Engels on the Mexican-American war; week 1 of "Imperialism"

Submitted by martin on 18 June, 2003 - 12:14

Engels on the Mexican-American war

This short excerpt from an article by Engels in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of February 1849 is significant not because every phrase in it can be taken as a model - it is an aside in the heat of polemic - but because it illustrates very vividly how far Marx and Engels were from wanting to stop or restrict the spread of capitalism across the world.
In 1846-8 the USA fought a war with Mexico over Texas (where North American settlers had won independence from Mexico in 1835), California (then under Mexican rule), and the area in between (now called New Mexico, and then also under Mexican rule). The war ended with Texas, New Mexico and California being added to the USA; and California, with the gold rush, did indeed develop capitalistically at a prodigious pace in the following years.
Will Bakunin accuse the Americans of a "war of conquest", which, although it deals with a severe blow to his theory based on "justice and humanity", was nevertheless waged wholly and solely in the interest of civilization? Or is it perhaps unfortunate that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it? That the energetic Yankees by rapid exploitation of the California gold mines will increase the means of circulation, in a few years will concentrate a dense population and extensive trade at the most suitable places on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, create large cities, open up communications by steamship, construct a railway from New York to San Francisco, for the first time really open the Pacific Ocean to civilization, and for the third time in history give the world trade a new direction? The "independence" of a few Spanish Californians and Texans may suffer because of it, in someplaces "justice" and other moral principles may be violated; but what does that matter to such facts of world-historic significance?