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[Revolution in Spain]

Karl Marx

The news brought by the Asia yesterday, though later by three days than our previous advices, contains nothing to indicate a speedy conclusion of the civil war in Spain. O'Donnell's coup d'état, although victorious at Madrid[130], cannot yet be said to have finally succeeded. The French Moniteur, which at first put down the insurrection at Barcelona as a mere riot[a], is now obliged to confess that

"the conflict there was very keen, but that the success of the Queen's[b] troops may be considered as secured."[c]

According to the version of that official journal the combat at Barcelona lasted from 5 o'clock in the afternoon of July 18 till the same hour on the 21st—exactly three days—when the "insurgents" are said to have been dislodged from their quarters, and fled into the country, pursued by cavalry. It is, however, averred that the insurgents still hold several towns in Catalonia, including Gerona, Junquera, and some smaller places. It also appears that Murcia, Valencia and Seville have made their pronunciamientos[d] against the coup d'état; that a battalion of the garrison of Pampeluna, directed by the Governor of that town on Soria, had pronounced against the Government on the road, and marched to join the insurrection at Saragossa; and lastly that at Saragossa, from the beginning the acknowledged center of resistance, Gen. Falcon had passed in review 16,000 soldiers of the line, reinforced by 15,000 militia and peasants from the environs.

At all events, the French Government considers the "insurrection" in Spain as not quelled, and Bonaparte, far from contenting himself with the sending of a batch of battalions to line the frontier, has ordered one brigade to advance to the Bidassoa, which brigade is being completed to a division by reinforcements from Montpellier and Toulouse. It seems, also, that a second division has been detached immediately from the army of Lyons, according to orders sent direct from Plombières on the 23d ult., and is now marching toward the Pyrenees, where, by this time, there is assembled a full corps d'observation of 25,000 men. Should the resistance to the O'Donnell government be able to hold its ground; should it prove formidable enough to inveigle Bonaparte into an armed invasion of the Peninsula, then the coup d'état of Madrid may have given the signal for the downfall of the coup d'état of Paris.[131]

If we consider the general plot and the dramatis personae, this Spanish conspiracy of 1856 appears as the simple revival of the similar attempt of 1843,[132] with some slight alterations of course. Then, as now, Isabella at Madrid and Christina at Paris; Louis Philippe, instead of Louis Bonaparte, directing the movement from the Tuileries; on the one side, Espartero and his Ayacuchos[133]; on the other, O'Donnell, Serrano, Concha, with Narvaez then in the proscenium, now in the background. In 1843, Louis Philippe sent two millions of gold by land and Narvaez and his friends by sea, the compact of the Spanish marriages being settled between himself and Madame Muñoz[134]. The complicity of Bonaparte in the Spanish coup d'état who has, perhaps, settled the marriage of his cousin Prince Napoleon with a Mdlle. Muñoz, or who, at all events, must continue his mission of mimicking his uncle[e]—that that complicity is not only indicated by the denunciations hurled by the Moniteur for the last two months at the communist conspiracies in Castile and Navarre, by the behavior before, during and after the coup d'état of M. de Turgot, the French Embassador at Madrid, the same man who was the Foreign Minister of Bonaparte during his own coup d'état; by the Duke of Alba, Bonaparte's brother-in-law, turning up as the President of the new ayuntamiento[f] at Madrid, immediately after the victory of O'Donnell; by Ros de Olano, an old member of the French party, being the first man offered a place in O'Donnell's Ministry; and by Narvaez being dispatched to Bayonne by Bonaparte as soon as the first news of the affair reached Paris. That complicity was suggested beforehand by the forwarding of large quantities of ammunition from Bordeaux to Bayonne a fortnight in advance of the actual crisis at Madrid. Above all, it is suggested by the plan of operations followed by O'Donnell in his razzia against the people of that city. At the very outset he announced that he would not shrink from blowing up Madrid, and during the fighting he acted up to his word. Now, although a daring fellow, O'Donnell has never ventured upon a bold step without securing a safe retreat. Like his notorious uncle[g], the hero of treason, he never burnt the bridge when he passed the Rubicon. The organ of combativeness is singularly checked in the O'Donnells by the organs of cautiousness and secretiveness. It is plain that any general who should hold forth the threat of laying the capital in ashes, and fail in his attempt, would forfeit his head. How then did O'Donnell venture upon such delicate ground? The secret is betrayed by the Journal des Débats, the special organ of Queen Christina.

"O'Donnell expected a great battle, and at the most a victory hotly disputed. Into his provisions there entered the possibility of defeat. If such a misfortune had happened, the Marshal would have abandoned Madrid with the rest of his army, escorting the Queen, and turning toward the northern provinces, with a view to approach the French frontier."[h]

Does not all this look as if he had laid his plan with Bonaparte? Exactly the same plan had been settled between Louis Philippe and Narvaez in 1843, which, again, was copied from the secret convention between Louis XVIII and Ferdinand VII, in 1823.[135]

This plausible parallel between the Spanish conspiracies of 1843 and 1856 once admitted, there are still sufficiently distinct features in the two movements to indicate the immense strides made by the Spanish people within so brief an epoch. These features are: the political character of the last struggle at Madrid; its military importance; and finally, the respective position of Espartero and O'Donnell in 1856 compared with those of Espartero and Narvaez in 1843. In 1843 all parties had become tired of Espartero. To get .rid of him a powerful coalition was formed between the Moderados and Progresistas.[136] Revolutionary juntas springing up like mush rooms in all the towns, paved the way for Narvaez and his retainers. In 1856 we have not only the court and army on the one side against the people on the other, but within the ranks of the people we have the same divisions as in the rest of Western Europe. On the 13th of July the Ministry of Espartero offered its forced resignation; in the night of the 13th and 14th the Cabinet of O'Donnell was constituted; on the morning of the 14th the rumor spread that O'Donnell, charged with the formation of a cabinet, had invited Ryos y Rosas, the ill-omened Minister of the bloody days of July, 1854[137], to join him. At 11 a.m. the Gaceta confirmed the rumor. Then the Cortes assembled, 93 deputies being present. According to the rules of that body, 20 members suffice to call a meeting, and 50 to form a quorum. Besides, the Cortes had not been formally prorogued. Gen. Infante, the President, could not but comply with the universal wish to hold a regular sitting. A proposition was submitted to the effect that the new Cabinet did not enjoy the confidence of the Cortes, and that her Majesty[i] should be informed of this resolution. At the same time, the Cortes summoned the National Guard to be ready for action. Their Committee, bearing the resolution of want of confidence, went to the Queen, escorted by a detachment of National Militia. While endeavoring to enter the palace they were driven back by the troops of the line, who fired upon them and their escort. This incident gave the signal for the insurrection. The order to commence the building of barricades was given at 7 in the evening by the Cortes, whose meeting was dispersed immediately afterward by the troops of O'Donnell. The battle commenced the same night, only one battalion of the National Militia joining the Royal troops. It should be noted that as early as the morning of the 13th, Senor Escosura, the Esparterist Minister of the Interior, had telegraphed to Barcelona and Saragossa that a coup d'état was at hand, and that they must prepare to resist it. At the head of the Madrid insurgents were Señor Madoz and Gen. Valdez, the brother of Escosura. In short, there can be no doubt that the resistance to the coup d'état originated with the Esparterists, the citizens and Liberals in general. While they, with the militia, engaged the line across Madrid from east to west, the workmen under Pucheta occupied the south and part of the north side of the town.

On the morning of the 15th, O'Donnell took the initiative. Even by the partial testimony of the Débats[j], O'Donnell obtained no marked advantage during the first half of the day. Suddenly, at about 1 o'clock, without any perceptible reason, the ranks of the National Militia were broken; at 2 o'clock they were still more thinned, and at 6 o'clock they had completely disappeared from the scene of action, leaving the whole brunt of the battle to be borne by the workmen, who fought it out till 4 in the afternoon of the 16th. Thus there were, in these three days of carnage, two distinct battles—the one of the Liberal Militia of the middle class, supported by the workmen against the army, and the other of the army against the workmen deserted by the militia. As Heine has it:

"It is an old story, but is always new."[k]

Espartero deserts the Cortes; the Cortes desert the leaders of the National ward; the leaders desert their men, and the men desert the people. On the 15th, however, the Cortes assembled again, when Espartero appeared for a moment. He was reminded by Señor Assensio and other members of his reiterated protestations to draw his grand sword of Luchana[138] on the first day when the liberty of. the country should be endangered. Espartero called Heaven to witness his unswerving patriotism, and when he left, it was fully expected that he would soon be seen at the head of the insurrection. Instead of this, he went to the house of Gen. Gurrea, where he buried himself in a bomb-proof cellar, à la Palafox, and was heard of no more. The commandants of the militia, who, on the evening before, had employed every means to excite the militiamen to take up arms, now proved as eager to retire to their private houses. At 2½ p.m. Gen. Valdez, who for some hours had usurped the command of the militia, convoked the soldiers under his direct command on the Plaza Mayor, and told them that the man who naturally ought to be at their head would not come forward, and that consequently everybody was at liberty to withdraw. Hereupon the National Guards rushed to their homes and hastened to get rid of their uniforms and hide their arms. Such is the substance of the account furnished by one well-informed authority. Another gives as the reason for this sudden act of submission to the conspiracy, that it was considered that the triumph of the National Guard was likely to entail the ruin of the throne and the absolute preponderance of the Republican Democracy. The Presse of Paris also gives us to understand that Marshal Espartero, seeing the turn given to things in the Congress by the Democrats, did not wish to sacrifice the throne, or launch into the hazards of anarchy and civil war, and in consequence did all he could to produce submission to O'Donnell.

It is true that the details as to the time, circumstances, and break-down of the resistance to the coup d'état, are given differently by different writers; but all agree on the one principal point, that Espartero deserted the Cortes, the Cortes the leaders, the leaders the middle class, and that class the people. This furnishes a new illustration of the character of most of the European struggles of 1848-49, and of those hereafter to take place in the Western portion of that continent. On the one hand there are modern industry and trade, the natural chiefs of which, the middle classes, are averse to the military despotism; on the other hand, when they begin the battle against this same despotism, in step the workmen themselves, the product of the modern organization of labor, to claim their due share of the result of victory. Frightened by the consequences of an alliance thus imposed on their unwilling shoulders, the middle classes shrink back again under the protecting batteries of the hated despotism. This is the secret of the standing armies of Europe, which otherwise will be incomprehensible to the future historian. The middle classes of Europe are thus made to understand that they must either surrender to a political power which they detest, and renounce the advantages of modern industry and trade, and the social relations based upon them, or forego the privileges which the modern organization of the productive powers of society, in its primary phase, has vested in an exclusive class. That this lesson should be taught even from Spain is something equally striking and unexpected.

Written on July 25, 1856
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4775, August 8, 1856 as a leading article;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1170, August 12, 1856
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 779, August 16, 1856 under the title "The Spanish Coup d'État".
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune.


[a] Le Moniteur universel, No. 203, July 21, 1856, "Partie non officielle".—Ed.

[b] Isabella II.—Ed.

[c] Le Moniteur universel, No. 206, July 24, 1856, "Partie non officielle".—Ed.

[d] Mutinies.—Ed.

[e] Napoleon I.—Ed.

[f] Municipal Council.—Ed.

[g] Enrique Jose O'Donnell.—Ed.

[h] Journal des Débats, July 22, 1856, "France".—Ed.

[i] Isabella II.—Ed.

[j] Journal des Mats, July 22, 1856, "France".—Ed.

[k] H. Heine, "Lyrisches Intermezzo".—Ed.

[130] This refers to events in Madrid during the summer of 1856 which ended the fourth bourgeois revolution in Spain (1854-56). In July 1856 the conservative liberal opposition secured the resignation of the Espartero Progresista ministry and the formation of a conservative ministry headed by General O'Donnell. Disturbances organised by the left-democratic forces of the Cortes in Madrid, Barcelona, Saragossa and other town's were brutally suppressed by O'Donnell.

[131] On December 2, 1851 Louis Bonaparte accomplished a coup d'état by dissolving the Legislative Assembly.

[132] Marx is referring to the counter-revolutionary mutiny (pronunciamiento) organised in May 1843 by generals Narváez, Conche and others against the dictatorship of Espartero, leader of the Progresistas. Some of the Progresistas, dissatisfied with the dictator's policy, supported the mutiny. On July 30, 1843, Espartero fled from the country and General Narváez, a leader of the Moderados (see Note 136↓), who found support among the big landowners, became dictator. The reaction set in till the fourth revolution (1854-56).

[133] Ayacuchos—the name given to Espartero's followers during his Regency (1840-43), members of the pro-English military party headed by him. They were so called after the decisive battle at Ayacucho, Peru, on December 9, 1824, during the war of independence of the Spanish colonies in America. The metropolitan troops were led by Espartero and other generals. The battle was won by the insurgent army and put an end to Spain's rule in South America. See also the article "Ayacucho" by Marx and Engels (present edition, Vol. 18, pp. 170-71).

[134] A reference to Anglo-French diplomatic battles round the marriages of Queen Isabella II of Spain and her sister infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda. Their mother Maria Cristina (secretly married to Agustin Fernando Múñoz, a sergeant of the royal guards who later received the title of Duke of Riánsares; hence, Marx calls her Madame Múñoz) made an agreement with King Louis Philippe of France and, as a result, despite the intrigues of English diplomats, in October 1846 Isabella married Don Francisco de Asis of the Spanish Bourbons, and Maria Luisa Fernanda married the Duke of Montpensier,. Louis Philippe's younger son.

[135] A reference is to the second bourgeois revolution in Spain (1820-23). After an abortive attempt to overthrow the constitutional government in Madrid on July 7, 1822, King Ferdinand VII of Spain secretly appealed to the Holy Alliance (see Note 5↓) for help in suppressing the revolution. By decision adopted at the Congress of Verona of the Holy Alliance on October 20, 1822 France was to help Ferdinand. On April 7, 1823 a French expeditionary corps entered Spain and on October 1 the King's absolute power was restored in the country. The French troops stayed in Spain until 1828.

[136] Moderados, a party advocating a constitutional monarchy and representing the interests of the big bourgeoisie and liberal nobility, was organised at the beginning of the bourgeois revolution of 1820-23. In the 1840s and 1850s one of its leaders was General Narváez. The liberal-bourgeois Progresista party was formed in the 1830s. The Progresistas found support among the urban middle and petty bourgeoisie, intellectuals and some officers. Their principal demand was for restriction of the powers of the monarchy.

[137] A reference to the events in Madrid in June-July 1854 which started the fourth bourgeois revolution in Spain (1854-56). In July 1854 the Cabinet reshufflings caused by an uprising in the army and disturbances in the city brought to power the Ministry of the Duke of Rivas (Ryos y Rosas also became its member). It was nicknamed "the shrapnel ministry" for the way it suppressed the uprising. The Ministry's activity led to a new uprising, and the Ministry had to resign.

[138] An allusion to the battle at Luchana bridge on December 25, 1836, during the first Carlist war (1833-40), in which the troops commanded by Espartero won a decisive victory over the Carlists and captured the town of Bilbao. Espartero was made Count of Luchana.

Below Marx alludes to Espartero's speech in Madrid in July 1854, at the beginning of the fourth Spanish revolution (1854-56): "Men of Madrid, you have summoned me to establish for ever the liberties of our land. Here I am; and if the enemies of our most Holy liberty would snatch it from us, with the sword of Luchana I will put myself at your head, at the head of all Spaniards, and will show you the way to glory."

[5] The Holy Alliance—an association of European monarchs founded in September 1815 on the initiative of the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich to suppress revolutionary movements and preserve feudal monarchies in the European countries.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.97-102), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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