International Workingmen’s Association 1867
Record of Speech by Karl Marx

On the Statistics in the Blue Book

Source: MECW, Volume 20, p. 424;
Delivered: July 23, 1867;
First published: in The Bee-Hive Newspaper, July 27, 1867 and The Working Man, July 27, 1867.

Marx made this speech in reply to the attacks on the trade unions started by the bourgeois press in connection with the appointment of the Royal Commission to investigate trade union activities (see Note 326), in particular to the allegations of bourgeois newspapers that by organising strikes the trade unions hindered the development of major English industries and reduced their competitive power in the world market.

The statistical errors in the Blue Book have been reproduced, whereas the errors in the newspaper report have been corrected to conform with the Blue Book.

In the Minute Book of the General Council, Marx’s speech is given in the form of the corresponding clipping from The Working Man, with minor corrections pasted in. It is preceded by the record of Marx’s information about the affiliation to the International of the New York Communist Club (the Club was set up in 1857 by German revolutionary emigrants, with former members of the Communist League among them) and also of a kindred association in Hoboken. Marx took this information from Friedrich Adolph Sorge’s letter of July 10, 1867. Sorge himself became a prominent organiser of sections of the LW.A. in the USA.

Citizen Marx called the attention of the Council to a Parliamentary Blue Book [328] “Reports by Her Majesty’s Secretaries of Embassy and Legation on the Manufactures and Commerce of the Countries in which they reside, 1867”, of which the following is an extract:

“During the first eleven months of 1864 the imports into Belgium of raw cast iron were 7,200 tons, of which 5,300 were British; in the corresponding period of 1865 they rose to 18,800 tons, of which 17,000 tons were British, and in 1866 they rose to 29,590 tons, of which 26,200 tons were British. On the other hand, the exports of Belgian cast iron during the first eleven months of 1864 amounted to 24,400 tons, 17,200 tons of which went to France, and 5,900 tons to England; whereas in the corresponding period of 1866 they did not amount to more than 14,000 tons, of which 9,600 tons were exported to France, and only 241 tons to Great Britain. The exports of Belgian rails have also fallen from 75,353 tons, during the first eleven months of 1864, to 62,734 tons in 1866.

The following is an exact statement, in a tabular form, of the quantities of iron and steel of all sorts imported into Belgium from Great Britain, and of Belgian iron and steel exported to Great Britain during the first eleven months of 1866, as compared with the corresponding period of 1864.


1866 1864

tons tons

Ore and filings 0 1

Raw, cast, and old iron 26,211 5,296

Hammered iron (nails, wire, etc.) 1,031 1,777

Castings 41 24

Wrought iron 255 203

Steel in bars, plates, and wire 3,219 1,227

Wrought steel 522 0

Total 31,289 8,528


1866 1864

tons tons

Ore and filings 1,768 5,555

Raw, cast, and old iron 241 5,920

Hammered iron (nails, wire, etc.) 6,727 9,436

Castings 5 7

Wrought iron 12 0

Steel in bars, plates, and wire 50 56

Wrought steel 16 5

Total 8,817 20,979

The results may be briefly stated thus: — whereas in 1864 (taking the first eleven months of the year) Belgium supplied England with 20,979 tons of iron and steel, in 1866 she only sent 8,817 tons, whilst the exports of British iron and steel to Belgium rose from 8,528 tons in 1864 to 31,289 tons in 1866” [No. 5, pp. 594-95].

It would be recollected that some of the middle-class newspapers had last year raised an outcry about the pernicious effects of the Trades Unions, that their doings were driving the iron trade from this country into the hands of the Belgian ironmasters. None of the papers that had raised that outcry had even mentioned the appearance of this Blue Book, much less stated its contents.


Notes from MECW

328 The Blue Books — a series of British parliamentary and foreign policy documents published in blue cover since the seventeenth century.