English Prosperity. Strikes. The Turkish Question. India.

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 17 June 1853


MIA-bannière.gif
Reproduced from the New York Daily Tribune
First published in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3809,
and the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 845, July 1, 1853;
reprinted without the last two subsections in the New York Weekly Tribune, No. 617, July 9, 1853
The text of the section "The Turkish Question" was published in The Eastern Question under the title "Brunnow and Clarendon.—Armenian Proclamation".
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 12 (pp.134-141), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1979

London, Friday, June 17, 1853

The declared value of British exports for the month of

April, 1853, amounts to£ 7,578,910
Against, for April, 18525,268,915
For four months ending April 30 [1853]27,970,633
Against the same months of 185221,844,663

Showing an increase, in the former instance,- of £2,309,995, or upward of 40 per cent.; and in the latter of £6,125,970, or nearly 28 per cent. Supposing the increase to continue at the same rate, the total exports of Great Britain would amount, at the close of 1853, to more than £ 100,000,000.

The Times, in communicating these startling items to its readers, indulged in a kind of dithyrambics, concluding with the words: "We are all happy, and all united"[1]. This agreeable discovery had no sooner been trumpeted forth, than an almost general system of strikes burst over the whole surface of England, particularly in the industrial North, giving a strange echo to the song of harmony tuned by The Times. These strikes are the necessary consequence of a comparative decrease in the labor-surplus, coinciding with a general rise in the prices of the first necessaries. 5,000 hands struck at Liverpool, 35,000 at Stockport, and so on, until at length the very police force was seized by the epidemic, and 250 constables at Manchester offered their resignation. On this occasion the middle-class press, for instance The Globe, lost all countenance, and foreswore its usual philanthropic effusions. It calumniated, injured, threatened, and called loudly upon the magistrates for interference, a thing which has actually been done at Liverpool in all cases where the remotest legal pretext could be invoked. These magistrates, when not themselves manufacturers or traders, as is commonly the case in Lancashire and Yorkshire, are at least intimately connected with, and dependant on, the commercial interest. They have permitted manufacturers to escape from the Ten-Hours Act, to evade the Truck Act[2], and to infringe with impunity all other acts passed expressly against the "unadorned" rapacity of the manufacturer, while they interpret the Combination Act[3] always in the most prejudiced and most unfavorable manner for the workingman. These same "gallant" free-traders, renowned for their indefatigability in denouncing government interference, these apostles of the bourgeois doctrine of laissez-faire, who profess to leave everything and everybody to the struggles of individual interest, are always the first to appeal to the interference of Government as soon as the individual interests of the workingman come into conflict with their own class interests. In such moments of collision they look with open admiration at the Continental States, where despotic governments, though, indeed, not allowing the bourgeoisie to rule, at least prevent the workingmen from resisting. In what manner the revolutionary party propose to make use of the present great conflict between masters and men, I have no better means of explaining than by communicating to you the following letter, addressed to me by Ernest Jones, the Chartist leader, on the eve of his departure for Lancashire, where the campaign is to be opened:

"My Dear Marx: ... To-morrow, I start for Blackstone-Edge, where a camp-meeting of the Chartists of Yorkshire and Lancashire is to take place, and I am happy to inform you that the most extensive preparations for the same are making in the North. It is now seven years since a really national gathering[4] took place on that spot sacred to the traditions of the Chartist movement, and the object of the present gathering is as follows: Through the treacheries and divisions of 1848, the disruption of the organization then existing, by the incarceration and banishment of 500 of its leading men—through the thinning of its ranks by emigration—through the deadening of political energy by the influences of brisk trade—the national movement of Chartism had converted itself into isolated action, and the organization dwindled at the very time that social knowledge spread. Meanwhile, a labor movement rose on the ruins of the political one—a labor movement emanating from the first blind gropings of social knowledge. This labor movement showed itself at first in isolated cooperative attempts; then, when these were found to fail, in an energetic action for a ten-hour's bill, a restriction of the moving power, an abolition of the stoppage system in wages, and a fresh interpretation of the Combination Bill. To these measures, good in themselves, the whole power and attention of the working classes was directed. The failure of the attempts to obtain legislative guaranties for these measures has thrown a more revolutionary tendency in the labor-mind of Britain. The opportunity is thus afforded for rallying the masses around the standard of real Social Reform; for it must be evident to all, that however good the measures above alluded to may be, to meet the passing exigencies of the moment, they offer no guaranties for the future, and embody no fundamental principle of social right. The opportunity thus given for a movement, the power for successfully carrying it out, is also afforded by the circumstances of the present time—the discontent of the people being accompanied by an amount of popular power which the comparative scarcity of workingmen affords in relation to the briskness of trade. Strikes are prevalent everywhere and generally successful. But it is lamentable to behold that the power which might be directed to a fundamental remedy, should be wasted on a temporary palliative. I am, therefore, attempting, in reorganizing with numerous friends, to seize this great opportunity for uniting the scattered ranks of Chartism on the sound principles of social revolution. For this purpose I have succeeded in reorganizing the dormant and extinct localities, and arranging for what I trust will be a general and imposing demonstration throughout England. The new campaign begins by the camp-meeting on Blackstone-Edge, to be followed by mass meetings in all the manufacturing Counties, while our agents are at work in the agricultural districts, so as to unite the agricultural mind with the rest of the industrial body, a point which has hitherto been neglected in our movement. The first step will be a demand for the Charter[5], emanating from these mass meetings of the people, and an attempt to press a motion on our corrupt Parliament for the enactment of that measure, expressly and explicitly as the only means for Social Reform-a phase under which it has not yet been presented to the House. If the working classes support this movement, as I anticipate, from their response to my appeal, the result must be important; for, in case of refusal on the part of Parliament, the hollow professions of sham-liberals and philanthropic Tories will be exposed, and t heir last hold on popular credulity will be destroyed. In case of their consenting to entertain and discuss the motion, a torrent will be loosened which it will not be in the power of temporising expediency to stop. For you must be aware, from your close study of English politics, that there is no longer any pith or any strength in aristocracy or moneyocracy to resist any serious movement of the people. The governing powers consist only of a confused jumble of worn-out factions, that have run together like a ship's crew that have quarreled among themselves, join all hands at the pump to save the leaky vessel. There is no strength in them, and the throwing of a few drops of bilge water into the democratic ocean will be utterly powerless to allay the raging of its waves. Such, my friend, is the opportunity I now behold—such is the power wherewith I hope to see it used, and such is the first immediate object to which that power shall be directed. On the result of the first demonstration I shall again write to you.

"Yours truly, Ernest Jones."

That there is no prospect at all of the intended Chartist petition being taken into consideration by Parliament, needs not to be proved by argument. Whatever illusions may have been entertained on this point, they must now vanish before the fact, that Parliament has just rejected, by a majority of 60 votes, the proposition for the ballot introduced by Mr. Berkeley, and advocated by Messrs. Phillimore, Cobden, Bright, Sir Robert Peel, etc. And this is done by the very Parliament which went to the utmost in protesting against the intimidation and bribery employed at its own election, and neglected for months all serious business, for the whim of decimating itself in election inquiries. The only remedy, purity Johnny[6] has yet found out against bribery, intimidation and corrupt practices, has been the disfranchisement, or rather the narrowing of constituencies. And there is no doubt that, if he had succeeded in making the constituencies of the same small size as himself, the Oligarchy would be able to get their votes without the trouble and expense of buying them. Mr. Berkeley's resolution was rejected by the combined Tories and Whigs, their common interest being at stake: the preservation of their territorial influence over the tenants at will, the petty shopkeepers and other retainers of the land-owner. "Who has to pay his rent, has to pay his vote," is an old adage of the glorious British Constitution.

Last Saturday The Press, a new weekly paper under the influence of Mr. Disraeli, made a curious disclosure to the public of England, as follows:

"Early in the spring Baron Brunnow communicated to Lord Clarendon the demand which the Emperor of Russia[7] was about to make on the Porte, that he did so with a statement that the object of the communication was to ascertain the feeling of England on the subject-that Lord Clarendon made no objection, nor in any way discouraged the intended course, and that the Muscovite diplomatist communicated to his imperial master that England was not indisposed to connive at his designs on the Golden Horn."[8]

Now, The Times of yesterday had an elaborate and official article emanating from the Foreign Office, in answer to the grave charge of Mr. Disraeli, but which, in my opinion, tends rather to strengthen than to refute that charge. The Times asserts that, early in the spring, before the arrival of Prince Menchikoff at Constantinople, Baron Brunnow made a complaint to Lord John Russell, that the Porte had revoked the privileges conferred on the Greek clergy by treaty, and that Lord John Russell, conceiving the matter only to concern the Holy Places, gave his assent to the designs of the Czar. But The Times is compelled at the same time to concede that after Prince Menchikoff's arrival at Constantinople, and when Lord John Russell had been replaced by Lord Clarendon at the Foreign Office, Baron Brunnow made a further communication to Lord Clarendon "purporting to convey the sense of his instructions, and some of the expressions used in the letter of credentials of which Prince Menchikoff was the bearer from the Emperor of Russia to the Sultan[9]." Simultaneously, The Times admits that "Lord Clarendon gave his assent to the demands communicated by Baron Brunnow." Evidently this second communication must have contained something more than what had been communicated to Lord John Russell. The matter, therefore, cannot stop with this declaration. Either Baron Brun-now must turn out a diplomatical cheat, or my Lords Clarendon and Aberdeen are traitors. We shall see.

It may be of interest to your readers to become acquainted with a document concerning the Eastern question, which was recently published in a London newspaper[10]. It is a proclamation issued by the Prince of Armenia, now residing in London, and distributed among the Armenians in Turkey:

"Leo, by the grace of God, sovereign Prince of Armenia, &c., to the Armenians in Turkey:

"Beloved brothers and faithful countrymen.—Our will and our ardent wish is that you should defend to the last drop of your blood your country and the Sultan against the tyrant of the North. Remember, my brothers, that in Turkey there are no knouts, they do riot tear your nostrils and your women are not flogged, secretly or in public. Under the reign of the Sultan, there is humanity, while under that of t he tyrant of the North there are nothing but atrocities. Therefore place yourselves under- the direction of God, and fight bravely for the liberty of your country and your present sovereign. Pull down your houses to make barricades, and if you have no arms, break your furniture and defend yourselves with it. May Heaven guide you on your path to glory. My only happiness will be to fight in the midst of you against the oppressor of your country, and your creed. May God incline the Sultan's heart to sanction my demand, because under his reign, our religion remains in its pure form, while, under the Northern tyrant, it will be altered. Remember, at least, brothers, that the blood that runs in the veins of him who now addresses you, is the blood of twenty kings, it is the blood of heroes—Lusignans—and defenders of our faith; and we say to you, let us defend our creed and its pure form, until our last drop of blood."

On the 13th inst. Lord Stanley gave notice to the House of Commons that on the second reading of the India Bill (23d inst.) he would bring in the following resolution:

"That in the opinion of this House further information is necessary to enable Parliament to legislate with advantage for the permanent government of India, and that at this late period of the session, it is inexpedient to proceed into a measure, which, while it disturbs existing arrangements, cannot be regarded as a final settlement."[11]

But in April, 1854, the Charter of the East India Company will expire, and something accordingly must be done in one way or the other. The Government wanted to legislate permanently; that is, to renew the Charter for twenty years more. The Manchester School wanted to postpone all legislation, by prolonging the Charter at the utmost for one year. The Government said that permanent legislation was necessary for the "best" of India. The Manchester men replied that it was impossible for want of information. The "best" of India, and the want of information, are alike false pretences. The governing oligarchy desired, before a Reformed House should meet, to secure at the cost of India, their own "best" for twenty years to come. The Manchester men desired no legislation at all in the unreformed Parliament, where their views had no chance of success. Now, the Coalition Cabinet, through Sir Charles Wood, has, in contradiction to its former statements, but in conformity with its habitual system of shifting difficulties, brought in something that looked like legislation; but it dared not, on the other hand, to propose the renewal of the Charter for any definite period, but presented a "settlement," which it left to Parliament to unsettle whenever that body should determine to do so. If the Ministerial propositions were adopted, the East India Company would obtain no renewal, but only a suspension of life. In all other respects, the Ministerial project but apparently alters the Constitution of the India Government, the only serious novelty to be introduced being the addition of some new Governors, although a long experience has proved that the parts of East India administered by simple Commissioners, go on much better than those blessed with the costly luxury of Governors and Councils. The Whig invention of alleviating exhausted countries by burdening them with new sinecures for the paupers of aristocracy, reminds one of the old Russell administration, when the Whigs were suddenly struck with the state of spiritual destitution, in which the Indians and Mohammedans of the East were living, and determined upon relieving them by the importation of some new Bishops, the Tories, in the plenitude of their power, having never thought more than one to be necessary. That resolution having been agreed upon, Sir John Hobhouse, the then Whig President of the Board of Control, discovered immediately afterwards, that he had a relative admirably suited for a Bishopric, who was forthwith appointed to one of the new sees. "In cases of this kind," remarks an English writer, "where the fit is so exact, it is really hardly possible to say, whether the shoe was made for the foot, or the foot for the shoe." Thus with regard to the Charles Wood's invention; it would be very difficult to say, whether the new Governors are made for Indian provinces, or Indian provinces for the new Governors.

Be this as it may, the Coalition Cabinet believed it had met all clamors by leaving to Parliament the power of altering its proposed act at all times. Unfortunately in steps Lord Stanley, the Tory, with his resolution which was loudly cheered by the "Radical" Opposition, when it was announced. Lord Stanley's resolution is nevertheless self-contradictory. On one hand, he rejects the Ministerial proposition, because the House requires more information for permanent legislation. On the other hand, he rejects it, because it is no permanent legislation, but alters existing arrangements, without pretending to finality. The Conservative view is, of course, opposed to the bill, because it involves a change of some kind. The Radical view is opposed to it, because it involves no real change at all. Lord Stanley, in these coalescent times has found a formula in which the opposite views are combined together against the Ministerial view of the subject. The Coalition Ministry affects a virtuous indignation against such tactics, and The Chronicle, its organ, exclaims:

"Viewed as a party-move the proposed motion for delay is in a high degree factious and discreditable.... This motion is brought forward solely because some supporters of the Ministry are pledged to separate in this particular question from those with whom they usually act."[12]

The anxiety of Ministers seems indeed to be serious. The Chronicle of to-day, again recurring to the subject, says:

"The division on Lord Stanley's motion will probably be decisive of the fate of the India Bill; it is therefore of the utmost importance that those who feel the importance of early legislation, should use every exertion to strengthen the Government."[13]

On the other hand, we read in The Times of to-day:

"The fate of the Government India Bill has been more respectively delineated.... The danger of the Government lies in the entire conforming of Lord Stanley's objections with the conclusions of public opinion. Every syllable of this amendment tells with deadly effect against the ministry."[14]

I shall expose in a subsequent letter[15], the bearing of the Indian Question on the different parties in Great Britain, and the benefit the poor Hindoo may reap from this quarreling of the aristocracy, the moneyocracy and the millocracy about his amelioration.

  1. The Times, No. 21449, June 8, 1853.—Ed.
  2. The Ten Hours' Bill, which applied to women and children only, was passed by the British Parliament on June 8, 1847. The Truck Act was passed in 1831. However many manufacturers evaded these laws in practice.
  3. In 1824, under mass pressure, the British Parliament lifted the ban on the trade unions. In 1825, however, it passed a Bill on workers' combinations, which, while confirming the raising of the ban on trade unions, greatly restricted their activity. In particular, any agitation for workers to join unions and take part in strikes was regarded as compulsion and violence and punished as a crime.
  4. A reference to the Blackstone-Edge meeting organised by the Chartists on August 2, 1846. The meeting in which Ernest Jones took part was held on June 19, 1853.
  5. The People's Charter, the Chartist programme document, contained a demand for universal suffrage (for men of 21 and over), annual elections to Parliament, secret ballot, equal constituencies, abolition of property qualifications for candidates to Parliament, and salaries for M.P.s.
  6. Allusion to John Russell.—Ed.
  7. Nicholas I.—Ed.
  8. Rendering of a passage from a report in The Press, No. 6, June 11, 1853.—Ed.
  9. Abdul Mejid.—Ed.
  10. The Daily News, No. 2207, June 17, 1853.—Ed.
  11. Quoted from a report in The Times, No. 21454, June 14, 1853.—Ed.
  12. The Morning Chronicle, No. 26981, June 15, 1853.—Ed.
  13. The Morning Chronicle, No. 26983, June 17, 1853.—Ed.
  14. The Times, No. 21457, June 17, 1853.—Ed.
  15. See The East India Company-Its History and Results —Ed.