Farsi    Arabic    English   

The War Prospect in Europe

Karl Marx

Paris, Jan. 11, 1859

The Emperor of Austria's reply to the strange Happy New-Year sent over to him from Paris on the part of the "Dutch cousin to the battle of Austerlitz," and the virtuous Emmanuel's opening speech addressed to the Sardinian Chambers[130], have by no means contributed to allay the war alarm pervading Europe. On all the centers of the money market the barometer points to "stormy." The King of Naples has all of a sudden grown magnanimous and anti-Russian, setting free batches of political prisoners, exiling Poèrio with his associates, and refusing to Russia a coaling depot in the Adriatic; quarrels with the Tedeschi, and the crusade against the smokers of Government cigars continued at Milan, Lodi, Cremona, Brescia, Bergamo, Parma and Modena, while at Pavia the course of University studies has been suspended by Government order; Garibaldi, summoned to Turin, has been intrusted with the duty of reorganizing the National Guard; a new corps of about 15,000 chasseurs, is forming at Turin, and the fortifications of Casale are pushed forward with the utmost activity. An Austrian army of about 30,000 men, a complete corps d'armée (the 3d), will by this time have marched into the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, and Count Gyulay, a general of the Radetzky school, and a man of Haynau instincts, has already reached Milan to take the reins of power from the hands of the gentle, benevolent, but weak Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian. In France, military movements and counter-movements are the standing order, while the Emperor affects an immense zeal in trying experiments with the new cannon at Vincennes. The Prussian Government, finally, has initiated its new system of liberty by asking the Chambers for money to augment the standing army and the conversion of the Landwehr into an appendage of the line[131]. With such clouds visible on the horizon of Europe, one may feel astonished at the comparatively inconsiderable decline in the quotations of the London Stock Exchange, which generally indicates the pulsations of European society more exactly than the monetary observatories of Paris and the rest of the Continent.

In the first instance, the shrewd observers of the London Stock Exchange were not quite averse to considering Napoleon's New-Year's freak a mere stock-jobbing maneuver on the part of their august ally. In fact, the French securities once sent down, people rushed headlong into Baal's temple to get rid of the public debt, Crédit Mobilier[132], and railway shares for whatever they would fetch. Then part of the speculators for a rise being done for, there followed all at once, on the 6th of January, a slight rally on the Paris Bourse, in consequence of the rumor set afloat to the effect that a Government note in the Moniteur was to take out the sting of "his Majesty's" apostrophe to the Austrian Minister. Such a note, indeed, made its appearance on Friday, Jan. 7; then the funds went up, and a lot of fellows, known to be familiars of the Tuileries, realised on that very Friday extraordinary profits. Thus these gentlemen reimbursed themselves for the expenses of their New-Year's presents, in the cheapest way possible. Now, it seems that a similar conspiracy brewing at London, was baffled not by any uncommon shrewdness on the part of the British monetary mind, but by its secret sway over some of the financial managers of the Elysian menus plaisirs[a]. However, the comparative steadiness of the British securities is principally due to another circumstance less flattering to Louis Napoleon, but more characteristic of the state of Europe. No confessor knows more exactly the vulnerable parts of a fair penitent's heart than do the hard-cash men of Chapel street, Lombard street and Threadneedle street know where the shoe pinches the European potentates. They know that Russia wants a loan of about ten millions sterling; that France, despite the prospective surplus of a budget, always conjugated in the future tense, is badly in want of money; that Austria is looking out for an instalment of at least six or eight millions sterling; that little Sardinia is eager for a loan, not only to undertake a new Italian crusade, but to pay the old debts contracted through the Crimean war; and that altogether bills to the amount of thirty millions sterling must be drawn by the crown-bearers and sword-bearers, upon the English purse, before armies can move, blood be let, and the boisterous voice of cannon roar. Now, to run through all these monetary transactions, two months' respite at least is required; so that, quite apart from military considerations, if there is to be war, it must be delayed until Spring.

Yet it would be a great mistake to rush to the conclusion that by their dependence on the good pleasure of peace-loving capitalists, the war-hounds will certainly be prevented from breaking loose. With the rate of interest ranging hardly at 2½ per cent, with more than forty millions of gold stagnating in the vaults of the Banks of England and France, and with a general distrust in commercial speculation, Satan himself, if he were to open a loan for a new campaign, would, after some prudish delays and a few sanctimonious conferences, succeed in selling his scrip at a premium.

The circumstances which may put off the European war are the very same circumstances which push on to such an issue. After her splendid diplomatic successes in Asia, Russia is anxious to recover her predominance in Europe. In fact, as little Sardinia's throne-speech was revised at Paris, so Bonaparte's (the Little)[133] New-Year's boutade[b] was only the echo of a watchword indicated at St. Petersburg. With France and Sardinia in the leading strings of St. Petersburg, Austria threatened, England insulated and Prussia vacillating, Russian influence would lord it supreme in the case of war, for some time at least. She might keep aloof; weaken France and Austria by internecine contest, and in the end "improve" the difficulties of the latter power, that now stops her way to the South and opposes her Slavonian propaganda. Sooner or later, the Russian Government would have to interfere; its internal troubles might be diverted by a foreign war, and the Imperial power, by success abroad, become enabled to break down the nobiliary opposition at home. But, on the other hand, the financial pressure engendered by the Crimean campaign would be trebled; the nobility, appealed to in such an emergency, would gather new arms of attack and defense; while the peasantry, with promises not yet fulfilled before their eyes, exasperated by new delays, new conscriptions and new taxes, might be driven to violent commotions. As to Austria, she is afraid of war; but, of course, may be forced into it. Bonaparte, in his turn, has very probably arrived at the just conclusion, that now is an occasion for playing his trump card. Aut Caesar aut nihil[c]. The mock glories of the Second Empire are vanishing fast away, and blood is wanted to cement t at monster imposture anew. And in what better character than t at of an Italian liberator, and under what more favorable circumstances than those of England's forced neutrality, Russia's secret support, and Piedmont's confessed vassalage, could he hope ever to succeed? But on the other hand, the Ecclesiastical party in France is violently opposed to the unholy crusade; the middle class reminds him of L'Empire c'est la paix[134]; the very circumstance of England and Prussia being for the present bound to neutral attitudes would transform them into arbiters during the progress of the war; and any defeat on the plains of Lombardy would ring the funeral knell of the Brummagem Empire.

Written on January 11, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5547, January 31, 1859;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1428, February 1, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] Small pleasures, also pocket money.—Ed.

[b] Sally.—Ed.

[c] Either Caesar or nothing—a motto of Cesare Borgia, copied from Caligula's words in Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars.—Ed.

[130] This refers to Napoleon III, the son of Napoleon I's brother Louis Bonaparte who was King of the Netherlands from 1806 to 1810. In calling Napoleon III the "Dutch cousin to the battle of Austerlitz" Marx alludes to the fact that the coup d'état of December 2, 1851 took place on the anniversary of the battle of Austerlitz (December 2, 1805) in which Napoleon I routed the allied armies of Russia and Austria.

In his speech at the opening of the Sardinian Parliament on January 10, 1859 Victor Emmanuel 11 said that "Sardinia respects treaties, but is not insensible to Italy's cry of anguish".

[131] The reference is to the "liberal" course proclaimed by William, Prince of Prussia (King of Prussia from 1861), in October 1858, when he took up the regency; in the bourgeois press this course was described as a "new era". Actually he did not carry out a single reform expected by the bourgeoisie, but in 1860 a previously prepared military reform was effected abolishing the democratism remaining in the Prussian army since the national liberation war against Napoleon I in 1813-15. This reform stipulated that henceforth the Landwehr would be used only for garrison duties and considerably increased the strength of the army in peacetime.

[132] 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.

[133] Louis Bonaparte was nicknamed "the Little" by Victor Hugo in a speech in the Legislative Assembly in November 1851; the nickname became popular after the publication of Hugo's pamphlet Napoléon le Petit (1852).

[134] An allusion to Louis Bonaparte's words spoken in Bordeaux on October 9, 1852, shortly before the plebiscite and the proclamation of the Second Empire. In an effort to win the people's sympathy he declared demagogically: "L'Empire c'est la paix" ("The Empire is peace").

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.154-157), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1108en.html