Marx-Engels Correspondence 1871

Friedrich Engels to the Spanish Federal Council of the International Working Men’s Association, 13 February 1871

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.


Your letter of 14 December has been received by the General Council with great pleasure. Your preceding letter dated 30 July has likewise reached us. It was passed on to Citizen Serraillier, [1] Secretary for Spain, with instructions to forward our reply to you. But Citizen Serraillier shortly afterwards left for France to fight for the republic and was in Paris when the city was encircled. If you have therefore not yet received a reply to your letter of 30 July, which is still in his hands, it is due to these circumstances. The General Council at its meeting of the 7th instant has for the time being entrusted the correspondence with Spain to the undersigned FE and has passed your last letter on to him.

We have regularly received the following Spanish working-class newspapers: the Barcelona La Federación, the Madrid La Solidaridad (until December 1870), the Palma El Obrero (until its suspension), and recently the Palma La Revolución Social (the first issue only). These newspapers have kept us posted on what is going on in the labour movement in Spain. We have seen with great satisfaction that the ideas of the social revolution are becoming more and more the common property of the working class of your country.

As you say, the attention of the people has undoubtedly been attracted to a very large extent by the empty declamations of the old political parties, which have thus greatly obstructed our propaganda. That happened everywhere during the first few years of the proletarian movement. In France, in England and in Germany, the Socialists were compelled, and are still compelled, to combat the influence and activity of the old political parties, whether they be aristocratic or bourgeois, monarchist or even republican. Experience has shown everywhere that the best way to emancipate the workers from this domination of the old parties is to form in each country a proletarian party with a policy of its own, a policy which is manifestly different from that of the other parties, because it must express the conditions necessary for the emancipation of the working class. This policy may vary in details according to the specific circumstances of each country; but as the fundamental relations between labour and capital are the same everywhere and the political domination of the possessing classes over the exploited classes is an existing fact everywhere, the principles and aims of proletarian policy will be identical, at least in all western countries. The possessing classes – the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie – keep the working people in servitude not only by the power of their wealth, by the simple exploitation of labour by capital, but also by the power of the state – by the army, the bureaucracy, the courts. To give up fighting our adversaries in the political field would mean to abandon one of the most powerful weapons, particularly in the sphere of organisation and propaganda. Universal suffrage provides us with an excellent means of struggle. In Germany, where the workers have a well organised political party, they have succeeded in sending six deputies to the so-called National Assembly; and the opposition which our friends Bebel and Liebknecht have been able to organise there against a war of conquest has worked more powerfully in the interest of our international propaganda than meetings and years of propaganda in the press would have. At present in France too workers’ representatives have been elected and will loudly proclaim our principles. At the next elections the same thing will happen in England.

We learn with pleasure that it is your kind intention to remit to us the dues collected by the branches in your country. We shall receive them gratefully. Please make the remittance by cheque on any London banker payable to John Weston, [2] our treasurer, or send it by registered letter addressed to the undersigned, either 256 High Holborn, London, the seat of our Council, or 122 Regent Park Road, his home address.

We are awaiting with great interest the statistics concerning your federation which you promised to send us.

As for the Congress of the International, it is useless to think of it while the present war lasts. But if peace, as it seems, is soon restored the Council will immediately take up this important question and consider your friendly invitation to convoke it in Barcelona.

We have no sections yet in Portugal; it might perhaps be easier for you than for us to initiate relations with the workers of that country. If that is so be good enough to write to us once more on the subject. We likewise believe that it would be better, at least in the beginning, if you started relations with the Buenos Aires printers, provided you inform us later of the results obtained. Meanwhile you would do us a kind service and one useful to the cause if you would mail us an issue of the Anales de la Sociedad tipográfica de Buenos Aires [3] to get acquainted with it.

As for the rest the international movement continues to march on in spite of all obstacles. In England the Central Trades Councils of Birmingham and Manchester, and through them the workers of the two most important manufacturing cities in the country, have just now directly affiliated to our Association. In Germany we are at present suffering government persecutions similar to those initiated by Louis Bonaparte in France a year ago. Our German friends, more than fifty of whom are in prison, are literally suffering for the international cause. They have been arrested and prosecuted because they opposed the policy of conquest with might and main and urged that the German people should fraternise with the French people. In Austria too many of our friends have been gaoled, but the movement is nevertheless making headway. In France our sections have everywhere been the soul of the resistance movement and constituted its strength against the invasion. They have seized power in the big cities of the South; and if Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Toulouse have acted with quite unprecedented energy, it was thanks to the efforts of the members of the International. Our organisation in Belgium is strong and our Belgian sections have just held their Sixth Regional Congress. In Switzerland the differences which arose some time ago among our sections seem to be on the wane. From America we have received the news of the affiliation of new French, German and Czech (Bohemian) sections and, besides, we continue to maintain fraternal relations with the Labour League, [4] the big organisation of American workers.

Hoping soon to receive further news from you we are sending you our fraternal greetings.

For the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association


1. Auguste Serraillier (1840-?) – leading figure in French and international working-class movement, member of General Council of First International (1869-72) and of Paris Commune, associate of Marx and Engels – Progress Publishers.

2. John Weston – carpenter then entrepreneur, took part in British labour movement, Owenist, member of General Council of First International – Progress Publishers.

3. Engels had in mind the Anales de la Sociedad Tipográfica Bonaerense, an Argentine workers’ paper published in 1871-72 – Progress Publishers.

4. The reference is to the National Labor Union formed in the USA at the National Labor Congress which was held in Baltimore in August 1866. Soon after it came into being the union established contacts with the International Working Men’s Association. The National Labor Union, which existed until 1872, played an important part in the creation of an independent labour movement in America, it fought for solidarity between Negro and white workers, for an eight-hour working day, and for equal rights for women workers – Progress Publishers.