Letter from Engels to Sorge, London, 19th April 1890

[Marx and Engels: On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly and Working Class Movement, Futura, 1972, 57 p., p. 53-54]


... In a country with such an old political and labour movement there is always a tremendous heap of traditionally inherited rubbish which has to be got rid of by degrees. There are the prejudices of the skilled Unions – Engineers, Bricklayers, Carpenters and Joiners, Type Compositors, etc. – which have all to be broken down; the petty jealousies of the particular trades, which become intensified in the hands and heads of the leaders to the point of direct hostility and underhand struggle; there are the mutually conflicting ambitions and intrigues of the leaders: one wants to get into Parliament and so does somebody else, a third wants to get into the County Council or on the School Board, a fourth wants to organise a general central body comprising all workers, a fifth to start a paper, a sixth a club, etc., etc. In short, there is friction galore. And among them is the Socialist League, which looks down on everything that is not directly revolutionary (which means here in England as in your country: all who do not limit themselves to making phrases and otherwise doing nothing), and the Federation, which still behaves as if all except themselves were asses and bunglers, although it is precisely owing to the new impetus lent to the movement that they have succeeded in getting some following again. In short, anyone who looks only at the surface would say it was all confusion and personal quarrels. But under the surface the movement is going on, is embracing ever wider sections and mostly just among the hitherto stagnant lowest strata. The day is no longer far off when this mass will suddenly find itself, when it will dawn upon it that it itself is this colossal mass in motion, and when that day comes short work will be made of all the rascality and wrangling.


MESC p. 411.
MEOB p. 570.

The complete text can be found online in Marxist Internet Archive, MIA: