Letter to Johann Philipp Becker, February 14, 1884

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To J.P. Becker in Geneva

London, 14 February 1884

122 Regent’s Park Road, N. W.

Dear Old Man,

There is no reason for you to worry about my health; the thing was a long drawn-out but not at all dangerous, and is steadily abating.

I have sent Laura a copy of the note with the New Year’s greetings.

I have also taken out a money order for five pounds to enable you, old chap, to cosset yourself and your wife a bit. I hope that the comparatively mild winter and the better time of year now approaching will put you both on your feet again.

I have found a few things that emanated from you but cannot yet say whether there are any more. There’s a whole big hamper full of letters, etc., to be looked through. As soon as I’ve sorted it out, I shall send you everything that turns up.

Now, as regards your plan, it is the circumstances presently prevailing in Germany that are the first consideration. From time to time

I get information on the subject direct from Germany and, according to this, the despotism of the police is unrestrained and the government is determined to put a stop to any public agitation by our party, no matter what the pretext for that agitation or under what name it is conducted. The fact that Social Democrats are at the back of it is enough for any meeting to be dispersed, any attempt to have a say in the press smothered and any participant expelled from a locality subject to the state of emergency. The experience of the past six years cannot leave us in any doubt as to that.

Now I am of the view that the appropriateness, timing and object of a renewed attempt at mass agitation are things we who live abroad are utterly incapable of deciding, and that this must be left entirely to those in Germany who have to endure the pressure there and who know best what is possible and what is impossible. So if you approach Bebel or Liebknecht, and they deliberate the matter there, it would, in my view, be for them to decide the pros and cons, and for us to abide by their decision.

Things are by no means so bad with the agitation in Germany, even if the bourgeois press suppresses most of what is happening and only now and then lets out an involuntary groan of terror that the Party is gaining ground at a tearing rate instead of losing it.

The police have opened up a really splendid field for our people: the ever-present and uninterrupted struggle with the police themselves. This is being carried on everywhere and always, with great success and, the best thing about it, with great humour. The police are defeated--and made to look foolish into the bargain. And I consider this struggle the most useful in the circumstances. Above all it keeps the contempt for the enemy alive among our lads. Worse troops could not be sent into the field against us than the German police; even where they have the upper hand they suffer a moral defeat, and confidence in victory is growing among our lads every day. This struggle will bring it about that as soon as the pressure is at last relaxed (and that will happen on the day the dance in Russia begins) we shall no longer count our numbers in hundreds of thousands but in millions. There is a lot of rotten stuff among the so-called leaders but I have unqualified confidence in our masses, and what they lack in revolutionary tradition they are gaining more and more from this little war with the police. And you can say what you like, but we have never seen a proletariat yet which has learnt to act collectively and to march together in so short a time. For this reason, even though nothing appears on the surface, we can, I think, calmly await the moment when the call to arms is given. You will see how they muster!

Fraternal greetings from your old friend

F. Engels