Marx-Engels Correspondence 1879

Karl Marx to Friedrich Adolph Sorge in Hoboken, 19 September 1879

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

... Matters may indeed reach the point where Engels and I would be compelled to issue a ‘public statement’ against the Leipzigers and their Zurich allies.

This is the state of affairs: Bebel wrote us that they wanted to found a Party organ [1] in Zurich and he requested our names as collaborators. We were informed that Hirsch [2] would probably be the editor. Thereupon we accepted, and I wrote direct to Hirsch (then in Paris, from where he has since been banished, for the second time) to accept the editorial post, for he alone afforded us the certainty that a mob of doctors, students, etc, and a professorial socialist rabble, such as strut about in the Zukunft, etc, and have already begun to penetrate the Vorwärts, [3] would be kept out, and the Party line would be adhered to strictly... These fellows, nonentities in theory and incompetent in practice, want to draw the teeth of socialism (which they interpret in accordance with university recipes) and particularly of the Social-Democratic Party, to enlighten the workers or, as they put it, to supply them with ‘cultural elements’ from their confused half-knowledge, and above all to make the Party respectable in the eyes of the philistines. They are poor counter-revolutionary windbags...

Now if the weekly, [4] the Party journal, should actually proceed along the lines initiated by Höchberg’s [5] Jahrbuch, we should be compelled to take a public stand against such a debasement of Party and theory! Engels has drawn up a circular (letter) to Bebel, etc [6] (only for private circulation among the German Party leaders, of course), in which our standpoint is set forth without reserve. Thus the gentlemen have been warned in advance, and they know us well enough to understand that this means: either bending or breaking! If they want to compromise themselves, so much the worse for them! In no event will they be allowed to compromise us. You can see how low they have already been brought by parliamentarism for example from the fact that they are accusing Hirsch of having committed a great crime – why? Because he has handled the scoundrel Kayser somewhat roughly in the Laterne for the latter’s disgraceful speech on Bismarck’s tariff legislation. [7] But now they say the Party, that is, the handful of parliamentary representatives of the Party, had authorised Kayser to speak like that! All the more shame for this handful! But even that is a miserable excuse. In fact they were foolish enough to let Kayser speak for himself and on behalf of his constituents; but he spoke in the name of the Party. However that may be, they are already so far affected by parliamentary idiotism that they think they are above criticism, and they denounce criticism as a crime: lèse-majesté...


1. The reference is to Der Sozialdemokrat, the central organ of the German Socialist Workers Party, founded in Zurich in September 1879. After the repeal of the Anti-Socialist Law in 1890 the paper ceased to appear and the Vorwärts again became the central organ of the party – Progress Publishers.

2. Karl Hirsch (1841-1900) – German Social-Democrat, journalist, edited with Wilhelm Liebknecht Demokratische Wochenblatt in Leipzig, after Bebel and Liebknecht’s arrest edited Social-Democratic newspaper Der Volksstaat, while Anti-Socialist Law was in force lived in France, Belgium, England, popularised ideas of scientific socialism – Progress Publishers.

3. Vorwärts – the central organ of the Socialist Workers Party of Germany, published in Leipzig from October 1876. The paper was closed down in October 1878 following the introduction of the Anti-Socialist Law – Progress Publishers.

4. Der Sozialdemokrat – Progress Publishers.

5. Karl Höchberg (1853-1885) – German social reformist, son of a wealthy merchant, in 1876 joined Social-Democratic Party, founded and financed a number of reformist newspapers and journals – Progress Publishers.

6. See Marx and Engels, Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and others, September 1879 – Progress Publishers.

7. Marx is referring to the speech made by Kayser, a Social-Democratic member of the Reichstag, in defence of the protective tariffs bill tabled by the government in 1879. Marx and Engels sharply criticised Kayser for defending a bill that was designed to protect the interests of the big industrialists and landowners at the expense of the masses of the population and also condemned the leading Social-Democrats who sided with Kayser. Max Kayser (1853-1888) – German Social-Democrat, member of Reichstag from 1878, belonged to right-wing Social-Democratic group – Progress Publishers.