On Ernest Jones. From the "Political Review" of Das Volk

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 15 July 1859


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First published in Das Volk, No. 11, July 16, 1859
Published in English for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.410-411), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
Collection(s): Das Volk

Political reviews (politische Rundschauen) were published in each issue of Das Volk. They were presumably written by Elard Biscamp and Wilhelm Liebknecht. When Marx became the virtual editor of the newspaper[1], he also began to take part in editing this section. The passage on Jones in this review was written and inserted in the text by Marx himself. This can be proved by comparing this passage with Marx's letters to Engels of November 24, 1857 and September 21, 1858 and to Weydemeyer of February 1, 1859.

A few days ago, a case was heard before the Court of Queen's Bench[2], which we must recount in detail. Ernest Jones, who was condemned to two years solitary confinement in 1848 for his revolutionary activities and, having served his sentence, reorganised the Chartist Party with as much self-sacrifice as talent, as is known, conceived a plan in the autumn of 1857 to establish an alliance of the proletariat with the middle class. In order to put this idea into practice, he invited representatives of the bourgeoisie and of the workers to a joint conference, which took place nominally at the beginning of last year in St. Martin's Hall[3]. But only nominally. From the Chartists no man of weight turned up, and as "representatives of the bourgeoisie", instead of Messrs. Cobden, Bright, and so on, who had scornfully refused, a couple of ambiguous characters attended, like Mr. Coningham, the communist-Urquhartist Palmerstonian, and a certain Mr. Ingram, who has since been convinced of common fraud. The so-called conference drew up a "Programme of Alliance" and preached a proletarian and bourgeois crusade against the aristocrats. In vain. The proletariat protested, the bourgeois realised that there was nothing to be won, and Ernest Jones soon saw himself abandoned by his friends, old and new. The readership of The People's Paper and The London News, the two Chartist papers which he published, dwindled from day to day, and finally Jones decided to sell these newspapers to Mr. Baxter Langley, manager of Bright's Star[4]—at best a case of excessive haste, which was all the less excusable since The People's Paper was at the time the only official organ of the Chartist Party. As was to be expected, this step aroused great indignation among some of the Chartists. Ernest Jones was violently attacked, and Reynolds's Newspaper, among others, carried a series of articles in which he was said to have sold himself to the Manchester School, to have exploited the workers politically and financially, to be a corrupt traitor, and so on and so forth. Thereupon Jones brought a defamation suit against Mr. Reynolds. Owing to various circumstances the lawsuit was drawn out and did not come up for hearing before the Queen's Bench until last Saturday. The plaintiff demonstrated most convincingly that by fighting for the Chartist principles he had ruined himself from the bourgeoisie's point of view, that he had never received money for himself from the Chartists and that he had not been bribed by the bourgeoisie, but on the contrary had been cheated by them in respect of the selling price of The People's Paper. Mr. Reynolds, who could furnish no proofs, solemnly retracted the accusations and was fined forty shillings for form's sake, but at the same time—and this is no trifling matter—was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings, which amounted to several hundred pounds sterling.

Ernest Jones has saved his personal honour, but he has not had his political honour restored to him by the verdict of the Queen's Bench. He has already paid dearly for his ill-advised attempt at mediation, but the proletariat can never forgive mistakes.

  1. Das Volk—a German-language weekly published in London from May 7 to August 20, 1859—was founded as the official organ of the German Workers' Educational Society in London. Its first issue appeared under the editorship of the German journalist and petty-bourgeois democrat Elard Biscamp. Beginning with issue No. 2 Marx took an active part in its publication: he gave it advice, edited articles, organised material support, and so on. In issue No. 6 of June 11, the Editorial Board officially named Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Ferdinand Freiligrath, Wilhelm Wolff and Heinrich Heise as its contributors (see Statement by the Editorial Board of the Newspaper Das Volk).Marx's first article in the paper—"Spree and Mincio"—was printed on June 25. Under Marx's influence Das Volk began to turn into a militant revolutionary working-class newspaper. In the beginning of July Marx became its virtual editor and manager. Das Volk reflected the elaboration by Marx and Engels of questions concerning the revolutionary theory and tactics of the working-class struggle, described the class struggles of the proletariat, and relentlessly fought the exponents of petty-bourgeois ideology. It analysed from the standpoint of proletarian internationalism the events of the Austro-Italian-French war of 1859 and the questions of German and Italian unification, exposed the foreign policy of Britain, Prussia, France, Russia and other reactionary states, and consistently opposed Bonapartism and its overt and covert supporters.Das Volk carried Marx's preface to his work A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, six of his articles, including the unfinished series Quid pro Quo, seven articles by Engels and his review of Marx's Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and reviews of the newspaper of the German petty-bourgeois democrats, the Hermann, by Marx and Biscamp (they appeared in the section "Gatherings from the Press"). Besides, many articles and political reviews written by different authors were edited personally by Marx. In all, sixteen issues appeared. The newspaper ceased publication for lack of money.
  2. The Court of Queen's Bench is one of the high courts in England; in the nineteenth century (up to 1873) it was an independent supreme court for criminal and civil cases, competent to review the decisions of lower judicial bodies.
  3. Marx refers to the conference organised by the Chartists. Ernest Jones proposed to convene such a conference as early as April 1857. It was to be attended by Chartists and bourgeois radicals. By agitating in 1857 for an alliance with bourgeois radicals to fight jointly for an electoral reform, Jones hoped to revive the mass Chartist movement in the country. However, he made serious political concessions to the bourgeois radicals by renouncing almost all the points of the People's Charter when working out a common platform for uniting with the bourgeois radicals. Of the six points of the Charter (universal suffrage, annual Parliaments, vote by secret ballot, equal constituencies, abolition of property qualifications for candidates to Parliament, and payment of M.P.s.) Jones retained only the demand for universal adult male suffrage. Jones' departure from revolutionary positions caused discontent among rank-and-file Chartists, many of whom opposed their leader's conciliatory policy. After repeated postponements the joint conference of Chartists and bourgeois radicals was convened in London on February 8, 1858.Marx and Engels regarded Jones' conciliation with the radicals as a manifestation of his political vacillation and decline into reformist positions, and broke friendly relations with him. They resumed them only a few years, later when Jones again adopted a revolutionary proletarian stand.
  4. The Morning Star.—Ed.