MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  Marx Engels

Marx-Engels Correspondence 1881

Engels to George Shipton
In London

Abstract


First Published: Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, Vol. XXVII, Moscow, 1935;
Transcribed: zodiac@interlog.com;
HTML Markup: S. Ryan.


[Draft]
Bridlington Quay, 15 August 1881

Dear Mr. Shipton,

I cannot make it out, how you could so strangely misunderstand Mr Kautsky's article. [1] To the first passage you objected because State interference went against the grain of 'many prominent men in the Unions'. Of course it does, because they are at heart Manchester School [2] men and so long as their opinions of such are taken into account, no working-class paper is possible. But my addition to the passage in question must have convinced you, that the State interference here alluded to, was such, and such only, as has been in England the Law of the Land for years: factories and workshops' acts, [3] and nothing further: things not objected to by even your 'prominent men'.

As to the second passage, Mr Kautsky says: an international regulation of the war of competition is as necessary as that of open warfare; we demand a Geneva Convention [4] for the workpeople of the world. The 'Geneva Convention' is an agreement entered into by the various Governments for the protection of wounded and ambulances in battle. What therefore Mr Kautsky demands, is a similar agreement between the various Governments for the protection of the workpeople not of one state only, but of all, against overwork especially of women and children. How out of that you can make an appeal to the workpeople of the world to meet in a Convention of delegates at Geneva, I am utterly at a loss to understand. [5]

You will own that the occurrence of such misunderstanding on your part cannot at all encourage me to alter my resolution.

As to the Hirsch article, [6] I do know Mr. Eccarius and only too well for a traitor to the cause and it will be utterly impossible for me to write for a paper which opens its columns to him.

Moreover, I do not see any progress. The Labour Standard remains the same vehicle of the most various and mutually contradictory views on all political and social questions which it was, perhaps unavoidably, on the first day of its existence, but which it ought no longer to be by this time, if there was an undercurrent among the British working class tending towards emancipation from the liberal Capitalists. Such undercurrent not being shown itself up to now, I must conclude it does not exist. If there were unmistakable signs of its existence, I might make an extra effort to assist it. But I do not think that one column a week drowned as I might say amongst the remaining multifarious opinions represented in The Labour Standard could do anything towards producing it.

And as I told you, I had resolved to stop writing after the Trade Unions Congress, [7] because of want of time; so whether I write a few articles more till then, would make no difference.

So waiting and hoping for better times, I remain
Faithfully yours,

F. E.


Footnotes
From the MECW

1. The reference is to Karl Kautsky's article "International Labour Laws" published anonymously in The Labour Standard, No. 15, 13 August 1881.

2. Factories and workshops' act -- Laws regulating labour conditions in British industry. The emergence and advancement of factory legislation was a consequence of the workers' economic and political struggle against capitalist exploitation. The first laws adopted regulated the childrens' adolescents', and women's labour conditions in the textile industry (early 19th century). Step by step, the operation of the factories and workshops' acts was extended to the other industries.

3. The Geneva Convention of the Red Cross of 1864 -- An international document signed at the conference of 16 European states in Geneva. The Geneva Convention established principles for belligerents' treatment of the wounded and the sick, and granted the right of neutrality to the medical personnel taking care of the wounded men.

4. The Labour Standard, No. 14, 6 August 1881, anonymously printed the article by Johann Georg Eccarius "A German Opinion of English Trade Unionism." Eccarius regarded highly the German trade unions founded in 1868 by Max Hirsch and Franz Duncker (the so-called Hirsch-Duncker trade unions).

5. In Engels' draft manuscript the following passage is crossed out here: 'If you had understood the drift of the article, you must have at once seen that here was a measure of an immediately practical nature, so easy of execution that one of the existing governments of Europe (the Swiss Government) had been induced to take it in hand, that the proposal to equalize the hours of labour in all manufacturing countries by making factory and workshop's legislation a matter of international state agreement, was one of the greatest immediate interest to the working people. Especially to those of England who, besides the Swiss, are the best protected of all against overworking and therefore are exposed to an unfair competition on the part of Belgian, French and German workpeople whose hours of work are much longer.

6. The Labour Standard, No. 14, 6 August 1881, anonymously printed the article by Johann Georg Eccarius "A German Opinion of English Trade Unionism." Eccarius regarded highly the German trade unions founded in 1868 by Max Hirsch and Franz Duncker (the so-called Hirsch-Duncker trade unions).

7. The fourteenth annual British trades union congress took place in London on 12-17 September 1881.