Marx Engels Correspondence 1884

Friedrich Engels to Eduard Bernstein
In Zurich

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

24 March 1884

... The March article was in spite of everything very good and the essential points are properly emphasised. The same applies to the article in the next issue [1] on the sermon to the peasants delivered by the member of the People’s Party; the only sore point there is that the ‘concept’ of democracy is invoked. That concept changes every time the Demos [2] changes and so does not get us one step further. In my opinion what should have been said is the following: The proletariat too needs democratic forms for the seizure of political power but they are for it, like all political forms, mere means. But if today democracy is wanted as an end it is necessary to rely on the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie, that is, on classes that are in process of dissolution and reactionary in relation to the proletariat when they try to maintain themselves artificially. Furthermore it must not be forgotten that it is precisely the democratic republic which is the logical form of bourgeois rule; a form however that has become too dangerous only because of the level of development the proletariat has already reached; but France and America show that it is still possible as purely bourgeois rule. The ‘principle’ of liberalism considered as something ‘definite, historically evolved’, is thus really only an inconsistency. The liberal constitutional monarchy is an adequate form of bourgeois rule: 1) at the beginning, when the bourgeoisie has not yet quite finished with the absolute monarchy, and 2) at the end, when the proletariat has already made the democratic republic too dangerous. And yet the democratic republic always remains the last form of bourgeois rule, that in which it goes to pieces. With this I conclude this rigmarole.

Nim [3] sends her regards. I did not see Tussy yesterday.



1. Engels refers to two leading articles of the Sozialdemokrat, the first, which was written by Eduard Bernstein, was published on 13 May 1884, under the title ‘Zum Gedenktage der Mrzkmpfe’ ('On the Anniversary of the March Fights’); the second published on 20 March 1884, was entitled ‘Zur Naturgeschichte der Volkspartei’ (‘A Natural History of the People’s Party’) – Progress Publishers.

2. The people – Progress Publishers.

3. Hlne Demuth (1823-1890) – maid at Marx’s house and close friend of the family – Progress Publishers.