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Opening of the Labour Parliament.
English War Budget.[50]

Karl Marx

London, Tuesday, March 7, 1854

The delegates to the Labor Parliament[51] met yesterday at the People's Institution, Manchester, at 10 o'clock in the forenoon. The first sitting was, of course, applied to preliminary business. It was moved by James Williams of Stockport, seconded by James Bligh of London, and supported by Ernest Jones, that Dr. Marx be invited to sit as honorary delegate at the Labor Parliament, which motion was carried unanimously. Similar resolutions were passed with respect to Messrs. Blanc and Nadaud. Whatever may be its immediate results, the mere assembling of such a Parliament marks a new epoch in the history of labor. The meeting at the Palais du Luxembourg at Paris, after the revolution of February[52], might perhaps be considered a precedent in a similar direction, but at first sight there appears this great difference, that the Luxembourg was initiated by the Government, while the Labor Parliament is initiated by the people themselves; that the Luxembourg was invented with a view to removing the Socialist members of the Provisional Government from the center of action and any serious participation in the real business of the country; and lastly, that the delegates to the Luxembourg only consisted of members of the various so-called corps d'états, corporations more or less corresponding to the medieval guilds and the present trades-unions, while the Labor Parliament is a true representation of all branches and divisions of labor on a national scale. The success of the Labor Parliament will principally, if not exclusively, depend on its acting upon the principle that it is not the so-called organization of labor[53], but the organization of the laboring classes they have at present to deal with.

The privileges of the now governing classes, and the slavery of the working classes, are equally based on the existing organization of labor, which, of course, will be defended and maintained on the part of the former by all means in their hands, one of these means being the present State machinery. To alter, then, the existing organization of labor, and to supplant it by a new one, you want power social and political power not only of resisting, but also of attacking; and to acquire that power you want to organize yourselves as an army possessed of that moral and physical strength which will enable it to meet the friendly hosts. If the Labor Parliament allows its time to be absorbed by mere theoretical propositions, instead of preparing the way for the actual formation of a national party, it will prove a failure as the Luxembourg did.

A new election of the Chartist Executive having taken place, according to the statutes of the National Charter Association[54], Ernest Jones, James Finlen (London), and John Shaw (Leeds), were declared duly elected to serve on the Executive of the N.C.A. for the next six months.

As Bonaparte's intention of contracting a loan at the Bourse was frustrated by" the passive resistance of the Paris capitalists, his Minister of Finance[a] has presented to the Senate a Budget containing the following article:

"The Minister of Finance is authorized to create, for the service of the Treasury and the negotiations with the Bank of France, Treasury bonds, bearing interest and payable at fixed periods. The Treasury bonds circulation shall not exceed 250,000,000 francs (10,000,000); but the bonds delivered to the sinking fund are not included within this limit, by virtue of the law of June 10, 1833, nor are the bonds deposited 5 as a guarantee at the Bank of France and the discount establishments."

In an additional clause it is provided that

"the Emperor reserves to himself the right of issuing supplementary emissions by virtue of mere decrees,"

to be registered afterward by the Senate. I am informed by a Paris letter that this proposal has struck with horror the whole of the middle classes, as on the one hand the Treasury bonds shall not exceed the sum of 250,000,000 and on the other exceed that identical sum by whatever amount the Emperor may think fit to decree, the bonds thus issued being not even to be deposed as a guarantee at the Bank of France and the other discount establishments. You know that on the like amount taken from the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations[b] 60,000,000 have been already advanced by the bank on Treasury bonds. The mere appearance of war is eagerly grasped at by the Decembrists[56] to remove the last weak barriers yet standing between themselves and the national treasury. While this prospect of an imminent disorganization of the public credit, already much shaken perplexes the middle classes, the bulk of the people will be exasperated at the proposed increase of the salt tax and similar most unpopular imposts. Thus, this war which is sure to gain for Bonaparte a sort of popularity in foreign countries, may, nevertheless, accelerate his downfall in France.

That I was right in presuming the present Spanish troubles as likely to afford the occasion for serious misunderstandings between France and England[c], one may infer from the following intelligence of a London paper:

"The French Emperor has made inquiries of Lord Clarendon, through Mr. Walewski, whether the British Government would be disposed to aid him in placing the Carlist Pretender to the Crown of Spain[d] upon the throne, in the event of Queen Isabella being dethroned. Lord Clarendon is said to have declared that, happily, Queen Isabella was firmly seated on her throne, and that a revolution was but a remote contingency in a country so devoted to monarchical institutions; but that even if a revolution should break out in Spain and the Queen be dethroned, the British Cabinet must decline to enter into any engagements.

"The Emperor's proposal to place the Comte de Montemolin upon the throne is inspired by his very natural desire to prevent the Duchess of Montpensier[e] from inheriting her sister's diadem; for he thinks it would be inconvenient that he should have for a neighbor a son of Louis Philippe as husband of the Queen of Spain."

In Friday's sitting of the Commons Lord John Russell stated[f] that he was forced to withdraw his Reform bill for the moment, which, however, would be proceeded with on the 27th of April if, in the meantime, in consequence of the new proposal made to the Emperor of Russia[g] being accepted, the Eastern question was settled. It is true that after the publication of the Czar's manifesto to his subjects and his letter addressed to Bonaparte[57], such a settlement has become more improbable than ever before, but, nevertheless, the ministerial declaration proves the Reform bill to have been brought forward only with a view to absorb and appease public opinion in case the coalition diplomacy should succeed in reestablishing the Russian status quo ante bellum[h]. The eminent part taken by Lord Palmerston in his ministerial intrigue is thus described by The Morning Advertiser, one of his most ardent partisans:

"Lord Aberdeen is the nominal, but not the real Prime Minister. Lord Palmerston is practically the first Minister of the Crown. He is the master spirit of the Cabinet. Ever since his return to office, his colleagues have been in constant fear of his again flying off from them at a tangent, and are consequently afraid to thwart any of those views to which he is known to attach importance. He has consequently everything his own way. A striking instance of his Lordship's ascendancy in her Majesty's Councils was afforded last week. The new Reform bill was then brought formally under the consideration of the Cabinet, and the question came to be whether it should be preceded with this session or abandoned. Lord Aberdeen, Lord John Russell, Sir James Graham, and Sir William Molesworth, were for proceeding with the measure. Lord Palmerston proposed that it should be abandoned, and intimated, in plain terms—as we stated some days ago, that he would vote for its abandonment in the House should he be defeated in the Cabinet. The result of the discussion or conversation, which took place, was that Lord Palmerston carried his point. Those opposed to him—among who were the ministerial leader in the Lords and the ministerial leader in the Commons[i] —eventually succumbed. Another triumph of Lord Palmerston, within the last eight days, has been the appointment of Sir Charles Napier to the command of the Baltic fleet. It is no secret that both Lord John Russell and Sir James Graham were opposed to that appointment; but Lord Palmerston was for it and therefore it took place. Nothing, therefore, could be more appropriate than that the noble Lord should this evening occupy the chair at the banquet to be given in the Reform Club to the gallant Admiral."

Mr. Gladstone presented last night to the House a novelty unknown to the present generation—a war budget. It was evident from his speech[j] that the reason why the Government took this early opportunity of submitting his financial measures to the House was that of giving a preliminary record of the most disagreeable effects produced by war on private purses, thus to cool down the warlike energies of the country. Another main feature of his speech was his only asking for the sum which would be required to bring back the 25,000 men about to leave the British shores, should the war now be brought to a close.

He commenced by explaining the actual state of the income and expenditure of the last financial year. This not having yet closed, he observed that one month of the amount of the revenue could be only an estimate. The total estimate of the income of the year on the 18th of April last had been £52,990,000, while the actual receipts of the year had reached to no less a sum than £54,025,000; thus showing an increase in the actual income over the presumed expenditure of £1,035,000. On the other hand there had been a saving in the expenditure beyond the estimate of £1,012,000. He therefore calculated that but for the peculiar circumstances in which the country was at present placed, there would this year be a surplus over the expenditure amounting to £2,854,000.

Mr. Gladstone then adverted to the results of the reductions of duty introduced by him. The receipts of the Custom duties, notwithstanding these reductions, had been £20,600,000 in 1853-54, while in 1852-53 they had only realized £20,396,000, showing an increase in the Custom duties of £204,000. The reduction made in the duty upon tea had produced a loss of only £375,000. The reduction of the Stamp duties from three pence up to ten shillings to one uniform duty of one penny had increased their income, instead of the anticipated loss taking place, to the amount of £36,000.

Mr. Gladstone proceeded, then showing the result of the measures of last Session for the augmentation of the taxes. The collection of the Income tax in Ireland had been delayed by various circumstances, but it would yield £20,000 more than calculated upon. The extension of the tax upon incomes, from £ 150 to £ 100, in Great Britain would produce £ 100,000 beyond this estimate, viz., £250,000. The revenue from the additional duty of one shilling a gallon on spirits in Scotland had produced an increase of only £209,000, he having estimated it at £278,000.

On the other hand, the Spirit duty in Ireland had realized an increase of £213,000, while he had calculated upon an increase of £198,000 only. The operation of the Succession duty on the financial year would produce only half a million. So far the statement of Mr. Gladstone on the finances of Great Britain during the last twelve months, expiring on the 5th April.

The probable estimate of the revenue for the year 1854-55 will be:

Customs£20,175,000 Post-tax1,200,000
Excise14,595,000 Crown lands259,000
Stamps7,090,000 Old stores420,000
Taxes3,015,000 Miscellaneous320,000
Income-tax6,275,000 Total income£53,349,000

The probable estimate of expenditure on the other hand is given as

Funded debt£27,000,000 Commissariat645,000
Unfunded debt546,000 Miscellaneous estim's4,775,000
Consolidated fund2,460,000 Militia530,000
Army6,857,000 Picket service792,000
Navy7,488,000 Eastern service1,250,000
Total expenditure£56,189,000
Causing a deficit of2,840,000

Before adverting to the means by which this deficiency was to be made up, Mr. Gladstone enumerated the measures which Government would not recommend the House to adopt. He should not return to the reimposition of any of those reductions of duties he had proposed last year, which had already acquired the force of law. He would not assent to the reimposition of these taxes unnecessarily which former Governments had released. If, how-ever, the struggle they were now entering upon should be prolonged for a year, it would hardly be in their power to maintain a permanent continuance of those reductions. In general, he would -not propose any addition to indirect taxation. He should not resort to state-loans, there being no country whose means were already so heavily mortgaged as those of England. At length, after all these preambles, Mr. Gladstone came to the announcement what the Government intended to propose. This was to double the Income tax for six months, and to abolish altogether the existing distinction between home-drawn and foreign-drawn bills. The average rate of duty on present bills of exchange, although unequally distributed, was 1/6 per cent.; he proposed to equalize it to 1/ per cent. This change, he calculated, would produce an increase of revenue of £60,000. With regard to the Income tax, the increase would be from /7 to /10½ in the pound on incomes of £150 and upward, and from /5 to /7½ on incomes between £ 00 and £150. Simultaneously he proposed that the House should make a proposition to enable him, before the tax was levied, to issue £1,750,000 Exchequer bills to be paid out of the accruing produce of the Income tax. In conclusion, Mr. Gladstone endeavored, not very successfully, to vindicate his late measures for the reduction of the public debt, measures which resulted, as you know, in a lamentable failure.

In the discussion following upon this statement several members partook, but the only speech worth mentioning was that of Mr. Disraeli[k]. He declared that he should 'make no opposition to any vote which Government, on their own responsibility, thought necessary to submit to the House for the purpose of conducting the impending war with vigor, and he hoped with success. But he protested, in case of the war being prolonged, against direct taxation being exclusively had recourse to for carrying on the war. As to the second part of Mr. Gladstone's statement, that which related to the actual state of the finances of the country, and as to the money in hand, it seemed to him involved in an obscurity which did not become a financial statement, and certainly not one delivered under such circumstances as the present one. The present state of the balance in the Exchequer was not sufficient or satisfactory. When the present Government took office, there had been, on the 3d January, 1853, balances in the Exchequer amounting to £9,000,000, but a year after, in January, 1854, they were reduced by one-half. He estimated that the balances in the Exchequer on April 5th next would be £3,000,000, while the expenditure, consisting of the dividends for the payment of the public creditors and the execution of his conversion scheme would altogether require from £9,000,000 to £10,000,000. The right honorable gentlemen said there was no use of meeting this with balances in the Exchequer, but that he would make up the sum wanted by deficiency bills. He maintained that it was of great importance they should have had at this moment an ample balance but instead of its being a question whether they were to have a balance, or an excess of balances, it was now a question whether they were to have a balance at all, or a large deficiency, and in fact, instead of having any balance, they had an enormous deficiency, which had bees caused in two ways by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. First, by having reduced the interest on Exchequer bills to 1½ per cent. when the value of money was rising, and secondly by his ill-devised conversion of the South Sea stocks[58], a measure which had not only eaten up his balances but left him in a present deficiency of £2,000,000.

Some further remarks of an indifferent character having been made by other members, the Report on Supply was brought up and the resolution agreed to.

Written on March 7, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4035, March 24;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 921, March 24
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 655, April 1, 1854


[a] Bineau.—Ed.

[b] Deposit Bank.—Ed.

[c] See this volume, p. 40.—Ed.

[d] Montemolin.—Ed.

[e] Maria Luisa Fernanda.—Ed.

[f] Lord John Russell's speech in the House of Commons on March 3. The Times, No. 21680, March 4, 1854.—Ed.

[g] See this volume, pp. 39-40.—Ed.

[h] The situation previous to the war.—Ed.

[i] Lord John Russell and Sir James Graham.—Ed.

[j] Mr. Gladstone's speech in the House of Commons on March 6, 1854. The Times, No. 21682, March 7, 1854.—Ed.

[k] Mr. Disraeli's speech in the House of Commons on March 6, 1854. The Times, No. 21682, March 7, 1854.—Ed.

[50] This article is entered in the Notebook as "Dienstag. 7. March. Labour Parliament. Gladstone".

[51] In 1853, with the growth of a massive strike movement of the English proletariat, a group of Chartists headed by Ernest Jones proposed to create a broad workers' organisation, The Mass Movement, which was to unite trade unions and unorganised workers with the primary aim of coordinating strikes in the various districts of the country. The organisation was to be headed by a regularly convened Labour Parliament consisting of delegates . elected at meetings of both unorganised workers and of the trade unions associated with The Mass Movement. The Labour Parliament assembled in Manchester on March 6, 1854 and was in session till March 18, 1854. It discussed and adopted the programme of The Mass Movement and set up an Executive of five members. Marx, elected honorary delegate to the Parliament, sent a letter to it (see this volume, pp. 57-59).

The attempt to found The Mass Movement failed, because the majority of the trade union leaders did not approve of associating the trade unions with the political struggle and did not support the idea of creating a single mass workers' organisation. By the summer of 1854 the strike movement had abated and this also cut short the participation of broad masses of workers in the movement. After March 1854 the Labour Parliament never met again.

[52] The reference is to the Government Commission on the Workers' Question which met at the Palais du Luxembourg and was presided over by Louis Blanc. The Commission was set up on February 28, 1848 by the Provisional Government of the French Republic under pressure from workers who demanded a Ministry of Labour. The Commission consisted of workers and employers and acted as mediator in labour conflicts, often taking the side of the employers. On the very next day after the mass actions of May 15, 1848, the Government disbanded the Luxembourg Commission.

[53] Organisation of labour, organisers of labour—an allusion to the utopian socialists (in particular Fourier and his followers) who put forward a plan for the peaceful transformation of society by means of association, that is by "organisation of labour", which they opposed to the anarchy of production under capitalism.

Some of these ideas were used by the French petty-bourgeois socialist Louis Blanc in his book Organisation du travail (Paris, 1839) in which he proposed that the bourgeois state should transform contemporary society into a socialist society.

[54] The National Charter Association was founded in July 1840. It was the first mass workers' organisation in the history of the working-class movement and counted up to 50,000 members when Chartism was at its peak. Its Executive—the leading body—was elected at congresses and conferences of delegates. After the defeat of the Chartists in 1848 and the ensuing split in their ranks, the Association lost its mass character. Nevertheless, in 1851 and 1852, led by Ernest Jones and other revolutionary Chartists, it fought for the revival of Chartism on a revolutionary basis, for the implementation of the People's Charter and the socialist principles proclaimed by the Chartist Convention in 1851. The Association ceased its activities in 1858.

[55] Marx quotes Article 14 of the law on the French Budget for 1854 passed in 1853 (Loi, portant fixation du budjet...). However, he changes the figure 150 million to 250 million in accordance with a special decree of 1854 (Décret imperial...), which he quotes below (see Collection complète des lois, decrets, réglements et avis du Conseil d'Etat. Publiée sur les éditions officielles par J. B. Duvergier, tome 53, Année 1853, p. 232; tome 54, Année 1854, p. 45). Marx probably obtained his information on the financial measures of the French Government from the Paris letter mentioned below and a report in Le Moniteur universel of March 7, 1854.

[56] An allusion to the participants in the Bonapartist coup d'état in France on December 2, 1851.

[57] This refers to the manifesto of Nicholas I of February 21 (9), 1854 breaking off diplomatic relations with France and Britain; in a letter to Napoleon III of February 9 (January 28), 1854 Nicholas I refused to compromise on the Eastern question. These documents were published in The Times of March 6, 1854 under the titles "Manifesto of the Emperor Nicholas" and "The Emperor of Russia and the Emperor Napoleon".

[58] The South Sea Company was founded in England about 1712, officially for trade with South America and the Pacific islands. The Company received from the Government a number of privileges and monopoly rights, in particular the right to issue securities, and plunged into large-scale speculation which led to its bankruptcy in 1720 and the growth of the national debt. In compliance with the draft financial reform of 1853 Gladstone proposed to reduce the interest on the Company's stocks from 3 to 2¾ per cent.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.50-56), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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