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Full text of "Marx and Engels on revolution in America"



rhe Little Red Library 

No. 6 

,^i Marx and Engels 

on 

^ — Revolution in America 

'^ By HEINZ NEUMAN 



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Xo.l.— TRADE UNIONS IN 
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No. 2.— CLASS STRUGGLE 
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No. 3.— P RINCIPLESOF 
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Marx and En gels 



on 



Revolution in America 

HEINZ NEUMANN 



290 



I^TRODICTIOX 

Marx and Engcls were not only the theoreticians 
huty in the first pJace, they were the leaders of the 
proletarian revolution. It is in the study of the 
conditions of the proletarian struggle and its vic- 
tory that they per f rated the science of Marxism, 
the science of the proletarian revolution. 

In the First Iiitcrnational these men satv an in- 
strument of proletarian struggle and leadership. 
Thru their theoretical works they supplied a guide 
to this leadership. Both Marx and Engcls equipped 
themselves in the most painstaking fashion with a 
thorough knowledge of the conditions in the vari- 
ous countries so that they might give authoritative 
advice and instruction to the leaders of the working 
class movement all over Europe. Even in their old 
age, they set themselves to master new languages 
to enable them to draw from the literature and 
journals of the respective countries a knowledge of 
their various conditions. And so we find displayed 
in their advice and instruction to their followers an 
intimate knowledge of the subjective and objective 
conditions of the labor movement, a knowledge that 
toould surprise any native student. 

The body of this little booklet is made up of ex- 
cerpts from letters written by Marx and Engcls 
on conditions in the United ^States. To a large ex- 
tent these conditions still prevail, at least in so far 
as they deal with the subjective factors of the pro- 
letarian revolution. The ideology prevailing among 



the Anicricdn workers in those days showed a much 
(/rcdfcr resistance to counter-acting jorces than 
Mar.r and Engels had hoped. Marx and Enr/els 
)n is judged the tempo of the process of dissipation 
of the illusions obsessing the American tvorking 
class hut they were entirely correct in their esti- 
mation of the forces and methods that will finally 
destroy them. 

All these letters and quotations speak for them- 
selves. But a few words must he said as to their 
origin. 

The heroic struggle of the Paris proletariat for 
the Commune in 1811 had driven home to the ruling 
classes of those days the reality of the danger of a 
proletarian revolution. No wonder, then, that, to 
their ever-jyresent hatred of the revolutionary as 
pirations of their icage-slaves, they nmo added a 
haunting dread. The International Workingmen's 
Association (The First International) came in for 
a full share of this hatred and fear. The place of 
the '^Zinoviev letters^' of today was taken in those 
days hy letters from that "'arch fiend/' Karl Marx. 
It is hut little known today that in the first tele- 
graphic reports of the Chicago conflagration (Oc- 
toher, 1871), it teas not Mrs. Kelly's cow that caused 
it, hut — the International Workingmen-s Associa- 
tion. The General Council of that body was fully 
justified ivhen it sarcastically complained that the 
tornado devastating the West Indies about the same 
time was not booked to its account. 

The defeat of the Commune brought the inner 
differences of the International to a head. Al 
though the Centralists under the leadership of Marx 



and En gels defeated the Autonomists hehind 
Michael Bakunin at the Congress of the Interna- 
tional at The Hague in September , 1812, yet it he- 
came clear that only radical measures could save it 
from complete dissolution. In fact, neither Marx 
nor Engels had any hopes that it would he saved. 
But they wanted to secure it an honorable death. 
With the General Council in London it was certain 
that the Blanquists would dominate it. To estab- 
lish the headquarters in any other European capi- 
tal icas impossible under the existing conditions of 
general reaction. So Marx insisted on the removal 
of the General Council to yeio York. 

The center of the General Council in New York 
became its local leader, F. A. Sorge. 

F. A. Sorge had taken an active part in the revo- 
lution of 18j8 in Germany. For some time there- 
after he lived iv exile in Switzerland. In 1851 he 
went to London where he became acquainted with 
the Communist Club and with Karl Marx. When 
later he emigrated to America he settled in New 
York where, in 1857, he founded the Communist 
Club which later became the American Section of 
the First International. Sorge died in Hoboken, in 
1906. His whole life he had devoted to the revolu- 
tionary movement of the proletariat and the Ameri- 
can movement, especially, is indebted to him for its 
first Marxian education. 

The removal of the General Council of the Inter- 
national to New York did not terminate the leader- 
ship of Marx and Engels. Both kept in close touch 
u^ith affairs and numerous letters full of advice, in- 
structions, and suggestions, written by both Marx 



(tnd IJn (/<'!. s to Sorfjc, test if }j to this. The need for 
<i centralized leadership for the International was 
always clear to Marx and Engels. The basic issue 
of the struggle between Marx and Bakunin was 
whether the General Council of the International 
should be merely a statistical bureau and general 
postoffice for the exchange of views of the various 
sections or whether it should be the instrument of 
international leadership; Bakunin stood for the 
former concept; Marx fought fm^ the latter. 

The First International ceased to exist with the 
resignation of Sorge from its General Council in 
IS7'i. It had co}npleted its task — that of explaininf/ 
to the working class the conditions and methods of 
its emancipation. The death of the First Interna- 
tional did not, however, mean a death blow to the 
idea of a centralized leadership for the international 
morement of the proletariat. The Communist In- 
ternational, under the leadership of Lenin, has be- 
come the realization of Engels^ hopes: ''that the new 
International be not merely one of propaganda but 
one of action, built upon the undisguised and un- 
adulterated principles of Marxism, Communism.-' 
The Communist International is the rightful heir of 
the First Internatiomil Workingmens Association. 

^ome of the letters quoted in this booklet wen 
addressed to Mrs. Florence Kellcy Wischnewetsky. 
This is Mrs. Florence Kelley, at present general sec- 
retary of the National Consumers' League. Born 
in 1859, Mrs. Kelley graduated frrmi Cornell Col- 
lege in 1872 and upon her graduation went abroad 
(Old studied at Zurich and Heidelberg. While 
(ih)()<(d site visited England a)id there came in con- 



iavt with Fricdrivh fUajtlx. She hccantc interested 
in socialism and, under his supervision, translated 
Kngel.K classic work, ''The Conditions of the Work- 
ing Classes in England,'- which was puhlishcd for 
the first time in English in New York in 1S8G. 
After her return to America she continued to cor- 
respond with En gels regarding Am erica )i affairs. 
Before his death Sorgc was able to obtain Engels' 
letters to her and turn them over together with his 
own to the New York Public Librari/, where theg 
fit ill remain and where most of the originals of the 
many quotations in this booklet mag be fou)id. 
Florence Kelley teas one of the organizers of the 
Intercollegiate Socialist Society a)id has been for 
many years on their executive committee. In the 
last ten years or so her former close contact with 
the socialist movement lessened to a considerable 
extent. 

The study of this pamphlet will help many of 
those active in the revolutionary labor movement in 
the United States better to understand the prob- 
lems of the movement. Comrade Heinz Neumann, 
one of the leaders of the Communist Party of Ger- 
many, performed a real service for the American 
proletariat by compiling a)id analyzing this valu- 
able material from the writings of the founders of 
the Inter)iational Communist movement, Marx and 
Engels. 

The reader ivho is familiar with the recent dis- 
cussions in the American Communist movement 
concerning the role of the Eabor Party movement 
in this country and its services in politically awak- 
ening the Americari masses to elementary forms of 



class consciousness and class action will notice the 
rcnairkahlc appHcabiliti/ of nianij of the statements 
and aiKihfscs of Mar.c and Kntjels to just this proh- 
Irni. A carrful studij of this material will cast con- 
siderable liffht (tn th( Labor Parti/ question that is 
now one of the fundamental problems facing the 
Annrican proletariat and its Part if. 

Agitprop Departmen t, 

WORKERS (COMMUNIST) PARTY 

OF AMERICA. 



Marx and Engels 

on 

Revolution in America 

By Heinz Neumann. 

TN the imperialist epoch the United States as- 
sumed the role of the economically and poli- 
tically predominating country of the bourgeoisie 
which England had played in the period of the 
capitahsm of free competition. America is the 
most powerful mainstay of imperialism. The 
European revolution cannot be successful with- 
out the help of the masses of the American work- 
ing class. 

Leninism always combatted the theory of the 
Second International, according to which the 
course of the revolution in the various capitalist 
countries was dependent upon the "stage of de- 
velopment of the forces of production." Lenin 
demonstrated theoretically and practically that 
the proletariat is not first victorious in those 
countries where the productive forces are most 
highly developed, but in those countries where the 
world system of imperialism is weakest and the 
revolutionary forces of the proletariat and of its 
allied peasant masses are strongest. 

But Lenin's theory of the proletarian revolu- 
tion means more than this. In his polemic against 



Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution, 
which maintained that the victory of the proleta- 
rian dictatorship in Russia was only possible 
"with the state aid of the working class in the 
more highly developed countries," Lenin pointed 
out repeatedly that the proletariat of the highly 
developed capitalist countries already become 
the strongest allies of the victorious proletariat in 
the backward countries even before the establish- 
ment of their own dictatorship. Not only the 
"state aid" but the very revolutionary struggle for 
the seizure of power in the capitalist countries 
renders the consolidation of the proletarian dic- 
tatorship possible and the development of social- 
ism in the existing Soviet Republics. 

When applied to the perspective of the Europ- 
ean, especially of the Central European and prim- 
arily the German revolution, the Leninist theory 
requires the correct estimate of the role of the 
American proletariat and consequently the es- 
tablishment of a revolutionary mass Party in Am- 
erica as a decisive factor in gaining and defending 
the dictatorship of the proletariat in Germany. 
The development of imperialism after the first 
world war made America the metropolis of the 
capitalist world. Germany and a constantly in- 
creasing number of other European states which 
formerly were amongst the older and dominant 
capitaUst countries, sink to the level of economic- 
ally and politically backward countries, to indus- 
trial colonies of American finance capital. Al- 
though these countries had already accompUshed 
the bourgeois revolution a long time ago, they 



play a role with respect to American finance capi- 
tal similar to that which Russia played with re- 
gard to West European capital. 

The Dawes regime lends this development not 
only historical, but immediate political signifi- 
cance for Germany. The German proletariat can 
only then conquer in its fight against American 
Dawes' rule, if it be supported by an extensive 
revolutionary mass movement in America. As 
long as the rule of American finance capital does 
not meet with resistance in the metropolis itself, 
as long as the Communist Party of America re- 
mains a small sectarian party, as long as the 
great organizations of the American working 
class remain unchallenged in the hands of the 
representatives of the most reactionary labor 
aristocracy — in short, as long as no revolution- 
ary mass Party exists in America — the strength 
of the German bourgeoisie, supported by Ameri- 
can finance capital, and the difficulties of the 
German revcluticn, are increased ten-fold. 

To deny this fact signifies the rejection of the 
Leninist viewpoint of the direct support of the 
revolution in comparatively backward countries, 
by the class struggle of the proletariat in the im- 
perialist metropolis. It signifies renouncing the 
revolutionary estimate of the role of the Ameri- 
can proletariat in the present stage of the Europ- 
ean revolution, and the recognition of the Trotsky- 
ist theory of ''state aid," which, as an inseparable 
component of the theory of the "permanent rev- 
olution," in this case ends in nothing else but 
Kautsky's "doctrine of productive forces." 



Marx and Engels clearly realized the future role 
of America in the class strugle of the proletariat. 
In his third preface to the "Communist Manifesto" 
in 1883, Engels stated: "The limited extent of 
the spread of the proletarian movement at the 
time the Manifesto was first published (January, 
1848), is best demonstrated by the last chapter: 
'The Attitude of the Communists of the Various 
Opposition Parties.' First of all, Russia and the 
United States are missing in this chapter. . ." 
Engels calls both countries "the great reserve of 
European reaction." He recalls the period "in 
which emigration to the United States absorbed 
the surplus of the European proletariat." The 
United States, like Russia, suppHed "Europe with 
raw materials, and at the same time served as a 
market for the sale of the latter's industrial prod- 
ucts." Engles then continues: 

"Both functioned thus, in one way or another, as 
pillars of the European social order. 

"How all this has changed today! European emi- 
gration has rendered possible the colossal develop- 
ment of North American agriculture, Which, through 
its competition, is shaking the foundations of large as 
well as small land ownership in Europe. At the same 
time it enabled the United States to begin with the ex' 
ploitation of its rich industrial resources with su^ 
energy and upon such a scale THAT WITHIN m 
SHORT PERIOD THE INDUSTRIAL MONOPOLY 
OF WESTERN EUROPE MUST BE BROKEN. (Em- 
phasis here, as well as in all following quotations, 
mine— H. N.) 



10 



"And both these circumstances REACT UPON 
AMERICA IN A REVOLUTIONARY DIRECTION. 
The small and medium property of the farmer work- 
ing for himself, the foundation of America's whole 
political system, fails more and more victim to the 
competition of the giant farms, while at the same 
time, is formed for the first time a NUMEROUS 
PROLETARIAT in the industrial districts together 
with a FABULOUS CONCENTRATION OF CAPI- 
TAL." 

This utterance immediately precedes the fam- 
ous prophecy that "the Russian revolution will be 
the signal for a workers' revolution in the West." 
Both of these statements fall in that period of 
Engels' work, in which he had already recognized 
the decisive changes characterizing the trans- 
formation from the capitalism of free competition 
to imperialism. With the Paris Commune, the 
period of the First International had to all intents 
concluded, although it continued to exist formal- 
ly. Marx and Engels continue to view the prob- 
lems of the labor movement from the standpoint 
of the basic principles of the International Work- 
ing Men's Association. However, at the same 
time, they seek a new form of labor movement 
which, corresponding with the changed historical 
form of development of capitalism itself, rises 
above the level of the past. In "The Civil War in 
France" and in the "Letters to Kugelmann," the 
Marxian theory of the State is developed to its 
utmost issue; at the same time the leading role 
of the Communist Party in the struggle of the 
proletariat is definitely expressed. Lenin always 

11 



refers to these works in his own writings; lie 
looked to them for guidance upon the most im- 
portant problems of the proletarian revolution. 
There is no doubt that the passages in the corre- 
spondence of Marx and Engels dealing with the 
American labor movement ought to come under 
this head. These letters cover the historical con- 
tent of an entire generation — from 1868 to 1895. 

Leninism is not, as several opportunists main- 
tain, only a sub-division of Marxism. It is neither 
the Marxism of the ''early period" nor the Marx- 
ism of the ''mature period." Leninism is the 
whole of Marxism in the epoch of imperiahsm and 
of the proletarian revolution. But no Chinese 
wall separates the epoch of imperiahsm from the 
epoch of the capitalism of free competition. Be- 
tween the epoch of the bourgeois-democratic rev- 
olution and the epoch of the proletarian world 
revolution there lie no insuperable barriers. Be- 
tween them there lies a period of transition. In 
the ranks of revolutionary Marxism this period 
of transition in its broadest sense is embodied in 
the left, revolutionary wing of the Second Inter- 
national. In a narrow sense it is expressed in the 
work of Marx's and Engels' concluding years, 
which historically already tower over the period 
prior to the Paris Commune and almost directly 
intertwine with the foundations of Leninism. 

For this reason it is not admissable to consider 
the statements of Marx and Engels upon the 
problems of the American labor movement as 
"quotations from a bygone period." They belong 
rather, to the tactical doctrines of Marx and 

12 



Engels, which on all essentials of method agree 
with the tactics of Lenin and which in the main 
still apply today to the problems of our tactics. 

II. METHOD. 

TN his letter to Sorge dated September 16, 1887, 
Engels wrote as follows upon the American 
labor movement: 

"In spite of all, the masses can only be set in 
motion in a way suitable to the respective countries 
and adapted to the prevailing conditions — and this is 
usually a roundabout way. But everything else is of 
minor importance if only they are really aroused." 

The method with which Engels approached the 
problems of the American labor movement re- 
quired, therefore, firstly, the consideration of 
these specific national characteristics of the 
country, without the schematic application of the 
"ways" which had been tested in other countries, 
as the only correct ones; and secondly, shifting 
the tactical focus of interest to the "real arous- 
ing" of the American laboring masses, in which 
connection all doctrinary questions are of "minor 
importance." 

In his letter to Mrs. Wischnewetsky, dated Sep- 
tember 15, 1887, Engels remarks: 

"Fortunately the movement in America has now got 
such a start that neither George, nor Powderly, nor 
the German intriguers can spoil or stop It. Only it 
will take UNEXPECTED FORMS. The real movement 
always looks different to what it ought to have done 
in the eyes of those who were tools in preparing it." 



13 



That signifies, thirdly, that European experi- 
ence does not suffice to decide a priori upon rigid 
forms of the American labor movement. These 
forms can only be developed in the course of Am- 
erican practice itself. There is no recipe for 
them. They will be "unexpected." 

In Engels' letter to Sorge dated April 8, 1891, 
he writes: 

"It proves how useless is a — theoretically for the 
most part correct — platform if it is unable to get into 
contact with THE ACTUAL NEEDS of the people." 

Engels here wants to demonstrate to the sec- 
tarians of the Hyndman group in England as well 
as to the German emigrants of the ''Socialist La- 
bor Party" in America, the necessity of gaining 
primarily the support of the workers organized 
in the trade unions. Of importance methodo- 
logically in this connection is, fourthly, the fact 
that Engels sets the actual requirements of the 
labor movement higher than the theoretical plat- 
form. In his letter dated June 10, 1891, he states 
expressly that the transition from a sect to a 
mass party is even more important than an "or- 
thodox" Marxist platform: 

"The comical phenomenon is very significant that 
here, as in America, those persons who parade as or- 
thodox Marxians, those who have reduced our IDEAS 
OF MOVEMENT to a rigid dogma which must be 
memorized, that those people figure here as well as 
over there as a pure sect." 

The method, by means of which Engels deter- 
mined the tactics of the American Communists, 

14 



contains the following four salient points: The 
point of origin is the specific national peculiarities 
of the American conditions. The principal task 
is, to begin with, the **real arousing" of the work- 
ers. The forms of tactic can only be found 
through the practice of the movement itself. 
Linking up with the actual needs of the working 
class is of more importance than the theoretical 
platform. 

He sums up this method in a classic form in his 
letter to Mrs. Wischnewetsky dated January 27, 
1887: 

"The movement in America, just at this moment, is 
I believe best seen from across the ocean. On the 
spot personal bickerings and local disputes must ob- 
scure much of the grandeur of it. And THE ONLY 
THING that couid really delay its march would be the 
consolidation of these differences into established 
sects. To some extent that will be unavoidable, but 
the less of it the better. . . Our theory is a theory 
of evolution, not of dogma to be learned by heart and 
to be repeated mechanically. The less it is hammered 
into the Americans from the outside and the more 
they test it through their own experience. . . the 
more will it become part of their own flesh and blood." 

III. 

The Historical Peculiarities of the American 
Labor Movement. 

TI>OTH England and America have always offered 

a number of particularly knotty problems for 

the exponents of Marxism. In practice, both 

15 



countries were characterized by the absence of a 
revolutionary workers' party; in tlie theoretical 
field, they led Marx and Engels to utter the well- 
known epigram — that the proletarian revolution 
could take place in a peaceful manner in England 
and America. Kautsky employed this phrase 
against Lenin in the polemic about the dictator- 
ship of the proletariat. Lenin replied in his pam- 
phlet against Kautsky: 

"In the 'seventies, was there anything which made 
England and America . . . exceptions? It should 
be a matter of course for anyone in the least degree 
acquainted with the requirements of science in the 
field of historical problems that this question must be 
raised. Not to put this question signifies falsifying 
science and being satisfied with sophistry. If this 
question is raised, however, there can be no doubt 
of the answer; the revolotionary dictatorship of the 
proletariat signifies the rule of force against the bour- 
geois. The necessity of this rule of force is, as Marx 
and Engels repeatedly and at length. , . pointed 
out, primarily conditioned by the existence of militar- 
ism and of bureaucracy. At a time when Marx made 
this statement, in the 'seventies of the nineteenth 
century, these institutions did not exist in England 
and America! (However, they are now to be found 
In England as well as in America)." 

The causes of the late development of these 
typical phenomena of the capitalist state in Eng- 
land were the existence of the industrial monop- 
oly and the century-old tradition of parliamen- 
tarism. In America, the historical period of feud- 
alism had never existed; America has been demo- 

15 



cratic from the very beginning of its existence 
as an independent state. While in England capi- 
talist monopoly delayed the development of a 
bm-eaucratic-militaristic state machine, in Amer- 
ica the diametrically opposite cause, the imma- 
turity of capitalist development, acted in the same 
direction. Engels was already able in the 'eight- 
ies to state that on the one hand England's indus- 
trial monopoly had been shaken to its founda- 
tions while on the other hand, the United States 
was changing from an agrarian country into an 
industrial power. Thus, almost simultaneously, 
the harmonizing of the most developed and the 
least developed capitalist countries took place, 
with the general legal line of development of the 
bourgeois state as analyzed by Marx. The pre- 
mises for the "exception" to the Marxian theory 
of the state, thus vanished. 

In a similar fashion, but much more slowly, the 
approach of the American labor movement to the 
European type is in process. The British worker 
already began this assimilation to the proletarian 
class struggle of the continent in the 'nineties. 
At that time Engels established the fact of the 
development of a "new unionism." This new 
tendency in the British labor movement required 
forty years to mature — its most recent fruits are 
the radicalization of the British trade unions 
through the Purcell group. The class struggle of 
the American proletariat has had to travel a much 
more difficult path. The after-effects of the 
downfall of an industrial monopoly were easier 
to overcome than the influence of bourgeois ideol- 

17 



ogy in America, the derivation of which from the 
feudal period is not evident to the American work- 
ers in consequence of the lack of an American 
feudalism. The penetrating eye of Engels sees in 
this specific characteristic of America's history 
the reason for American workers' well-known 
"contempt for theory," which was one of the 
greatest obstacles to the formation of a revolu- 
tionary mass party. He writes to Sorge on Sep- 
tember 16, 1886: 

"In a country as elemental as America, which has 
developed in a purely bourgeois fashion without any 
feudal past, but has taken over from England a mass 
ideology surviving from the feudal pariod, such 
as English common law, religion and sectarianism, 
and in which the necessity of practical work and of 
the concentration of capital has produced a general 
contempt for all theories, which is only now beginning 
to disappear in educated and scientific circles, — in 
such a country the people must come to realize their 
own social interests by making mistake after mistake. 
Nor will the workers be spared that; the confusion 
of trade unions, socialists, Knights of Labor, etc. will 
continue for some time to come, and they will only 
learn by injuring themselves. But the chief thing is 
that they have been set in motion. . ." 

In another letter, dated February 8, 1890, 
Engels draws the conclusion that this "elemental 
conservative" ideology of the American workers 
can be overcome "only through experience," and 
only through getting in contact with the trade 
unions: 



18 



"The people of Schleswig-Holstein and their des- 
cendants in England and America, cannot be converted 
by preaching; this stiff-necked and conceited crew 
must learn through their own experience. They are 
doing that from year to year, but they are elementally 
conservative — just because America is so purely bour- 
geois, has absolutely no feudal past, and is therefore, 
proud of its purely bourgeois organization — and there- 
fore, will only be freed through experience from old 
traditional intellectual rubbish. Hence with trade 
unions and such like, must be the beginning, if there is 
to be a mass movement, and every step forward must 
be forced upon them by a defeat. But, however, after 
the first step beyond the bourgeois viewpoint has been 
made, things will move faster, just like everything in 
America. . . and then the foreign element in the 
nation will make its influence felt by its greater 
mobility." 

From the rise of a mass movement, therefore, 
Engels hopes not only for the revolutionization of 
the "native" workers, but at the same time the 
overcoming of a sectarian spirit and of doctrinair- 
ism amongst the foreign-born proletarians. The 
shifting of the center of gravity to the native 
workers in the trade unions is in no way intended 
to hmit the historical role of the "foreign ele- 
ment," but to extend it by the exploitation of the 
latter's "greater mobility" and by linking to- 
gether the two elements of the American working 
class. 

Engels considered the antagonism between the 
native-born and the immigrants one of the princi- 
pal obstacles to the development of a mass party. 

19 



The danger of this antagonism consists in the fact 
that it coincides with the class antagonism be- 
tween the labor aristocracy and the mass of un- 
skilled wage workers. The connection of the na- 
tional with the social distinctions within the 
working class is for him the most Important 
reason for the slow development of the American 
labor movement. 

"It appears to me that your great obstacle in Ame- 
rica is the privileged position of the native-born work- 
er. Until 1848, a native-born, permanent working class 
was the exception rather than the rule. The scattered 
beginnings of the latter in the East and in the cities 
could still hope to become farmers or members of the 
bourgeoisie. Such a class has now developed and has 
organized itself to a large degree in trade unions. But 
it still assumes an aristocratic position, and leaves (as 
it may) the ordinary, poor'y-paid trades to the immi- 
grants, of wtiom only a small percentage enter the 
aristocratic trade unions. These immigrants are, how- 
ever, divided into nationalities, which do not under- 
stand one another, and for the most part do not under- 
stand the language of the country. And your bour- 
geoisie understands even better than the Austrian 
government, how to play off one nationality against 
another. . . so that, I believe, there exist in New 
York differences in the standard of living of the work- 
ers such as are out of the question anywhere else. . ." 

In the same letter to Schlueter, dated March 30, 
1892, Engels explains the rhythm of the American 
labor movement through the coincidence of this 
national and social line of demarcation within the 
proletariat: 

20 



"In suoh a country repeated starts, followed by just 
as certain relapses, are unavoidable. The only differ- 
ence is that the starts grow more and more vehement, 
and the relapses less and less paralyzing, and that on 
the whole things do go forward. But I consider one thing 
certain: the purely bourgeois foundation without any 
fraud behind it, the correspondingly gigantic energy 
of development which manifests itself even in the in- 
sane exaggeration of the present protective tariff sys- 
tem, will some day bring about a change, which will 
astonish the whole world. When the Americans once 
begin, they will do so with an energy and virulence, 
In comparison with which we in Europe will be chil- 
dren." 

Therefore, Engels considers as of the greatest 
importance, not the formation of a purely immi- 
grant party, but ''of a real mass movement 
amongst the English speaking population:" 

"For the first time there exists a real mass move- 
ment amongst the English-speaking (Engels refers to 
the preparation for strikes to obtain the eight-hour 
day and to the enormous growth of the Order of the 
Knights of Labor in spring, 1886 — just before the 
bomb-throwing affair in Chicago. H. N.) It is un- 
avoidable that this at the beginning moves hesitating- 
ly, clumsily, unclearly and unknowingly. That will 
all be cleared up; the movement will and must de- 
velop through its own mistakes. Theoretical ignor- 
ance is the characteristic of all young peoples, but so 
is practical speed of development. 

"Just as all preaching is of no avail in England, 
until the actual necessity is at hand, so too in Amer 



21 



ica. And this necessity is present in America and is 
being realized. The entrance of the masses of native 
workers into the movement in America is for me one 
of the great events of 1886. . ." (Letter to Sorge 
dated April 29, 1886). 

In his correspondence with the American So- 
cialists, which lasted for decades, Engels repeat- 
edly emphasized that the German Marxist Social- 
ist Labor Party is of much less importance than 
the development of a mass party of the native- 
born workers, even if the latter is not consciously 
Marxist. On the other hand he rephed to the ob- 
jections which were already then raised by the 
German immigrants, to the effect that he was 
thus "denying the role of the Party," and was 
"showing preference for the 100 per cent Ameri- 
cans," with the sentences of the above-quoted 
letter; that amongst the conscious Marxian immi- 
grants, there still remains 

"A nucleus, which retains the theoretical insight in- 
to the nature and the course of the entire movement, 
keeps in progress the process of fermentation, and 
finally again comes to the top." 

Engels writes even more lucidly to Mrs. Wisch- 
newetsky on February 9, 1887: 

"As soon as there was a national American work- 
ing class movement independent of the Germans, my 
standpoint was clearly indicated by the facts of the 
case. The great national movement, no matter what 
its first form, is the real starting point of American 
working class development; if the Germans join it 

22 



in order to help it or to hasten its development, in 
the right direction, they may do a deal of good and 
play a decisive part in it: if they stand aloof, they 
will dwindle down into a dogmatic sect, and will be 
brushed aside as people who do not understand their 
own principles." 

The problems of the mass party and of its re- 
lation to the trade unions, is dealt with by En- 
gels in close connection with the, at that time, 
equally acute trade union problem in England. 
In his letter to Sorge dated December 7, 1889, he 
reminds the American socialists of the Hyndman 
Social-Democratic Federation in England — which 
should serve them as a warning — which was 
''Marxist," it is true, but which became a sect in 
consequence of its fanatic aversion to the trade 
union movement: 

"Here it is demonstrated that a great nation can- 
not have something hammered into it in such a simple 
dogmatic and doctrinaire fashion, even if one has the 
best theory, as well as trainers who have grown up 
in these special living conditions and who are relative- 
ly better than those in the S. L. P. The movement is 
finally under way, and, as I believe, for good. But not 
directly socialists; and those persons amongst the 
British who have best understood our theory, are out- 
side of it; Hyndman, because he is an incorrigible 
brawler, and Bax, because he is a savant without prac- 
tical experience. The movement is first of all formally 
a trade union movement, but entirely different from 



the old trade unions of the skilltd laborers, of the 
labor aristocracy. 

"These people are attacking the problem in an 
altogether different way, are leading much more co- 
lossal masses into battle, are shaking the foundations 
of society much more profoundly, and are making 
much more far-reaching demands; the eight-hour day, 
a general federation of all organizations, complete 
solidarity. . . moreover, these people consider their 
demands of the moment as only provisional, although 
they themselves do not yet know the goal towards 
which they are striving. But this vague notion is 
deeply enough embedded in them to influence them 
to elect only declared socialists as their leaders. Just 
as all the others, they must learn through their own 
experience, and through the consequences of their own 
mistakes. But that will not last very long since they, 
in contradiction to the old trade unions, deceive with 
scornful laughter any reference to the identity of the 
interests of capital and labor." 

Eighteen years prior to this letter, Karl Marx 
wrote in his letter to F. Bolte, a member of the 
New York Provisional Federal Council, the fol- 
lowing famous passage: 

"The International was founded in order to set the 
real organization of the working class for the strug- 
gle in the place of the socialist or semi-socialist sects: 
The original statutes as well as the inaugural address 
show that at a glance. On the other hand, the Interna- 
tional would not have been able to maintain itself, if 
the course of history had not already destroyed sectar- 
ianism. The development of socialist sectarianism has 



24 



always been inversely proportional to that of the real 
labor movement. As long as the sects are justified 
(historically), the working class is still not ripe enough 
for an independent historical movement. As soon as it 
reaches this maturity, all sects are essentially reac- 
tionary. Meanwhile, there has been repeated in the 
history of the International what history proves every- 
where. The obsolete endeavors to re-establish and to 
maintain itself within the newly gained form. 

"And the history of the International was an inces- 
sant struggle of the General Council against the sects 
and the endeavors of amateurs, who try to maintain 
themselves against the real movement of the working 
class within the International." (Letter to Bolte, 
dated November 23, 1871.) 

As examples of these sectarian tendencies, 
which time and again attempt "to re-establish 
and to maintain themselves" within the Interna- 
tional Working Men's Association, Marx men- 
tions the Proudhonists in France, the Lassaleans 
in Germany, and the Bakuninists in Italy and 
Spain. He adds in the same letter: 

"It is a matter of course that the General Council 
does not support in America what it combats in Europe. 
The decisions 1, 2 and 3 and iX now give the New York 
Committee the legal weapon to put an end to all 
sectarianism and amateur groups, and in case of need 
to expel them." 

The decisions, 2 and 3 of the London Confer- 
ence of the I. W. M. A., forbid all sectarian names 
of the sections, branches, etc., and provide for 
their exclusive designation as branches or sec- 

25 



tions of the International Working Men's Associa- 
tion with the addition of the name of the locality. 
Decision IX emphasizes the necessity of the poh- 
tical effectiveness of the working class, and de- 
clares that the latter's economic movement and 
political activity are inseparably united. 

This dialectic relationship of the economic and 
the political aspects of the labor movement, were 
already at that time one of the chief problems 
in the tactical discussion in America. In a post- 
script to the same letter to Bolte, Marx again de- 
fines the inseparable unity of the economic and 
the political struggle in one of those famous pas- 
sages, which are again and again quoted by Eu- 
ropean Marxists, but which today very few know 
are written for the socialists of America, just like 
Marx's criticism of the sects. 

"N. B. to political movement: the political move- 
ment of the working class naturally has as its goal the 
conquest of political pov/er, and to that end is neces- 
sary of course, a previous organization of the working 
class, developed to a certain degree, which arises of 
itself from the latter's economic struggles. 

"On the other hand, however, every movement in 
which the working class as a class faces the ruling 
classes and attempts to force its v/ill upon them by 
pressure from without, is a political movement and in 
this manner there everywhere arises from the scat- 
tered economic movement of the workers a political 
movement, that is, a movement of the class, in order 
to fight for its interests in a general form, in a form 
which possesses general, socially compulsory force. 
When these movements are subordinate to a certain 



26 



previous organization, tliey are just as much means 
towards the development of the latter organization. 

"Where the working class is not yet sufficiently ad- 
vanced in its organization, in order to undertake a de- 
cisive campaign against the collective power, i. e., the 
political power, of the ruling classes, it must under 
all circumstances be trained for this by Incessant 
agitation against the hostile political attitude of the 
ruling class towards us. Failing, it remains a play- 
thing in the latter's hands . . ." 

IV. 

The Formation of an Independent Working 
Class Party. 

AS early as July 25, 1877, Marx wrote to Engels; 

"What do you think of the workers of the United 
States? This first explosion against the associated 
oligarchy of capital, which has arisen since the Civil 
War, will naturally again be suppressed, but can very 
well form THE POINT OF ORIGIN FOR THE CON- 
STITUTION OF AN EARNEST WORKERS' 
PARTY. The policy of the new president will make 
the NEGROES, and the great expropriations of land 
(exactly 'the fertile land) in favor of railways, min- 
ing, etc., companies will make THE PEASANTS OF 
THE WEST, who are already very dissatisfied, 
ALLIES OF THE WORKERS. So that a nice 
sauce is being stirred over there, and the transfer- 
ence of the center of the International to the United 
States may obtain a very remarkable post festum 
opportuneness." 



27 



Marx thus demanded, in consequence of the 
changes which had taken place in the United 
States since the Civil War, the "constitution of an 
earnest workers' party." In this connection it is 
of great importance that he emphasized the spe- 
cial role of the farmers in view of the agrarian 
crisis and of the land expropriation In direct con- 
nection with tiie formation of the mass party of 
the proletariat. 

A decade later Engels touches upon the same 
problem in his letter to Sorge dated November 29, 
1886. He clearly and unmistakably demands that 
the American socialists work within the Knights 
of Labor to arouse the masses. Despite his desig- 
nating this order as one of "confused principles 
and a ridiculous organization," he demands that 
the American Marxists "build up within this still 
wholly plastic mass a nucleus of persons," who 
will have to take over after the inevitable split of 
this "Third Party" the leadership of the latter's 
proletarian elements: 

"To tell the truth, the Germans have not been 
able to use their theory as a lever to set the Ameri- 
can masses in motion. To a great extent they do not 
understand the theory themselves and treat it in a 
doctrinaire and dogmatic fashion as if it were some- 
thing which must be committed to memory, but which 
then suffices for all purposes without further ado. 
FOR THEM IT IS A CREDO, NOT A GUIDE FOR AC- 
TION . . . hence the American masses must seek 
their own road and APPEAR for the moment to 
have found it in the K. of L. whose confused prin- 
ciples and ridiculous organization APPEAR to con- 

28 



form to their own confusion. However, a^'^ording to 
what I hear, the K. of L. are A REAL POWER in 
New England and in the West, and are becoming 
more so day by day as a result of the brutal opposi- 
tion of the capitalists. I believe that it is necessary 
to work within it, TO BUILD UP WITHIN THIS 
STILL WHOLLY PLASTIC MASS A NUCLEUS OF 
PERSONS, UNDERSTANDING THE MOVEMENT 
AND ITS GOALS, AND THUS OF THEMSELVES 
TAKE OVER THE GUIDANCE OF AT LEAST A 
SECTION IN THE COMING UNAVOIDABLE SPLIT 
OF THE PRESENT 'ORDER.' . . . The first great 
step, which is of primary importance in every coun- 
try first entering the movement, is always THE 
CONSTITUTION OF THE WORKERS AS AN IN- 
DEPENDENT POLITICAL PARTY NO MATTER 
OF WHAT KIND, SO LONG AS IT IS ONLY A DIS- 
TINCT WORKERS' PARTY . . . That the first pro- 
gram of this Party is still confused and extremely 
deficient, that it sets up H. George as its leader, 
are unavoidable evils, which, however, are only tem- 
porary. The masses must have the opportunity and 
the time to develop themselves; and they only have 
this opportunity as soon as they have their own 
movement — no matter in what form, if only it be 
their own movement — in which they will be driven 
forward by their own mistakes and will grow wise 
through Injury to themselves." 

Engels compares — in 1886 — the role of the 
Marxists in the American Labor movement with 
the role which the "Kommunistenbund" had to 
play amongst the workers' societies before 1848. 
At the same time, however, he points out the dif- 

29 



ferences in order to avoid the opportunist inter- 
pretation of any schematic comparison of the sit- 
uation of the American labor movement at that 
time with "the situation in Europe prior to 1848": 

"Only that things will now move forward In 
America INFINITELY MORE RAPIDLY; that the 
movement should have obtained such success in the 
elections after only eight months' existence is en- 
tirely unprecedented. And what is still lacking will 
be supplied by the bourgeois; nowhere in the whole 
world are they so brazen-faced and tyrannical as 
over there . . . Where the battle is fought by the 
bourgeoisie with such weapons, the decision arrives 
quickly . . ." 

In his letter to Mrs. Wischnewetsky dated De- 
cember 28, 1886, Engels again emphasized that 
the American Marxists should not poch pooh the 
proletarian "Third Party" from without, but rev- 
olutionize it from within." He again uses un- 
minced words in condemning the German sectar- 
ians in America and their dogma of the "role of 
the party" w^hich in reality, then as now, renders 
impossible for the party to fulfill its role in the 
proletarian revolution by separating it from the 
masses. The remarks made by Engels in this 
passage on the dialectic-materialist conception of 
the role of theory are moreover the direct point 
of departure from which Lenin developed his doc- 
trine of the importance of theory in the proleta- 
rian revolution: 

"It is far more important that the movement should 
spread, proceed harmoniously, take root and EM- 



30 



BRACE as much as possible THE WHOLE AMERI- 
CAN PROLETARIAT, than that it should start and 
proceed from the beginning on theoretically perfectly 
correct lines. There is no better road to theoretical 
clearness of comprehension than to learn by one's own 
mistakes, 'durch Schaden klug werden.'* And for a 
whole large class, there is no other road, especially 
for a nation so eminently practical and so contemptu- 
ous of theory as the Americans. THE GREAT THING 
IS TO GET THE WORKING CLASS TO MOVE AS A 
CLASS; that once obtained, they will soon find the 
right direction, and all who resist. . . will be left 
In the cold with small sects of their own. Therefore 
I think also the K. of L. a most important factor in the 
movement WHICH OUGHT NOT TO BE POOH- 
POOHED FROM WITHOUT BUT TO BE REVOLU- 
TIONIZED FROM WITHIN, and I consider that many 
of the Germans then have made a grievous mistake 
when they tried, in the face of a mighty and glorious 
movement not of their own creation, to make of their 
Imported and not always understood theory a kind of 
alleinseligmachendts** dogma and to keep aloof from 
any movement, which did not accept that dogma. Our 
theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process 
of evolution, and that process involves successive 
phases. To expect that the Americans will start with 
the full consciousness of the theory worked out In 
older industrial countries is to expect the impossible 
What the Germans ought to do is to act up to their 
own theory — if they understand It, as we did in 1845 



* 'Grow wise through injury to oneself.' 

** Claiming the monopoly of all means of grace. 



31 



and 1848 — to go in for any real general working class 
movement. ACCEPT ITS FAKTISCHEN*** START- 
ING POINT as such and work It gradually up to the 
theoretical level by pointing out how every mistake 
made, every reverse suffered, was a necessary conse- 
quence of mistaken theoretical orders in the original 
program: they ought, in the words of the Communist 
Manifesto: IN DER GEGENWART DER BEWEGUNG 
DIE ZUKUNFT DER BEWEGUNG REPRESENTIE- 
REN."**" But above all give the movement time to 
consolidate, do not make THE INEVITABLE CONFU- 
SION OF THE FIRST START worse confounded by 
forcing down people's throats things which, at present, 
they cannot properly understand but which they soon 
will learn. A MILLION OR TWO WORKINGMEN'S 
VOTES NEXT NOVEMBER FOR A BONAFIDE 
WORKINGMEN'S PARTY IS WORTH INFINITELY 
MORE AT PRESENT THAN A HUNDRED THOU- 
SAND VOTES FOR A DOCTRINALLY PERFECT 
PLATFORM. The very first attempt — soon to be made 
if the movement progresses — to consolidate the mov- 
ing masses on a national basis — will bring them all 
face to face, Georgites, K. of L., Trade Unionists, and 
all; . . . then will be the time for them to criticize 
the views of the others and thus, by showing up the 
inconsistencies of the various standpoints, to bring 
them gradually to understand their own actual posi- 
tion, the postion made for them by the correlation of 
capital and wage labor. But anything that might de- 



*** Actual. 

**** Communist Manifesto: To represent the future 

of the movement in its present. 



32 



lay or prevent that NATIONAL CONSOLIDATION OF 
THE WORKINGMEN'S PARTY — on no matter what- 
platform — I should consider a great mistake. . ." 

In another letter to Mrs. Wischnewetsky, En- 
gels speaks of the necessity of first, and most 
important of all, "gaining the ear of the working 
class." He then develops this idea as follows: 

"I think all our practice has shown that it is pos- 
sible to work along with the general movement of the 
working class AT EVERY ONE OF ITS STAGES 
WITHOUT GIVING UP OR HIDING OUR OWN DIS- 
TINCT POSITION AND EVEN ORGANIZATION, and 
I am afraid that if the German Americans choose a dif- 
ferent line they will commit a great mistake." (Letter 
of January 27, 1887.) 

It should be noted that Engels wrote these lines 
just at the moment of the disgraceful behavior of 
the K. of L. towards the Chicago prisoners. H. 
George founded at that time in New York a week- 
ly in which he disavowed the New York Socialists 
and refused to do anything in favor of the an- 
archists condemned in Chicago. Without hesi- 
tating a moment Engels supported Aveling, the 
son-in-law of Marx, who even in this situation 
bitterly fought the sectarian tactics of the Na- 
tional Executive of the Sociahst Labor Party. 

The viewpoint of Marx and Engels in the ques- 
tion of the American labor party is thus absolute- 
ly clear; they demanded of the American Marxists 
the formation of a national working-class party 
in America at any price, without regard to its pro- 
gram so long as the latter included the class 

33 



struggle, but with the complete maintenance of 
the political independence and the organization 
of the Marxist nucleus with the great mass party. 

V. 

The Role of the Marxist Nucleus Within the 
Working Class Party. 

AXT'E have already pointed out that Marx and En- 
gels never wanted to give up the mainte- 
nance of a real Marxist party of the most class- 
conscious and progressive elements of the native 
and foreign-born in the working class within the 
great mass party. For thirty years, in their cor- 
respondence with the American Socialists, they 
rejected any endeavor to set up a mechanical dis- 
tinction between the Marxist party and the labor 
party, as two opposites which exclude each other. 
The sectarians in the German S. L. P., who ac- 
cused them of "liquidating the leading role of the 
Marxist party," were criticized unmercifully by 
them. More than that, year after year they 
pointed out through the results of the progress- 
ing labor movement in America that the leading 
role of the Marxist party can be best realized and 
can only be realized within the great revolution- 
ary mass party. Only when the Marxist — or put- 
ting it in modern phraseology — the Bolshevik 
party fulfills this task within an extensive prole- 
tarian mass party — a labor party — can the his- 
torically conditioned backwardness of the Ameri- 
can movement be overcome by the practical ex- 
perience of the masses themselves, and can the 

34 



differences and antagonisms within the working 
class be settled. In his letter dated November 29, 
1886, Engels formulates the task of the Marxist 
party, "to build up within this still wholly plastic 
mass a nucleus of persons who understand the 
movement and its goals ''and which later takes 
over the real leadership of the movement, as fol- 
lows: 

"But just now it is doubly necessary for us to 
have a few people who are thoroughly versed In 
THEORY and well-tested TACTICS ... for the 
Americans are for good historical reasons far behind 
in all theoretical questions, have taken over no med- 
iaeval institutions from Europe, but have taken 
masses of mediaeval tradition, English common 
(feudal) law, superstition, spiritualism, in short, all 
the nonsense which did not directly hurt business and 
which is now very useful for stupefying the masses. 
And if THEORETICALLY CLEAR FIGHTERS are 
available, who can predict for them the consequence 
of their own mistakes, who can make clear for them 
that every movement, wh-o". does not incessantly fix 
its eye upon the destruction of the wage system 
as its final goal must go astray and fail, many mis- 
takes can be avoided and the process can be consid- 
erably shortened." (Letter to Sorge dated Novem- 
ber 29, 1886). 

In the letter of January 27, 1887 (quoted be- 
fore), Engels outlined the fundamental tactical 
policy of the American Marxists: working along 
with the general movement of the working class 
at every one of its stages without giving up or 
hiding their own political position and organiza- 
tion. 

35 



In his letter to Sorge dated February 8, 1890, 
he denotes as their task ''to take over through 
their superior theoretical insight and experience 
the leading role" in the masses, as events them- 
selves drive the American proletariat forward. 
And he adds, in order to reassure Sorge, who 
fears for the preservation of the past results of 
the pure Marxist party: 

"You will then see that your wprk of years has not 
been in vain." 

Although Engels time and again points out that 
the working class can only learn from its own ex- 
periences, he is far from becoming a worshipper 
of spontaneity. In the same letter, he tells the 
American Marxists in connection with the suc- 
cesses of the miners' movement in 1890 in Ger- 
many: 

"Facts must hammer it into people's heads and then 
things move faster, MOST RAPIDLY OF COURSE, 
WHERE THERE ALREADY IS AN ORGANIZED 
AND THEORETICALLY TRAINED SECTION OF 
THE PROLETARIAT. . ." 

Finally, taking up the specific conditions in 
America, he foresees that in the great labor 
party, principally composed of native workers, 
"the foreign element in the nation will make its 
influence felt through its greater mobility." This 
foreign element, however, comprised and com- 
prises of necessity in America the maiority of the 
pure Marxist party. It is just the Communists' 
confining themselves to the ranks of their own 
supporters and those who are already in whole- 

36 



hearted sympathy with them, it is just the renun- 
ciation of the formation of a mass party which 
leads to the spontaneity theory, to "Khvostism," 
to the hindrance of the Communist task of taking 
the leadership of the entire class in the revolu- 
tion. 

VI. 
The Role of the Farmers. 

TN his letter of July 25, 1877, Marx predicted the 
role of the farmers, who are being revolution- 
ized in consequence of the agrarian crisis and 
their expropriation through big business, as that 
of the allies of the working class. He designated 
the revolutionization of the farmers as well as the 
beginning of the Negroes' awakening "to favor- 
able circumstances" for the "constitution of an 
earnest workers' party." On the other hand En- 
gels proves in his letter to Sorge dated January 
6, 1892, that the American farmers as a class have 
not the strength for the formation of an indepen- 
dent political party. Every endeavor to form an 
independent farmers' party in America must of 
necessity make this party the plaything of petty 
bourgeois political speculators and consequently 
an appendage of the two capitalist parties : 

"The small farmers and petty bourgeoisie will 
scarcely ever be able to form a strong party. They 
are composed of too rapidly changing elements — the 
farmer is often a wandering farmer, who cultivates 
two, three or four farms in different states and terri- 
tories one after the other; immigration and bank- 
ruptcy promote the change of personnel in both; eco- 



37 



nomic dependence upon creditors also hinders inde- 
pendence — but to make up for that they are excellent 
material for politicians, who speculate with their dis- 
satisfaction in order to sell them later to one of the 
big parties." 

The oppression of farmers by immigration has 
meanwhile disappeared, but to compensate for 
that, bankruptcies have multiphed. Under any 
circumstances, the fact remains that the working 
farmers in America can never defend their class 
interests against finance capital through an in- 
dependent party. They can only fight the bour- 
geoisie and its big parties under the leadership 
of a mass party of the American workers, which 
in turn is led by a Marxist party. 

VII. 
The Modern Development of America. 

TX the third preface to the Communist Manifesto, 
written in 1883, Engels pointed out the change 
in America's position in the capitalist w^orld. 
Marx and Engels often spoke in the last few years 
of their lives of the predominating participation 
of the United States in the fight for breaking 
British monopoly. In one passage of his corre- 
spondence, which has received altogether too lit- 
tle attention, Engels speaks directly of the pos- 
sibility of an American monopoly, of the coming 
domination of American capitalism over the 
whole world. In his letter to Sorge dated Janu- 
ary 7, 1888, he speaks of the danger of the Eu- 
ropean war which Bismarck threatened to bring 

38 



about. "Ten to fifteen million combatants" 
would take part. "There would be devastation, 
similar to that in the Thirty Years' War." 

"If the war would be fought to a finish without in- 
ner movements, a state of exhaustion would result 
such as Europe has not experienced for two hundred 
years. AMERICAN INDUSTRY WOULD THEN WIN 
ALL ALONG THE LINE AND WOULD SET US ALL 
BEFORE THE ALTERNATIVE: either a relapse to 
pure agriculture for our own needs (American grain 
forbids any other kind), or — SOCIAL TRANSFORM- 
ATION." 

Engels thus foresees the imperialist World War 
and the resulting world monopoly of American 
imperialism. His prediction that under these cir- 
cumstances Europe would relapse into pure agri- 
culture has not been literally fulfilled. Its place 
has been taken by the specifically imperialist 
method of pillaging and subjugating old European 
industrial countries through the loans and in- 
vestments of the Dawes system. The historical 
perspective sketched by Engels, however, remains 
unchanged; the monopoly of American finance 
capital is not to be compared with the former 
monopoly of British industrial capital. It cannot 
maintain itself for a long period of time; it is no 
monopoly in the true sense of the word. It must 
break down in consequence of the unequal de- 
velopment of the various imperialist powers, of 
the competition of British finance capital, and 
principally as a result of the rebellion of the work- 
ing masses in Europe and the colonies. In the 
words of Engels, it sets "us all before the alterna- 

39 



Live" of the proletarian revolution. 

Even more clearly than the development of 
American imperialism did Engels foresee the fu- 
ture course of the American labor movement. He 
knew that the progress of capitalist production 
must unavoidably lead to the revolutionization of 
the American labor movement: 

"As for those nice Americans who think their 
country exempt from the consequences of fully ex- 
panded capitalist production, they seem to live in bliss- 
ful ignorance of the fact that sundry states, Massa- 
chusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc., have 
such an institution as a Labor Bureau from the re- 
ports of which they might learn something to the 
contrary." 

Engels sees the difficulties in the path of the de- 
velopment of the revolutionary labor movement. 
After the defeat of the Knights of Labor move- 
ment, he writes to Sorge on October 24, 1891, as 
follows : 

"I readily believe that the movement is again at a 
low ebb. With you everything happens with great ups 
and downs. But each up wins definite terrain and thus 
one does go forward. Thus for instance, the tremen- 
dous wave of the Knights of Labor and the strike 
movement from 1886 to 1888, despite all defeats, did 
bring us forward. There is an altogether different 
spirit in the masses than before. The next time even 
more ground will be won. But with all that, the stand- 
ard of living of the native American working man is 
considerably higher than that of the British and that 
alone is sufficient to allot him a back seat for some 



40 



i 



time to come; added to that, immigration, competition, 
and other things. When the point is reached, things 
will move forward over there with colossal rapidity 
and energy, but until then, some time may have to 
elapse." 

The chief obstacles, the high standard of living 
of the majority of native workers and the compe- 
tition caused by the incessant stream of immi- 
grants have been eliminated to a certain degree. 
The World War brought with it the increase of 
wages of all unskilled workers in America. The 
economic crisis after the war led to radical reduc- 
tions of wages not only among the foreign-born, 
but in even greater degree among the native 
workers. The competition of foreign workers has 
been considerably reduced by the restrictions up- 
on immigration. 

Another obstacle, the diversion of the workers 
from the class struggles by the hope of obtaining 
land, has for the most part been removed by the 
disappearance of the possibilities of free settle- 
ment. There exists '* a generation of native-born 
workers who have nothing more to expect from 
speculation:" 

"Land is the basis of speculation, and the American 
possibility of and craze for speculation is the chief in- 
fluence of the bourgeoisie. Only when we have a gen- 
eration of native-born workers who have nothing more 
to expect from speculation, will we have firm ground 
under our feet in America." (Letter to Sorge dated 
January 6, 1892.) 

Engels time and again emphasized that the 
41 



revolutionization of the American labor move- 
ment, which he foresaw as unavoidable, would 
begin under tremendous difficulties and would ex- 
perience incessant ups and downs, but would then 
develop *'with colossal rapidity and energy." His 
letter to Schlueter dated March 30, 1892, con- 
cludes with the sentence: 

"When the Americans once begin, they will do so 
with an energy and virulence, in comparison with 
which we in Europe will be children." 

VIII. 

The International Role of the American Labor 
Movement. 

JN his letter to Mrs. Wischnewetzky dated June 
3, 1886, Engels writes: 

". . . one thing is certain: ths American work- 
ing class is moving, and no mistake. And after a few 
false starts, they will get into the right track soon 
enough. This appearance of the Americans upon the 
scene I consider ONE OF THE GREATEST EVENTS 
OF THE YEAR. 

"What the breakdown of RUSSIAN CZARISM would 
be for the great military monarchs of Europe — THE 
SNAPPING OF THEIR MAINSTAY— that is for the 
bourgeoisie of the whole world THE BREAKING OUT 
OF CLASS WAR in America. For America after all 
was the idea! of all the bourgeoisie: a country rich, vast, 
expanding with purely bourgeois institutions unleav- 
ened by feudal remnants or monarchial traditions and 
without a permanent and hereditary proletariat. Here 



42 



every one could become, if not a capitalist, at all events 
an independent man, producing or trading, with his 
own means, for his own account. And because there 
were not, as yet, classes with opposing interests, our — 
and your — bourgeois thought that America stood above 
class antagonisms and struggles. The delusion has 
now broken down, the last bourgeois Paradise on earth 
is fast changing into a Purgatorio, and can only be 
prevented from becoming like Europe, ?.n Inferno, by 
the go-ahead pace at which the development of the 
newly-fledged proletariat of America will take place." 

This analysis of the international significance 
of the proletarian class struggle in America holds 
true even today, stronger and more vital than 
ever. There already exists in America a ''stand- 
ing hereditary proletariat." The illusion of the 
bourgeois paradise has already been dissipated. 
The outbreak of the class war in America, its 
leadership by a revolutionary mass party, at the 
head of which the American Communists will 
place themselves, and the inception of revolution- 
ary mass struggles in America, would in reality 
signify the^ "snapping of the mainstay" of imperi- 
alism throughout the world. 

THE END. 



43 



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