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Karl Marx

London, June 6. Palmerston has again given proof of his old mastery at handling diplomacy by means of Parliament and Parliament by means of diplomacy. The policy of the ministry was to be discussed on the basis of the amendments of Baring, Heathcote and Lowe[a]. The amendments were all based on the Vienna Conference[183]. During Whitsun week Palmerston conjured away the Vienna Conference, by referring in his dealings with Austria to the past parliamentary debate; and in his dealings with the newly re-opened Parliament[b] he conjured away the debate, by referring to the past Conference, which, allegedly, now existed only as a myth. With the Vienna Conference are thrown overboard the amendments which presuppose it; with the amendments, the discussion of the ministry's policy ceases, and with this discussion, disappears the need for the ministry to make any statement about the tendency, aim and object of the "new" war. We are assured by David Urquhart, alias David Bey, that this aim is nothing less than to acquaint the allied troops with the summer diseases of the Crimea, now that they have sampled the winter diseases of the Crimea. And though Urquhart does not know everything, he knows his Palmerston. But he is mistaken about the power that secret design has over public history. Thus Palmerston informs the reassembled Parliament that there is no longer any subject for debate, and that the House could now do nothing better than send a war address to the Crown, i.e. give the ministry a vote of confidence. For the time being he is thwarted by the stubbornness of the parliamentarians, who have prepared long speeches on the amendments and are resolved to dispose of their goods. By the mere act of disbanding the Conference he has broken the point off these speeches and the horror vacui, boredom, will drive Parliament into accepting his address. To save itself from the speeches it will seize on the address.

With the change in the situation, Lowe's amendment has changed its meaning. Originally it meant the break-up of the Vienna Conference. Now it means sanctioning the Vienna Conference and ministerial diplomacy, insofar as it raises Russell's formula for the reduction of Russian maritime power in the Euxinus[c] to the ultimate aim, to the real object of the war. It is a stumbling block for the peace party insofar as it demands too much, for the war party insofar as it demands too little, and a stumbling block for the ministry insofar as it demands any object, that is any admitted object, for the war. Hence the phenomenon of pro-peace men and Tories being for the continuation of the debate on Lowe's amendment and the ministry against it, hence Palmerston's attempt to jettison it. The attempt failed. He therefore adjourned the debate until Thursday evening. A day's respite gained. In the meantime the final protocol of the Vienna Conference is printed. It is presented to the House. A new and secondary question is raised, and with his "dissolving views"[d] Palmerston can hope to remove the real issue from the focus of the debate.

The two-day parliamentary discussion[e] was as boring, tedious and confused as can only be expected of speeches whose point has been broken off in advance. It offered, however, a characteristic spectacle: whereas before the vote on Disraeli's motion the peace men flirted with the ministry, they now flirted with the Opposition, by which we mean the professional Opposition. Further, it revealed the entente cordiale between the Peelites and the Manchester School[184]. The Peelites obviously flatter themselves that they will rule England after the war, at the head of the industrial bourgeoisie. Thus, after their long wanderings, the Peelites would at last have a real party behind them, and the industrialists at last have found professional statesmen. If the peace men have thus won Gladstone, Graham and Co., they have lost the "radical" Sir William Molesworth, a friend of more than twenty years' standing. Molesworth must have read in Hobbes, whom he published[185], that "intelligence comes through the ears". He therefore appealed not to the intelligence but to the ears. He did what Hamlet forbids the actors to do[f]. He out-tyrannised the tyrant and was more Russell than Russell himself. He had also read in his Hobbes that all men are equal, because each can take the life of the other. As he is now concerned with prolonging his ministerial life he spoke in the spirit of the men who can take it from him. It was indeed a curious thing to see this adding-machine indulging in dithyrambs. Not even Babbage in his "Philosophy of Machines"[g] would have imagined it. Milner Gibson, the baronet from the Manchester area, was monotonous, soporific, desiccated and desiccating. He has obviously learnt from the nearby metropolis of British industry how to deliver as much as possible while keeping production costs as low as possible. He is a man whose whole appearance proclaims that he is bored. Why should he seek to amuse his fellow-men? Do as you would be done by! Moreover, he clearly counts spirit, wit and life among the faux frais de production[h], and it is the first law of the economic school to which he belongs to avoid "false costs". Bulwer hovered between the heroic mood of his "king-maker" and the contemplative one of his "Eugene Aram"[i]. In the former he threw down the gauntlet to Russia, in the latter he wove a myrtle wreath around Metternich's brow.

Milner Gibson, Molesworth and Bulwer were the coryphaei of the first evening, Cobden, Graham and Russell of the second. Cobden's speech alone deserves an analysis which space and time do not permit at present. Let us only remark that he claims Bonaparte was prepared to accept the last Austrian proposals. The late Sir Robert Peel's dirty boy, who has recently taken to "sentiments"[j], "broken hearts" and "love of truth", gave a self-apology on behalf of his neighbour, namely Sir James Graham. He had forbidden Napier to act in the Baltic Sea until the time of year when any action is ruinous for the British Navy. He had forbidden Dundas to shell Odessa. He had thus neutralised the British Navy both in the Baltic and in the Black Sea. He justifies himself with the size of the fleets which he had equipped. The mere existence of these fleets was proof of British power. Their action was therefore superfluous. A few days ago Napier addressed a laconic letter to a friend of Urquhart, which Urquhart read out at the Stafford meeting. This letter says literally:

"Sir! I hold Sir James Graham capable of any base act. Charles Napier."

Russell has finally excelled himself. At the beginning of his speech he declared that the big question confronting the House was the following:

"If you are determined to have peace, upon what conditions can you obtain it? If you mean to carry on the war, for what objects is that war to be carried on?"

As to the first question, his answer could be found in the Vienna protocols. As to the second, the object of the war, his answer had to be a very general one, in other words, no answer at all. If one were to accept the phrase "security for Turkey" as an answer, he would not mind. One interpretation of this "security" was given in the Vienna Note; another in the Four Points[186]; finding a third was not Russell's business but the war's. It was Napoleon's principle that war must cover its own costs; it is Russell's principle that war must find its own object.

Written on June 6, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 263, June 9, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Published in English for the first time in MECW.


[a] Amendments to Disraeli's motion of May 24, 1855 (see this volume, pp. 227-28).—Ed.

[b] Parliament re-opened on June 4, 1855.—Ed.

[c] Ancient Greek name for the Black Sea.—Ed.

[d] Marx uses the English expression.—Ed.

[e] An account of the debate in the House of Commons on June 4 and 5 was published in The Times, Nos. 22072 and 22073, June 5 and 6, 1855.—Ed.

[f] The reference is to Hamlet's warning against overacting (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2).—Ed.

[g] Ch. Babbage, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.—Ed.

[h] False costs of production.—Ed.

[i] "King-maker" was the nickname of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, described in Bulwer-Lytton's novel The Last of the Barons, the action of which takes place during the Wars of the Roses; Eugene Aram is the title character of another of Lytton's novels.—Ed.

[j] Marx uses the English words "dirty boy" and "sentiments".—Ed.

[183] The Vienna Conference was to work out the terms for peace between the participants in the Crimean War. It was attended by Russia, Britain, France, Austria and Turkey and lasted, with intervals, from March 15 to June 4, 1855. The negotiations centred on the Four Points (see Note 43↓). While agreeing, with certain reservations, to Points 1, 2 and 4, Russia emphatically rejected Point 3 which, as interpreted by the Western Powers, called for a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Britain and France insisted on its acceptance and turned down Austria's compromise proposal that Russia and Turkey should be allowed to agree between themselves on the size of their naval forces in the Black Sea. The Conference ended without adopting any decisions.

[184] The Peelites were a group of moderate Tories supporting Robert Peel, who advocated economic concessions to the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie as a means of maintaining the political rule of the big landowners and financiers. In 1846, he secured the repeal of the Corn Laws (see Note 14↓). This move, favouring the industrial bourgeoisie, was bitterly resented by the Protectionist Tories and led to a split in the Tory party and the emergence of the Peelites as an independent group. The Peelites were represented in Aberdeen's coalition government (1852-55) and joined the Liberal party in the late 1850s and early 1860s.

The Manchester School—a trend in political economy reflecting the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie. It favoured free trade and non-interference by the state in the economy. The Free Traders' stronghold was Manchester, where the movement was led by Cobden and Bright, two textile manufacturers who founded the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838. In the 1840s and 1850s the Free Traders were an independent political group which later formed the Left wing of the Liberal Party.

[185] The works of Thomas Hobbes were published in 1839-45, eleven volumes in English and five in Latin, by Molesworth.

[186] A reference to the Protocol of December 5, 1853 (see Note 97↓).
On the Four Points see Note 43↓.

[14] The Corn Laws, the first of which were passed as early as the fifteenth century, imposed high import duties on agricultural products in order to maintain high prices for these products on the domestic market. The Corn Laws served the interests of the big landowners. The struggle between the industrial bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy over the Corn Laws ended in their repeal in June 1846.

[43] The Four Points—demands made by the Western Powers on Russia as preliminary conditions for peace talks in their Note of August 8, 1854. Russia was required to renounce her protectorate over Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia, which was to be replaced by an all-European guarantee; to grant freedom of navigation on the Danube; to agree to a revision of the London Convention of 1841 on the closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles to the warships of all nations in peacetime, and to renounce its protection of Christians in Turkey. The Tsarist government at first rejected the Four Points but in November 1854 was forced to accept them as the basis for future peace talks. The Four Points were discussed at the Vienna conferences of Ambassadors (see Note 34↓) but the attempts of the Western Powers to link the question of the Straits with demands for 'a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea caused the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, A. M. Gorchakov, to walk out of the talks.

[34] A reference to the talks between the British, French and Russian Ambassadors and Austrian Foreign Minister Buol sponsored by Emperor Francis Joseph, which opened in December 1854. Their official purpose was to work out a basis for peace negotiations between the belligerents in the Crimean War. They were a sequel to an earlier round of talks between diplomats of the Western Powers, the Prussian Ambassador and the Austrian Minister (the Russian Ambassador refused to participate) held in Vienna in 1853-54 by way of mediation in the Russo-Turkish conflict. The second round failed to resolve the differences between the belligerents in the Crimean War. In mid-March 1855 representatives of Austria, Britain, France, Turkey and Russia met at a higher level at the Vienna Conference (Britain was represented by Special Envoy Lord John Russell, France by Foreign Minister Drouyn de Lhuys). That conference also produced no results (see Note 183↑).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.245-248), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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