Letter to Laura Lafargue, October 17, 1889

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 17 October 1889

First published, in the language of the original (English), in: F. Engels, P. et L. Lafargue, Correspondance, t. Il, Paris, 1956

Extract: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 48

To Laura Lafargue at Le Perreux

London, October 17, 1889[edit source]

My dear Laura,

Many thanks from Nim and myself for the splendid box of pears which arrived in capital condition and into which we have already eaten a considerable hole. I stick to my American habit[1] of eating fruit every morning before breakfast and so you may imagine that the rate of disappearance of the produce of your garden is anything but slow. Tussy and Pumps, too, will claim their shares—in fact they are already set apart.

Since the Dock Strike Tussy has become quite an East Ender, organising Trades Unions and supporting strikes — last Sunday we did not see her at all, as she had to speechify both morning and night. These new Trades Unions of unskilled men and women are totally different from the old organisations of the working-class aristocracy and cannot fall into the same conservative ways; they are too poor, too shaky and too much composed of unstable elements, for anyone of these unskilled people may change his trade any day. And they are organised under quite different circumstances — all the leading men and women are Socialists, and socialist agitators too. In them I see the real beginning of the movement here.

The Federation is for the moment played out—the violent attacks of Justice on Champion, Burns, etc., have suddenly ceased, there is instead a sort of hidden, verschämtes[2] sighing for some sort of universal brotherhood— the last report of the French elections for instance gives our results too, and without any nasty allusions or remarks; it looks as if the rank and file had become rebellious. If our lot here—I mean Champion especially—don’t make mistakes, they will soon have it all their own way. But I confess I cannot get myself to have full confidence in that man—he is too dodgy. He used to go to Church congresses and preach Socialism there, and now he has formed a Committee for organising the East End women with a lot of middle class philanthropists who held a meeting with the bishop of Bedford in the chair—and of course from this business they took good care to exclude Tussy! Now I don’t like that, and if they go on that way I shall soon leave them alone. Burns is too fond of popularity to be able to resist such things and goes in with Champion—if I once see him alone, I shall speak to him.

Longuet told us you had said you were coming over at Christmas. We shall be very glad to see you here and have everything comfortable for you, unless you prefer coming in the better season, as you said to Nim you would do next time. But then what is the better season here? After the exceptionally fine summer we had (and are having, for it is a regular rheinischer Altweibersommer[3] now) perhaps we are in for a whole year’s rain!

Sam Moore has arrived at Asaba and has sentenced, as soon as he put his foot ashore in Africa, a Nigger Captain of a Steamer to 9 months hard labour for attempted rape. He says the climate is very fine, 23°C in the morning, 26-29° at 3 in the afternoon (in July and August!) and to all appearance healthy. Fuller news we are promised, but alas, between Akassa and Asaba (both on the Niger) there seems to be no regular mail, and the post-mark of Akassa is the stamp of the Niger Co. with the date filled in in ink!

Love from Nim.

Ever yours

F. E.

  1. An allusion to Engels' sojourn in America in August and September 1888
  2. shamefaced
  3. Rhenish Indian summer