Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Karl Marx 1853

V. The Letter Accompanying the Red Catechism

In his evidence during the sitting on October 27 Police Inspector Junkermann of Créfeld said that

“he confiscated a parcel containing copies of the Red Catechism [by Moses Hess]; it was addressed to the waiter in an inn in Créfeld and bore a Düsseldorf post mark. It contained also an accompanying letter which was unsigned. It has not been possible to identify the sender.” “As the prosecution has pointed out, the accompanying letter appeared to be written in Marx’s hand,”

In the sitting on October 28 the expert (???) Renard discovered that the letter was in fact in Marx’s handwriting. This accompanying letter said:

“Citizen! As we have complete confidence in you, we herewith present you with 50 copies of the Red. Your task is to push them under the doors of citizens — preferably workers — who are known to sympathise with the Revolution, on Saturday, June 5, at eleven o'clock at night. We are definitely counting on your civic virtues and accordingly expect you to carry out this instruction. The Revolution is closer than many people think. Long live the Revolution!

“Berlin, May 1852
With Fraternal Greetings.
The Revolutionary Committee

Witness Junkermann declared further that “the parcels in question had been sent to the witness Chianella”.

Chief Commissioner of Police Hinckeldey of Berlin was the Supreme Commander in charge of operations against the accused in Cologne during the preliminary investigations. The laurels won by Maupas prevented him from sleeping.

The actors in the proceedings include two Chiefs of Police, one alive and one dead, one superintendent (only one, but that one a Stieber), two police lieutenants one of whom was constantly en route from London to Cologne, the other constantly journeying from Cologne to London, myriads of police agents and subagents, named, anonymous, heteronymous, pseudonymous, with tails and without. Lastly an Inspector of Police.

No sooner had the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with the evidence heard on October 27 and 28 than Marx went to the magistrate in Marlborough Street, where he copied out from the newspaper the text of the accompanying letter and had the copy witnessed, and at the same time the following affidavit:

1. That he had not written the letter in question; 2. that he had only learnt of its existence from the Kölnische Zeitung; 3. that he had never seen the so-called Red Catechism; 4. that he had never helped in any way at all to distribute it.

It may be pointed out in passing that if such a declaration made before a magistrate is found to be false, then it counts as perjury in England with all the consequences attendant thereupon.

The above document was sent to Schneider II but it appeared simultaneously in the London Morning Advertiser as the conviction had gained ground during the trial that as regards the observance of the secrecy of correspondence the Prussian post seems to have the strange notion that letters entrusted to its care must be kept secret from the addressee. The prosecution objected to the submission of the document, even for purposes of comparison. For the prosecution was aware that a single glance from the original accompanying letter to the officially attested copy by Marx would reveal the deception, the deliberate imitation of his handwriting could not remain hidden even from such a sharp-sighted jury as this. Therefore, in order to defend the morality of the Prussian state, the prosecution denounced any attempt at comparison.

Schneider II observed

“that Chianella, the addressee who had freely given information to the police about the supposed identity of the sender and who had even offered to act as a spy, had not in the remotest degree thought of Marx in this connection.”

No one who has ever read a single line by Marx could possibly attribute to him the authorship of this melodramatic accompanying letter. The midnight dream hour in summer on June 5, and the officiously graphic procedure of pushing the Red under the doors of the revolutionary philistines — that could perhaps point to Kinkel’s turn of mind, just as the references to “civic virtues” and the way in which they are “definitely counting on” this military “instruction being carried out” seem to reflect the imagination of a Willich. But why should Kinkel-Willich write their prescriptions for revolution in Marx’s hand?

If it is permissible to form a hypothesis about the “as yet somewhat obscure origins” of this accompanying letter written in an imitated hand: the police found the 50 Reds in Créfeld as well as the convenient, high sounding accompanying letter. In Cologne or in Berlin qu'importe? they had the text copied in Marx’s handwriting. For what purpose? “So as to increase the value of their commodity.”

However, even the Chief Public Prosecutor did not dare to revert to the accompanying letter in his catilinarian speech. He let it drop. Hence it did not assist in ascertaining the still missing “indictable offence”.