Letters of Marx and Engels 1843

Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge

in Dresden

Written: Cologne, January 25 [1843];
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 396-398;
Publisher: International Publishers (1975);
First Published: journal Documente des Socialismus, Bd I, 1902;
Translated: Clemens Dutt;
Transcribed: S. Ryan.


You probably already know that the Rheinische Zeitung has been banned, suspended, and is under sentence of death. The termination of its life has been fixed for the end of March. During this period of grace before execution, the newspaper is being subjected to a double censorship. Our censor, a decent fellow, is under the censorship of von Gerlach, Regierungspräsident here, a passively obedient blockhead. When ready, our newspaper has to be presented to the police to be sniffed at, and if the police nose smells anything un-Christian or un-Prussian, the newspaper is not allowed to appear.

The ban resulted from the coincidence of several special causes: its wide circulation; my own "Justification of the Correspondent from the Mosel," in which very highly placed statesmen were thoroughly exposed; our stubborn refusal to name the person who sent us the text of the law on marriage; the convocation of the provincial estates, which we could influence by our agitation; finally, our criticism of the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, and on the Deutsche Jahrbücher.

The ministerial rescript, which will appear in the newspapers in a day or so, is if possible more feeble than the previous ones. The following are given as motives:

1) The lie that we had no permission, as though in Prussia, where not even a dog can exist without its police number, the Rheinische Zeitung could have appeared even a single day without fulfilling the official conditions for existence.

2) The censorship instruction of December 24 aimed at establishing a censorship of tendency. By tendency it meant the illusion, the romantic belief in possessing a freedom which one would not allow oneself to possess realiter. Whereas the rationalist Jesuitism which prevailed under the former government had a stern, rational physiognomy, this romantic Jesuitism demands imagination as its main requisite. The censored press should learn to live under the illusion of freedom, and of that magnificent man who majestically permitted this illusion. But whereas the censorship instruction wanted censorship of tendency, now the ministerial rescript explains that in Frankfurt a ban, suppression has been invented for a thoroughly bad tendency. It states that the censorship exists only in order to censor eccentricities of a good tendency, although the instruction said precisely the opposite – namely, that eccentricities of a good tendency are to be permitted.

3) The old balderdash about a bad frame of mind, empty theory, hey-diddle-diddle, etc.

Nothing has surprised me. You know what my opinion of the censorship instruction has been from the outset. I see here only a consequence; in the suppression of the Rheinische Zeitung I see a definite advance of political consciousness, and for that reason I am resigning. Moreover, I had begun to be stifled in that atmosphere. It is a bad thing to have to perform menial duties even for the sake of freedom; to fight with pinpricks, instead of with clubs. I have become tired of hypocrisy, stupidity, gross arbitrariness, and of our bowing and scraping, dodging, and hair-splitting over words. Consequently, the government has given me back my freedom.

As I wrote to you once before, I have fallen out with my family and, as long as my mother is alive, I have no right to my property. Moreover, I am engaged to be married and I cannot, must not, and will not, leave Germany without my fiancée. If, therefore, the possibility arose that I could edit the Deutscher Bote with Herwegh in Zurich, I should like to do so. I can do nothing more in Germany. Here one makes a counterfeit of oneself. If, therefore, you will give me advice and information on this matter, I shall be very grateful.

I am working on several things, which here in Germany will find neither censor nor bookseller, nor, in general, any possible existence. I await an early reply from you.