Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge

in Dresden

Written: From a barge on the way to D. March 1843;
First Published: Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 1844;
HTML Markup: S. Ryan.

I am now travelling in Holland. From both the French papers and the local ones I see that Germany has ridden deeply into the mire and will sink into it even further. I assure you that even if one can feel no national pride one does feel national shame, even in Holland. In comparison with the greatest Germans even the least Dutchman is still a citizen. And the opinions of foreigners about the Prussian government! There is a frightening agreement, no one is deceived any longer about the system and its simple nature. So the new school has been of some use after all. The glorious robes of liberalism have fallen away and the most repulsive despotism stands revealed for all the world to see.

This, too, is a revelation, albeit a negative one. It is a truth which at the very least teaches us to see the hollowness of our patriotism, the perverted nature of our state and to hide our faces in shame. I can see you smile and say: what good will that do? Revolutions are not made by shame. And my answer is that shame is a revolution in itself; it really is the victory of the French Revolution over that German patriotism which defeated it in 1813. Shame is a kind of anger turned in on itself. And if a whole nation were to feel ashamed it would be like a lion recoiling in order to spring. I admit that even this shame is not yet to be found in Germany; on the contrary, the wretches are still patriots. But if the ridiculous system of our new knight [Frederick William IV of Prussia came to the throne in 1840] does not disabuse them of their patriotism, then what will? The comedy of despotism in which we are being forced to act is as dangerous for him as tragedy was once for the Stuarts and the Bourbons. And even if the comedy will not be seen in its true light for a long time, yet it will still be a revolution.

The state is too serious a business to be subjected to such buffoonery. A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will still drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.