Works of Karl Marx

England and Revolution

Source: Labour Monthly, July 1923, pp. 30-36, “Selection from the Literary Remains of Karl Marx,” III England and Revolution, Max Beer;
Original German: Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Marx und Engels, Vol. III, p.230 sqq.;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In a retrospect on the eventful year 1848, Marx deals with the meaning and effects of the European upheaval. He expresses the opinion that even a successful proletarian revolution in France could have for its result only the political emancipation of Europe, that is, freeing the oppressed nationalities and sweeping away the remnants of feudalism and absolutism, while a social revolution on the Continent depends on a victory of organised English Labour.

Marx writes: –

Cologne, December 31, 1848.

The country, however, which transforms whole nations into proletarians; which with its gigantic arms encompasses the whole globe; which has already once defrayed the cost of the European counter-revolution; and in which class antagonism has reached a high degree of development – England appears to be the rock on which the revolutionary waves split and disperse and which starves the coming society even in the womb. England dominates the world markets. A revolution of the economic conditions of any country of the European Continent or even of the whole Continent, is but a storm in a glass of water, unless England actively participates in it. The condition of trade and commerce of any nation depends upon its intercourse with other nations, depends upon its relations with the world markets. England controls the world markets, and the bourgeoisie controls England.

The [political] emancipation of Europe, either in the form of raising the oppressed nationalities to independence or of the final overthrow of feudal absolutism, is conditioned upon the victorious rising of the French working class. But any social revolutionary upheaval in Europe must necessarily miscarry, unless the English bourgeoisie or the industrial and commercial supremacy of Great Britain is shaken. Any aspiration for a lasting, though partial social transformation in France or any other part of the European Continent must remain an empty, pious wish. And old England will only be overthrown in a world war, which alone would give the Chartist Party, the organised English Labour Party, the possibility of a successful rising against its stupendous oppressor. The Chartists at the head of the English Government – only from this moment would the social revolution emerge from the realm of Utopia and enter the sphere of reality...