Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany

Note by the Editor
Eleanor Marx-Aveling


THE following articles are now, after forty-five years, for the first time collected and printed in book form. They are an invaluable pendant to Marx's work on the coup d'etat of Napoleon III. ("Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte.") Both works belong to the same period, and both are what Engels calls "excellent specimens of that marvellous gift...of Marx... of apprehending clearly the character, the significance, and the necessary consequences of great historical events at a time when these events are actually in course of taking place, or are only just completed."

These articles were written in 1851-1852, when Marx had been about eighteen months in England. He was living with his wife, three young children, and their life-long friend, Helene Demuth, in two rooms in Dean Street, Soho, almost opposite the Royalty Theatre. For nearly ten years they had been driven from pillar to post. When, in 1843, the Prussian Government suppressed the Rhenish Gazette which Marx had edited, he went with his newly-married wife, Jenny von Westphalen, to Paris. Not long after, his expulsion was demanded by the Prussian Government–it is said that Alexander von Humboldt acted as the agent of Prussia on this occasion–and M. Guizot was, of course, too polite to refuse the request. Marx was expelled, and betook himself to Brussels. Again the Prussian Government requested his expulsion, and where the French Government had complied it was not likely the Belgian would refuse. Marx received marching orders.

But at this same time the French Government that had expelled Marx had gone the way of French Governments, and the new Provisional Government through Ferdinand Flocon invited the "brave et loyal Marx" to return to the country whence "tyranny had banished him, and where he, like all fighting in the sacred cause, the cause of the fraternity of all peoples," would be welcome. The invitation was accepted, and for some months he lived in Paris. Then he returned to Germany in order to start the New Rhenish Gazette in Cologne. And the Rhenish Gazette writers had very lively times. Marx was twice prosecuted, but as the juries would not convict, the Prussian Government took the nearer way and suppressed the paper.

Again Marx and his family returned to the country whose "doors" had only a few short months before been "thrown open" to him. The sky had changed–and the Government. "We remained in Paris," my mother says in some biographical notes I have found, "a month. Here also there was to be no resting-place for us. One fine morning the familiar figure of the sergeant of police appeared with the announcement that Karl 'et sa dame' must leave Paris within twenty-four hours. We were graciously told we might be interned at Vannes in the Morbihan. Of course we could not accept such an exile as that, and I again gathered together my small belongings to seek a safe haven in London. Karl had hastened thither before us." The "us" were my mother, Helene Demuth, and the three little children, Jenny (Madame Longuet), Laura (Madame Lafargue), and Edgar, who died at the age of eight.

The haven was safe indeed. But it was storm-tossed. Hundreds of refugees–all more or less destitute–were now in London. There followed years of horrible poverty, of bitter suffering–such suffering as can only be known to the penniless stranger in a strange land. The misery would have been unendurable but for the faith that was in these men and women, and hut for their invincible "Humor." I use the German word because I know no English one that quite expresses the same thing–such a combination of humor and good-humor, of light-hearted courage, and high spirits.

That readers of these articles may have some idea of the conditions under which Marx was working, under which he wrote them and the "Achtzehnte Brumaire," and was preparing his first great economical work, "Zur Kritik der Politischen Oeconomie" (published in 1859), I again quote from my mother's notes. Soon after the arrival of the family a second son was born. He died when about two years old. Then a fifth child, a little girl, was born. When about a year old, she too fell sick and died. "Three days,"writes my mother, "the poor child wrestled with death. She suffered so...Her little dead body lay in the small back room; we all of us" (i. e., my parents, Helene Demuth, and the three elder children) "went into the front room, and when night came we made us beds on the floor, the three living children lying by us. And we wept for the little angel resting near us, cold and dead. The death of the dear child came in the time of our bitterest poverty. Our German friends could not help us; Engels, after vainly trying to get literary work in London, had been obliged to go, under very disadvantageous conditions, into his father's firm, as a clerk, in Manchester; Ernest Jones, who often came to see us at this time, and had promised help, could do nothing... In the anguish of my heart I went to a French refugee who lived near, and who had sometimes visited us. I told him our sore need. At once with the friendliest kindness he gave me 2 [pounds]. With that we paid for the little coffin in which the poor child now sleeps peacefully. I had no cradle for her when she was born, and even the last small resting place was being denied her"..."It was a terrible time", Liebknecht writes to me (the Editor), "but it was grand nevertheless."

In that "front room" in Dean Street, the children playing about him, Marx worked. I have heard tell how the children would pile up chairs behind him to represent a coach, to which he was harnessed as horse, and would "whip him up" even as he sat at his desk writing.

Marx had been recommended to Mr. C. A. Dana, the managing director of the New York Tribune, by Ferdinand Freiligrath, and the first contributions sent by him to America are the series of letters on Germany here reprinted. They seem to have created such a sensation that before the series had been completed Marx was engaged as regular London correspondent. On the 12th Of March, 1852, Mr. Dana wrote: "It may perhaps give you pleasure to know that they" (i. e., the "Germany" letters) "are read with satisfaction by a considerable number of persons, and are widely reproduced." From this time on, with short intervals, Marx not only sent letters regularly to the New York paper; he wrote a large number of leading articles for it. "Mr. Marx," says an editorial note in 1853, "has indeed opinions of his own, with some of which we are far from agreeing; but those who do not read his letters neglect one of the most instructive sources of information on the great questions of European politics."

Not the least remarkable among these contributions were those dealing with Lord Palmerston and the Russian Government. "Urquhart's writings on Russia," says Marx, "had interested but not convinced me. In order to arrive at a definite opinion, I made a minute analysis of Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, and of the Diplomatic Blue Books from 1807 to 1850. The first fruits of these studies was a series of articles in the New York Tribune, in which I proved Palmerston's relations with the Russian Government. ...Shortly after, these studies were reprinted in the Chartist organ edited by Ernest Jones, The People's Paper... Meantime the Glasgow Sentinel had reproduced one of these articles, and part of it was issued in pamphlet form by Mr. Tucker, London." And the Sheffield Foreign Affairs Committee thanked Marx for the "great public service rendered by the admirable expose in his "Kars papers," published both in the New York Tribune and the People's Paper. A large number of articles on the subject were also printed in the Free Press by Marx's old friend, C. D. Collett. I hope to republish these and other articles.

As to the New York Tribune, it was at this time an admirably edited paper, with an immense staff of distinguished contributors, both American and European. It was a passionate anti-slavery organ, and also recognized that there "was need for a true organization of society," and that "our evils" were "social, not political." The paper, and especially Marx's articles, were frequently referred to in the House of Commons, notably by John Bright.

It may also interest readers to know what Marx was paid for his articles–many of them considerably longer even than those here collected. He received 1 [pound] for each contribution–not exactly brilliant remuneration.

It will be noted that the twentieth chapter, promised in the nineteenth, does not appear. It may have been written, but was certainly not printed. It was probably crowded out. "I do not know," wrote Mr. Dana, "how long you intend to make the series, and under ordinary circumstances I should desire to have it prolonged as much as possible. But we have a presidential election at hand, which will occupy our columns to a great extent....Let me suggest to you if possible to condense your survey...into say half a dozen more articles" (eleven had then been received by Mr. Dana). "Do not, however, close it without an exposition of the forces now remaining at work there (Germany) and active in the preparation of the future." This "exposition" will be found in the article which I have added to the "Germany" series, on the "Cologne Communist Trial." That trial really gives a complete picture of the conditions of Germany under the triumphant Counter-Revolution.

Marx himself nowhere says the series of letters is incomplete, although he occasionally refers to them. Thus in the letter on the Cologne trial he speaks of the articles, and in 1853 writes: "Those of your readers who, having read my letters on the German Revolution and Counter-Revolution written for the Tribune some two years ago, desire to have an immediate intuition of it, will do well to inspect the picture by Mr. Hasenclever now being exhibited in...New York...representing the presentation of a workingmen's petition to the magistrates of Dusseldorf in 1848. What the writer could only analyze, the eminent painter has reproduced in its dramatic vitality."

Finally, I would remind English readers that these articles were written when Marx had only been some eighteen months in England, and that he never had any opportunity of reading the proofs. Nevertheless, it has not seemed to me that anything needed correction. I have therefore only removed a few obvious printer's errors.

The date at the head of each chapter refers to the issue of the Tribune in which the article appeared, that at the end to the time of writing. I am alone responsible for the headings of the letters as published in this volume.

Eleanor Marx Aveling.
Sydenham, April, 1896.


Note from a reader

Dear MIA,

I notice that you attribute “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany” to Karl Marx (now corrected!)! However, Frederick Engels is the author. I also notice that no one has caught the error since it was posted in 1999; or, if someone did catch it along the way, that nothing has been done about it. The original confusion over the authorship of these articles from the “New York Daily Tribune” was settled so long ago that no mention of it was even made in the 1979 introduction to Volume 11 of the “Collected Works” — apparently old news even then — where they are simply identified as belonging to Engels. However, you can find some background in the introduction to Volume 38, published in 1982. The volume also contains the Marx-Engels letters that give the background to this — background, it seems, that was a closed book to Marx’s daughter Eleanor, who published them in book form as her father’s work in 1896, the year after Engels died. This may all be “old news” to you, too. News or not, however, my main reason for mentioning it is that errors of that sort do nothing to enhance the reputation of the Marx-Engels Archive as a reliable resource — just the opposite.

There’s another angle to this that you might want to consider. When you go to the “Collected Works,” Volume 11, on the archive, and call up “Revolution and Counter-Revolution,” you get the same version — complete with Eleanor Marx-Aveling’s 1896 “Note by the Editor.” If the Archives’ Volume 11 is supposed to mirror the contents of the printed version that would have to be deleted since it is not in the printed version — and that leads directly to another question about the text of the body of the work. First, however, Eleanor Marx-Aveling’s “Note by the Editor” is included in the Charles H. Kerr edition, which was natural enough since Kerr, like Eleanor, thought he was printing a work of Marx edited by Marx’s daughter. I have to suppose a similar edition was printed in England, which I may have around here somewhere. The point is that this “Note by the Editor” is not included in Volume 11 of the printed edition of the “Collected Works.” It may be in some other volume as a bibliographical curiosity or some such thing, and the Archive may wish to do the same — it is, after all, a part of the history of the work and a reflection on the relationship between Marx and Engels. Beyond that, it’s obvious that you used one of the editions edited by Eleanor Marx-Aveling. The articles themselves were written in English for the “New York Daily Tribune,” so there’s no problem about translation. However, there are differences in editing — capitalization, punctuation, etc. The editors of the “Collected Works” claim their version is “reproduced from the newspaper,” which, if taken at face value, means word for word, comma for comma, etc., noting presumed omissions, what hot-typers know as “pi’s,” etc. However, since there are differences between the Eleanor Marx-Aveling edition and the “Collected Works” edition, both cannot claim to be precisely accurate “reproductions from the newspaper.” Again, all this may seem like bibliographical trivia, and in a way it is. To repeat, however, if the “Collected Works” la the Archives and the “Collected Works” in print are supposed to reflect each other it seems to me that the Archives version of “Revolution and Counter-Revolution” has to be revised, or some addition noting the distinction must be made for the sake of accuracy.

Sincerely yours,
Bob Bills SLP