INDHOLD

Letter from Engels to Sorge, London, 7th December 1889

[Marx and Engels: On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly and Working Class Movement, Futura, 1972, 57 p., p. 52-53]

(Extract)

... Here one can see that it is by no means easy to drill ideas into a big nation in a doctrinaire and dogmatic way, even if one has the best of theories, developed out of its own conditions of life, and even if the tutors are relatively better than those of the S.L.P. [20]. The movement has now got going at last and I believe for good. But it is not directly socialist, and those Englishmen who have understood our theory best remain outside it: Hyndman because he is an incurable intriguer and jealous, too; Bax because he is a bookworm. Formally the movement is at the moment a Trade-Union movement, but totally different from that of the old Trade Unions, the skilled labourers, the aristocracy of labour.

The people are throwing themselves into the job in quite a different spirit, are leading far huger masses into the fight, are shaking society much more deeply, are putting forward much more far-reaching demands: eight-hour day, general federation of all organisations, complete solidarity. Thanks to Tussy, the Gas Workers' and General Labourers' Union has formed women's branches for the first time. Moreover, the people themselves regard their immediate demands as only provisional, although they do not know as yet what final aim they are working for. But this dim idea is strongly enough rooted to make them choose only avowed Socialists as their leaders. Like everyone else they will have to learn by their own experiences and the consequences of their own mistakes. But as, unlike the old Trade Unions, they greet every suggestion of an identity of interests between capital and labour with scorn and ridicule this will not take very long...

The most repulsive thing here is the bourgeois "respectability" bred into the bones of the workers. The social division of society into innumerable gradations, each recognised without question, each with its own pride but also its inborn respect for its "betters" and "superiors," is so old and firmly established that the bourgeois still find it pretty easy to get their bait accepted. I am not at all sure, for instance, that John Burns is not secretly prouder of his popularity with Cardinal Manning, the Lord Mayor and the bourgeoisie in general than of his popularity with his own class. And Champion an ex-Lieutenant – intrigued years ago with bourgeois, and especially with conservative, elements, preached Socialism at the parsons' Church Congress, etc. Even Tom Mann, whom I regard as the finest of them, is fond of mentioning that he will be lunching with the. Lord Mayor. If one compares this with the French, one can see what a revolution is good for, after all...

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[20] Socialist Labour Party, USA.

MESC p. 407.
MEOB p. 567.

The complete text can be found online in Marxist Internet Archive, MIA:
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1889/letters/89_12_07.htm