Karl Marx in Neue Oder-Zeitung 1855

[From Parliament]


Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971;
First Published: in German in Neue Oder-Zeitung, July 16, 1855;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

For two years Parliament, as is well known, has been considering three bills designed to regulate the relations of Irish landowners and tenants. One of the bills determines the amount of compensation which the tenant should be entitled to claim for the improvements he made on the land, in the event of the landowner terminating the lease. Hitherto, all improvements made by Irish tenants — most of whom hold a temporary lease concluded for one year — have merely enabled the landowner to demand a higher rent on the expiration of the existing lease. Thus the tenant either loses the farm, if he does not wish to renew the lease under less favourable conditions, and with the farm he loses the capital he has invested in the improvements, or he is compelled to pay the landlord, in addition to the original rent, interest on the improvements made with his (the tenant’s) capital. Support for the earlier mentioned bills was one of the arrangements with which the coalition cabinet purchased the votes of the Irish Brigade. In 1854, therefore, they were passed by the House of Commons, but the House of Lords with the connivance of the Ministers shelved them till the next session (in 1855) and then amended them in such a way that their point was blunted, sending them back to the House of Commons in this distorted form. There the main clause of the Compensation Bill was sacrificed on the altar of landed property last Thursday, and the Irish were astonished to see that the scales had been turned against them partly by the votes of members of the government and partly by the votes of those directly associated with them. Sergeant Shee’s furious attack on Palmerston threatened to unleash a riot in the “Irish quarter” which at this moment could have serious consequences. Palmerston therefore negotiated with the help of Sadleir, an ex-member of the coalition and middleman of the Irish Brigade. He arranged for a deputation of 18 Irish M.P.s to visit him the day before yesterday to enquire whether he was willing to use his influence to have the parliamentary vote rescinded and to carry the clause through the House of Commons in another division. Palmerston, of course, is ready to promise anything in order to secure the support of the Irish Brigade during the vote on the no-confidence motion. The premature exposure of this intrigue in the House of Commons gave rise to one of those scandalous scenes typical of the decline of the oligarchic parliament. The Irish have 105 votes, but it became known that the majority of M.P.s had not authorised the deputation of 18. Altogether, Palmerston is no longer able to use the Irish during government crises in quite the same way as in O'Connell’s time. Along with the dissolution of the old established parliamentary factions, the “Irish quarter,” too, crumbles and disintegrates. In any case, the incident shows how Palmerston makes use of the time won to influence the various cliques. At the same time he waits for some favourable news from the theatre of war, some small incident which can be exploited in the parliamentary sphere, if not in the military. The submarine telegraph has wrenched the direction of the war from the hands of the generals and made it dependent on the amateurish astrological whims of Bonaparte and on parliamentary and diplomatic intrigues. Hence the inexplicable and quite unparalleled character of the second Crimean campaign.[56]


56. Marx is referring to the new offensive begun by the English and French troops in the spring of 1855 during the Crimean War (1853-56). Marx and Engels believed that it could have led to the rout of tsarism, if the Allied troops had taken energetic action. Marx sharply censured the foreign policy pursued by the English and French governments, who were striving to consolidate their positions in the Balkans and oust Russia while simultaneously trying to preserve the tsarist autocracy as an instrument for the suppression of revolutionary and national liberation movements. In the articles describing the war, Marx and Engels paid tribute to the skill of the Russian soldiers who defended Sevastopol.