Bradlaugh’s Slanders on Marx
In his superficial and prejudiced life of Marx (“ Karl Marx : A Study in Fanaticism,” reviewed in our July issue), Mr. E. H. Carr attempted to escape responsibility for his inadequate knowledge and preparation by pleading the inaccessibility of documents. He complained of his inability to get hold of periodicals containing “Marx’s letters and lesser-known writings,” and wrote: —
To quote one example, I have been completely unable to trace in this country any copy of a short-lived journal called the “Eastern Post,” which contained in 1871 a spirited controversy between Marx and Bradlaugh on the Paris Commune.
Why Mr. Carr was “completely unable to trace” the “Eastern Post” is hard to explain, except on the assumption that he did not seriously try. So far from being short-lived, the “Eastern Post” is still in existence, and has been since its first issue on October 18th, 1868. Mr. Carr could have found this out with surpassing ease, and at the British Museum he could have gleaned all the information he required instantly. However, we can be grateful to Mr. Carr’s negligence since it has led the present writer to look up the interesting controversy referred to. Here we see Marx, the mental giant, at grips with Bradlaugh and others of the individualists, who, while asserting their loyalty to the cause of “freedom,” were enemies of the working-class movement. These men, Bradlaugh, G. J. Holyoake, and G. W. Foote were the personification of bourgeois reaction.
Marx’s “Civil War in France.”
The cause of the dispute between Bradlaugh and Marx was Marx’s “Address on the Civil War in France.” After the suppression of the Commune in 1871, “Republicans” and “Secularists” fell over one another to express their sympathy for the victims of the cold-blooded slaughter, carried out by the French Government, but while G. W. Foote, for example (“National Reformer,” June 11th, 1871, page 378) was condemning the Communards for having endeavoured “forcibly to organise a regular Government in the name of a new social order,” it was in reality the idea of the new social order itself—the idea of Socialism, to which they were opposed.
Marx delivered his address, and it was ordered to be published by the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association. It described the terror; the slaughter of defenceless women and children in their thousands, so horrifying, in fact, that the correspondents of the English Press exposed the actions of the “government” of France. “The Times,” “Daily News,” and other papers, were condemnatory in every way against the butchers of the workers. Marx, in his address, singled out—one of several instances— the bloody guilt of Jules Favre, the Foreign Minister in the Thiers Government—which was, by the way, sanctioned by Bismarck. The Government left Paris, but due to an oversight, some of the private correspondence that passed between the Ministers was overlooked. Favre, in a private letter to Gambetta, admitted that they were NOT defending Paris from the Prussian soldiers, but against the working class, this after his public assertion that we “will not cede an inch of your territory, nor a stone of your fortresses.” As a consequence of the seizure of these letters, M. Milliere published a series of legal documents proving that Jules Favre, “living in concubinage with the wife of a drunkard resident in Algiers, had, by a most daring concoction of forgeries, spread over many years, contrived to grasp in the name of the children of his adultery, a large succession, which made him a rich man, and that, in a lawsuit undertaken by the legitimate heirs, he only escaped exposure by the connivance of the Bonapartist tribunals.” When Favre returned to Paris after the suppression of the Commune, Milliere was shot!
Deeply regretted that a strong case had been weakened, as we believe it to be, by the introduction into the address of coarse and useless personalities. Surely the reference to Jules Favre’s domestic relations can have but. . ., etc.
Now, sir, I hold … it was of the highest importance and imperatively necessary to refer to Jules Favre’s domestic relations, because without such reference his forgery and crime could not have been exposed. Therefore, instead of repeating the real burden of Dr. Marx’s charge, Mr. Bradlaugh simply misleads his readers by speaking only of “reference to Jules Favre’s domestic relations.” Is “forgery,” I would ask, a domestic relation?
I feel indebted to Karl Marx for his enmity. If I were one of his own countrymen he might betray me to his government, here he can only calumniate.
Sir,—In his last epistle to you, Mr. Charles Bradlaugh makes the report of the sitting of the General Council of December 12th—a sitting from which I was absent in consequence of illness—the pretext for discharging on me his ruffianism. He says, “I feel indebted to Karl Marx for his enmity.” My enmity to Mr. Charles Bradlaugh! Ever since the publication of the “Address on the Civil War in France” Mr. Bradlaugh’s voice has chimed in with world-wide chorus of slander against the “International” and myself. I treated him like the other revilers, with contemptuous silence. This was more than the grotesque vanity of that huge self-idolator could stand. I “calumniated” him because I took no notice of his calumnies. My silence drove him mad; in a public meeting he denounced me as a Bonapartist because in the “Address on the Civil War” I had forsooth laid bare the historic circumstances that gave birth to the Second Empire. He now goes a step further and transforms me into a police agent of Bismarck. Poor man! He must needs show that the lessons he has recently received at Paris from the infamous Emile de Gerardin and his clique are not lost upon him. For the present, I shall “betray him” to the German public by giving the greatest possible circulation to his epistle. If he is kind enough to clothe his libels in a more tangible shape I shall “betray him” to an English law court.
I am, Sir,Yours obediently,Karl Marx.
With reference to Mr. Bradlaugh’s insinuation against Dr. Marx, I say that it is as lying as it is malicious, and with that I leave the matter, knowing that Dr. Marx needs no vindicator. But I would make one remark about Mr. Bradlaugh, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Mr. Bradlaugh has been on one or two missions to Paris lately. I know of no workmen’s organisations which employ secret emissaries, and as Mr. Bradlaugh has not a reputation for working for nothing, I would ask whether there was any connection between his visits and the recent Bonapartist intrigues. Dirty tools are usually employed to do dirty work, and it is well known that the Bonapartists are not particular as to what instruments they use.
He could understand the secret of the man’s malignity; he was opposed to a labour movement; he only wished to see a little shuffling of the cards, a little re-distribution of political power, just sufficient to enable him to rise to a higher position, and that he knew he (Marx) represented the labour struggle, a struggle that would effect the emancipation of the people by abolishing classes and class distinctions; that was not what Bradlaugh wanted; hence his opposition.
Sir,—In the- “National Reformer” of January 10th, Mr. Bradlaugh says : “We only meant to allege that Dr. Marx had, in former times, given information to his own Government.”
I simply declare that is calumny as ridiculous as it is infamous. I call upon Mr. Bradlaugh to publish any fact that could afford him even the slightest pretext for his statement. For his personal tranquillity I add that he shall not be challenged
Yours, etc.,January 16th, 1872. Karl Marx.
To the Editor of the “Eastern Post,” February 3rd, 1872.
[Owing to printing errors the opening is omitted.] . . . lous as it is infamous. I did so in order not to justify myself, but to expose him. With the low cunning of a solicitor’s clerk he tries to escape this liability by inviting me to a “ Court of Honour.” Does he really fancy that a Bradlaugh or the editors of the Paris demi-monde Press, or those of the Bismarckian papers at Berlin, or the “Tages Presse” at Vienna, or the “ Kriminal Zeitung” at New York, or the “ Moscow Gazette,” have only to slander me, in order to make me amenable to clear my public character, and even do so before a “Council of Honour ” of which the friends of these “ honourable ” gentlemen must form part.
I have done with Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, and leave him to all the comforts he may derive from the quite contemplation of his own self.I am,Yours obediently,