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[Political Parties in England.
—Situation in Europe]

Karl Marx

England offers at this moment the curious spectacle of dissolution appearing at the summit of the State, while at the base of society all seems immovable. There is no audible agitation among the masses, but there is a visible change among their rulers. Shall we believe that the upper strata are liquefying, while the lower remain in the same dull solidity? We are, of course, not alluding to the cynical attempts of Palmerston and his compeers to "loot" the Treasury[563]. The battles between the exiles and their proscribers form no more a standing feature in the medieval annals of Italian towns than the conflicts between the Ins and Outs in the Parliamentary history of England. But now we have the Tory leader in the House of Commons winding up a speech with the ominous declaration that

"There is one bond of union between us [the Radicals and the Tories] in this House and in this country; and that is, that we shall not any longer be the tools or the victims of an obsolete oligarchy!"[a]

There is the House of Lords passing one point of the People's Charter—the abolition of the property qualification for the members of the Commons[564]; there is Lord Grey, the descendant of the Whig Reformer[b], warning his noble compeers that they are drifting to "a total revolution in the whole system of their Government and in the character of their Constitution;"[c] there is the Duke of Rutland frightened out of his senses by the vista of having to swallow "the whole hog of the five points of the Charter, and something more[d]." And then The London Times in sinister accents one day cautions the middle classes that Disraeli and Bulwer wish them no good, and, in order to master them, may ally themselves with the vile multitude[e]; and then, the very next day, it warns the landed aristocracy that they are to be swamped by the shopocracy, to be enthroned through Locke King's bill, which has just passed through its second reading in the Lower House, for the extension of the elective franchise to the £10 occupiers in the counties.[f]

The fact is that the two ruling oligarchic parties of England were long ago transformed into mere factions, without any distinctive principles. Having in vain tried first a coalition and then a dictatorship, they are now arrived at the point where each of them can only think of obtaining a respite of life by betraying their common interest into the hands of their common foe, the radical middle-class party, who are powerfully represented in the Commons by John Bright. Till now, the Tories have been aristocrats ruling in the name of the aristocracy, and the Whigs aristocrats ruling in the name of the middle class; but the middle class having assumed to rule in their own name, the business of the Whigs is gone. In order to keep the Whigs out of office, the Tories will yield to the encroachments of the middle-class party until they have worried out Whig patience and convinced these oligarchs that, in order to save the interests of their order, they must merge in the conservative ranks and forsake their traditionary pretensions to represent the liberal interest or form a power of their own. Absorption of the Whig faction into the Tory faction, and their common metamorphosis into the party of the aristocracy, as opposed to the new middle-class party, acting under its own chiefs, under its own banners, with its own watchwords—such is the consummation we are now witnessing in England.

If we consider this state of internal affairs in England, and couple with it the fact that the Indian war will continue to drain her of men and money, we may feel sure that she will be disabled from clogging, as she did in 1848, the European Revolution that draws visibly nearer. There is another great power which, ten years ago, most powerfully checked the revolutionary current. We mean Russia. This time, combustible matter has accumulated under her own feet, which a strong blast from the West may suddenly set on fire. The symptoms of a servile war are so visible in the interior of Russia, that the Provincial Governors feel themselves unable otherwise to account for the unwonted fermentation than by charging Austria with propagating through secret emissaries Socialist and revolutionary doctrines all over the land. Think only of Austria being not only suspected but publicly accused of acting as the emissary of revolution! The Galician massacres[565] have, indeed, fully proved to the world that the Cabinet of Vienna knows, in case of need, how to teach serfs a socialism of its own. Austria, however, angrily retorts the charge, by the statement that her eastern provinces are overrun and poisoned through Russian Panslavist agents, while her Italian subjects are wrought upon by the combined intrigues of Bonaparte and the Czar[g]. Prussia, finally, is keenly awake to the dangers of the situation; but she is bound hand and foot, and interdicted from moving in any direction. The royal power is, in fact, broken by the insanity of the King[h], and the want of full powers on the part of the Regent[i]. The strife between the camarilla of the King, who refuses to resign, and the camarilla of the Prince, who dares not to reign, has opened a floodgate for the popular torrent.

Everything, then, depends upon France, and there the commercial and agricultural distress, financial coup d'état, and the substitution of the rule of the army for rule by the army, are hastening the explosion. Even the French press at length admits that all hopes of a return of prosperity must be abandoned for the present. "We believe that it would be foolish to tantalize the public with the chimerical hope of an immediate reaction," says the Constitutionnel[j]. "The stagnation continues, and in spite of the existing favorable elements, we must not expect any immediate modification," says the Patrie.

The Union and the Univers re-echo these complaints[k]. "It is generally admitted that there has not been more commercial distress experienced in Paris since the Revolution of 1848 than at the present moment," says the Paris correspondent of The London Times[l]; and the shares of the Crédit Mobilier[566], have sunk down to something like 550 frs., that is, below the nominal price at which they were sold to the general public. On the other hand, the emptiness of the Imperial exchequer forces Napoleon to insist on his plan of confiscation[m]. "The only thing to be asked is," says a clerical paper appearing at Anjou, "whether or not property is to be respected." Property indeed! The only thing to be asked at this moment, answers Bonaparte, is how to make sure of the army? and he solves this question in his habitual way. The whole army is to be bought anew. He has ordered a general increase of its wages[n]. Meanwhile England is alarmed and Austria in terror. On all hands, war is believed to be imminent. Louis Napoleon has no other means of escaping speedy destruction. The beginning of the end is at hand.

Written on June 11, 1858
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5359, June 24, 1858 as a leading article
Reprinted unsigned in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1365, June 25, 1858 under the title "The European Revolution"
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] B. Disraeli's speech in the House of Commons on May 31, 1858, The Times, No. 23008, June 1, 1858.—Ed.

[b] Charles Grey.—Ed.

[c] H. G. Grey's speech in the House of Lords on June 10, 1858, The Times, No. 23017, June 11, 1858.—Ed.

[d] Ch. C. J. Rutland's speech in the House of Lords on June 10, 1858, The Times, No. 23017, June 11, 1858.—Ed.

[e] "In those sad days of Ireland's history...," The Times, No. 23016, June 10, 1858.—Ed.

[f] "There was a time within the memory...", The Times, No. 23017, June 11, 1858.—Ed.

[g] Alexander II.—Ed.

[h] Frederick William IV.—Ed.

[i] William, Prince of Prussia.—Ed.

[j] "Bulletin hebdornadaire de la Bourse de Paris", Le Constitutionnel, No. 158, June 7, 1858.—Ed.

[k] "Paris, Monday, June 7, 6 p.m.", The Times, No. 23015, June 9, 1858.—Ed.

[l] The Times, No. 23014, June 8, 1858.—Ed.

[m] See this volume, pp. 550-52.—Ed.

[n] Napoléon III, "Loi relative à la création d'une dotation de l'armée, an rengagement, au remplacement et aux pensions militaires".—Ed.

[563] An allusion to the fact that Britain's Prime Minister was also First Lord of the Treasury.

[564] The People's Charter, which contained the demands of the Chartists., was published in the form of a Parliamentary Bill on May 8, 1838. It contained six points: universal suffrage (for men of 21 and over), annual parliaments, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, abolition of the property qualification of MPs and payment for MPs. Petitions urging the adoption of the People's Charter were turned down by Parliament in 1839, 1842 and 1848.

The property qualification of MPs was abolished by Parliament in 1858.

[565] The reference is to the policy of the Austrian ruling circles during a big peasant uprising in Galicia in February and March 1846 which coincided with the Cracow national liberation uprising. Taking advantage of class and national contradictions, the Austrian authorities provoked clashes between the insurgent Galician peasants and the Polish lesser nobility (szlachta) who were trying to come - to the assistance of Cracow. The peasant uprising began with the disarming of the insurgent szlachta detachments and grew into a mass sacking of landowners' estates. After dealing with the insurgent szlachta, the Austrian Government also suppressed the peasant uprising in Galicia.

[566] The Crédit Mobilier is short for the Société générale du Crédit Mobilier—a French joint-stock bank founded in 1852 by the Péreire brothers. The bank was closely connected with the Government of Napoleon III and, protected by it, engaged in speculation. It went bankrupt in 1867 and was liquidated in 1871.

The first article on Crédit Mobilier was published by Marx in The People's Paper without any indication that it was "to be continued". The editors of the New-York Daily Tribune who published the subsequent articles on the subject printed them as a series and defined them by ordinal numbers.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.566-569), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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