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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Engels Letter to Sorge Why no US LABOUR PARTY?

London, December 2, 1893.

Dear Sorge:

Many thanks to you and your wife for your friendly wishes and your
letter of November 19th.

I am very sorry that you are suffering from gout; I hope it will come
around with time. It is a tricky disease.

The repeal of the silver purchase law has saved America from a severe
money crisis and will promote industrial prosperity. But I don’t know
whether it wouldn’t have been better for this crash to have actually
occurred. The phrase “cheap money” seems to be bred in the bone of
your Western farmers. First, they imagine that if there are lots of
means of circulation in the country, the interest rate must drop,
whereby they confuse means of circulation and available money capital,
concerning which very enlightening things will come to light in Volume
III. Second, it suits all debtors to contract debts in good currency
and to pay them off later in depreciated currency. That is why the
debt-ridden Prussian Junkers also clamor for a double currency, which
would provide them with a veiled Solonic riddance of their debts. Now
if they had been able to wait with the silver reform in the United
States until the consequences of the nonsense had also reacted upon
the farmers, that would have opened many of their dense heads.

The tariff reform, slow as it is in getting started, does seem to have
caused a sort of panic among the manufacturers in New England already.
I hear — privately and from the papers — of the layoff of numerous
workers. But that will calm down as soon as the law is passed and the
uncertainty is over; I am convinced that America can boldly enter into
competition with England in all the great branches of industry.

The German socialists in America are an annoying business. The people
you get over there from Germany are usually not the best — they stay
here — and in any event they are not at all a fair sample of the
German party. And as is the case everywhere, each new arrival feels
himself called upon to turn everything he finds upside down, turning
it into something new, so that a new epoch may date from himself.
Moreover, most of these greenhorns remain stuck in New York for a long
time or for life, continually reinforced by new additions and relieved
of the necessity of learning the language of the country or of getting
to know American conditions properly. All of that certainly causes
much harm, but on the other hand, it is not to be denied that American
conditions involve very great and peculiar difficulties for a
continuous development of a workers’ party.

First, the Constitution, based as in England upon party government,
which causes every vote for any candidate not put up by one of the two
governing parties to appear to be lost. And the American, like the
Englishman, wants to influence his state; he does not throw his vote

Then, and more especially, immigration, which divides the workers into
two groups: the native-born and the foreigners, and the latter in turn
into (1) the Irish, (2) the Germans, (3) the many small groups, each
of which understands only itself: Czechs, Poles, Italians,
Scandinavians, etc. And then the Negroes. To form a single party out
of these requires quite unusually powerful incentives. Often there is
a sudden violent élan, but the bourgeois need only wait passively, and
the dissimilar elements of the working class fall apart again.

Third, through the protective tariff system and the steadily growing
domestic market the workers must be exposed to a prosperity no trace
of which has been seen here in Europe for years now (except in Russia,
where, however, the bourgeois profit by it and not the workers).

A country like America, when it is really ripe for a socialist
workers’ party, certainly cannot be hindered from having one by the
couple of German socialist doctrinaires.

Part I of Volume III (246 pages of ms., dating from about 1850) is
ready for the printer. This is between the two of us. It will now go
ahead rapidly, I hope.

Cordial regards to your wife and yourself, and wishes for your
recovery, from L. K. and

F. Engels

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