Farsi    Arabic    English   

The Formation of a Special Ministry of War in Britain.—
The War on The Danube.—
The Economic Situation[162]

Karl Marx

London, Friday, June 2, 1854

The formation of a special Ministry of War having now been determined upon, the great question of the moment is to know who may be selected to fill that office. The Duke of Newcastle, who has hitherto combined both the functions of Colonial and War Secretary, has long shown a great disinclination to relinquish either of his two posts, and seems disposed, if we may judge from the tone of The Morning Chronicle[a], to stick at all events to the Administration of the War Department. The Times of to-day recommends for the third time the appointment of Lord Palmerston.

"Lord Palmerston would certainly seem more in his place as Minister of War, directing the forces of this country against what we may call his old enemy, Russia, than engaged in a series of squabbles with parochial vestries and sewers commissions."[b]

The Daily News likewise recommends Lord Palmerston. Yesterday's Morning Herald brought a denunciation of this intrigue from the pen of Mr. Urquhart. At all instances, these movements in Downing-st. are of greater importance for the "war" than all the military demonstrations at Gallipoli or Scutari.

Perhaps you will remember that great expectations were held out to the public of immediate and energetic measures as soon as the commanders of the expeditionary forces should have arrived at Constantinople. On the 18th May, Marshal St. Arnaud, Lord Raglan and the Turkish Sereskier[c] proceeded to Varna where a council of war was to take place with Omer Pasha and the Admirals[d] on the 20th. Yesterday a telegraphic dispatch arrived in London stating that

"at the military council, held at Varna, it was decided that the allied troops should proceed from Gallipoli to Adrianople."[e]

Simultaneously The Times published a leading article in which the whole plan of the campaign as settled on at the Varna conference was revealed.

"This conference," says The Times, "must have taken place at the very time when the Russians, under Prince Paskievich, were directing their fiercest attacks against the fortress of Silistria, and consequently the principal officers of the allied army were in the best position to decide on the measures which might be taken for the relief of that place."[f]

And consequently they ordered their forces to come up from Gallipoli to Adrianople for the relief of Silistria; and consequently they arrived at the following heroic determination:

"That it is not expedient to expose the Turkish army to the risk of a general action for the sake of repelling the attack of the Russians on the fortresses which cover the right bank of the Danube: ... nor to throw any considerable portion of the allied armies on the coast, so as to come into immediate collision with the present advanced posts of the Russians."

In other words, the allied generals have resolved not to oppose anything to the exertions of the Russians to carry the fortresses on the right bank of the Danube. The Times confesses that this plan of operations

"may disappoint the natural impatience of the public;"

but, on the other hand, it discovers that

"these fortified places are in reality the outworks of the Turkish position, and do not constitute its principal strength."

Formerly we were told that Moldavia and Wallachia were the outworks of Turkey, and that the latter could not be a great loser by surrendering them to Russian occupation. Now we learn that Turkey may, with the same tranquility, abandon Bulgaria to the Russians.

"The Balkans is the real bulwark of the Ottoman Empire, and it can profit the Russians nothing to carry the outer line of circumvallation with heavy loss, if fresh obstacles of incalculably greater magnitude rise up before them as they proceed. The further they advance within this region north of the Balkans, the worse their position becomes.... The invading army exhausts its strength against the fortified places on the river and the scattered detachments of the enemy; but in the meantime the forces in defense of the main position remain comparatively fresh and unbroken."

There is no doubt that if the beef-eating allies[g] can only avoid encountering an enemy their forces will remain very fresh. But how will it be if the Russians do not further advance within the region north of the Balkans, contenting themselves with the possession of the fortresses, the keys of Bulgaria, and with the Principalities? How will their evacuation be effected?

"Behind the lines of the Balkans a European army is preparing to advance, at the proper time, with irresistible force, and the concluding months of the campaign ought to effect the annihilation of the enemy."

This irresistible advance will, of course, be greatly facilitated by the Russian possession of the Danube fortresses, and what may not be achieved by the allied armies, the season will have no difficulty to finish.

The Moniteur, it is true, announces that Omer Pasha was preparing to come to the relief of Silistria[h]; and The Morning Chronicle finds fault with the above article of The Times, observing:

"The author of this project probably hopes that Austrian diplomacy may induce, in the meanwhile, the Czar to withdraw his troops, with the satisfaction of having obtained uninterrupted and unresisted success; and on the other hand, it is, perhaps, imagined that, in the alternative of an advance on the Balkans, the remote contingency contemplated in the Austro-Prussian treaty would at once come into operation."[i]

The news of the Moniteur, however, is notoriously so arranged as to keep the Parisians in good humor; and the manner in which The Chronicle comments on the plan of The Times only increases the probability that it is the plan of the coalition. Other sources of information further confirm this assumption. The Constantinople correspondent of The Chronicle, under date of 18th May, observes:

"A campaign will scarcely be undertaken on the Danube in midsummer, as more men would be lost by fever and disease than otherwise."[j]

Besides, the ministerial Globe of last evening publishes an article conceived entirely in the same spirit as that of The Times. It tells us, firstly, that there are at this moment "only" 45,000 allied troops in Turkey 29,000 French and 16,000 English, the same Globe stating, in another column, that the Russians have only 90,000 men before and around Silistria, and that the regular Turkish army in the field amounts to 104,000 men. But this aggregate of nearly 150,000 Turkish, French and English troops is not deemed sufficient by The Globe to prevent 90,000 Russians from taking the Bulgarian fortresses, not to mention the cooperation which might be given by three powerful fleets. The Globe thinks it sheer superfluity that either Turks or allies should fight against the Russians, as "time is fighting against them." In revealing the plan of campaign concocted by the allied commanders, The Globe even goes a step further than The Times, for it says:

"Whatever becomes of the fortresses on the Danube, adequate force must be brought up to render hopeless the invader's further progress, and punish his audacious advance."

Here we have the clear proof that the Austro-Prussian treaty has been acceded to in the last Vienna Protocol, by England and France. The fortresses on the Danube and Bulgaria are to be given up to Russia, and a case of war will only be constituted by her further advance.

When the 15,000 Russians who first invaded Moldavia crossed the Pruth, Turkey was advised not to stir, as she would be unable to prevent such a formidable force of 15,000 men from occupying Wallachia also. The Russians then occupied Wallachia. When war had been declared by the Porte no operations could be undertaken against the Russians because it was winter. On the arrival of spring, Omer Pasha received orders to abstain from any offensive movement, because the allied forces had not arrived. When they arrived nothing could be done because it was now summer, and summer [is] an unwholesome season. Let autumn arrive, and it will be "too late to open a campaign". This proceeding The Times calls a combination in strategies with tactics, the essence of tactics, in its opinion, being the sacrifice of the army in order to keep "fresh" the reserves. Observe also that all the time' since this juggle has been going on under the very noses and eyes of the opposition journals and the British public at large, The Morning Advertiser rivals with The Times in expressions of angry denunciation against Prussia, against Denmark and Sweden, for not "joining" the western powers! That the motives which determine the tendencies of all the smaller Courts to side with Russia are not without a very good foundation, is seen from the tone, for instance, of the Danish Government journals. Thus the Copenhagen correspondent of The Morning Chronicle writes:

"The threat, by holding out which the Ministerial party manage to keep the National party quiet and discouraged, is that England has ever been perfidious toward Denmark, and that if the latter now joined with the western powers, 100,000 Prussians, perhaps with a corps of Austrians, would ravage Jutland down to the Eider, and occupy the whole Danish continent."[k]

It might be expected, and certainly was expected, by the coalition, that the delicate services diplomatic, military and otherwise rendered by them to the "good cause" of Russia would at least meet with a certain delicate gratitude from the Autocrat. So far from this, they receive a great deal of abuse from him beyond the understanding, and in excess of the exigencies of the case. In illustration of the manner of expressing this sovereign contempt of the Russian Court for their sham-adversaries, I will give you a translation of a fable lately published by the Nordische Biene[l] by some anonymous Tyrtaeus of Russia. Its child-like simplicity of language and structure must be accounted for as an exigency of the semi-barbarian understanding to which the poet addresses himself, exactly as the ironical urbanity of criticism to which the late Odessa report of Admiral Hamelin has been subjected by the St. Petersburg Gazette, is to be explained by the circumstance of its being addressed to the diplomatists of Europe[m]. The fable is headed: The Eagle, the Bull-Dog, the Cock, and the Hare.

"A royal eagle, great and strong, sat on the summit of a rock, and from his lofty seat surveyed the whole world, far behind the Baltic, (Weit hinter Belt die ganze Welt); there he sat quietly and contently, satisfied by his modest meal, scorning to store up provisions from the valley beneath him, since he commands everything at every hour. A bull-dog viewed him with envious mien, and thus he spoke to the cock: Be my ally, we will combine, from vengeance thou, myself from envy, and put down yonder eagle. So said, so done. They marched on, and taking council on the road how they would best subdue the eagle, the cock said: Stop! look at his talons, his wings—may God assist him who would try them! More than once heard I the curses of my ancestors, lamenting their sad fate when beaten by his wings. "Tis true,' said the bull-dog; but we will devise a plan to catch the eagle. Let's send a hare near him; he will clutch the hare. Meanwhile do thou turn his attention by crowing and jumping, as thou always know'st how to do, affecting to begin a fight with him. When thus we shall have diverted his attention and his talons, I will attack him in the back, so that he cannot defend himself, and soon he will be torn to pieces by my sharp teeth. The scheme pleased the cock, and he took his stand at a near post. The bull-dog enters a wood and barks, driving a hare toward the eagle, who watches quietly. The hare, stupid and blind, falls quickly into the eagle's clutch. The cock, faithful to his agreement, leaves his post and jumps after the hare; but lo! what disgrace! The eagle without stirring from his seat, lifts but his wings and, disdaining to take hold of the hare, drives him away with one and with the other, just touches the cock, who neither stirs nor crows any more. One knows the tendency of hares to fly; behold him run, senseless and unconscious into the sea, and there expires. The eagle saw the fat bull-dog at a distance conducting the intrigue—for, what escapes the eagle's eyes? He has discovered the hero concealed behind a bush. The eagle spreads his large and sturdy wings, and rises up in majesty. The bull-dog barks and flies with hasty leaps. In vain, it is too late. The eagle rushes down upon him and plunges his talons into the traitor's back, and there he lies, torn in pieces."

In consequence of the favorable harvest prospects, and through the absence of speculative buyers, the prices of grain have experienced a small decline during the week. A reaction, however, is inevitable, because

"all the evidence which can be brought to bear on the subject tends to lead to t he belief that the stocks in farmers' hands, are reduced to a much smaller compass than is usual at the corresponding period of the season."— (Mark Lane Express.)

The advices from Danzig, Stettin, Rostock, etc., concur in the statement that the stocks on hand are very small, that the surrounding farmers had little or nothing more to deliver, and that assistance from those quarters could not be expected but at very high prices. The deliveries from the grower in France appear, also, not to have increased, and the wheat brought forward at the markets of the interior is described as scarcely sufficient to meet the demand for consumption.

I have also learned from a private source of information[163] that The Times reports of the state of trade in the manufacturing districts around Manchester[n] are generally misrepresentations, and that trade is everywhere in a declining condition except at Birmingham. The Manchester Guardian confirms this, and adds that the resumption of work by so large a number of operatives on strike could not be expected to act otherwise than to 'depreciate prices.

For the measure announced by Sir J. Graham in last Monday's House of Commons[164], viz: The non-blockade of the port of Archangel, The Morning Herald accounts in the following laconic paragraph: "There is a house at Archangel which bears the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer."[o]

Written on June 2, 1854
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4105, June 14;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 945, June 16, 1854
Signed: Karl Marx


[a] The Morning Chronicle, No. 27282, June 2, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[b] The Times, No. 21757, June 2, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[c] Riza Pasha.—Ed.

[d] Dundas and Hamelin.—Ed.

[e] Telegraphic dispatch from Paris. The Times, No. 21756, June 1, 1854.—Ed.

[f] The Times, No. 21756, June 1, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[g] An allusion to the nickname of the Yeomen of the Tower of London (Beefeaters).—Ed.

[h] Report from Belgrade of May 29, 1854. Le Moniteur universel, No. 151, May 31, 1854.—Ed.

[i] The Morning Chronicle, No. 27282, June 2, 1854, leader.—Ed.

[j] Ibid., No. 27281, June 1, 1854.—Ed.

[k] Report from Copenhagen of May 23. The Morning Chronicle, No. 27278, May 29, 1854.—Ed.

[l] Северная пцела.—Ed.

[m] journal de Saint-Pétersbourg, No. 402, May 11 (23), 1854.—Ed.

[n] The Times, No. 21753, May 29, 1854.—Ed.

[o] Gladstone.—Ed.

[162] The mailing of this article is entered in the Notebook as "2. Juni. Kriegsplan in Varna. (Times), Fabel aus der 'Biene'. Mark Lane. Gladstone and Archangel", which fits in with the following lines in Marx's letter to Engels dated June 3, 1854: "I wrote an article yesterday deriding the plan of campaign published in Thursday's Times" (see present edition, Vol. 39). The article was published in abridged form by Eleanor Marx in The Eastern Question under the title "Delay on the Danube".

[163] Presumably Marx has in mind information contained in one of Engels' letters to him which is not available (Engels' letters to Marx written between May 9 and June 10, 1854 have not been found).

[164] Sir James Graham made this statement not on Monday, May 29, 1854 as erroneously stated in the text, but on Thursday, June 1. It was published in The Times on June 2, 1854.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.220-226), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1897en.html