Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869
Source: MECW, Volume 43, p. 335;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1931.
Old Becker must have gone completely off his head. How can he decree that the Trades Unions must be the real workers’ association and the basis of all organisation, that the other associations must only exist provisionally alongside, etc . And all in a country where real trades unions still do not yet even exist. And what a complicated ‘organisation’. On the one hand each trade centralises itself in a national leadership, on the other hand the various trades in each locality centralise themselves again in a local leadership. If one wanted to make the eternal squabbling permanent, this would be the arrangement to adopt. But it is au fond nothing but the old German journeyman’s desire to preserve his ‘inn’ in every town, and takes this to be the unity of the workers’ organisation. If many more such proposals come to light, the time at the Eisenach Congress will be nicely debated away.
The international plans have naturally no other purpose than to ensure the leadership for Becker as far as the German tongue is heard (he has already annexed Mulhause in Alsace, see Vorbote, p. 109 under ‘Basle'). In practice this fine organisation, with its leadership in Geneva, must come to grief on the German laws, since Becker has, as usual, made out the bill without the waiter. Generalising the idea of central committees based upon language, in other words putting the Genevan workers under Paris and the Antwerpers under Amsterdam (if Geneva is not intended to rule the whole of France and Walloon-Belgium, which those in free Geneva have very probably assumed), is presumably only designed to strengthen his claim to regency over the German language. But it is very good that the Eisenach Congress and not the international Basle Congress should settle these matters.
Incidentally, I would never claim to have understood Becker’s plan properly; given the German and the logic which rule there, sense and understanding come to a complete stop.
It’s quite clear that fat Bakunin is behind it. If this damned Russian really thinks of intriguing his way to the top of the workers’ movement, then the time has come to give him once and for all what he deserves and ask the question whether a pan-Slavist can be a member of an international workers’ association. The fellow can very easily be tackled. He should not imagine that he can play a cosmopolitan communist for the workers, and a burning national pan-Slavist for the Russians. A few hints to Borkheim, who is just dealing with him now, would be quite in order; Borkheim will undoubtedly understand a broad hint.
You will have seen that the worthy Swiss want to have ‘direct legislation by the people’ discussed at the congress. That will be nice.
It really is a disgrace that after nearly 40 years of political workers’ movement in England, the only workers’ paper’ in existence can be bought up by a bourgeois like S. Morley. But unfortunately it appears to be a law of the proletarian movement that everywhere a part of the workers’ leaders necessarily become corrupted, though it has happened nowhere else in the general fashion to which Lassalle developed it in Germany.
Tussy is now reading Firdusi in the very good version by Schack; so far she likes it very much, but whether she will work right through the enormous volume is something different.
At the end of next week I think I shall finally be through with honest Gottfried, and then I shall have about 14 days of freedom ahead of me. So if you want to make a plan for a journey, then make it and let me know; we could meet somewhere in Germany or in Holland too if you like, or we could leave London together. At the end of August I must meet my mother in Ostend, about the 20th or 25th. Can Tussy stay here in the meantime and keep Lizzie company? What do you think?
You will get money as soon as I am in order with Gottfried Ermen, possibly earlier, id est if he forks out before. Send the enclosed to Tussy in a disguised hand; she will wonder wherefrom