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[Revolution in Spain]

Karl Marx

Saragossa surrendered on August 1, at 1:30 p.m., and thus vanished the last center of resistance to the Spanish counter-revolution. There was, in a military point of view, little chance of success after the defeats at Madrid and Barcelona, the feebleness of the insurrectionary diversion in Andalusia, and the converging advance of overwhelming forces from the Basque provinces, Navarre, Catalonia, Valencia and Castile. Whatever chance there might be was paralyzed by the circumstance that it was Espartero's old aide-de-camp, General Falcon, who directed the forces of resistance; that "Espartero and Liberty" was given as the battlecry; and that the population of Saragossa had become aware of Espartero's incommensurably ridiculous fiasco at Madrid[139]. Besides, there were direct orders from Espartero's headquarters to his bottle-holders at Saragossa, that they were to put an end to all resistance, as will be seen from the following extract from the Journal de Madrid of July 29:

"One of the Esparterist ex-Ministers took part in the negotiations going on between General Dulce and the authorities of Saragossa, and the Esparterist member of the Cortes, Juan Martinez Alonso, accepted the mission of informing the insurgent leaders that the Queen[a], her Ministers and her generals, were animated by a most conciliatory spirit."[b]

The revolutionary movement was pretty generally spread over the whole of Spain. Madrid and La Mancha in Castile; Granada, Seville, Malaga, Cadiz, Jaen, etc., in Andalusia; Murcia and Cartagena in Murcia; Valencia, Alicante, Alzira, etc., in Valencia; Barcelona, Reus, Figueras, Gerona, in Catalonia; Saragossa, Teruel, Huesca, Jaca, etc., in Aragon; Oviedo in Asturias; and Coruna in Galicia. There were no moves in Estremadura, Leon and old Castile, where the revolutionary party had been put down two months ago, under the joint auspices of Espartero and O'Donnell—the Basque provinces and Navarre also remaining quiet. The sympathies of the latter provinces, however, were with the revolutionary cause, although they might not manifest themselves in sight of the French army of observation. This is the more remarkable if it be considered that twenty years ago these very provinces formed the stronghold of Carlism[140]—then backed by the peasantry of Aragon and Catalonia, but who, this time, were most passionately siding with the revolution; and who would have proved a most formidable element of resistance, had not the imbecility of the leaders at Barcelona and Saragossa prevented their energies from being turned to account. Even The London Morning Herald the orthodox champion of Protestantism, which broke lances for the Quixote of the auto-da-fe, Don Carlos, some twenty years ago, has stumbled over that fact, which it is fair enough to acknowledge. This is one of the many symptoms of progress revealed by the last revolution in Spain, a progress the slowness of which will astonish only those not acquainted with the peculiar customs and manners of a country, where "a la mañana"[c] is the watchword of every day's life, and where everybody is ready to tell you that "our forefathers needed eight hundred years to drive out the Moors."

Notwithstanding the general spread of pronunciamientos[d], the revolution in Spain was limited only to Madrid and Barcelona. In the south it was broken by the cholera morbus[e], in the north by the Espartero murrain. From a military point of view, the insurrections at Madrid and Barcelona offer few interesting and scarcely any novel features. On the one side—the army—everything was prepared beforehand; on the other everything was extemporized; the offensive never for a moment changed sides. On the one hand, a well-equipped army, moving easily in the strings of its commanding generals; on the other, leaders reluctantly pushed forward by the impetus of an imperfectly-armed people. At Madrid the revolutionists from the outset committed the mistake of blocking themselves up in the internal parts of the town, on the line connecting the eastern and western extremities—extremities commanded by O'Donnell and Concha, who communicated with each other and the cavalry of Dulce through the external boulevards. Thus the people were cutting off and exposing themselves to the concentric attack preconcerted by O'Donnell and his accomplices. O'Donnell and Concha had only to effect their junction and the revolutionary forces . were dispersed into the north and south quarters of the town, and deprived of all further cohesion. It was a distinct feature of the Madrid insurrection that barricades were used sparingly and only at prominent street corners, while the houses were made the centers of resistance; and—what is unheard of in street warfare—bayonet attacks met the assailing columns of the army. But, if the insurgents profited by the experience of the Paris and Dresden insurrections,[141] the soldiers had learned no less by them. The walls of the houses were broken through one by one, and the insurgents were taken in the flank and rear, while the exits into the streets were swept by cannon-shot. Another distinguished feature in this battle of Madrid was that Pucheta, after the junction of Concha and O'Donnell, when he was pushed into the southern (Toledo) quarter of the town, transplanted the guerrilla warfare from the mountains of Spain into the streets of Madrid. The insurrection, dispersed, faced about under some arch of a church, in some narrow lane, on the staircase of a house, and there defended itself to the death.

At Barcelona the fighting was still more intense, there being no leadership at all. Militarily, this insurrection, like all previous risings in Barcelona, perished by the fact of the citadel, Fort Montjuick, remaining in the hands of the army. The violence of the struggle is characterized by the burning of 150 soldiers in their barracks at Gracia, a suburb which the insurgents hotly contested, after being already dislodged from Barcelona. It deserves mention that, while at Madrid, as we have shown in a previous article[f], the proletarians were betrayed and deserted by the bourgeoisie, the weavers of Barcelona declared at the very outset that they would have nothing to do with a movement set on foot by Esparterists, and insisted on the declaration of the Republic. This being refused, they, with the exception of some who could not resist the smell of powder, remained passive spectators of the battle, which was thus lost—all insurrections at Barcelona being decided by its 20,000 weavers.

The Spanish revolution of 1856 is distinguished from all its predecessors by the loss of all dynastic character. It is known that the movement from 1808 to 1814[g] was national and dynastic[142]. Although the Cortes in 1812[h] proclaimed an almost republican Constitution, they did it in the name of Ferdinand VII. The movement of 1820-23[143], timidly republican, was. altogether premature and had against it the masses to whose support it appealed, those masses being bound altogether to the Church and the Crown. So deeply rooted was royalty in Spain, that the struggle between old and modern society, to become serious, needed a testament of Ferdinand VII, and the incarnation of the antagonistic principles in two dynastic branches, the Carlist and Cristina ones. Even to combat for a new principle the Spaniard wanted a time-honored standard. Under these banners the struggle was fought out, from 1833[i] to 1843. Then there was an end of revolution, and the new dynasty was allowed its trial from 1843 to 1854. In the revolution of July, 1854, there was thus necessarily implied an attack on the new dynasty; but innocent Isabel was covered by the hatred concentrated on her mother[j], and the people reveled not only in their own emancipation but also in that of Isabel from her mother and the camarilla.

In 1856 the cloak had fallen and Isabel herself confronted the people by the coup d'état that fomented the revolution. She proved the worthy, coolly cruel, and cowardly hypocrite (laughter of Ferdinand Vll, who was so much given to lying that notwithstanding his bigotry lie could never convince himself, even with the aid of the Holy Inquisition, that such exalted personages as Jesus Christ and his Apostles had spoken truth. Even Murat's massacre of the Madrileños in 1808[144] dwindles into an insignificant riot by the side of the butcheries of the 14-16th July, smiled upon by the innocent Isabel[k]. Those days sounded the death-knell of royalty in Spain. There are only the imbecile legitimists of Europe imagining that Isabel having fallen, Don Carlos may rise. They are forever thinking that when the last manifestation of a principle dies away, it is only to give its primitive manifestation another turn.

In 1856, the Spanish revolution has lost not only its dynastic, but also its military character. Why the army played such a prominent part in Spanish revolutions, may be told in a very few words. The old institution of the Captain-Generalships, which made the captains the pashas of their respective provinces[145]; the war of independence against France, which not only made the army the principal instrument of national defense, but also the first revolutionary organization and the center of revolutionary action in Spain; the conspiracies of 1814-19[l], all emanating from the army; the dynastic war of 1833-40[m],) depending on the armies of both sides[146]; the isolation of the liberal bourgeoisie forcing them to employ the bayonets of the army against clergy and peasantry in the country; the necessity for Cristina and the camarilla to employ bayonets against the Liberals, as the Liberals had employed bayonets against the peasants; the tradition growing out of all these precedents; these were the causes which impressed on revolution in Spain a military, and on the army a pretorian character. Till 1854, revolution always originated with the army, and its different manifestations up to that time offered no external sign of difference beyond the grade in the army whence they originated. Even in 1854 the first impulse still proceeded from the army, but there is the Manzanares manifesto[n] of O'Donnell[147] to attest how slender the base of the military preponderance in the Spanish revolution had become. Under what conditions was O'Donnell finally allowed to stay his scarcely equivocal promenade from Vicálvaro to the Portuguese frontiers, and to bring back the army to Madrid? Only on the promise to immediately reduce it, to replace it by the National Guard, and not to allow the fruits of the revolution, to be shared by the generals. If the revolution of 1854 confined itself thus to the expression of its distrust, only two years later, it finds itself openly and directly attacked by that army—an army that has now worthily entered the lists by the side of the Croats of Radetzky, the Africans of Bonaparte, and the Pomeranians of Wrangel[148]. How far the glories of its new position are appreciated by the Spanish army, is proved by the rebellion of a regiment at Madrid, on the 29th of July, which, not being satisfied with the mere cigarros of Isabel, struck for the five franc pieces, and sausages of Bonaparte[149], and got them, too.

This time, then, the army has been all against the people, or, indeed, it has only fought against them, and the National Guards. In short, there is an end of the revolutionary mission of the Spanish army. The man in whom centered the military, the dynastic, and the bourgeois liberal character of the Spanish revolution—Espartero—has now sunk even lower than the common law of fate would have enabled his most intimate connoisseurs to anticipate. If, as is generally rumored, and is very probable, the Esparterists are about to rally under O'Donnell, they will have confirmed their suicide by an official act of their own. They will not save him.

The next European revolution will find Spain matured for cooperation with it. The years 1854 and 1856 were phases of transition she had to pass through to arrive at that maturity.

Written in early August 1856
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4783, August 18, 1856 as a leading article;
Reprinted in the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 780, August 23, 1856 under the title "The Spanish Revolution Closed".
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune.


[a] Isabella II.—Ed.

[b] Quoted from The Leader, No. 333, August 9, 1856.—Ed.

[c] Let's do it tomorrow.—Ed.

[d] Mutinies.—Ed.

[e] Epidemic of cholera.—Ed.

[f] See this volume, pp. 100-02.—Ed.

[g] The New-York Daily Tribune has mistakenly "from 1804 to 1815".—Ed.

[h] The NYDT has mistakenly "1824".—Ed.

[i] The NYDT has mistakenly "1831".—Ed.

[j] Maria Cristina.—Ed.

[k] See this volume, pp. 97-102.—Ed.

[l] The New-York Daily Tribune has mistakenly "1815-18".—Ed.

[m] The NYDT has mistakenly "1831-41".—Ed.

[n] Published in the Journal des Débats, July 17, 1854.—Ed.

[139] This refers to Espartero's resignation in July 1856. O'Donnell, Espartero's opponent in the government, succeeded in rallying all reactionary elements in the country, the Court and the Catholic clergy included, due to Espartero's irresolution and half-way policy. Behind Espartero's back he contacted Queen Isabella who was interested in suppressing the peasant movement which swept Spain in the spring and summer of 1856.

Unable to settle the differences in his government, Espartero chose Isabella as his arbiter. On July 13, 1856 he requested her to help him make peace between two members of the government: the radical Escosura and O'Donnell. Considering them both of great use in the government, Espartero declared that he would leave his post if one of them resigned. Therefore, when the -Queen consented to Escosura's resignation, Espartero was forced to keep his promise.

On July 14, O'Donnell was appointed Prime Minister. Espartero gave up his struggle and did not head the democratic left wing of the Cortes which adopted a resolution against the new cabinet and called on the national militia and the people of Madrid to rebel.

[140] Carlism, Carlists—a reactionary clerico-absolutist group in Spain consisting of adherents of the pretender to the Spanish throne Don Carlos, the brother of Ferdinand VII. Relying on the military and the Catholic clergy, and also making use of the support of the backward peasants in some regions of Spain, the Carlists launched in 1833 a civil war, which in fact turned into a struggle between the feudal-Catholic and liberal-bourgeois elements and led to the third bourgeois revolution (1834-43).

[141] Marx is referring to the uprising of the Paris proletariat against the bourgeois regime of the Second Republic (June 23-26, 1848) and to an armed uprising which took place in Dresden on May 3-9, 1849.

[142] A reference to the war of independence of the Spanish people against France (1808-14) which combined with the first bourgeois revolution in Spain. At the beginning of 1808, Napoleon I's troops entered Spain. The people answered with an uprising. Charles IV was forced to abdicate in favour of his son Ferdinand VII. Napoleon I, however, made Ferdinand VII give up his rights and proclaimed his brother Joseph King of Spain. Ferdinand VII was sent to France. A guerrilla war flared up and the organs of revolutionary power were set up. In 1810 the Cortes introduced a series of liberal reforms and in 1812 adopted the so-called Cadiz Constitution. This restricted the King's powers, and transferred legislative power to the one-chamber Cortes elected by universal suffrage. When the French troops were driven out of Spain, Ferdinand VII returned to Madrid. He refused to recognise the Constitution and restored the reactionary absolutist system.

[143] A reference to the second bourgeois revolution in Spain (1820-23) which started on January 1, 1820 with a mutiny in the army directed by Rafael del Riego. It soon grew into a popular movement that swept the country. The revolution aimed at abolishing feudal relations in Spain. The Constitution of 1812 (see Note 142↑) which was abrogated in 1814 was reinstated. Some moderate reforms were adopted to liquidate the legal and administrative remnants of feudalism. However, an agrarian reform was not carried through, and this made the peasants withdraw from the revolution thereby facilitating its defeat. The revolution was suppressed by the Holy Alliance in October 1823 (see Note 135↓).

[144] On May 2, 1808 a popular uprising against the French interventionists flared up in Madrid. It was brutally suppressed by the commander-in-chief of the French army in Spain, Murat.

[145] In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Spain and her colonies were divided into 17 military districts directed by captain-generals (hence the name Captain-Generalships). As viceroys, they possessed supreme power, both civil and military.

[146] Marx is referring to the period of feudal absolutist reaction which set in after Ferdinand VII's return from France to Spain in March 1814. These years were characterised by numerous army conspiracies, and by the impotence and instability of the Spanish Government. From 1814 to 1819, 24 ministries succeeded one another.
For the dynastic war of 1833-40 see Note 140↑.

[147] A reference to the proclamation issued by generals O'Donnell and Dulce on July 1, 1854 after the mutiny of the Madrid garrison on June 28 with the aim of overthrowing San Luis' ministry and seizing power. On July 7 in Manzanares, La Mancha, the proclamation, known as the Manzanares programme was adopted. It envisaged the preservation of the monarchy, but the removal of the Court camarilla, the observance of the laws, formation of a national militia and other points. By adopting this programme O'Donnell and his followers sought to win the support of the masses.

[148] "The Groats of Radetzky"—a reference to the Croatian border regiments stationed in the Military Border Area, a special militarily organised region of the Austrian Empire along the frontier with Turkey. They were used by the Austrian command to suppress the national liberation movements in the provinces, in Northern Italy in particular.

By the "Africans of Bonaparte" Marx means the Zouaves—French colonial troops first formed in 1830. Originally they were composed of Algerians and French colonists and later of Frenchmen only, while Algerians were formed into special - regiments of riflemen. They were notorious for their atrocities during the colonial wars in Algeria.

In November 1848 the troops commanded by Wrangel took part in the counter-revolutionary coup in Berlin and in the dissolution of the Prussian National Assembly. The troops included many men from Pomerania, Wrangel's homeland.

[149] An allusion to the methods employed by Louis Bonaparte to win supporters while preparing the coup d'état of December 2, 1851. At the receptions and military reviews he held as President of the Republic at Satory and elsewhere, army officers and men were treated to sausages, cold meat and champagne (see Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 150, 151, 179 and 180).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.103-108), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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