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Marx To Paul and Laura Lafargue in London

Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870

My dear children, 

You must excuse the long delay of my answer. You know I cannot stand the heat. It weighs down my energy. On the other hand, I was overwhelmed with business, the German 'friends' firing at me a mitrailleuse26 of letters which, under present circumstances, I could not decline answering at once. 

You want of course to hear something about the war. So much is sure that L. Bonaparte has already missed his first opportunity. You understand that his first plan was to take the Prussians unawares and get the better of them by surprise. It is, in point of fact, much easier to get the French army—a mere soldiers' army till now—ready than the Prussian one which consists largely of the civilian element forming the Landwehr.11 Hence, if Bonaparte, as he at first intended, had made a dash even with half-collected forces, he might have succeeded to surprise the fortress of Mayence, to push simultaneously forward in the direction of Würzburg, thus to separate Northern from Southern Germany, and so throw consternation amidst the camp of his adversaries. However, he has allowed this opportunity to slip. He saw unmistakable signs of the national character of the war in Germany and was stunned by the unanimous, quick, immediate adhesion of Southern Germany to Prussia. His habitude of hesitation, so much adapted to his old trade of conspirator planning coup d'état and plebiscites, got the upper hand, but this method will not do for war, which demands quick and unwavering resolution. He let his first plan slip and resolved to collect his full forces. Thus, he lost his advantage of a first start, of surprise, while the Prussians had gained all the time necessary for mobilizing their forces. Hence you may say that Bonaparte has already lost his first campaign.27

Whatever may now be the first incidents of the war, it will become extremely serious. Even a first great French victory would decide nothing, because the French army will now find on its way three great fortresses, Mayence, Coblenz, and Cologne, ready for a protracted defense. In the long run, Prussia has greater military forces at her disposal than Bonaparte. It may even be that on one side or the other she will be able to cross the French frontier and make 'le sol sacré de la patrie'*—according to the chauvinists of the Corps Législatif this sol sacré is situated only on the French side of the Rhine—the theatre of war! 

Both nations remind me of the anecdote of the two Russian noblemen accompanied by two Jews, their serfs. Nobleman A strikes the Jew of Nobleman B, and B answers: 'Schlägst Du meinen Jud, schlag ich deinen Jud.'b So both nations seem reconciled to their despots by being allowed, each of them, to strike at the despot of the other nation. 

In Germany the war is considered as a national war, because it is a war of defence. The middle class (not to speak of the Krautjunker-tumc) overdoes itself on manifestations of loyalty. One believes himself taken back to the times of 1812 sqq 'für Gott, König und Vaterland'd with the old donkey Arndt's: 'Was ist des Teutschen Vaterland'e! 

The singing of the Marseillaise at the bidding of the man of December is of course a parody, like the whole history of the Second Empire. Still, it shows that he feels that 'Partant pour la Syrie'is would not do for the occasion. On the other hand, that old, damned ass, Wilhelm 'Annexander', sings 'Jesus meine Zuver­sicht'19; flanked on the one side by 'larron'h Bismarck and on the other, by the 'policier' Stieber! 

On both sides it is a disgusting exhibition.

Still there is this consolation, that the workmen protest in Germany as in France. In point of fact the war of classes in both countries is too far developed to allow any political war whatever to roll back for long time the wheel of history. I believe, on the contrary, that the present war will produce results not at all expected by the 'officials' on both sides. 

I enclose two cuts from Liebknecht's Volksstaat. You will see that he and Bebel behaved exceedingly well in the Reichstag.28

For my own part, I should like that both, Prussians and French, thrashed each other alternately, and that—as I believe will be the case—the Germans got ultimately the better of it. I wish this, because the definite defeat of Bonaparte is likely to provoke Revolution in France, while the definite defeat of the Germans would only protract the present state of things for 20 years. 

The English upper classes are full of moral indignation against Bonaparte at whose feet they have fawned for 18 years. Then they wanted him as the savior of their privileges, of rents and profits. At the same time, they know the man to be seated on a volcano the which unpleasant position forces him to trouble peace periodically and makes him—beside his parvenuship—an un­pleasant bedfellow. Now they hope that to solid Prussia, protestant Prussia, Prussia backed by Russia, will fall the part of keeping down revolution in Europe. It would for them be a safer and more respectable policeman. 

As to the English workmen, they hate Bonaparte more than Bismarck, principally because he is the aggressor. At the same time, they say: 'The plague on both your houses'," and if the English oligarchy, as it seems very inclined, should take part in the war against France, there will be a 'tuck' at London. For my own part, I do everything in my power, through the means of the International, to stimulate this 'neutrality' spirit and to baffle the 'paid' (paid by the 'respectables') leaders of the English working class who strain every nerve to mislead them. 

I hope the measures as to the houses within the fortification rayon will not hurt you.29

Thousand kisses to my sweet little Schnaps.

Yours devotedly,

Old Nick


March 5, 1870

Here, at home, as you are fully aware, the Fenians’ sway is paramount. Tussy is one of their head centres. Jenny writes on their behalf in the “Marseillaise” under the pseudonym of J. Williams. I have not only treated the same theme in the Brussels “Internationale,” and caused resolutions of the Central Council to be passed against their gaolers. In a circular, addressed by the Council to our corresponding committees, I have explained the merits of the Irish Question.

You understand at once that I am not only acted upon by feelings of humanity. There is something besides. To accelerate the social development in Europe, you must push on the catastrophe of official England. To do so, you must attack her in Ireland. That’s her weakest point. Ireland lost, the British “Empire” is gone, and the class war in England, till now somnolent and chronic, will assume acute forms. But England is the metropolis of landlordism and capitalism all over the world.

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