Letter to Karl Marx, April 12, 1865

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To Marx in London

Manchester, 12 April 1865[edit source]

Dear Moor,

It’s good to have you back again, and I certainly hope this lousy squabble will soon be over. Letters from Dronke and Borkheim enclosed. I had told the latter how it was possible to work with Kolatschek’s great-German organ supporting Austrian rule in Hungary, Poland and Italy, as we would immediately have all our friends in the other countries down on us, hence the vague reply.

I had always half expected that the naive fraternité in the International Association would not last long. If there were an active political movement among the workers here, just the same splits would occur. It will pass through a lot more such phases and will take up a great deal of your time. But it does still remain something quite different from Lassalle’s Association.

I couldn’t resist a hearty laugh when I read in Wilhelmchen’s [Wilhelm Liebknecht’s] letter that the official Berlin community of that Association consists of 5 people, as there was recently a perfectly serious report in the Social-Demokrat of their transactions, in which they congratulated each other on such a large turn-out.

Ad vocem cotton-crisis, things are looking quite cheerful here. Cotton (middling Orleans) stood at 31 3/4d in July, was quoted at 14 3 /4d last Thursday, and today, if one is selling, it hardly fetches 14d. So, it has depreciated by more than half. It was still worth 27d on 30 December, which is a fall of 12 1/2 — 13d in 3 months! On top of that, there’s been a fall in flax, wool, sugar and all imports generally, which makes a loss of at least £40-50 mill. stg. You will readily understand that all the philistines are in a cold sweat. In Liverpool, bankruptcy has altogether gone out of fashion now. Anyone who becomes insolvent goes to his creditors (generally people there have only a couple), notifies them and offers them such and such an amount, which is always accepted at once as they are glad to get anything at all and have got to avoid any scandal so that the whole rotten edifice doesn’t collapse. Hundreds of such settlements are said to have been reached on the quiet, and today rumour even has it here that one of the biggest Stockport manufacturers, who owns 3 big factories and is reputed to have made £200,000 over the last few years in cotton speculation alone, has just come to a similar understanding on the quiet. But what we've seen so far is nothing. The bills, which were drawn from India against the white cotton, run out in the next 6 weeks, and there will be many more besides Joyce who will come to grief. A lot of people in Scotland are finished as well, and one fine day it’s bound to be the turn of the banks, and that'd be the end of the matter. The spinners and manufacturers are becoming bankrupt by the dozen in Austria, too — in the whole of Bohemia only ‘the great Liebig’ is still on his feet, all the others have gone bust — and in Poland it’s all just starting as well.

Industry itself is not much affected. The small fry mostly went bust ages ago or quietly melted away, and the big ones can operate reasonably profitably once more, if they can get any orders at all. Among them, the only ones who are going bust are those who have bad machinery or who couldn’t keep their fingers out of cotton. Everyone is making a loss on their stocks of cotton yarns and fabrics. We too could sing you a woeful song about that, twice as woeful for me in particular as it would have been if droned out last year. That’s what comes of being an associé.

Glorious is also the ethics of trade, as at present. You buy something today, and by the time it’s delivered, it is worth 3, 4, or 5d a pound less. This leads to all kinds of dirty tricks and repudiations, as people try to get out of these unprofitable contracts at any cost, and that lands you in interminable altercations and squabbling correspondence. I'm sick to the teeth with it. You can have no idea how much letter-writing and aggravation this entails.

I hope your wife got the £3? Final statement of account enclosed, I'll send the £12 in a few days, it’s too late for a Post Office order today.

Best wishes.

F. E.