Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851

Marx to Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 463;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

[London,] 23 September 1851, 28 Dean Street, Soho

Dear Engels,

This business of the Paris document is quite stupid. The German papers, the Kölnische and the Augsburg as might be expected of such undiscerning curs, attribute it to us. On the other hand, the wretched Willich & Co. are putting it about that we had had the rubbish denounced by acquaintances of ours in Paris. Qu'en dis-tu?

C. Schramm is also in jug. Habeat sibi [serves him right]. Next time — when I've gleaned some further news — I'll write and tell you more about the dirty business here. Today I shall regale you with the following résumé of Citizen Techow’s manifesto which occupies several columns in the New-Yorker Staatszeitung and is entitled: ‘Umrisse des kommenden Kriegs. London, 7. August.’ (Ill-written, doctrinaire, sundry echoes of our Revue, seemingly intelligently developed, but insipid in content, undynamic in form, nothing striking.) I shall spare you Techow’s initial narrative of the revolution of 1849. These, for a start, are the general lessons he draws from it:

1. Force can be resisted only by force.

2. A revolution can only be victorious if it becomes general, i.e., if it is kindled in the larger centres of the movement (Bavaria-Palatinate, Baden) and if, furthermore, it is not the expression of one single oppositional faction. (Example: the June insurrection of 1848.)

3. National struggles cannot be decisive because they are divisive.

4. Fighting on the barricades has no significance other than to signal a population’s resistance and to put the power of governments, i.e., the troops’ frame of mind, to the test by confronting them with that resistance. Whatever the outcome of this test, the first and most important step in revolution always remains organisation for war, the raising of disciplined armies. For this alone makes an offensive possible and it is only in the offensive that victory lies.

5. National constituent assemblies are not capable of organising for war. They invariably waste time on questions of internal politics, the time for whose solution does not come till after victory has been won.

6. In order to be able to organise for war, a revolution must gain time and space. Hence it must attack politically, i.e. bring into its domain as many stretches of country as possible, since militarily it is at first always restricted to the defensive.

7. In the republican, no less than in the royalist, camp organisation for war can only be based on compulsion. No pitched battle has ever been won by political enthusiasm or fantastically bedizened volunteers against disciplined and well-led soldiers. Military enthusiasm only sets in after a series of successes. — Initially there can be no better basis for such successes than the iron rigour of discipline. In armies, even more so than in the internal organisation of a country, democratic principles can only apply after the victory of the revolution.

8. By its nature the coming war will be a war of extermination of peoples or princes. From this follows the recognition of the political and military solidarity of all peoples, i.e. of intervention.

9. Spatially the area of the coming revolution falls within the boundaries of that of the defeated ones: France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland.

From all this it follows that the question of the coming revolution is equally as important as that of a European war. Object of the war: a Cossack or republican Europe a Theatre of the war — as before: Northern Italy and Germany.

Mr Techow now enumerates: 1. the armed forces of the counter-revolution; 2. the armed forces of revolution.

I. Armed Forces of the Counter-Revolution

1. Russia. Suppose that it could bring its armed forces up to 300,000. That would be a great deal. How quickly and at what strength could it then appear on the Rhine or in Italy? At the best, in 2 months. Deduct at least 1/3 for sickness and for manning the lines of communication. That leaves 200,000 men who, 2 months after the action has begun, will make their appearance at the crucial points in the theatre of war.

2. Austria. Estimates the strength of its army at 600,000 men. In 1848 and ’49 employed 150,000 men in Italy. Radetzky is demanding that number even now, in time of peace. In Hungary he now requires, in peacetime, 90,000 men. During the last war, 200,060 were not enough. 1/3 of this army consists of Hungarians and Italians, who will defect. At best, if the uprising does not take place simultaneously in Hungary and Italy, she will be able to reach the Rhine in 6 weeks with 50,000 men, having been delayed by sundry battles at the barricades.

3. Prussia. Numbers 500,000 men, incl. of the replacement battalions and the Landwehr of the First Levy, which do not accompany the army into the field. For operations in the field, 300,000 men, 1/2 line, 1/2 Landwehr. Mobilisation: 2 to 3 weeks. The officers’ corps in the Prussian army aristocratic, the non-commissioned officers bureaucratic, the masses’ democratic through and through. The revolution has further opportunities in the mobilisation of the Landwehr. Disorganisation of the Prussian army by the revolution which will be mastered by the King only under the protection of the Russian army and in order to lead the remnants of his army, in company with the Russians, against the rebels. Rhine Province, Westphalia, Saxony lost to him, thus the most important fortified lines and at least 1/3 of his army. He will need 1/3 against the uprisings in Berlin, Breslau, the province of Posen and West Prussia. This leaves at most 100,000 who will be unable to appear on the battlefield any earlier than the Russians themselves.

4. The German Federal Army. The regiments of Baden, Schleswig-Holstein, the Electorate of Hesse, and the Palatinate belong to the revolution. Only the remnants of the German Federal Army, following the fleeing princes, will reinforce the armies of reaction. Of no military significance.

5. Italy. Italy’s only military force, the Sardinian army, belongs to the revolution.

To sum up, then:

Theatre of war in Germany
150,000 Russians
100,000 Prussians
  50,000 Austrians
300,000 men
Theatre of war in Italy
150,000 Austrians
  50,000 Russians 200,000 men
 Total: 500,000 men

II. Armed Forces of the Revolution

1. France. 500,000 men at the disposal of the revolution from the very start. Of these, 200,000 on the Rhine, 100,000 in Italy (North) ensure that the revolution in Italy and Germany has time and space to organise itself.

2. Prussia.   50,000
3. Austria. 100,000
i.e. half the defecting armies organised.
4. Small German armies:100,000.

This adds up as follows:

Active French Army300,000 men
German revolutionary army150,000   "  
Italy and Hungary200,000   "  
 650,000   "  

Thus the revolution will lead 650,000 men against absolutism’s 500,000.

He concludes:

‘Whatever differences of nationality or principle may, after all, split the great party of the revolution-we have all of us learnt that the time to combat these different views amongst ourselves will only come after victory has been won’, etc., etc.

What do you make of these calculations? Techow presupposes that there will be disorganisation on the part of the regular armies and organisation on the part of the revolutionary armed forces. That forms the basis of his calculation. However, you'll be better able than I to judge these statistics.

But the essay’s actual political tendency, which emerges even more clearly in the exposition, is as follows: No revolution ever breaks out, i. e. there is no party struggle, no civil war, no class dissension, until after the ending of the war and the collapse of Russia. But in order to organise these armies for this war, force is needed. And where is the force to come from? From General Cavaignac, or some similar military dictator in France, who has his generals in Germany and Northern Italy. Voilŕ la solution, which is not very far removed from Willich’s ideas. World war, i.e. as understood by your revolutionary Prussian lieutenant, domination, at least temporarily, of civilians by the military. But how any general, even were the old Napoleon himself to rise up out of his grave, is to get, not only the means, but also so much influence without preliminary and simultaneous internal struggles, without those damned ‘internal politics’, is not vouchsafed by the oracle. At least this future world-warrior’s ‘pious wish’, which finds its due political expression precisely in the classless politicians and democrats as such, has been clearly and frankly stated.


K. M.

I have just received your letter which I acknowledge herewith.

NB. You know, of course, that Stechahn or Stechahn [Stechan] has been arrested in Hanover and, before he joined our association, was corresponding with the Schapper committee, etc. Well, 2 letters which he wrote to the secretary of this committee — Dietz, the cockroach — and which the latter received, are at present in the police inspector’s office in Hanover. We then entrusted Ulmer with the task of questioning Messrs Dietz & Co. on the subject at next Friday’s public sitting of the ‘refugee or émigré society’. This we countermanded again. Stechan has done a bunk and is, therefore, either on his way to London or already here. And who’s to say that Stechan won’t go to our enemies rather than to us?

The Straubingers are capables de tout. Further proof: Mr Paul Stumpf who, during his short visit to London, did not come to see either myself or Lupus but consorted exclusively with the blackguards.

I found your trade news exceedingly interesting.

As for C. Schramm, he was carrying in his pocket-book a brief note from me establishing his bona fides. Those lines could have been as fatal Uriah’s letter. They were originally given to him to make him think he was trusted and to disarm him, since the fellow could do us considerable damage. But at the same time a letter went off to Reinhardt warning him to be on his guard should he (Schramm) present himself with the note, which was couched in general terms. The worst of it is that my name is at the bottom. It could earn Schramm 6 months.