Dominique Meeùs
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The Belgian Massacres

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Karl Marx, à la réunion du 4 mai 1969 du Conseil général de l’Internationale.
En brochure en anglais, à Londres le 12 mai 1869.
En français, en Belgique :
– dans L’Internationale, no 18, 15 mai 1869 ;
– dans La Liberté, 16 mai 1869.

Marx wrote this address to the workers of Europe and the United States following the bloody events in Belgium in April 1869. On April 20, the General Council heard the report of Eugen Hins, representative of the Belgian Federal Council of the International, who had been sent to the spot to investigate the details of the massacre in Seraing and Frameries. Marx was commissioned to draw up an address on behalf of the General Council to denounce the atrocities committed by the Belgian authorities. He wrote it in English and French and read it out at the General Council meeting of May 4. The Council approved the address and decided to have it printed and distributed. In English it was published as a leaflet, “The Belgian Massacres: To the Workmen of Europe and the United States”, in London on May 12, 1869. A copy of the leaflet has been preserved in the Minute Book of the General Council. Part of the leaflet was reproduced in The Bee-Hive, No. 395, May 8, 1869. The French text was published in the Belgian newspapers L’Internationale, No. 18, May 15 and La Liberté, May 16, 1869. The German translation by Eccarius was printed in Der Social-Demokrat, No. 58, May 21, in the Demokratisches Wochenblatt, No. 21, May 22, 1869 and in other newspapers in Germany, Switzerland and France. The address found a broad response among the people. Read at a mass protest meeting in Brussels on May 16, it was met with tumultuous applause.

MECW 21, note 67, p. 465-466.

Dans ce texte, Marx donne (ci-dessous) une très belle définition de la Belgique : « le petit paradis du propriétaire foncier, du capitaliste et du prêtre »1, où le gouvernement procède à sa tuerie annuelle de travailleurs avec autant de régularité que la Terre tournant autour du Soleil en un an.

There exists but one country in the civilised world where every strike is eagerly and joyously turned into a pretext for the official massacre of the Working Class. That country of single blessedness is Belgium ! the model state of continental constitutionalism, the snug, well-hedged, little paradise of the landlord, the capitalist, and the priest. The earth performs not more surely its yearly revolution than the Belgian Government its yearly Working Men’s massacre. The massacre of this year does not differ from last year’s massacre,a but by the ghastlier number of its victims, the more hideous ferocity of an otherwise ridiculous army, the noiser jubilation of the clerical and capitalist press, and the intensified frivolity of the pretexts put forward by the Governmental butchers.

MECW 21, p. 47.
a
Marx refers to the events in Charleroi (Belgium) in March 1868. See this volume, pp. 14-15. [Ed.]

La note de base de page appelée dans ce texte, se réfère au « last year’s massacre », le massacre de l’année d’avant, à Charleroi en 1868. À la page suivante, Marx détaille les événements de 1869 :

… the quite legitimate strike of the puddlers in the Cockerill Ironworks, of Seraing, was only converted into a riot by a strong posse of cavalry and gendarmerie suddenly launched upon that place in order to provoke the people. From the 9th to the 12th of April these stout warriors not only recklessly charged with sabre and bayonet the unarmed workmen, they indiscriminately killed and wounded harmless passers-by, forcibly broke into private houses, and even amused themselves with repeated furious onslaughts on the travellers pent up in the Seraing Railway Station. When these days of horror had passed away, it became bruited about that Mr. Kamp, the mayor of Seraing, was an agent of the Cockerill Joint Stock Company, that the Belgian Home Minister, a certain Mr. Pirmez, was the largest shareholder in a neighbouring colliery also on strike, and that His Royal Highness the Prince of Flanders had invested 1 500 000 francs in the Cockerill concern. Hence people jump to the truly strange conclusion that the Seraing massacre was a sort of joint stock company coup d’État, quietly plotted between the firm Cockerill and the Belgian Home Minister, for the simple purpose of striking terror unto their disaffected subjects.

MECW 21, p. 47. En ligne, Marx-Engels Archive, Marxists Internet Archive.

Mais, dit Marx avec ironie, les évènements ont prouvé que c’est une calomnie d’accuser le ministre de l’Intérieur Eudore Pirmez (1830-1890, Wikipédia) d’avoir organisé la tuerie de Seraing dans son intérêt propre. En effet, le même Pirmez a ensuite organisé une tuerie à Frameries, où il ne semble pas avoir d’intérêts, ce qui montre bien son désintéressement : il est injuste de l’accuser de tuer seulement pour son fric personnel.

Notes
1.
L’expression apparaît déjà l’année d’avant, venant probablement de Marx lui-même, dans une brochure de 1868 de Wilhelm Eichhoff, Die Internationale Arbeiterassociation : Ihre Grundung, Organisation, politisch-sociale Thätigheit und Ausbreitung, historique qu’Eichhoff a écrit avec l’aide de Marx et dont des passages peuvent être de Marx littéralement. (The International Working Men’s Association : its Establishment, Organisation, Political and Social Activity, and Growth, MECW 21, p. 322-380. En ligne : Marxists Internet Archive.)

Belgium is a paradise for the bourgeoisie.

MECW 21, p. 353. C’est au chapitre  8 « The International Working Men’s Association, the Trades’ Unions, and the Strikes » (p. 343-361), § 3 « The Bloody Conflict Between the Belgian Government and the Miners of Charleroi (March 1868) » (p. 353-361).
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