International Critical Thought ISSN: 2159-8282 (Print) 2159-8312 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rict20 Disillusioned with the Labour Movement: Late Marx and the Prospects of Revolution in Western Europe Nicola D’Elia To cite this article: Nicola D’Elia (2018): Disillusioned with the Labour Movement: Late Marx and the Prospects of Revolution in Western Europe, International Critical Thought, DOI: 10.1080/21598282.2018.1478251 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2018.1478251 Published online: 14 Jun 2018. Submit your article to this journal View related articles View Crossmark data Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rict20 INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2018.1478251 Disillusioned with the Labour Movement: Late Marx and the Prospects of Revolution in Western Europe Nicola D’Elia Independent researcher, London, UK ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Recent research has emphasised how Marx’s views underwent Received 4 March 2018 profound change after 1870. Its major focus has been on how Accepted 2 April 2018 Marx’s increasing interest in developments in Russia culminated in Published online his adoption of the Russian populists’ belief that the country KEYWORDS might reach socialism without passing through the stage of Karl Marx; revolution; Britain; capitalism. Less attention has been devoted to Marx’s later France; Germany attitude towards the prospects of proletarian revolution in Western Europe. This paper attempts a more detailed explanation of Marx’s approach to the development of the labour movement in Britain, France and Germany during the 1870s. It also aims to show that he no longer expected a forthcoming revolution carried out by the organised working class in the most advanced Western European countries. First, Marx complained of the lack of revolutionary spirit in the British proletariat; moreover, he criticised the immaturity of the French labour movement; ﬁnally, he rejected the eclectic ideology of German social democracy, which was on the rise. Introduction Recent scholarship dealing with Karl Marx has pointed out that, after 1870, a relevant change took place in the German thinker’s views, which involved several aspects of his intellectual and political work. The main features of the revision that marked the last period of Marx’s life include: (1) an increasing interest in pre-historical and non-capitalist societies that pro- duced a shift from a universal and unilinear theory of development—according to which all societies were expected to follow the Western path to capitalism—to a multilinear perspective that left open the possibility for backward non-Western countries to escape capitalist expan- sion; (2) the abandonment of the old belief in the progressive historical role of the bourgeoi- sie, which included a move from a post-capitalist to a more explicit anti-capitalist stance; and (3) the departure from a Eurocentric approach culminated in the conviction that Russia—and no longer Western Europe—was the propulsive centre of revolutionary movement (see Anderson ; Cinnella ; Nimtz ; Stedman Jones ). The most important consequence of the deep change taking place in Marx’s later out- look is generally recognised in his adoption of the Russian populist view of the village com- mune, the obshchina, by claiming that it might be the seed of a socialist order in Russia. CONTACT Nicola D’Elia email@example.com © 2018 Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 2 N. D’ELIA But what was Marx’s attitude towards the prospects of proletarian revolution in Western Europe? Some authors suggest that the developments in the aftermath of the Franco-Prus- sian War—the decline of the International and the defeat of the Paris Commune, as well as the reformist and trade-unionist orientation prevailing in the labour movement (especially in the most advanced capitalist country—namely, England)—made clear to Marx that “the prospect of anti-capitalist revolution in the industrialised nations was becoming remote” (Stedman Jones 2007, 201). Indeed, in the late 1870s, Marx made only scant references to socialist revolution in the West, which arouses the impression that he “believed in it less and less” (Cinnella 2014, 165). Such an approach seems worthy of consideration and further exploration since scholar- ship has not yet provided extensive research illustrating Marx’s later reﬂections on revolu- tionary prospects in Western Europe. Focusing on the most crucial areas to which Marx devoted his major interest (Britain, France and Germany), this paper attempts to investi- gate more speciﬁcally—on the basis of Marx’s letters, interviews and other minor writings —a crucial but somewhat overlooked aspect of his work. Lack of Revolutionary Spirit in the British Labour Movement In the ﬁrst book of Capital, Marx gloriﬁed the British working class, which had been able to lead a successful struggle for the 10-hour working day in the 1840s, the revolutionary phase of Chartism. Writing at a time when a major theme within the International Work- ing Men’s Association was the eight-hour day, he argued that “the establishment of a nor- mal working day” was “the product of a protracted and more or less concealed civil war between the capitalist class and the working class,” which had been fought out “ﬁrst of all in the homeland” of modern industry; therefore, in his eyes, “the English factory workers were the champions . . . of the modern working class in general” (Marx 1976, 412–413).1 In a few years, though, such a vision of the British proletariat changed considerably, as Marx’s reﬂections on the Irish question of 1869–1870 clearly show. In this regard, it is worth recalling what he wrote in a well-known letter of November 29, 1869 to Ludwig Kugelmann, complaining that the British workers’ revolutionary consciousness was undermined by anti-Irish prejudice: I have become more and more convinced—and the thing now is to drum this conviction into the English working class—that they will never be able to do anything decisive here in Eng- land before they separate their attitude towards Ireland quite deﬁnitely from that of the ruling classes, and not only make common cause with the Irish, but even take the initiative in dis- solving the union established in 1801, and substituting a free federal relationship for it. And this must be done not out of sympathy for Ireland, but as a demand based on the interests of the English proletariat. If not, the English people will remain bound to the leading-strings of the ruling classes, because they will be forced to make a common front with them against Ire- land. Every movement of the working class in England itself is crippled by the dissension with the Irish, who form a very important section of the working class in England itself. (Marx and Engels 1988a, 390–391; emphasis in the original) This conclusion is conﬁrmed in a further letter sent to Engels a few days later, in which Marx explicitly acknowledged that he had abandoned his previous belief, expressed in the journalistic writings of the 1850s,2 that a radical change in agrarian Ireland would be achieved through the victory of the British proletariat: INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT 3 It is in the direct and absolute interests of the English working class to get rid of their present connection with Ireland. I am fully convinced of this, for reason that, in part, I cannot tell the English workers themselves. For a long time, I believed it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working-class ascendancy. I always took this viewpoint in the New- York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. (Marx and Engels 1988a, 398; emphasis in the original) The most serious obstacle preventing the British labour movement from adopting a revolutionary attitude was, according to Marx, its hostility toward Irish workers living in the major industrial centres of England. “This antagonism is the secret of the English working class’s impotence, despite its organisation” (Marx and Engels 1988a, 475; empha- sis in the original), he wrote to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, two German-American members of the International in New York, on April 9, 1870. Of course, Marx continued to believe at that time that England, “as the metropolis of capital” and the power dominat- ing the world market represented “for the present the most important country for the workers’ revolution” (475). In addition, it was—by virtue of the large size of the working class and the strength of its trade-union organisation—“the only country where the material conditions for this revolution have developed to a certain state of maturity,” so the priority task of the International was, in Marx’s mind, “to hasten the social revolution in England” (475; emphasis in the original). This could be accomplished only through the independence of Ireland, which would start up a revolutionary process aﬀecting ﬁrst Brit- ain and then, by extension, other European countries, as he clearly explained in a letter of March 5, 1870, to his daughter Laura and her husband Paul Lafargue: To accelerate the social development in Europe, you must push on the catastrophe of oﬃcial England. To do so, you must attack her in Ireland. That’s her weakest point. Ireland lost, the British “Empire” is gone, and the class war in England, till now somnolent and chronic, will assume acute forms. (Marx and Engels 1988a, 449) However, even acknowledging that England was a “great lever of the proletarian revolu- tion” (Marx and Engels 1985, 118; emphasis in the original), Marx warned the General Council of the International based in London that it would be sheer “folly” and even “a crime, to let this lever fall into purely English hands!” for the simple reason that the British labour movement lacked “the spirit of generalisation and revolutionary ardour” (118; emphasis in the original). He was still conﬁdent that the English proletariat, with the deci- sive help of the General Council, would be able to develop a truly socialist consciousness, but his eﬀorts failed. Furthermore, the International’s inﬂuence over the British working class deﬁnitely declined after most of their leaders resigned from the General Council in 1871 because of disagreement with the address on the Paris Commune.3 From the late 1860s onwards, the English labour movement no longer played an exemplary role in Marx’s revolutionary strategy; therefore, as Eric J. Hobsbawm (1977, 102) remarked, he “ceased to concern himself very much” with it. Nevertheless, Marx did not stop dealing with the prospects of revolution in Britain. It is well known that in the speech made at the Amsterdam meeting of the International in September 1872, he mentioned England among the countries “where the workers may achieve their aims by peaceful means” (Marx and Engels 1988b, 255). It would, however, be a mistake to believe that Marx was really convinced of the possibility of a successful revolution without the use of violence. The previous year, he had clariﬁed his thought on this issue in an interview 4 N. D’ELIA with the American newspaper New York World.4 Marx did not deny that “insurrection would be madness where peaceful agitation would more swiftly and surely do the work” (quoted in Foner [1972, 10]), as in the case of England; however, being requested by the interviewer to conﬁrm that “the English system of agitating by platform and press until minorities become converted into majorities” (Foner 1972, 16) could avert the pro- spect of violent revolution, he answered in these terms: I am not so sanguine on that point as you. The English middle class has always shown itself willing enough to accept the verdict of the majority so long as it enjoyed the monopoly of the voting power. But mark me, as soon as it ﬁnds itself outvoted on what it considers vital ques- tions we shall see here a new slave-owner’s war. (quoted in Foner [1972, 16]) But this was just one side of the coin. Another key factor had to be taken into account: “If the unavoidable evolution turns into a revolution, it would not only be the fault of the ruling classes, but also of the working class” (Marx and Engels 1992, 49), Marx wrote on December 8, 1880 to Henry M. Hyndman, who was going to establish the ﬁrst socialist political organisation in Britain.5 Emphasising that “every paciﬁc concession of the former has been wrung from them by ‘pressure from without,’” Marx came to the conclusion that “if the latter has more and more weakened, it is only because the English working class know not how to wield their power and use their liberties, both of which they possess leg- ally” (49). Even if in England the way to a peaceful transition to socialism was open, he had no illusions about the capability of the British labour movement to exploit such an oppor- tunity. This explains why Marx—addressing an advocate of social change by constitutional means such as Hyndman—claimed to consider “an English revolution not necessary, but— according to historic precedents—possible” (49; emphasis in the original). In the last years of his life, Marx felt less and less conﬁdent that English workers could plan an eﬀective political action. For a little while, the Russian–Turkish War in 1877–1878 awakened his hopes that they would engage in anti-Russian agitation and emancipate themselves from the Liberal Party. But such expectations did not materialise, arousing his indignation, which found expression in a letter to Wilhelm Liebknecht. Here, before rejecting contemptuously the pro-Tsar stance adopted by the workers’ representatives in the House of Commons, Marx recalled the British labour movement’s long-term retreat after the defeat of Chartism: The English working class had gradually become ever more demoralised as a result of the period of corruption after 1848 and had ﬁnally reached the stage of being no more than an appendage of the great Liberal Party, i.e. of its oppressors, the capitalists. Its direction had passed completely into the hands of the venal trades union leaders and professional agi- tators. In the wake of the Gladstones, Brights, Mundellas, Morleys, and the whole gang of factory owners, etc., these laddies ranted and roared in majorem gloriam of that emancipator of the nations, the Tsar, while never raising a ﬁnger on behalf of their own brethren in South Wales, condemned by the mine-owners to death by starvation. (Marx and Engels 1991, 299– 300; emphasis in the original) Marx’s disappointment with the developments in the most advanced capitalist society is also reported in an interview with the American journalist John Swinton, editor of the pro- gressive New York newspaper The Sun, which took place in August 1880.6 The interviewer noted that, while discussing the “political forces and popular movements of the various countries of Europe,” Marx complained of “the immobility of England . . . referring INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT 5 contemptuously to the ‘atomistic reforms’ over which the Liberals of the British Parlia- ment spend their time” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 583–584). However, this did not cause him to question his ﬁrm belief in the overthrow of the capitalist order: “Surveying the European world, country after country,” Swinton added, “he showed that things were working toward ends which will assuredly be realized” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 584). The Immaturity of the French Working Class Although Marx was convinced that the “material conditions” for the achievement of socialism were “the most mature” in England—as he recalled in the Conﬁdential Com- munication drafted on behalf of the General Council of the International in March 1870—he expected that “revolutionary initiative” would “probably come from France” (Marx and Engels 1985, 118). Nevertheless, Marx was very concerned about a possible workers’ insurrection in Paris because of their lack of organisation. In this regard, it is worth quoting his letter to Engels on August 8, 1870: What gives me cause for anxiety at the present moment is the state of aﬀairs in France itself. . . . If a revolution breaks out in Paris, it is questionable whether they will have the means and the leaders capable of oﬀering serious resistance to the Prussians. One cannot remain blind to the fact that the 20-year-long Bonapartist farce has brought tremendous demoralisation in its wake. One would hardly be justiﬁed to rely on revolutionary heroism. (Marx and Engels 1989b, 39) But it was not just the immaturity of the French working class due to the legacy of Bonapartism that drove Marx to oppose any attempt at insurrection. He also wanted to prevent initiatives by Jacobin and Blanquist elements, which might seriously damage and undermine the prestige of the International. For this reason, in early September— in the aftermath of the fall of Napoleon III’s empire and the formation of the provisional republican government—Marx sent a member of the General Council, Auguste Serrailler, as his emissary to Paris. “His chief purpose,” Marx explained in a further letter to Engels, was to arrange matters with the International there (Conseil Fédéral de Paris). This is all the more essential as the entire French branch is setting oﬀ for Paris today to commit all sorts of follies there in the name of the International. “They” intend to bring down the Provisional Govern- ment, establish a commune de Paris . . . and so forth. (Marx and Engels 1989b, 64–65; empha- sis in the original) Marx was well aware that the French working class was facing “circumstances of extreme diﬃculty” (Marx and Engels 1986, 269) due to the strong anti-proletarian orien- tation shown by the newborn republican government. However, he urged the workers to reject the revolutionary impatience of the Jacobins’ successors. His strategy for post-Bona- partist France is clearly outlined in the Second Address on the Franco-Prussian War, approved at the meeting of the General Council of the International on September 9, 1870: Any attempt at upsetting the new Government in the present crisis, when the enemy is almost knocking at the doors of Paris, would be a desperate folly. The French workmen must perform their duties as citizens; but, at the same time, they must not allow themselves to be deluded by the national souvenirs of the First Empire. They have not to recapitulate the past, but to build up the future. Let them calmly and resolutely improve the opportunities of Republican liberty, for the work of their own class organisation. It will gift them with fresh 6 N. D’ELIA Herculean powers for the regeneration of France, and our common task—the emancipation of labour. Upon their energies and wisdom hinges the fate of the Republic. (Marx and Engels 1986, 269; emphasis in the original) In view of such statements, it is hardly surprising that the popular uprising leading to the establishment of the Paris Commune in March 1871 was accepted without enthusiasm by Marx, who believed that the revolutionary attempt had little chance of surviving.7 Moreover, he was far from ascribing a genuine proletarian character to the Commune’s experience, as the drafts of The Civil War in France prove. Dwelling on them, Shlomo Avi- neri (1968, 47) probably exaggerates in claiming that Marx considered the Commune nothing but “a petty-bourgeois, democratic-radical émeute.”8 It is, however, true that in his mind there was “nothing socialist” in the measures adopted by the Communard gov- ernment, “except their tendency” (Marx and Engels 1986, 499). In this regard, Marx pointed out that the main part of the legislation was devoted to “the salvation of the middle class—the debtor class of Paris against the creditor class!” (Marx and Engels 1986, 496). Nevertheless, he had to face the allegation, propagated by most of the press, that the Commune was the work of the International and that its members in Paris had been instructed by himself to start the insurrection. In July 1871, requested by the reporter of the New York World to clarify his position on the matter, Marx claimed that the Inter- national had had no direct role in the event: The insurrection in Paris was made by the workmen of Paris. The ablest of the workmen must necessarily have been its leader and administrators; but the ablest of the workmen hap- pen also to be members of the International Association. Yet the association as such may in no way be responsible for their action. (quoted in Foner [1972, 9]) This does not mean, however, that Marx expected that, in the context of the French Third Republic, the conquest of political power by the proletariat would occur peacefully: “In France a hundred laws of repression and a moral antagonism between classes seems to necessitate the violent solution of social war” (Foner 1972, 10), he warned, specifying at the same time that “the choice of that solution is the aﬀair of the working class of that country,” since “the International does not presume to dictate in the matter and hardly to advise” (10). Even after the dissolution of the International, Marx’s vision of the Communard experi- ence did not change signiﬁcantly. Ten years later, writing to the Dutch socialist Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, he described the Paris Commune as an episodic event without any socialist content and doomed to failure because of an unrealistic plan: Aside from the fact that this was merely an uprising of one city in exceptional circumstances, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it have been. With a mod- icum of common sense, it could, however, have obtained the utmost that was then obtainable —a compromise with Versailles beneﬁcial to the people as a whole. The appropriation of the Banque de France alone would have rapidly put an end to the vainglory of Versailles, etc., etc. (Marx and Engels 1992, 66) The defeat of the Commune had disastrous consequences for the French labour move- ment, which revived very slowly. In the late 1870s, socialist workers’ organisations began to emerge in France, but Marx was aware that the immaturity of the proletariat would make it diﬃcult for them to develop revolutionary politics. His opinion on the situation of the French working class at that time is clearly expressed in a letter of November 5, INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT 7 1880, to Friedrich A. Sorge, a German revolutionary emigrated to the United States. Dwelling on the electoral programme of the Federated Socialist Workers Party of France (Fédération du Parti des Travailleurs Socialistes de France) launched the previous year by Jules Guesde and Lafargue,9 Marx remarked: “To bring the French workers down to earth out of their verbal cloud-cuckoo land was a tremendous step forward” (Marx and Engels 1992, 44). The adoption of the programme by various French workers’ groups was, to his mind, proof that this is the ﬁrst real workers’ movement in France. Hitherto there have been nothing but sects there, which, of course, received their mot d’ordre from their founders, while the bulk of the proletariat followed the radical or pseudo-radical bourgeois and fought for them when the day came, only to be slaughtered, deported, etc., on the morrow by the very laddies they had placed at the helm. (Marx and Engels 1992, 44; emphasis in the original) In a context like this, Marx could hardly place high expectations in the development of the French labour movement. His timid optimism, indeed, did not last long: just two years later, in 1882, Guesde’s and Lafargue’s party split into reformist and revolutionary wings. Marx was so disappointed with the lack of political sense shown by French socialists that he openly dissociated himself from those who claimed to be his followers. As Engels reported in a letter of November 1882 to Eduard Bernstein, Marx had declared to Lafargue himself: “Ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” [If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist] (Marx and Engels 1992, 356). Marx complained that the socialist movement emerging in France in the early 1880s was deeply permeated by ideological and political traditions at odds with his own views. Such inﬂuences even aﬀected people who belonged to Marx’s family circle, enraging him. It is worth recalling the contemptuous comments about his two French sons-in-law that he conﬁded to Engels: “Longuet is the last Proudhonist and Lafargue is the last Bakuninist. Que le diable les emporte! [May the devil take them]” (Marx and Engels 1992, 375). The Eclectic Ideology of Early German Social Democracy When the Franco-Prussian War started in July 1870, Marx hoped that Bismarck’s army would be victorious, driven by the prospect that “German predominance would . . . shift the centre of gravity of the West European workers’ movement from France to Germany” (Marx and Engels 1989b, 3). At that time, he remarked to Engels, the German working class was “superior to the French both in theory and organisation”; therefore, “its predominance over the French on the international stage would also mean the predomi- nance of our theory over Proudhon’s, etc.” (Marx and Engels 1989b, 3–4; emphasis in the original). Actually, Germany was the only country in which there existed organised proletarian parties with a socialist orientation: namely, the General German Workers’ Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein)—the ﬁrst independent workers’ party in Europe, founded by Ferdinand Lassalle in 1863—and the Social Democratic Labour Party (Sozial- demokratische Arbeiterpartei) formed in 1869 under the leadership of Liebknecht and August Bebel, and which was aﬃliated to the International. However, Marx’s inﬂuence upon the internal development of the German labour movement was rather limited. 8 N. D’ELIA The two organisations had similar views on major political issues, but these did not meet with his approval. Both the followers of Lassalle, who had died in 1864, and the so-called Eisenachers (after the town of Eisenach where the party’s founding congress had taken place) believed that workers’ emancipation would be achieved through the democratisa- tion of the German regime; similarly, both parties advocated state aid for the development of workers’ cooperatives. They disagreed, however, about the Bismarckian solution to the German national problem, ﬁrmly supported by the Lassalleans but tenaciously opposed by the anti-Prussian Eisenachers. In the ﬁrst half of the 1870s, some circumstances occurred that reduced the disagreement between the two parties and paved the way to their uniﬁ- cation.10 In May 1875, at the Gotha Congress, Lassalleans and Eisenachers eventually merged, creating the Social Democratic Party (initially called Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschland) and adopting a united programme. Marx, who had always opposed Lassalle’s views, angrily rejected the Gotha compromise as a capitulation to the Lassalleans. But that was not the only cause of disappointment for him. Before the Congress was held, Marx wrote a letter to Wilhelm Bracke, one of the lea- ders of the Eisenachers, stating that he and Engels dissociated themselves from the new programme, which was “no good, even apart from its canonisation of the Lassallean articles of faith” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 78). As is known, Marx attached to this letter a manuscript entitled “Marginal Notes on the Programme of the German Workers’ Party” and asked Bracke to forward it to the Eisenach group.11 It is worth recalling that Marx’s criticism was not limited to the extreme inﬂuence of Lassallean slogans—such as the “iron law of wages” and the “reactionary mass”—over the Gotha programme. He also complained of the lack of internationalist spirit and, above all, that the crucial issue of the revolutionary transformation of the capitalist into a communist society, which required “a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revo- lutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 95; emphasis in the orig- inal), had been overlooked. The political section of the programme, Marx warned, did not go “beyond the old democratic litany familiar to all: universal suﬀrage, direct legislation, popular rights, a people’s militia, etc.” (95). But all such demands, he added, had already been achieved in progressive bourgeois societies—i.e. Switzerland and the United States— and were “appropriate only in a democratic republic,” whereas they had to be disregarded as “meaningless” (95; emphasis in the original) within the context of the autocratic Ger- man Empire. In essence, Marx rejected the Gotha programme because it lacked a socialist, revolutionary content, and this was not just the result of adopting Lassallean slogans. As he speciﬁed, the whole programme, for all its democratic clang, is tainted through and through by the Las- sallean sect’s servile belief in the state, or, what is no better, by a democratic belief in miracles, or rather it is a compromise between these two kinds of belief in miracles, both equally remote from socialism. (Marx and Engels 1989a, 97) Two years later, in a letter to Sorge, Marx expressed his concern that “in Germany a cor- rupt spirit is asserting itself in our Party, not so much among the masses as among the lea- ders” (Marx and Engels 1991, 283). He remarked that “the compromise with the Lassalleans has led to further compromise with other waverers” (283), spreading ideological confusion within German social democracy. In this regard, most dangerous appeared to be the ten- dency represented by Karl Höchberg—editor of the magazine Die Zukunft, launched in INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT 9 August 187712—to replace the materialistic basis of socialism by “a modern mythology with its goddesses of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternité” (283). This was, in Marx’s eyes, nothing but a belated revival of “utopian socialism,” which could, at that time, “only seem silly, stale, and thoroughly reactionary” (284; emphasis in the original). Marx’s criticism of German social democracy was reaﬃrmed in an interview with another American newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, taking place in late 1878.13 First, he claimed that the rapid growth of the party had been facilitated by peculiar circumstances: This modern capitalistic system . . . is quite new in Germany in comparison to other States. Questions were raised which had become almost antiquated in France and England, and pol- itical inﬂuences to which these States had yielded sprang into life when the working classes of Germany had become imbued with Socialistic theories. Therefore, from the beginning almost of modern industrial development, they have formed an independent political party. (quoted in [Foner 1972, 23]) Moreover, in the speciﬁc context of the German Empire, the socialists compensated for the failure of a progressive bourgeois party: There was no party to oppose the policy of the Government, and this devolved upon them. . . . If the middle classes of Germany were not the greatest cowards, distinct from the middle classes of America and England, all the political work against the Government should have been done by them. (quoted in Foner [1972, 23]) It is worth noting that also on this occasion Marx downsized the Lassallean inﬂuence inside German social democracy: “The party of Lassalle,” he argued, “does not exist” (quoted in Foner [1972, 23]). Such a statement suggests that, in his mind, the causes which prevented social democracy from adopting a clear revolutionary programme were more complex. Two months before this interview, in October 1878, Bismarck had passed the anti- socialist laws, which banned all social-democratic organisations and publications, and forced many members to leave Germany in order to escape persecution. Marx’s hope was that the party, under the new situation, could overcome its ideological eclecticism and embrace his views. Actually, the period of the Sozialistengesetze, which lasted 12 years, saw Marxism emerge as the dominant ideology of German social democracy.14 However, Marx was not conﬁdent in the rising generation of socialists proclaiming to fol- low his theory. In this regard, it is worth recalling his opinion about the young Karl Kautsky, expressed in the wake of their ﬁrst meeting in 1881. In a letter to his daughter Jenny, Marx described the man who would become the leading Marxist thinker after Engels’s death in the following terms: “He’s a mediocrity, narrow in outlook, overwise (only 26 years old), a know-all, hard-working after a fashion, much concerned with stat- istics out of which, however, he makes little sense, by nature a member of the philistine tribe” (Marx and Engels 1992, 82). Only in conclusion did Marx concede that Kautsky was, “for the rest, a decent fellow in his own way” (82). Final Remarks In the ﬁnal period of his life, Marx was deeply disappointed and disillusioned with devel- opments in Western Europe. He had gone as far as to hope for a European war that would shake the labour movements from their torpidity: “We shall have to pass through it before 10 N. D’ELIA there can be any thought of decisive overt activity on the part of the European working class” (Marx and Engels 1991, 30), Marx wrote to Sorge on August 4, 1874. Yet he was still certain that socialism would be achieved. As the Chicago Tribune’s correspondent who interviewed him reported, Marx dwelled “upon his utopian plans for ‘the emancipa- tion of the human race’ with a ﬁrm conviction in the realization of his theories, if not in this century, at least in the next” (quoted in Foner [1972, 18]). From where did he derive his unconditional faith in socialist revolution? The answer is contained in the previously mentioned letter to Domela Nieuwenhuis, in which Marx explicitly claimed that scientiﬁc insight into the inevitable disintegration, now steadily taking place before our eyes, of the prevailing social order; the masses themselves, their fury mounting under the lash of the old governmental bogies; the gigantic and positive advances simultaneously taking place in the development of the means of production—all this is suﬃcient guarantee that the moment a truly proletarian revolution breaks out, the conditions for its immediate initial (if certainly not idyllic) modus operandi will also be there. (Marx and Engels 1992, 67) Marx thus remained convinced, as the Italian historian Ettore Cinnella (2014, 169) remarks, that capitalism, after creating the material preconditions for the advent of social- ist society, “had exhausted its historical task” and become an obstacle for “the further development of humanity”; however, in the late 1870s, Marx could not see in which way the proletarian revolution would be prepared and implemented.15 An impression like that was reported by Sir Mountstuart Grant Duﬀ, a liberal MP, who had a meeting with him in early 1879.16 According to Grant Duﬀ’s account, Marx showed “very correct ideas when he was conversing of the past or the present; but vague and unsatisfactory when he turned to the future” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 580). He expected “a great and not distant crash in Russia,” which would overthrow the old order; although, “as to what would take its place he had evidently no clear idea” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 581). Next, Grant Duﬀ continued, Marx thought that the revolutionary movement would “spread to Germany taking there the form of a revolt against the existing military system” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 581). He was also conﬁdent that a popular rising could happen due to the heavy impact of the Great Depression on German society; but—once the revolution had taken place—the result would just be the establishment of a “Republi- can form of Government,” which Marx regarded as “a mere stage on the road” to social- ism, the achievement of which would be a long-term aﬀair because “all great movements are slow” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 581). On the basis of such reﬂections, Grant Duﬀ came to the conclusion that “it will not be Marx who, whether he wishes it or not, will turn the world upside down” (Marx and Engels 1989a, 582). In this report—it is worth noting—there is no mention of the working class as the driv- ing force of the revolutionary movement. Also, the closing words of Marx’s letter to Domela Nieuwenhuis of February 1881 clearly show his disillusionment with the socialist organisations: My own conviction is that the critical conjuncture for a new international working men’s association has not yet arrived; hence I consider all labour congresses and/or socialist con- gresses, in so far as they do not relate to the immediate, actual conditions obtaining in this or that speciﬁc nation, to be not only useless but harmful. They will invariably ﬁzzle out in a host of rehashed generalised banalities. (Marx and Engels 1992, 67) INTERNATIONAL CRITICAL THOUGHT 11 Such a conclusion reﬂects Marx’s disappointment with the unwelcome developments in Western Europe during the 1870s: the lack of revolutionary spirit in the British labour movement, which made it unable to use all political opportunities provided by a country where the material conditions for socialist revolution were the most advanced; the imma- turity of the French working class, which was still heavily inﬂuenced by ideological tra- ditions rooted in the French Revolution; the eclectic orientation of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, which appeared to be nothing but a replacement of a miss- ing progressive bourgeois opposition to the autocratic regime. In the same period, Marx started looking beyond Western Europe for revolutionary initiatives, turning his hopes chieﬂy towards Russia. It is hard to believe that the unfavourable prospects of proletarian revolution in the most advanced Western European countries played no role in such a move, but this is another story. Notes 1. On this point, see Anderson (2010, 194–195). 2. Marx’s articles on Ireland have been thoroughly analysed by Anderson (2010, 119–124). 3. On these developments, see Collins and Abramsky (1965, 199–223). The address, drafted by Marx himself, was published as a pamphlet entitled The Civil War in France. 4. The interview was published on July 18, 1871. 5. In June 1881, Hyndman founded the Democratic Federation. In the following period, this organisation moved towards a socialist programme and in 1884 assumed the name Social- Democratic Federation (Cf. Tsuzuki [1961, 31–56]). 6. The interview was published on September 6, 1880. 7. This reason explains, according to Collins and Abramsky (1965, 194), why Marx and the General Council of the International, during the Commune’s two months’ existence, “remained completely silent without issuing an appeal for solidarity or even an expression of sympathy and support.” For a good account of Marx’s attitude to the Commune, see Avi- neri (1968, 239–249). 8. It is worth noting that Marx welcomed the diﬀerent position adopted by the middle classes from that held during the Revolution of 1848, when they had sided with the capitalists against the proletariat: For the ﬁrst time in history the petty and moyenne middle class has openly rallied round the workmen’s Revolution, and proclaimed it as the only means of their own salvation and that of France! It forms with them the bulk of the National Guard, it sits with them in the Commune, it mediates for them in the Union Républicaine! (Marx and Engels 1986, 496) 9. Marx himself participated in drafting this document, which was adopted by the new party as its oﬃcial programme at the Fourth French Socialist Workers’ Congress, meeting at Le Havre from 16 to 22 November, 1880. On these events, see the detailed discussion in Derﬂer (1991, 186–191). 10. Such circumstances were the following: Bismarck’s increasing anti-socialist hostility in the aftermath of the Paris Commune; the resignation of the successor of Lassalle, Johann Baptist von Schweitzer, from the presidency of the Lassallean party; the impact of the economic depression beginning in 1873, which drove rank-and-ﬁle members of both parties to apply pressure for coordinated action between them. On the developments leading to the birth of the uniﬁed Social Democratic Party in Germany, see Stedman Jones (2016, 551–555). 11. This document, which became known as the Critique of the Gotha Programme, was published only in 1891 in Die Neue Zeit, the theoretical journal of German social democracy, with a foreword by Engels. 12 N. D’ELIA 12. Höchberg was a wealthy supporter of German social democracy and based socialism on ethi- cal principles (cf. Steinberg [1972, 96–97]). 13. The interview was ﬁrst published on January 5, 1879. The Chicago Tribune traditionally sup- ported the Republican Party. At that time, its editor was Joseph Medill, who had been a friend of Abraham Lincoln. The Chicago Tribune’s average daily circulation was quite large: the morning edition sold around 25,000 copies. It is likely that Marx, by accepting to be inter- viewed by a newspaper whose line was anything but sympathetic to socialism, wanted to take the opportunity to reach a larger audience. The labour movement in the United States had its own media, yet—and this is signiﬁcant—he ignored them. In this regard, see the article by Andréas (1965), which includes a German translation of Marx’s interview. 14. On the diﬀusion of Marxism in German social democracy during the anti-socialist legis- lation, see Steinberg (1972, 27–40). 15. The well-researched and captivating book by Cinnella, which focuses on Marx’s attitude toward Russia and his relations with Russian revolutionaries, oﬀers a broad perspective on his intellectual development during the ﬁnal decade of his life. 16. The British politician had been requested by the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, to meet Marx and give her his opinion of him. The talk took place on January 31, 1879. Disclosure Statement No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author. Notes on Contributor Nicola D’Elia is an independent scholar. His main ﬁelds of research are the history of socialism and the labour movement between the end of the nineteenth century and the First World War, and the history of German–Italian cultural relations in the interwar period. He has published the books Democrazia e “modello inglese”: Eduard Bernstein scrittore politico nell’esilio di Londra (1890– 1901) (Florence, 2005) and Delio Cantimori e la cultura politica tedesca (1927–1940) (Rome, 2007). References Anderson, K. B. 2010. Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Andréas, B. 1965. “Marx über die SPD, Bismarck und das Sozialistengesetz [Marx on the SPD, Bismarck and the Anti-Socialist Law].” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 5: 363–376. Avineri, S. 1968. The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cinnella, E. 2014. L’altro Marx [The Other Marx]. Pisa–Cagliari: Della Porta Editori. Collins, H., and C. Abramsky. 1965. 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