Karl Marx in New York Daily Tribune, 1853

War— Strikes— Dearth

First published: in the New York Daily Tribune, No. 3925, November 15, 1853;
Transcribed: November 16 1996 (director@marx.org);

London, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 1853

[ War ]

The news of the cannonade of Isakchea [1] had hardly reached London, when the intelligence was telegraphed from Vienna to London and Paris, that the Porte, at the request of the representatives of the four Powers, had issued orders for the adjournment of the hostilities, if they should not have already commenced, till the 1st November. Is the exchange of cannon-shots at Isakchea to be or not to be considered as a commencement of hostilities? That is the question now stirring the Stock Exchange and the press. In my opinion it is a very indifferent one, as in any event the armistice would have elapsed to-day.

It is rumored that the Turkish army had crossed the Danube at Widin and Matchin, viz.: at the north-eastern and north-western frontiers of Bulgaria. The accuracy of this dispatch appears very doubtful. According to the Paris Presse of to-day, it was resolved by a military council held in the Seraskirat [War Ministry of the Ottoman Empire — Ed.] on the 15th or 16th Oct., that as soon as the refusal of Prince Gorchakoff to evacuate the Principalities would be officially known, the hostilities were to commence in Asia, on two different points: against the fortress of Poti, at the Black Sea, and on the frontier of Georgia. The same paper informs us, that Gen. Baraguay d'Hilliers, the newly appointed French Ambassador at Constantinople, has set out accompanied by a staff composed of officers of the génie and of the artillerie. Mr. Baraguay is known as a bad General and a good intriguer. I remind you of his exploits at the famous Club of the Rue de Poitiers. [2]

[ Strikes ]

While the first cannon bullets have been exchanged in the war of the Russians against Europe, the first blood has been spilt in the war now raging in the manufacturing districts, of capital against labor. On Friday night a riot took place at Wigan, arising out of the contest between the colliers and the coal kings; on Saturday the town was stated to be perfectly quiet, but to-day we are informed by electric telegraph that at the colliery of Lord Crawford or of the Earl Balcarres, an attack was made by the colliers, that the armed force was called out; that the soldiers fired, and that one of the workmen was killed. [3] As I am to receive private information from the spot, I adjourn my report on this event, only warning your readers against the reports of The Daily News and The Times, the former of these papers being in the direct pay of the Manchester School, and the latter being, as The Morning Herald justly remarks, "the bitter, unforgiving, relentless enemy of the working classes."

In 1842, when the Manchester School, under the banner of free trade, enticed the industrial proletariat into insurrectionary movements, and, in the time of peril [4], treacherously abandoned them, as Sir Robert Peel plainly told the Cobdens in the House of Commons — at that epoch their watchword was: Cheap food and dear wages. The Corn Laws having been abrogated and free trade, as they do understand it, realized, their battle-cry has been changed into: Cheap wages and dear food. With the adoption of the Manchester commercial system by Government, the millocracy had imposed upon themselves a problem impossible to be resolved under their regime: the securing of an uninterrupted continuance of brisk trade and commercial prosperity. For the hour of adversity, they had cut off any position to fall back upon. There was no more deluding the masses with Parliamentary reform, as in 1831; the legislative influence, conquered by that movement for the middle classes, having been exclusively employed against the working classes; and the latter having, in the meantime, got up a political movement of their own — Chartism. There is no more charging the aristocratic protectionists with all the anomalies of the industrial system and the deadly conflicts springing up from its very bowels, as free trade has worked for about eight years under wonderfully fortunate circumstances with a California and an Australia — two worlds of gold, extemporized, as it were, by the imaginative powers of the modern demiurge. Thus, one by one, step by step, the industrial bourgeoisie have removed, with their own hands, all the carefully propagated delusions that could be conjured up at the hour of danger, in order to deturn the indignation of the working classes from their real antagonist, and to direct it against the antagonists of the millocracy, against the landed aristocracy. In 1853, there have waned away the false pretenses on the part of the masters and the silly illusions on the part of the men. The war between those two classes has become unmitigated, undisguised, openly avowed and plainly understood. "The question," exclaim the masters themselves in one of their recent manifestoes — "is no longer one of wages but one of mastership." [Here and below Marx quotes from the article "As They've Made Their Bed Se They Must Lie", published in The People's Paper, No. 78, October 29, 1853. — Ed.] The Manchester liberals, then, have at last thrown off the lion's skin. What they pretend at — is mastership for capital and slavery for labor.

Lock-out vs. Turn-out, is the great lawsuit now pending in the industrial districts, and bayonets are likely to give judgment in the case. A whole industrial army, more than 70,000 working-men are disbanded and cast upon the streets. To the mills closed at Preston and Wigan there have been added those of the district of Bacup which includes the townships of Bacup, Newchurch, Rawtenstall, Sharnford, and Stanford. At Burnley the mills stopped last Friday; at Padiham on Saturday; at Accrington the masters are contemplating a lock-out; at Bury, where about 1,000 men are already out of work, the masters have given notice to their hands of a "lock-out unless they discontinued their contributions to those out of work in their own town and at Preston;" and at Kindley, three large mills were closed on Saturday afternoon, and more than a thousand additional persons thrown out of employment.

While the hypocritical, phrase-mongering, squint-eyed set of Manchester humbugs spoke peace to the Czar [5] at Edinburgh, they acted war with their own countrymen at Manchester. While they preached arbitration between Russia and Europe, they were rejecting scornfully all appeals to arbitration from their own fellow-citizens. The workmen of Preston had carried in an open air meeting the resolution

"that the delegates of the factory operatives recommend the Mayor to call a public meeting of the manufacturers and the operatives to agree to an amicable settlement of the dispute now pending."

But the masters do not want arbitration. What they pretend at is dictation. While, at the very moment of a European struggle, those Russian propagandists cry for reduction of the army, they are at the same time augmenting the army of civil war, the police force, in Lancashire and Yorkshire. To the workmen we can only say with The People's Paper.

"If they close all the mills of Lancashire do you send delegates to Yorkshire and enlist the support of the gallant men of the West Riding. If the mills of the West Riding are closed, appeal to Nottingham and Derby, to Birmingham and Leicester to Bristol and Norwich, to Glasgow and Kidderminster, to Edinburgh and Ipswich Further and further, wider and wider, extend your appeals and rally your class through every town and trade. If the employers choose to array all their order against you, do you array your entire class against them. If they will have the vast class struggle, let them have it, and we will abide the issue of that tremendous trial."

[ Dearth ]

While, on the one hand, we have the struggle of masters and men, we have, on the other, the struggle of commerce with overstocked markets, and of human industry with the shortcomings of nature.

 At a very early period of the Chinese revolution, I drew the attention of your readers to the disastrous influences it was likely to exercise on the social condition of Great Britain.

"The Chinese insurrection," we are now told by The Examiner, "is rampant in the tea districts, the result of which is that teas are looking up in the market of London, and calicos are looking down in the market of Shanghai." "At Shanghai," we read in the circular of Messrs. Bushby & Co., a Liverpool house, "the tea market has opened at prices about 40 to 50 per cent. above last season. Stocks were light, and supplies coming [...] slowly."

The last advices from Canton state that the

"insurgents are [...] generally spreading themselves throughout the country to the entire ruin of trade, that manufactures, almost without exception, have given way in price, in some instances, the fall is very serious. Stocks are large and fast accumulating, and we fear the prospect of amendment is rather remote. At Amoy the trade in imports, beyond a few chests of opium, appears at an end for the present."

The following is described as the state of the markets at Shanghai:

"Both black teas and raw silks have been offering freely, but the conditions imposed by holders have been such as greatly to restrict operations; no desire appeared to take manufactures, and transactions have been chiefly effected by means of opium at very low prices, and bullion from Canton. Large amounts of treasure have been removed from that place, but the supply is rapidly being exhausted, and we must look to other quarters for silver bullion and coin, without which we shall soon be unable to purchase produce, unless a great improvement should take place in the import market. Business in the latter has been very limited, and chiefly confined to sales of damaged goods at auction."

In the commercial circular from Messrs. Gibson & Co., dated Manchester, Oct. 21, we find noticed, as a most prominent cause of the actual depression,

"not only present bad advices from our great Chinese market, [...] but the prospect of such continuing to arrive in that absence of confidence in monetary transactions there, which must so inevitably be the result, and for a protracted period, of the complete and radical changes which appear likely to be effected in the government and institutions of that vast Empire."

As to the Australian markets, The Melbourne Commercial Circular states, that

"where goods purchased only about a month ago [...] have been sold, if then delivered, at a profit of no less than 100 @ 150 per cent., [...] now [...] they would not realize enough to cover the expenses."

Private letters from Port Philip, received last week, are also extremely unfavorable with regard to the state of the markets. Goods continue to pour in from all parts of the world, and the prices they could command were so low, that rather than submit to immediate sacrifices, ships were being purchased in numbers, to be used for storage.

 We can then not be surprised at the commercial circulars continuing to record dullness and declining prices in the markets of the industrial districts. Thus we read in the circulars of Messrs. Fraser, Son & Co., dated Manchester, Oct. 21:

"The extent of operations, whether for the home trade, or for foreign parts, has been on an exceedingly limited scale, and prices have suffered throughout to a greater or lesser extent. The further decline in 7/8 prints and madapolams may be stated at 1 1/2d. to 3d. per piece; in 56 to 66 reed 34 in. to 36 in. shirtings 4 1/2d. to 6d. per piece; in 36-72 reed shirtings, 3d. per piece; in 39 in. shirtings, of low quality weighing 5 1/4 to 6 lbs., about 4 1/2d. per piece; in 39 in. 60 to 64 reed shirtings 3d. per piece; in 45 to 54 in. shirtings 4 1/2d. to 7 1/2d. per piece; in low 5 to 8 jaconets 1 1/2d., and in 14 to 16 square jaconets 3d. per piece; in T cloths 1 1/2d., in long cloths 3d. per piece and in domestic of certain classes about 1-16d. per yard. In yarns, watered twist has declined the most for common and middling qualities, which may be considered as 1/4d. to 1/2d. per lb. below last month's quotations. Mule yarns have been most affected in No. 40's, which have been selling at a reduction of fully 1d. per lb. from the highest point of the year. [...] Other yarns at 20s. below 60 have been similarly affected."

As to the food market, the London Weekly Dispatch states:

"In so far as wheat is concerned, the opinions of farmers, as they proceed to thrash their grain and count their stocks, is that the crop will be shorter still than they anticipated. Indeed they call it [...] a half-crop."

The wetness of the weather since about a fortnight, highly unfavorable for wheat-sowing and seeding in the ground, evokes, too, serious apprehensions for the harvest of 1854.

 From Oxfordshire it is reported as follows:

"As to the wheat crop, as a whole it is a miserable failure; farms that usually produce from 40 to 44 bushels per acre are this year yielding from 15 to 20 bushels; and some well cultivated wheat and bean lands are yielding but from 8 to 10 bushels per acre. [...] Potatoes sadly diseased, are an insignificant yield."

A Yorkshire report informs us that:

"The wet has caused a complete cessation of all active out-door operations; and the remains of the latter harvest, we are sorry to say — all the beans, the bulk of spring wheat, and some oats, are, by being exposed to the action of the weather, rendered so soft as to prevent the hope that it can ever be fit to thrash after the drying winds of spring. It is, moreover, sadly sprouted, and a sad waste of this last resource will doubtless inevitably take place. We give a faint idea of the extent of the loss to which we now refer. Commencing at the Tees, and from thence to Catterick, at Stokesley, and embracing the lowlands of Cleveland, and eastward of Thirsk to the sea, westward of Harrogate and from the Humber to the sea, [...] , vast quantities of corn are abroad and spoiled by the wet, with a rainy sky overhead; a full fifty per cent. of the potatoes irrevocably diseased, and a new demand for seed has sprung up, with small stocks of old corn. It is certain that the whole of the wheat-growing districts of the country are deficient and spoiled beyond any former period within our recollection."

A Hertfordshire report states:

"It is very extraordinary at this period of the year not to have concluded the harvest in this country. Such, however, is the fact, as there are many fields of oats not yet carted, and a considerable portion of the spring-sown beans, with an occasional field of barley; indeed, there are some fields of lent-corn not yet cut."

The Economist of last Saturday publishes the following table, showing the quantities of wheat and grains of all kinds, and of meal and flour of all kinds imported into the United Kingdom during the period from Jan. 5 to Oct. 10, 1853:


 Countries from          Wheat,     Wheat. Corn [...]    Agg. of
 which expt'd              qrs.   meal. or     of all   meal and
                                    flour,     kinds,    fl'r of
                                     cwts.       qrs. all kinds,
 Russia, viz.:                                                  
 Northern Ports          69,101         64    307,976         65
 Ports within Black Sea 704,406         —  1,029,168         —
 Sweden                   3,386         13      3,809         13
 Norway                      —          1        561          1
 Denmark                220,728      5,291    733,801      5,291
 Prussia                872,170      3,521    899,900      3,521
 M'kl'nbg-Schwerin      114,200         —    123,022         —
 Hanover                 19,187         —    146,601         —
 Oldenburg                2,056         —     19,461         —
 Hanseatic Towns        176,614     53,037    231,287     53,066
 Holland                 58,034        306    132,255        308
 Belgium                 15,155        353     20,829        353
 Channel Islds.                                                 
 (foreign produce)          526      4,034        629      4,034
 France                  96,652    857,916    470,281    858,053
 Portugal                 4,217          4     21,657          4
 Azores                     630         —     14,053          1
 Spain                   13,939    177,963     48,763    177,985
 Gibraltar                   —          9      4,368          9
 Italy, viz.:                                                   
 Sardinian Territories    7,155      2,263      8,355      2,263
 Tuscany                 48,174     67,598     45,597     67,598
 Papal Territories       39,988         —     41,488         —
 Naples and Sicily        8,618          2     11,977          2
 Austrian Territories    44,164        370    106,796        370
 Malta                   28,569         —     56,281         —
 Ionian Islands              82         —     16,220         —
 Greece                   1,417         —     10,221         —
 Wall'hia and Moldavia  209,048         —    601,481         —
 Syria                   21,043         —     24,686         —
 Egypt                  297,980         —    543,934         —
 Othr. Turk'h Dom'n     218,407      7,370    689,703      7,340
 Algeria                     —         —     21,661         —
 Morocco                      3          3     13,451         —
 British East India          —        205         —        205
 British N. America      45,587    232,216     62,626    232,493
 U.S. of America        434,684  2,388,056    630,324  2,389,283
 Brazil                      —          3        237        320
 Other Parts                  1        148          8        148
 Total                3,770,921  3,800,746  7,093,458  3,802,743

 The total of wheat is                            qrs. 3,770,921
 The equivalent of 3,802,743 cwts.                              
 of meal and flour is                             qrs. 1,086,522
 Total of grain, flour and meal                   qrs. 8,179,980

The Economist, in order to allay the apprehensions of the city merchants, draws the following conclusions from the foregoing table:

"In 1847, notwithstanding the extraordinary stimulus of high prices, we imported of wheat and flour, in the whole year, only 4,464,000 quarters. In the first nine months of the present year we have imported, without any such stimulus, except during the last two months, 4,856,848 quarters. [...] Now, one of two things must be true with regard to these large imports as they affect our own home supply — either they have to a great extent been consumed, and have thereby saved in the same proportion our own home production, or they are warehoused, and they will be available hereafter."

Now, this dilemma is utterly inadmissible. Consequent on the prohibitions or the threatened prohibitions of the export of corn from the continent, the corn merchants thought it fit to warehouse their stores meanwhile in England, where they will be only available hereafter in case of the corn prices ranging higher in England than on the continent. Besides, in contradistinction to 1847, the supply of the countries likely to be affected by a Russo-Turkish war amounts to 2,438,139 quarters of grain and 43,727 cwt. of flour. From Egypt, too, exportation will be prohibited after 30th November next. Finally, England has this year to look only to the usual annual surplus of other nations, while. before the abrogation of the Corn Laws, it had at its disposition, in seasons of want, the foreign stocks accumulated during the favorable seasons.

The Weekly Times, from its point of view, sums up the situation in the following terms:

"The quartern loaf is a shilling — the weather is worse than it has been for half a century at this season of the year — the operative classes are in the delirium of strikes — Asiatic cholera is raging among us once more, and we have got a war mania. We only want war taxes and famine to make up the orthodox number of the plagues of England."

Signed: Karl Marx


BACKGROUND: The beginning of this article was published under "War" in The Eastern Question.

[1] On October 23 1853, during the transfer of part of the Russian Danubian fleet from Izmail to the region of Braila and Galatz, Russian ships and gunboats passing the fort of Isakchea exchanged artillery fire with the Turkish garrison there. The garrison suffered heavy losses as a result.

[2] A reference to the Committee at rue de Poitiers — the leading body of the so-called Party of Order, which was a coalition of two monarchist factions in France: the Legitimists (supporters of the Bourbon dynasty) and the Orleanists (those of the Orleans dynasty). This party of the wealthy conservative bourgeoisie, formed in 1848, held key posts in the Legislative Assembly of the Second Republic from 1849 until the coup d'état of December 2 1851. The failure of its policy was used by supporters of Louis Bonaparte in the Bourbonists interests. General Baraguay d'Hilliers, who supported the Committee during the Republic, sided with the Bonapartists on the eve of the coup.

[3] In October 1853, a strike began in Wigan in which several thousand factory workers and miners took part. The employers responded with a lockout. At their meeting on October 28, the mine and factory owners decided to resume work on October 31, suing as strikebreakers workers they had brought from Wales. On learning of this, a thousand-strong crowd of strikers stoned the premises of the meeting, the Chamber of Commerce and the houses of some employers. The workers were dispersed by troops summoned for the purpose. On October 31, the day when the mines were opened, disturbances broke out again in Wigan, with clashes between strikers and strikebreakers. The military opened fire, and some strikers were killed.

[4] In August 1842, at a time of economic crisis and growing poverty, workers' strikes and disturbances started in several industrial regions of England. In Lancashire, large areas of Cheshire, Yorkshire and other countries the strikes grew into spontaneous uprisings. The government responded with mass reprisals and severe court sentences for the Chartist leaders. The bourgeoisie who shared the Free Traders' views tried to use the workers' movement to bring pressure to bear on the government to repeal the Corn Laws. In many instances, they incited the workers to action. However, the bourgeoisie became alarmed at the scope of the strikes and disturbances and, convinced that the workers were pursuing their own ends, supported the brutal reprisals against them. For details, see Engels' work The Condition of the Working-Class in England and his article "History of the English Corn Laws."

[5] A reference to the speeches by Bright and Cobden at the conference in Edinburgh organized by the Peace Society. The Peace Society (the Society for Promoting Permanent and Universal Peace) was a pacifist organization founded by the Quakers in London in 1816. It was strongly supported by the Free Traders, who believed that, given peace, free trade would enable Britain to make full use of her industrial superiority and thus gain economic and political supremacy.