Letter to Friedrich Engels, November 30, 1867

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 30 November 1867


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 484;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.

To Engels in Manchester

London, 30 November 1867[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Regarding Moses, I shall follow your prescription exactly. At all events, we must make use of the man and, at the same time, prevent him from misusing us. Regarding Hilberg, it would indeed be a good thing if we could keep a hold on this Revue being the only one still open to us, but how? is not yet clear to me. This morning I received a copy of Schorlemmer and send him my thanks for it.

If you have read the papers, you will have seen that 1. the International Council sent memorial for the Fenians to Hardy, 2. the debate on Fenianism (a week ago last Tuesday) was public and The Times carried a Report on it. There were also reporters there from the Dublin Irishman and Nation. I did not arrive until very late (I have been suffering from a fever for about 2 weeks, and have only got over it in the last 2 days) and had not in fact intended to speak, first on account of my uncomfortable physical condition, and second because of the delicacy of the situation. However, the Chairman Weston wanted to force me to, so I moved adjournment, which obliged me to speak last Tuesday. What I had in fact prepared for Tuesday last was not a speech but rather the points for a speech ['Notes for an Undelivered Speech on Ireland']. However, the Irish reporters did not come, and by the time we had finished waiting for them it was 9 o'clock, whereas the premises were only available to us until 10 1/2. At my suggestion, Fox had prepared a long speech (because of a quarrel on the Council he had made no appearance for 2 weeks, and furthermore sent in his resignation as member of the Council containing furious outbursts against Jung). When the séance opened I therefore declared that, on account of the belated hour, I would yield the floor to Fox. In fact — because the executions in Manchester had intervened — our subject ‘Fenianism’ was bound up with the passions and heated emotions of the moment, which would have compelled me (though not the abstract Fox) to unleash a revolutionary thunderbolt. instead of the intended objective analysis of the situation and the movement. The Irish reporters thus did me a great service by staying away and so delaying the opening of the meeting. I do not enjoy getting embroiled with people like Roberts, Stephens, and the like.

Fox’s speech was good, first because it was delivered by an Englishman, and second insofar as it dealt only with political and international aspects. However, for that very reason he only skated over the surface of things. The resolution he brought forward was silly and pointless. I opposed it and had it referred back to the Standing Committee.

What the English do not yet realise, is that since 1846 the economic content and hence the political purpose of English rule in Ireland as well has entered an entirely new phase, and that for that very reason Fenianism is characterised by socialist (in the negative sense, as directed against the appropriation of the soil) leanings and as a lower orders movement. What could be more absurd than to lump together the barbarities of Elizabeth or Cromwell, who wanted to drive out the Irish by means of English colonists (in the Roman sense), and the present system, which wants to drive out the Irish by means of sheep, pigs and oxen! The system of 1801-1846 (evictions in that period were exceptional, particularly in Leinster, where the soil is especially suited to cattle-raising) with its rackfrents and middlemen, collapsed in 1846. The Anti-Corn Law-Repeal, in part a consequence of or, at all events, hastened by the Irish famine, took from Ireland its monopoly of supplying England with corn in normal times. Wool and meat became the watchword, hence conversion of tillage into pasture. So from then on, systematic consolidation of farms. The Encumbered Estates Act which made landlords of a mass of former middlemen who had grown rich, hastened the process. Clearing of the estates of Ireland! is now the sole meaning of English rule in Ireland. The stupid English government in London naturally knows even nothing of this immense change since 1846. But the Irish do. From Meagher’s Proclamation (1848) down to Hennessy’s election address (Tory and Urquhartite) (1866) the Irish have been expressing their awareness of it in the clearest and most forcible manner.

The question now is, what advice should we give the English workers? In my view, they must make repeal of the Union (in short, the farce of 1783, only democratised and adapted to meet present circumstances) an article of their pronunziamento. This is the only legal and hence the only possible form of Irish emancipation which can be adopted by an English party in its programme. Experience must later show, whether mere personal union between the 2 countries can continue to exist. I half believe it could if it comes about in due time.

What the Irish need is:

1. Self-government and independence from England.

2. Agrarian revolution. With the best will in the world the English cannot do this for them, but they can give them the legal means to do it for themselves.

3. Protective tariffs against England. From 1783-1801 every branch of industry in Ireland flourished. By suppressing the protective tariffs which the Irish parliament had established, the Union destroyed all industrial life in Ireland. The little bit of linen industry is in no way a substitute. The Union of 1801 affected Irish industry exactly as did the measures for the suppression of the Irish wool industry, etc., on the part of the English parliament under Anne, George II, and others. As soon as the Irish became independent, necessity would turn them, like Canada, Australia, etc., into protectionists. Before I put forward my views at the Central Council (next Tuesday, this time fortunately without reporters being present), I would appreciate it if you would let me know your opinion in a few lines.

Salut.

Your
K. M.

Since Moses is a cousin of Hirsch, I am not surprised that he himself has a set of antlers. He bears it proudly.