Page:Karl Marx the man and his message.pdf/13

This page has been validated.

who had never learned a word of French before, learned from the Chartist orators to cry "Vive la Républic! Vive la France!"


It is astounding to think that all this happened in England only 62 years ago,[1] that is, well within the memory of the 700,000 old-age pensioners now alive. But the end was not yet. Great demonstrations continued to be held daily, and all over the land the people were cheering for the "Charter," the "Republic," for "Liberty" and for "France." And so things went on till the 10th of April. On that day it had been arranged that a monster petition, signed by 5,700,000 persons, should be presented to the House of Commons, and that it should be accompanied by 100,000 armed men to see that it was received. By this time the Government was thoroughly alarmed, and preparations were made to cope with any contingency that might arise. In London alone 9,000 troops paraded the streets, whilst tens of thousands more were posted at strategical points, or were kept in reserve out of sight. Six thousand constables were armed, and 8,000 Special Constables were sworn in, among these, fittingly enough, being Louis Napoleon, afterwards Napoleon III, then a refugee in London. This display of force so alarmed the Chartist leaders that, fearing the massacre which they believed to be inevitable, they abandoned the demonstration. The petition was duly presented, and consigned to oblivion, into which the Chartist movement also speedily followed.


Marx had not only been a keen observer of the risings, but had also been an active participator, first in Paris, and then in Cologne. He, however, was not under any illusion as to what was happening. He knew that so soon as the demands of the capitalist class were met, and themselves established in power, they would turn upon and rend the working class if it attempted to carry the Revolution forward in its own interest. But he knew also, that the experience thus gained would be invaluable in guiding the workers into a genuine movement of their own, without which he realised their own freedom could never be won.


In November, 1847, Marx and Engels, in collaboration, had prepared a statement of principles for the guidance of the newly reorganised Communist League—of which they had secured control—and this had been accepted, not of course without opposition, and ordered to be printed and circulated. It came from the press on the morning of February 14, the very day, as it

  1. This was written in 1910.