Marx Engels Correspondence 1892

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

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

19 February 1892

... The situation in Germany is indeed becoming acute. Things must have gone far if oppositional tendencies repeatedly appear among the National Liberals [1] and Richter [2] can dream of a German ‘great Liberal Party’. Capitalist society, which formally has not yet subordinated the state to itself, is compelled to leave the actual rule to a hereditary monarchist-bureaucratic-squirearchal caste and content itself with the idea that by and large its own interests decide matters in the end. This society, in view of its situation in Germany, wobbles between two trends. On the one hand an alliance of all official and possessing strata of society against the proletariat. This trend leads in the long run to ‘one reactionary mass’ and, in a tranquil development, finally retains the upper hand. On the other hand there is a trend which continually places on the agenda that old conflict which out of cowardice has never been fought out, the conflict between the monarchy with its absolutist relics, the landed aristocracy, and the bureaucracy, which deems itself superior to all parties, and, opposed to all of them, the industrial bourgeoisie, whose material interests are suffering every day and hour at the hands of these obsolete elements. Such contingencies as personality, locality and the like determine which of these trends has the upper hand at any given moment. At the present moment the ascendency of the second one seems about to start, in which event the industrial barons la Stumm [3] and the shareholders of the industrial companies will naturally side in the main with the decrepit reaction. But this rehash of the old conflict of 1848 that has been dished up an infinite number of times can become very serious only if the government and the landed aristocracy, flushed with their successes so far, should commit some monstrous imbecilities. I do not consider that impossible as the strange personal desires in top quarters are finding support in the increasing conviction of the Junkers that in the end industry will be unable to stand the taxes on raw materials and foodstuffs. What point this conflict will reach depends, as I have said, on the fortuitousness of the personal element.

A characteristic feature in this context is that the old way of doing things is being used. They hit the bag but mean to hit the donkey (or rather both). They give it to the Social-Democracy but incidentally the bourgeoisie gets a good dose too; at first politically, with regard to its liberal principles, which it has been lavishly displaying for the past sixty years, and with regard to the tiny share it has directly in the government; but later on, if things fare well, also economically, sacrificing its interests to those of landed property.

A sharp turn to the right seems therefore to be in preparation, its pretext being the need to halt our advance...


1. The National Liberal Party – the party of the German, and especially the Prussian, bourgeoisie, came into being in the autumn of 1866 following the split of the Progressive Party. The principle aim of the National Liberals was the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership – Progress Publishers.

2. Eugen Richter (1838-1906) – a leader of the German ‘party of free thinkers’, expressing views of liberal bourgeoisie, advocated possibility of reconciling class interests of proletariat and bourgeoisie – Progress Publishers.

3. Karl Stumm (1836-1901) – big German manufacturer, Conservative, rabid enemy of working-class movement – Progress Publishers.