Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung October 1848

The “Model Constitutional State”

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 482;
Written: by Marx on October 21, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 123, October 22, 1848.

Cologne, October 21. We always revert again, and always with renewed satisfaction, to Belgium, our “model constitutional state”.

We proved in a previous number of our newspaper that “pauperism” is “Leopold’s greatest vassal”. We showed that if the crimes of just the boys and girls under 18 years of age were to continue to develop spontaneously at the same ratio as in 1845-47, “by 1856 all Belgium would be in gaol, the unborn children included”. We proved in the same article that the drying up of Belgium’s industrial sources of income keeps in step with the growth of pauperism and crime (No. 68 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung).'

Today we will look at the financial situation of the “model state”.

The regular budget of 1848 119,000,000
The first compulsory loan 12,000,000
The second compulsory loan 25,000,000
Banknotes with a fixed rate of exchange 12,000,000
Total sum: 168,000,000
In addition banknotes with a fixed rate of exchange guaranteed by the state40,000,000
Total: 208,000,000

Belgium, so Rogier tells us, stands like a rock amid world-historic tempests, but is not affected by them. It stands on the bed-rock of its broad institutions. The 208,000,000 francs are the prosaic translation of the miraculous power of those model institutions. Constitutional Belgium will not be brought down by revolutionary development. It will perish ignominiously through bankruptcy.

The liberal Belgian Government, the Rogier Government, like all liberal governments, is nothing but a Government of capitalists, bankers and the big bourgeoisie. We shall see right away how in spite of growing pauperism and declining industry, it does not disdain the most cunning means to exploit ever anew the entire nation for the benefit of the bank barons.

The second loan listed in the above compilation, has been chiefly wrested from the Parliament by the assurance that government bonds were to be redeemed. These government bonds had been issued under the Catholic de Theux Government by the Catholic Finance Minister Malou. These were the government bonds issued against voluntary loans made to the state by a few financial barons. They constituted the main theme, the inexhaustible theme of the howling diatribes which our Rogier and his liberal accomplices directed against the de Theux Government.

And what does the liberal Government proceed to do? It announces in the Moniteur — Belgium has its Moniteur — a new issue of government bonds at 5 per cent.

What shamelessness to issue government bonds after a compulsory loan of 25,000,000 francs has been obtained surreptitiously solely under the pretext that the so much maligned government bonds issued by Malou were to be redeemed! But that is not all.

The government bonds are issued at 5 per cent. Belgian securities, which are also guaranteed by the state, yield an interest of 7 and 8 per cent. Who then will put his money into government bonds? And besides, the situation of the country in general and the compulsory loans have left few who are able to make voluntary loans to the state.

What then is the purpose of this new issue of government bonds?

The banks have not yet been able by far to put into circulation all the notes with a legally fixed rate of exchange which the liberal Government had authorised them to issue. There are in their portfolios still several million of these useless securities which naturally yield nothing as long as they remain hermetically sealed in the portfolios. Is there a better way of putting these securities into circulation than to give them to the state in exchange for government bonds which yield 5 per cent?

Thus the bank draws 5 per cent on several million scraps of paper which have not cost it anything and which only have an exchange value at all because the state has given them an exchange value. The taxable Belgian masses will find in the next budget a deficit of an additional several hundred thousand francs which they will be in duty bound to raise, all for the benefit of the poor bank.

Is it surprising that the Belgian financial barons find the constitutional monarchy more lucrative than the republic? The Catholic Government cherished and protected primarily the holiest, i.e. the material, interests of the landlords. The liberal Government looks with equally tender care after the interests of the landlords, the financial barons and the court lackeys. Is it any wonder that under its skilful direction these so-called parties, which equally voraciously pounce upon the national wealth, or rather in the case of Belgium, upon the national poverty, and which on such occasions sometimes quarrel amongst themselves, now, fully reconciled, fall into each other’s arms and form only one big party: the “national party"?