Frederick Engels 1848

The Situation in Belgium [323]

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 569;
Written: on March 18, 1848;
First published: in Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, 1932.

Brussels, March 18

The Belgian bourgeoisie refused a republic to the people fifteen days ago; now it is preparing itself to take the initiative in the republican movement. It cannot yet be proclaimed out loud, but it is whispered everywhere in Brussels: “Really, Leopold must go; really, only the republic can save us; but what we need is a good solid republic, without organisation of labour, without universal suffrage, without the workers meddling in it!”

This is already some progress. The good bourgeoisie of Brussels who, only a few days ago, desperately denied any intention of wanting to copy the French Republic, have felt the results of the financial crisis in Paris. While still decrying political imitation they submit to financial imitation. While still singing the praises of Belgian independence and neutrality, they found that the Brussels Stock Exchange was completely and most humiliatingly dependent on the Paris Stock Exchange. The cordon of troops which holds the southern frontier has not stopped the lowering of share prices from invading, unimpeded, the guaranteed neutral territory of Belgium.

Indeed, the consternation which reigns in the Brussels market could not be more general. Bankruptcy is decimating the middling and small traders, shares are finding no buyers, quotations are only nominal, money is disappearing more quickly than in Paris, trade is completely stagnant, and most manufacturers have sacked their workmen. Here are a few examples of the general depression: a few days ago a dealer offered to sell one hundred and fifty shares of the Dendre railway at one hundred francs each, which were quoted above par on the London Stock Exchange before the February revolution. The first day he refused 45 francs, the second 35 francs,

and the third day he sold them at 10 francs per share! Land sold for six thousand francs two years ago no longer finds buyers for one third this price.

And now, at this moment of general panic, the government demands, firstly, two-thirds of direct taxes in advance, and then a forced loan of fifty to sixty millions, measures which terrify the tax-payers already dissatisfied with an ever-increasing budget!

This is a state of affairs which has not failed to persuade our good bourgeoisie that, in being enthusiastic for the monarchy, they have gained only full and complete participation in the troubles in France without having shared any of the advantages. This is the real cause of the growing republicanism.

Meanwhile, the workers are not quiet. Ghent has had several days of disturbances; here two days ago there were meetings of many workers, ending in a petition to the king, which Leopold in person came to receive from the callused hands which presented it to him. More serious demonstrations will soon follow. Every day puts more workers out of work. If the industrial crisis continues, if feelings in the working class warm up a little, the Belgian bourgeoisie, like that of Paris, will make its “mariage de raison” with the republic.