Farsi    Arabic    English   

Revolution in Spain.—

Karl Marx

London, Friday, August 18, 1854

The "leaders" of the Assemblée Nationale, Times, and journal des Débats prove that neither the pure Russian party, nor the Russo-Coburg party, nor the Constitutional party are satisfied with the course of the Spanish revolution[a]. From this it would appear that there is some chance for Spain, notwithstanding the contradiction of appearances.

On the 8th inst. a deputation from the Union Club[285] waited on Espartero to present an address calling for the adoption of universal suffrage. Numerous petitions to the same effect were pouring in. Consequently, a long and animated debate took place at the Council of Ministers. But the partisans of universal suffrage, as well as the partisans of the election law of 1845[286], have been beaten. The Madrid Gaceta publishes a decree for the convocation of the Cortes on the 8th of November[b] preceded by an exposé addressed to the Queen. At the elections, the law of 1837 will be followed, with slight modifications. The Cortes are to be one Constituent Assembly, the legislative functions of the Senate being suppressed. Two paragraphs of the law of 1845 have been preserved, viz.: the mode of forming the electoral mesas (boards receiving the votes and publishing the returns), and the number of deputies; one deputy to be elected for every 5,000 souls. The Assembly will thus be composed of from 420 to 430 members. According to a circular of Santa Cruz, the Minister of the Interior, the electors must be registered by the 6th of September. After the verification of the lists by the provincial deputations, the electoral lists will be closed on the 12th of September. The elections will take place on the 3d of October, at the chief localities of the Electoral Districts. The scrutiny will be proceeded to on the 16th of October, in the capital of each province. In case of conflicting elections, the new proceedings which will thereby be necessitated, must be terminated by the 30th of October. The exposé states expressly that

"the Cortes of 1854, like those of 1837, will save the monarchy; they will be a new bond between the throne and the nation, objects which cannot be questioned or disputed."

In other words, the Government forbids the discussion of the dynastic question; hence, The Times concludes the contrary[c], supposing that the question will now be between the present dynasty or no dynasty at all an eventuality which, it is scarcely necessary to remark, infinitely displeases and disappoints the calculations of The Times.

The Electoral law of 1837 limits the franchise by the conditions of having a household, the payment of the mayores cuotas (the ship taxes levied by the State), and the age of twenty-five years. There are further entitled to a vote: the members of the Spanish Academies of History and of the Artes Nobles, doctors, licentiates in the faculties of Divinity, law, of medicine, members of ecclesiastical chapters, parochial curates and their assistant clergy, magistrates and advocates of two years' standing; officers of the army of a certain standing, whether on service or the retired list; physicians, surgeons, apothecaries of two years' standing; architects, painters and sculptors, honored with the membership of an academy; professors and masters in any educational establishment, supported by the public funds. Disqualified for the vote by the same law are defaulters to the common pueblo-fund, or to local taxation, bankrupts, persons interdicted by the courts of law for moral or civil incapacity; lastly, all persons under sentence.

It is true that this decree does not proclaim universal suffrage, and that it removes the dynastic question from the forum of the Cortes. Still it is doubtful that even this Assembly will do. If the Spanish Cortes forbore from interfering with the Crown in 1812, it was because the Crown was only nominally represented the King[d] having been absent for years from Spanish soil. If they forbore in 1837, it was because they had to settle with absolute monarchy before they could think of settling with the constitution-al monarchy. With regard to the general situation, The Times has truly good reasons to deplore the absence of French centralization in Spain[e], and that consequently even a victory over revolution in the capital decides nothing with respect to the provinces, so long as that state of "anarchy" survives there without which no revolution can succeed.

There are, of course, some incidents in the Spanish revolution peculiarly belonging to them. For instance, the combination of robbery with revolutionary transactions —a connection which sprung up in the guerrilla wars against the French invasions, and which was continued by the "royalists" in 1823, and the Carlists since 1835[287]. No surprise will therefore be felt at the information that great disorders have occurred at Tortosa, in Lower Catalonia. The Junta Popular of that city says, in its proclamation of 31st July:

"A band of miserable assassins, availing themselves for pretext of the abolition of the indirect taxes, have seized the town, and trampled upon all laws of society. Plunder, assassination, incendiarism have marked their steps."[f]

Order, however, was soon restored by the Junta the citizens arming themselves and coming to the rescue of the feeble garrison of the place. A military commission is sitting, charged with the pursuit and punishment of the authors of the catastrophe of July 30. This circumstance has, of course, given an occasion to the reactionary journals for virtuous declamation. How little they are warranted in this proceeding may be inferred from the remark of the Messager de Bayonne, that the Carlists have raised their banner in the provinces of Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia, and precisely in the same contiguous mountains where they had their chief nest in the old Carlist wars. It was the Carlists who gave origin to the ladrones facciosos, that combination of robbery and pretended allegiance to an oppressed party in the State. The Spanish guerrillero of all times has had something of the robber since the time of Viriathus; but it is a novelty of Carlist invention that a pure robber should invest himself with the name of guerrillero. The men of the Tortosa affair certainly belong to this class.

At Lerida, Saragossa and Barcelona matters are serious. The two former cities have refused to combine with Barcelona, because the military had the upper hand there. Still it appears that even there Concha is unable to master the storm, and General Dulce is to take his place, the recent popularity of that general being considered as offering more guarantees for a conciliation of the difficulties.

The secret societies have resumed their activity at Madrid, and govern the democratic party just as they did in 1823[288]. The first demand which they have urged the people to make is that all ministers since 1843 shall present their accounts.

The ministry are purchasing back the arms which the people seized on the day of the barricades. In this way they have got possession of 2,500 muskets, formerly in the hands of insurgents. Don Manuel Sagasti, the Ayacucho Jefe Politico[g] of Madrid of 1843, has been reinstated in his functions. He has addressed to the inhabitants and the national militia two proclamations, in which he announces his intention of energetically repressing all disorder[h]. The removal of the creatures of Sartorius from the different offices proceeds rapidly. It is, perhaps, the only thing rapidly done in Spain. All parties show themselves equally quick in that line.

Salamanca is not imprisoned, as was asserted. He had been arrested at Aranjuez, but was soon released, and is now at Malaga.

The control of the ministry by popular pressure is proved by the fact, that the Ministers of War, of the Interior, and of Public Works[i], have effected large displacements and simplifications in their several departments, an event never known in Spanish history before.

The Unionist or Coburg-Braganza party is pitifully weak[289]. For what other reason would they make such a noise about one single address sent from Portugal to the National Guard of Madrid? If we look nearer at it, it is even discovered that the address (originating with the Lisbon Journal de Progrès) is not of a dynastic nature at all, but simply of the fraternal kind so well known in the movements of 1848.

The chief cause of the Spanish revolution was the state of the finances, and particularly the decree of Sartorius, ordering the payment of six months' taxes in advance upon the year[290]. All the public chests were empty when the revolution broke out, notwithstanding the circumstance that no branch of the public service had been paid; nor were the sums destined for any particular service applied to it during the whole of several months. Thus, for instance, the turnpike receipts were never appropriated to the use of keeping up the roads. The moneys set aside for public works shared the same destiny. When the chest of public works was subjected to revision, instead of receipts for executed works, receipts from court favorites were discovered. It is known that financiering has long been the most profitable business in Madrid. The Spanish budget for 1853 was as follows:

Civil List and Appanages47,350,000 reals.
Legislation1,331,685 reals.
Interest of Public Debt213,271,423 reals.
President of Council1,687,860 reals.
Foreign Office3,919,083 reals.
Justice39,001,233 reals.
War278,646,284 reals.
Marine85,165,000 reals.
Interior43,957,940 reals.
Police72,000,000 reals.
Finances142,279,000 reals.
Pensions143,400,586 reals.
Cultus119,050,508 reals.
Extras18,387,788 reals.
Total1,209,448,390 reals.

Notwithstanding this budget, Spain is the least taxed country of Europe, and the economical question is nowhere so simple as there. The reduction and simplification of the bureaucratic machinery in Spain are the less difficult, as the municipalities traditionally administer their own affairs; so is reform of the tariff and conscientious application of the bienes nacionales[j] not yet alienated. The social question in the modern sense of the word has no foundation in a country with its resources yet undeveloped, and with such a scanty population as Spain—15,000,000 only.

You will see from the English press the first exploits of the British army at Bomarsund. These poor journals, which had never anything brilliant to report, are in great enthusiasm about the successes of 10,000 French troops over 2,000 Russians. I shall pass over these glories, and occupy myself with the consideration of the result of this capture of an island the faubourg of Stockholm, and not of St. Petersburg. The French Siècle had announced, and its announcement was echoed by many journals, that Sweden would presently join the western powers against Russia in active measures[k]. The probabilities of this announcement may be measured by the fact that Sweden concluded a treaty of armed neutrality[291] at the very time it might have operated with success against the swamps and woods of Finland. Will it alter its policy now that the time for operations is gone by? England and France have refused to King Oscar the required pecuniary and territorial guarantees for his adhesion. Moreover, how are we to explain the order of the Swedish Government for the disarmament of a whole squadron, on the supposition that Sweden is about to take the field? This disarmament extends to the ships of the line Charles XII and Prince Oscar, the frigate Désiré, and the corvettes Gefle and Thor.

The capture of Bomarsund, now that the waters in those latitudes will soon be covered with ice, can have no importance. At Hamburg an opinion prevails that it is to be followed by the capture of Riga, an opinion based upon a letter of Captain Heathcote, commander of the Archer, to the English Consul, Mr. Hartslet, at Memel, to the effect that all foreign vessels must have cleared from the harbor of Riga by the 10th inst.[l]

Prussia is said to be greatly encouraging smuggling articles contraband of war on its Russian frontier, and at the same time preparing for a rupture with the occidental powers. The commanders of the harbors of Königsberg, Danzig, Colberg, and Swinemunde, have received orders to arm these places.

The most influential papers of Norway and Sweden declare that "it would be worse than madness to join the allies and make enormous sacrifices, unless on the fixed and well-understood condition that Russia shall be broken up and Poland restored. Otherwise even the transfer of Finland to Sweden would be a delusion and a snare."

It ought to be remembered that all these northern Governments are in conflict with their own people. At Copenhagen for instance, matters stand thus: the Schleswig-Holsteiners have determined to abstain from all elections for the Rigsråd; while at the same time the electors of Copenhagen have sent an address to Dr. Madvig, Deputy of the Landsthing, calling upon him not to accept a place in the Rigsråd, since the decree of the King was an infraction of the Danish Constitution and the rights of the Danish people.

Written on August 18, 1854
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4174, September 4;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 968, September 5
and partly in the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 678, September 9, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] This refers to the article by A. de St.-Albin, "La revolution espagnole" published in the newspaper L'Assemblée Nationale, No. 674, August 14; S. de Sacy's article published in the Journal des Débats, August 15 and the leader in The Times, No. 21819, August 14, 1854.—Ed.

[b] For his analysis of this decree Marx used the text of La Gaceta of August 12 as reprinted in Le Moniteur universel, No. 230, August 18, 1854.—Ed.

[c] The Times, No. 21823, August 18, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[d] Ferdinand VII.—Ed.

[e] The Times, No. 21800, July 22, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[f] Quoted from L'Indépendance belge, No. 229, August 17, 1854.—Ed.

[g] Governor.—Ed.

[h] The contents of Sagasti's addresses are given according to Le Moniteur universel, No. 229, August 17, 1854, which reprinted the material from the Madrid Gaceta.—Ed.

[i] O'Donnell, Santa Cruz, Lujan.—Ed.

[j] State lands.—Ed.

[k] This information is taken from L'Indépendance belge, No. 230, August 18, 1854.—Ed.

[l] The contents of Captain Heathcote's letter are given according to a report from Hamburg in L'Independance belge, No. 230, August 18, 1854.—Ed.

[284] This article is entered in the Notebook as "Freitag. 18. August. Spanien—Aland.— Schweden — Preussen, Anatolien — Dänemark— [illegible] Omer Pasha. Refugees. Austria. Prussia". When it was published in the Tribune it was mistakenly dated August 21 (London, Friday, August 21, 1854). The last part of the article was included by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question under the title "The Capture of Bomarsund".

[285] The Union Club—one of more democratic of the organisations which appeared at the beginning of the 1854-56 bourgeois revolution in Spain. Its members included republicans and also the utopian socialists Figueras, Pi y Margall, Orense and others. The organisation demanded universal suffrage, freedom of conscience, of the press, assembly and petition, abolition of indirect taxes and capital punishment, and also the arming of the people. At the same time it completely ignored the agrarian question. The club was closed at the end of 1854 (see this volume, p. 448).

[286] There are inaccuracies in the appraisal of the proclamations of O'Donnell (the so-called Manzanares Manifesto adopted in Manzanares, La Mancha, on July 7, 1854) and of Dulce. This is presumably because Marx did not have the texts of the proclamations when he wrote the article. The proclamations were published in the Journal des Débats only on July 17, 1854 (see this volume, p. 305).

[287] On April 7, 1823, in accordance with the decision of the Congress of Verona (see Note 278↓), the French army invaded Spain to suppress the Spanish revolution of 1820-23; the "royalists", who advocated restoration of the absolute monarchy, actively assisted the intervention.

In the course of the war the Carlists (see Note 227↓) resorted to guerrilla tactics.

[288] During the 1820-23 bourgeois revolution, besides democratic clubs, numerous secret societies were formed in Spain. They were connected with Left-wing freemasons and included urban bourgeoisie, officers and representatives of the lower urban sections. Being organised with great secrecy and having branches in different regions of the country, these societies had a considerable influence on the policy of the government and of the Cortes. Most prominent among their leaders were Riego, San Miguel and Alpuente.

[289] The Coburg-Braganza (more correctly Braganza-Coburg)—the junior branch of the Braganza royal dynasty in Portugal.

By the Unionist party are meant the adherents of a united monarchy in the Iberian Peninsula.

[290] The reference is to the Spanish government decree of May 19, 1854 on payment of land and industrial taxes six months in advance.

[291] This refers to the declaration of neutrality by Sweden and Denmark in 1853 which reflected their hostile attitude towards Russia. Simultaneously, Sweden started negotiations with Britain and France on entering the war on the Allies' side. The negotiations broke down and Sweden did not take part in the Crimean war.

On June 18, 1837, during the Spanish revolution of 1834-43, a new Constitution was adopted. Being a compromise between some bourgeois liberals and the liberal nobility, the 1837 Constitution gave the Cortes the right of free convocation, the king retaining the right to veto and dissolve the Cortes. Qualifications for election to the Lower Chamber were reduced; its deputies were elected by direct vote, the Senate was appointed by the king from a list submitted to him by special electoral collegiums. Catholicism was recognised as the state religion. The 1837 Constitution remained in force till 1845.

[227] The 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).

[278] The Congress of Verona of the Holy Alliance was held from October to December 1822. It adopted the decision on France's armed intervention against revolutionary Spain, and on continuance of Austria's occupation of the kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia, and condemned the national liberation uprising of the Greek people against the Turkish yoke.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.372-378), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0805en.html