Marx-Engels Correspondence 1866
Written: London, 20 June, 1866;
Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
Yesterday there was a discussion in the International Council on the present war. [Prussian-Austrian war of 1866] It had been announced beforehand and our room was very full. The Italian gentlemen had also sent us representatives once more. The discussion wound up, as was to be expected, with "the question of nationality" in general and the attitude we should take towards it. This subject was adjourned till next Tuesday.
The French, very numerously represented, gave vent to their cordial dislike for the Italians.
Moreover the representatives of "young France" (non-workers) came out with the announcement that all nationalities and even nations were "antiquated prejudices." Proudhonised Stirnerism. Everything to be dissolved into little "groups" or "communes" which will in their turn form an "association" but no state. And indeed this "individualisation" of mankind and the corresponding "mutualism" are to proceed while history comes to a stop in all other countries and the whole world waits until the French are ripe for a social revolution. They will then perform the experiment before our eyes, and the rest of the world, overcome by the force of their example, will do the same. Just what Fourier expected of his model phalanstery. Moreover, everyone who encumbers the "social" question with the "superstitions" of the old world is "reactionary."
The English laughed very much when I began my speech by saying that our friend Lafargue, etc., who had done away with nationalities, had spoken "French" to us, i.e., a language which nine-tenths of the audience did not understand. I also suggested that by the negation of nationalities he appeared, quite unconsciously, to understand their absorption into the model French nation.
For the rest, the line is difficult now because one has equally to oppose the silliness of English pro-Italianism on the one hand and the false polemic of the French on the other, and must specially prevent any demonstration which would involve our Association in a one-sided direction.