combatants; rather, were such a thing possible, one would wish that all should be beaten. It would be a terrible war – but, come what may, everything will eventually turn to the advantage of the socialist movement and bring nearer the accession of the working class.

Pray excuse these elucidations, but just now I could not well write to a Romanian without expressing an opinion on these burning questions. What it boils down to is this: revolution in Russia at this moment would save Europe from the horrors of a general war and would usher in universal social revolution.

Since your relations with the German socialists, newspaper exchange, etc., leave something to be desired, I would gladly do for you whatever can.

With fraternal greetings,
E Engels