Letters: Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869

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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1869

Letter from Marx to Engels
In Manchester


The enclosed little document [1] arrived yesterday (although dated February 27). You must send it back as soon as you have read it, as I have to lay it before the Council on Tuesday next. The gentlemen of the "Alliance" have taken a long time to achieve this opus [production].

As a matter of fact we would rather they had kept their "innumerable legions" in France, Spain and Italy for themselves.

Bakunin thinks to himself: if we approve his "radical programme" he can make a big noise about this and compromise us tant soit peu (just a little bit). If we declare ourselves against it we shall be decried as counter-revolutionaries. Moreover: if we admit them he will see to it that he is supported by some riff-raff at the Congress in Basle. I think the answer should be on the following lines:

According to Paragraph I of the Statutes every workers' association "aiming at the same end, viz, the protection, advancement and complete emancipation of the working classes" shall be admitted.

As the stage of development reached by different sections of workers in the same country and by the working class in different countries necessarily varies very much, the actual movement necessarily expresses itself in very various theoretical forms.

The community of action which the International Workingmen's Association called into being, the exchange of ideas by means of the different organs of the sections in all countries, and, finally, the direct discussions at the General Congresses, will by degrees create for the general workers' movement its common theoretical programme also.

With regard to the programme of the "Alliance," therefore, it is not necessary for the General Council to submit it to a critical examination. The Council has not to examine whether it is an adequate, scientific expression of the working-class movement. It has only to ask if the general tendency of the programme is in opposition to the general tendency of the International Workingmen's Association--the complete emancipation of the working classes.

This reproach could only apply to one phrase in the programme, par. 2: "above all things it desires the political, economic and social equalisation of the classes." "The equalisation of the classes," literally interpreted, is nothing but another expression for the "harmony of capital and labour" preached by the bourgeois socialists. Not the logically impossible "equalisation of classes" but the historically necessary "abolition of classes" constitutes the final aim of the International Workingmen's Association. But from the context in which this phrase occurs in the programme it would appear that it is only a slip of the pen. The less, therefore, does the General Council doubt that this phrase, which might lead to serious misunderstanding, will be removed from the programme.

This being assumed, it is in accordance with the principle of the International Workingmen's Association to leave to each section the responsibility for its own programme. There is therefore nothing to prevent the transformation of the sections of the Alliance into Sections of the Workingmen's Association.

As soon as this has taken place, an enumeration of the newly joined sections according to country, locality and number must be sent to the General Council in accordance with the regulations.

This last point--the census of their legions--will especially tickle the gentlemen. Tell me everything you want altered in this draft of the reply when you return the letter.


[1] A notification from the Geneva Russia section of the Bakunin "Alliance" of their desire to affiliate with the International.