Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, May 12, 1894

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To Sorge in Hoboken

London, May 12, 1894[edit source]

122 Regent’s Park Road, N. W.

Dear Sorge,

Yesterday we sent to you through G.W. Wheatley & Co (New York ADDRESS, U.S. Express Co., 49, Broadway) a parcel containing Morris-Bax and the Berlin Lassalle in fifty parts, which I trust will reach you before long. CARRIAGE PAID. On the same day the remainder of the ms. of Volume III went off to Hamburg, thereby removing a heavy load from my mind. The two final sections made me ‘sweat good and proper’.[1] There will be sixty sheets of which twenty have already been set up in type.

I was greatly relieved to hear that the Holy Family had safely returned into your keeping after its strange Odyssey. On the other hand the news about your eyes is most distressing. I hope you will consult a good specialist, for a lot can be done if steps are taken in good time. For the past fifteen years I too have had trouble with my eyes off and on. Having taken medical advice I have again reached the stage at which the thing no longer bothers me at all, provided only that I don’t write too much by lamplight.

Not long ago I caught a cold, which left me in no doubt that I am now an old man at last. On this occasion, what I had previously been able to treat as a minor annoyance, pretty well laid me low for a week and kept me under draconian medical supervision for a whole fortnight after that. Even now, I am expected to take care of myself for another fortnight, no less. It was a mild form of bronchitis which is not to be taken lightly in the case of the elderly, especially when, like myself, they have continued to tipple away merrily. Needless to say, I find this business of taking care of myself thoroughly distasteful, but Freyberger was, after all, quite right to prescribe it for me and, as to seeing that I carry it out, that is the province of Argus-eyed Louise who has doubled and tripled her vigilance. I think I have already written and told you that we left our domestic arrangements as little changed as possible when we took in the young husband as a boards and lodger. All very nice and jolly, it is true, but only, alas, so long as one is in good health. Never in my born days have I been so plagued with medical attention as during this past month and I can only console myself with the thought that it was all done for my own good.

Dietzgen and wife were here for an hour or two on Sunday afternoon but unfortunately missed Tussy. I have given him recommendations to Bebel and Kautsky. They were very nice people.

I hope that your son[2] has since found a situation. With his knowledge of business, and having by now doubtless rid himself of a good many illusions as a result of practical experience, a bright young man like that should always fall on his feet in America.

Here things go on as before. No possibility of bringing about any kind of unity among the labour leaders. Nevertheless the masses are moving forward — slowly, it is true, and at first struggling towards consciousness, but unmistakably, the same will happen here as is happening in France and earlier in Germany: unity will be gained by compulsion as soon as a number of independent workers (in particular those not elected with the aid of the Liberals) have seats in Parliament. The Liberals are doing their utmost to prevent this. In the first place, they don’t even extend the suffrage to those who on paper are already entitled to it; on the contrary, in the second place, they are making the electoral registers even more expensive for the candidates than they were before, because they are to be drawn up twice a year and the costs of a proper registration are to be defrayed by the candidates or the representatives of the respective political parties and not by the State; in the third place, they expressly refuse to have the State or the community assume the costs of the election; fourthly, the question of salaries and, fifthly, a second ballot. The preservation of all these old abuses amounts to a direct denial of the eligibility of working-class candidates in three-fourths or more of the constituencies. Parliament is to remain a club of the rich. And this at a time when the rich, because satisfied with the status quo, all become Conservative and the Liberal Party is dying out and getting more and more dependent upon the labour vote. But the Liberals insist that the workers should elect only bourgeois, not workers, and certainly not independent workers.

This is what is killing the Liberals. Their lack of courage estranges the labour vote in the country, reduces their small majority in Parliament to nothing, and if they do not take some very bold steps at the last minute they are most likely doomed. Then the Tories will get in and accomplish what the Liberals really intended to carry out, and not merely promise. And then an independent labour party will be fairly certain.

The Social-Democratic Federation here shares with your German-American Socialists the distinction of being the only parties who have contrived to reduce the Marxist theory of development to a rigid orthodoxy. This theory is to be forced down the throats of the workers at once and without development as articles of faith, instead of making the workers raise themselves to its level by dint of their own class instinct. That is why both remain mere sects and, as Hegel says, come from nothing through nothing to nothing[3]. I have not yet had time to read Schlüter’s controversy with your Germans, but shall tackle it tomorrow. Judging by the Volkszeitung’s earlier articles, it would seem that the right note has been struck.

Give my warm regards to your wife and let us have some better news from you soon. Warm regards.


F. E.

Warm regards from Louise.

  1. See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. II I, Ch. 37-42 and 48-52
  2. Adolph Sorge
  3. G. W. F. Hegel, Wissenschaß der Logik