Clashes between the Police and the People. The Events in the Crimea

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Friedrich Engels
Written 6 July 1855


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Written about July 6, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 313, July 9, 1855
Marked with the sign x
The English version of part of the text was published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 4447, July 21, 1855,
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1060, July 24, 1855
and in the New York Weekly Tribune, No. 724, July 28, 1855 as a leading article
Published in English in full for the first time in MECW.
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.333-336), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): Neue Oder-Zeitung

The section of this article dealing with military events is part of Engels' article "The Late Repulse of the Allies" which was written for the New York Daily Tribune.

London, July 6. London witnessed a continuous series of clashes, lasting from Monday to yesterday evening, between the police and the "mob"; the former with their truncheons behaved provocatively, the latter reciprocated by throwing stones. We saw scenes in Marlborough Street and the nearby streets which were strongly reminiscent of Paris. Duncombe asked Parliament yesterday evening to investigate the "base and brutal" conduct of the police last Sunday[1]. The masses intend to visit the clubs in Pall Mall[2] the day after tomorrow. The Chartists are planning an armed procession—armed not with sabres and muskets but with tools and sticks—to move from Blackfriars Bridge to Hyde Park carrying banners with the inscription "No Mayne Law"[3]. (This is deliberately ambiguous. Maine Law, as everybody knows, is the name of the puritanical American law prohibiting alcoholic drinks[4]. Mayne is the name of the chief of the Loudon police.) It will have been obvious from our previous reports[5] that the demonstrations in Hyde Park were improvised events brought about by the instinct of the masses. The unrest was afterwards increased and heightened by the provocative brutality of the police, whose chief, Sir Richard Mayne, proved worthy of the decoration he had received from Paris. It is however even now possible to discern several distinct parties which seek to accelerate, guide and utilise the mass movement for their own more far-reaching ends. These parties are:

First the Government itself. During Bonaparte's stay in London[6], all wall posters directed against him disappeared as if by magic. Now even the most virulent posters are not removed by the police. Everything indicates a hidden purpose: the constables' enjoined brutality, the provocative language of government counsel at the Court[7] in Marlborough Street, the unlawful employment of the arrested persons on the treadmill[e], the insulting manner of the official newspapers, and the Cabinet's vacillating behaviour in Parliament. Does Palmerston need a small coup d'état to maintain his Government, or does he require widespread internal disturbances to divert attention from the Crimea? If we understand correctly this reckless statesman, who hides his profound and ruthless calculations under the cloak of frivolous superficiality, we can say of him, as Voltaire says of Habakuk, that he is "capable de tout".[8][9]

Secondly the advocates of Administrative Reform[10]. They try to use the mass movement to intimidate the aristocracy on the one hand, and as a means of winning popularity for themselves on the other hand. It is for this reason that in their name and for their account, the case of those arrested last Sunday was conducted by Ballantine before the police-court[e] in Marlborough Street. This is why they ransomed all those sentenced yesterday by depositing their fines. This is why their newspapers defend the "mob" (as the ministerial Globe calls the people) and attack the police and the Ministry.

Thirdly the Chartists, whose aims are self-evident.

Official and private reports on the unfortunate attack of June 18 have at last appeared. The publication of the official dispatches was put off for several days, and there was certainly good reason for the delay. This is undoubtedly a most perfect example of the blunders made in the Eastern affair.

The French advanced trenches were from 400 to 500, and the English from 500 to 700 yards from the Russian batteries[11]. These distances mark the lengths of road which the respective columns of attack had to pass over without cover from the Russian fire, and unsupported by the fire of their own artillery; with sharp running, then, such as would destroy every vestige of order, would expose them defencelessly to musket fire during three to five minutes, a time quite sufficient to completely disorganise them. This single fact is characteristic of the whole plan. Unless the enemy's fire were completely silenced, and the accumulation of large masses of troops in the hostile works effectively prevented by incessant vertical shell firing, there was not the slightest chance of success.

The Russians appear to have judged well of the plans of the Allies, if they were not, as Pélissier supposes, fully acquainted with them. They but feebly replied to the fire of the Allies on the 17th, withdrew their guns behind the parapets during the day, and in general made such arrangements that scarcely any other preparations were required for the next day's work. During the night the guns were brought back into their positions, the columns and reserves told off for the defence were stationed.

The plan originally agreed upon between Pélissier and Raglan was to reopen their fire at daybreak on the 18th with all the vigour they could give to it for a couple of hours, and then on a sudden to launch simultaneously seven storming columns—one French against the bastion close to the Careening Bay, two French against the Malakoff bastion, three English against the Redan bastion and one English against the cluster of houses and the cemetery situated between the Redan and the head of the inner harbour. This plan was sensible enough if there was to be an assault at all; its execution would subdue the Russian fire and disperse the Russian masses concentrated for the defence before the actual attack took place. On the other hand, the Allied troops would have to suffer from the Russian fire while crowding the trenches, and the defenders would very probably soon perceive the presence of columns destined to attack their position with the bayonet. But this was by far the lesser evil. The original plan with all its shortcomings was still the best that could be devised under the circumstances. How the plan was failed, how Pélissier's premature laurel wreath withered away and how under the protective eagles of the restored Empire, the Allied armies suffered an "infantry Balaklava"[12] —all this we shall discuss tomorrow.

This summer seems to have severe tribulations in store for the "saints". The foremost bill broker of London, and apparently the chief of the Quakers[13], Gurney (one of whose daughters is married to Bunsen's son), Gurney, who is as rich as he is pious, seems to be badly compromised by the fraudulent Strand bankruptcy. He discounted bills of exchange amounting to £37,000 for Strahan and Co. though he knew that they were bankrupt, thus enabling them to defraud the public for a few months longer. He himself managed to extricate himself without incurring any loss. The mundane press delights in making malicious remarks about the iniquities committed even by the select.

  1. July 1, 1855.—Ed.
  2. Street in London.—Ed.
  3. "No Mayne Law" and "Maine Law" are given in English in the article together with a German translation.—Ed.
  4. Maine Law—the first law passed in the US banning the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. It was first adopted in the State of Maine in 1841 and renewed in amended form in 1851.
  5. See The Mishap of June 18. Reinforcements and Agitation over The Tightening-up of Sunday Observance.—Ed.
  6. Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie visited London in April 1855.
  7. Marx and Engels use the English term.—Ed.
  8. Capable of anything.—Ed.
  9. Marx and Engels used this phrase with reference to Max Stirner in The German Ideology.
  10. The Association for Administrative Reform was set up in London in May 1855 on the initiative of liberal circles in the City. Taking advantage of the outcry caused in the country by press reports and the findings of the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the plight of the British army in the Crimea, the Association hoped by means of mass rallies to bring pressure to bear on Parliament and win broader access for members of the commercial and finance bourgeoisie to government posts, monopolised by the aristocracy. In their campaign the Association's leaders sought to obtain the support of the Chartists. However, at rallies organised by the Association and at their own rallies the Chartists refused to back the moderate bourgeois demands for administrative reform and instead urged a Parliamentary reform based on the People's Charter (*). The administrative reform campaign was a failure, and the Association soon ceased to exist. In his subsequent reports Marx frequently touched on the Association's activities and relations with the Chartists.
    (*) The People's Charter, which contained the demands of the Chartists, was published in the form of a Parliamentary Bill on May 8, 1838. It contained six points: universal suffrage (for men of 21 and over), annual parliaments, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, abolition of the property qualification of MPs and payment of MPs. Petitions urging the adoption of the People's Charter were turned down by Parliament in 1839, 1842 and 1848.
  11. This and the following two paragraphs largely correspond to the second, third and fourth paragraphs of Engels' article "The Late Repulse of the Allies".—Ed.
  12. A reference to the defeat of the British and Turkish forces in the battle of Balaklava. Particularly heavy losses were suffered by the British cavalry. The battle of Balaklava took place on October 25, 1854. Units of the Russian army tried to cut off the British and Turkish troops taking part in the siege of Sevastopol from their base in Balaklava. They succeeded in inflicting serious losses on the enemy, especially on the British cavalry, but failed to achieve their main objective. For a description of this battle see Engels' article "The War in the East".
    Marx continued his analysis of the military events of June 18, 1855 in a report dated July 7 and headlined "Über den Sturm vom 18. Juni" ("On the Assault of June 18"). It was published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung on July 11. The report reproduced in German a large section of Engels' article "The Late Repulse of the Allies".
  13. Quakers (or Society of Friends)—a religious sect founded in England during the seventeenth-century revolution and later widespread in North America. The Quakers rejected the Established Church with its rites and preached pacifist ideas. The "wet" Quakers, so called in opposition to the orthodox or "dry" Quakers, were a trend which emerged in the 1820s and sought to renew the Quaker doctrines.