Marx-Engels Correspondence 1891

Engels To Friedrich Adolph Sorge


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides and Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 353;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden and Einde O'Callaghan.

August 9-11 1891

I am very grateful for the information regarding the Journal of the Knights of Labor — I have to look through such a pile of papers that it is often very hard for me to get my bearings without such reports. Likewise, regarding Gompers and Sanial; very important, should I see them in London? ...

Tussy, Aveling, Thorne, and others of the Gas Workers, Sanders (John Burns’ secretary), and several other Englishmen of our side are going to Brussels. I don’t know as yet how matters stand with the old trade unions.

The dockers are on the verge of collapse. Their strike was won solely as a result of the 30,000 blindly contributed from Australia; but they think they did it themselves. Hence they are making one mistake after another — the last one was closing their lists, not accepting any more new members, and so breeding their own scabs. Then they refused to conclude a cartel with the gas workers. Many workers are dockers in summer, and gas workers in winter; the gas workers proposed that the ticket of one union should hold good for both with this alternating employment — rejected! Up to now the gas workers have respected the dockers’ ticket nevertheless — one can’t say how much longer. Then the dockers are raising an outcry against the immigration of foreign paupers (Russian Jews). Of their leaders, Tom Mann is upright but boundlessly weak, and he has been made half-crazy by his appointment as a member of the Royal Commission on Labor; Ben Tillett is an ambitious intriguer. They have no money, their members are dropping out in droves, and discipline has vanished.

August 11, 1891

Tussy’s report to the Brussels Congress on behalf of the gasworkers and others, is very good. I shall send it to you. Tussy is going to Brussels with a mandate from the Dublin Congress of Gasworkers and General Labourers, thus representing 100,000. [360] Aveling, too, has 3 or 4 mandates. To all appearances, the old Trades Unions will be poorly represented. So much the better this time!


360. The Second Congress of the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers of Great Britain and Ireland was held on May 17, 1891, in Dublin. The Congress adopted a decision on the participation of the Union in the forthcoming International Socialist Workers’ Congress in Brussels: and Eleanor Marx-Aveling and William Thorne were elected delegates