Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848
Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 296;
Written: by Engels on July 31, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 62, August 1, 1848.
Cologne, July 31.
“Where is it possible in England to discover any trace of hatred against the class which in France is called the bourgeoisie? This hatred was at one time directed against the aristocracy, which by means of its corn monopoly imposed a heavy and unjust tax on industry. The bourgeois in England enjoys no privileges, he depends on his own diligence; in France under Louis Philippe he depended on monopolies, on privileges.”
["Köln, 28. Juli. Die europäische Revolution und die Handelsfreiheit”, Kölnische Zeitung, July 29, 1848]
This great, this scholarly, this veracious proposition can be found in Herr Wolfers’ leading article in the always well-informed Kölnische Zeitung.
It is indeed strange. England has the most numerous, the most concentrated, the most classic proletariat, a proletariat which every five or six years is decimated by the crushing misery of a commercial crisis, by hunger and typhus; a proletariat which for half its life is redundant to industry and unemployed. One man in every ten in England is a pauper, and one pauper in every three is an inmate in one of the Poor Law Bastilles. The annual cost of poor-relief in England almost equals the entire expenditure of the Prussian state. Poverty and pauperism have been openly declared in England to be necessary elements of the present industrial system and the national wealth. Yet, despite this, where in England is there any trace of hatred against the bourgeoisie?
There is no other country in the world where, with the huge growth of the proletariat, the contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie has reached such a high level as in England; no other country presents such glaring contrasts between extreme poverty and immense wealth — yet where is there any trace of hatred against the bourgeoisie?
Obviously, the associations of workers, set up secretly before 1825 and openly after 1825, associations not for just one day against a single manufacturer, but permanent associations directed against entire groups of manufacturers, workers’ associations of entire industries, entire towns, finally associations uniting large numbers of workers throughout England, all these associations and their numerous fights against the manufacturers, the strikes, which led to acts of violence, revengeful destructions, arson, armed attacks and assassinations — all these actions just prove the love of the proletariat for the bourgeoisie.
The entire struggle of the workers against the manufacturers over the last eighty years, a struggle which, beginning with machine wrecking, has developed through associations, through isolated attacks on the person and property of the manufacturers and on the few workers who were loyal to them, through bigger and smaller rebellions, through the insurrections of 1839 and 1842, has become the most advanced class struggle the world has seen. The class war of the Chartists, the organised party of the proletariat, against the organised political power of the bourgeoisie, has not yet led to those terrible bloody clashes which took place during the June uprising in Paris, but it is waged by a far larger number of people with much greater tenacity and on a much larger territory — this social civil war is of course regarded by the Kölnische Zeitung and its Wolfers as nothing but a long demonstration of the love of the English proletariat for its bourgeois employers.
Not so long ago it was fashionable to present England as the classic land of social contradictions and struggles, and to declare that France, compared with England’s so-called unnatural situation, was a happy land with her Citizen King, her bourgeois parliamentary warriors and her upright workers, who always fought so bravely for the bourgeoisie. It was not so long ago that the Kölnische Zeitung kept harping on this well-worn tune and saw in the English class struggles a reason for warning Germany against protectionism and the .,unnatural” hothouse industry to which it gives rise. But the June days have changed everything. The horrors of the June battles have scared the Kölnische Zeitung, and the millions of Chartists in London, Manchester and Glasgow vanish into thin air in face of the forty thousand Paris insurgents.
France has become the classic country as regards hatred of the bourgeoisie and, according to the present assertions of the Kölnische Zeitung, this has been the case since 1830. How strange. For the last ten years English agitators, received with acclamation by the entire proletariat, have untiringly preached fervent hatred of the bourgeoisie at meetings. and in pamphlets and journals, whereas the French working-class and socialist literature has always advocated reconciliation with the bourgeoisie on the grounds that the class antagonisms in France were far less developed than in England. The men at whose very name the Kölnische Zeitung makes the triple sign of the cross, men like Louis Blanc, Cabet, Caussidičre and Ledru-Rollin, have, for many years before and after the February revolution, preached peace with the bourgeoisie, and they generally did it de la meilleure foi du monde. [in good faith] Let the Kölnische Zeitung look through any of the writings of these people, or through the Réforme, the Populaire, or even the working-class journals published during the last few years like the Union, the Ruche populaire and the Fraternité — though it should be sufficient to mention two works which everybody knows, Louis Blanc’s entire Histoire de dix ans, especially the last part, and his Histoire de la revolution française in two volumes.
But the Kölnische Zeitung is not content with merely asserting as a fact that no hatred exists in England against “the class which in France is called the bourgeoisie” (in England too, our well-informed colleague, cf. the Northern Star for the last two years) — it also explains why this must be so.
Peel saved the English bourgeoisie from this hatred by repealing the monopolies and establishing Free Trade.
“The bourgeois in England enjoys no privileges, no monopolies; in France he depended on monopolies.... It was Peel’s measures that saved England from the most appalling upheaval.”
By doing away with the monopoly of the aristocracy, Peel saved the bourgeoisie from the threatening hatred of the proletariat, according to the amazing logic of the Kölnische Zeitung.
“The English people, we say: the English people day by day increasingly realise that only from Free Trade can they expect a solution of the vital problems bearing on all their present afflictions and apprehensions, a solution which was recently attempted amid streams of blood.... We must not forget that the first notions of Free Trade came from the English people.”
The English people! But the “English people” have been fighting the Free Traders since 1839 at all their meetings and in the press, and compelled them, when the Anti-Corn Law League was at the height of its fame, to hold their meetings in secret and to admit only persons who had a ticket. The people with bitter irony compared the practice of the Free Traders with their fine words, and fully identified the bourgeois with the Free Trader. Sometimes the English people were even forced temporarily to seek the support of the aristocracy, the monopolises, against the bourgeoisie, e.g. in their fight for the ten-hour day. And we are asked to believe that the people who were so well able to drive the Free Traders off the rostrum at public meetings, that it was these “English people” who originally conceived the ideas of Free Trade! The Kölnische Zeitung, in its artless simplicity, not only repeats mechanically the illusions of the big capitalists of Manchester and Leeds, but lends a gullible ear to their deliberate lies.
“The bourgeois in England enjoys no privileges, no monopolies.” But in France things are different:
“The worker for a long time regarded the bourgeois as the monopolist who imposed a tax of 60 per cent on the poor farmer for the iron of his plough, who made extortionate profits on his coal, who exposed the vine-growers throughout France to death from starvation, who added 20, 40, 50 per cent to the price of everything he sold them......
The only “monopoly” which the worthy Kölnische Zeitung knows is the customs monopoly, i.e. the monopoly which only appears to affect the workers, but actually falls on the bourgeoisie, on all industrialists, who do not profit from tariff-protection. The Kölnische Zeitung knows only a local, legally created monopoly, the monopoly which was attacked by the Free Traders from Adam Smith to Cobden.
But the monopoly of capital, which comes into being without the aid of legislation and often exists despite it, this monopoly is not recognised by the gentlemen of the Kölnische Zeitung. Yet it is this monopoly which directly and ruthlessly weighs upon the workers and causes the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Precisely this monopoly is the specifically modern monopoly, which produces the modern class contradictions, and the solution of just these contradictions is the specific task of the nineteenth century.
But this monopoly of capital becomes more powerful, more comprehensive, and more threatening in proportion as the other small and localised monopolies disappear.
The freer competition becomes as a result of the abolition of all “monopolies”, the more rapidly is capital concentrated in the hands of the industrial barons, the more rapidly does the petty bourgeoisie become ruined and the faster does the industry of England, the country of capital’s monopoly, subjugate the neighbouring countries. If the “monopolies” of the French, German and Italian bourgeoisie were abolished, Germany, France and Italy would be reduced to proletarians compared with the all-absorbing English bourgeoisie. The pressure which the individual English bourgeois exerts on the individual English proletarian would then be matched by the pressure exerted by the English bourgeoisie as a whole on Germany, France and Italy, and it is especially the petty bourgeoisie of these countries which would suffer.
These are such commonplace ideas that today they can no longer be expounded without causing offence — to anyone but the learned gentlemen of the Kölnische Zeitung.
These profound thinkers see in Free Trade the only means by which France can be saved from a devastating war between the workers and the bourgeois.
To reduce the bourgeoisie of a country to the level of the proletariat is indeed a means of solving class contradictions which is worthy of the Kölnische Zeitung.