Letter to Karl Marx, December 18, 1868

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 18 December 1868

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43, p. 191;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1931.

To Marx in London

Manchester, 18 December 1868[edit source]

Dear Moor,

Best thanks for the Ténot and the Baudin trial. As soon as I have read the latter I shall send them both back. You can keep Province there; I have ordered them both at the bookshop; one really must have things of this sort. The complete oblivion of revolutionary-counterrevolutionary causality is a necessary result of every victorious reaction; in Germany the younger generation knows absolutely nothing about ’48, except the wretched howls of the Kreuzzeitung, which echoed in ’49-52 in all the papers; history comes to an abrupt stop there at the end of ’47. — The deliberations of the 10th Mairie are really exquisite; I had never read such a complete version.

By chance I read E. Strohn’s obituary in the Kölnische Zeitung. He died of articular rheumatism.

The Geneva document is very naive. Old man Becker has never been able to refrain from cliquish agitation; wherever 2 or 3 get together, he must be amongst them; yet if you had warned him in good time, he would probably have steered clear of it. Now he will be astonished by the bad effects of his well-meant efforts. It is as clear as daylight that the International cannot get involved in this fraud. There would be two General Councils and even two Congresses: this would be a state within the state and, right from the start, conflict would break out between the practical Council in London, and the theoretical, ‘idealist’, Council in Geneva. In the International there cannot be two (professional) international bodies, any more than two General Councils. Incidentally, who gives you the right to recognise a so-called Central Bureau without mandators, whose members will be of the same nationality and who constitute themselves (in paragraph 3 of the Rules this ‘themselves’ is omitted, and with good reason!) the national bureau of their country! Since these gentlemen have no mandators except themselves, they wish the International to constitute itself their mandator. If the International refuses to do so, who would recognise the ‘initiating group’ or, in other words, the ‘Central Bureau’ as its representatives? The Central Council of the International has passed through at least three successive elections, and the whole world knows that it represents countless workers; but these ‘initiators’?

And even if we wished to ignore the formalities of an election, what is represented by the names that make up this initiating group, this group that pretends to have been given ‘the special mission to study political and philosophical questions, etc.’? No doubt it is science they will represent. Will we find among them men known to have devoted their whole lives to the study of these questions? On the contrary. There is not a name whose bearer has so far dared as much as to claim to be a man of science. If they are without mandate as representatives of social democracy, they are a thousand times more without mandate as representatives of science.

The rest you remarked upon in your notes. Like you, I regard the business as a still-born, purely Genevan local growth. It would only be viable if you were to oppose it too violently, and thus gave it importance. I think it would be best calmly but firmly to rebuff these people with their pretensions to sneaking into the International. Apart from this, we should say that they had selected a special field and one would have to wait to see what they make of it and, we should also say that, for the present, there was nothing to stop members of one association from being members of the other. Since the fellows, to put it bluntly, have no other field of activity than chatter, they will soon enough bore one another to death, and since it may be expected that they will have no new adherents from outside (given such conditions), the whole concern will certainly soon collapse. But if you violently oppose this Russian intrigue, you will unnecessarily arouse the very numerous — particularly in Switzerland — political philistines among the journeymen, and harm the International. With a Russian (and in this case there are 4 [Bakunin, Zhukovsky, Elpidin and Bartenev], not counting the females), with a Russian one must never lose one’s temper.

I have never read anything more wretched than the theoretical programme. Siberia, his stomach, and the young Polish woman [A K Bakunina] have made Bakunin a perfect blockhead.

My trip will probably not come to anything before the New Year, the damned draft contract is still not ready.

Best greetings.

F. E.