Marx-Engels Correspondence 1859

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle
In Berlin

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 380;
First published: F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Stuttgart-Berlin, 1922.

London, 4 February 1859
9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill

Dear Lassalle,

I've not yet had an acknowledgment of receipt from Mr Duncker and am therefore still in doubt whether the manuscript [Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] is yet out of the clutches of the authorities. You will see from the enclosed note that it left London on 26 January.

Ad vocem bellum: The general view here is that war in Italy is inevitable. This much is certain: Mr Emmanuel is in earnest and Mr Bonaparte was in earnest. What has swayed the latter is 1. Fear of Italian daggers. Since Orsini’s death, he has been constantly engaged in secret intrigues with the Carbonari, the go-between being Plon-Plon, the husband of ‘Clotilde’. 2. An exceedingly bleak financial situation: it is, in fact, impossible to go on feeding the French army ‘in peacetime'; Lombardy is fat and fertile. Moreover a war would again make ‘war loans’ possible. Any other loan is ‘impossible’. 3. Over the last two years Bonaparte’s repute has dwindled daily amongst all parties in France, and his diplomatic transactions have also been a succession of failures. So something has got to happen if his prestige is to be restored. Even in the rural areas there is a great deal of grumbling about the ruinously low price of grain and Mr Bonaparte has tried in vain to push up the price of wheat artificially by means of his decrees on granaries. 4. The parvenu in the Tuileries is being egged on by Russia. Given the Pan-Slav movement in Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia, southern, northern and eastern Hungary, Illyria, etc., and a war in Italy, Russia would almost certainly break the resistance that Austria continues to offer her. (Russia regards the prospect of an internal agrarian revolution with horror, and war abroad might come as a welcome diversion to the government, quite apart from any diplomatic objectives.) 5. Mr Plon-Plon, son of the ex-King of Westphalia, and his clique (headed by Girardin and a very mixed bag of Hungarian, Polish and Italian pseudo-revolutionaries) are doing all in their power to force the issue. 6. A war against Austria in Italy is the only one in which England, who cannot take a direct stand for the Pope, etc., and against so-called liberty, would remain neutral, at least at the start. Russia, however, would keep Prussia in check should the latter feel inclined, which I doubt, to intervene at the very outset of the campaign.

On the other hand one may be perfectly sure that Mr Louis Bonaparte is devilishly afraid of a really serious war. 1. The man is always full of misgivings and, like all gamblers, is far from resolute. He has always inched his way to the Rubicon, but those standing behind him have invariably had to chuck him in. In every case — Boulogne, Strasbourg, December 1851 — he was, in the end, forced to proceed in earnest with his plans. 2. The exceptionally cool reception accorded his scheme in France is not encouraging, of course. The masses appear to be indifferent. On the other hand there have been outright and earnest remonstrations against it on the part of high finance, trade and industry, the clerical party and, finally, the senior generals (Pélissier, for example, and Canrobert). Indeed, prospects on the military side are far from rosy, even if the braggadocio in the Constitutionnel is taken at its face value. Assuming France can muster all in all 700,000 men, 580,000 of these, at the very highest estimate, will be fit for military service. Deduct 50,000 for Algiers; 49,000 gendarmes, etc.; 100,000 (minimum) for guarding the cities (Paris, etc.) and fortresses of France; 181,000 at least for the army keeping watch on the Swiss, German and Belgian frontiers. This leaves 200,000 which, even if you add the minuscule Piedmontese army, is by no means an overwhelming force to employ against the Austrians in their fortified positions on the Mincio and the Adige.

However that may be, if Mr Bonaparte draws back now, he will be done for so far as the bulk of the French army is concerned; and this might ultimately induce him to go ahead after all.

You apparently believe that in the event of such a war Hungary would rise. I very much doubt it. Austria will, of course, place a corps on the Galician-Hungarian frontier to observe the Russians, and this will simultaneously keep the Hungarians in check. The Hungarian regiments (in so far as they have not — and many of them already have — been dispersed among their enemies, e.g. the Czechs, Serbs, Slovenes, etc.) will be stationed in German provinces.

The war would, of course, have serious, and without doubt ultimately revolutionary consequences. But initially it will maintain Bonapartism in France, set back the internal movement within England and Russia, revive the pettiest nationalist passions in Germany, etc., and hence, in my view, its initial effect will everywhere be counter-revolutionary.

Be that as it may, you should expect nothing of the émigrés here. Apart from Mazzini who, at least, is a fanatic, they're a bunch of confidence tricksters whose one ambition is to extract money from the English. Mr Kossuth has positively sunk to the level of an itinerant lecturer who hawks the same old nonsense round the various provinces of England and Scotland and sells it over and over again to ever new audiences.

The scoundrels here have all become so conservative that they would indeed deserve to be amnestied. Mr Gottfried Kinkel, for example, is publishing a weekly here, Hermann by name, compared with which even the Kölnische Zeitung is a daring and witty paper. (By indulging in sundry flirtations with aesthetic Jewesses, the suave, melodramatic parson is said, amongst other things, to have driven his wife to fall out of the window and break her neck. Freiligrath, being a kind-hearted fellow, was so taken in by the scenes of grief that he wrote a poem about the late Johanna Mockel, only to discover a day or two later that the grief was merely feigned and that never had Mr Gottfried felt so free and easy as since the death of his spouse.) The fellow preaches ‘optimism’ in a namby-pamby, hat-doffing, somewhat breathless manner. The paper should be called Gottfried. For my part I would rather write under Manteuffel’s yoke than under that of the German philistines in the City of London. To Mr Kinkel, however, the yoke is all the sweeter and lighter for the fact of his being not one jot superior to the said philistines where character and insight are concerned. The to-do made by the ‘Lewald’ woman, alias ‘Stahr’, about the late Mockel has compromised the latter person still further.


K. M.

It would be a great help to me if you could obtain in Breslau, and let me have as soon as possible particulars about a person of the female sex by the name (allegedly) of von Paula-Kröcher, who used to live there and is now over here.