Marx-Engels Correspondence 1883

Engels to August Bebel
In Borsdorf near Leipzig


Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

Eastbourne, 30 August, 1883

The Manifesto of the Democratic Federation* in London has been issued by about twenty to thirty little societies which under different names (always the same people) have for the last twenty years at least been repeatedly trying, and always with the same lack of success, to make themselves important. All that is important is that now at last they are obliged openly to proclaim our theory, which during the period of the International seemed to them to be dictated from outside, as their own, and that a crowd of young bourgeois intelligentsia are emerging who, to the disgrace of the English workers it must be said, understand things better and take them up more passionately than the workers. For even in the Democratic Federation the workers for the most part only accept the new programme unwillingly and as a matter of form. The chief of the Democratic Federation, Hyndman, is an arch-conservative and an extremely chauvinistic but not stupid careerist, who behaved pretty shabbily to Marx (to whom he was introduced by Rudolf Meyer) and for this reason was dropped by us personally.

Do not on any account whatever let yourself be deluded into thinking there is a real proletarian movement going on here. I know Liebknecht tries to delude himself and all the world about this, but it is not the case. The elements at present active may become important since they have accepted our theoretical programme and so acquired a basis, but only if a spontaneous movement breaks out here among the workers and they succeed in getting control of it. Till then they will remain individual minds, with a hotch-potch of confused sects, remnants of the great movement of the 'forties, standing behind them and nothing more. And--apart from the unexpected--a really general workers' movement will only come into existence here when the workers are made to feel the fact that England's world monopoly is broken.

Participation in the domination of the world market was and is the basis of the political nullity of the English workers. The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, politically they are naturally the tail of the "great Liberal Party," which for its part pays them small attentions, recognises trade unions and strikes as legitimate factors, has relinquished the fight for an unlimited working day and has given the mass of better placed workers the vote. But once America and the united competition of the other industrial countries have made a decent breach in this monopoly (and in iron this is coming rapidly, in cotton unfortunately not as yet) you will see something here.

*The Manifesto of the Democratic Federation, "Socialism made Plain" (1883). The Democratic Federation (founded in 1881) took the name Social-Democratic Federation in 1881.