Political Economy and the Press: Karl Marx and Henry Carey at the New York Tribune

Karl Marx’s influential articles on India had less to do with India than Marx’s efforts to take control of the leading Republican paper in the United States. I am posting an ancient copy of my work on the subject. The article also suggests the complexity of reading Marx, who had multiple objectives in its writings.

Political Economy and the Press: Karl Marx and Henry Carey at the New York Tribune

For many years, Karl Marx earned his living as a correspondent for the widely read New York Daily Tribune. The Weekly Tribune, which was composed of selections from the daily edition, had a circulation of 200,000 (see Marx 1860, p. 265). Marx was naturally proud to be invited to be a part of the Tribune, which he considered to be “the ‘leading [verbreitetste] journal’ in the United States” (Marx to Engels, 14 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 79). In the duly famous introduction to his Critique of Political Economy, he wrote of his “collaboration . . . with the New York Tribune, the leading Anglo‑American newspaper” (Marx 1859, p. 23).

The editor, Charles Dana, considered Marx’s contributions to be very important. The biographer of Horace Greeley, owner of the Tribune, offered a description of a typical working day at the Tribune:

Mr. Dana enters with a quick, decided step, goes straight to his desk . . . and is lost in perusal of ‘Karl Marx’ or ‘An American Woman in Paris’. [Parton 1854; cited in Draper 1968, p. 11]

On 12 March 1852, Dana wrote, “It may perhaps give you pleasure to know that [your articles] are read with satisfaction by a considerable number of persons, and are widely reproduced” (cited in Blitzer 1966, p. xix). Marx basked in the glow of a leader that Dana attached to one of Marx’s articles: “we may properly pay a tribute to the remarkable ability of the correspondent by whom this interesting piece of intelligence is furnished.” In a letter to Engels, Marx drew the conclusion, “As you see, I am firmly in the saddle” (Marx to Engels, 26 April 1853; reprinted in CW: 39, pp. 315-16). When the 1857 crisis compelled the Tribune to reduce its staff, Marx was one of the two correspondents who remained on the payroll (Padover 1978, p. 287), although, as we shall see, this honor was rather hollow. Indeed, although Dana later assured Marx in a letter that Marx was “not only one of the most highly valued, but one of the best paid contributors attached to the journal,” Dana had no intention of making his sentiments (reprinted in Marx 1860, pp. 323‑24). Many years afterwards, as editor of the Sun, Dana requested information from Marx concerning the International. Marx’s answer, which arrived only a few months before his death, was printed, along with a short statement from Dana in which he praised Marx as “an extraordinary man.” Dana added:

His talents were brilliant and his learning varied and accurate. [Reprinted in Marx and Engels 1978, Vol. 22; Appendix, p. 1095].

Marx’s Secret War on Capital

Marx was delighted with the opportunity to write for the Tribune. His finances were at low ebb. Besides, the paper actually offered him the chance to teach socialism to the capitalists. That idea was not so far fetched as it might sound today. Between 1852 and 1854, about one‑half million Germans landed in New York, including a good number of Marx’s comrades‑in‑arms from the Revolution of 1848 (see Padover 1978, p. 303). Of these, a not insubstantial portion managed to combine personal success with a vague retention of their earlier revolutionary ideals. The Tribune also drew upon the New England transcendental heritage of a sentimental opposition to capitalism. The marriage between Marx and the Tribune seemed to have been made in a socialist heaven.

The Tribune published 487 articles from Marx. He wrote 350 by himself and 12 together with Engels. The other 125 articles he submitted were written by Engels (Ibid., p. 287). Almost one‑quarter of his contributions were printed as unsigned editorials (Padover 1980, p. 168), although the paper chose Engels’ articles as editorials more frequently than those written by Marx (see Blitzer 1966, p. xxi). At one point, Marx’s contributions were used so extensively that he could write to Engels that “for eight weeks past, Marx‑Engels have virtually constituted the EDITORIAL STAFF of the Tribune” (Marx to Engels, 14 December 1853; reprinted in CW: 19, p. 404).

A good number of Marx’s articles were economic in nature. One source estimates that 50 of the 321 articles that it attributes to Marx concern economic matters (see Padover 1978, p. 308). Thus we could properly describe Marx as one of the most influential financial writers in this hemisphere. Although Marx was not residing in the United States, his base in London may actually have been an advantage. After all, England was still “the metropolis of capital” (Marx to Meyer and Vogt, 9 April 1870; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 223).

At first, Marx worried that his intended conquest might not succeed. He fretted:

Greeley reported in the Tribune the speech Heinzen made there, and went on to praise the man. So storm clouds are threatening me from that quarter. . . . If we send him [Dana] short articles, he will think he is being fleeced and will cast me out of the temple, since he now has such a plentiful supply from Heinzen, Ruge and B. Bauer. What is even more unfortunate, I see from today’s Times that the Daily Tribune is protectionist. So its all very ominous. [Marx to Engels, 5 August 1852; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 146]

Engels reassured him:

As for being thrown out of the Tribune, you need have no worries. We are too firmly ensconced there. Furthermore, to the Yankees, this European politicizing is mere dilettantism in which he who writes best and with the greatest espirit comes out on top. [Engels to Marx, 6 August 1852; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 147]

Moreover, Engels counselled Marx that all the American Whigs were protectionists (Ibid.). The leading protectionist Whig was Henry Carey, who according to one report was “virtual editor of the New York Tribune in this doctrinal department [i.e. the tariff and political economy] for which it was then so distinguished.” (Smith 1951, p. 36; citing Elder, p. 22).

Indeed, Marx’s early articles caught the attention of the Tribune readership. John Bright, the famous British free trader, told the Parliament:

He had seen articles perhaps better written with more style, but never any that had a better tone. . . . [After singling out Marx’s work], [h]e ventured to say that there was not at this moment a better paper than that. [Marx 1853c, p. 176; citing The Times, 28 June 1853]

In addition, Marx proudly informed Engels:

Mr Tribune has given special prominence to a note about my 2nd article on Gladstone’s Budget, drawing the attention of readers to my “masterly exposition” and going on to say that nowhere have they seen ‘a more able criticism’ and ‘do not expect to see one’. [Marx to Engels, 2 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1982, p. 331]

Even here, Marx was not altogether pleased:

Well, this is all right. But in the following article it proceeds to make an ass of me by printing under my name a heading of mine which is quite trifling and intentionally so. [Ibid.]

Henry Carey was among those who took notice of Marx’s work. He sent Marx a copy of his book, Harmony of Interests (Marx to Engels, 30 April 1852; in Marx and Engels 1973: 28, p. 68). Later, he mailed Marx his Slavery at Home and Abroad, in which Marx was repeatedly cited as “a recent English writer” and “a correspondent of the New York Tribune” (See Marx to Engels, 14 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 78).

Unlike Marx, who specifically hoped to undermine the support for Carey’s ideas, Carey gave no public evidence of having any particular interest in opposing Marx’s work. In fact, he even expressed respect for Marx’s contributions to the Tribune. Nonetheless, Carey probably did direct his considerable powers against Marx, especially regarding the Tribune’s policy toward Russia.

Marx and Carey

Both Marx and Carey had strongly held views. Carey is said to have frequently exclaimed, “Salvation, it is in me, and my books” (Anon. 1894, p. 141; cited in Green 1951, p. 43). As might be expected, Marx was not quite ready to receive Carey’s brand of salvation. After receiving the second book that Carey sent him, he wrote to Engels:

[I]n his previously published works this man described the “harmony” of the economic foundations of the bourgeois system and attributed all the mischief to superfluous interference by the state. The state was his bogey. Now his is singing a different tune. The root of all evil is the centralising effect of modern industry. But this centralising effect is England’s fault, because she has become the workshop of the world and forces all other countries back to crude agriculture, divorced from manufacture. For England’s sins the Ricardo‑Malthus theory and especially Ricardo’s theory of rent of land are in their turn responsible. The necessary consequence of Ricardo’s theory and of industrial centralisation would be communism. And so as to escape all this, so as to confront centralisation with localisation and a union of industry with agriculture spread throughout the country, our ultra‑free‑trader finally recommends protective tariffs. In order to escape the effects of bourgeois industry, for which he makes England responsible, he resorts like a true Yankee to hastening this development in America by artificial means. His opposition to England, moreover, throws him into Sismondian praise of petty bourgeois ways in Switzerland, Germany, China, etc. . . . The only thing of positive interest in the book is the comparison between the former English slavery in Jamaica, etc., and the Negro slavery of the United States.

The Tribune is of course hard at it trumpeting Carey’s book. Both indeed have this in common, that under the guise of Sismondian‑ philanthropic‑socialist anti‑industrialism they represent the protectionist bourgeoisie, i.e., the industrial bourgeoisie of America. This also explains the secret why the Tribune in spite of all its “ism” and socialist humbug, can be the “leading journal” in the United States.

Your article on Switzerland was of course an indirect smack at the leading articles in the Tribune (against centralisation, etc.), and its Carey. I have continued this hidden warfare in my first article on India, in which the destruction of the native industry by England is described as revolutionary. This will be very shocking to them. [Marx to Engels, 14 June 1853; in Marx and Engels 1975, pp. 78‑80]

This letter is trebly important. In the first place, it offers considerable insight into Marx’s interpretation of Carey, which portrays Carey as a sort of early dependency theorist. Secondly, it explains how Carey, with his violent antipathy toward socialism could work with the progressive Tribune. Thirdly, it tells us something of Marx’s “hidden war” to subvert the editorial policies of the Tribune.

Consider the first point, Marx’s analysis of Carey’s political economy. Instead of class struggle, Carey represented an early version of what later United States historians refer to as the Turner thesis, that the frontier served to dampen class conflict in the new world. Unlike Turner and the others who wrote of this phenomenon, Carey assumed that economic development always could occur without conflict; that the harmony of interests among different classes was a universal rule.

Marx correctly characterized Carey as attributing most of the world’s ills to “the diabolical influence of England on the world market” (Marx 1977, p. 705). Carey alleged that the “English system” sought “the annihilation of commerce among the people of other communities; and here was. . . that it went far beyond any others which had been devised” (Carey 1858; i, p. 411). The ultimate object of the British was to compel “the rude produce of the earth to be sent to England, there to be subjected to those mechanical and chemical processes required for bringing it to the form in which it was fitted for consumption (Ibid., p. 412). Carey frequently lumped the situation of the United States together with those of Ireland, India and the other less developed nations.

To make this point, Carey distinguished between commerce and trade. For Carey:

The words commerce and trade are commonly regarded as convertible terms, yet are the ideas they express so widely different as to render it essential that this difference be clearly understood. [Carey 1858; i, p. 210]

In Carey’s system, commerce was benign; trade, exploitative. His understanding of commerce “related to Eighteenth Century French meaning of an ideal ensemble of social relations which arise when exchange is carried on within a given geographical region” (Morrison 1968, p. 134).

Marx was not particularly impressed by Carey’s conclusions. He wrote to his friend, Weydemeyer:

H. C. Carey (of Philadelphia), the only American economist of importance, is a striking proof that civil society in the United States is as yet by no means mature enough to provide a clear and comprehensible picture of the class struggle. [Marx to Weydemeyer, 5 March 1852; in Marx and Engels 1975, pp. 62‑65; see also Marx 1856‑ 1857, p. 884]

Accordingly, Marx continued his appraisal of Carey:

He attacks Ricardo, the most classic representative of the bourgeoisie and the most stoical adversary of the proletariat as a man whose works are an arsenal for anarchists, Socialists, and all enemies of the bourgeois system. He reproaches not only him but Malthus, Mill, Say, Torrens, Wakefield, McCulloch, Senior, Whately, R. Jones, and others, the leading economists of Europe, with rending society asunder and preparing civil war because they show that the economic bases of the different classes are bound to give rise to a necessary and ever growing antagonism among them. He tried to refute them. . . by attempting to show that economic conditions‑rent (landed property), profit (capital), and wages (wage labour) instead of being conditions of struggle and antagonism are rather conditions of association and harmony. All he proves, of course, is that he is taking the “underdeveloped” conditions of the United States for “normal conditions.” [Ibid.]

Marx’s words might sound somewhat exaggerated, but Carey actually wrote:

Mr. Ricardo’s system is one of discords. . . its whole tends to the production of hostility among classes and nations. . . His book is the true manual of the demagogue, who seeks power by means of agrarianism, war, and plunder. [Carey 1848, pp. 74‑75]

To a limited extent, Carey was perfectly willing to write of contradiction so long as the contradictions were limited to those between England and other nations. All labored under the malevolent influence of the British. In summarizing Carey’s theory, Marx observed:

[E]ven Carey, himself is struck by the beginnings of disharmony in the United States. What is the source of this strange phenomenon? Carey explains it with the destructive influence of England, with its striving for industrial monopoly, upon the world market. . . . England distorts the harmony of economic relations in all countries of the world. . . . The harmony of economic relations rests, according to Carey on the harmonious cooperation of town and countryside, industry and agriculture. Having dissolved this fundamental harmony in its own interior, England, by its competition, proceeds to destroy it throughout the world market, and is thus the destructive element of the general harmony. The only defense lies in protective tariffs‑‑ the forcible national barricade against the destructive power of large‑scale English industry. . . . All the relations which appear harmonious to him within specific national boundaries or in addition, in the abstract form of general relations of bourgeois society. . . appear as disharmonious to him where they appear in their most developed form‑‑ in their world market form. [Marx 1857‑1858, p. 886]

Besides his hatred of all things English, Carey’s writings were shaped by his own economic interests. Both Dorfman (1946) and Green (1951) document the self‑serving nature of Carey’s theories. Just one example suffices‑‑ a letter from Washington Representative George W. Scranton to Carey, written on 30 April 1860:

Coal stocks and estates well located are improving in value and have touched the lowest points, if we can carry the Tariff Bill through, you may safely mark up your coal interests. I will sit down with you and we will join in the business and agree upon the increased percentage that we will start with. [cited in Green 1951, p. 200; see also p. 165]]

Carey’s program of protecting industry by opposing British commodities was well received in some quarters, including, initially, the Tribune. He was instrumental in inserting tariff plank in the 1860 Republican Party Platform. Both Lincoln and his Treasury Secretary, Chase, frequently consulted him. In fact, during the half century in which Carey hosted his “vespers” for influential visitors, every treasury secretary took pains to attend frequently (see Green 1951, pp. 35‑36).

This background brings us to the second point of Marx’s letter on Carey; namely, his relationship with the Tribune. Carey managed to transform the Fourierist conception of association into the idea of corporate organization (see Dorfman 1946; 2, p. 790). At the same time, he opposed the large, impersonal British corporation as the source of an evil cabal designed to keep the United States in a state of perpetual backwardness (see Conklin 1980, pp. 280‑81).

This approach made Carey’s work very congenial to the rising business community of the United States, including the Tribune. While Marx received a mere pound for each article, Carey refused direct payment for his contributions to the Tribune lest, he be accused of penning his contributions for worldly gain (see Green 1951, p. 25). Nonetheless, Carey was handsomely rewarded for his work. His access to the editorial pages of the Tribune substantially added to the value of his services as a well‑placed power broker.

Marx could not know the sordid details of Carey’s business adventures, but his own pathbreaking writings on ideology should have been sufficient to disabuse him of Engels’ idea that ‘He who wins is he who writes best and has the most spirit.’ Instead, Marx, the hardheaded philosopher of dialectical materialism, rushed headlong into his challenge to Carey.

In part, Marx’s scheme may have had some merit. Carey was making inroads into the German‑American community, just as Carey’s disciple, Duerhing, was to do a few decades later. If Marx were to keep such people from being misled by Duerhing, an attack on Carey was required. To this end, he supplied his friend, Adolph Cluss, with notes to aid him in preparing a journalistic critique of Carey in the German paper, Die Reform (see Cluss 1853, pp. 623‑32).

Cluss’ article could say, “Carey totally overlooks the transforming, revolutionary element in the destructive effects of industry” (Cluss 1853, p. 627). In the Tribune, the battle could not be as direct. Marx himself had to be more circumspect.

Marx’s correspondence shows him gearing up for his attack on Carey. Engels, who usually agreed with Marx about economic conditions, wrote to his friend on 6 June 1853, only four days before he wrote the first of his India articles. Engels observed:

An Oriental government never had more than three departments: finance (plunder at home), war (plunder at home and abroad), and public works (provision for reproduction). The British government in India has put a somewhat narrower interpretation on Nos. 1 and 2 in a more narrow‑minded manner and dropped 3 entirely, so that Indian agriculture is being ruined. Free competition discredits itself there completely. The artificial fertilisation of the land, which immediately ceased when the irrigation system fell into decay, explains the fact which otherwise would be rather odd. [reprinted Marx and Engels 1975, pp. 76‑77]

Marx’s response was his letter, in which he described his ‘hidden warfare’. Immediately after speculating that “This will be very shocking to them,” he added, “Incidentally, the entire British management in India was swinish, and is to this day” (Ibid., p. 79). He continued:

The stationary character of this part of Asia‑‑ despite all the pointless movement on the political surface‑‑ is fully explained by two circumstances which supplement each other: 1) the public works were the business of the central government; 2) moreover, the whole empire, not counting the few larger towns was divided into villages, each of which possessed a completely independent organisation and formed a little world in itself. . . .

I do not think that one can envisage a more solid foundation for Asiatic despotism and stagnation. And however much the English may have Hibernicised the country, the breaking up of those stereotyped primitive forms was the sine qua non for Europeanisation. . . . The destruction of their ancient industry was necessary to deprive the villages of their self‑supporting character. [Ibid., p. 79]

This part of the letter seemed to be a practice run for his article. Note that Marx ignored Engels’ point about the decline of public works (irrigation); Instead in his article, he pointed to the rise of a different type of public works (railroads).

In his duly famous articles on British India, to which he referred in the letter on Carey that he sent to Engels, Marx stressed that the long‑run effect of British industry would be to prepare India for a future based on modern technology (Marx 1853, pp. 125‑33). Marx even went so far as to claim that England had actually laid the groundwork for “the greatest, and to speak the truth, the only social revolution ever heard of in Asia” (Ibid., p. 132). He continued:

Now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness. . . , we must not forget that idyllic village‑communities, inoffensive as they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass. . . .

England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfill its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. [Marx 1853, p. 132]

This article represented a fundamental challenge to Carey’s thesis. To begin with, Marx suggested that the English were playing a valuable social mission in civilizing the Indians. He wrote:

England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating‑‑ the annihilation of old Asiatic Society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia. [Marx 1853b, p. 494]

Marx’s articles on India appeared to be among his most explicit works on the nature of capitalist expansion into the peripheral nations. Consequently, they have been very influential in the analyses of later marxists, especially those who believed that capitalism was congenial to peripheral development (see Warren 1980; and Clarkson pp. 190‑91). To the extent that the India articles were colored by his efforts to critique Carey obliquely (and I believe that they were), they fail to reflect accurately Marx’s own understanding of the process of economic development.

Of course, Marx never assembled a comprehensive theory of development. Capital was admittedly Eurocentric. In his later years, Marx paid more attention to the development of economies outside Western Europe, however these writings have not been fully integrated into thought. Nonetheless, some aspects of Marx’s analysis of the development process are relatively clear.

To begin with, in the India articles and elsewhere, Marx recognized that the accumulation of capital eventually yields beneficial consequences. Eventually, as capitalism takes root, it promotes modern technology and establishes the preconditions for socialism. In this limited sense, the India articles partially reflected Marx’s understanding of the nature of economic development.

In a more general sense, the usual reading of the India articles were misleading in several respects. Firstly, they ignore the significant technological strengths of traditional economies, stressing instead their backwardness. In this respect, as Daniel Thorner once pointed out, these particular articles had a great deal in common with Hegel’s interpretation of India, as “a phenomenon antique as well as modern; one which has remained stationary and fixed” (Thorner 1966, p. 38; citing Hegel 1837, p. 145).

Worse still, in the India article, in speaking ill of the Indian villages, Marx alluded to the charge made in the Cluss piece that “Carey. . . burrow[ed] himself deeper and deeper in the petty‑bourgeois element, advocating the long since discarded patriarchal association between agriculture and manufacturing” (Cluss 1853, p. 627). That particular point is most unfortunate, since Marx himself frequently argued that one of the great benefits of socialism would be a unity of industry and agriculture (see Marx 1977, Ch. 15, Sec. 10).

Marx also adopted a negative perspective toward traditional economies when discussing the impact of free trade on European societies, but not generally when addressing the question peripheral societies (see Marx 1848). True, in the Grundrisse a few years later, Marx wrote of Asiatic society, “where the little communes vegetate independently alongside one another” (Marx 1857‑58, p. 473). But in the same work, he commented more favorably on the Asiatic village economy. For example in the same work, he subsequently added:

The Asiatic form necessarily hangs on most tenaciously and for the longest time. This is due to its presupposition that . . . there is a self‑sustaining circle of production, unity of agriculture and manufactures. [Ibid., p. 486; see also p. 473]

In fact, Marx generally wrote about the stability of Asian society in relatively positive terms. He described, “[c]ommunal property and small‑plot cultivation” as “a fertilising element of progress” (Marx 1881, p. 104). He also referred to the “natural vitality” of traditional communal agriculture (Ibid, p. 106).

For example, after his articles on India appeared, Marx placed an article on China in the Tribune. There, he cited a Mr. W. Cooke, who was earlier a correspondent of the London Times at Shanghai and Canton, to demonstrate the savings resulting from a close association of cottage industry and agriculture. According to Mr. Cook, British exports often had to be sold in China at prices that barely covered their freight to be competitive (Marx 1858, p. 334; see also Marx to Engels, 8 October 1858; in Avineri 1868, p. 440; Myers, 1980; and Perelman 1983, p. 34).

The same idea was later repeated in the third volume of Capital, where he wrote:

The substantial economy and saving in time afforded by the association of agriculture with manufactures put up a stubborn resistance to the products of the big industries, whose prices included the faux frais of the circulation process which pervades them. [Marx 1967: iii, p. 334]

In 1859, Marx expanded on the nature of the Indian economy, comparing it with that of China:

It is this same combination of husbandry with manufacturing industry which, for a long time, withstood, and still checks the export of British wares to East India; but there that combination was based upon a peculiar constitution of landed property which the British in their position as the supreme landlords of the country, had it in their power to undermine, and thus forcibly convert part of the Hindoo self‑sustaining communities into mere farms, producing opium, cotton, indigo, hemp and other raw materials, in exchange for British stuffs. In China the English have not yet wielded this power nor are they ever likely to do so. [Marx 1859a, p. 375]

About this same time, Marx associated the resistance of traditional economies with the scale of agriculture (Marx to Engels, 8 October 1858; in Marx and Engels 1983, p. 347). In this sense, the forced introduction of capitalism can represent a major step backwards in certain types of traditional production.

The India articles were misleading in a second respect. They presumed that contact with capitalism would actually lead to the rapid accumulation of capital in the periphery. Indeed, in the case of Russia, he noted:

Russia. . . could acquire machinery, steamships, railways and so on. . . . [T]hey managed to introduce the whole machinery of exchange (banks, credit companies, etc.) which was the work of centuries elsewhere in the West. [Marx 1881, p. 110]

In reality, Marx understood that the acquisition of these elements of progress would not be sufficient to bring progress in their wake. Even in his relatively optimistic letter of 14 June 1853 to Engels, cited above, Marx referred to the promise of a “Hibernicised future,” which hardly bespoke a glowing future for India. Certainly, Marx’s writings on Ireland gave no indication that association with England was beneficial to that troubled island (see Perelman 1977, Ch. 12). In any case, all the pessimistic suggestions, found in this letter, were expunged from the India articles.

What Marx wrote about India’s prospect for economic development in the India articles was considerably different than his later discussions of economic development in other parts of the world in a third respect. In contrast to what he wrote in his Tribune articles, Marx did not generally applaud the destruction of primitive economies. This attitude was closely related to his doubts that capital accumulation would proceed in the near future in the peripheries. For example, in 1881, Marx drafted a letter in which he asserted:

the suppression of the communal land ownership [in India] . . . was an act of English vandalism, which drove the indigenous population backward rather than forward.

The English. . . only managed to spoil the indigenous agriculture and to swell the number and intensity of famines. [Marx 1881, pp. 121 and 118].

In Capital as well, Marx emphasized that the British had disrupted the small communities, but the result was not nearly so revolutionary as he had suggested in his articles on India. According to Marx, the British ruled in India as a “ruthless and despotic state” (Marx 1967: iii, pp. 726). The East India government extracted “tribute” (Ibid., p. 582) and system “reduced the direct producers to the physical minimum of means of subsistence” (Ibid., p. 796). The British did not improve industry, but ruined it for their own commercial profit. He noted that “it is not commerce . . . which revolutionizes industry, but industry which constantly revolutionizes trade (Marx 1967; iii, p. 333). What consequences trade with the British had were tragic, to say the least. In Marx’s words, the sense of which were not fully reflected in the 1967 translation of Capital:

In so far as English trade has had a revolutionary effect on the mode of production in India, this is simply to the extent that it destroyed spinning and weaving, which form an age‑old and integral part of this unity of industrial and agricultural production. . . . Even here, their work of dissolution is succeeding only very gradually. [Ibid., p. 452; emphasis added]

Marx added a footnote that underscored his negative verdict about the impact of contact with capitalism:

More than that of any other nation, the history of English economic management in India is a history of futile and actually stupid (in practice, infamous) economic experiments. [Ibid., p. 451]

So Marx saw the English as revolutionary after all, but only in a negative sense. What about the great contribution of the railroad? Marx returned to this subject late in his life in letters that he wrote to the Russian populist, Danielson:

Generally, the railways gave of course an immense impulse to Foreign Commerce, but the commerce in countries which export principally raw produce increased the misery of the masses. . . . [M]any articles formerly cheap, become unvendible to a great degree, such as fruit, wine, fish, deer etc., became dear and were withdrawn from the consumption of the people, while on the other hand, the production itself, I mean the special sort of produce, was changed according to its greater or minor suitableness for exportation, while formerly it was principally adapted to its consumption in loco. [Marx to Danielson, 10 April 1879; reprinted in Marx and Engels 1975, p. 299]

Indeed, during the United States Civil War, the extension of Indian rice production led to a tragic famine, which cost the lives of one million people in the district of Orissa alone (Marx 1967; 2, p. 141n).

In the second of the letter letters to Danielson, after discussing the economics of railways, Marx noted:

In India serious complications, if not a general outbreak, is in store for the British government. What the English take from them annually in the form of rent, dividends for railways useless to the Hindus. . . . ‑‑ what they take from them without any equivalent and quite. . . apart from what they appropriate to themselves annually within India, speaking only of the value of the commodities the Indians have gratuitously and annually to send over to England‑‑ it amounts to more than total sum of the sixty millions of agricultural and industrial labourers of India. This is a bleeding process, with a vengeance! [Marx to Danielson, 19 February 1881; reprinted in Marx and Engels 1975, pp. 316‑17]

The India articles misrepresent Marx’s views in one final respect. Even though the very slow and painful process of capitalist accumulation may ultimately evolve into a humane socialism, it be an unnecessarily circuitous route to a collective society.

As Marx became more familiar with both capitalism and the underdeveloped economies, he became more sensitive to the potential of the traditional economies. He even entertained the possibility that the traditional Russia community could serve as the basis of a socialist society (see drafts of Marx to Zasulich, 8 March 1881; reprinted in Hobsbawm 1964, pp. 142‑45 and in Shanin 1983).

Whether activists in a land such as Russia should build their political strategy around traditional social forms was an open question for Marx (see Shanin 1983; and Melotti 1977). Given Marx’s outlook for political change, socialism in the west, quite likely sparked by a revolution in Russia, would provide the most favorable environment for development in the periphery (see Marx 1881, esp. 110).

In short, Marx’s later writings on Russian economic development are far representative of his analysis than his articles on India. The Indian articles should be read in terms of Marx’s efforts to unhorse Carey, if not at the Tribune, then at least within the German immigrant community. In this respect, they may reflect Marx’s views of Carey rather than India.

Marx and Carey on Russia

Did Carey ever reciprocate Marx’s efforts by attempting to diminish Marx’s influence on the Tribune? The answer to this question remains a matter of speculation, but some evidence suggests that the correct answer may be affirmative. The evidence for an overt contest between Carey and Marx was strongest regarding Russia.

For Marx, Russia was the greatest enemy of progress in the world. Marx must have known that he was treading on delicate grounds in using the Tribune to attack Russia, yet he expressed confidence in his project, but perhaps, he had just become bored with his journalism. On 15 September 1853, he complained to his friend, Adolph Cluss:

I find perpetual hackwork for the newspapers tiresome. It is time-consuming, distracting and in the end, amounts to very little. However independent one may think oneself, one is tied to the newspaper and its readers, especially when, like myself, one is paid in cash. Purely learned work is something totally different. [CW 19, p. 367]

He adopted a different attitude in writing to Engels on 7 September 1853. He was aghast that the Tribune was claiming that the “Russian people were democratic through and through” (CW 19, pp. 365). In an effort to enlist Engels in his subversion of the paper’s policy, he continued:

You know more about Russia than I do, –and if you can find to challenge this nonsense you would greatly oblige me. In the Tribune, of course. [Ibid.]

By the end of the month, he wrote Engels again:

In each article, besides the subject proper, I naturally have to follow step by step the Russian Notes and England’s FOREIGN POLICY (and right brave it is!) since the jackasses in New York consider this to be of prime importance and, AFTER ALL, nothing is easier to write about than this business of HIGH politics. [Marx to Engels, 30 September 1853; in CW 19: p. 376]

Beginning in October 1853, the Tribune began reprinted large portions of Marx’s series of articles on Lord Palmerston, which charged that the Home Secretary was nothing more than a Tsarist agent (Marx 1853a). By 8 October, he congratulated Engels and himself on how much of their material the Tribune was using. Finally, on 14 December, Marx made his claim that he and Engels were virtually the editorial staff of the paper.

In spite of Marx’s apparent triumph at the Tribune, his initial cautious instincts were correct. By the next April, he lamented that his best work was printed anonymously. “Of late the Tribune has been . . . putting my name to nothing but rubbish” (Marx to Engels, 22 April 1854; in CW 19, pp. 439). Later, that year, Marx and Dana agreed that all Marx’s articles were to appear as anonymous contributions “from our London correspondent” (Rubel and Manale 1975, p. 114).

Carey was more successful in this struggle. Unlike Marx, Carey, was an enthusiastic Russophile. In a letter written to A. G. Curtin, ex‑governor of Pennsylvania on 11 July 1870, Carey boasted that in 1854 he had “conquered” the antislavery sentiment on the Tribune to foster sympathy for Russia. He claimed that during the first three months of the Crimean War:

[A]lmost all the Northern Press [had]. . . gone with the Allies. At the time, I controlled the Tribune in regard to all economic questions. But it required considerable time to persuade the editor to see that the Russian area belonged to that department. Anti‑slavery sentiment stood in my way, but I conquered it at last, and thenceforth the Tribune printed all I had to say on the subject, which was, as you might imagine, not a very little. Three months later, I had the whole Whig Press on my side, having thus achieved a triumph such as rarely falls to the lot of a single person. [Edward Carey Gardiner Collection at the Pennsylvania Historical Society; partially cited in Green 1951, p. 116 although he transcribes the letter differently]

This victory seems to have been a source of considerable pride. Carey’s nephew claimed that his uncle’s intervention “resulted in Russia siding with the United States Government in the war of the Rebellion,” since the Tribune was so successful in swaying public opinion in the United States to be sympathetic to Russia (cited in Green 1951, p. 116).

The extent to which Carey may have associated Marx with the vanquished anti‑Russian forces at the Tribune remains a matter of conjecture. Carey must have been aware of Marx’s role. After all, he was closely connected with the editors of the Tribune, later becoming its chief authority on economic matters. Some clues might lay in the Carey papers at the Pennsylvania Historical Society.

Some evidence does suggest that Marx’s stance on Russia was associated with his fall from grace at the Tribune. When Dana wrote Marx in 1860, he knew that Marx would be likely to make its contents public. His letter was highly complementary except for one reproach:

The only fault I have had to find with you has been that you have occasionally exhibited too German a tone of feeling for an American newspaper. This has been the case with reference both to Russia and France. [cited in Marx 1860, p. 323]

Thus articles on Russia would seem to be connected in Dana’s mind with the decline in Marx’s influence on the Tribune. We might also note that Dana’s “biographer J. H. Wilson gives the year 1855. . . as marking the end of Dana’s ‘illusions’ regarding social reform” (Draper 1968, p. 9).

Marx never associated his problems with the Tribune with Carey. He blamed another Russian authorities. Indeed, Frederick Olmsted informed Marx that a Polish immigrant, Count Adam Gurowski, had won considerable influence over Dana. Marx wrote to Engels that Gurowski, whom Olmstead accused of receiving regular allowances from the Russian embassy, was the sole cause of their difficulties at the Tribune (Marx to Engels, 30 October 1856; in CW 40, p. 81; and Marx to Engels 16 February 1857; in CW 40, p. 101). By the beginning of the next year, Marx concluded:

The Tribune, in exceedingly poor and insipid LEADERS, is moreover adopting a view almost diametrically opposed to all that I write. RUSSIAN INFLUENCE is unmistakable. [Marx to Engels, 20 January 1857, in CW 40, p. 94]

As a partial consolation for their troubles with the paper, Marx noted, “So we can boast of having, or rather having had, our articles directly inspected and censured by the Russian embassy” (Ibid., p. 81)

In short, Carey claimed to have won his victory just when Marx’s influence with the Tribune seemed to be at its peak. On 14 December 1853, Marx wrote his letter to Engels in which he gloated about the last eight weeks during which he and Engels were virtual editors.

By 22 April 1854 Marx was registering his complaint that his good articles were being printed as unsigned leaders, while those of poorer quality bore his name. Failing to read the handwriting on the wall, Marx continued his secret war on Carey. Whatever forces opposed Russia, won a sympathetic ear from Marx. In London, Marx had already won himself a reputation as a supporter of the Turks, a perennial enemy of the Russians. He continued his efforts in behalf of the Turks in the Tribune. On 3 May 1854, he wrote to Engels:

As you know, the Tribune flatters itself in being Christian. I was all the more tickled when the fellows used for a LEADER an article of mine in which, one of the chief things I held against the Turks was the fact of their having preserved Christianity, although I did not of course say so quite so bluntly. . . .

I have, besides, sent the Tribune a scandalous story . . . in which the historical matter will blind the fellow to the prank I play on Christianity. [CW 19, p. 447]

Neither of these works seemed nearly as threatening as the letter suggested. Nonetheless, the damage was done.

Thus, we have two of the most important economists of the Nineteenth Century, each claiming to control the same paper at the same time in spite of their widely differing views. Something had to give. It did.

In 1854, Marx and Engels published 83 articles in the Tribune. By September 1854, a packet of unprinted articles on panslavism was returned to Marx (editorial note in MEW: 28, p. 719). Dana did not even bother to erase the negative comments written in French, which Marx attributed to Gurowski (see Marx to Engels, 30 October 1856; in MEW: 29, p. 83). Whether Carey or Gurowski were responsible, the paper would henceforth be very selective about the articles that it would print. In 1855, the number of their articles printed by the Tribune fell to 40. The following year only 24 of their pieces appeared (Blitzer 1966, p. xxii). In the end, Marx failed to conquer the Tribune.

Carey’s victory was also short‑lived. Between 1849 and 1857, Carey was “virtually the editor of Greeley’s New York Tribune on the question of the tariff” (Green 1951, p. 25; see also Kaplan 1931, p. 52). This control only ceased in 1857, when Greeley was won over to the “low” tariff of that year. This change marked the end of Carey’s relationship with the paper (see Green 1951, p. 25); however, by that time Marx had also more or less ended his association with the paper. Marx no longer could imagine that he controlled the mightiest paper in the United States. His financial success would depend upon his ability to produce a marketable commodity.

Ironically, Marx may have had the last word. True, Carey won some influence in Germany (on this subject, see Green 1951, pp. 180‑81), the country that lay at the heart of Marx’s strategy‑‑ so much so, that Engels had to write his Anti‑Duehring to counteract Eugen Duehring, whose exposition of Carey’s theories had captured the interest of some the socialists, on whom Marx and Engels relied. Duehring was soon forgotten.

Marx, whose work was met with “a conspiracy of silence” in Germany (Marx to Victor Schily, 30 November 1867; in MEW : 31, p. 573; Marx to Kugelmann, 28 December 1862, 7 December 1867, and 11 February 1869; in Marx 1934, pp. 24, 55, and 85; and Marx 1977, p. 98) was favorable received in the reactionary state of Russia, which he had so vehemently opposed. The Russian censor had written:

It can be confidently stated that in Russia few will read it and even fewer understand it. [cited in Resis 1970, p. 221]

The censor also argued that the book could do little harm since it attacked a system rather than individuals, thereby posing no threat to the safety of the royal family. In addition, he believed that the book was inapplicable to Russia.

In Russia, almost everyone agreed with Marx. The populists found a congenial opponent of capitalism in Marx. So did the gentry. Marx’s Russian success caught himself as well as the Russians by surprise. He wrote to Kugelmann:

A few weeks ago a Petersburg publisher surprised me with the news that a Russian translation of Das Kapital is now being printed. He asked for my photograph for the title page and I could not deny this trifle to “my good friends,” the Russians. It is an irony of fate that the Russians, whom I have fought for twenty‑five years, and not only in German, but in French and English, have always been my “patrons” . . . . [T]he first foreign nation to translate Kapital is the Russian. . . . They always run after the most extreme that the West can offer. [Marx to Kugelmann, 12 October 1868; in Marx 1934, p. 77]

The rest is a familiar history. As might be expected, Capital proved to be a far more effective tool to apply Marx’s principles than the powerful New‑York Tribune.


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3 comments so far

  1. Edi Purwanto on

    oh This is a good idea!

  2. Pierre d'Acello on

    Amazing article. Thank you.

  3. […] Perelman’s essay “Political Economy and the Press: Karl Marx and Henry Carey at the New York Tribune” argues […]

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