Karl Marx in the New York Daily Tribune 1853

A General System of Strikes


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Written: by Marx;
First Published: in the New York Daily Tribune, June 17, 1853;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

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.” 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 necessities. 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 dependent on, the commercial interest. They have permitted manufacturers to escape from the Ten-Hours Act, to evade the Truck Act, and to infringe with impunity all other acts passed expressly against the “unadorned” rapacity of the manufacturer, while they interpret the Combination Act 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.