Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The International Workingmen's Association, 1871 on Political Action and the Working Class--Speech by Marx at the London Conference of the International, September, 1871
These are notes taken (in French) from two speeches Marx made at the London Conference; Protocols of the Sessions of September 20, 21, 1871.

September 20
Citizen Lorenzo reminds us to stick to the Rules, and Citizen Bastelica followed his example. In both the original Statutes and the Inaugural Address, I read that the General Council is obligated to prepare an agenda for the Congresses for discussion. The program which the General Council prepared for the Conference deals with the organization of the Association, and Vaillant proposal relates directly to this point. hence the objection of Lorenzo and Bastelica is unfounded. [1]

In virtually all countries, certain members of the International, invoking the mutilated conception of the Statutes adopted at the Geneva Congress, have made propaganda in favor of abstention from politics; and the governments have been quite careful not to impede this restraint. In Germany, Schweitzer and others in the pay of Bismarck even attempted to harness the cart to government policy. In France, this criminal abstention allowed Favre, Picard, and others, to seize power on September 4; this abstention made it possible, on March 18, to set up a dictatorial committee composed largely of Bonapartists and intrigants, who, in the first days, lost the Revolution by inactivity, days which they should have devoted to strengthening the Revolution.

In America, a recently held workers' congress [National Labor Union, August 7-10, 1871, Baltimore] resolved to occupy itself with political questions and to replace professional politicians with workers like themselves, who were authorized to defend the interests of their class.

In England, it is not so easy for a worker to get to Parliament. Since members of Parliament do not receive any compensation, and the worker has to work to support himself, Parliament becomes unattainable for him, and the bourgeoisie knows very well that its stubborn refusal to allow salaries for members of Parliament is a means of preventing the working class from being represented in it.

One should never believe that it is of small significance to have workers in Parliament. If one stifles their voices, as in the case of De Potter and Castian, or if one ejects them, as in the case of Manuel -- the reprisals and oppressions exercise a deep effect on the people. If, on the other hand, they can speak from the parliamentary tribune, as do Bebel and Liebknecht, the whole world listens to them. In the one case or the other, great publicity is provided for our principles. To give but one examples: when during the [Franco-Prussian] war, which was fought in France, Bebel and Liebknecht undertook to point out the responsibility of the working class in the face of those events, all of Germany was shaken; and even in Munich, the city where revolutions take place only over the price of beet, great demonstrations took place demanding an end to the war.

The governments are hostile to us, one must respond to them with all the means at out disposal. To get workers into Parliament is synonymous with a victory over the governments, but one must choose the right men, not Tolains.

Marx supports the proposal of Citizen Vaillant, as well as Frankel's amendment, to state it as a premise, and thus strengthen it, that the Association has always demanded, and not merely from today, that the workers must occupy themselves with politics.

September 21
Marx said he had already spoken yesterday in favor of Vaillant's motion, and therefore he would not oppose him today. He replied to Bastelica that at the beginning of the Conference it was already decided that it would take up exclusively the question of organization and not the question of principles. In regard to the reference to the Rules, he calls attention to the fact that the Statutes and the Inaugural Address, which he hs reread, are to be read as a whole.

He explained the history of abstention from politics and said that one ought not to let himself be irritated by this question. The men who propagated this doctrine were well-meaning utopians, but those who want to take such a road today are not. They reject politics until after a violent struggle, and thereby drive the people into a formal, bourgeois opposition, which we must battle against at the same time we fight against the governments. We must unmask Gambetta, so that the people are no longer hoodwinked. Marx shares Vaillant's opinion. We must reply with a challenge to all the governments that are subjecting the International to persecutions.

Reaction exists on the whole Continent; it is general and permanent -- even in the United States and England -- in one form or another.

We must announce to the governments: We know you are the armed power which is directed against the proletarians; we will move against you in peaceful way where it is possible, and with arms if it should become necessary.

Marx is of the opinion that Vaillant's proposal requires some changes, and he therefore supports Outine's motion. [2]

1. This day, French delegate Edouard Vaillant proposed a resolution stressing the inseparability of politics and economics, they are inherently intertwined, so he urged workers to unite political activities. Proudhonists in the International objected.

2. Note: Outine proposed Vaillant's motion, the amendments by Serraillier and Frankel, be passed to the General Council for further study, under the subject "The Political Efficacy of the Working Class" -- Outine's motion passed.
Karl Marx in 1856--Speech at Anniversary of the People’s Paper
Delivered: April 14, 1856; London;
Source: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, p. 500;
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, USSR, 1969;
First Published: The People’s Paper, April 19, 1856;
Online Version: marx.org 1996; marxists.org 1999;
Transcribed: Zodiac ;
HTML Markup: Brian Baggins.

See Background Notes

The so-called revolutions of 1848 were but poor incidents — small fractures and fissures in the dry crust of European society. However, they denounced the abyss. Beneath the apparently solid surface, they betrayed oceans of liquid matter, only needing expansion to rend into fragments continents of hard rock. Noisily and confusedly they proclaimed the emancipation of the Proletarian, i.e. the secret of the 19th century, and of the revolution of that century.

That social revolution, it is true, was no novelty invented in 1848. Steam, electricity, and the self-acting mule were revolutionists of a rather more dangerous character than even citizens Barbés, Raspail and Blanqui. But, although the atmosphere in which we live, weighs upon every one with a 20,000 lb. force, do you feel it? No more than European society before 1848 felt the revolutionary atmosphere enveloping and pressing it from all sides. There is one great fact, characteristic of this our 19th century, a fact which no party dares deny.

On the one hand, there have started into life industrial and scientific forces, which no epoch of the former human history had ever suspected. On the other hand, there exist symptoms of decay, far surpassing the horrors recorded of the latter times of the Roman Empire. In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary: Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it; The newfangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want; The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character.

At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance. All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force.

This antagonism between modern industry and science on the one hand, modern misery and dissolution on the other hand; this antagonism between the productive powers and the social relations of our epoch is a fact, palpable, overwhelming, and not to be controverted. Some parties may wail over it; others may wish to get rid of modern arts, in order to get rid of modern conflicts. Or they may imagine that so signal a progress in industry wants to be completed by as signal a regress in politics. On our part, we do not mistake the shape of the shrewd spirit that continues to mark all these contradictions. We know that to work well the newfangled forces of society, they only want to be mastered by newfangled men — and such are the working men. They are as much the invention of modern time as machinery itself.

In the signs that bewilder the middle class, the aristocracy and the poor prophets of regression, we do recognise our brave friend, Robin Goodfellow, [1] the old mole that can work in the earth so fast, that worthy pioneer — the Revolution. The English working men are the firstborn sons of modern industry. They will then, certainly, not be the last in aiding the social revolution produced by that industry, a revolution, which means the emancipation of their own class all over the world, which is as universal as capital-rule and wages-slavery. I know the heroic struggles the English working class have gone through since the middle of the last century — struggles less glorious, because they are shrouded in obscurity, and burked by the middleclass historian. To revenge the misdeeds of the ruling class, there existed in the middle ages, in Germany, a secret tribunal, called the “Vehmgericht.” [2] If a red cross was seen marked on a house, people knew that its owner was doomed by the “Vehm.” All the houses of Europe are now marked with the mysterious red cross.

History is the judge — its executioner, the proletarian.

Background On April 14 1856, Marx was invited as an official representative of the revolutionary refugees in London to a banquet commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Chartist People’s Paper. He used the occassion to demonstrate the internationalist solidarity that united the proletarian revolutionaries, among whom he had established himself as the outstanding leader, with the revolutionary wing of the Chartist movement, and show that in contrast to the French and German petty-bourgeois democrats, who were merely flirting with the Chartist leaders, the German communists were true allies of the Chartists, sharing with them the aim of achieving the rule of the working class in all countries (for more on this, see Marx’s letter to Engels of April 16, 1856). In his address (he was the first speaker) Marx concentrated on the historic role of the proletariat. The banquet was also addressed by another representative of the German communists, Wilhelm Pieper. The other speakers were mostly Chartists (James Finlen, Ernest Jones and others).

Marx did not intend to publish his speech. It was, however, included in the newspaper report under the heading: “Fourth Anniversary Banquet of The People’s Paper.” The following text preceded the speech:

“On Monday last at the Bell Hotel, Strand, Ernest Jones entertained the compositors of The People’s Paper and the other gentlemen connected with its office, at a supper, which was joined by a large number of the leading Democrats of England, France and Germany now in London. The entertainment was of the choicest description, and reflected the greatest credit on the enterprising proprietor of the Hotel, Mr. Hunter; the choicest viands and condiments of the season being supplied in profusion. The tables were well filled with a numerous company of both sexes, Ernest Jones occupying the chair, and Mr. Fowley, manager of The People’s Paper office, the vice-chair. The banquet commenced at seven, and at nine o’clock the cloth was cleared, when a series of sentiments was given from the chair.

“The Chairman then proposed the toast: ‘The proletarians of Europe’, which was responded to by Dr. Marx as follows:”

1. A character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

2. The Vehmgericht, derived from Vehme (judgment, punishment) and Gericht (court), was a secret tribunal which exercised great power in Westphalia from the end of the twelfth to the middle of the sixteenth century.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels--Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League in London, March 1850
Transcribed: by gearhart@ccsn.edu;
Proofed: and corrected by Alek Blain 2006;

In the two revolutionary years of 1848-49 the League proved itself in two ways. First, its members everywhere involved themselves energetically in the movement and stood in the front ranks of the only decisively revolutionary class, the proletariat, in the press, on the barricades and on the battlefields. The League further proved itself in that its understanding of the movement, as expressed in the circulars issued by the Congresses and the Central Committee of 1847 and in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, has been shown to be the only correct one, and the expectations expressed in these documents have been completely fulfilled. This previously only propagated by the League in secret, is now on everyone’s lips and is preached openly in the market place. At the same time, however, the formerly strong organization of the League has been considerably weakened. A large number of members who were directly involved in the movement thought that the time for secret societies was over and that public action alone was sufficient. The individual districts and communes allowed their connections with the Central Committee to weaken and gradually become dormant. So, while the democratic party, the party of the petty bourgeoisie, has become more and more organized in Germany, the workers’ party has lost its only firm foothold, remaining organized at best in individual localities for local purposes; within the general movement it has consequently come under the complete domination and leadership of the petty-bourgeois democrats. This situation cannot be allowed to continue; the independence of the workers must be restored. The Central Committee recognized this necessity and it therefore sent an emissary, Joseph Moll, to Germany in the winter of 1848-9 to reorganize the League. Moll’s mission, however, failed to produce any lasting effect, partly because the German workers at that time had not enough experience and partly because it was interrupted by the insurrection last May. Moll himself took up arms, joined the Baden-Palatinate army and fell on 29 June in the battle of the River Murg. The League lost in him one of the oldest, most active and most reliable members, who had been involved in all the Congresses and Central Committees and had earlier conducted a series of missions with great success. Since the defeat of the German and French revolutionary parties in July 1849, almost all the members of the Central Committee have reassembled in London: they have replenished their numbers with new revolutionary forces and set about reorganizing the League with renewed zeal.

This reorganization can only be achieved by an emissary, and the Central Committee considers it most important to dispatch the emissary at this very moment, when a new revolution is imminent, that is, when the workers’ party must go into battle with the maximum degree of organization, unity and independence, so that it is not exploited and taken in tow by the bourgeoisie as in 1848.

We told you already in 1848, brothers, that the German liberal bourgeoisie would soon come to power and would immediately turn its newly won power against the workers. You have seen how this forecast came true. It was indeed the bourgeoisie which took possession of the state authority in the wake of the March movement of 1848 and used this power to drive the workers, its allies in the struggle, back into their former oppressed position. Although the bourgeoisie could accomplish this only by entering into an alliance with the feudal party, which had been defeated in March, and eventually even had to surrender power once more to this feudal absolutist party, it has nevertheless secured favourable conditions for itself. In view of the government’s financial difficulties, these conditions would ensure that power would in the long run fall into its hands again and that all its interests would be secured, if it were possible for the revolutionary movement to assume from now on a so-called peaceful course of development. In order to guarantee its power the bourgeoisie would not even need to arouse hatred by taking violent measures against the people, as all of these violent measures have already been carried out by the feudal counter-revolution. But events will not take this peaceful course. On the contrary, the revolution which will accelerate the course of events, is imminent, whether it is initiated by an independent rising of the French proletariat or by an invasion of the revolutionary Babel by the Holy Alliance.

The treacherous role that the German liberal bourgeoisie played against the people in 1848 will be assumed in the coming revolution by the democratic petty bourgeoisie, which now occupies the same position in the opposition as the liberal bourgeoisie did before 1848. This democratic party, which is far more dangerous for the workers than were the liberals earlier, is composed of three elements: 1) The most progressive elements of the big bourgeoisie, who pursue the goal of the immediate and complete overthrow of feudalism and absolutism. This fraction is represented by the former Berlin Vereinbarer, the tax resisters; 2) The constitutional-democratic petty bourgeois, whose main aim during the previous movement was the formation of a more or less democratic federal state; this is what their representative, the Left in the Frankfurt Assembly and later the Stuttgart parliament, worked for, as they themselves did in the Reich Constitution Campaign; 3) The republican petty bourgeois, whose ideal is a German federal republic similar to that in Switzerland and who now call themselves ‘red’ and ’social-democratic’ because they cherish the pious wish to abolish the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital, by the big bourgeoisie on the petty bourgeoisie. The representatives of this fraction were the members of the democratic congresses and committees, the leaders of the democratic associations and the editors of the democratic newspapers.

After their defeat all these fractions claim to be ‘republicans’ or ’reds’, just as at the present time members of the republican petty bourgeoisie in France call themselves ‘socialists’. Where, as in Wurtemberg, Bavaria, etc., they still find a chance to pursue their ends by constitutional means, they seize the opportunity to retain their old phrases and prove by their actions that they have not changed in the least. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the changed name of this party does not alter in the least its relationship to the workers but merely proves that it is now obliged to form a front against the bourgeoisie, which has united with absolutism, and to seek the support of the proletariat.

The petty-bourgeois democratic party in Germany is very powerful. It not only embraces the great majority of the urban middle class, the small industrial merchants and master craftsmen; it also includes among its followers the peasants and rural proletariat in so far as the latter has not yet found support among the independent proletariat of the towns.

The relationship of the revolutionary workers’ party to the petty-bourgeois democrats is this: it cooperates with them against the party which they aim to overthrow; it opposes them wherever they wish to secure their own position.

The democratic petty bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible. They therefore demand above all else a reduction in government spending through a restriction of the bureaucracy and the transference of the major tax burden into the large landowners and bourgeoisie. They further demand the removal of the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital through the establishment of public credit institutions and the passing of laws against usury, whereby it would be possible for themselves and the peasants to receive advances on favourable terms from the state instead of from capitalists; also, the introduction of bourgeois property relationships on land through the complete abolition of feudalism. In order to achieve all this they require a democratic form of government, either constitutional or republican, which would give them and their peasant allies the majority; they also require a democratic system of local government to give them direct control over municipal property and over a series of political offices at present in the hands of the bureaucrats.

The rule of capital and its rapid accumulation is to be further counteracted, partly by a curtailment of the right of inheritance, and partly by the transference of as much employment as possible to the state. As far as the workers are concerned one thing, above all, is definite: they are to remain wage labourers as before. However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable. The demands of petty-bourgeois democracy summarized here are not expressed by all sections of it at once, and in their totality they are the explicit goal of only a very few of its followers. The further particular individuals or fractions of the petty bourgeoisie advance, the more of these demands they will explicitly adopt, and the few who recognize their own programme in what has been mentioned above might well believe they have put forward the maximum that can be demanded from the revolution. But these demands can in no way satisfy the party of the proletariat. While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one. There is no doubt that during the further course of the revolution in Germany, the petty-bourgeois democrats will for the moment acquire a predominant influence. The question is, therefore, what is to be the attitude of the proletariat, and in particular of the League towards them:

1) While present conditions continue, in which the petty-bourgeois democrats are also oppressed;
2) In the coming revolutionary struggle, which will put them in a dominant position;
3) After this struggle, during the period of petty-bourgeois predominance over the classes which have been overthrown and over the proletariat.

1. At the moment, while the democratic petty bourgeois are everywhere oppressed, they preach to the proletariat general unity and reconciliation; they extend the hand of friendship, and seek to found a great opposition party which will embrace all shades of democratic opinion; that is, they seek to ensnare the workers in a party organization in which general social-democratic phrases prevail while their particular interests are kept hidden behind, and in which, for the sake of preserving the peace, the specific demands of the proletariat may not be presented. Such a unity would be to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat. The proletariat would lose all its hard-won independent position and be reduced once more to a mere appendage of official bourgeois democracy. This unity must therefore be resisted in the most decisive manner. Instead of lowering themselves to the level of an applauding chorus, the workers, and above all the League, must work for the creation of an independent organization of the workers’ party, both secret and open, and alongside the official democrats, and the League must aim to make every one of its communes a center and nucleus of workers’ associations in which the position and interests of the proletariat can be discussed free from bourgeois influence. How serious the bourgeois democrats are about an alliance in which the proletariat has equal power and equal rights is demonstrated by the Breslau democrats, who are conducting a furious campaign in their organ, the Neue Oder Zeitung, against independently organized workers, whom they call ‘socialists’. In the event of a struggle against a common enemy a special alliance is unnecessary. As soon as such an enemy has to be fought directly, the interests of both parties will coincide for the moment and an association of momentary expedience will arise spontaneously in the future, as it has in the past. It goes without saying that in the bloody conflicts to come, as in all others, it will be the workers, with their courage, resolution and self-sacrifice, who will be chiefly responsible for achieving victory. As in the past, so in the coming struggle also, the petty bourgeoisie, to a man, will hesitate as long as possible and remain fearful, irresolute and inactive; but when victory is certain it will claim it for itself and will call upon the workers to behave in an orderly fashion, to return to work and to prevent so-called excesses, and it will exclude the proletariat from the fruits of victory. It does not lie within the power of the workers to prevent the petty-bourgeois democrats from doing this; but it does lie within their power to make it as difficult as possible for the petty bourgeoisie to use its power against the armed proletariat, and to dictate such conditions to them that the rule of the bourgeois democrats, from the very first, will carry within it the seeds of its own destruction, and its subsequent displacement by the proletariat will be made considerably easier. Above all, during and immediately after the struggle the workers, as far as it is at all possible, must oppose bourgeois attempts at pacification and force the democrats to carry out their terroristic phrases. They must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction. During and after the struggle the workers must at every opportunity put forward their own demands against those of the bourgeois democrats. They must demand guarantees for the workers as soon as the democratic bourgeoisie sets about taking over the government. They must achieve these guarantees by force if necessary, and generally make sure that the new rulers commit themselves to all possible concessions and promises – the surest means of compromising them. They must check in every way and as far as is possible the victory euphoria and enthusiasm for the new situation which follow every successful street battle, with a cool and cold-blooded analysis of the situation and with undisguised mistrust of the new government. Alongside the new official governments they must simultaneously establish their own revolutionary workers’ governments, either in the form of local executive committees and councils or through workers’ clubs or committees, so that the bourgeois-democratic governments not only immediately lost the support of the workers but find themselves from the very beginning supervised and threatened by authorities behind which stand the whole mass of the workers. In a word, from the very moment of victory the workers’ suspicion must be directed no longer against the defeated reactionary party but against their former ally, against the party which intends to exploit the common victory for itself.

2. To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

3. As soon as the new governments have established themselves, their struggle against the workers will begin. If the workers are to be able to forcibly oppose the democratic petty bourgeois it is essential above all for them to be independently organized and centralized in clubs. At the soonest possible moment after the overthrow of the present governments, the Central Committee will come to Germany and will immediately convene a Congress, submitting to it the necessary proposals for the centralization of the workers’ clubs under a directorate established at the movement’s center of operations. The speedy organization of at least provincial connections between the workers’ clubs is one of the prime requirements for the strengthening and development of the workers’ party; the immediate result of the overthrow of the existing governments will be the election of a national representative body. Here the proletariat must take care: 1) that by sharp practices local authorities and government commissioners do not, under any pretext whatsoever, exclude any section of workers; 2) that workers’ candidates are nominated everywhere in opposition to bourgeois-democratic candidates. As far as possible they should be League members and their election should be pursued by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. If the forces of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the reaction from the very beginning, the reactionary influence in the election will already have been destroyed.

The first point over which the bourgeois democrats will come into conflict with the workers will be the abolition of feudalism as in the first French revolution, the petty bourgeoisie will want to give the feudal lands to the peasants as free property; that is, they will try to perpetrate the existence of the rural proletariat, and to form a petty-bourgeois peasant class which will be subject to the same cycle of impoverishment and debt which still afflicts the French peasant. The workers must oppose this plan both in the interest of the rural proletariat and in their own interest. They must demand that the confiscated feudal property remain state property and be used for workers’ colonies, cultivated collectively by the rural proletariat with all the advantages of large-scale farming and where the principle of common property will immediately achieve a sound basis in the midst of the shaky system of bourgeois property relations. Just as the democrats ally themselves with the peasants, the workers must ally themselves with the rural proletariat.

The democrats will either work directly towards a federated republic, or at least, if they cannot avoid the one and indivisible republic they will attempt to paralyze the central government by granting the municipalities and provinces the greatest possible autonomy and independence. In opposition to this plan the workers must not only strive for one and indivisible German republic, but also, within this republic, for the most decisive centralization of power in the hands of the state authority. They should not let themselves be led astray by empty democratic talk about the freedom of the municipalities, self-government, etc. In a country like Germany, where so many remnants of the Middle Ages are still to be abolished, where so much local and provincial obstinacy has to be broken down, it cannot under any circumstances be tolerated that each village, each town and each province may put up new obstacles in the way of revolutionary activity, which can only be developed with full efficiency from a central point. A renewal of the present situation, in which the Germans have to wage a separate struggle in each town and province for the same degree of progress, can also not be tolerated. Least of all can a so-called free system of local government be allowed to perpetuate a form of property which is more backward than modern private property and which is everywhere and inevitably being transformed into private property; namely communal property, with its consequent disputes between poor and rich communities. Nor can this so-called free system of local government be allowed to perpetuate, side by side with the state civil law, the existence of communal civil law with its sharp practices directed against the workers. As in France in 1793, it is the task of the genuinely revolutionary party in Germany to carry through the strictest centralization. [It must be recalled today that this passage is based on a misunderstanding. At that time – thanks to the Bonapartist and liberal falsifiers of history – it was considered as established that the French centralised machine of administration had been introduced by the Great Revolution and in particular that it had been used by the Convention as an indispensable and decisive weapon for defeating the royalist and federalist reaction and the external enemy. It is now, however, a well-known fact that throughout the revolution up to the eighteenth Brumaire c the whole administration of the départements, arrondissements and communes consisted of authorities elected by, the respective constituents themselves, and that these authorities acted with complete freedom within the general state laws; that precisely this provincial and local self-government, similar to the American, became the most powerful lever of the revolution and indeed to such an extent that Napoleon, immediately after his coup d’état of the eighteenth Brumaire, hastened to replace it by the still existing administration by prefects, which, therefore, was a pure instrument of reaction from the beginning. But no more than local and provincial self-government is in contradiction to political, national centralisation, is it necessarily bound up with that narrow-minded cantonal or communal self-seeking which strikes us as so repulsive in Switzerland, and which all the South German federal republicans wanted to make the rule in Germany in 1849. – Note by Engels to the 1885 edition.]

We have seen how the next upsurge will bring the democrats to power and how they will be forced to propose more or less socialistic measures. it will be asked what measures the workers are to propose in reply. At the beginning, of course, the workers cannot propose any directly communist measures. But the following courses of action are possible:

1. They can force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the concentration of as many productive forces as possible – means of transport, factories, railways, etc. – in the hands of the state.

2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) and transform these proposals into direct attacks on private property. If, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways and factories, the workers must demand that these railways and factories simply be confiscated by the state without compensation as the property of reactionaries. If the democrats propose a proportional tax, then the workers must demand a progressive tax; if the democrats themselves propose a moderate progressive tax, then the workers must insist on a tax whose rates rise so steeply that big capital is ruined by it; if the democrats demand the regulation of the state debt, then the workers must demand national bankruptcy. The demands of the workers will thus have to be adjusted according to the measures and concessions of the democrats.

Although the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their class interests without passing through a protracted revolutionary development, this time they can at least be certain that the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated. But they themselves must contribute most to their final victory, by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their independent political position as soon as possible, by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat. Their battle-cry must be: The Permanent Revolution.
Daily Chronicle Interviews Engels--June 1893
 ... I found Herr Engels at his house in Regent's Park Road, jubilant, of course, over the result of the elections to the German Reichstag.

"We have gained 10 seats," said he, in answer to my inquiries. "On the first ballot we obtained 24 seats, and out of 85 of our men left in the second ballots, 20 were returned. We gained 16 seats and lost 6, leaving us with a net gain of 10 seats. We hold 5 out of the 6 seats in Berlin."

"What is your gross poll?"

"That we shall not know until the Reichstag meets, when the returns will be presented, but you may take it at something over 2,000,000 votes. In 1890 we polled 1,427,000 votes. And you must remember that this is a purely socialist vote. All parties coalesced against us with the exception of a small number of the Volkspartei, which is a sort of Radical-Republican party. We ran 391 candidates, and we refused to make terms with any other party. Had we cared to do so, we might have had 20 or 30 more seats, but we steadfastly set our faces against any compromise, and that is what makes our position so strong. None of our men are pledged to support any party or any measure excepting our own party programme."

"But surely your 2,000,000 votes ought to have carried more seats?"

"That is owing to the defects in the distribution of seats. When the Reichstag was first created, we were supposed to have equal electoral districts, with one member to every 100,000 inhabitants, but original inequalities and the growth and shifting of population have made the number of electors in each district very unequal. This tells heavily against us. Take the case of Liebknecht's seat in Berlin. He polled 51,000 votes in a constituency which contains some 500,000 inhabitants."

"And how about the 6 seats you have lost?"

"Well, there are circumstances connected with each which explain their loss. Bremen was always looked upon as a fluke in 1890. In Lubeck, I have just heard from Bebel, many working people are away, and if the election had occurred in the winter we should have 'held the seat. Then, again, you must remember that trade depression affects us more than it does you, and we have had to fight against the bitter hostility of every employer of labour. Although voting is by ballot, interested people have found out means nullifying its secrecy. We don't vote marking a paper, as you do in England, but by means of ballot papers, which each voter brings with him. The depression of trade, besides, and the cholera epidemic of 1892, have compelled numbers of working men to accept public relief which disfranchises them for the term of a year.

"But I am more proud of our defeats than our victories," continued Herr Engels. "In Dresden (country district) we came within 100 of the votes polled for a candidate who received the suffrages of every other party, and in a total poll of 32,000. In Ottenseen our candidate came within 500 of a member who has been supported in the same way, on a gross poll of 27,000. In Stuttgart our candidate polled 13,315 votes, and he was only 128 behind the sitting member. In Lubeck we were only 154 behind on a total poll of 19,000. And, as I said before, these are all socialist votes polled against a combination of all other parties."

"Now, tell me what is your political programme?"

"Our programme is very nearly identical with that of the Social-Democratic Federation in England, although our policy is very different."

"More nearly approaching that of the Fabian Society, I suppose?"

"No, certainly not," replied the Herr, with great animation. "The Fabian Society, I take to be nothing but a branch of the Liberal Party. It looks for no social salvation except through the means which that party supplies. We are opposed to all the existing political parties, and we are going to fight them all. The English Social-Democratic Federation is, and acts, only like a small sect. It is an exclusive body. It has not understood how to take the lead of the working-class movement generally, and to direct it towards socialism. It has turned Marxism into an orthodoxy. Thus it insisted upon John Burns unfurling the red flag at the dock strike, where such an act would have ruined the whole movement, and, instead of gaining over the dockers, would have driven them back into the arms of the capitalists. We don't do this. Yet our programme is a purely socialist one. Our first plank is the socialisation of all the means and instruments of production. Still, we accept anything which any government may give us, but only as a payment on account, and for which we offer no thanks. We always vote against the Budget, and against any vote for money or men for the Army. In constituencies where we have not had a candidate to vote for on the second ballot, our supporters have been instructed to vote only for those candidates who pledged to vote against the Army Bill, any increased taxation, and any restriction on popular rights."

"And what will be the effect of the election on German politics?"

"The Army Bill will be carried. There is a complete breakdown of the Opposition. In fact, we are now the only real and compact Opposition. The National Liberals have joined the Conservatives. The Freisinnige party has split into two, and the elections have all but annihilated it. The Catholics and the small sections dare not risk another dissolution, and will give way sooner than face it."

"Now, coming to European politics, what do you think will be the effect of the elections on them?"

"Well, the Army Bill being voted, France and Russia will evidently do something in the same direction. France has already absorbed all her male population into her Army, even down to those who are physically unfit, but she will no doubt go iii for improving her Army as a fighting machine. Russia will be met with the difficulty of obtaining officers. Austria and Germany will of course stick together."

"Then there is rather an ugly outlook for the peace of Europe?"

"Of course, any little thing may precipitate a conflict, but I don't think the rulers of these countries are anxious for war. The precision and range of the new quick-firing arms, and the introduction of smokeless powder, imply such a revolution in warfare that nobody can predict what will be the proper tactics for a battle fought under these novel conditions. It will be a leap in the dark. And the armies confronting each other in future will be so immense as to make all previous wars mere child's play in comparison with the next war."

"And what do you think will be the influence of the Social-Democratic Party in Europe?"

"For peace, undoubtedly. We have always protested against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, and after Sedan Marx and I drew up an address of the International, pointing out that the German people had no quarrel with the French Republic, and demanding peace on honourable terms, and also pointing out exactly what has happened -- that the annexation would drive France into the arms of Russia, and would be a standing menace to the peace of Europe. Our Party in the Reichstag has always demanded that the Alsace-Lorrainers should have the opportunity given them to decide their future destiny -- whether they should rejoin France, remain German, join Switzerland, or become independent."

"Then you look for a 'United States of Europe' at no distant date?"

"Certainly. Everything is making in that direction. Our ideas are spreading in every European country. Here is" (producing a thick volume) "our new review for Roumania. We have a similar one for Bulgaria. The workers of the world are fast learning to unite."

"Can you give me any figures to illustrate the growth of socialism in Germany?"

Herr Engels then produced an elaborate diagram illustrating the number of votes polled by each party at every election to the Reichstag as at present constituted.

"In 1877", he said, "we polled 500,000 votes; in 1881, owing to the rigour of the Socialist Law,' only 300,000; in 1884, 550,000, and in 1890, 1,427,000. This time we have polled over 2,000,000."

"And to what do you attribute this marvellous growth?"

"Chiefly to economic causes. We have had as great an industrial revolution in Germany since 1860, with all its attendant evils, as you had in England from 1760 to 1810. Your manufacturers know this very well. Then, again, the present commercial depression has affected ours, a new industrial country, more than yours, an old one. Hence the pressure on the workers. I mean those of all classes. The small tradesman, crushed out by the big store, the clerk, the artisan, the labourer, both in town and country, are beginning to feel the pinch of our present capitalist system. And we place a scientific remedy before them, and as they can all read and think for themselves, they soon come round and join our ranks. Our organisation is perfect -- the admiration and despair of our opponents. It has been made perfect owing to the Socialist laws of Bismarck, which were very much like your coercion laws for Ireland. Then, again, our military training and discipline is invaluable. The whole of the 240,000 electors of Hamburg received our election addresses and literature in a quarter of an hour. In fact, last year the government of that town appealed to us to help it in sending round instructions as to how to deal with cholera."

"Then you expect soon to see, what everybody is curious to see -- a Socialist Government in power?"

"Why not? If the growth of our Party continues at its normal rate we shall have a majority between the years 1900 and 1910. And when we do, you may be assured we shall neither be short of ideas nor men to carry them out. You people, I suppose, about that time, will be having a government, in which Mr. Sidney Webb will be growing gray in an attempt to permeate the Liberal Party. We don't believe in permeating middle-class parties. We are permeating the people."

First published in English
The Daily Chronicle, July 1 1893
Transcribed for the Internet Jan 1996 by Zodiac
Html Markup in 1999 by Brian Baggins
Engels in New Yorker Volkszeitung 1888--Interview with T. Cuno
Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides, and
Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
Written: from interview with the New Yorker Volkszeitung, September 20, 1888;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

After travelling incognito around the USA, Engels gave this interview to T. Cuno for the New Yorker Volkzeitung on 19 September 1888. The published text was not discussed with Engels, but Engels apparently made no objection to its publication.

I am entirely pleased with the progress of socialism and the labor movement in England; however, this progress exists chiefly in the development of proletarian consciousness in the masses. The official labor organizations, Trade-Unions, which here and there are threatening to become reactionary, must lag behind like the Austrian Landsturm [Veterans’ Reserve].

Question: What about Ireland? Is there anything — apart from the national question — which might raise the hopes of socialists?

Engels: A purely socialist movement cannot be expected in Ireland for a considerable time. People there want first of all to become peasants owning a plot of land, and after they have achieved that mortgages will appear on the scene and they will be ruined once more. But this should not prevent us from seeking to help them to get rid of their landlords, that is, to pass from semi-feudal conditions to capitalist conditions.

Question: What is the attitude of the English workers towards the Irish movement?

Engels: The masses are for the Irish. The organisations, and the labour aristocracy in general, follow Gladstone and the liberal bourgeois and do not go further than these.
Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892--Engels To Hermann Schlüter
Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 354;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

March 30, 1892
Your great obstacle in America, it seems to me, lies in the exceptional position of the native workers. Up to 1848 one could only speak of the permanent native working class as an exception: the small beginnings of it in the cities in the East always had still the hope of becoming farmers or bourgeois. Now a working class has developed and has also to a great extent organised itself on trade union lines. But it still takes up an aristocratic attitude and wherever possible leaves the ordinary badly paid occupations to the immigrants, of whom only a small section enter the aristocratic trades. But these immigrants are divided into different nationalities and understand neither one another nor, for the most part, the language of the country. And your bourgeoisie knows much better even than the Austrian Government how to play off one nationality against the other:

Jews, Italians, Bohemians, etc., against Germans and Irish, and each one against the other, so that differences in the standard of life of different workers exist, I believe, in New York to an extent unheard-of elsewhere. And added to this is the total indifference of a society which has grown up on a purely capitalist basis, without any comfortable feudal background, towards the human beings who succumb in the competitive struggle: “there will be plenty more, and more than we want, of these damned Dutchmen[A], Irishmen, Italians, Jews and Hungarians”; and, to cap it all, John Chinaman[B] stands in the background who far surpasses them all in his ability to live on next to nothing.
In such a country, continually renewed waves of advance, followed by equally certain setbacks, are inevitable. But the advancing waves are always becoming more powerful, the setbacks less paralysing, and on the whole things are nevertheless moving forward. But this I consider certain: the purely bourgeois basis, with no pre-bourgeois humbug behind it, the corresponding colossal energy of the development, which manifests itself even in the mad excesses of the present protective tariff system, will one day bring about a change that will astound the whole world. Once the Americans get started it will be with an energy and vehemence compared with which we in Europe shall be mere children.
Marx-Engels Correspondence 1886--Engels to Florence Kelley Wischnewetsky
In Zurich
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000.
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, December 28, 1886
My preface will of course turn entirely on the immense stride made by the American working man in the last ten months, and naturally also touch H.G. [Henry George] and his land scheme.

But it cannot pretend to deal exhaustively with it. Nor do I think the time has come for that. It is far more important that the movement should spread, proceed harmoniously, take root and embrace as much as possible the whole American proletariat, than that it should start and proceed from the beginning on theoretically perfectly correct lines.

There is no better road to theoretical clearness of comprehension than "durch Schaden klug werden" [to learn by one's own mistakes]. And for a whole large class, there is no other road, especially for a nation so eminently practical as the Americans.

The great thing is to get the working class to move as a class; that once obtained, they will soon find the right direction, and all who resist, H.G. or Powderly, will be left out in the cold with small sects of their own. Therefore I think also the K[nights] of L[abour] a most important factor in the movement which ought not to be pooh-poohed from without but to be revolutionised from within, and I consider that many of the Germans there have made a grievous mistake when they tried, in face of a mighty and glorious movement not of their creation, to make of their imported and not always understood theory a kind of alleinseligmachendes dogma and to keep aloof from any movement which did not accept that dogma.

Our theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process of evolution, and that process involves successive phases. To expect that the Americans will start with the full consciousness of the theory worked out in older industrial countries is to expect the impossible.

What the Germans ought to do is to act up to their own theory --if they understand it, as we did in 1845 and 1848--to go in for any real general working-class movement, accept its faktische starting points as such and work it gradually up to the theoretical level by pointing out how every mistake made, every reverse suffered, was a necessary consequence of mistaken theoretical views in the original programme; they ought, in the words of The Communist Manifesto, to represent the movement of the future in the movement of the present.

But above all give the movement time to consolidate, do not make the inevitable confusion of the first start worse confounded by forcing down people's throats things which at present they cannot properly understand, but which they soon will learn. A million or two of workingmen's votes next November for a bona fide workingmen's party is worth infinitely more at present than a hundred thousand votes for a doctrinally perfect platform.

The very first attempt--soon to be made if the movement progresses--to consolidate the moving masses on a national basis will bring them all face to face, Georgites, K. of L., Trade Unionists, and all; and if our German friends by that time have learnt enough of the language of the country to go in for a discussion, then will be the time for them to criticise the views of the others and thus, by showing up the inconsistencies of the various standpoints, to bring them gradually to understand their own actual position, the position made for them by the correlation of capital and wage labour.

But anything that might delay or prevent that national consolidation of the workingmen's party--no matter what platform--I should consider a great mistake, and therefore I do not think the time has arrived to speak out fully and exhaustively either with regard to H.G. or the K. of L.