Letters of Marx and Engels from Science and Society

Karl Marx To Sorge

Written: November 5, 1880;
Source: Science and Society Volume II, No. 2, Spring 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden and Sally Ryan.

41 Maitland Park Road, N. W.
November 5, 1880.

Dear Sorge:

You must attribute my long silence (1) to a very great pressure of work, and (2) to the grave illness of my wife, which has already lasted over a year. You have seen the heights to which John Most has developed, and, on the other hand, how miserably the so-called party organ, the Zurich Sozialdemokrat (not to mention the Jahrbuch there) has been managed, duce Dr. Hochberg. Engels and I have been engaged in constant correspondence with the Leipzigers in this connection, with sharp clashes occurring often. But we have avoided intervening publicly in any way. It is not fitting for those who sit quietly, comparativement parlant, abroad to make the position of those working within the country under the hardest conditions and with the greatest personal sacrifices more difficult, to the delight of the bourgeois and the government. Liebknecht was here a few weeks ago, and “improvement” has been promised in every respect. The party organization has been renewed, which could be done only in a secret manner, i.e., so far as “secret” means a secret to the police.

It is only recently that I fully discovered Most’s blackguardism — in a Russian socialist paper. He never dared to print in German what can be read here in the Russian vernacular. This is no longer an attack upon individual persons, but a dragging of the whole German labor movement through the mud. At the same time it grotesquely shows his absolute lack of understanding of the doctrine he formerly dealt in. It is babbling so silly, so illogical, so degenerate, that it finally dissolves into nothing, viz., Johann Most’s boundless personal vanity. As he was unable to accomplish anything in Germany in spite of all his ranting, except among a certain Berlin mob, he has allied himself with the younger generation of Bakuninists in Paris, the group that publishes the Revolution sociale (with a circle of readers = exactly 210), but which possesses Pyat’s Commune as its ally. The cowardly, melodramatic humbug Pyat — in whose Commune I figure as Bismarck’s right hand — has a grudge against me because I have always treated him with absolute contempt and thwarted all his attempts to use the International for his sensational tricks. In any event Most has performed the good service of having brought all the ranters — Andreas Scheu, Hasselmann, etc., etc. — together as a group.

As a result of Bismarck’s new state of siege decrees and the persecution of our party organs, it is absolutely necessary to raise money for the Party. I have therefore written to John Swinton (for a well-meaning bourgeois is best suited for this purpose), and told him to apply to you for detailed information regarding German conditions.

Aside from the trifles mentioned on the previous page — and how many of these have we seen burst and vanish again without a trace during the many years of our exile — things are going along splendidly on the whole (I mean by this the general developments in Europe), as well as within the circles of the really revolutionary party on the Continent.

You have probably noticed that the EgalitÚ, in particular, (thanks en premiere instance to Guesde’s coming over to us and to the work of my son-in-law Lafargue) has for the first time offered us a French “workers’ paper” in the wider sense. Malon, too, in the Revue Socialiste, has had to espouse socialisme moderne scientifique, i.e., German socialism, even though with the inconsistencies inseparable from his eclectic nature (we were enemies, as he was originally one of the founders of the Alliance). I wrote the “Questionneur” for him, which was first printed in the Revue Socialiste and then distributed throughout France in a very large number of reprints. Shortly afterward Guesde came to London to draw up a workers’ election program together with us (myself, Engels, Lafargue) for the coming general elections. With the exception of some trivialities which Guesde found it necessary to throw to the French workers notwithstanding my protest, such as fixing the minimum wage by law, etc. (I told him: “If the French proletariat is still so childish as to require such bait, it is not worth while drawing up any program whatever”), the economic section of the very brief document consists solely of demands that have spontaneously arisen out of the labor movement itself, except for the introductory passages where the communist goal is defined in a few words. It was a tremendous step forward to pull the French workers down to earth from their fog of phraseology, and therefore it was a violent shock to all the French giddy-heads, who live by “fog-making.” After violent opposition by the anarchists, the program was first adopted in the Region centrale — i.e., Paris and its environs — and later in many other workers’ centers. The simultaneous formation of opposed groups of workers, which accepted, however, most of the “practical” demands of the program (sauf les anarchistes, who do not consist of actual workers, but of declasses with a few duped workers as their rank-and-file soldiers), and the fact that very divergent standpoints were expressed solely regarding other questions, prove to me that this is the first real labor movement in France. Up to the present time only sects existed there, which naturally received their mot d'ordre from the founder of the sect, whereas the mass of the proletariat followed the radical or pseudo-radical bourgeois and fought for them on the day of decision, only to be slaughtered, deported, etc., the very next day by the fellows they had put into power.

The Emancipation that was put out in Lyons a few days ago will be the organ of the Parti ouvrier that has sprung up on the basis of German socialism.

Meanwhile we also have had and have our champions in the camp of the enemy itself — i.e., in the radical camp. Theisz has taken up the labor problem in the Intransigeant, Rochefort’s organ; after the defeat of the Commune he came to London a Proudhonist, like all “thinking” French socialists, where he changed completely — through personal contact with me and conscientious study of Capital. On the other hand, my son-in-law gave up his professorship in King’s College, returned to Paris (his family is still here fortunately), and became one of the most influential editors of Justice, which belongs to Clemenceau, the leader of the Extreme Left. He has done such good work that Clemenceau, who publicly came out only last April against socialism and as the advocate of American-democratic-republican views, has swung over to us in his latest Marseilles speech against Gambetta, both in its general tendency and in its principal points, as contained in the minimum program. Whether he'll keep what he promises is wholly immaterial. In any event he has introduced our element into the Radical Party, whose organs, comically enough, regard what they had ignored or ridiculed as long as it was merely issued as the slogan of the Parti ouvrier as something wonderful now that it comes from the mouth of Clemenceau.

I need hardly tell you — for you know French chauvinism — that the secret threads by which the leaders, from Guesde-Malon to Clemenceau, have been set in motion are entre nous. Il n'en faut pas parler. Quand on veut agir pour Messieurs les Franšais, il faut le faire anonymement, pour ne pas choquer le sentiment “national.” As it is, the anarchists denounce our cooperators already as Prussian agents, under the dictatorship of the “notorious” Prussian agent — Karl Marx.

In Russia, where Capital is more read and appreciated than anywhere else, our success is even greater. On the one hand, we have the critics (mostly young university professors, some of them personal friends of mine, as well as some writers for the reviews), and on the other, the terrorist central committee, whose program secretly printed and issued in Petersburg recently, has provoked great fury among the anarchist Russians in Switzerland, who publish The Black Redistribution (this is the literal translation from the Russian) in Geneva. These persons — most (not all) of them people who left Russia voluntarily — constitute the so-called party of propaganda as opposed to the terrorists who risk their lives. (In order to carry on propaganda in Russia — they move to Geneva! What a quid pro quo!) These gentlemen are against all political-revolutionary action. Russia is to leap into the anarchist-communist-atheist millennium in one breakneck jump! In the meantime they are preparing for this leap by a tiresome doctrinairism whose so-called principes courent la rue depuis feu Bakounine.

And now enough for this time. Let me hear from you soon. Best regards from my wife.

Totus tuiu,
Karl Marx

I should be very much pleased if you could find me something good (meaty) on economic conditions in California, of course at my expense. California is very important for me because nowhere else has the upheaval most shamelessly caused by capitalist centralization taken place with such speed.