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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1852

Marx to Adolf Cluss
In Washington

Source: MECW Volume 39, p. 134;
Text: according copy by Cluss in letter to Weydemeyer 1852;
First published: in full in Marx and Engels, Works, 2nd Russian Edition, 1962.

[London, 20 July 1852]

... With a difference of at most 10 votes in favour of either Whigs or Tories, the elections here will produce the same old Parliament. The cercle vicieux is complete. The same old constituents produce the same old Parliament. In that Parliament what have hitherto been the ruling parties are rotting from within, mutually offsetting and paralysing each other, so that they are compelled to appeal yet again to their constituents and so on, ad infinitum, until the circle is broken from without by the pressure of the masses, and that may soon be the case. At no previous election has the conflict between the real majority and the official majority of voters created by the electoral privileges been so glaringly in evidence. You should know that at every English election voting is done 1. by a show of hands when the whole population votes, and 2. by a poll, the decisive one, in which only the enfranchised vote. Those nominated by the show of hands do not include a single Member of Parliament, while those returned by the poll (i.e. really elected), do not include anyone nominated by the show of hands. Take Halifax, for example, where Wood, the Whig Minister (Finance) was opposing E. Jones. At the show of hands, Wood was hissed. Jones received 14,000 votes and was carried in triumph through the town. At the poll, Wood was elected while Jones received only 36 votes.

There is little new to report about émigré affairs. But for a few louts, Willich stands more and more isolated, no one believing in his probity any longer. As I have told you, Reichenbach, though he resigned from the committee long ago, refuses to hand out a penny from the loan until a definitive committee has been formed. In his eyes, Willich and Kinkel are as unacceptable as the handful of blackguards who elected them. Reichenbach est un honnête bourgeois, qui prend sa responsabilité au sirieux.

The French emigration has split into 3 camps: 1. Revolution (Ledru). 2. Delegation (the more progressive). 3. 1,500 opponents of both, the plebs or, as the aristocrats used to call them, the ‘populean’. A certain Coeurderoy (d'ailleurs très bon républicain) has published a pamphlet against Mazzini-Ledru and Cabet-Blanc and is shortly to bring out something else. You will receive both when they appear.

Yesterday a letter from Cologne, from which the following:

‘Latterly they have been visiting various places in an attempt to find correspondence from you which, they are convinced, was to be conveyed through the agency of these persons to democrats in the Rhineland. Your friends are at last to be brought before the Court of Assizes. The bill of indictment, a most compendious work, has been drawn up, the date for the public hearing has been fixed for the 28th of this month, and the usual preliminaries are under way. As I understand the case they are, legally speaking, in an exceptionally good position but, as you will know, before a jury the moral standpoint is all important, and in this respect there can be no denying the danger for some of the accused. For the principal defendants, Röser, Bürgers, Nothjung and Reiff, have given away far too much: they have admitted a connection with specific tendencies over a definite period; have talked of the enrolment of new members attended by certain formalities and pledges, and other such things, which in themselves, however, do not constitute a crime, but may, depending on circumstances, have an adverse effect on the jurymen, most of whom belong to the peasantry, particularly when there is such evident lack of respect for God and landed property. Grave difficulties will also arise in connection with the defence; the advocates know nothing about such matters, most are hostile on principle and dread the thought of the ten-day sitting fixed for the case. It should not be forgotten that, on the occasion of the Assizes, proceedings will be taken in contumaciam against F. Freiligrath, at present in London. So Freiligrath will shortly be able to parade round London as a German poet who has been beheaded in effigy.-

‘P.S. I have just read the bill of indictment which contains no less than 65-70 pages. If they're convicted, these people have only their own statements to blame. I doubt there can be any more consummate jackasses than these working men: Reiff made statements that were almost regular denunciations, and various others behaved no less ineptly. Small wonder that the fellows were so much harassed; the longer they have been held in solitary confinement, the more satisfactory statements they made. That aside, facts don’t come into it.'

Voilà our Straubingers, it’s tough that world history should have to be made with people such as these...