Marx-Engels Correspondence 1889

Engels To Jules Guesde
In Paris

First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, Second Russian Edition, Vol. 37, Moscow, 1965;
Translated: from the French for MECW.

London, 20 November 1889,
122 Regent’s Park Road, N. W.

Dear Citizen Guesde,

I have just had a letter from Mrs Aveling who asks me to write to you if I should happen to have your address. Luckily it had been given me by Bonnier and hence I am doing so without delay. The case is as follows:

In Silvertown, a London suburb, Mrs Aveling is conducting a strike... in Messrs Silver’s works where rubber goods, etc., are produced. The strike, in which three thousand working men and women are involved, has been going on for ten weeks and has every prospect of success. That it should succeed is important, for its failure would mean the interruption of the long series of successes scored by the workers since the dock strike, and would spell victory for the English employers whose rapidly dwindling confidence would thus be restored.

A few days ago, the Silver company received very urgent orders they would not possibly be able to carry out with 3,000 out of their 3,500 work people on strike. Furthermore, there was an order for a considerable quantity of submarine cables, which was to be shared out between four factories, among them Silver’s. They will miss their chance, if the strike continues. They made tempting offers to some of the strikers, but to no avail. They then played their last card.

Messrs Silver (a joint stock company which operates under that name) owns a similar establishment at Beaumont-Persan near Paris, where Frenchmen work under English foremen. Some of them were brought over to England. It is known for certain that 70 working men and women from Beaumont have arrived at the docks, but whether they have been introduced into the Silvertown factory is not yet known. It is now imperative that a stop be put to this. They were probably induced to come over under false pretences, without having been told that it was because of a strike.

Mrs Aveling at once telegraphed to Lafargue and Vaillant but, the matter being urgent, we are also addressing ourselves to you, with the request that you do everything in your power to prevent the French workers from coming to replace the Silvertown strikers, and that you make known the true situation, thus calling upon the class feeling of your workers. It would be frightful were the strikers’ resistance to be broken by the arrival of a number of French Blacklegs. There would be a revival of old national animosities and no means of suppressing them. For the past four months the workers of London’s East End have not only given themselves to the movement body and soul; they have also provided, for their comrades in all other countries, an example of discipline, self-sacrifice, courage and perseverance equaled only by the Parisians when under siege from the Prussians. Just imagine what the effect would be if now, in the midst of the struggle, they were to find French workers fighting under the standard of the English bourgeoisie! No, that is unthinkable! Only let the true situation be known in France and it will, on the contrary, be thanks to the action of the French proletariat that the English strikers will achieve victory.

When, during the dock strike, we sent Anseele a telegram informing him that the employers were bringing in Belgian workmen, he immediately took the necessary action and his letters and telegrams went a long way towards reviving the sometimes flagging spirits of the combatants.

If you feel able to offer similar encouragement to the people of Silvertown, you should write direct to Mrs Aveling, 65 Chancery Lane, London, W. C., which would create an excellent impression.

I hear from Bonnier that your health has greatly improved and that the Marseilles campaign has strengthened your constitution instead of weakening it. I am delighted, for we need every ounce of your energy. It is good news that your slogan ‘Neither Ferry nor Boulanger’ should have excluded the renegades and traitors of both these camps from the Socialist Workers’ Party in the Chamber.

With cordial and fraternal greetings,
F Engels