The Holy Family

Chapter VIII

The Earthly Course and Transfiguration Of “Critical Criticism”,
Or “Critical Criticism” As Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein

[In this chapter Marx continues his criticism of Szeliga’s article “Eugène Sue: Die Geheimnisse von Paris"]

Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein, does penance in his earthly course for a double crime: his personal crime and that of Critical Criticism. In a furious dialogue he drew his sword against his father; Critical Criticism, also in a furious dialogue, let itself be carried away by sinful feelings against the Mass. Critical Criticism did not reveal a single mystery. Rudolph does penance for that and reveals all mysteries.

Rudolph, Herr Szeliga informs us, is the first servant of the state of humanity (the Humanitätsstaat of the Swabian Egidius. See Konstitutionelle Jahrbücher by Dr. Karl Weil, 1844, Bd. 266).

For the world not to be destroyed, Herr Szeliga asserts, it is necessary that

“Men of ruthless criticism appear.... Rudolph is such a man.... Rudolph grasps the thought of pure criticism. And that thought is more fruitful for him and mankind than all the experiences of the latter in its history, than all the knowledge that Rudolph, guided even by the most reliable teacher, was able to derive from that history.... The impartial judgment by which Rudolph perpetuates his earthly course is, in fact, nothing but

the revelation of the mysteries of society."
He is: “the revealed mystery of all mysteries.

Rudolph has far more external means at his disposal than the other men of Critical Criticism. But the latter consoles itself:

“Unattainable for those less favoured by destiny are Rudolph’s results” (!), “not unattainable is the splendid goal

That is why Criticism leaves the realisation of its own thoughts to Rudolph, who is so favoured by destiny. It sings to him:

Hahnemann, go on ahead.
You've waders on, you won’t get wet!
[From German folk-tale Sieben Schwaben publ. in Volksbücher, hrsg. V. G. O. Marbach]

Let us accompany Rudolph in his Critical earthly course, which “is more fruitful for mankind than all the experiences of the latter in its history, than all the knowledge” etc., and which twice saves the world from destruction.

1) Critical Transformation of a Butcher into a Dog, Or Chourineur

Chourineur [French thieves’ slang for a murderous ruffian] was a butcher by trade. Owing to a concourse of circumstances, this mighty son of nature becomes a murderer. Rudolph comes across him accidentally just when he is molesting Fleur de Marie. Rudolph gives the dexterous brawler a few impressive, masterly punches on the head, and thus wins his respect. Later, in the tavern frequented by criminals, Chourineur’s kind-hearted disposition is revealed. “You still have heart and honour,” Rudolph says to him. By these words he instils in Chourineur respect for himself. Chourineur is reformed or, as Herr Szeliga says, is transformed into a “moral being”. Rudolph takes him under his protection. Let us follow the course of Chourineur’s education under the guidance of Rudolph.

Ist Stage. The first lesson Chourineur receives is a lesson in hypocrisy, faithlessness, craft and dissimulation. Rudolph uses the reformed Chourineur in exactly the same way as Vidocq used the criminals he had reformed, i.e., he makes him a mouchard [police spy] and agent provocateur. He advises him to “pretend” to the “maître d'école[nickname given by his fellow criminals] that he has altered his “principle of not stealing” and to suggest a robbery so as to lure him into a trap set by Rudolph. Chourineur feels that he is being made a fool of. He protests against the suggestion of playing the role of mouchard and agent provocateur. Rudolph easily convinces the son of nature by the “purecasuistry of Critical Criticism that a foul trick is not foul when it is done for “good, moral” reasons. Chourineur, as an agent provocateur and under the pretence of friendship and confidence, lures his former companion to destruction. For the first time in his life he commits an act of infamy.

2nd Stage. We next find Chourineur acting as garde-malade [sick attendant] to Rudolph, whom he has saved from mortal danger.

Chourineur has become such a respectable moral being that he rejects the Negro doctor David’s suggestion to sit on the floor, for fear of dirtying the carpet. He is indeed too shy to sit on a chair. He first lays the chair on its back and then sits on the front legs. He never fails to apologise when he addresses Rudolph, whom he saved from a mortal danger, as “friend” or “Monsieur” instead of “Monseigneur”.

What a wonderful training of the ruthless son of nature! Chourineur expresses the innermost secret of his Critical transformation when he admits to Rudolph that he has the same attachment for him as a bulldog for its master: “Je me sens pour vous, comme qui dirait l'attachement d'un bouledogue pour son maître.” The former butcher is transformed into a dog. Henceforth all his virtues will be reduced to the virtue of a dog, pure “dévouement’ to its master. His independence, his individuality will disappear completely. But just as bad painters have to label their pictures to say what they are supposed to represent, Eugène Sue has to put a label on “bulldog” Chourineur, who constantly affirms: “The two words, ‘You still have heart and honour’, made a man out of me.” Until his very last breath, Chourineur will find the motive for his actions, not in his human individuality, but in that label. As proof of his moral reformation he will often reflect on his own excellence and the wickedness of other individuals. And every time he throws out moral sentences, Rudolph will say to him: “I like to hear you speak like that.” Chourineur has not become an ordinary bulldog but a moral one.

3rd Stage. We have already admired the petty-bourgeois respectability which has taken the place of Chourineur’s coarse but daring unceremoniousness. We now learn that, as befits a “moral being”, he has also adopted the gait and demeanour of the petty bourgeois.

A le voir marcher — on l'eût pris pour le bourgeois le plus inoffensif du monde."
[To see him walk you would have taken him for the most harmless bourgeois in the world]

Still sadder than this form is the content that Rudolph gives his Critically reformed life. He sends him to Africa “to serve as a living and salutary example of repentance to the world of unbelievers”. In future, he will have to represent, not his own human nature, but a Christian dogma.

4th Stage. The Critically moral transformation has made Chourineur a quiet, cautious man who behaves according to the rules of fear and worldly wisdom.

“Le Chourineur”, reports Murph, who in his indiscreet simplicity continually tells tales out of school “n'a pas dit un mot de l'éxecution du maître d'école, de peur de se trouver compromise"
[Chourineur said nothing of the punishment meted out to the maître d'école for fear of compromising himself]

So Chourineur knows that the punishment of the maítre d'école was an illegal act. But he does not talk about it for fear of compromising himself. Wise Chourineur!

5th Stage. Chourineur has carried his moral education to such perfection that he gives his dog-like attitude to Rudolph a civilised form-he becomes conscious of it. After saving Germain from a mortal danger he says to him:

“I have a protector who is to me what God is to priests — he is such as to make one kneel before him.”

And in imagination he kneels before his God.

“Monsieur Rudolph,” he says to Germain, “protects you. I say ‘Monsieur’ though I should say ‘Monseigneur’. But I am used to calling him ‘Monsieur Rudolph’, and he allows me to.”

“Magnificent awakening and flowering!” exclaims Szeliga in Critical delight.

6th Stage. Chourineur worthily ends his career of pure dévouement, or moral bulldogishness, by finally letting himself be stabbed to death for his gracious lord. At the moment when Squelette threatens the prince with his knife, Chourineur stays the murderer’s arm. Squelette stabs him. But, dying, Chourineur says to Rudolph:

“I was right when I said that a lump of earth” (a bulldog) “like me can sometimes be useful to a great and gracious master like you.”

To this dog-like utterance, which sums up the whole of Chourineur’s Critical life like an epigram, the label put in his mouth adds:

“We are quits, Monsieur Rudolph. You told me that I had heart and honour.”

Herr Szeliga cries as loud as he can:

“What a merit it was for ‘Rudolph to have restored the Schuriman [Germanised form of Chourineur] (?) “to mankind (?)!”