Letter to Edward Spencer Beesly, September 16, 1870

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 16 September 1870

First published in The Social-Democrat, Reproduced from the magazine Vol. VII, No. 4, London, 190

Extract published in Marx Engels on Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 44

To E. Beesly in London

London, September 16, 1870[edit source]

My dear Sir,

You must excuse my bothering you again with a letter, but à la guerre comme à la guerre.[1] The worst anticipations of the two Addresses of the General Council of the International[2] have already been realised.

Having declared to make war against Louis Bonaparte and not against the French people, Prussia makes now war upon the French people and peace with Bonaparte. It has let out the murder. It has declared its intention of restoring him or his family to the Tuileries. The infamous Times affects to-day to treat this as mere gossip.[3] It knows, or ought to know that the thing has been printed in the Berlin Staats-Anzeiger (the Prussian Moniteur). From semi-official Prussian papers, such as the Cologne Gazette,[4] I see that that old ass, King William, true to his Hohenzollern family traditions, already prostrates himself at the feet of the Czar[5] and implores him to be so magnanimous as to employ him as his man-servant against the Turks! Lastly, the reaction has already set in in Germany. Our people at Brunswick, to begin with, have, as I wrote you, been marched off in chains like common felons to the Eastern frontier. But this is only one fact amongst hundreds.

After the first war of German Independence against Napoleon I,[6] the wild and ferocious Government’s chase upon the so-called demagogues (die demagogischen Untersuchungen[7]) lasted fully for 20 years! but they set in only after the end of the war. They now begin before the conclusion of peace.

Then their persecutions were directed against the windy idealists and frothy youths (the students at the Universities) of the middle class, bureaucracy and aristocracy. They are now directed against the working class.

For my part, I am delighted at all those misdeeds of the Prussian Government. They will stir Germany. Now what I think you ought to do is this: The first Address of the General Council on the war was only published in full by the Pall Mall[8], but extracts and even leading articles on it appeared in many other papers. This time, although the Address has been forwarded to all London papers, not one has taken the least notice of it, except the Pall Mall, which gives a very short extract.

(By-the-by, this paper, which handles you so nicely in its yesterday’s number, has certain private obligations towards me, I having proposed there my friend Engels’ Notes on the War. I did so at the request of A—B—a who, from time to time, had smuggled some paragraphs on the ‘International’ into the Pall Mali Hence our second address is not altogether burked in that paper.)

From the Continent, where people were and are used, even at Moscow and St. Petersburg, even in the French papers under the Bonapartist rule, even now at Berlin, to see the manifestoes of the International treated seriously and reproduced in full by some journal or other, we have been once and again taunted for our negligence in not using the “free” London press. They have, of course, no idea whatsoever, and will not believe in the utter corruption of that vile concern, long since branded by William Cobbett as “mercenary, infamous, and illiterate.”

Now I believe you would do the greatest possible service to the International, and I should take good care — to have your article reproduced in our journals in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, France, and the United States — if you in the Fortnightly Review would publish something on the International[9], the manifestoes of the General Council on the war and the treatment we have to undergo at the hands of that paragon press, that “free” English press! Those fellows are in fact more enslaved to the Prussian police than the Berlin papers.

Lafargue, now editor of a paper at Bordeaux,[10] sends you and Mrs Beesly his best compliments.

Yours truly,

Karl Marx

  1. One must take the rough with the smooth (literally: that's how it is in wartime).
  2. The first and second Addresses of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association on the Franco-Prussian War.
  3. 'The Emperor Napoleon', The Times, No. 26857, 16 September 1870 (leader).
  4. Kölnische Zeitung
  5. Alexander II
  6. the war of 1813-14
  7. investigation of the demagogues
  8. The Pall Mall Gazette, No. 1702, 28 July 1870.
  9. E. S. Beesly, 'The International Working Men's Association', The Fortnightly Review, No. XLVII, 1 November 1870
  10. La Defense nationale. Journal quotidien