Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869
Source: MECW, Volume 43, p. 303.
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1931.
Best congratulations upon your escape from Egyptian bondage! In honour of this event, I drank ‘one glass too many’, but late in the evening, not before sunrise like the Prussian gendarmes.
Enclosed a momentous letter from Wilhelm [Liebknecht], from which you will see that he has suddenly appointed himself my curator, and lays down this and that which I ‘must’ do.
I must come to their August congress, must show myself to the German workers; must send the International cards immediately (after they had not replied to two queries on the subject in 3 months), must muck the Communist Manifesto about; must come to Leipzig!
It is really very naive that, in the same letter in which he complains that he cannot pay back the £2 (which I gave to Eccarius for him), he offers me my fare to Germany. Toujours le même!
He appears to be morally indignant about you. I have already replied to him that he has misinterpreted your letter. The fellow simply cannot grasp that convictions and business management are not poles apart, as he assumes in his newspaper administration, and as others have to assume if they do not wish to become suspects.
Our Wilhelm has a sanguine nature and is a liar. So there are probably, once again, exaggerations in his description of the victory over Schweitzer. Still, there must be something in it. Schweitzer would not have returned to the Church of Hatzfeldt had he not been shaky in his own association. On the other hand, he speeded up the general dissolution by the doltish management of his latest coup d'état. I hope that, as a result of this business, the German workers’ movement will finally leave the stage of Lassallean infantile disorders behind, and that the Lassallean residue will decay in sectarian isolation.
As for Wilhelm’s various ‘absolute commandments’, I have answered him to this effect:
I feel absolutely no need to show myself to the German workers, and will not go to their congress. Once they have really joined the International and given themselves a proper party organisation — and the Nuremberg Congress showed how little trust can be put in just promises, tendencies, etc. — then there will be an opportunity by and by. In addition, it must be clearly understood that the new organisation must be, for us, neither People’s Party nor Lassallean church — as little the one as the other. If we went now we would have to speak against the People’s Party, and that would not please Wilhelm and Bebel! And if they — mirabile dictu [strange to say] — would themselves admit this, we would have to throw our weight directly onto the scales against Schweitzer and Co., instead of having the change-over appear as a free action by the workers.
As far as polishing up the Manifesto is concerned, we would consider this as soon as we have seen the decisions of their congress, etc.
He should hang on to his £2 and not worry about my fare. I praise their action against Becker.
That’s all on that.
About Meissner it is probably best if I speak to him. Incidentally, if you have time (that is, if it doesn’t bother your eye) to finish something, it is easier to negotiate with a manuscript rather than without one. I know enough to know that Meissner prefers 5 sheets to 2. The shorter the pamphlet, the harder to sell, as he told me himself.
What do you say about the way that the virtuous Gladstone and puritanical Bright acted with regard to Overend, Gurney, et Co.?
Remarkable, also, was Bruce’s declaration on the Mold shooting, which was not so innocent as the Manchester papers reported. So the Riot Act need not be read. It is enough for some fox-hunting unpaid magistrate to whisper in the ear of an officer, and the peppering starts. Yet even this is not necessary. The soldiers may use their rifles in self-defence (and they themselves judge whether this is necessary). But then, shouldn’t the Arms Acts be repealed, so everybody would be able to use his own rifle in self-defence against the soldiers?
The Gurney business, or rather the attitude of the Ministry towards it, ditto the Mold affair, finally the ministerial trickery with Lamuda and other scoundrels against the Trades-Unions Bill — have made a mighty big dent in the fascination held by the names Gladstone and Bright amongst the workers here in London.
Laura was ill and bed-ridden for 14 days, but is said to be better now. They have given notice on their rooms, and in October will move to a more airy locality (Montmartre or some such).
Best compliments to all.