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the  law.  Persecution  defeated  its  own  purpose.  Far  from  breaking  the  workers’  party  or
even  bending  it,  it  attracted  ever  new  recruits,  and  strengthened  the  organisation.  In  their
struggle  against  the  authorities  and  the  individual  bourgeois,  the  workers  manifested  an
intellectual  and  moral  superiority.  Particularly  in  their  conflicts  with  the  employers  of
labour  did  they  show  that  they,  the  workers,  were  now  the  educated  class,  while  the
capitalists were dupes. In their fights, a sense of humour prevailed, showing how sure they
were of their cause, and how superior they felt. A struggle thus conducted on historically
prepared  soil  must  yield  great  results.  The  success  of  the  January  (1874)  elections  stood
out, unique in the history of the modern labour movement, and the astonishment aroused
by them throughout Europe was perfectly deserved.
The German workers have two important advantages compared with the rest of Europe.
First, they belong to the most theoretical people of Europe; second, they have retained that
sense  of  theory  which  the  so-called  “educated”  people  of  Germany  have  totally  lost.
Without  German  philosophy,  particularly  that  of  Hegel,  German  scientific  Socialism  (the
only  scientific  Socialism  extant)  would  never  have  come  into  existence.  Without  a  sense
for theory, scientific Socialism would have never become blood and tissue of the workers.
What an enormous advantage this is, may be seen on the one hand from the indifference of
the English labour movement towards all theory, which is one of the reasons why it moves
so slowly in spite of the splendid organisation of the individual unions; on the other hand,
from  the  mischief  and  confusion  created  by  Proudhonism  in  its  original  form  among  the
Frenchmen and Belgians, and in its caricature form, as presented by Bakunin, among the
Spaniards and Italians.
The  second  advantage  is  that,  chronologically  speaking,  the  Germans  were  the  last  to
appear in the labour movement. In the same manner as German theoretical Socialism will
never forget that it rests on the shoulders of Saint Simon, Fourier and Owen, the three who,
in spite of their fantastic notions and Utopianism, belonged to the most significant heads of
all time and whose genius anticipated numerous things the correctness of which can now
be proved in a scientific way, so the practical German labour movement must never forget
that  it  has  developed  on  the  shoulders  of  the  English  and  French  movements,  that  it  had
utilised  their  experience,  acquired  at  a  heavy  price,  and  that  for  this  reason  it  was  in  a
position to avoid their mistakes which in their time were unavoidable. Without the English
trade  unions  and  the  French  political  workers’  struggles  preceding  the  German  labour
movement,  without  the  mighty  impulse  given  by  the  Paris  Commune,  where  would  we
now be?
It  must  be  said  to  the  credit  of  the  German  workers  that  they  have  utilised  the
advantages of their situation with rare understanding. For the first time in the history of the
The Peasant War in Germany
– 14 –

labour movement the struggle is being so conducted that its three sides, the theoretical, the
political and the practical economical (opposition to the capitalists), form one harmonious
and  well-planned  entity.  In  this  concentric  attack,  as  it  were,  lies  the  strength  and
invincibility of the German movement.
It is due to this advantageous situation on the one hand, to the insular peculiarities of
the British, and to the cruel suppression of the French movements on the other, that for the
present  moment  the  German  workers  form  the  vanguard  of  the  proletarian  struggle.  How
long events will allow them to occupy this post of honour cannot be foreseen. But as long
as  they  are  placed  in  it,  let  us  hope  that  they  will  discharge  their  duties  in  the  proper
manner.  It  is  the  specific  duty  of  the  leaders  to  gain  an  ever  clearer  understanding  of  the
theoretical  problems,  to  free  themselves  more  and  more  from  the  influence  of  traditional
phrases inherited from the old conception of the world, and constantly to keep in mind that
Socialism, having become a science, demands the same treatment as every other science –
it must be studied. The task of the leaders will be to bring understanding, thus acquired and
clarified, to the working masses, to spread it with increased enthusiasm, to close the ranks
of the party organisations and of the labour unions with ever greater energy. The votes cast
in  favour  of  the  Socialists  last  January  may  represent  considerable  strength,  but  they  still
are far from being the majority of the German working class; and encouraging as may be
the  successes  of  the  propaganda  among  the  rural  population,  more  remains  to  be  done  in
this field. The slogan is not to flinch in the struggle. The task is to wrest from the enemy’s
hands  one  seat  after  the  other,  one  electoral  district  after  the  other.  In  the  first  place,
however, it is necessary to retain a real international spirit which permits of no chauvinism,
which  joyfully  greets  each  new  step  of  the  proletarian  movement,  no  matter  in  which
nation it is made. If the German workers proceed in this way, they may not march exactly
at the head of the movement – it is not in the interest of the movement that the workers of
one country should march at the head of all – but they will occupy an honourable place on
the battle line, and they will stand armed for battle when other unexpected grave trials or
momentous events will demand heightened courage, heightened determination, and the will
to act.
FREDERICK ENGELS
London, July 1, 1874.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 15 –

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