Marx-Engels Correspondence 1887

Engels to Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky (Excerpt)

Source: Science and Society Volume II, Number 3, 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins.

London, February 9, 1887.

Dear Mrs. Wischnewetzky:

... Your fear as to my being unduly influenced by Aveling in my view of the American movement is groundless. As soon as there was a national American working-class movement, independent of the Germans, my standpoint was clearly indicated by the facts of the case. That great national movement, no matter what its first form, is the real starting point of American working-class development. If the Germans join it, in order to help it or to hasten its development in the right direction, they may do a great deal of good and play a decisive part in it. If they stand aloof, they will dwindle down into a dogmatic sect and be brushed aside as people who do not understand their own principles. Mrs. Aveling, who has seen her father at work, understood this quite as well from the beginning, and if Aveling saw it too, all the better. And all my letters to America, to Sorge, to yourself, to the Avelings, from the very beginning, have repeated this view over and over again. Still I was glad to see the Avelings before writing my preface, because they gave me some new facts about the inner mysteries of the German party in New York....

In the early hole-and-corner stages of the working-class movement, when the workingmen are still under the influence of traditional prejudices, woe be to the man who, being of bourgeois origin or superior education, goes into the movement and is rash enough to enter into money relations with the working-class element. There is sure to be a dispute upon the cash account and this is at once enlarged into an attempt at exploitation. Especially so if the “bourgeois” happens to have views on theoretical or tactical points that disagree with those of the majority or even of a minority. This I have constantly seen for more than forty years. The worst of all were the Germans; in Germany the growth of the movement has long since swept that failing away, but it has not died out with the Germans out of Germany. For that reason Marx and I have always tried to avoid having any money dealings with the party, no matter in what country....