Letter to John Lincoln Mahon, June 23, 1887

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To John Lincoln Mahon in London

London, June 23, 1887[edit source]

Dear Mahon,

I returned you yesterday the programme with some notes which may perhaps be of use at some future time.

What you say about the leaders of the Trades Unions is quite trite. We have had to fight them from the beginning of the International. From them have sprung the MacDonalds, Burts, Cremers and Howells, and their success in the parliamentary line encourages the minor leaders to imitate their conduct. If you can get the Trades Unionists of the North to consider their Unions as a valuable means of organisation and of obtaining minor results, but no longer to regard “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” as the ultimate end, then the occupation of the leaders will be gone.

I think your plan of organisation rather premature; the provinces ought first to be aroused thoroughly, and that is as yet far from being the case. And unless there is an overwhelming force from the provinces brought to bear on London, the London squabblers will not be silenced—except by a real movement of the London masses. There has been in my opinion already too much impatience shown in what is called by courtesy the socialist movement in England; experimentalising with fresh attempts at organisation will be worse than useless until there is really something to organise. And when the masses once begin to move they will soon organise themselves.

As to the League, if it upholds the resolution1 of the last Conference, I do not see how anyone can remain a member who intends using the present political machinery as a means of propaganda and action.

In the meantime it is necessary, of course, that the propaganda be kept up and I am quite willing to contribute my share. But the means for this must be got together and distributed by some English Committee, and as far as they are to come from London, by a London Committee. I shall speak to the Avelings about this and give them my contribution.

I do not know any books where you could get information about the Luddite movement; it will be a laborious task to trace out reliable sources from the references in history books and pamphlets of the time.

Yours faithfully

F. Engels