Religious Movement in Prussia.
London, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1853
Yesterday morning the Prussian Chambers[a] were opened by a speech of the Prime Minister, Mr. Manteuffel. The passage relative to the eastern complication, as communicated to us by electric telegraph, is couched in terms clearly intended to allay the suspicions afloat with respect to a conspiracy between the courts of St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna. It is the more remarkable as it is generally known that Frederick William IV, by the organ of the same Manteuffel, has condescended at various previous occasions, to solemnly communicate to his loyal people, that the Chambers have no call to intermeddle with matters of foreign policy, since the external relations of the state fall as much under the exclusive control of the crown, as the king's own demesne lands. The above-mentioned passage, involving as it does, something like an appeal to the people, betrays the extreme difficulties the Prussian Government finds itself placed in, menaced on the one hand by Russia and France, and on the other by its own subjects, at the same time that it is stimulated by the high price of provisions, a deeply depressed commerce, and the remembrance of an atrocious breach of faith still to be expiated. The Prussian Government itself has cast off the refuge of working on public opinion through the means of the Chambers, which are deliberately constituted by the king as a mere sham, intentionally treated by the ministers as a mere sham, and accepted by the people as a mere sham, in a manner not to be misunderstood. It will not do to tell them now that these mock institutions are, all of a sudden, to be looked upon as the bulwarks of "Fatherland."
"The Prussians", says The Times of to-day, "have hardly shown the sense and sagacity for which they once had credit, by the undeserved contempt into which they have allowed the Chambers elected under the present constitution to fall."
On the contrary, the Prussians have fully shown their good sense, by allowing the men who betrayed the revolution in the hope of reaping its fruits, to enjoy not even the appearance of influence, and. to prove to the government that they are not the dupes of its juggle, and that the Chambers, in their opinion, if they are anything at all, are but a new bureaucratic institution, added to the old bureaucratic institutions of the country.
Every one not thoroughly acquainted with the past history of Germany will be at a loss to understand the religious quarrels again and again troubling the otherwise dull surface of German society. There are the remnants of the so-called German Church, persecuted now, as eagerly as in 1847, by the established governments. There is the question of marriages between Catholics and Protestants, setting the Catholic clergy and the Prussian Government by the ears, as in 1847. There is, above all, the fierce combat between the Archbishop of Freiburg[b], excommunicating the Baden Government, and having his letter publicly read from the pulpits, and the Grand Duke[c] ordering the recreant churches to be closed, and the parish priests to be arrested; and there are the peasants assembling and arming themselves, protecting their priests and driving back the gendarmes, which they have done at Bischofsheim, Königshofen, Grünsfeld, Gerlachsheim, where the Mayor of the village was forced to fly, and at many other villages. It would be a mistake to consider the religious conflict in Baden as possessed of a purely local character. Baden is only the battleground the Catholic party has deliberately chosen for attacking the Protestant princes. The Archbishop of Friburg represents in this conflict the whole Catholic clergy of Germany, as the Grand Duke of Baden represents all the great and small potentates confessing the reformed creed. What then are we to think of a country renowned on the one hand for the profound, bold and unparalleled criticism to which it has subjected all religious traditions, and surprising, on the other, all Europe, at periodically recurring epochs, with the resurrection of the religious quarrels of the 17th century? The secret is simply this, that all popular commotions, lurking in the background, are forced by the governments to assume at first the mystical and almost uncontrollable form of religious movements. The clergy, on their part, allow themselves to be deceived by appearances, and, while they fancy they direct the popular passions for the exclusive benefit of their corporation, against the government, they are, in truth, the unconscious and unwilling tools of the revolution itself.
The daily London press exhibits a great show of horror and moral indignation at an address issued by Mazzini, and found in the possession of Felice Orsini, leader of the National Band No. 2, destined to rise in the province of Lugagnano, which contains portions of Modena, Parma, and the Kingdom of Piedmont. In this address the people are exhorted to "act by surprise, as the people of Milan tried to do, and will again"[d]. The address then says: "The dagger, if it strikes unexpectedly, does good service and supplies the place of muskets." This the London press represents as an open appeal to "secret, cowardly assassination". Now I want only to know how, in a country like Italy, where public means of resistance are nowhere, and police spies are everywhere, an insurrectionary movement could expect any chance of success if surprise be not resorted to? I want to know, if the people of Italy are to fight with the troops of Austria at all, with what kind of weapons they are to fight except with those left to them with the daggers Austria has not succeeded in taking away? Mazzini is far from telling them to use the dagger for cowardly assassination of the unarmed foe exhorts them to use it "by surprise," it is true, but in the broad light [of] day, as at Milan, where a few patriots, armed only with knives, rushed on the guard-houses of the armed Austrian garrisons.
But, says The Times, "constitutional Piedmont is to undergo the same fate as Rome, Naples, and Lombardy!"
Why not? Was it not the King of Sardinia[e] who betrayed the Italian revolution in 1848 and in 1849, and can Italy be transformed into a Republic with a King of Piedmont[f] any more than Germany with a King of Prussia? So much as to the morality of Mazzini's address. As to its political value, it is quite another question. I, for my part, think Mazzini to be mistaken, both in his opinions about the Piedmontese people and in his dreams of an Italian revolution, which he supposes is not to be effected by the favorable chances of European complications, but by the private action of Italian conspirators acting by surprise.
You will have seen by the London papers that Government has appointed a commission for inquiring into the corrupt practices and the whole organization of that most venerable body known as the Corporation of the City. The following are some of the facts contained in the reports of the commission, whose labors are still far from having arrived at a close:
The revenue of the Corporation of London is estimated at £400,000, without taking all items into account, and the gross amount paid away in salaries reaches the very considerable sum of £107,000, or more than 25 per cent of the whole income. The legal salaries are set down at £14,700, of which the Recorder receives £3,000, the Common Sergeant, £1,500, and the Judge of the Sheriff's Court, £1,200. The Town Clerk receives £1,892; the Secretary, £1,249, and the Remembrancer, £1,765. The Chief Clerks at the Mansion-House and Guildhall[g] receive between them £1,250, a year. The Mace-bearer receives £550, and the Sword-bearer £550; the Upper Marshal £450 or £500, the Under Marshal £200 or £300. These Bumbles draw besides, £70 for uniforms, £14 for boots, and £20 for cocked hats. Mr. Bennoch stated in his evidence that
"the whole expense of the establishments in the Corporation of London is much greater than the whole expense of the Federal Government of the United States, or, what is perhaps a more startling statement, its expenditure upon itself, in administering the funds of the Corporation, is larger than the whole amount of revenue from rents, tolls and fees from brokers which it receives."[h]
The great secret of the Reform pills Lord John Russell intends to administer to the British public has at last come out. He proposes: 1, a repeal of the property qualification for members of Parliament, a qualification which has long since become a nominal one; 2, a readjustment of the constituencies by doing away with some small boroughs and adding more large ones; 3, a reduction of the county constituencies from the £20 to the £10 borough qualification. A fourth proposition to lower the franchise to £5 has been abandoned, as by this means, says The Times,
"the present electors would be virtually disenfranchised, because the class to be admitted will greatly outnumber all others put together, and has only to be unanimous to be supreme."
In other words, enfranchising the majority even of the small trading class would disenfranchise the minority. A very ingenious; Argument this. The most important feature of the Reform bill looming in the future is, however, not this point, or all its points taken together. This important feature is the general and absolute indifference its announcement meets with. Every police report attracts a great deal more of public attention than the "great measure", the new Reform bill, the common work of the "Ministry of all the talents."
Ernest Jones was quite right in anticipating that the first note sounded of the mass movement of the people and a national organization headed by a Labor Parliament would strike alarm into the moneyed classes, and force the London class papers to take notice of it. The Times has immediately seen the importance of this new movement, and has given for the first time a report of the Chartist meeting held in the People's Institute at Manchester[i]. All its contemporaries are filled with leading articles on the labor movement and the Labor Parliament proposed by the Chartists, who were long since supposed to have died of exhaustion. The Economist has no less than four articles on the question. The reports, however, of the highly important meeting at Manchester cannot be said to afford any idea of its character or the business there transacted. I think fit, therefore, to give a report of my own. The following resolutions were proposed and adopted:
"1. That this meeting, after witnessing the futility of sectional struggles on the part of isolated bodies of workingmen to maintain a just standard of wages and to achieve the emancipation of labor, is of the opinion that the time has now arrived when a united and mass movement of the working classes, based on a national organization, and guided by one directing body, can alone insure adequate support to the men now locked out of employment and on strike, and enable workingmen in the future to emancipate labor from the thraldom of capital. The mass movement of the people and national organization be not intended to, and shall not, interfere with the present Trade Unions and combinations of workingmen, but that its action be to centralize, concentrate and confederate the strength of all, and of the entire body of workingmen. [...]
"2. That to carry the foregoing resolution it will be imperatively necessary that a Labor Parliament should meet as soon as possible; that Parliament to consist of delegates elected by the workingmen of each town in public meeting assembled. That the duties of that Parliament shall be to organize machinery whereby support may be rendered to the people now out on strike, or locked out by the manufacturers, by raising a national subscription of the most extensive character to lay down a specific plan of action for the guidance of the working classes in their contest with the employers, and to propound the means by which labor may be emancipated from the undue influence of capital and become independent, self-employing and remunerative, without the necessity of strikes.
"3. That this meeting elect a Committee to correspond for the above purpose with the various towns and districts to make all necessary arrangements for the calling of the Labor Parliament, and to arrange and publish the necessary details for the sitting of the delegates, as well as a programme of the business to be brought before the delegation."[j]
By far the most remarkable speech was that of Mr. Jones, of which I give some extracts:
"The employer says, in The London Times, you have nothing to do with his profits. You must only count your own heads, not his profits. If there are many heads, although you want more, you will get less. And that he calls the law of supply and demand. That alone, he says, should regulate your wages. But does it? [...] No! If you've no business to claim a rise of wages when his profits are high, he should not pull you down when his profits become low. But then he'll tell you, though not one hand less may be employed—'trade's bad, times are hard, my profits have grown smaller—I can't afford to pay you the same wages.' It is not the law of supply and demand, then, but the law of dear cotton and small profits that regulates your labor. [...] The law of supply may be true, but the law of life is truer. The law of demand may be strong, but the law of starvation will be stronger still! We say, if the one capital, money, has a right to profits, so has the other capital, labor, too; and labor has the greater right, because labor made money, and not money labor. What is profit? The capital that remains after deduction of all working charges. The wages you have hitherto received are merely a portion of the working charges. That which only keeps soul and body together is no reward for toil. It is merely the necessary cost of keeping the human machine in working order. [...] You must have a surplus over and above the working cost of feeding and housing the machine of flesh and blood. You must have food for heart and brain, as well as for the mouth and belly. [...] The employer dreads your getting more wages; not because he can't afford to pay them, for his capital has increased more than 100 per cent, in the last seven years, and you asked for only 10 on your wage out of his 100 on your work. He dreads it, because higher wages would lead to independence; he dreads it, because higher wages would lead to education; he dreads it, because an enlightened people will not be slaves; he dreads it, because he knows you would then no more submit to work so many hours; he dreads it, because you would then not allow your wives to slave in the factory hell; he dreads it, because you would then send your children to school instead of the mill; he dreads it, because he knows if the wife was at the fireside, the child at the school and short time at the factory, the surplus hands that now beat wages down would flee from his control and labor would become a priceless pearl, gemming the diadem of human freedom. But the question has once more changed its aspect; it is not merely one of obtaining a share in the employer's profits, or a rise of 10 per cent.; it is one of preventing a fall of 20. [...] Good trade or bad trade makes little change to them; in the one they plunder the world abroad—in the other they plunder the world at home. [...] The question is rapidly changing for you, not into one of lower or higher wages, but into one of starvation or existence; of life in the factory hell or death at the factory door. The capitalists, those Cossacks of the West first crossed the Danube of labor's rights; they have proclaimed their martial law of gold, and hurl starvation into our ranks from the batteries of monopoly. Town after town is placed in a state of siege. Non-employment digs the trenches, hunger scales the citadel of labor, the artillery of famine plays on the lines of toil. Every day their great confederation spreads; every day their movement becomes more national. [...] How are you prepared to confront them? Your movement is running into chaos and confusion. [...] As the lock-outs spread and your isolated action continues, you will be poaching in each other's preserves; the collectors of the one place will meet those of the others on the same ground—you will stand as foes where you should shake hands as allies—you will weaken each other's help where you should help each other's weakness. [...] The Wigan colliers were close to Preston, to Stockport, to Manchester, to Oldham, and they were left to fall unaided. [...] The factory operatives are on strike at Wigan too. And what do they say to the defeat of their brother workingmen the miners? They consider it a happy riddance. [...] They cannot help it—because they stand in each other's way. But why do they so stand? [...] Because you hedge your movement within the narrow limits of one trade, one district and one interest. [...] The movement of your employers is becoming national, and national must be your resistance also. As it is you are running into anarchy and ruin. Do not suppose that I impugn the wisdom, conduct or integrity of the Trades Unions. [...]
"But the leading strings that support the child become impediments that clog the man. [...] That isolation which worked well in the infancy of the labor movement becomes ruin in its manhood. [...] Let all the trades be represented whose support you seek. [...] Place the cause of labor not in the hands of one mill, or one town, or even one district, but place it in the hands of a laborers' Parliament."
Written on November 29, 1853
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3948, December 12, 1853;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 892, December 13,
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 640, December 17, 1853
Signed: Karl Marx
"Opening of the Prussian Chambers", The Times, No. 21598, November 29, 1853.—Ed.
Frederick I .—Ed.
Here and below Marx quotes from the second editorial in The Times, No. 21592, November 22, 1853.—Ed.
Residence of Lord Mayor and the City Hall.—Ed.
"City Corporation Commission", The Times, No. 21593, November 23, 1853.—Ed.
"The Strikes", The Times, No. 21593, November 23, 1853.—Ed.
Passages from the resolutions adopted at the Chartist meeting on November 20, 1853 and Jones' speech are quoted from the report by J. Benson: "Highly Important Meeting At Manchester" in The People's Paper, No. 82, November 26, 1853.—Ed.
A reference to Frederick William IV breaking his solemn promise to the people during the March revolution of 1848 in Prussia to establish a constitutional order.
Before the revolution of 1848-49 representatives of religious trends in Germany, so-called German Catholicism and the Protestant Free Communities, tried to establish a German National Church. German Catholicism, which appeared in 1844 in a number of German states, was aimed against the obscurantism and ritualism of the Catholic Church. While rejecting the Papacy and many dogmas and rituals of the Catholic Church, the German Catholics tried to apply Catholicism to the needs of the German bourgeoisie. The Free Communities broke away from the official Protestant Church in 1846 under the influence of the so-called Friends of Light, who were against Pietism, a mystical and self-righteous trend which dominated the Protestant Church. These two forms of religious opposition reflected the discontent of the bourgeoisie in the 1840s with the reactionary order in Germany and its striving for political unification of the country. The Free Communities and the German Catholics united in 1859.
The conflict concerning the religious denomination of children of mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants arose in 1837 with the arrest of C. A. Droste-Vischering, Archbishop of Cologne, who was accused of high treason for refusing to obey the orders of Frederick William III, the King of Prussia. It ended in 1841 under Frederick William IV with the Prussian Government yielding to the Catholic Church.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 12
(pp.509-515), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979