Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892

Engels to Karl Kautsky


Source: Marx Engels On Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Ryde, August 12, 1892

It’s too bad that the passages about the Social-Democratic Federation and the Fabians, as well as about Naylor’s candidature, didn’t get into Tussy’s article.[1] I read them afterwards in the manuscript. They are an almost essential supplement to the election picture. The complete collapse of the S.D.F. as soon as it came to a real test was significant after its boasting for years that it was the “only” Social-Democratic organisation, the only salvation-bringing church. I don’t know whether you saw Bax in Zurich, but Bax is a poor authority on the S.D.F. He was editor of Justice for six weeks, removed all the many improprieties but was absolutely incapable of giving the sheet any other than a sectarian character (for if he could he would certainly have done so). After all, the S.D.F. is purely a sect. It has ossified Marxism into a dogma and, by rejecting every labour movement which is not orthodox Marxism (and that a Marxism which contains much that is erroneous), that is, by pursuing the exact opposite of the policy recommended in the Manifesto, it renders itself incapable of ever becoming anything else but a sect. Bax for many reasons has renewed contact with these people, but if they do not change it will certainly not he long before he finds out that they want to exploit him politically and financially and that he cannot assume responsibility for them. But he must learn this by personal experience. In the meantime he has become so deeply involved that he has to take them partly under his protection. For the rest, Bax has no contact whatever with the workers.

The Fabians have become a real obstacle: the tail of the “great” Liberal Party, on the pretext of wanting to force its candidates on that party. In this they may be successful for a while in the case of the County Council where possibilist programmes of municipal reforms can be drawn up, but even there the pious fraud will work only until the bourgeoisie sees through it. In elections to Parliament it does not work; there the Liberals give the Fabians, like all other so-called labour candidates, only hopeless constituencies. If you want to force labour candidates on the Liberals you have to go about it the way Burns and Keir Hardie do: by keeping them at the point of the sword, and not, like the Fabians, by fawning upon them under false pretences. Fortunately the call for an independent labour party is already so loud and general that the gentle blandishments of Fabian flattery and Fabian money will surely be overcome.


1. The reference is to an article on the English elections written by Marx’s daughter Eleanor [Tussy] and E. Aveling, her husband, for the Social-Democratic journal Neue Zeit. As editor of this journal Kautsky arbitrarily deleted all passages in which the authors denounced the sectarianism and opportunism of the socialist movement in England.