Letters of Karl Marx 1869

Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann
In Hanover

Source: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Selected correspondence Progress Publishers, 1975;
Written: 29 November 1869;
Transcribed: Rick Kuhn.

London, November 29, 1869

... You must seek for an explanation of my long and to a certain extent criminal silence in the vast amount of work with which I had to catch up, not only in my scientific studies but also in regard to the International; I had moreover to study Russian because of a book sent to me from Petersburg about the condition of the working class (of course peasants included) in Russia[a]; and, finally, that my state of health was by no means satisfactory.

You will probably have seen in the Volksstaat the resolutions against Gladstone proposed by me on the question of the Irish amnesty. I have now attacked Gladstone — and it has attracted attention here — just as I had formerly attacked Palmerston. The demagogic refugees here love to fall upon the Continental despots from a safe distance. That sort of thing attracts me only when it is done vultu instantis tyranni. [b]

Nevertheless, both my utterance on this Irish amnesty question and my further proposal in the General Council to discuss the attitude of the English working class to Ireland and to pass resolutions on it have of course other objects besides that of speaking out loudly and decidedly for the oppressed Irish against their oppressors.

I have become more and more convinced—and it is only a question of driving this conviction home to the English working class — that it can never do anything decisive here in England until it separates its policy with regard to Ireland most definitely from the policy of the ruling classes, until it not only makes common cause with the Irish but even takes the initiative in dissolving the Union established in 1801 and replacing it by a free federal relationship. And this must be done, not as a matter of sympathy with Ireland but as a demand made in the interests of the English proletariat. If not, the English people will remain tied to the leading-strings of the ruling classes, because it will have to join with them in a common front against Ireland. Every one of its movements in England itself is crippled by the strife with the Irish, who form a very important section of the working class in England. The primary condition of emancipation here—the overthrow of the English landed oligarchy—remains impossible because its position here cannot be stormed so long as it maintains its strongly entrenched outposts in Ireland. But, once affairs are in the hands of the Irish people itself, once it is made its own legislator and ruler, once it becomes autonomous, the abolition there of the landed aristocracy (to a large extent the same persons as the English landlords) will be infinitely easier than here, because in Ireland it is not merely a simple economic question but at the same time a national question, for the landlords there are not, like those in England, the traditional dignitaries and representatives of the nation, but its mortally hated oppressors. And not only does England’s internal social development remain crippled by her present relations with Ireland; but also her foreign policy, and in particular her policy with regard to Russia and the United States of America.

But since the English working class undoubtedly throws the decisive weight into the scale of social emancipation generally, the lever has to be applied here. As a matter of fact, the English republic under Cromwell met shipwreck in Ireland. Non bis in idem![c] The Irish have played a capital joke on the English government by electing the “convict felon” O’Donovan Rossa to Parliament. The government papers are already threatening a renewed suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, a renewed system of terror. In fact England never has and never can—so long as the present relations last—rule Ireland otherwise than by the most abominable reign of terror and the most reprehensible corruption...


a N. Flerovsky, The Condition of the Working Class in Russia.—Ed.

b Right in the face of the tyrant.—Ed.

c Not twice the same thing!—Ed.