Letter from the Paris Correspondent of the Schnellpost . . . . Translated for The Tribune.
“What! you want war, do you?—you shall have it,” said Napoleon to the Austrian Plenipotentiaries who expected to intimidate him by their claims and demands. And when they said the Emperor of Austria was inclined to recognize the French Republic, he replied: “The French Republic needs no recognition; it is like the sun; none but the blind could deny its existence.” Thus I, my friends, or rather, after your last manifesto, I should say, my worthy foes, I find myself in the position of the conqueror of Italy, and say to you, you want war; well! you shall have it then. Also Socialism, to which you deign a conditional recognition, needs that as little from you as defence from me; there it is; it exists; it moves individuals and masses, and is the great Idea of the Age. Now it is well known to you that such Ideas which have once taken root in the human race, or at least in a large majority of the race, are not to be eradicated, will find their way to development, and no power on earth can hinder them. Therefore we will not wage war as to whether Socialism really exists, whether as an extreme of Progress it is exposed to extreme reaction, whether it has realized the hope of beginning a revolution in the world as to practical life—these are questions that only a mystical veiled personage, named THE FUTURE, can answer. But the subject of our war is that you always give the first place to Political progress in the work of regeneration, and treat Social progress as collateral, as if it would ensue as a matter of course, while I expect salvation for Germany, for Europe, for the world, only from social revolutions, would give not a farthing for political revolutions, even if as radical as those of 1793, and maintain that political freedom and equality are chimeras that leave the poor poor, the hungry hungry, the ignorant ignorant, and all kinds of miserables as they were before; that they correct neither the faults nor vices of individuals nor the errors of the masses, nor the false relations of our present society, nor the woes that spring from them, and that we must have grander, wider, more comprehensive principles on which to base a new order. In a word, we must look to the Man, and not the Citizen, Reality, and not religious and moral abstractions, the earthly happiness and improvement of each soul, instead of referring the greater part of men to hopes of heavenly happiness and conferring a superfluity of what is in store at present on a few privileged persons. The word EQUALITY, that signal word of the first French Revolution, has a wide, earnest meaning. It means not merely that men should address one another as Man, or Citizen, that rank, title, orders and liveries should be done away with, that all are the same before the laws; i.e. that all are tried before the same judges, punished in the same prisons: such equality is merely negative. So long as there are cultivated and rude men, rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick; perfect, abstract equality is just as impossible as abstract freedom. What we wish and seek is the nearest practicable approximation to the principle of freedom and equality, the emancipation of man from the Formula desert of religious, moral and political commands and prohibitions, the most perfect possible happiness and welfare of all without exception.”—Now here comes the old school, and without any examination throws all together, Communism, Socialism, Humanism, into one motley heap, takes the froth and the dregs of the new fermentation process instead of the fine spiritual essence, which at first is often deposited only in single drops, and talks about “a vehement, arbitrary negation which seeks to overturn things for the sake of overturning,” &c. “bringing on Chaos by taking away all treasures of the inward life to put in their place a shameless barrack-existence which doles out its intellectual commissary-bread in fixed rations; which would tear away the warm protecting cover with which each genuine conviction, each higher consciousness invests us, and put upon us instead a straight-jacket, the invention of their Reason.”
This is a hard sentence, and, were it founded in truth, I would be the first to break the staff over the new social principle, for the friend of true freedom and equality could not by any possibility be the defender of a system in which man lives as in a barrack, taking his nourishment by appointed rations, buckled into a narrow uniform. Surely, you do not think so, nor has any line written by me given you reason to think so. Whence then the severe accusations, why the unsparing blame, wherefore break your staff over the new-born child which cannot as yet have committed the crimes you talk of? Wherefore?—now confess it frankly, because you have fallen into the usual fault of enemies of the new school, shaken out the child with the bath, mixed up together Communism, Socialism, and Humanism, so that Weitling is made responsible for Marx, Feuerbach for Cabet, Bernays for Dexanus, just as the old champions of Church and State used to hold Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot and D’Alembert responsible for all the excesses of the French Revolution. But Socialism stands heaven-wide apart from Communism, and Humanism is no more Socialism than the differential calculus is the rule of three; so where is the sense of judging them all together in the lump? And remark this! the new principle works both ways, from above and from below.—While the farthest advances of the German philosophers are showing that the noblest thing for a human being is to be thoroughly human, while they are establishing freedom and equality in their highest sense of every man’s right to free, unimpeded development of his mental and bodily powers, full unimpeded satisfaction of his natural wants and desires, come poor laborers, tailors, carpenters and the like, through their practical experience to the same results, though they clothe them in a coarser form: both these classes knew for a long time nothing of one another, and Humanism lived near Communism without any acquaintance growing up between them. Now finally they have come into contact which polishes and sharpens both theories. Humanism descends from its philosophical abstractions always more and more to human realities; Communism is stripping off its too sensual outside covering and ennobling itself. Both will vanish and out of them a new social religion, a new social philosophy and form arise.
As in becoming a light chasseur to the army of Reform, constantly in the field against our ancient enemy, I am spoiled for efforts in the dogmatic line. I have begged my friend and fellow soldier; the genial and enthusiastic Bernays, to express in writing the distinction between Communism and Socialism. I send you his first essay; others will follow, and you, my dear Foes, who have given your readers the one side, will no doubt the other also. You will reply and refute us if you can.
For myself, in our two years’ connexion, I have often said, “I am no Communist.” I now repeat this, and add, I hold the absolute theories of Communism to be as despotically hostile to freedom as old Absolutism. I belong not to those who would exchange one slavery for another by making men machines now who were serfs before. I want what the new humanitarian school wants, a harmonious improvement of the human race by means of harmonious culture, material comfort and satisfaction of the common natural instincts for all, outgrowing the old formula-restraints named Church and State, and organization of a new society truly natural and human in its principles and practice, whose object shall be to let man live for himself and for others as becomes a human being. A society must exist whose members in general committee shall have a care that there should no more be neglected, excluding Parias or Helots, that through equality in education the gulf be filled up between the accomplished and the ignorant, through a just division of labor that between the industrious and the idle, through equal distribution of the products of art and nature that between rich and poor, between men always satiated and men always hungry: A society which admits all men to equal human no less that equal political rights, which annihilates summarily the crimes and sorrows that spring from vast disparities of condition, whose highest object is the earthly welfare of all men, leaving hereafter to the care of its own time. This is my confession of faith—and now enough of me, and a word upon the new Social school. It is imagined—governments especially are stiffly of that opinion—that the new social movement is the work of a school, a party, an intellectual conspiracy of dissatisfied writers. It is not so; never was there any thing that less deserved the name of party than the Social school. Unconnected, scarcely know to one another, without funds in money, without official support, viewed with a hostile eye by political parties, persecuted by governments, still its members work miracles, and throw all Europe into commotion through the power of the Idea which they represent. I have already said how the new Social tendency is developed, in various ways, by two classes standing at a great distance from one another, i.e. by the philosophers and the laborers. The philosophers are much isolated, their books written in the Hegelean style; if once in a while they penetrate through the pressure of censorship into the free air, are only accessible to a small public, then are they exiled and hunted about like Marx, Ruge, Bernays, or shut up, like Bauer, and, worst of all, they so respect the critics’ trade as to be endlessly and unsparingly critics to one another, instead of trying to join hands. Marx has in his “Holy Family” overwhelmed Bauer in Berlin. Ruge has fallen upon Marx. Bernays stands independent of all, the Swiss socialists thunder against the German socialists of Paris—on every side are assaults and quarrels. Where then is the Party? But it is out of such combats that truth will arise—the battle-field will be covered with slain, but the survivors will be crowned with victory. Then judge us not as Communists (who are really a party with its Propaganda) nor esteem us slavish disciples of any school, the banner-bearers of a party. A view which seeks for its field of vision boundless human freedom, cannot submit to be enslaved to a system. What we say and shall say here are the opinions of individuals, if others sympathize with us, so much the better! And having no propaganda, speaking out thoughts because they are our thoughts out of deep conviction, if they convince others, that is their affair—we are not responsible. Let each one speak for himself—none for all. I should be as unfit to represent Weitling as Weitling to take upon himself the critical atheism of Marx. Try all things and hold fast the good, remains my motto.
As to politics, matters are pretty tranquil now, but so much the more do men busy themselves with social questions and trying experiments in practical life. The governments are deaf and blind, but the cry of discontent is always breaking forth here and there from enslaved millions, through the thick veil thrown over their griefs, cares, wants and wishes, their joyless lives and painless, uncomforted deaths, that such sights may not disturb the enjoyments of those possessed of wealth and power. Proletarianism is there; it exists; the bourgeoisie cannot get out of its way, is annoyed, and tries just such means as in 1793 the nobility and high clergy tried against the clamorous third estate. Would you see in full the relation of the proletary to the well-endowed citizen, read the book of our excellent friend Engels “On the Situation of the Laboring Class in England.” What is said there of England applies no less to Germany and France. England was, as Engels shows historically, no worse off formerly than Germany, nay, not so ill, for in many regions of Germany forty years suffice to increase the numbers of proletaries by hundred thousands, nay by millions. England has only hastened before us, as if to show to what state we must arrive if we keep in the same way as at present.
Engels divides the laboring class of England into three parts, the manufacturing, agricultural and mining laborers. The state of the first he examines fully, and gives us a clear picture of it. He takes us through the great and little quarters of London, Manchester, Liverpool, &c., and shows us a misery that makes us blush to belong to the world in which it can happen, a misery which amazes or grieves us at the power of endurance in human nature, with an unfeelingness, a refined inhumanity in the class above them enough to revolt the calmest heart. The solution of mankind into Monads, of which each in separate vitality pursues a separate aim, the world of atoms, is here exhibited in its perfection. In industry the workman is regarded only as a part of the capital, to which the employer pays interest for its use, under the name of wages. If he is so lucky as to get work, a reward waits for him scarcely sufficient to keep body and soul together; if he cannot get it; he can steal, if he is not afraid of the police; or starve, and the police will take care that he can do so quietly, so as not to disturb the ‘upper classes.’ And really, 30 men did starve, under the most revolting circumstances, during the 21 months of Engels’ stay in England. How terrible the suffering is in those cities may be seen from the following particulars: In London are at least 50,000 persons, of both sexes and all ages, entirely homeless, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands who, in the most detestable cellars, in ruined hovels, where is neither chair, table, nor bed, find a wretched shelter. During the winter of 1843, according to official reports, these unhappy persons slept nightly on the benches of the royal park, at the corners of the streets, and in public squares. In Manchester, 40,000 work people live in cellars—often many families in the same den; and these are people who all day long have worked with all their might: these are no beggars; these are the source of the grandeur and wealth of the British nation. Farther, says Engels, the workmen’s districts are by the bourgeoisie built in so hidden places, and so full of nooks, that one may pass through all the more seemly regions without dreaming of their existence; these good people would not be burdened by the sight of the victims of their selfishness and greed of gold.
He then take us into the factories and shows us a system, of which it is enough to say that the master can dismiss his workman without inquiry or warning at any moment for imperfect work or fault of conduct. “My house is my castle.” What helps the national proud saying to the poor proletary, whom his employer can any day thrust into the street or give over to the police? Then the whole family is usually at work in the mills, and it is easy to see what must be the state of the poor children given up from infancy to these mind-destroying labors, deprived of maternal cares and the simplest pleasures. What avails it if the master sends these poor creatures daily for an hour or two to a school, when they fall asleep from very weariness? Often finds the husband no work, and the wife is compelled to take upon herself the whole charge of supporting the family, and by all this unnatural hardship do they secure even sustenance for their old age? Hear Engels: “The workmen are, in consequence of many hurtful influences, prematurely worn out; most become unfit for labor at 40 years old, few hold out to 45, almost none till 50 years of age, out of 22,096 work-people in Stockport and Manchester only 143 were 45 years old, of these 16 were kept as a favor and one did child’s work. A list of 131 spinners contained only 7 over 45, but all of these had been unable to get employment, because they were too old.” In the Manchester hospital were in 1843, 2,426 invalids, of whom 964 had been mutilated by machines in the works. The masters pay in such cases at most the physician a stipend during the time of cure, but feel no responsibility as to what is to become of the workman, if incapacitated for work. The terrible consequences which all this must have for morals, especially for the women, Engels paints in the most impressive manner.
And yet he is silent on many parts of this subject, and speaks only of England, while he might of Germany, of the Harz, the Wupperthal from the Moselle, out of Thuringia, the Odenwald, out of Silesia, the Reisengebirg, relate more and more frightful things. Here, too, a contest has been waged between the work people and their masters, which for its own meaning, as well as illustrating the dullness of the authorities, deserves especial notice. The Carpenters of Paris—5,000 in number—have asked of their masters, and those who make contracts for building, an increase in their wages of a franc per day, (5 francs instead of 4,) and when this was refused, by common consent left off work. The following letter from them to their masters will tell your readers better than I could their troubles and desires. It will also show you a great difference between the workmen of 1830 and those of 1845, and that the latter, leaving the political arena, have made immense progress in social culture:
“To the Master Carpenters of the City of Paris:
In your last Circular you decidedly refuse our request for an increase in our wages, but contest the legality of the hitherto fixed rate of 4 francs, maintaining that the rate of wages should be a matter of agreement between each master and his men. As your predecessors in 1822 and 1823 assured us of the regular compensation of 4 francs per day, we relied on their word and do so still, only we ask an increase of 10 centimes per hour. Let him among you, Masters, who would be satisfied with the double of such a compensation, throw the first stone at us. Should we receive for our work 5 francs per day, it does not follow, as has been asserted, that each of us earns 1,800 francs per year:—Four-fifths of us are without work five months in the year, so that, with the desired increase, we could calculate only on an income of 1,050 francs. Do you think that this sum is sufficient for our shelter, food, clothing and instruction?—for, alas! most of us have grown up without any instruction, and must now get what we can, and pay for it with the gains of our labor. Beside, a compensation of 5 francs is not more now than 4 was in 1822; for 100 francs capital we could then easily get an interest of 5 francs, now to get 5 francs we must have 125. The gold has, beside, in 23 years, lost a sixth part of its value, while our wants and expenses remain the same. And why must we go backward, while all else is in advance? Is not our profession a dangerous one? have we not hard work to do, and work that exposes us often and much to bad weather? Some of you, Masters, will, according to the ancient fashion, denounce us as rebels against the laws and dangerous agitators, led by a party hostile to the Government, but it is not so: we are not politicians, for such business we have neither time nor talents; we are simply workmen; we know what we are worth, and are sure that our desires would not be blamed or denied, if they were fully considered. We wish to elevate our profession, which you have gradually, by unworthy manoeuvres, degraded to a mere handful. We believe we shall be thanked for this by those who come after us, and it is to that time we cheerfully look for the fruit of our labors. We do not wish to make any disturbance, and have, throughout, avoided tumultuous meetings. We are sorry that your works and enterprises suffer from our being forced to leave them, but we must persevere, quietly, yet firmly. Would it not be better if you, our Masters, instead of blackening us before the authorities as agitators, united with us to improve the situation? Would it not have been easy to you, better than we could, to prove to the Government that our wishes are just and right?—If you would have done this, you would never have cause to reproach yourselves, but would have won our constant gratitude. You have made it appear that we ask the same advanced pay for all, strong or weak, young or old, expert or clumsy. We never had such foolish thoughts. We ask five francs per day for ten hours’ labor of each workman whom you find capable of doing your work well; in two or three days’ trial you can always judge of this; and, if after such trial you continue to employ him, we would wish it to be understood that he has a claim to this compensation. If there be workmen of extraordinary ability, and you are disposed to pay them more, none of us will be disposed to find fault with that. You wish the privilege of making bargains, of beating down the price of work: we are against this. Be assured, this cheapening is the ruin of Industry; it kills the good workman, of whose necessities it avails itself; it makes poor workmen and eye-servants. We therefore ask for each capable workman 5 francs per day; for remarkable good workmen, remarkably maladroit ones, the old and the feeble, let separate bargains be made: the labor of a whole night to be counted the same as that of two days; a labor of two night-hours, as that of three hours by day. We ask your aid to obtain this for us, and remain, with due respect, yours,
The moderate, calm, and reasonable manner of this address made no impression; the masters had a meeting and resolved not to yield a hair’s breadth, but to starve our their journeymen. The Government, instead of becoming a mediator or remaining neutral, took sides with the masters. It arrested some the carpenters as ringleaders, searched the houses of others (without result,) put the army carpenters at the disposal of the masters, so that the works might go on, refused passports to the poor journeymen who wished to leave Paris, where every thing is so dear, and seek employment elsewhere—opened the trenches, armed the batteries, and blockaded up all the avenues, to starve out these poor carpenters into submission. Still they hunger, hunger with wife and child and yield not; the last eighteen days all the works are deserted, and in Tours, Blois, Amboise and St. Germain en Laye, the journeymen carpenters have followed the example of their comrades at Paris. If they persist in their present course, if all of their trade throughout France follow their example, if other trades are emboldened by their example to adopt a similar course, if thus the Above must begin to bend to the Below, if in consequence the number of remonstrants and remonstrances increase, if in this way a Fourth Estate, the Estate of Workmen, break an entrance to the privileges of social life, will not that be a revolution? You say “it will not happen.” Perhaps not;—but it can happen, and that is enough.
The Chamber, when Ledru-Rollin proposed this question, voted the order of the day; the Centre cried, “You tire us to death with your workmen;” the Left have no thoughts except for electoral reform; the Legitimists look at the case without sympathy; the few radicals of the Extreme Left can do nothing. The workmen thus have Government, Chamber, Police, Bourgeoisie and their masters against them; none for them but their own hands, their good right and the consciousness of their worth: it will be a hard fight, and yet they will conquer, if not at present: even their temporary discomfiture is as good as a victory, for it awakens new sympathies and brings them new allies.”
Thus far on this subject: the Parisian whose liveliness is not frivolity, and who seems to have a warm heart with his sharp glancing eyes. We have quoted his communication, principally as framework to the letter of the Carpenters, for that tells the whole story. Since they say to their employers, “Let him among you who would be satisfied with double the pay we receive cast the first stone at us;” since they say, “Having grown up without instruction, we must be enabled to procure it now,” the new era is not far off. The new era, when the laborer shall be thought worthy of his hire, and every man entitled to express the wants that consume him, and ask relief from the cares that now harass so many from the cradle to the grave.
A good paper from The Harbinger, giving some notices of the same tendencies, both abroad and at home, will be appended, either in this day’s journal, or the next.*
“The Social Movement in Europe.” New-York Daily Tribune, 5 August 1845, p. 1.