OCCASIONAL REPRINT SERIES:
FREDERICK ENGELS: Articles On:
The "Bourgeois Proletariat" - How The Bourgeoisie Coopted the Leading LLayer of Workers
These articles that follow, contain the insights of Frederick Engels, that helped Marxists to understand how and why the bourgeoisie turned the leaders of the organised workers leaders into thier stooges. In a famous phrase, Lenin pointed out later, that these leaders became a "Labour Aristocracy". Lenin recognised that the planks of this great insight into the tactics of the bourgeoisie was laid by Frederick Engels. Engels used the term "the bourgeois proletariat".
Engels - with Marx - was of course observing the rise to full hegemony of the capitalist industrialists, as they turned themselves into imperialists. Marx and Engels watched all this in the first major laboratory of this successful experiment - the English state.
These articles and letters of Frederick Engels, are not so easily traced these days with the demise of the old revisionist "Progress Publishers". And, since they are not yet web-available, we hope that this following transcription is of use to comrades in the movement.
First complete September 1 2000; Up-dated and web-published May 2001.
LETTERS FROM LONDON I [STRIKE
OF ENGLISH FARM WORKERS] April 1872;
FREDERICK ENGELS: LETTERS FROM LONDON III [MEETING IN HYDE PARK] November, 1872;
FREDERICK ENGELS: THE ENGLISH ELECTIONS February 1874;
ENGELS Letter TO GEORGE SHIPTON IN LONDON; Bridlington Quay, August 1881;
LETTER: ENGELS Letter TO MARX IN ARGENTEUIL; Bridlington Quay, August 1881;
FREDERICK ENGELS "ENGLAND IN 1845 AND IN 1885";
FREDERICK ENGELS "MAY 4 IN LONDON";
ENGELS Letter TO F. A. SORGE London, April 19, 1890.
ENGELS Letter TO A. BEBEL London, June 20, 1892
ENGELS Letter TO A. BEBEL; London, July 5, 1892.
ENGELS Letter TO K. KAUTSKY Ryde, August 12,1892.
ENGELS Letter TO K. KAUTSKY Ryde, September 4, 1892
ENGELS Letter TO F. A. SORGE; London, January 18,1893.
ENGELS Letter TO F. A. SORGE Eastbourne, February 23, 1894.
ENGELS Letter TO F. A. SORGE London, May 12, 1894.
ENGELS Letter TO G. V. PLEKHANOV : London, May 21, 1894.
ENGELS Letter TO H. SCHLUTER London, January 1, 1895.
The labour movement in England has made a tremendous advance in the last few days: it has established itself, very firmly, among the agricultural workers. It is well known that in Great Britain all the land belongs to an extremely limited number of large landowners the poorest of whom receive an annual income from rents of 100,000 lire, and the richest many million. The Marquis of Westminster has an annual income of over ten million.
The land is divided into large plots, farmed by very few labourers, aided by machinery, on behalf of tenant farmers. There are no small farmers; the number of farm labourers, small as it is in relation to the area they cultivate, is decreasing yearly due to the introduction of new machinery; and thus, ignorant and tied to the soil as never before, and at the same time victims of competition, the English farm labourers constitute the worst-paid class of the population. They have rebelled against their hard lot on several occasions - in 1831, in the south of England, they set fire to the tenant farmers' haystacks and wheat; a few years ago they did the same in Yorkshire; from time to time they have tried to form resistance societies, but without much success. But the present movement has in the course of a few weeks assumed proportions that ensure it a tremendous success. The movement began among the farm workers of Warwickshire, who demanded a wage increase from 11 or 12 shillings (13 or 14 francs) a week to 16 shillings (19 francs), and in order to achieve it, formed a resistance society and went on strike. [Original Footnote: At the end of March 1872 a Union of Agricultural Labourers was formed in the county of Yorkshire. This Union headed a strike which quickly spread to the neighbouring counties of 'Central and Eastern England. The strike was supported by the workers' trade unions in the towns. Their financial help and the increased demand for urban workers stimulated by industrial expansion gave the farm workers' struggle a chance of success. In May 1872 the National Union of Agricultural Labourers was set up underthe presidency of a worker, Joesph Arch. By the end of 1873, the Union had about one hundred thousand members. The struggle for a shorter workign day and higher wages continued right up to 1874 and in a number of counties ended with a victory for the strikers.] The landowners, tenant farmers and -conservatives of the county were horror-stricken. after over a thousand years the labourers, slaves in body and spirit, had dared to rebel against their masters' authority! And rebel they did, going on strike, and with such success that within two or three weeks it had spread from Warwickshire to all eight neighbouring counties. The farm workers' union became for the terrified landowners and tenant farmers what the International is for the reactionary governments of Europe - a bogy the very name of which sets them quaking. They opposed it, but in vain: the Union, aided by the advice and experience of the resistance society of the industrial workers, waxed in strength and spread daily, and even had the support of bourgeois- public opinion. The bourgeoisie, despite its political alliance with the aristocracy is constantly waging a kind of small economic war against it; and since it is at present experiencing great industrial prosperity and many workers are needed, almost all the labourers on strike found themselves transported to the towns where they were employed and paid far better than they could have been in agriculture. Thus, the strike was so successful that the landowners and tenant farmers throughout England spontaneously raised the farm workers' wages from 25 to 30 per cent. This first great victory marks the beginning of a new era in the intellectual and social life of the rural proletariat, which has joined en masse the movement of the town proletarians against the tyranny of capital.
Last week the English Parliament discussed the International. Mr. Cochrane, a rabid reactionary, accused the terrible workers' Organisation of having ordered the Paris Commune to assassinate the archbishop and set fire to the city. He went on to demand repressive measures against the General Council at present established in London. Naturally, the government replied that the members of the International, like all the inhabitants of England, are only responsible to the law, and that since they have not yet broken it, there were no grounds for measures to be taken against them. The General Council of the Association can be expected to reply to Mr.Cochrane’s false allegations.
Written by Frederick Engels; On
April 20, 1872.
Published in La Plebe No. 48,
April 24, 1872.
Translated from the Italian.
The Liberal English Government has at the moment no less than 42 Irish political prisoners in its prisons and treats them with quite exceptional cruelty, far worse than thieves and murderers. In the good old days of King Bomba,(Ferdinand II) the head of the present Liberal cabinet, Mr. Gladstone, travelled to Italy and visited political prisoners in Naples; on his return to England he published a pamphlet which disgraced the Neapolitan Government before Europe for its unworthy treatment of political prisoners. [Original Footnote: This refers to Gladstone’s pamphlet Two Letters to the Earl of Aberdeen On the State Persecutions of the Neopolitan Government, London 1811. It referred to Gladstones’ exposure of the cruel treatment of prisoners who had taken part in the national struggle for freedom in 1848-9 by the Neopolitan Government of Ferdinand II]
This does not prevent this selfsame Mr. Gladstone from treating in the very same way the Irish political prisoners, whom he continues to keep under lock and key.
The Irish members of the International in London decided organise a giant demonstration in Hyde Park (the largest public park in London, where all the big popular meetings take place during political campaigns) to demand a general amnesty. They contacted all London’s democratic organisations and formed a committee which included MacDonnell (an Irishman), Murray (an Englishman) and Lessner (a German) - all members of the last General Council of the International. A difficulty arose - at the last session of Parliament the
Government passed a law, which gave it the right to regulate public meetings in London's parks. It made use of this and had the regulation posted up to warn those who wanted to hold such a public meeting that they must give a written notification to the police two days prior to calling it, indicating the names of the speakers. [Original Footnote: This refers to the rules of behaviour in London parks, instituted by Royal command on June 27 , 1872]. This regulation carefully kept hidden from the London press destroyed with one stroke of the pen one of the most precious rights of London's working people - the right to hold meetings in parks when and how they please. To submit to this regulation would be to sacrifice one of the people's rights.
The Irish, who represent the most revolutionary element of the population, were not men to display such weakness. The committee unanimously decided to act as if it did not know of the existence of this regulation and to hold their meeting in defiance of the Government's decree.
Last Sunday at about three o'clock in the afternoon two enormous processions with bands and banners marched towards Hyde Park. The bands played Irish songs and the MarseiIlaise; almost all the banners were Irish (green with a gold harp in the middle) or red. There were only a few police agents at the entrances to the park and the columns of demonstrators marched in without meeting with any resistance. They assembled at the appointed place and the speeches began.
The spectators numbered at least thirty thousand and at least half had a green ribbon or a green leaf in their button-hole to show they were Irish; the rest were English, German and French. The crowd was too large for all to be able to hear the speeches, and so a second meeting was organised nearby with other orators speaking on the same theme. Forceful resolutions were adopted demanding a general amnesty and the repeal of the coercion laws which keep Ireland under a permanent state of siege. At about five o'clock the demonstrators formed up into files again and left the park, thus having flouted the regulation of Gladstone's Government.
This is the first time an Irish demonstration has been held in Hyde Park; it was very successful and even the London bourgeois press cannot deny this. It is also the first time the English and Irish sections of our population have united
in friendship. These two elements of the working class, whose enmity towards each other was so much in the interests of the Government and wealthy classes, are now offering one another the hand of friendship; this gratifying fact is due principally to the influence of the last General Council of the International, which has always directed all its efforts to unite the workers of both peoples on a basis of complete equality. This meeting, of the 3rd November, will usher in a new era in the history of London's working-class movement.
You might ask: "What is the Government doing? Can it be that it is willing to reconcile itself to this slight? Will it allow its regulation to be flouted with impunity?"
Well, this is what it has done; it placed two police inspectors and two agents by the platforms in Hyde Park and they took down the names of the speakers. On the following day, these two inspectors brought a suit against speakers before the Justice of the Peace. The Justice sent them a summons and they have to appear before him next Saturday. This course of action makes it quite clear that they don't intend to undertake extensive proceedings against them. The Government seems to have admitted that the Irish or, as they say here, the Fenians have beaten it and will be satisfied with a small fine. The debate in court will certainly be interesting and I shall inform you of it in my next letter. Of one thing there can be no doubt: the Irish, thanks to their energetic efforts, have saved the right of the people of London to hold meetings in parks when and how they please.
Written by F. Engels on November
Published in La Plebe No. 117,
November 17, 1872 Signed: F. Engels
Translated from the Italian
The English parliamentary elections are now over. The brilliant Gladstone, who could not govern with a majority of sixty-six, suddenly dissolved Parliament, ordered elections within eight to fourteen days, and the result was a majority of more than fifty against him. The second Parliament elected under the Reform Bill of 1867 and the first by secret ballot has yielded a strong conservative majority, [Original Footnote: On February 17, 1874, hoping to create a substantial Liberal majority in the House of Commons, Gladstone announced the resignation of his Cabinet and dissolved the House. New elections returned 350 Conservatives, 244 Liberals and 58 Irish members to the new Parliament. On February 21 a Conservative Government was formed under Disraeli. The Ballot Act was passed by Parliament on July 18, 1872.0]. And it is particularly the big industrial cities and factory districts, where the workers are now absolutely in the majority, that send Conservatives to Parliament. How is this?
This is primarily the result of Gladstone's attempt to effect a coup d'etat by means of the elections. The election writs were issued so soon after the dissolution that many towns had hardly five days, most of them hardly eight, and the Irish, Scotch and rural electoral districts at most fourteen days for reflection. Gladstone wanted to stampede the voters, but coup d'etat simply won't work in England and attempts to stampede rebound upon those who engineer them. In consequence, the entire mass of apathetic and wavering voters voted solidly against Gladstone.
Moreover, Gladstone had ruled in a way that directly flouted John Bull's traditional usage. There is no denying that John Bull is dull-witted enough to consider his government to be not his lord and master, but his servant, and at
that the only one of his servants
whom he can discharge forthwith without giving any notice. Now, if the
party in office time and again allows its ministry, for very practical
reasons, to spring a big surprise with theatrical effect on occasions when
taxes are reduced or other financial measures instituted, it permits this
sort of thing only by way of exception in case of important legislative
measures. But Gladstone had made these legislative stage tricks the rule.
His major measures were mostly as much of a surprise to his own party as
to big opponents. These measures were practically foisted upon the Liberals,
because if they did not vote for them they would immediately put the opposition
party in power. And if the contents of many of these measures, e
.g., the Irish Church Bill and
the Irish Land Bill, were for all their wretchedness an abomination to
many old liberal-conservative Whigs, so to the whole of the party was the
manner in which these bills were forced upon it.
[Original Footnotes The Land Bill: The Land bill for Ireland was discussed by the British parliament in the first half of 1870. The Bill introduced by Gladstone in the name of the British Government was ostensibly designed to help the Irish tenants, but its numerous reservations and limitations actually left the foundation of the English large landed estates in Ireland intact. The English landlords retained the right to raise rents and evict tenants from the land; the only stipulation being that certain compensation be paid to the latter for land-reclamation work, for this purpose a definite court procedure was established. The Land Bill was passed in August 1870. The landlords sabotaged the realization of the Act in every way possible and violated it under various pretexts. To a significant extent the Act promoted the buying up of large farms and bought ruin to the small Irish tenant farmers]
The Irish Church Bill was presented by Gladstone and passed in July 1869. According to this law the Anglican Church was disestablished in Ireland and received equal rights with the Catholic and Presbyterian churches. However, it continued to own vast estates and exploit the Irish peasants].
But this was not enough for Gladstone. He had secured the abolition of the purchase of army commissions by appealing without the slightest need to the authority of the Crown instead of Parliament, thereby offending his own party.
[Original FootnoteThis refers to the law on the reorganisation of the army which was passed in 1871, one of the clauses of which was the prohibition on the sale of commissions. This clause provoked an obstruction in Parliament, after which Gladstone obtained abolition of the sale of commissions by Royal command].
In addition he had surrounded himself with a number of importunate mediocrities who possessed no other talent than the ability to make themselves needlessly obnoxious. Particular mention must be made here of Bruce, Minister of Home Affairs, and Ayrton, the real head of the London local government. The former was distinguished for his rudeness and arrogance towards workers' deputations; the latter ruled London in a wholly Prussian manner, for instance, in the case of the attempt to suppress the right to hold public meetings in the parks. But since such things simply can't be done here, as is shown by the fact that the Irish immediately held a huge mass meeting in Hyde Park right under Mr. Ayrton's nose in spite of the Park ordinance, the Government suffered a number of minor defeats and increasing unpopularity in consequence.
Finally, the secret ballot has enabled a large number of workers who usually were politically passive to vote with impunity against their exploiters and against the party in which they rightly see that of the big barons of industry,
namely, the Liberal Party. This is true even where most of these barons, following the prevailing fashion, have gone over to the Conservatives. If the Liberal Party in England does not represent large-scale industry as opposed to big landed property and high finance, it represents nothing at all.
Already the previous Parliament ranked below the average in its general intellectual level. It consisted mainly of the rural gentry and the sons of big landed proprietors, on the one hand, and of bankers, railway directors, brewers, manufacturers and sundry other rich upstarts, on the other; in between, a few statesmen, jurists and professors. Quite a number of the last-named representatives of the "intelligentsia" failed to get elected this time, so that the new Parliament represents big landed property and the money-bags even more exclusively than the preceding one. It differs, however, from the preceding one in comprising two new elements: two workers (A.Mcdonald and T.Burt – Original Editorial insert) and about fifty Irish Home Rulers.
As regards the workers it must be stated, to begin with, that no separate political working-class party has existed in England since the downfall of the Chartist Party in the fifties. This is understandable in a country in which the working class has shared more than anywhere else in the advantages of the immense expansion of its large-scale industry. Nor could it have been otherwise in an England that ruled the world market; and certainly not in a country where the ruling classes have set themselves the task of carrying out, parallel with other concessions, one point of the Chartists' programme, the People's Charter, after another. Of the six points of the, Charter two have already become law: the secret ballot and the abolition of property qualifications for the suffrage. The third, universal suffrage, has been introduced, at least approximately; the last three; points are still entirely unfulfilled: annual parliaments, payment of members, and most important, equal electoral areas.
Whenever the workers lately took part in general politics in particular organisations they did so almost exclusively as the extreme left wing of the "great Liberal Party" and in
this role they were duped at each
election according to all the rules of the game by the great Liberal Party.
Then all of a sudden came the Reform Bill which
at one blow changed the political status of the workers.
[Original Footnote: This refers to the Reform Bill of 1867, which was brought in by the Conservatives under pressure from the masses, The General Council of the First International took an active part in the reform movement. Under the new law, the property qualification in the counties was lowered for tenants to pounds 12 of rent per annum, and the right of franchise in the owns was granted to all householders and tenants of houses, also to flat-dwellers who had lived in a given place for not less than a year and aid a rent for their apartment of not less than pounds 10 sterling per annum. The reform more than doubled the number of voters in England, and a certain number of qualified workers received the franchise].
In all the big cities they now form the majority of the voters and in England the Government as well as the candidates for Parliament are accustomed to court the electorate. The chairmen and secretaries of Trade Unions and political working men's societies, as well as other well-known labour spokesmen who might be expected to be influential in their class, had overnight become important people. They were visited by Members of Parliament, by lords and other well-born rabble, and sympathetic enquiry was suddenly made into the wishes and needs of the working class. Questions were discussed with these "labour leaders" which formerly evoked a supercilious smile or the mere posture of which used to be condemned; and one contributed to collections for working-class purposes. It thereupon quite naturally occurred to the "labour leaders" that they should get themselves elected to Parliament, to which their high-class friends gladly agreed in general, but of course only for the purpose of frustrating as far as possible the election of workers in each particular case. Thus the matter got no further.
Nobody holds it against the "labour leaders" that they would have liked to get into Parliament. The shortest way would have been to proceed at once to form anew a strong workers' party with a definite programme, and the best political programme they could wish for was the People's Charter. But the Chartists' name was in bad odour with the bourgeoisie precisely because theirs had been an outspokenly proletarian party, and so, rather than continue the glorious tradition of the Chartists, the "labour leaders" preferred to deal with their aristocratic friends and be "respectable", which in England means acting like a bourgeois. Whereas under the old franchise the workers had to a certain extent been compelled to figure as the tail of the radical bourgeoisie, it was inexcusable to make them go on playing that part after the Reform Bill had opened the door of Parliament to at least sixty working-class candidates.
This was the turning point. In order to get into Parliament
the "labour leaders" had recourse,
in the first place, to the votes and money of the bourgeoisie and only
in the second place to the votes of the workers themselves. But by doing
so they ceased to be workers' candidates and turned themselves into bourgeois
candidates. They did not appeal to a working-class party that still had
to be formed but to the bourgeois "great Liberal Party". Among themselves
they organised a mutual election assurance society, the Labour Representation
League, whose very slender means were
derived in the main from bourgeois sources.
[Original FootnoteThe Labour Representation League was founded in 1869. Its members were trade union leaders who tried to get "workers" elected to the House of Commons, even at the price of deals with the Liberal Party. The activity of the League ceased after 1880].
But this was not all. The radical bourgeois has sense enough to realise that the election of workers to Parliament is becoming more and more inevitable; it is therefore in their interest to keep the prospective working-class candidates under their control and thus postpone their actual election as long as possible. For that purpose they have their Mr. Samuel Morley, a London millionaire, who does not mind spending a couple of thousand pounds in order, on the one hand, to be able to act as the commanding general of this sham labour general staff and, on the other, with its assistance to let himself be hailed by the masses as a friend of labour, out of gratitude for his duping the workers. And then, about a year ago, when it became ever more likely that Parliament would be dissolved, Morley called his faithful together in the London Tavern. They all appeared, the Potters, Howells, Odgers, Haleses, Mottersheads, Cremers, Eccariuses and the rest of them - a conclave of people every one of whom had served, or at least had offered to serve, during the previous parliamentary elections, in the pay of the bourgeoisie, as an agitator for the "great Liberal Party". Under Morley's chairmanship this conclave drew up a "labour programme" to which any bourgeois could subscribe and which was to form the foundation of a mighty movement to chain the workers politically still more firmly to the bourgeoisie and, as these gentry thought, to get the "founders" into Parliament. Besides, dangling before their lustful eyes these "founders" already saw a goodly number of Morley's five-pound notes with which they expected to line their pockets before the election campaign was over. But the whole movement fell through before it had fairly started. Mr. Morley locked his
safe and the founders once more disappeared from the scene.
Four weeks ago Gladstone suddenly dissolved Parliament. The inevitable "labour leaders" began to breathe again: either they would get themselves elected or they would again become well-paid itinerant preachers of the cause of the "great Liberal Party". But alas! the day appointed for the elections was so close that they were cheated out of both chances. True enough, a few did stand for Parliament; but since in England every candidate, before he can be voted upon, must contribute two hundred pounds (1,240 thaler) towards the election expenses and the workers had almost nowhere been organised for this purpose, only such of them could stand as candidates seriously as obtained this sum from the bourgeoisie, i.e., as acted with its gracious permission. With this the bourgeoisie had done its duty and in the elections themselves allowed them all to suffer a complete fiasco.
Only two workers
got in, both miners from coal pits. This trade is very strongly organised
in three big unions, has considerable means at its disposal, controls an
indisputed majority of the voters in some constituencies and has worked
systematically for direct representation in Parliament ever since the Reform
Acts were passed. The candidates put up were the secretaries of the three
Trade Unions. The one, Halliday, lost out in Wales; the other two
came out on top: Macdonald in Stafford and Burt in Morpeth. Burt
is little known outside of his constituency. Macdonald, however, betrayed
the workers of his trade when, during the negotiations on the last mining
law, which he attended as the representative of his trade, he sanctioned
an amendment which was so grossly in the interests of the capitalists that
even the Government had not dared to include it in the draft.
[Original Footnote: This refers to the Mines Regulation Act of 1872].
At any rate, the ice has been broken and two workers now have seats in the most fashionable debating club of Europe, among those who have declared themselves the first gentlemen of Europe.
Alongside of them sit at least fifty Irish Home Rulers. When the Fenian (Irish-republican) rebellion of 1867 had been quelled and the military leaders of the Fenians had either gradually been caught or driven to emigrate to America,
the remnants of the Fenian conspiracy soon lost all importance. Violent insurrection had no prospect of success for many years, at least until such time as England would again be involved in serious difficulties abroad. Hence a legal movement remained the only possibility, and such a movement was undertaken under the banner of the Home Rulers, who wanted the Irish to be "masters in their own house". They made the definite demand that the Imperial Parliament in London should cede to a special Irish Parliament in Dublin the right to legislate on all purely Irish questions; very wisely nothing was said meanwhile about what was to be understood as a purely Irish question. This movement, at first scoffed at by the English press, has become so powerful that Irish M.P.s of the most diverse party complexions - Conservatives and Liberals, Protestants and Catholics (Butt, who leads the movement, is himself a Protestant) and even a native-born Englishman sitting for Galway -have had to join it. For the first time since the days of O'Connell, whose repeal movement collapsed in the general reaction about the same time as the Chartist movement, as a result of the events of 1848 - he had died in 1847- a well-knit Irish party once again has entered Parliament, but under circumstances that hardly permit it constantly to compromise a la O'Connell with the Liberals or to have individual members of it sell themselves retail to liberal governments, as after him has become the fashion.
Thus both motive
forces of English political development have now entered Parliament: on
the one side the workers, on the other the Irish as a well-knit national
party. And even if they may hardly be expected to play a big role in this
Parliament - the workers will certainly not - the elections of 1874 have
indisputably ushered in a new phase in English political development.
Written by F. Engels; on February 22, 1874; Published in Der Volksstaa No. 26, March 4, 1874;
Translated from the German
Letter 73. ENGELS TO GEORGE
SHIPTON IN LONDON
Bridlington Quay, 10 August 1881
[Between 28 July and 22 August 1881, Engels was on holiday in Bridlington Quay (Yorkshire) Original Foot-note].
Transcribed from Karl Marx-Frederick Engels; "Collected Works"; Volume 46 1880-1883; Moscow-London-New York 1992.
Dear Mr Shipton,
I return the
[Original Foot-note] The reference is to Karl Kautsky’s artcle ‘International Labour Laws’ published anonymously in the Labour Standard , No. 15, 13 August 1881].
altered as you wish. The first passage you seem to me to have misunderstood and the second alteration is merely formal.(See next letter-EDITOR). Anyhow, I do not see what good such alterations can do if asked for on Tuesday, received here on Wednesday, to arrive again in London on Thursday after the publication of the paper. (The Labour Standard).
is another thing. If such very mild and innocent things as these
begin to appear to you too strong, it must occur to me that this must be
the case, in a far higher degree, with my own articles, which are generally
far stronger. I must therefore take your remarks as a symptom, and conclude
that it will be better for both of us if I discontinue sending you leading
articles. It will be far better than going on until, upon some inevitable
point, we come to an open rupture. Moreover my time will certainly not
allow me to go on writing leaders regularly,
[Original Footnote: In May-August 1881 Engels contributed to the printed organ of the British trade unions ‘The Labour Standard, which appeared in London and was edited by George Shipton. Engels’s contributions were printed anonymously nearly every week as leaders (See Works Volume 24; pp 36-418). All in all, Engels wrote 11 articles. The last one, ‘Social Classes – Necessary And Superfluous’, appeared in 'The Labour Standard' on 6 August 1881, after which Engels terminated his work for the paper due to the mounting opportunist tendencies among its editors]
and on this ground alone I had come to some similar resolution to be executed, as I then thought, after the Trades Union Congress.
[Original Foot-note: The 14th Annual British trades union congress took place in London on 12-17 September 1881].
But the sooner I stop the better will be perhaps your position before that Congress.
There is another point: I consider you ought to have sent me before publication the copy or proof of the article on the Max Hirsch Trades Unions in Germany, as to the only man on your staff who knew anything of the matter and could make the necessary notes to it. Anyhow it will be impossible for me to remain on the staff of a paper which, without consulting me, lends itself to writing up these Trades Unions, comparable only to those worst English ones which allow themselves to be led by men openly sold to, or at least paid by the middle class.
I need not add that otherwise I wish every success to The Labour Standard and if desired shall now and then contribute occasional information from the continent.
First published in: Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, Vol. XXVII, Moscow, 1935
Reproduced from the original; Published in English for the first time;
Transcribed from Karl Marx-Frederick Engels; "Collected Works"; Volume 46 1880-1883; Moscow-London-New York 1992; pp 119-120.
Letter 74. ENGELS TO MARX IN ARGENTEUIL
Bridlington Quay, Yorkshire, 11 August 1881; Sea View
Transcribed from Karl Marx-Frederick Engels; "Collected Works"; Volume 46 1880-1883; Moscow-London-New York 1992; p. 120-122
Your registered letter arrived yesterday evening but, too, was open, this time completely. I enclose the envelope for you to see; it just wasn't stuck down.
I've this moment sent Tussy a CHEQUE for pounds 50, REGISTERED. If you want all or part of the remaining pounds 20 (over and above the pounds 30 you spoke about) sent to Paris, Tussy can arrange things more quickly than if payment was made by a CHEQUE on London posted straight to you over there. She can easily get hold of a money order on Paris.
As regards the French elections I am entirely of your opinion. This Chamber won't continue sitting much longer anyway; once the scrutin de liste (here: result of the poll - Original Editorial Note) - has come through, it will soon be dissolved again.
morning I informed Mr Shipton (See previous letter) that he wouldn't be
getting any more leading articles from me. Kautsky had sent me an insipid
thing on international factory legislation in a poor translation which
I corrected and sent to Shipton.
[Original Footnote: The reference is to Karl Kautsky’s artcle ‘International Labour Laws’ pubished aonymously in the Labour Standard , No. 15, 13 August 1881].
Yesterday the proof and a letter arrived from Shipton who thought 2 of the passages 'too strong', having, what's more, misconstrued one of them; he asked me
whether I would be prepared to tone them down. I did so and replied as follows:
1. What did he mean by submitting me the request for amendments on Tuesday (9th August) - i. e. Wednesday up here – when my reply couldn't have reached London until Thursday, after the paper (the Labour Standard) had come out.
2. If he thought this too strong, how much more so my own far stronger articles? Accordingly it would be best for us both if I gave up.
3. My time
no longer permitted me to write a leading article regularly each week and
I had already planned to inform him of this after the TRADE UNION
[Original Footnote: The 14th Annual British trades union congress took place in London on 12-17 September 1881].
Under the circumstances, however, it would no doubt improve his position vis-à-vis that congress were I to give up then and there.
4. He damned
well ought to have shown me the Max Hirsch article before it was
[Original Footnote: The Labour Standard No. 14, 6 August 1881, anonymously printed the article by Johann Georg Eccarius ‘A German Opinion of English Trade Unionism’. Eccarius regarded the German trades unions founded in 1868 by Max Hirsch and Franz Duncker (the so-called Hirsch-Duncker trade unions). For Engels opinions of the article see Volume 46: pp; 123;].
I couldn't remain on the staff of a paper which lends itself to writing up these German Trade Unions, comparable only to those very worst English ones which allow themselves to be led by men sold to, or at least paid by the middle class. (see previous letter-Editor). Apart from that I wished him the best of luck, etc. He will get my letter this morning.
I didn't tell him the most vital reason of all,namely the total ineffectiveness of my articles so far as the rest of the paper and its readers are concerned. Any effect there may be takes the form of an invisible response on the part of unavowed apostles of FREE TRADE. The paper remains the same old omnium-gatherum of probable and improbable CROTCHETS; in matters of politics it is +, (more or less), but if anything more Gladstonian. The RESPONSE, which once showed signs of awakening in one or 2 nos., has died away again. The BRITISH WORKING MAN just doesn’t want to advance; he has got to be galvanised by events, the loss of industrial monopoly. En attendant, habeat sibi. (In the meantime let him do as he likes).
We have been here for a fortnight now, weather changeable, mostly cold and often threatening, but not very often actually wet. We shall stay at least another week, perhaps a fortnight, but certainly no longer.
Since I've been here I have been taking the Daily News instead of the Standard. It is even more stupid, if that’s possible. Preaches anti-vivisectionism! Also as deficient in news as the Standard.
Hirsch (ie Carl Hirsch, Original Editorial Footnote) may suffer for his pleasure jaunt. But he can't help being what he is.
Best wishes to everyone.
First published in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels
und K. Marx, Bd. 4, Stuttgart, 1913
Printed according to the original
Published in English for the first time
Transcribed from Karl Marx-Frederick Engels; "Collected Works"; Volume 46 1880-1883; Moscow-London-New York 1992.
FREDERICK ENGELS "ENGLAND IN 1845 AND IN 1885"
From The Commonweal No. 2, March 1, 1885 and
Die Neue Zeit No. 6, June 1885
Transcribed from: Marx and Engels: "Articles On Britain"; Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971; pp. 388- 394.
Forty years ago
England stood face to face with a crisis, solvable to all appearances by
force only. The immense and rapid development of manufactures had outstripped
the extension of foreign markets and the increase of demand. Every ten
years the march of industry was violently interrupted by a general commercial
crash, followed, after a long period of chronic depression, by a few short
years of prosperity, and always ending in feverish over-production and
consequent renewed collapse. The capitalist class clamoured for Free Trade
in corn, and threatened to enforce it by sending the starving population
of the towns back to the country districts, whence they came: to invade
them, as John Bright said, not as paupers begging for bread, but as an
army quar- tered upon the enemy. The working masses of the towns demanded
their share of political power - the People's Charter; they were supported
by the majority of the small trading class, and the only difference between
the two was whether the Charter should be carried by physical or by moral
force. Then came the commercial crash of 1847 and the Irish famine, and
with both the prospect of revolution.
The French Revolution of 1848 saved the English middle class. The socialistic pronunciamentos of the victorious French workmen frightened the small middle class of England and disorganised the narrower, but more matter-of- fact, movement of the English working class. At the very moment Chartism. was bound to assert itself in its full strength, it collapsed internally, before even it collapsed
externally on the 10th of April 1848.
[Original Footnote: April 10, 1848, was the date fixed by the Chartists for a mass demonstration in London, which was to march to Parliament for the purpose of presenting the third petition on the People's Charter. The Government banned the demonstration, and troops and police were brought to London to prevent it taking place. The Chartist leaders, many of whom displayed vacillation, decided to abandon the demonstration and persuaded the masses to disperse. The forces of reaction took advantage of the unsuccessful demonstration to attack the workers and persecute the Chartists.) ].
The action of the working class was thrust into the background. The capitalist class triumphed along the whole line.
The Reform Bill of 1831 had been the victory of the whole capitalist class over the landed aristocracy. The repeal of the Corn Laws was the victory of the manufacturing capitalists not only over the landed aristocracy, but over those sections of capitalists too whose interests were more or less bound up with the landed interest: bankers, stock-jobbers, fundholders, etc. Free Trade meant the readjustment of the whole home and foreign commercial and financial policy of England in accordance with the interests of the manufacturing capitalists - the class which now represented the nation. And they set about this task with a will. Every obstacle to industrial production was mercilessly removed. The tariff and the whole system of taxation were revolutionised. Everything was made subordinate to one end, but that end was of the utmost importance to the manufacturing capitalist: the cheapening of all raw produce, and especially of the means of living of the working class; the reduction of the cost of raw material, and the keeping down - if not as yet the bringing down - of wages. England was to become the "workshop of the world"; all other countries were to become for England what Ireland already was - markets for her manufactured goods, suppllying her in return with raw materials and food. England is the great manufacturing centre of an agricultural world, with an ever increasing number of corn and cotton-growing Irelands, revolving around her, the industrial sun. What a glorious prospect!
The manufacturing capitalists set about the realisation of this their great object with that strong common sense and that contempt for traditional principles which have ever distinguished them from their more narrow-minded compeers on the Continent. Chartism was dying out. The revival of commercial prosperity, natural after the revulsion of 1847 had spent itself, was put down altogether to the credit of Free Trade. Both these circumstances had turned the English working class, politically, into the tail of the great Liberal Party, the party led by the manufacturers. This advantage,
once gained, had to be perpetuated.
And the manufacturing capitalists, from the Chartist opposition not to
Free Trade, but to the transformation of Free Trade into the one vital
national question, had learnt and were learning more and more that the
middle class can never obtain full social and political power over the
nation except by the help of the working class. Thus a gradual change came
over the relations between both classes. The Factory Acts, once the bug-bear
of all manufacturers, were not only willingly submitted to, but their expansion
into acts regulating almost all trades, was tolerated. Trades Unions, lately
considered inventions of the devil himself, were now petted and patronised
as perfectly legitimate institutions and as useful means of spreading sound
economical doctrines amongst the workers. Even strikes, than which nothing
had been more nefarious up to 1848, were now gradually found out to be
occasionally very useful, especially when provoked by the masters themselves,
at their own time. Of the legal enactments, placing the workman at a lower
level or at a disadvantage with regard to the master, at least the most
revolting were repealed. And, practically, that horrid "People's Charter"
actually became the political programme of the very manufacturers who had
opposed it to the last. "The Abolition of the Property Qualification"
[Original Footnote: Here and further on in the words in quotation marks Engels is citing the basic demands of the People's Charter].
and "Vote by Ballot" are now the law of the land. The Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884
[Original Footnote: In 1884 under mass pressure from the agricultural regions a third parliamentary reform was carried out, as a result of which the same conditions for the franchise became effective in the counties as had been established for boroughs in 1867. Even after the third franchise reform a considerable section of the population still remained voteless - the rural and urban proletariat and all women].
make a near approach to "universal suffrage" at least such as it now exists in Germany; the Redistribution Bill now before Parliament creates "equal electoral districts" - on the whole not more unequal than those of France or Germany; "payment of members" and shorter, if not actually "annual parliaments" are visibly looming in the distance - and yet there are people who say that Chartism is dead.
The Revolution of 1848, not less than many of its predecessors, has had strange bedfellows and successors. The very people who put it down, have become, as Karl Marx used to say, its testamentary executors. Louis Napoleon had to create an independent and united Italy, Bismarck had to revolutionise Germany and to restore Hungarian independence, and the English manufacturers had to enact the People's Charter.
the effects of this domination of the manufacturing capitalists were at
first startling. Trade revived and extended to a degree unheard-of even
in this cradle of modern industry; the previous astounding creations of
steam and machinery dwindled into nothing compared with the immense mass
of productions of the twenty years from 1850 to 1870, with the overwhelming
figures of exports and imports, of wealth accumulated in the hands of capitalists
and of human working power concentrated in the large towns. The progress
was indeed interrupted, as before, by a crisis every ten years, in 1857
as well as in 1868; but these revulsions were now considered as natural,
inevitable events, which must be fatalistically submitted to, and which
always set themselves right in the end.
And the condition of the working class during this period? There was temporary improvement even for the great mass. But this improvement always was reduced to the old level by the influx of the great body of the unemployed reserve, by the constant superseding of hands by new machinery, by the immigration of the agricultural population, now, too, more and more superseded by machines.
A permanent improvement can be recognised for two "protected" sections only of the working class. Firstly, the factory hands. The fixing by Act of Parliament of their working day within relatively rational limits, has restored their physical constitution and endowed them with a moral superiority, enhanced by their local concentration. They are undoubtedly better off than before 1848. The best proof is that out of ten strikes they make, nine are provoked by the manufacturers in their own interests, as the only means of securing a reduced production. You can never get the masters to agree to work "short time", let manufactured goods be ever so unsaleable; but get the workpeople to strike, and the masters shut their factories to a man.
Secondly, the great Trades Unions. They are the organisations of those trades in which the labour of grown-up men predominates, or is alone applicable. Here the competition neither of women and children nor of machinery has so far weakened their organised strength. The engineers, the carpenters and joiners, the bricklayers are each of them
a power, to that extent that, as
in the case of the brick-layers and bricklayers' labourers, they can even
successfully resist the introduction of machinery. That their condition
has remarkably improved since 1848 there can be no doubt, and the best
proof of this is in the fact that for more than fifteen years not only
have their employers been with them, but they with their employers, upon
exceedingly good terms. They form an aristocracy among the working class;
they have succeeded in enforcing for themselves a relatively comfortable
position, and they accept it as final. They are the model working men of
Messrs. Leone Levi and Giffen, and they are very nice people indeed nowadays
to deal with, for any sensible capitalist in particular and for the whole
capitalist class in general.
But as to the great mass of the working people, the state of misery and insecurity in which they live now is as low as ever, if not lower. The East End of London is an ever spreading pool of stagnant misery and desolation, of starvation when out of work, and degradation, physical and moral, when in work. And so in all other large towns - abstraction made of the privileged minority of the workers; and so in the smaller towns and in the agricultural districts. The law which reduces the value of labour-power to the value of the necessary means of subsistence, and the other law which reduces its average price as a rule to the minimum of those means of subsistence: these laws act upon them with the irresistible force of an automatic engine, which crushes them between its wheels.
This, then, was the position created by the Free Trade policy of 1847, and by twenty years of the rule of the manufacturing capitalists. But then a change came. The crash of 1866 was, indeed, followed by a slight and short revival about 1873; but that did not last. We did not, indeed, pass through the full crisis at the time it was due, in 1877 or 1878; but we have had, ever since 1876, a chronic state of stagnation in all dominant branches of industry. Neither will the full crash come; nor will the period of longed-for prosperity, to which we used to be entitled before and after it. A dull depression, a chronic glut of all markets for all
trades, that is what we have been living in for nearly ten years. How is this?
The Free Trade theory was based upon one assumption: that England was to be the one great manufacturing centre of an agricultural world. And the actual fact is that this assumption has turned out to be a pure delusion. The conditions of modern industry, steam-power and machinery, can be established wherever there is fuel, especially coals. And other countries beside England, France, Belgium, Germany, America, even Russia, have coals. And the people over there did not see the advantage of being turned into Irish pauper farmers merely for the greater wealth and glory of English capitalists. They set resolutely about manufacturing, not only for themselves but for the rest of the world; and the consequence is, that the manufacturing monopoly enjoyed by England for nearly a century is irretrievably broken up.
But the manufacturing monopoly of England is the pivot of the present social system of England. Even while that monopoly lasted the markets could not keep pace with the increasing productivity of English manufacturers; the decennial crises were the consequence. And new markets are getting scarce every day, so much so that even the negroes of the Congo are now to be forced into the civilisation attendant upon Manchester calicoes, Staffordshire pottery, and Birmingham hardware. How will it be when Continental, and especially American goods, flow in the ever increasing quantities - when the predominating share, still held by British manufactures, will become reduced from year to year? Answer, Free Trade, thou universal panacea?
I am not the first to point this out. Already, in 1883, at the Southport meeting of the British Association, Mr. Inglis Palgrave, the President of the Economical section, stated plainly that:
share in the supply of the world's markets means stagnation, distress, excess of capital here, excess of unemployed work- peop le there. What will it be when the increase of yearly production is brought to a complete stop?
Here is the vulnerable place, the heel of Achilles, for capitalist production. Its very basis is the necessity of constant expansion, and this constant expansion now becomes impossible. It ends in a deadlock. Every year England is brought nearer face to face with the question: either the country must go to pieces, or capitalist production must. Which is it to be?
And the working class? If even under the unparalleled commercial and industrial expansion, from 1848 to 1868, they have had to undergo such misery; if even then the great bulk of them experienced at best a temporary improvement of their condition, while only a small, privileged, "protected" minority was permanently benefited, what will it be when this dazzling period is brought finally to a close; when the present dreary stagnation shall not only become intensified, but this its intensified condition shall become the permanent and normal state of English trade?
The truth is this: during the period of England's industrial monopoly the English working class have to a certain extent shared in the benefits of the monopoly. These benefits were very unequally parcelled out amongst them; the privileged minority pocketed most, but even the great mass had at least a temporary share now and then. And that is the reason why since the dying-out of Owenism there has been no Socialism in England. With the breakdown of that monopoly the English working class will lose that privileged position; it will find itself generally - the privileged and leading minority not excepted - on a level with its fellow-workers abroad. And that is the reason why there will be Socialism again in England.
Written in mid-February 1885
Published in the magazine The Commonweal No. 2,
Printed according to the magazine text,
March 1, 1885 and the authorised translation in the journal Die Neue Zeit No. 6, June 1885
Signed: Frederick Engels
Transcribed from: Marx and Engels: "Articles On Britain"; Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971; pp. 388- 394
Of the national bourgeoisie in the various countries, it is the English that has undoubtedly up to now preserved a keener class sense, that is, political sense, than any other. Our German bourgeoisie is stupid and cowardly; it has not even been able to seize and hold the political power the working class won for it in 1848; in Germany the working class must first sweep away the remnants of feudalism and of patriarchal absolutism, which our bourgeoisie should have eradicated long ago. The French bourgeoisie, the most mercenary and pleasure-seeking of all, is blinded to its future interests by its own avarice; it lives only the day; in its frenzied thirst for profits it falls into the most scandalous corruption, declares that income tax is socialist high treason, can find no way of countering any strike but with infantry salvoes, and thus brings it about that in a republic in which there is universal suffrage revolution by means of force is about the only means of victory left to the workers. The English bourgeoisie is neither as greedily stupid as the French, nor as pusillanimously stupid as the German. During the period of its greatest triumphs it has constantly made concessions to the workers; even the most narrow-minded part of it, the conservative landed and finance aristocracy, did not hesitate to give the urban workers suffrage on such a scale that it is purely the fault of the workers themselves that since 1868 they have not had 40 to 50 representatives of their own in Parliament. And since
then the entire bourgeoisie - the Conservatives and the Liberals combinned - has extended this wider suffrage to the counties as well, has roughly adjusted the size of the wards and thereby placed at least another thirty wards at the disposal of the working class. Whereas the German bourgeoisie has never had the ability to lead and represent the nation as its ruling class, whereas the French proves day in day out - and at the present elections again
[Original Footnote: This refers to the first round of elections in the French House of Deputies on September 22, 1889, in which the Republicans obtained 215 seats while various monarcihist groups (Legitimists, Bonapartists and Boulangists) obtained 140 seats].
- that it has completely lost this ability - and yet there was a time when it possessed that ability to a higher degree than any other middle class - the English bourgeoisie (in which the so-called aristocracy has been absorbed and assimilated) exhibited until recently a certain talent for upholding its position as leading class at least to some degree.
This now seems to be changing more and more. Everything connected with the old government of the City of London - the constitution and the administration of the City proper - is still downright medieval. And this includes also the port of London, the leading port in the world. The wharfingers, the lightermen and the watermen form regular guilds with exclusive privileges and partly still don medieval costumes. These antiquated guild privileges have in the past seventy years been crowned with the monopoly of the dock companies, and thereby the whole huge port of London has been delivered up to a small number of privileged corporations for ruthless exploitation. And this whole privileged monstrosity is being perpetuated and, as it were, made inviolable through an endless series of intricate and contradictory Acts of Parliament, through which it was born and raised, so that this legal labyrinth has become its best rampart. But while these corporations presume upon their medieval privileges in dealing with the commercial public and make London the most expensive port in the world, their members have become regular bourgeois, who besides fleecing their customers, exploit their workers in the vilest manner and thus profit simultaneously from the advantages of medieval guild and modern capitalist society.
Since, however, this exploitation took place within the framework of modern capitalist society, it was, despite its medieval frippery, subject to the laws of that society. The
big swallowed the small or at least chained them to their triumphal chariot. The big dock, companies became the masters of the guilds of the wharfingers, the lightermen and the watermen and thereby of the whole London port, thus opening up the prospect of unlimited profits for themselves. This prospect blinded them. They threw millions out of the window by building stupid installations; and since there were several such companies, they engaged in a competitive war, which took further millions, led to the building of new senseless structures and pushed the companies to the brink of bankruptcy, until, finally, they came to terms two years ago.
In the meantime London trade had passed its peak. Havre, Antwerp, Hamburg and, since the new sea canal was built, also Amsterdam, drew a growing share of the traffic that had formerly come to London. Liverpool, Hull and Glasgow also took their share. The newly built docks stayed empty, dividends dwindled and partly disappeared altogether, shares dropped, and the dock directors, arrogant, purse-proud snobs, stubborn and spoilt by the good old times, were at their wits' end. They did not want to admit the true reasons for the relative and absolute decline in the traffic of the Port of London. And these reasons, insofar as they are of a local character, are only their own arrogant perversity and its cause, the privileged position, the medieval, long-since out-lived Constitution of the City and Port of London, which by all right should be in the British Museum, next to the Egyptian mummies and the Assyrian stone monsters.
Nowhere else in the world would such folly be tolerated. In Liverpool, where similar conditions were shaping, they were nipped in the bud and the entire port constitution was modernised. But in London trade suffers because of it, while trade circles grumble and - help it happen. The bourgeoisie, most of whom have to pay the costs of this absurdity, submit to this monopoly, even if unwillingly, but submit just the same. They no longer have the energy to shake off this burden that in time threatens to stifle the living conditions of all of London.
Then the dock workers' strike breaks out. It is not the bourgeoisie being robbed by the dock companies that rebels,
it is the workers exploited by them, the poorest of the poor, the lowest layer of the East End proletarians, who fling down the gauntlet to the dock magnates. And then, at last, the bourgeoisie realise that they too have an enemy in the dock magnates, that the striking workers have taken up the struggle not only in their own interests, but indirectly also in the interests of the bourgeois class. That is the secret of the public sympathy for the strike and of the unprecedentedly generous money contributions from bourgeois circles. But thus far and no further. The workers went into action to the accompaniment of acclamation and applause from the bourgeoisie; the workers fought the battle to the end and proved not only that the proud dock magnates can be defeated but by their struggle and victory also stirred up public opinion to such an extent that the dock monopoly and the feudal Port Constitution are no longer tenable and will soon really have to move to the British Museum.
This job should have been done by the bourgeoisie long ago. It was unable or unwilling to do it. Now the workers have taken it in hand and now it will be done. In other words, in this case the bourgeoisie has renounced its own part in favour of the workers.
Now a different picture. From the medieval Port of London we move on to the modern cotton spinneries of Lancashire. At the moment the cotton harvest of 1888 is exhausted and that of 1889 has not yet been placed on the market, that is, the speculation in raw materials has at present the best prospects. A rich Dutchman named Steenstrand has, with other accomplices, formed a "ring" to buy up all the available cotton and to hoist prices. The cotton spinners can retaliate only by curtailing consumption, that is, by shutting down their mills for several or all days a week, until the new cotton is in sight. This they have been trying to do for six weeks. But now as before it refuses to work. This is because many of the spinners are so heavily indebted that a partial or complete standstill would push them to the brink of ruin. Others even want the majority to stop and thereby to boost the price of cotton yarn; while they themselves intend to continue operating and to profit from the higher yarn prices. More than ten years' experience has shown that there
is only one way to enforce a shut-down of all cotton mills - no matter for what ultimate purpose - namely, by introducing a wage cut of, say, 5 per cent. Then there is a strike, or a lockout by the mill-owners themselves, and then, in the struggle against the workers, there inevitably is unity among the mill-owners, and the mills are shut down even by those who do not know whether they will ever be able to set them going again.
As things stand, a wage cut is not advisable today. But how otherwise can a general closure of the mills be brought about, without which the spinners will for about six weeks be delivered, bound hand and foot, to the speculators? By a step which is unique in the history of modern industry.
The mill-owners, through their central committee, "semi-officially" approach the Central Committee of the Workers' Trade Unions with the request that the organised workers should, in the common interest, force the obstinate mill-owners to shut down by organising strikes. Messrs. mill-owners, admitting their own inability to take concerted action, ask the formerly so much hated workers' trade unions, kindly to use coercion against them, the mill-owners, so that the mill-owners, induced by bitter necessity, should finally act in concert, as a class, in the interests of their own class. They have to be forced to do so by the workers, for they themselves are unable to bring this about!
The workers consented. And the threat of the workers alone sufficed. In 24 hours the "ring" of the cotton speculators was smashed. This shows what can be done by the mill-owners, and what can be done by the workers.
Thus, here too, in the most modern of all modern large-scale industries, the bourgeoisie proves to be as incapable of defending its own class interests, as it is in medieval London. And what is more, it frankly admits it, and by turning to the organised workers with the request that they should defend a major class interest of the mill-owners by resorting to coercion against the mill-owners themselves, it not only abdicates, but recognises in the organised working class its successor, who is called upon to rule and is quite capable of doing so. It proclaims itself that now while every single mill-owner is able to manage his own mill, it is only
and solely the organised workers who are now able to take the management of the entire cotton industry into their own hands. And this means, in plain German, that the only occupation left to the mill-owners is to become paid business managers in the service of the organised workers.
Written between the end of September and the beginning
of October 1889
Published in Der Sozialdemokrat No. 40, October 5, 1889. Translated from the German.
Signed: F. Engels
Transcribed from: Marx and Engels: "Articles On Britain"; Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971; pp. 395-400
This is an excerpt from a letter by Engels which was apparently addressed
to Eleanor Marx. It was published in the newspaper Labour Elector
and also printed in a German translation in the New Yorker Volkszeitung
(New York People's Paper) on September 25, 1889, and in the Berliner
Volks-Tribune (Berlin People's Tribune) on October 26, 1889.
The London dockers' strike, which took place from August 12 to September
14, 1889, was one of the most important events in the history of the British
working-class movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Thirty thousand
dockers and more than thirty thousand workers of other professions participated
in it. The majority of them were unskilled workers who did not belong to
trade unions. By their staunchness and organisation the strikers gained
satisfaction in their demands for higher wages and better working conditions.
The strike encouraged proletarian solidarity (about 950,000 was collected
in the strike fund) and promoted the Organisation of the working class.
A dockers’ union and other unions were formed which united a large number
of unskilled workers. In the following year the total number of members
of trade unions more than doubled].
I envy you your work in the Dock Strike. It is the movement of the greatest promise we have had for years, and I am proud and glad to have lived to see it. If Marx had lived to witness this! If these poor downtrodden men, the dregs of the proletariat, these odds and ends of all trades, fighting every morning at the dock gates for an engagement, if they can combine, and terrify by their resolution the mighty Dock Companies, truly then we need not despair of any section of the working class. This is the beginning of real life in the East End, and if successful will transform the whole character of the East End. There-for want of self-confidence, and of organisa- tion among the poor devils grovelling in stagnant misery- lasciate ogni Speranza.... If the dockers get organised, all other sections will follow... It is a glorious movement and again I envy those that can share in the work.
Written by F. Engels between August 20 and 26, 1889
Published in The Labour Elector, Printed according
Vol. 11, No. 35, August 81, 1889 to the newspaper text
Transcribed from: Marx and Engels: "Articles On Britain"; Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971; pp. 395-400
[Original Footnote: The article "May 4 in London" was written by Engels between May 5 and May 21, 1890. It was devoted to the first international May Day festival of workers, which was celebrated by the Socialist Parties and workers' organisations in accordance with the decision of the International Socialist Workers' Congress held in Paris in 1889. Mass demonstrations and meetings, which took a particularly organised form in Austria, were held under the slogan of the struggle for a legitimately established eight-hour working day. The first May Day was celebrated in an organised manner by the London workers too. It took place on the first Sunday in May, May 4, 1890, and thus gave a special reason for the writing of the present article. In spite of the attempts of the reformist trade union leaders and of the English opportunist socialist Hyndman, to take control of the demonstration and furnish it with conciliatory slogans, it showed the readiness of the masses of the London workers to carry on the struggle for revolutionary socialist demands. Only a small number of workers from the so-called labour aristocracy supported the reformists. Most of the participants, about two hundred thousand people, supported the slogans proposed by English Marxists. The main role was played by unskilled workers at gas-works and by the London dockers, who in the 1880s had been the first to start the struggle for the creation of new mass trade unions and the establishment of an eight-hour working day. Engels was present at the meeting in Hyde Park which concluded the demonstration. Eminent personalities of the international working-class movement, Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Edward Aveling, Paul Lafargue and also a representative of the Russian revolutionary emigres S. Kravchinsky (Stepnyak), and others spoke at the meeting. p. 402]
FREDERICK ENGELS MAY 4 IN LONDON
The May Day celebration of the proletariat was epoch-making not only in its universal character, which made it the first international action of the militant working class. It also served to register most gratifying advances in the various countries. Friend and foe agree that on the whole Continent it was Austria, and in Austria it was Vienna, that celebrated the holiday of the proletariat in the most brilliant and dignified manner, and that the Austrian, above all the Viennese, workers thereby won themselves an entirely different standing in the movement. Only a few years ago the Austrian movement had declined almost to zero, and the workers of the German and Slav crown territories were split into hostile parties wasting their forces on internecine strife. Whoever had affirmed, a mere three years ago, that on May 1, 1890, Vienna and the whole of Austria would set an example for all others of how a proletarian class holiday should be celebrated, would have been laughed at. We shall do well not to forget this fact when judging those squabbles stemming from internal discord in which the workers of other countries are wearing away their forces even today, as, for instance, in France. Who will assert that Paris cannot do what Vienna has done?
But on May 4 Vienna was thrown into the shade by London. And I hold it to be the most important and magnificent in the entire May Day celebration that on May 4, 1890, the English proletariat, rousing itself from forty years of slumber,
re-joined the movement of
its class. To appreciate this, one must look into the events leading
up to May 4. Towards the beginning of last year the world's largest and
most wretched working-class district, the East End of London, stirred gradually
to action. On April 1, 1889, the Gas Workers' and General Labourers' Union
was founded; today it has a membership of some 100,000. Largely with the
co- operation of this partner union (many are gas workers in winter and
dock workers in summer), the dockers' big strike started on its way and
shook even the bottommost section of the East London workers out of stagnation.
[Original Footnote: The Gas Workers and General Labourers' Union was the first trade union for unskilled workers in the history of the English working- class movement. It came into existence between March and April]
As a result, trade union upon trade union began to form among these, mostly unskilled workers, while those already in existence there which till then had barely kept themselves going, now blossomed forth quickly. But the difference between these new trade unions and the old was very great. The old ones, which admit none but "skilled" workers, are exclusive; they bar all workers who have not been trained according to the statutes of the guild concerned, and thereby even expose themselves to competition from those not in the guild; they are rich, but the richer they become, the more they degenerate into mere sick-funds and burial clubs; they are conservative and they steer clear above all of that "... . ..." socialism, as far and as long as they can. The new "unskilled" unions, on the other hand, admit every fellow-worker; they are essentially, and the gas workers even exclusively, strike unions and strike funds. And while they are not yet socialists to a man, they insist nevertheless on being led only by socialists. But socialist propaganda had already been going on for years in East End, where it was above all Mrs. E. Marx-Aveling and her husband, Edward Aveling, who had four years earlier discovered the best propaganda field in the "Radical clubs" [Original Footnote: In the second half of the nineteenth century organisations consisting mainly of workers and, as a rule, controlled by representatives of the Liberal bourgeoisie were called Radical Clubs in England. The Clubs exerted a certain influence upon the proletariat. At the end of the 1880s in connection with the rise of the working-class movement the number of such Clubs increased, and their members became more and more interested in socialism].
consisting almost exclusively of workers, and had worked on them steadily and, as is evident now, with the best of success. During the dock workers' strike Mrs. Aveling was one of the three women in charge of the distribution of relief, and this earned them a slanderous statement from Mr. Hyndman, the runaway of Trafalgar Square,
[Original Footnote: An allusion to the behaviour of Hyndman during the demonstration organised by the English socialists in Trafalgar Square, London, on November 13, 1887. The meeting ended with a clash between its participants and the police in which several hundred people were hurt (three fatally) and some of the organisers of the meeting arrested. During these events known in the history of the English working-class movement as the "bloody Sunday" Hyndman hid himself in a cowardly manner].
who alleged that they had had a weekly three pounds sterling paid to them for it from the strike fund.
Mrs. Aveling led almost unaided
last winter's strike in Silvertown,
[Original Footnote: The strike in Silvertown (East End), which lasted from September to December 1889, was a strike by the workers engaged in the manufacture of underwater cables and rubber goods. The strikers, who numbered about three thousand, demanded a rise in the hourly pay rate and the piece rate, higher pay for overtime and work during holidays, and an increase in the wages of women and children. Eleanor Marx-Aveling took an active part in the organisation of the strike, in the course of which she founded a union of young women workers. Though it lasted almost three months the strike was unsuccessful because other trade unions did not support it.]
also in East End, and on the gas workers' committee she represents a women's section she has founded there.
Last autumn the gas workers won
an eight-hour working day here in London, but lost it again, after an unhappy
[Original Footnote: Engels is referring to the strike by workers of the Gas Company in south London, which took place from December 1889 till February 1890. The strike was caused by the Company owners' failure to observe the previously adopted agreement for an eighthour working day, higher wages and the employment of only workers who were members of the Gas Workers' Union, and so on. The workers lost the strike for lack of active assistance on the part of other trade unions, in particular from the Dockers' Union, and because of the decline of the strike movement which began in 1890. The eight-hour working day was abolished in the Company's enterprises].
in the southern part of the city, acquiring sufficient proof that this gain is by no means safe in the northern part either. Is it surprising, then, that they readily accepted Mrs. Aveling's proposal to hold the May Day celebration, decided on by the Paris Congress, in favour of a legalised eight-hour working day in London? In common with several socialist groups, the Radical clubs and the other trade unions in East End, they set up a Central Committee that was to organise a large demonstration for the purpose in Hyde Park. As it turned out that all attempts to hold the demonstration on Thursday, May 1, were bound to fail this year, it was decided to put it off till Sunday,, May 4.
To ensure that, as far as possible, all London workers took part, the Central Committee invited, with uninhibited naivete, the London Trades Council as well. This is a body made up of delegates from the London trades unions, mostly from the older corporations of "skilled" workers, a body in which, as might be expected, the anti-socialist elements still command a majority. The Trades Council saw that the movement for an eight-hour day threatened to grow over its head. The old trades unions stand likewise for an working day, but not for one to be established by law. By an eight-hour day they mean that normal daily wages should be paid for eight hours-so-and-so much per hour - but that overtime should be allowed any number of hours daily, provided every overtime hour is paid a higher rate -say, at the rate of one and a half or two ordinary hours. The point therefore was to channel the demonstration into the fairway of this kind of working day, to be won by "free" agreement but certainly not to be made obligatory by parliamentary act. To this end the Trades Council allied itself with the Social-Democratic Federation of the above-mentioned Mr. Hyndman, an association which poses as the only true church of British Socialism, which had very consistently concluded
a life-and-death alliance with the French Possibilists and sent a delegation to their congress and which therefore regarded in advance the May Day celebration decided on by the Marxist Congress as a sin against the Holy Ghost. The movement was growing over the head of the Federation as well; but to adhere to the Central Committee would mean placing itself under "Marxist" leadership; on the other hand, if the Trades Council were to take the matter into its own hands and if the celebration were held on the 4th of May instead of on the Ist, it would no longer be anything like the wicked "Marxist" May Day celebration and so they could join in. Despite the fact that the Social-Democratic Federation calls in its programme for a legalised eight-hour day, it eagerly clasped the hand proffered by the Trades Council.
Now the new allies, strange bedfellows though they were, played a trick on the Central Committee which would, it is true, be considered not only permissible but quite skilful in the political practice of the British bourgeoisie, but which European and American workers will probably find very mean. The fact is that in the case of popular meetings in Hyde Park the organisers must first announce their intention to the Board of Works and reach an agreement with it on particulars, securing specifically permission to drive over the grass the carts that are to serve as platforms. Besides, regulations say that after a meeting has been announced, no other meeting may be held in the Park on the same day. The Central Committee had not yet made the announcement; but the organisations allied against it had scarcely heard the news when they announced a meeting in the Park for May 4 and obtained permission for seven platforms, doing it behind the backs of the Central Committee.
The Trades Council and the Federation believed thereby to have rented the Park for May 4 and to have victory in their pocket. The former called a meeting of delegates from the trades unions, to which it also invited two delegates from the Central Committee; the latter sent three, including Mrs. Aveling. The Trades Council treated them as if it had been master of the situation. It informed them that only trades unions, that is to say, no socialist unions or political clubs, could take part in the demonstration and carry banners.
Just how the Social-Democratic Federation was to participate in the demonstration remained a mystery. The Council had already edited the resolution to be submitted to the meeting, and had deleted from it the demand for a legalized eight- hour day; discussion on a proposal for putting that demand back in the resolution was not allowed, nor was it voted on. And lastly, the Council refused to accept Mrs. Aveling as a delegate because, it said, she was no manual worker (which is not true), although its own President, Mr. Shipton, had not moved a finger in his own trade for fully fifteen years.
The workers on the Central Committee were outraged by the trick played on them. It looked as if the demonstration had been finally put into the hands of two organisations representing only negligible minorities of London workers. There seemed to be no remedy for it but to storm the platforms of the Trades Council as the gas workers had threatened. Then Edward Aveling went to the Ministry and secured, contrary to regulations, permission for the Central Committee as well to bring seven platforms to the Park. The attempt to juggle with the demonstration in the interest of the minority failed; the Trades Council pulled in its horns and was glad to be able to negotiate with the Central Committee on an equal footing over arrangements for the demonstration.
One has to know this background to appreciate the nature and significance of the demonstration. Prompted by the East End workers who had recently joined in the movement, the demonstration found such a universal response that the two organisations-which were no less hostile to each other than both of them together were to the fundamental idea of the demonstration-had to ally themselves in order to seize the leadership and use the meeting to their own advantage. On the one hand, a conservative Trades Council preaching equal rights for capital and labour; on the other, a Social-Democratic Federation playing at radicalism, and talking of social revolution whenever it is safe to do so, and the two allied to do a mean trick with an eye to capitalising on a demonstration thoroughly hateful to both. Owing to these incidents, the May 4 meeting was split into two parts. On one side were the conservative workers, whose horizon does not go
beyond the wage-labour system,
flanked by a narrow-minded the other side, the great bulk but ambitious
socialist sect; on the other side, the great bulk of the workers who had
recently joined in the movement and who do not want to hear any more of
the Manchesterism of the old trades unions
[Original Footnote: Speaking of the old Manchester School, Engels is referring to the bourgoeis reformist charactar of their activity. Attempting to limit the tasks of the proletariat by an economic struggle for a shorter working day and higher wages and some change in labour legislation in favour of the workers, the leaders of these trade unions distracted the proletariat from the class aims of the working class and advocated conciliation and class peace with the bourgeoisie] and want to win their complete emancipation by themselves, jointly with allies of their own choice, and not with those imposed by a small socialist coterie. On one side was stagnation represented by trades unions that have not yet quite freed themselves from the guild spirit, and by a narrow-minded sect backed by the meanest allies; on the other, the living free movement of the re-awakening British proletariat. And it was apparent even to the blindest where there was fresh life in that two-faced gathering and where stagnation. Around the seven platforms of the Central Committee were dense, immense crowds, marching up with music and banners, over a hundred thousand in the procession, reinforced by almost as many who had come severally; everywhere was harmony and enthusiasm, and yet order and Organisation. At the platforms of the combined reactionaries, on the other hand, everything seemed dull; their procession was much weaker than the other, poorly organised, disorderly and mostly belated, so that in some places things got under way there only when the Central Committee was already through. While the Liberal leaders of some Radical clubs, and the officials of several trades unions rallied to the Trades Council, the members of the very same unions - in fact, four entire branches of the Sociial-Democratic Federation -marched with the Central Committee. For all that, the Trades Council succeeded in winning some attention, but the decisive success was achieved by the Central Committee. What the numerous onlooking bourgeois politicians took home with them as the overall effect was the certainty that the English proletariat, which for fully forty years had trailed behind the big Liberal party and served it as voting cattle, had awakened at last to new, independent life and action. There can be no doubt about that: on May 4, 1890, the English working class joined the great international army. And that is an epoch-making fact. The English proletariat has its roots in most advanced industrial development
and, moreover, possesses the
greatest freedom of political movement. Its long slumber - a result, on
the one hand, of the failure of the Chartist movement of 1836-50 and, on
the other hand, of the colossal industrial upswing of 1848-80 - is finally
broken. The grandchildren of the old Chartists are stepping into the line
of battle. For eight years already the wide masses have been stirring now
here, now there. Socialist groups have emerged, but none has been able
to outgrow the bounds of a sect; agitators and alleged party leaders, including
mere speculators and pushers, they have remained officers without soldiers.
It has almost always been like the famous Robert Blum column of the Baden
campaign of 1849
[Original Footnote: This refers to the Baden-Pfalz uprising in defence of the imperial constitution in May-July 1849, in which Engels took part. See Engels: The German Campaign for the Imperial Constitution].
One colonel, eleven officers, one bugler and one private. And the bickering among those various Robert Blum columns over the leadership of the future proletarian army has been anything but edifying. This will stop before long, just as it has stopped in Germany and in Austria. The powerful movement of the masses will put an end to all these sects and little groups by absorbing the men and showing the officers their proper places. Those who don't like it may sneak away. It won't come off without friction, but come off it will, and the English proletarian army will, much sooner than some expect, be as united, as well organised and as determined as any, and will be jubilantly hailed by all its comrades on the Continent and in America.
Written by F. Engels between May 5 and 21, 1890
Published in Arbeiter-Zeitung No. 21, May 23, 1890
Translated from the German
In a country with such an old political and labour movement there is always a tremendous heap of traditionally inherited rubbish which has to be got rid of by degrees. There are the prejudices of the skilled Unions - Engineers, Bricklayers, Carpenters and Joiners, Type Compositors, etc. - which have all to be broken down; the petty jealousies of the particular trades, which become intensified in the hands and heads of the leaders to the point of direct hostility and underhand struggle; there are the mutually conflicting ambitions and intrigues of the leaders, one wants to get into Parliament and so does somebody else, a third wants to get into the County Council or on the School Board, a fourth wants to organise a general central body comprising all workers, a fifth to start a paper, a sixth a club, etc., etc. In short, there is friction galore. And among them is the Socialist League, which looks down on everything that is not directly revolutionary (which means here in England as in your country: all who do not limit themselves to making phrases and otherwise doing nothing), and, the Federation, which still behaves as if all except themselves were asses and bunglers, although it is precisely owing to the new impetus lent to the movement that they have succeeded in getting some following again. In short, anyone who looks only at the surface would say it was all confusion and personal quarrels. But under the surface the movement is going on, is embracing ever wider sections and mostly just among the hitherto stagnant lowest strata-. The day is no longer far off when this mass will suddenly find itself, when it will dawn upon it that it itself is this colossal mass in motion, and when, that day comes short work will be made of all the rascality and wrangling.
away from the Liberals. Champion, one of the Tories' chief agents in this. respect, has offered Aveling the means of running against Labouchere in Northampton, but Aveling of course declined. Tremendous excitement prevails among the leaders of the workers on account of these money baits. These good fellows, who believe they can snap up something, are having a hard time trying to convince their consciences that perhaps there really is an honest way of accepting Tory money without having to blush - with most of them the blushing being naturally due to their fear that in the end it may do them more harm than good. One who knows how deeply parliamentary corruption has penetrated political life here can only feel surprised that people still retain this minimum sense of shame.
The England of the Vorwarts exists only in the imagination of the author. The opinion that the Tories to-day are more favourable to the workers than the Liberals is in contradiction to the facts. Quite the contrary is true. All the Manchester prejudices of the Liberals of 1850 are to-day articles of faith only with the Tories, while the Liberals know full well that for them it is a question of catching the labour vote if they intend to continue their existence as a party. The Tories, because they are asses, can be induced by some outstanding personality, like Disraeli, to strike out boldly from time to time, which the Liberals are incapable of doing. But when no outstanding personality is available they fall under the, sway of asses, as is the case just now. The Tories are no longer the mere tail of the big landowners as they were until 1850; the sons of the Cobdens, Brights, etc., of the big bourgeoisie and anti-Corn Law people all, went over to the Tory camp between 1855 and 1870, and the Liberals derive their strength now from the non-conformist petty- and middle-bourgeoisie . And since Gladstone's Home Rule Bill of 1886 the last -remnants also of the Whigs and the
old -Liberals (bourgeois
and intellectuls) have gone over to the Tory camp (as dissentient or Unionist
Hence the need of the Liberals to make sham or real concessions to the workers, especially the former. Despite all this they are too stupid to know where to begin and many are still too strongly committed by their antecedents.
So far the elections are proceeding as if made to our order. The Liberals are getting a slight majority; in many constituencies they are even losing votes in comparison with the last elections that the tremendous Liberal landslide that was to overwhelm England has as yet not been noticeable. Today day is very important as its results will probably be decisive. If the Liberals are conspicuously victorious to-day the vacillating philistines -a very populous herd - will be driven to side with them, and then they will be on top. What we need is a moderate Liberal majority including the Irish) so that Gladstone will be dependent here on the Irish, because if he can get along without them he is sure to cheat them.
What is very fine, however, is that, in West Ham, in the East End of London, Keir Hardie, the workers' candidate - one the few who did not accept any Liberal money and gave no pledges to the Liberals - is so far the only one who has succeeded in changing a Conservative majority (of over 300 in last elections) into an anti-Conservative one (of over 1,200). It is also very good that elsewhere, too, as for instance in Aberdeen, etc., workers' candidates who come out against both Liberals and Conservatives have received as many as 1,000 votes. An independent labour party is casting, its shadow before.
[Original Footnote: The, reference is to an article on the English elections written by Marx's daughter Eleanor [Tussy] and E. Aveling, her husband, for the Social-Democratic journal Neue Zeit. As editor of this journal Kautsky arbitrarily deleted all passages in which the authors denounced the sectarianism, and opportunism of the socialist movement in England].
I read them afterwards in the manuscript. They are an almost essential supplement to the election picture. The complete collapse of the S.D.F. as soon as it came to a real test was significant after its boasting for years that it was the "only" Social-Democratic organisation, the only salvation-bringing church. I don't know whether you saw Bax in Zurich, but Bax is a poor authority on the S.D.F. He was editor of Justice for six weeks, removed all the many improprieties but was absolutely incapable of giving the sheet any other than a sectarian character (for if he could he would certainly have done so). After all, the S.D.F. is purely a sect. It has ossified Marxism into a dogma and, by rejecting every labour movement which is not orthodox Marxism (and that a Marxism which contains much that is erroneous), that is, by pursuing the exact opposite of the policy recommended in the Manifesto, it renders itself incapable of ever becoming anything else but a sect. Bax for many reasons has renewed contact with these people, but if they do not change it will certainly riot be long before he finds out that they want to exploit him politically and financially and that he cannot assume responsibility for them. But he must learn this by personal experience. In the
meantime he -has become so deeply involved that he has to take them partly under his protection. For the rest, Bax has no contact whatever with the workers.
have become a real obstacle: the tail of the "great" Liberal Party, on
the pretext of wanting to force its candidates on that party. In this they
may be successful for a while in the case of the County Council where possibilist
programmes of municipal reforms can be drawn up, but even there the pious
fraud will work only until the bourgeoisie sees through it. In elections
to Parliament it does not work; there the Liberals give the Fabians, like
all other so-called labour candidates, only hopeless constituencies.
If you want to force labour candidates on the Liberals you have to go about
it the way Burns and Keir Hardie do: by keeping them at the point of the
sword, and not, like the Fabians, by fawning, upon them under false pretences.
Fortunately the call for an independent labour party is already so loud
and general that the gentle blandishments of Fabian flattery and Fabian
money will surely be overcome.
impossible to win and the Fabian candidates conspicuously failed. The paradoxical belletrist Shaw - very talented and witty as a belletrist but absolutely useless as an economist and politician, although honest and not a careerist - wrote to Bebel that if they did not follow this policy of forcing their candidates in on the Liberals they would reap nothing but defeat and disgrace (as if defeat were not often more honourable than victory) and all now they have pursued their policy and have reaped both.
That is the crux of the whole matter. At a time when the workers for the first time come out independently the Fabian Society advises them to remain the tail of the Liberals. And the Socialists on the Continent must be told openly that to gloss this over would be to share the blame. That's why I was sorry that the final portion of Aveling's article did not appear. It was not post festum, not an afterthought. It had simply been overlooked in the rush to get the article off. The article is not complete without a description of the attitude of both socialist organisations towards the elections, and the readers of the Neue Zeit have a right to know about this.
I believe I told you myself in my last [letter] that both in the S[ocial]-D[emocratic] F[ederation] and in the F[abian] S[ociety] the provincial members were better than the central body. But that is of no avail as long as the attitude of the central body determines that of the Society. I don't know any of the other fine chaps except Banner. Curiously enough Banner has never come to see me since he joined the F[abian] S[ociety]. I suppose his action was determined by his disgust with the S.D.F. and the need for some kind of organisation, perhaps also some illusions. But this one swallow makes no summer.
You see something unfinished in the F[abian] S[ociety]. On the contrary, this crowd is only too finished: a clique of bourgeois "Socialists" of diverse calibres, from careerists to sentimental Socialists and philanthropists, united only by their fear of the threatening rule, of the workers and doing all in their power to spike this danger by making their own leadership secure, the leadership exercised by the "eddicated." If afterwards they admit a few workers into their central board in order that they may
play there the role of the worker Albert of 1848, the role of a constantly outvoted minority, this should not deceive anyone.
employed by the F[abian] S[ociety] are just, the same as those of the corrupt
parliamentary politicians: money, intrigues, careerism. That is, English
careerism, according to which it is self-understood that every political
party (only among the workers it is supposed to be different!) pays its
agents in some way or other or rewards them with posts. These people are
immersed up to their necks in the intrigues of the Liberal Party, hold
Liberal Party jobs, as for instance Sidney Webb, who in general is a genuine
British politician. These gentry do everything that the workers have to
be warned against.
Here in Bradford there was a conference of the Independent Labour Party, which you know about from the Workman's Times. The S.D.F. on the one hand and the Fabians on the other have not been able, with their sectarian attitude, to absorb the rush towards Socialism in the provinces, so the formation of a third party was quite a good thing. But the rush now has become so great, especially in the industrial areas of the North, that the new party came out already at this first Congress stronger than the S.D.F. or the Fabians, if not stronger than both put together. And as the mass of the membership is certainly very good, as the centre of gravity lies in the provinces and not in London, the home of cliques, and as the main point of the programme is the same as ours, Aveling was right in joining and accepting a seat on the Executive. If the petty private ambitions and intrigues of the London would-be-greats are held somewhat in check here and its tactics do not turn out too wrong-headed, the Independent Labour Party may succeed in detaching the masses from the Social-Democratic Federation and in the provinces from the Fabians, too, thus forcing unity.
The S.D.F. has pushed Hyndman completely into the background. It fared so ill under his policy of intrigues
that - with the rush of the provincial delegates--Hyndman had become entirely discredited among his own people. An attempt he made in the Unemployed Committee, in which others were also participating, to regain popularity by bragging about his revolutionary-mindedness (although his personal cowardice is universally known to his best friends) only had the effect of increasing the influence enjoyed by Tussy and Aveling on that committee. The S.D.F. continues to make much of its seniority as the oldest socialist organisation here, but in general it has become much more tolerant of others, has stopped its abusiveness and, generally speaking, considers itself much more important by far than: it is, i.e., much less than it pretended to be.
are a gang of careerists here in London who have understanding enough to
realise the inevitability of the social revolution, but who could not possibly
entrust this gigantic task to the raw proletariat alone and are therefore
kind enough to put themselves at the head. Fear of the revolution is their
fundamental principle. They are the "eddicated" par excellence.
Their Socialism is municipal Socialism; not the nation but the municipality
is to become the owner of the means of production, at any irate for the
time being. This Socialism of theirs is then
represented as an extreme but inevitable consequence of bourgeois Liberalism; hence their tactics of not resolutely fighting the Liberals as adversaries but of pushing them on towards Socialist conclusions and therefore of intriguing with them, of permeating Liberalism with Socialism, of not putting up Socialist candidates against the Liberals but of fastening them on to the Liberals, of forcing them upon them, or deceiving them into taking them. That in the course of this process they either are lied to and deceived themselves or else belie Socialism, they do not of course realise.
With great industry they have produced amid all sorts of rubbish some good propagandist writings as well, in fact the best of the kind which the English have produced. But as soon as they come to their specific tactics of hushing up the class struggle it all turns putrid. Hence too their fanatical hatred of Marx and all of us - because of :the class struggle.
These, people, have of course many bourgeois followers and therefore money, and have many efficient workers in the provinces who will have nothing to do with the S.D.F. But five-sixths of the provincial members agree more or less 'with our point of view and at the critical moment will certainly fall away. In Bradford, where they were represented, they several times decisively- declared themselves against the London Executive of the Fabians.
You see that it is a critical moment for the movement here and something may come of the new organisation. There was a moment when it nearly came under the wing of Champion - who consciously or unconsciously works just as much for the Tories as the Fabians, do for the Liberals - and of his ally Maltmann Barry, whom you knew at the Hague (Barry is now an acknowledged and permanent paid Tory agent and manager of the Socialist wing of the Conservatives 1) - see the Workman's Times for November and December. But in the end Champion preferred to start publishing his Labour Elector again and has thus placed himself in opposition to the Workman's Times and the new party.
Keir Hardie brought off a clever stroke by putting himself at the head of this new party, while John Burns, whose complete inactivity outside his constituency has already done him a lot of harm, committed a fresh piece of stupidity by holding back here, too. I am afraid he is heading straight for an impossible position.
The fact that here too people like Keir Hardie, Shaw Maxwell and others are pursuing all sorts of secondary aims of personal ambition is of course obvious. But the danger arising from this lessens as the party itself becomes stronger and acquires more of a mass character, and it is already diminished by the necessity of not giving the competing sects any loopholes for attack. Socialism has penetrated the masses in the industrial districts enormously in the last few years and I am counting on these masses to keep the leaders in hand. Of course, there, will be stupidities enough, and cliques of every kind, too; if only it were possible to keep them within decent limits.
At the worst,, the foundation of the new organisation has this advantage that unity will be more easily brought about between three competing sects than between two which are diametrically opposed.
[Original Footnote: The Independent
Labour Party did not justify Engels's expectations: Its activities soon
assumed a decidedly opportunist and anti-Socialist, character. "It is quite
justly said," Lenin wrote in 1912 "that this party is 'independent' only
of Socialism, but very dependent indeed,, on' Liberalism." (V. 1. Lenin,
"English Debates on a Liberal Workers' Policy," Works, Russ. ed., Vol.
18, p. 331].
Read, on the
front page of to-day's Workman's Times the article by Autolycus
(Burgess) about the Fabian Manifesto. These gentlemen, after having declared
for years that the emancipation of the working-class can only be accomplished
through the Great Liberal Party, after having decried all independent election
activity (if the workers in respect to Liberal candidates also as disguised
Toryism and after having proclaimed the permeation of the Liberal Party
by socialist principles as the sole life task of the Socialists, now declare
that the Liberals are traitors, that nothing can be done with them and
that in the next elections the workers should put up candidates of their
own, regardless of Liberals or Tories, with the aid of Pounds 30,000 to
be made available in the meantime by the Trade Unions if these do the Fabians
that favour, which they certainly won't. It is a complete confession of
sins committed by these overweening bourgeois, who would graciously deign
to emancipate the proletariat from above if it would only be sensible enough
to realise that such a raw, uneducated mass cannot alone emancipate itself
and cannot achieve anything except by the grace of these clever lawyers,
writers and sentimental old women. And now the first attempt of these gentry,
which was announced with beating of drums and sounding of trumpets as destined
to cause the earth to tremble, has ended in so dismal a failure that they
have to admit it themselves. That is the funny side of the story.
Complete disintegration prevails among the official politicians here, both Liberal and Conservative. The Liberals can keep going only by means of new political and social concessions to the workers; but for that they lack the courage. So they try an election cry against the House of Lords, instead of proposing payment of members, payment of election expenses by the Government, and a second ballot. That is, instead of offering the workers more power against the bourgeois and. the Lords, they only want to give the bourgeois more power against the Lords; but the workers no longer fall for such bait. At any rate there will be a general election here this summer and if the Liberals do not summon all their courage and make real concessions to the workers they will be beaten and go to pieces. At present they are held together only by Gladstone, who may die any day now. Then there will be a bourgeois-democratic party favourably disposed to the workers and the rest of the Liberals will go over to Chamberlain. And all this by mere pressure of a working-class that is still internally split and only half politically conscious. Should it gradually gain consciousness things will take a quite different turn.
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.
-Democratic Federation here shares with youur 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, comes from nothing through nothing to nothing.
a devout believer. Three years ago these gentry were violently opposed to the eight-hour day; to-day they vehemently demand it. In a quite recent manifesto Mawdsley, who last year was a fierce opponent of any separate policy for the working-class, declared that the textile workers must take up the question of direct representation in Parliament, and a Manchester labour newspaper calculated that the Lancashire textile workers might control twelve seats in Parliament in this county alone. As you see, it is the Trade Union that will enter Parliament. It is the branch of industry and not the class that demands representation. Still, it is a step forward. Let us first smash the enslavement of the workers to the two big bourgeois parties; let us have textile workers in Parliament just as we already have miners there. As soon as a dozen branches of industry are represented class consciousness will arise of itself.
The height of comedy is reached in this manifesto when Mawdsley demands bimetallism to maintain the supremacy of English cotton fabrics on the Indian market!
One is indeed driven to despair by these English workers with their sense of imaginary national superiority, with their essentially bourgeois ideas and viewpoints, with their "practical" narrow-mindedness, with the parliamentary corruption which has seriously infected the leaders. But things are moving none the less. The only thing is that the "practical" English will be the last to arrive, but when they do arrive their contribution will weigh quite heavy in the scale.
sects and no party. The leaders are almost all pretty unreliable fellows, the candidates for the to leadership are very numerous but by no means conspicuously fitted for the posts, while the two big bourgeois parties stand there, purse in hand, on the took-out for someone they can buy. Besides, so-called "democracy" here is very much restricted by indirect barriers. A periodical costs a terrible amount of money, a parliamentary candidature ditto, living the life of an M.P. - ditto, if only on account of the enormous correspondence entailed. A checking up of the miserably kept electoral register likewise costs a lot and so far only the two official parties can afford the expense. Anyone, therefore, who does not sign up with either of these parties has little chance of getting on the election list of candidates. In all these respects people here are a long way behind the Continent, and are beginning to notice this. Furthermore, we have no second ballots here and a relative majority or, as you Americans say, plurality, suffices.- At the same time everything is arranged for only two parties. A third party can at most turn the scales in favour of one of the other two until it equals them in strength.
Nor are the Trade Unions in this country capable of accomplishing anything like the beer boycott in Berlin. An arbitration court like the one they succeeded in getting there is something still unattainable here.
Yet here, as in your country,
once the workers know what they want, the state, the land, industry and
everything else will be theirs.