Speeches on Poland (1)
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, December 9, 1847.
Marx’s and Engels’ participation in the international meeting organised by the Fraternal Democrats to mark the anniversary of the Polish uprising of 1830 showed their eagerness to use their stay in London during the Second Congress of the Communist League (end of November-beginning of December 1847) to strengthen contacts with the democratic and workers’ organisations in England. As Vice-President of the Brussels Democratic Association Marx was empowered to establish correspondence between the Association and the Fraternal Democrats and to enter into negotiations on the organisation of an international democratic congress.
Marx and Engels took an active part in preparing for that congress. When in London, at the Second Congress of the Communist League, Marx had talks on the subject with the Chartist leaders and representatives of the proletarian and democratic emigrants. Engels apparently had similar talks with French socialists and democrats. In the beginning of 1848 an agreement was reached to convene the congress in Brussels. It was scheduled for August 25, 1848, the 18th anniversary of the Belgian revolution. These plans did not materialise, however, because in February 1848 a revolution began in Europe.
Concerning the Polish meeting and the reception accorded the German democrats, see this text.
Apart from the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung No. 140, December 3, 1847 and The Northern Star No. 528, December 4, 1847 also gave an account of the speeches made by Marx and Engels at the meeting.
Marx’s Speech[edit source]
The unification and brotherhood of nations is a phrase on the lips of all parties today, especially those of bourgeois free traders. A certain kind of brotherhood does of course exist among the bourgeois classes of all nations. It is the brotherhood of the oppressors against the oppressed, of the exploiters against the exploited. Just as, despite the competition and conflicts existing between the members of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeois class of one country is united by brotherly ties against the proletariat of that country, so the bourgeois of all countries, despite their mutual conflicts and competition on the world market, are united by brotherly ties against the proletariat of all countries. For the peoples to be able truly to unite, they must have common interests. And in order that their interests may become common, the existing property relations must be done away with, for these property relations involve the exploitation of some nations by others: the abolition of existing property relations is the concern only of the working class. It alone has also the means for doing this. The victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie is, at the same time, victory over the national and industrial conflicts which today range the peoples of the various countries against one another in hostility and enmity. And so the same time the he last to wish for its restoration. But it is not only the old Poland that is lost. The old Germany, the old France, the old England, the whole of the old society is lost. But the loss of the old society is no loss for those who have nothing to lose in the old society, and this is the case of the great majority in all countries at the present time. They have rather everything to gain by the downfall of the old society, which is the condition for the establishment of a new society, one no longer based on class antagonisms.
Of all countries, England is the one where the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is most highly developed. The victory of the English proletarians over the English bourgeoisie is, therefore, decisive for the victory of all the oppressed over their oppressors. Hence Poland must be liberated not in Poland but in England. So you Chartists must not simply express pious wishes for the liberation of nations. Defeat your own internal enemies and you will then be able to pride yourselves on having defeated the entire old society.
Engels’ Speech[edit source]
Allow me, dear friends, to speak here today as an exception in my capacity as a German. For we German democrats have a special interest in the liberation of Poland. It was German princes who derived great advantages from the division of Poland and it is German soldiers who are still holding down Galicia and Posen. The responsibility for removing this disgrace from our nation rests on us Germans, on us German. democrats above all. A nation cannot become free and at the same time continue to oppress other nations. The liberation of Germany cannot therefore take place without the liberation of Poland from German oppression. And because of this, Poland and Germany have a common interest, and because of this, Polish and German democrats can work together for the liberation of both nations. — I also believe that the first decisive blow which will lead to the victory of democracy, to the liberation of all European nations, will be struck by the English Chartists. I have lived in England for a number of years now and openly aligned myself with the Chartist movement during this period. The English Chartists will be the first to rise because it is precisely in England that the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is the most intense. And why is it the most intense? Because in England, as a result of modern industry, of the introduction of machinery, all oppressed classes are being merged together into a single great class with common interests, the class of the proletariat; because as a consequence, on the opposite side all classes of oppressors have likewise been united into a single class, the bourgeoisie. The struggle has thus been simplified and so it will be possible to decide it by one single heavy blow. Isn’t this so? The aristocracy no longer has any power in England; the bourgeoisie alone rules and it has taken the aristocracy in tow. But the whole great mass of the people stands opposed to the bourgeoisie, united in a formidable phalanx, whose victory over the ruling capitalists draws nearer and nearer. And you have to thank machinery for this elimination of opposed interests which previously divided the different sections of workers, for this levelling of the living standards of all workers. Without machinery no Chartism, and although machinery may temporarily worsen your position it is nevertheless machinery that makes our victory possible. But not only in England; in all other countries it has had the same effect on the workers. In Belgium, in America, in France, in Germany it has evened out the positions of all workers and daily continues to do so more and more; in all these countries the workers of all nations is the result of the party interests of the workers of all nations is the result of machinery is an enormous advance. What follows from this for us? Because the condition of the workers of all countries is the same, because their interests are the same, their enemies the same, they must also fight together, they must oppose the brotherhood of the bourgeoisie of all nations with a brotherhood of the workers of all nations.