Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung October 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The "Cologne Revolution"

by Karl Marx

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 115
Translated by the Marx-Engels Institute
Transcribed for the Internet by, 1994

Cologne, October 12 -- The "Cologne Revolution" of September 25 was a carnival, the Kolnische Zeitung tells us, and the Kolnische Zeitung is right. The "Cologne military command" introduced Cavaignac on September 26. And the Kolnische Zeitung admires the wisdom and moderation of the "Cologne military command." But who is the most comical-the workers who built the barricades on September 25, or Cavaignac, who on September 26 most solemnly pronounced a state of siege, suspended journals, disarmed the civil guard, and prohibited association?

Poor Kolnische Zeitung! The Cavaignac of the "Cologne Revolution" is not one cubit bigger than the "Cologne Revolution" itself. Poor Kolnische Zeitung! It must take the "Revolution" jokingly and the "Cavaignac" of this gay revolution seriously. Vexatious, thankless, disagreeable theme!

We do not waste words on the rights of the military command. D'Ester has exhausted this subject. [On September 29, i848, Dr. d'Ester, a communist deputy in the Prussian National Assembly, demanded the suspension of the state of siege in Cologne.] For the rest, we consider the military command as a subordinate tool. The actual authors of this strange tragedy were the "right- minded citizens," the Dumonts & Co. Hence it is no wonder that Herr Dumont was instrumental in peddling the Address against d'Ester, Borchardt, and Kyll. What they had to defend, these "right-minded" ones, was not the action of the military command but their own action.

The Cologne event wandered through the Sahara Desert of the German press in the form given it by the Cologne Journal des Debats. Sufficient ground to return to this.

Moll, one of the most beloved leaders of the Workers' Association, was to be arrested. [The Workers' Association was founded by communists in Cologne on April 13, 1848. -- ed.] Schapper and Becker were already arrested. To carry out these arrests, they chose a Monday, a day when everyone knows most of the workers are free. Hence the authorities must have known that the arrests would stir up a great ferment among the workers and could even be the cause of violent resistance. Strange coincidence, that these arrests occurred precisely on a Monday! The excitement was the more easily to be foreseen as, on the occasion of Stein's motion against the army order, [on August 9, Deputy Stein made a motion protesting against an attack by Prussian troops in Schweidnitz which killed fourteen men -- ed.] and after Wrangel's Proclamation [On September 17, 1848, General Wrangel issued a proclamation in Berlin in defense of "public order." -- ed.] and Pfuel's appointment as Prime Minister, a decisive counterrevolutionary blow, hence a revolution, was expected in Berlin. The workers therefore had to view the arrests, not as legal but as political measures. In the procurator they saw only a counterrevolutionary authority. They believed they were being robbed of their leaders on the eve of important events. They were determined at all costs to keep Moll from being arrested. And they left the field of battle only after they achieved their aim. The barricades were built only when the workers assembled on the Old Market Place discovered that the military was moving to an attack from all directions. The workers were not attacked; hence they did not have to defend themselves. Furthermore, it became known to them that no important news had arrived from Berlin. Thus they withdrew, after having vainly waited for the enemy throughout most of the night.

Hence nothing is more ridiculous than the reproach of cowardice that has been made against the Cologne workers.

But other reproaches have been made against them, in order to justify the state of siege and to trim down the Cologne event to a small June Revolution. Their actual plan was supposed to have been the plundering of the good city of Cologne. The charge derives from the alleged plundering of one clothing shop. As if every city did not have its contingent of thieves, who naturally take advantage of days of public excitement. Or does one understand by plundering the plundering of arms stores? If so, one should send the Cologne parquet [law court] to Berlin to help prepare the case against the March Revolution. Without the plundered arms stores, perhaps we would never have had the satisfaction of seeing Herr Hansemann transformed into a bank director and Herr Muller into a state secretary.

Enough of the Cologne workers. Let us come to the so-called democrats. What do the Kolnische Zeitung, the Deutsche Zeitung, the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung, and whatever the names of the other "right-minded" papers are, reproach them with?

The heroic Bruggemanns, the Bassermanns, etc., called for blood, and the soft-hearted democrats, out of cowardice, did not agree to bloodshed.

The fact, however, is this: The democrats declared in the Kranz (on the Old Market Place), in the Eiser Hall, and on the workers' barricades that under no circumstances did they want any Putsch. But at that point, when there was no important question to drive the whole population to battle and hence every rising was bound to fail, this was the more senseless in that it disabled men for battle on the eve of decision, at a time when tremendous events could occur in a few days. When the ministry in Berlin hazarded a counterrevolution, that was the day for the people to hazard a revolution. The judicial investigation will confirm our assertion. The gentlemen of the Kolnische Zeitung would have done better if, instead of standing in front of the barricades "in the darkness of the night" with "folded arms and dark looks" and "reflecting on the future of the nation," they had stood on the barricades themselves and harangued the blinded masses with their words of wisdom. Of what use is wisdom post festum?

Worst was the treatment of the Civil Guard in the good Cologne press during the events in the city. Let us make a distinction. That the Civil Guard refused to sink to the level of a will-less servant of the police -- that was its duty. That it voluntarily surrendered its arms-can be excused on one ground: the liberal portion of the guard knew that its illiberal portion joyfully seized the opportunity of ridding itself of its weapons. A partial resistance would have been useless.

The "Cologne Revolution" had one good result. It revealed the existence of a phalanx of more than 2,000 saints whose "satiated virtue and solvent morality" [From Heinrich Heine, "Anno 1829." -- ed.] demonstrate a "free life" only during a state of siege. Perhaps there will some day be an occasion for writing an Acta Sanctorum -- the biographies of these saints. Our readers will then learn how the "treasures" that neither moth nor rust doth corrupt [Matthew VI:19: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt..." -- ed.] are acquired, and in what way the economic background of "good intention" is conquered.