To the Austrian Workers on May Day 1893

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Engels sent the message of greetings to the Austrian workers for the special May Day issue of the Arbeiter Zeitung, having written it at the request of the Austrian Social Democrat Michael Schacherl made in his letter of January 14, 1893.

It was published under the heading “Ein Brief von Friedrich Engels”. The same issue carried May Day greetings to the Austrian workers and articles on the day of proletarian solidarity sent by Marx’s daughters Laura Lafargue and Eleanor Marx-Aveling, as well as by Paul Lafargue, August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Georgy Plekhanov and some other prominent -members of the working-class and socialist movement.

London. I have been asked to address a few words to the Austrian comrades in their May Day newspaper. What can I say to them? They know better than I how May Day should be celebrated. From 1890 onwards the Austrian workers have shown their brothers in all other countries, year after year, what a real May Day is in the sense of the proletaria. Nowhere else has it been possible to do the same, or even imitate them.

Indeed the festival of May Day has a far greater importance in Austria than elsewhere. In Germany in 1890 they could point to the Reichstag election, just concluded, which had provided such a grandiose review of the militant German working class that any May festival appeared pale in comparison. In France in 1892 the municipal elections on the basis of general suffrage, which similarly brought great victories to the workers, fell on May the First[1]; there it was necessary to work for the cause of the proletariat on May the First, not to celebrate. But in Austria the workers have not yet got the vote, and the state of press freedom as well as their right of coalition and right of assembly was defined by Government Counsellor Baron von Czapka in his answer to questions in the Reichs Council. [2] And for this reason the Austrian workers are right and right again when they insist, under all circumstances, upon their rigorously executed May Day celebration. For the workers of other countries this celebration is mainly an international affair; it can therefore come to pass that it takes second place to special domestic circumstances. For the Austrians it is not only an international affair but also, and perhaps predominantly, a domestic affair, and thus stands for them, unconditionally and always, in the first place.

May it this year too pass off as brilliantly as ever.

  1. At the municipal elections of 1892, the French Workers' Party scored a major victory, polling over 100,000 votes.
  2. At the sitting of the Austrian Reichs Council of January 17, 1893 von Czapka answered the questions of Social-Democratic deputies and admitted the illegal character of actions by local authorities which had violated the right of association and assembly in some parts of Austria.