Marx-Engels Correspondence 1854
Source: MECW, Volume 39, p. 423;
First published: in: Marx and Engels, Works, 1929.
Perhaps I am not mistaken in supposing that at the present moment an offer to contribute to the military department of your paper may meet with some favour, even if the party offering his services be not, for the moment, an active member of the military profession, and though he be a foreigner to boot.
I suppose the actual qualifications of the party will be the main thing. As to these, nothing can show them better than half-a-dozen articles upon various military subjects, which you might submit to any military authority, if you should choose to do so. The higher the authority the better. I would ten times sooner be judged by Sir William Napier than by a subaltern martinet.
But I cannot expect you to give me even a trial, unless you know something more about me. I beg to state, therefore, that my military school has been the Prussian Artillery, a service which, if it is not what it might be, yet has produced the men who ‘made the Turkish Artillery one of the best in Europe’ as our friend Nicholas has laid it down. Later on, I had an occasion of seeing some active service during the insurrectionary war in South Germany, 1849. For many years the study of military science in all its branches has been one of my chief occupations, and the success, which my articles on the Hungarian Campaign, published at the time in the German Press, were fortunate enough to obtain, encourages me in the belief that I have not studied in vain. An acquaintance, more or less familiar, with most European languages, including Russian, Serbian, and a little Wallachian, opens to me the best sources of information and may, perhaps, prove useful to you in other respects. How far I am able to write correct and fluent English, my articles, of course, themselves must show. Any other information respecting myself I shall be happy to give, or else you may obtain it from your educational contributor Dr Watts whom I have been acquainted with for more than ten years.
I have for some time past thought of making you an offer of this kind, but, considered the matter hardly worth your while as long as war was not actually declared and the whole critique of Danubian strategy was confined to profound disquisitions as to what share of the blame attaching to the inconceivable proceedings in Bulgaria was due to Lord Aberdeen, and what to Omer Pasha. Now the matter is different. A local war may be a mere simulacrum of a war; a European war must be a reality. Besides this, I avow, another reason restrained me. I was not then prepared, as I am now, with the necessary maps, plans, and special information respecting the theatre of war and the belligerent parties, and I should have been sorry to send you a single line based upon other than the very best information obtainable.
My absence, not only from the seat of war, but also (for the moment, at least) from your own headquarters circumscribes pretty nearly the sort of contributions I could offer you. They would confine themselves to descriptions of those portions of the theatre of war, where actual hostilities are going on; statements of, and observations on, the military organisation, strength, chances, and possible operations of the belligerent armies; critical remarks on actual engagements, and, from time to time, resumés (to use the French word) of the operations, say of a month or six weeks, according to events. As the fullest information of what has actually happened is necessary to form a correct judgment, I should very seldom have to write on the strength of mere telegraphic dispatches, but have to wait, generally, for the arrival of more detailed news; thus the loss of a day or two would be less important for my contributions, if that would make them better; and therefore my presence in London might, for a time at least, be dispensed with. In case you should wish me to extend my contributions to a wider circle, I should have no objection and await your proposals.
Should you, however, receive my offer favourably, it may be that in a couple of months I should be enabled to come to London altogether; in the meantime, I might slip over, if desired, to confer with you.
As to politics, I should mix them up as little as possible with military criticism. There is but one good line of policy in war: to go at it with the greatest rapidity and energy, to beat your opponent, and force him to submit to your terms. If the allied governments do this, I should acknowledge it; if they should cripple or tie the hands of their commanders, I should speak out against it. I do wish the Russians may get a good beating, but if they fight well, I am that much of a soldier, that I should give the devil his due. For the remainder, I should stick to the principle, that military science, like mathematics or geography, has no particular political opinion.
Now for positive proposals. I do not expect that the description of Kronstadt sent herewith will enable you to form any idea of what you may expect from me. But if it should appear to you that I may be of some service to your paper, a provisional arrangement might be come to, by which you would retain your entire liberty to refuse my further collaboration, if found unsuitable, while a fair remuneration was guaranteed to me for my labour and expenses. For you cannot but know that to write on military operations, requires the possession of numerous and expensive maps and books, for which due allowance should be made as entering into the cost of production.
Supposing, then, I sent you a series of papers giving a full account of the military and naval force of Russia, its organisation, actual strength and efficiency (as far as can be ascertained), together with a military account of the theatre of war, the lines of operation and defence on the Baltic, the Black Sea, Danubian and Polish frontiers, including the system of fortresses. The enclosed Kronstadt article would form one of the series and might be postponed till its place arrived. My information upon these subjects is, I believe, first-rate, derived exclusively from printed (and not from any mysterious) sources. I could furnish an article per week, say one or two columns, and more, if required.
Should you deem this proceeding too systematical, the account of Kronstadt might be followed up by a similar one of the permanent fortifications of Sevastopol and the other Russian fortified harbours (wherever obtainable), to be concluded by some observations on the chances of naval attacks against land batteries, drawn from history and from the best theoretical sources such as Sir Howard Douglas.
If you require reviews of military works, I could also undertake them. For instance Col. Chesney’s Russo-Turkish Campaigns, for this book I am, I may say, admirably provided with materials.
I conclude this lengthy epistle in offering you, also, a few remarks on the importance or rather non-importance of the Russian passage across the Danube: these are at your service at a moment’s notice.
If you take my offer into consideration, I shall be glad to receive a few lines as soon as possible so as to be enabled to set to work at once. In the meantime, etc.