Letter to Laura Lafargue, September 1, 1889

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To Laura Lafargue at Le Perreux

Eastbourne, September 1, 1889[edit source]

My dear Laura,

Yesterday evening late I had news from my bank that the long expected dividend of £36 has been paid in and so I hasten to send you cheque for £30, ten of which are the second half of the money I promised Paul for his electioneering expenses and for which he applied in a letter, to hand here last Friday, from Cette. His prospects in the town seem good but then Cette is but small and the country votes will decide—hope I shall hear more from him in a few days. Let’s hope for the best.

Cannot write much being Sunday and our people always in and out; moreover have to write to Tussy about the strike which was in an important crisis yesterday. As the dock directors kept stubborn, our people were led to a very foolish resolution. They had outstripped their means of relief and had to announce that on Saturday no relief could be dealt out to strikers. In order to make this go down — that is the way at least I take it — they declared that if the dock directors had not caved in by Saturday noon, on Monday there would be a general strike — reckoning chiefly on the supposition that the Gas works for want of coal or of workmen or both would come to a stand and London be in darkness — and this threat was to terrify all into submission to the demands of the men.

Now this was playing va banque, staking £1,000 — to win, possibly, £10—; it was threatening more than they could carry out; it was creating millions of hungry mouths for no reason but because they had some tens of thousands on hand which they could not feed; it was casting away willfully all the sympathies of the shopkeepers and even of the great mass of the bourgeoisie who all hated the dock monopolists, but who now would at once turn against the workmen. In fact it was such a declaration of despair and such a desperate game that I wrote to Tussy at once; if this is persisted in, the Dock Co.’s have only to hold out till Wednesday and they will be victorious.

Fortunately they have thought better of it. Not only has the threat been “provisionally” withdrawn but they have even acceded to the demands of the wharfingers (in some respect competitors of the docks), have reduced their demands for an increase of wages, and this has again been rejected by the Dock Companies. This I think will secure them the victory. The threat with the general strike will now have a salutary effect, and the generosity of the workmen, both in withdrawing it and in acceding to a compromise, will secure them fresh sympathy and help.

On Friday we shall return to London. Shorlemmer has left about a fortnight ago for Germany, where he is now, what he is doing and what his intentions are, I don't know.

As to Boulanger his weakness is shown in his electoral proceedings: he takes Paris and leaves to the monarchists all the provinces. That ought to disabuse his most obstinate adherents if they pretend to be Republicans. Paul writes to me that a Marseilles Boulangist has owned to him that Boulanger has had from the Russian government 15 millions. That explains the whole dodge. The Russian dynasty, now allied by Denmark to the Orléans, wishes for an Orléans restauration and one brought about by Russia; for then the Orléans would be its slaves. And only with a monarchical France can the Czar[1] have a sincere alliance, such as he requires for a long war with dubious chances. To bring this about, Boulanger is put forward as the tool. If he is successful as a stepping stone to monarchy, he will, at the proper time, be bought off or in case of need put out of the way, for the Russian government will not have in that case the scruples which our Socialists have; ‘denn die abzumurksen ist uns Wurscht’[2] is their motto. As to Millerand I believe you are right. In his paper[3] there is, for all its attempted radicalism, a tone of weakness, half-despondency, and above all so much of the milk of human kindness[4] (stale as it is, it has not the stuff in it to turn sour) that compared even with La Justice as I have once known that paper, it inspires pity mingled with a drop of contempt. And these be the successors of the old French Republicans, les fils des héros de la rue Saint-Méryl

Ever yours


Love from Nim and all the lot here.

  1. Alexander III
  2. 'polishing one off makes no difference to us'
  3. La Voix
  4. Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, Scene V