Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892

Engels To Nikolai Danielson


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 355;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

June 18, 1892

... Could Russia, in the year 1890, have existed and held its own in the world, as a purely agricultural country, living upon the export of her corn and buying foreign industrial products with it? And there I believe we can safely reply: no. A nation of 100 million that plays an important part in the history of the world, could not, under the present economic and industrial conditions, continue in the state in which Russia was up to the Crimean war. The introduction of steam engines and working machinery, the attempt to manufacture textile and metal products by modern means of production, at least for home consumption, must have been made sooner or later, but at all events at some period between 1856 and 1880. Had it not been made, your domestic patriarchal industry would have been destroyed all the same by English machine competition, and the end would have been — India, a country economically subject to the great Central Workshop, England. And even India has reacted by protective duties against English cotton-goods; and all the rest of the British colonies, no sooner had they obtained self-government, than they protected their home manufactures against the overwhelming competition of the mother country. English interested writers cannot make it out that their own Free Trade example should be repudiated everywhere, and protective duties set up in return. Of course, they dare not see that this, now almost universal, protective system is a — more or less intelligent and in some cases absolutely stupid — means of self-defence against this very English Free Trade, which brought the English manufacturing monopoly to its greatest height. (Stupid for instance in the case of Germany, which had become a great industrial country under Free Trade and where protection is extended to agricultural produce and raw materials, thus raising cost of industrial production!) I do not consider this universal recurrence to protection as a mere accident, but as a reaction against the unbearable industrial monopoly of England; the form of this reaction as I said, may be inadequate and even worse, but the historical necessity of such a reaction seems to me clear and evident.

All governments, be they ever so absolute, are en dernier lieu [1] but the executors of the economic necessities of the national situation. They may do this in various ways, good, bad and indifferent; they may accelerate or retard the economic development and its political and juridical consequences, but in the long run they must follow it. Whether the means by which the industrial revolution has been carried out in Russia have been the best for the purpose, is a question by itself which it would lead too far to discuss. For my purpose it is sufficient if I can prove that this industrial revolution, in itself, was unavoidable...


Everything necessary to keep farm labourers just alive during the winter is frequently earned by women and children working in some new branch of domestic industry (see Capital, Vol. I, Chapter XV, Section 8, d). This is the case in southern and western England and among the small farmers of Ireland and Germany. The devastating consequences of the separation of agriculture from domestic industry carried on in the patriarchal manner are particularly marked during the transition period, and this is happening just now in your country.


Note provided by the Moscow Editor.

1. In the final analysis.