Marx-Engels Correspondence 1854

Marx To Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW, Volume 39, p. 487;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

London, 17 October 1854, 28 Dean Street, Soho

Dear Engels,

Your enumeration of the Russian armed forces made today is formidable. But there remains this one question to be answered, whether, even by exerting themselves to the utmost, they were capable of sending more than 200,000 men outside their own country. I am aware of no such instance.

From the standpoint of the old policy, — and what else do England and France advocate, even though the English Ministry is not in earnest and Napoleon III a caricature — , a distinction must be drawn between the interests of England and those of France. With the destruction of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea and the Baltic and the Russians driven out of the Crimea, the Caucasus and the provinces they had filched from Persia and Turkey, England would have ensured her supremacy at sea and her hegemony over the most cultivated part of Asia for another 50 years. It would then be just like her old self to let the continentals exhaust themselves in a seven years’ and other wars — whose main theatre would be Germany and, to some extent, Italy — and, at the end of the struggle, see neither Russia nor Austria nor France supreme on the Continent. For France, on the other hand, the real struggle would only begin with the destruction of Russia’s sea-power and her influence in South Asia. She would be under all the greater compulsion to break Russia’s power on land in order to extend her own power on the Continent, and thus be able to cast a corresponding weight onto the scales against England. Is there any guarantee that, once England has destroyed the Russians in the Baltic and the Black Sea and rendered them innocuous to herself, revolutions won’t break out on the Continent and be used by England as a pretext for another official alliance with Russia against the Continent?

However, the real joke is that none of the Englishmen now in power — neither Chathams nor Pitts Jun., and not even Wellingtons — seriously pursue even the destruction of Russian sea-power and Russian influence in Turkey-Persia-Caucasus. If their half and half measures compel them to do so, they may consider going so far; but their half-measures and villainy will probably land them in trouble, which will provoke movements here at home.

The following passages, quoted from the Archives des Affaires Etrangčres in Paris — relating to the Seven Years’ War — show how English Ministers colluded with the enemy actually during the campaign and in matters relating to it. On 24 June 1762 the French Pompadour marshal Soubise, when encamped at Wilhelmstal, had allowed himself to be surprised by the English, Prussian, Hanoverian, etc., allies and driven back across the Fulda. For parliamentary and dynastic reasons, Lord Bute, George III’s Prime Minister, desired peace, but, in view of the nation’s bellicose mood and its bias in favour of Frederick II, could not propose peace so long as the French persisted in letting themselves be beaten and in retreating instead of advancing. Choiseul, as you know, was then Minister of Foreign Affairs in France. In authentic publications from the French archives, which I quote verbatim, we find:

‘After the affair of 24 June, the English Ministers wrote to M. de Choiseul: You are permitting yourselves to be beaten and we can no longer make peace; we would not dare propose it to Parliament. M. de Choiseul, distressed at seeing negotiations broken off, urged the King to write to M. de Soubise: “Dear Cousin, I am writing to you so that, immediately on receipt of this letter, you should cross the River Fulda and attack the enemy without heed for such dispositions as you might think fit and, whatever the result, you will not be held responsible. As to which, I pray God, etc.” M. de Choiseul wrote: “The King’s letter, M. le Maroéchal, is too explicit for me to have to add anything. But I can tell you that, should the King’s Army be destroyed down to the last man and His Majesty be obliged to raise a new one, he would not be dismayed at it”.'

Here, then, we have the English Ministry demanding outright that an allied army, subsidised by them and consisting partly of Englishmen, should be buffeted by the French. They had earlier meddled in French military operations in the opposite direction because George wanted his Hanover to be spared. For in the same extraits we read:

In 1762 Messieurs d'Estrées and de Soubise were in command of the Army of the Upper Rhine numbering 150,000 men, stationed in Hesse, at Göttingen, Mülhausen and Eisenach; M. de Condé commanded that of the Lower Rhine, numbering 30,000 men. All that the Court asked of them was to hold Cassel and Göttingen until the end of November, to evacuate those two places at that time and withdraw to the Ohm, having Ziegenhayn before their front line. Even assuming equal strengths, let alone 180,000 against 80,000, this plan of campaign would have been extraordinary had it not been based on a promise made to us by the English Ministry to conclude peace before the month of July, provided that we made no incursions into Hanover.

This latter piece of meddling by London might, at most, be regarded as normal, had the warring powers been on the point of entering into peace negotiations; the first case, on the other hand, would have cost Lord Bute his head and George, such was the mood at the time (Think only of Wilkes’ and Juniusic Letters), his throne but, comme toujours, it was almost a century before the matter came to light. We encounter another such example just before the outbreak of the anti-Jacobin War when the ‘liberal’ Fox sent a secret emissary’ to Catherine II telling her not to be misled by Pitt’s threats, but to gobble up Poland at her leisure for, should Pitt try to go to war against Russia, he would be brought down. True, Fox was then in the ‘opposition’ and not the Ministry, and I adduce this example simply as evidence that the ‘outs’ are no less honourable than the ‘ins’.

Hence I believe that, in assessing the allies’ conduct of the war — as indeed you infer from time to time in your articles — the exchanges between Downing Street (especially as long as Palmerston is there) and Petersburg must always be considered. I am sure that, as soon as the armies find themselves in a critical position, the generals will sh... on the Cabinet and do their best, since Messrs the generals are seldom or never let into secrets and even risk their necks — witness the example of Admiral Byng, whose instructions from the Admiralty of the day were no less deplorable than those of e.g. Dundas now.

I shall try to get hold of Bauer’s latest production and send it to you.

I don’t know whether Napier and other historians of the Franco-Spanish war have presented in its true light a fact for which there is ample proof in Spanish works, namely that, right up to the end of the war, apart from a brief spell when Napoleon himself was in command in Spain, a fully organised republican conspiracy existed in the French army, aimed at overthrowing Napoleon and restoring the republic. Apropos. Authentic sources suggest that the great ‘Mina y Espoz’ was an egregious rogue, inferior to job. Becker, no military talent at all, but cunning, worldly-wise and avant tout voleur [above all a thief]. A careful study of Spanish revolutionary history reveals that it has taken the fellows some 40 years to subvert the material basis of the priesthood and the aristocracy, but that during this time they have also succeeded in completely revolutionising the old social order. Incidentally, the provisional governments, etc., there show about as much sense as in France, etc. Considering the hot-bloodedness of the whole race and their indifference to bloodshed, it is typical that, up to the time of the civil war of 1834-40, it was precisely the revolutionary party which claimed to have a monopoly of philanthropic gentleness, and for this it was punished again and again.

Tomorrow Pieper will probably become a resident master 30 miles from London. Having lost his post as correspondent to the Union, he is forced to accept this appointment. In view of my wife’s ‘condition’ she will be able to do little as a secretary.

This is deplorable.

I have had another dunning letter from the ‘friendly’ Freund, but no reply as yet from Lassalle.

When your old man leaves again, or if he decides not to come, I should, circumstances permitting, like to come to Manchester for a time.

Still no answer from Lassalle — nine weeks now. Nothing from Cluss.

Schnauffer has died.

K. M.