THE WAR QUESTION IN EUROPE
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
Though the arrival of the Nashville puts us in possession of no decisive news from the seat of war, it puts us in possession of a fact of great significance in the present state of affairs. This is that now, at the eleventh hour, when the Russian Embassadors[a] at Paris and London have left, when the British and French Embassadors[b] at St. Petersburg are recalled, when the naval and military strength of France and England is being already concentrated for immediate action at this very last moment, the two Western Governments are making fresh proposals to negotiate by which they concede almost everything that Russia wants. It will be remembered that the main point claimed by Russia was her right of settling directly with the Porte, and without the interference of the other Powers, a quarrel which, it was pretended, concerned Russia and Turkey only. This point has now been conceded to Russia. The proposals are contained in the letter of Napoleon[c], which we copy in another place, and are to the effect that Russia shall treat with Turkey direct, while the treaty to be concluded between the two parties shall be guaranteed by the four Powers. This guarantee is a drawback upon the concession, as it gives the Western Powers a ready pretext to interfere in any future quarrel of the kind. But it does not make matters worse for Russia than they are now, when the Emperor Nicholas must see that any attempt of his at a dismemberment of Turkey cannot be carried out without the risk of a war with England and France. And then, the actual gain to Russia will depend upon the nature of the treaty which is not yet concluded; and Russia, having seen in how cowardly a manner the Western Powers now shrink from the necessity of war, will but have to keep her armies concentrated, and to continue her system of intimidation in order to gain every point during the negotiations. Besides, Russian diplomacy need hardly be afraid of a contest with those egregious Embassadors who manufactured the famous blundering first Vienna note.
Whether, however, the Czar will accept this proposal, or trust to his army, remains to be seen. He cannot afford to go through such armaments and dislocations of troops over his vast Empire once in every five years. The preparations have been made on such a scale that a very great material gain only can repay their cost. The Russian population is thoroughly roused to warlike enthusiasm. We have seen a copy of a letter from a Russian merchant not one of the many German, English, or French traders, who have settled in Moscow but a real old Muscovite, a genuine son of Sviataia Russ[d], who holds some goods on consignment for English account, and had been asked whether in case of war these goods would run the risk of confiscation. The old Russ, quite indignant at the imputation thus cast upon his Government, and perfectly well acquainted with the official phraseology, according to which Russia is the great champion of "order, property, family, and religion," in contrast to the revolutionary and socialist countries of the West, retorts that
"Here in Russia, God be praised, the distinction between mine and thine is yet in full force, and your property here is as safe as anywhere. I would even advise you to send over as much of your property as you can, for it will perhaps be safer here than where it is now. As to lour countrymen, you may perhaps have reason to fear, as to your property, not at all."
In the meantime, the armaments prepared in England and France are upon a most extensive scale. The French ocean squadron has been ordered from Brest to Toulon in order to transport troops to the Levant. Forty or sixty thousand, according to different statements, are to be sent, a large portion of them to be drafted from the African army; the expedition will be very strong in riflemen, and be commanded either by Baraguay d'Hilliers or by St. Arnaud. The British Government will send about 18,000 men (22 regiments of 850 each) and at the date of our last advices[e], a portion of them had already embarked for Malta, where the general rendezvous is to be. The infantry go in steamers, and sailing vessels are employed for the conveyance of cavalry. The Baltic fleet, which is to be concentrated off Sheerness, in the Thames, by the 6th of March, will consist of fifteen ships of the line, eight frigates, and seventeen smaller vessels. It is the largest fleet the British have got together since the last war; and as one half of it will consist of paddle or screw steamers, and as the rating and weight of metal is at present about 50 per cent. higher than fifty years ago, this Baltic fleet may prove to be the strongest armament ever turned out by any country. Sir Charles Napier is to command it; if there is to be war, he is the man to bring his guns to bear at once upon the decisive point.
On the Danube, the battle of Chetatea[f] has evidently had the effect of delaying the Russian attack upon Kalafat. The Russians have been convinced by that five days' struggle that it will be no easy matter to take an intrenched camp which can send out such sallies. It seems that even the positive command of the Autocrat himself is not sufficient, after such a foretaste, to drive his troops to a rash attempt. The presence of Gen. Schilder, Chief of the Engineers, who was sent from Warsaw on purpose, seems even to have had a result contrary to the Imperial order, for instead of hurrying on the attack, an inspection of the fortifications from a distance was sufficient to convince him that more troops and more heavy guns were needed than could at once be brought up. Accordingly the Russians have been concentrating whatever forces they could around Kalafat, and bringing up their siege guns, of which, it seems, they brought seventy-two into Wallachia. The London Times estimates their forces at 65,000 men, which is rather high, if we consider the strength of the whole Russian army in the Principalities[g]. This army now consists of six divisions of infantry, three divisions of cavalry, and about three hundred field-guns, besides Cossacks, riflemen, and other special corps, of a total nominal strength before the beginning of the war, of 120,000 men. Assuming their losses, by sickness and on the battle-field, to be 30,000 men, there remain about 90,000 combatants. Of these, at least 35,000 are required to guard the line of the Danube, to garrison the principal towns, and to maintain the communications. There would remain, then, at the very outside, 55,000 men for an attack upon Kalafat.
Now look at the respective positions of the two armies. The Russians neglecting the whole line of the Danube, disregarding the position of Omer Pasha at Shumla, direct their main body, and even their heavy artillery, to a point on their extreme right where they are further from Bucharest, their immediate base of operations, than the Turks are. Their rear is therefore as much exposed as it possibly can be. What is worse still is that, in order to get some slight protection for their rear, they are obliged to divide their forces, and to appear before Kalafat with a force which by no means has that evident superiority which, by insuring success, might justify such a maneuver. They leave from thirty to forty per cent of their army scattered behind the main body, and these troops are certainly not capable of repelling a resolute attack. Thus, neither is the conquest of Kalafat assured, nor the communications of the besieging army placed out of the reach of danger. The blunder is so evident, so colossal, that nothing short of absolute certainty of the fact can make a military man believe that it has been committed.
If Omer Pasha, who still has a superior force disposable, passes the Danube at any point between Rustchuk and Hirsova, with say seventy thousand men, the Russian army must either be annihilated to the last man or take refuge in Austria. He has had a full month for concentrating such a mass. Why does he not cross a river which is now no longer obstructed by floating ice? Why does he not even retake his tête-de-pont at Oltenitza, in order to be able to move at any moment? That Omer Pasha is ignorant of the chances the Russians have given him by their unheard-of blunder is impossible. He must, it would seem, be tied by diplomatic action. His inactivity must be intended to form an offset against the naval promenade of the combined fleets in the Black Sea. The Russian army must not be annihilated or driven to take refuge in Austria, because then peace would be endangered by fresh complications. And in order to suit the intrigues and the sham-action of diplomatic jobbers, Omer Pasha must allow the Russians to bombard Kalafat, to place their whole army, all their siege artillery at his mercy, without his being allowed to profit by the occasion. It would indeed seem that if the Russian commander[h] had not had a material, positive guarantee that his flanks and rear would not be attacked, he would never have attempted to march upon Kalafat. Otherwise, in spite of all stringent instructions, he would deserve to be tried at the drum-head and shot. And unless, by the steamer now due here, or at furthest within a few days, we hear that Omer Pasha has crossed the Danube and marched upon Bucharest, it will be scarcely possible to avoid the conclusion that a formal agreement of the Western Powers has been made to the effect that in order to satisfy the military point of honor of Russia, Kalafat is to be sacrificed without the Turks being allowed to defend it by the only way it can be effectually defended by an offensive movement lower down the Danube.
Written on February 13-14, 1854
Reproduced from the newspaper
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4019, March 6, 1854 as a leader
N. D. Kiselyev and F. I. Brunnow.—Ed.
G. H. Seymour and Castelbajac.—Ed.
Letter of Napoleon III to Nicholas I dated January 29, 1854. Le Moniteur universel, No. 43, February 14, 1854.—Ed.
i.e. February 10, 1854, when Marx's article "Russian Diplomacy.—Blue Book on the Eastern Question.—Montenegro" (see present edition, Vol. 12) was sent off.—Ed.
See present edition, Vol. 12, pp. 579-82.—Ed.
Moldavia and Wallachia.—Ed.
M. D. Gorchakov.—Ed.
When determining the authorship and the date of writing of the majority of the articles by Marx and Engels published in the New-York Tribune between February 13, 1854 and February 6, 1855 (which make up the bulk of this volume), great use was made of Marx's Notebook for 1850-54 and the letters of Marx and Engels to each other and to third persons. Important additional information was also obtained from the study of sources used by Marx and Engels for their reports, the schedules of transatlantic ships, and other indirect data.
Marx's wife, Jenny, and sometimes Marx himself entered in the Notebook the dates on which the articles were sent from London to New York—usually on Tuesdays and Fridays. This was necessary for the accounts with the Tribune and was done in the form of lists, each with its own numbering. There are eight lists in all for the period covered by this volume, and each includes eight to fourteen articles. Unfortunately, such entries were only made up to December 22, 1854 and there are none for the next two years (1855 and 1856). Apart from the dates, these entries often contained summaries of the articles. Usually Marx dictated his articles to his wife Jenny or to Wilhelm Pieper (a participant in the 1848-49 revolution and a Communist League member) on the day of their dispatch, and Engels used to write his the day before. Sometimes Marx added to the articles received from Engels the latest information from English and French morning' newspapers on the day of their dispatch to America. From June 1854 Engels was too busy with office work and could write articles only on Saturday and Wednesday evenings. The study of the sources he used suggests that as early as September 1854 he resumed his previous custom of writing the articles on Mondays and Thursdays, on the eve of their dispatch to London.
The editors of the Tribune treated the articles at their discretion, dividing them and publishing the most important items as leaders in their own name. Marx repeatedly protested against such practice but his financial dependence on the newspaper compelled him in the end to comply with the editors' terms. From the middle of 1855 all Marx's and Engels' articles were published unsigned. As a rule, the editors reprinted these articles from the New-York Daily Tribune in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune and the New-York Weekly Tribune, generally using the same matrix. All such instances are indicated in this volume at the end of the articles.
Notes to some articles also indicate instances when they were reprinted in the collection: K. Marx, The Eastern Question. A Reprint of Letters written 1853-1856 dealing with the events of the Crimean War, edited by Eleanor Marx-Aveling and Edward Aveling, London, 1897.
The article "The War Question in Europe" was written by Engels at Marx's request and sent from Manchester to London on February 13. The article started with the words: "In the meantime, the armaments prepared..." (fourth paragraph). On February 14, Marx added to it an analysis of Napoleon III's letter to the Russian Tsar and also some information which he had probably received from Urquhart (see Note 4).
In the Notebook the dispatch of the article was entered as "Dienstag. 14. Februar. Rüstungen". The beginning of the first sentence, "Though the arrival of the Nashville puts us in possession of no decisive news from the seat of war" was inserted by the editors of the Tribune.
Napoleon III's letter (January 29, 1854) was published by the editors in the same issue of the New-York Daily Tribune. They inserted the words "which we copy in another place".
In 1853 and 1854 the Ambassadors of Britain, France and Prussia and the Austrian Foreign Minister Buol held a number of conferences in Vienna. The first, in July 1853, to which the Russian Ambassador was also invited but which he refused to attend, was officially aimed at mediation between Russia and Turkey in view of the worsening relations between them. The words "first Vienna Note" refer to the draft agreement between Russia and Turkey drawn up by Buol and concluded at the end of July 1853. It obliged the Sultan to abide by the Kuchuk-Kainardji (1774) (see Note 17↓) and the Adrianople (1829) (see Note 176↓) treaties on the rights and privileges of the Orthodox Church in the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Sultan Abdul Mejid agreed to sign the Note but demanded a number of changes and reservations, which the Russian Government found unacceptable.
Probably Marx heard about this letter from David Urquhart with whom he had a meeting at the time (see Marx's letter to Engels of February 9, 1854, present edition, Vol. 39).
[5 ]The phrase "by the steamer now due here, or at furthest within a few days" was inserted in Engels' text by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune. They also added the following paragraph at the end of the article: "Our London correspondent in another column intimates his unwillingness to believe in such treachery, but facts are stubborn things, and the mind must at last be affected by their force. After having gone the desperate lengths they have avowedly done to avoid war, it is hard to think of anything they would shrink from." This is an allusion to an article by F. A. Pulszky, who was also a London correspondent of the newspaper at the time and signed his reports "A.P.C.". His article was published on p. 5 of the same issue of the New-York Daily Tribune.
The treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji was concluded between Russia and Turkey on July 21, 1774. Russia got territories on the northern shore of the Black Sea between the South Bug and the Dnieper with the fortress of Kinburn, and also Azov, Kerch and Yenikale and secured recognition of the Crimea's independence. Russian merchantmen were granted the right of free passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The treaty obliged the Sultan to grant a number of privileges to the Orthodox Church; Article 14 in particular provided for the building of an Orthodox Church in Constantinople.
The peace treaty of Adrianople was concluded by Turkey and Russia in September 1829, at the end of the war of 1828-29. Under it Russia obtained the islands in the mouth of the Danube and a considerable part of the eastern coast of the Black Sea south of the Kuban estuary. Turkey was obliged to recognise the autonomy of the Danubian Principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia and grant them the right to elect hospodars (rulers) independently. Russia was to guarantee this autonomy, which was tantamount to establishing a Russian protectorate over the Principalities. The Turkish Government also pledged to guarantee the autonomy of Greece and Serbia.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13
(pp.3-7), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980