chapter  XXII
5 Pages

Conversations on Marx

Vorwarts, intimating that a Jubilee number of the paper was to be published, for which it would be desirable to dig up some unpublished letter of Marx; I was to try to procure one. As far as I knew, only Professor Beesly possessed any Marx correspondence. I applied to him to allow me to call, and to copy any Marx letter he thought proper for the occasion. He then lived in St. Leonards, and, on receipt of a favourable reply, I went to see him. He told me that he had known Marx since 1868; it was Lafargue who brought them together. “Marx liked my conception of Catiline, and, of course, I read his address on the inauguration of the International Working Men’s Association. He spoke good English, but with a hard accent, more like a Russian than a German. After the publica­ tion of his Capital, his friend Engels wrote a summary of it, and I tried to place it in The Fortnightly Review. John Morley, however, was relentless in his opposition; he would have none of it. I could only bring in Marx’s name when I wrote my article on the “ International” for The Fortnightly. Marx was undoubtedly an unrivalled authority on Labour questions; altogether a walking encyclopaedia. Mrs. Beesly and myself were always pleased when he paid us a visit. His conversation was sparkling with esprit.” Mr. Beesly handed me a letter

135 from Marx to be copied for the Vorwarts-a most interesting letter, in which he informed Beesly, at the end of April, 1871, that Herr Lothar Bucher, Bismarck’s right hand, had sent him (ten days before the publication of the Frankfurt Treaty, 1871) a draft of the Treaty. Marx then asked Beesly-as the Positivists had good connections with Paris-to transmit it to the Commune, in order to discredit the Versailles Government of Thiers, for the draft contained, of course, the cession of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. Lothar Bucher was in 1848-49 a member of the Communist

League, and one of those courageous Germans who refused to pay taxes as a protest against the Prussian Government’s violation of the rights of the people. He then lived as a refugee in London, became a Liberal, returned to Berlin after the Amnesty, and finally entered the service of Bismarck, who appreciated Bucher’s great knowledge and fine German style, and made him his private secretary. Bismarck’s Reflections were put into shape by Bucher. Though the latter had long broken all relations with his former friends, he somehow was still under the spell of Marx, and tried to retain his goodwill by sending him the draft Treaty. I copied and translated that letter for the Vorwarts; it caused quite a sensation in Berlin. I suggested to Professor Beesly that he should hand over the Marx correspondence to the Berlin archives of German Social Democracy, where they would be made accessible to students. He politely declined, adding in a tone of solemnity and reverence: “We Positivists like to have great spirits around us.” In September 1902, the Trades Union Congress was held

in the Holborn Town Hall, London. I reported on it for the Vorwarts, and Jean Longuet, who had specially come from Paris, reported for the Petite Republique. We had known each other since my Paris days, and we met in the hall. He introduced me to his friend, Mr. (later Sir) Randall Cremer, a delegate of his union, and Mr. Maltman Barry, who reported

for the Standard. Both these gentlemen had known Marx well. Cremer was the first secretary of the International Working Men’s Association, and Barry was an old friend and admirer of Marx from 1870 to the latter’s death in 1883. I could see from the way they looked at Longuet that they cared for him mainly as the “ grandson of Karl Marx.” I plied both of them with questions about their impressions of Marx. Cremer, a staunch Liberal and Peace worker, told me a good deal o f the first months of the International, how he brought various draft rules of the new association, and how Marx rejected them and wrote himself the Inaugural Address and Rules, which were adopted by the committee. He had always had the impression of being in touch with a master mind. I asked Cremer why he resigned his secretaryship of the International, and he replied: “ After 1865 I became convinced that, unless we first secured international peace, all our work for international Labour was of little use. As long as war was not abolished, no permanent improvement of the conditions of the working classes was possible. All social reform work would be Sisyphean labour; I have therefore devoted my life to the Peace movement. When I explained to Marx my views about war and peace, he replied that it was quite Utopian to expect capitalist society to establish peace. War was being constantly generated by the discordant economic, and hence inimical political, interests of the various capitalist nations. Furthermore, the war industry, i.e. armaments, formed an integral part of capitalist economy; it was, so to speak, one of the vital organs of the modern economic system. In the eyes of the employers-and, alas, many workmen-guns, warships, rifles, ammunition were honest commodities, just like locomotives, or cloth, furniture, newspapers, books, etc. Besides, war had played a very large part in history. Marx refreshed my memory of the Crimean War, of which he said that it had done more for the progressive development of Russia than a century of Liberal preaching. There were

*37 reactionary and obstructive forces in human history, which could only be removed by war. The only useful pacifism was the furtherance of a Labour International that was militant and conscious of the mission of the proletariat.” Cremer then added: “ Since then we have had a long series of wars-1866, 1870-71,1877-78,1895, i 898> i900-1-but I am still hoping that man will become reasonable.” We then talked British politics, and Cremer asked me who, I thought, would be Prime Minister in the event of the Liberals returning to power. I always had a great liking for Lord Rosebery, and I plumped for him. “ That would be bad,” remarked Cremer; “ Rosebery is an Imperialist. We should like to have CampbellBannerman.” My interview with Barry yielded a bigger crop of informa­

tion. Barry was a literary man, a Tory, with strong social reform aspirations. He was a contributor in the ’seventies to the Standard, an authoritative Conservative organ. Barry used to receive from Marx his information on foreign affairs, which in those years mostly concerned the Eastern question. Marx was anti-Gladstonian, that is, anti-Russian and pro-Turk, and in this attitude he agreed with Conservative policy. Barry related to me that the foreign editor of the Standard highly appreciated his articles; the information they contained was thought to have originated from some highly placed personages in St. Petersburg, who were inimical to the Court. Barry described to me how he used to find Marx in his library, surrounded by half a dozen black cats, climbing up his shoulders and playing with him. Marx used to fulminate against Cobden, whose principle, he said, was “ Buy cheap, sell dear, and sell England into the bargain!” Barry summed up to me his opinion of Marx by saying: “ I am a Scotsman and a Conservative; I hate Atheists, Jews, and Germans. Yet, when I was in the presence of Marx, who united in his person all three characters, I forgot all about my hatreds and was swayed by one feeling-veneration.”