To the Committee of the German Social-Democratic Workers' Party

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This letter was written by Marx and Engels in connection with a congress of the International to be held in September 1870. Following the General Council’s decision of May 17, 1870 on the convocation of the congress in Mainz, Stumpf, authorised by Liebknecht, wrote a letter to Marx on June 11 asking him to postpone the congress till October in view of the forthcoming September elections to the Imperial Diet in Germany. The next day the same request was made by the Committee of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party to the General Council, and by Geib to Marx. Marx was definitely against the postponement and expressed his opinion on the matter in a letter to the Committee of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party on June 27 (see this volume, p. 445).

This letter of Marx and Engels was published in Der Volksstaat, No. 51, June 26, 1872 and in the book Leipziger Hochverrathsprozess. Ausführlicher Bericht über die Verhandlungen des Schwurgerichts zu Leipzig in dem Prozess gegen Liebknecht, Bebel und Hepner wegen Vorbereitung zum Hochwerrath vom 11.-26. März 1872, Leipzig, 1872. It was reprinted in the 1874 and 1894 editions of the book, the latter edition being prepared by Liebknecht on the instruction of the Committee of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party.

86 Mornington Street,

Stockport Road, Manchester

London, June 14, 1870

Dear Friends,

Today I received a letter from Stumpf (Mainz), in which he says, among other things:

“Liebknecht authorises me to write to you that because of the Reichstag elections, which are to be held precisely at that time, it might be better to hold the congress here on October 5. Last Monday[1] the congress in Stuttgart[2] also came out in favour of October 5. I hear that Geib is authorised to write to you in this matter.”

Liebknecht and the other members of the International ought at least to be familiar with its Rules, which expressly state:

“§ 3. The General Council may, in case of need, change the place, but has no power to postpone the time of meeting.”[3]

When I spoke in the General Council in favour of your urgent invitation to have the congress moved to Germany, I naturally assumed that you had taken all the circumstances into consideration. According to the Rules there can be no question of postponing the congress.

Another passage in Stumpfs letter is also far from reassuring.

In it he says:

“I have just come from the Burgomaster. He wants a solvent citizen to guarantee that if the Schweitzer people were to start a fighting, the town would be recompensed for any damage in the Electoral Hall of Marble, which has been promised to us for the congress, etc.”

You proposed the towns of Mainz, Darmstadt or Mannheim, thus in fact assuming, vis-à-vis the General Council, the responsibility of ensuring that the congress can be held in any of these towns without scandalous scenes which would make the International, and the German working class in particular, the laughing-stock of the whole world. I hope that you have taken all the necessary precautions in this respect.

What is the numerical proportion of Schweitzer supporters in Mainz and district to your own people?

In the event that a scandal cannot be avoided, steps must be taken in advance to ensure that it rebounds on its instigators. The plan of the Prussian police to obstruct the international congress in Mainz—which they are unable to prevent from convening by direct means—through their tool, the Schweitzer organisation, or to prevent the peaceful holding of its sessions, must be denounced in the Volksstaat, Zukunft and in other German papers open to us. As soon as this had been done in Germany, the General Council would then arrange for similar articles to be published in London, Paris, etc. The International can stand a conflict with Mr. Bismarck, but not alleged spontaneous “typical German factional brawls between workers” labelled “struggles of principle”.

I daresay that Stumpf—in collaboration with you—will see to it that the delegates find cheap lodgings.

Salut et fraternité

Karl Marx

I take this opportunity of sending the Committee my kindest regards. Ever since the Schweitzerites in Forst informed the Burgomaster in advance of their intention to create mayhem and he allowed matters to take their course, the connection between these gentlemen and the police is an established fact. Perhaps Stumpf could enquire of the Schweitzerites through the Burgomaster of Mainz whether they have been instructed “to fight”. It is anyway high time these people were exposed in the press everywhere as police agents pure and simple, and next time they try their hand at “fighting” they should be given a taste of their own medicine. This is naturally out of the question at the congress, but in the meantime they can be given a thrashing fit to put them off fighting for good. The manner in which Herr Bismarck is portraying these things in the English press is evident from the enclosed cutting, which is doing the rounds of all the papers. The North German Correspondence is an organ founded by Bismarck with Guelphic money.[4]

With kindest regards

F. Engels

  1. June 6.— Ed
  2. The Stuttgart Congress of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party took place from June 4 to 7, 1870. It summed up the results of the party’s activity for the past year, paying great attention to the work among the masses. The Congress discussed the peasant question. On Bebel’s proposal it adopted the resolution on the socialisation of the land, formulating it in the spirit of the Basle Congress resolutions. In its political programme the Congress sharply criticised the Bakuninist views on the political struggle and the state. The Congress also discussed the next congress of the International in Mainz.
  3. Rules of the International Working Men's Association, London [1867], p. 4. Italics by Marx and Engels.— Ed.
  4. This refers to a special fund at the personal disposal of Bismarck which was used for bribing the press.