Marx-Engels Correspondence 1889

Engels to Laura Lafargue


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

September 1, 1889

Cannot write much being Sunday and our people always in and out; moreover have to write to Tussy about the strike which was in an important crisis yesterday. As the dock directors kept stubborn, our people were led to a very foolish resolution. They had outstripped their means of relief and had to announce that on Saturday no relief could be dealt out to strikers. In order to make this go down — that is the way at least I take it — they declared that if the dock directors had not caved in by Saturday noon, on Monday there would be a general strike — reckoning chiefly on the supposition that the Gas works for want of coal or of workmen or both would come to a stand and London be in darkness — and this threat was to terrify all into submission to the demands of the men.

Now this was playing va banque, staking 1,000 — to win, possibly, 10—; it was threatening more than they could carry out; it was creating millions of hungry mouths for no reason but because they had some tens of thousands on hand which they could not feed; it was casting away willfully all the sympathies of the shopkeepers and even of the great mass of the bourgeoisie who all hated the dock monopolists, but who now would at once turn against the workmen. In fact it was such a declaration of despair and such a desperate game that I wrote to Tussy at once; if this is persisted in, the Dock Co.’s have only to hold out till Wednesday and they will be victorious.

Fortunately they have thought better of it. Not only has the threat been “provisionally” withdrawn but they have even acceded to the demands of the wharfingers (in some respect competitors of the docks), have reduced their demands for an increase of wages, and this has again been rejected by the Dock Companies. This I think will secure them the victory. The threat with the general strike will now have a salutary effect, and the generosity of the workmen, both in withdrawing it and in acceding to a compromise, will secure them fresh sympathy and help.