Marx-Engels Correspondence 1888

Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge
In Rochester


Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, January 7, 1888

A war, on the other hand, would throw us back for years. Chauvinism would swamp everything, for it would be a fight for existence. Germany would put about five million armed men into the field, or ten per cent. of the population, the others about four to five per cent., Russia relatively less. But there would be from ten to fifteen million combatants. I should like to see how they are to be fed; it would be a devastation like the Thirty Years' War. And no quick decision could be arrived at, despite the colossal fighting forces. For France is protected on the north-eastern and south-eastern frontiers by very extensive fortifications and the new constructions in Paris are a model. So it will last a long time, and Russia cannot be taken by storm either. If, therefore, everything goes according to Bismarck's desires, more will be demanded of the nation than ever before and it is possible enough that partial defeats and the dragging out of the decisive war would produce an internal upheaval. But if the Germans were defeated from the first or forced into a prolonged defensive, then the thing would certainly start.

If the war was fought out to the end without internal disturbances a state of exhaustion would supervene such as Europe has not experienced for two hundred years. American industry would then conquer all along the line and would force us all up against the alternatives: either retrogression to nothing but agriculture for home consumption (American corn forbids anything else) or -- social transformation. I imagine, therefore, that the plan is not to push things to extremities, to more than a sham war. But once the first shot is fired, control ceases, the horse can take the bit between its teeth.