Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848

The “Model State” of Belgium

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 333;
Written: by Marx on August 6, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 68, August 7, 1848.

Cologne, August 6. Let us once again cast a glance upon Belgium, our constitutional “model state”, the monarchical El Dorado with the broadest democratic basis, the university of the Berlin statesmen and the pride of the Kölnische Zeitung.

Let us look, to begin with, at the economic conditions of which the much-praised political constitution only forms the gilded frame.

The Belgian Moniteur. — Belgium has her Moniteur — carries the following piece of news about Leopold’s greatest vassal: pauperism.

In the province of Luxemburg1 inhabitant out of69 receives support
Namur1 in17
Antwerp1 in16
Liége1 in7
Limburg1 in7
Hainaut1 in6
Eastern Flanders1 in5
Brabant1 in4
Western Flanders1 in3

This growth of pauperism will necessarily be followed by a further increase in pauperism. All individuals who maintain an independent existence lose their civil equilibrium as a result of the assistance tax with which these poor fellow citizens burden them and they too plunge into the abyss of public charity. Pauperism creates pauperism at an increasing rate. To the same extent, however, that pauperism increases, crime increases and the life source of the nation itself, the youth, is demoralised.

The years 1845, 1846 and 1847 offer sad documents on that score.

The number of young boys and girls under 18 years of age who were in judicial confinement:

Sum total:17,813  

Thus starting with 1845 there is an approximately annual doubling of the number of juvenile delinquents under 18 years of age. According to this ratio, Belgium would have 74,816 juvenile delinquents in the year 1850 and 2,393,312 in the year 1855, i.e. more than the number of young people under 18 years of age she has and more than half her population. By 1856 all Belgium would he in gaol, the unborn children included. Could the monarchy hope for a broader democratic basis? Equality prevails in gaol.

Both types of Morison pill have been tried in vain on the national economy: on the one hand free trade and on the other hand protective tariffs. Pauperism in Flanders was horn under the system of free trade, it grew and became stronger under the protective tariffs against foreign linen goods and linen yarn.

Thus while pauperism and crime grow among the proletariat, the bourgeoisie’s sources of income are drying up as the recently published comparative tabulation of the Belgian foreign trade during the first six months of the years 1846, 1847 and 1848 proves.

With the exception of arms and nail factories, which have been exceptionally favoured by circumstances, the cloth factories which maintain their ancient renown and the zinc production which compared to overall production is insignificant, the whole of Belgian industry is in a condition of decay or stagnation.

With a few exceptions, there is a considerable decrease in the export of the products of the Belgian mines and metal-works.

We quote a few examples:

 First six months 1847First six months 1848
Coal(in metric tons)869,000549,000
Pig iron56,00035,000
Cast iron wares463172
Iron rails3,48913
Wrought iron wares556434

Thus the total decrease of these three types of articles for the first six months of 1848 amounts to 344,481 tons which is somewhat more than 1/3.

We come to the linen industry.

 First six months 1846First six months 1847First six months 1848
Linen yarn [in kgm]1,017,000623,000306,000
Linen fabric1,483,0001,230,000681,000

The decrease of the first six months of 1847 compared with those of 1846 amounted to 657,000 kilograms, the decrease in 1848 compared with that in 1846 amounts to 1,613,000 kilograms or 64 per cent.

The export of books, crystal ware and window glass has decreased enormously. So has the export of raw and dressed flax, tow, tree bark and manufactured tobacco.

The spreading pauperism, the unprecedented hold that crime has over young people, and the systematic deterioration of Belgian industry form the material basis of the following constitutional gaieties: The pro-government journal Indépendance numbers over 4,000 subscribers as it never grows tired of proclaiming. The aged Mellinet, the only general who saved Belgian honour, is confined to quarters and in a few days will appear before the Assizes in Antwerp. The lawyer Rolin from Ghent, who conspires against

Leopold in the interest of the Orange family and conspires against his later allies, the Belgian liberals, in the interest of Leopold of Coburg, this Rolin, the double apostate, has obtained the portfolio of Public Works. The ex-pedlar Cha-a-azal, Fransquillon, [Belgian name for an admirer of everything French] Baron and Minister of War, swings his large sabre and saves the European equilibrium. The Observateur has augmented the programme of the September Day Celebrations[218] by a new amusement: a procession, an Ommeganck General, in honour of the Doudou of Mons, the Houplala of Antwerp and the Mannequin Pisse of Brussels. The Observateur, the journal of the great Verhaegen, is perfectly in earnest. Finally, what compensates for Belgium’s suffering is the fact that it has risen to become the university of Berlin’s Montesquieus — of a Stupp, a Grimm, a Hansemann and a Baumstark — and that it enjoys the admiration of the Kölnische Zeitung. Oh happy Belgium!