Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung, November 1848

Counter-Revolution in Berlin
By Karl Marx

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Written: 11 & 13 November 1848;
First Published: Neue Rheinische Zeitung, No. 141 & No. 141 (2nd edition), 12 November 1848 & No. 142, 14 November 1848;
Source: Marx and Engels: Articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Moscow 1972, pp. 158 – 162;
Transcribed: Einde O'Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet archive (May 2014).


Cologne, November 11. The Pfuel cabinet was a “ misunderstanding”; its real meaning is the Brandenburg cabinet. The Pfuel cabinet was the table of contents, the Brandenburg cabinet is the content itself.

Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg.[1]

Thus runs the epitaph of the House of Brandenburg.[2]

The Emperor Charles V was admired because he had himself buried while still alive.[3] To have a bad joke engraved on one’s tombstone is to go one better than the Emperor Charles V and his penal system, his criminal code.[4]

Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg!

A King of Prussia once put in an appearance in the Assembly. That was not the real Brandenburg. The Marquis of Brandenburg who appeared in the Assembly the day before yesterday was the real King of Prussia.

The guardroom in the Assembly, the Assembly in the guardroom – that means: Brandenburg in the Assembly, the Assembly in Brandenburg!

Or will the Assembly in Brandenburg – Berlin, as is well known, is situated in the Province of Brandenburg – be master ... of the Brandenburg in the Assembly? Will Brandenburg seek the protection of the Assembly as a Capet once did in another Assembly?[5]

Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg is an ambiguous expression, which is equivocal and portentous.

As we know, it is much easier for the peoples to get the better of kings than of legislative assemblies. History gives us a whole list of abortive revolts of the people against national assemblies. It knows only two important exceptions to this rule. The English people in the person of Cromwell dissolved the Long Parliament, and the French people in the person of Bonaparte dissolved the legislative body. But the Long Parliament had long ago become a Rump, and the legislative body a corpse.

Have the kings been more fortunate in their revolts against legislative assemblies than the people?

Charles I, James II, Louis XVI and Charles X are hardly promising progenitors.

There are luckier ancestors in Spain and Italy however. And recently in Vienna?

But one must not forget that a Congress of Nations was in session in Vienna and that the representatives of the Slavs, except for the Poles, went over to the imperial camp with flying colours.[6]

The struggle of the camarilla in Vienna against the Diet was at the same time a struggle of the Slav Diet against the German Diet. It was not Slavs, however, who seceded in the Berlin Assembly, it was slaves, and slaves do not constitute a party; at best they are camp-followers of a party. The members of the Right [7] who left the Berlin Assembly have not strengthened the enemy camp, they have infected it with a fatal malady called treason.

The Slav party carried the day in Austria together with the camarilla. It will now fight the camarilla over the spoils. If the Berlin camarilla is victorious it will not have to share the victory with the Right or to defend it against the Right; the Right will be given a tip – and kicks.

The Prussian Crown is right when it confronts the Assembly as an absolute Crown. But the Assembly is wrong because it does not confront the Crown as an absolute assembly. To begin with it should have arrested the Ministers as traitors, traitors to the sovereignty of the people. It should have proscribed and outlawed all officials who obey orders others than those of the Assembly.

But the political weakness characterising the actions of the National Assembly in Berlin may become a source of civic strength in the provinces.

The bourgeoisie would have liked so much to transform the feudal monarchy into a bourgeois monarchy by peaceful means. After depriving the feudal party of armorial bearings and titles, which are offensive to its civic pride, and of the dues appertaining to feudal property, which violate the bourgeois mode of appropriation, the bourgeoisie would have liked to unite with the feudal party and together with it enslave the people. But the old bureaucracy does not want to be reduced to the status of a servant of a bourgeoisie for whom, until now, it has been a despotic tutor. The feudal party does not want to see its marks of distinction and interests burnt at the altar of the bourgeoisie. Finally, the Crown sees in the elements of the old feudal society – a society of which it is the crowning excrescence – its true, native social ground, whereas it regards the bourgeoisie as an alien artificial soil which bears it only under the condition that it withers away.

The bourgeoisie turns the intoxicating “divine right” into a sober legal title, the rule of blood into the rule of paper, the royal sun into a plebeian gas lamp.

Royalty, therefore, was not taken in by the bourgeoisie. Its reply to the partial revolution of the bourgeoisie was a full-fledged counter-revolution. Its cry Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg drove the bourgeoisie once more into the arms of the revolution, into the arms of the people.

While admitting that we do not expect the bourgeoisie to answer in a manner befitting the occasion, we must say, on the other hand, that in its rebellion against the National Assembly the Crown, too, resorts to hypocritical half measures and hides its head under the constitutional veil at the very moment when it tries to cast off this irksome veil.

Brandenburg makes the German central authority give him the order for his coup d'état. The regiments of the guards marched into Berlin by order of the central authority. The Berlin counter-revolution is carried out by order of the German central authority. Brandenburg orders the Frankfurt [Assembly] to give him this order. It denies its sovereignty at the very moment when it wants to establish it. Herr Bassermann of course jumped at the opportunity to play the servant as master. But he has the satisfaction of seeing the master in his turn play the servant.

Whatever the outcome in Berlin may be, the dilemma is: either the King or the people – and with the cry, Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg the people will be victorious.

We may have to go through a hard school, but it is the preparatory school for a full-fledged revolution.


Cologne, November 11. European revolution is taking a circular course. It started in Italy and assumed a European character in Paris; the first repercussion of the February revolution followed in Vienna; the repercussion of the Viennese revolution took place in Berlin. European counter-revolution struck its first blow in Italy, at Naples; it assumed a European character in Paris in June; the first repercussion of the June counter-revolution followed in Vienna; it comes to a close and discredits itself in Berlin. The crowing of the Gallic cock in Paris will once again rouse Europe.

But in Berlin the counter-revolution is bringing itself into disrepute. Everything becomes disreputable in Berlin, even counter-revolution.

In Naples the lazzaroni are leagued with the monarchy against the bourgeoisie.

In Paris the greatest struggle ever known in history is taking place. The bourgeoisie is leagued with the lazzaroni against the working class.

In Vienna we have a flock of nationalities who imagine that the counter-revolution will bring them emancipation. In addition – the secret spite of the bourgeoisie against the workers and the Academic Legion; discord within the Civil Guard itself; finally, attacks by the people supplying a pretext for the attacks by the Court.

Nothing like that is happening in Berlin. The bourgeoisie and the people are on one side and the drill-sergeants on the other.

Wrangel and Brandenburg, two men who have no head, no heart, no opinions, nothing but moustaches[8] – such is the antithesis of the querulous, self-opinionated, irresolute National Assembly.

Will-power – be it even that of an ass, an ox, a policeman – is all that is needed to tackle the weak-willed grumblers of the March revolution. And the Prussian Court, which has just as little will-power as the National Assembly, seeks out the two most stupid men in the monarchy and tells these lions: represent will-power. Pfuel still had a few grains of brain. But absolute stupidity makes even the grumblers of the March achievements flinch.

With stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain,” [9]

exclaims the perplexed National Assembly.

These Wrangels and Brandenburgs, these blockheads who can want because they have no will of their own, because they only want what they are ordered, and who are too stupid to question the orders they are given with a faltering voice and trembling lips – they, too, have discredited themselves because they did not get down to skull-breaking, the only job these battering-rams are good for.

Wrangel does not go beyond confessing that he recognizes only a National Assembly that obeys orders. Brandenburg is given a lesson in parliamentary behaviour, and after having shocked the Chamber with his crude, repulsive jargon appropriate to a drill-sergeant, he allows the National Assembly “to tyrannize the tyrant” and carries out its orders by humbly begging for permission to speak, though he had just attempted to usurp this right.

I had rather be a tick in a sheep
Than such a valiant ignorance.[10]

Berlin’s calm attitude delights us; the ideals of the Prussian drill-sergeants prove unavailing against it.

But the National Assembly? Why does it not use its power to proscribe? Why does it not outlaw the Wrangels? Why does not one of the deputies step into the midst of Wrangel’s bayonets to outlaw him and address the soldiers?

Let the Berlin National Assembly turn over the leaves of the Moniteur [11], the Moniteur for 1789-95.

And what should we do at the present time?

We should refuse to pay taxes. A Wrangel and a Brandenburg understand – for these creatures learn Arabic from the Hyghlans[12] – that they wear a sword and get a uniform and a salary. But where the sword, the uniform and the salary come from – that they do not understand.

There is only one means for securing the defeat of the monarchy, and that is to do it before the advent of the anti-June revolution, which will take place in Paris in December. [13]

The monarchy defies not only the people, but the bourgeoisie as well.

Defeat it therefore in a bourgeois manner.

How can one defeat the monarchy in a bourgeois manner?

By starving it into surrender.

And how can one starve it into surrender?

By refusing to pay taxes.

Consider it well. No princes of Prussia, no Brandenburgs and Wrangels produce the bread for the army. It is you who produce even the bread for the army.


Cologne, November 13. Just as once the French National Assembly, on finding its official meeting place closed, had to hold its session in the tennis-court, so now the Prussian National Assembly has to meet in the shooting-gallery.[14]

A decision adopted in the shooting-gallery declares Brandenburg a traitor. The text, as received from our Berlin correspondent (who signs his articles.), is contained in our special edition issued this morning, but it is not mentioned in the report published in the Kölnische Zeitung.[15]

However, we have just received a letter from a member of the National Assembly in which he writes:

The National Assembly (i.e. 242 members) unanimously declared that by introducing this measure (dissolution of the Civic Guard) Brandenburg has committed high treason, and any person who actively or passively assists in the carrying through this measure is to he regarded as a traitor.

Dumont’s reliability is well known.

Since the National Assembly has declared Brandenburg a traitor, the obligation to pay taxes ceases automatically. No taxes are due to a government that commits high treason. Tomorrow we shall inform our readers in greater detail how in England, the oldest constitutional country, a refusal to pay taxes operated during a similar conflict.[16] Incidentally, the traitorous government itself has shown the people the right way when it immediately refused to pay taxes (allowances etc.) to the National Assembly in order to starve it into submission.

The aforementioned deputy writes further:

The Civil Guard will not hand over their arms.”

A fight therefore seems inevitable, and it is the duty of the Rhineland to hasten to the assistance of the Berlin National Assembly with men and weapons.


1. With reference to the Brandenburg cabinet the King said: “Either Brandenburg in the Assembly or the Assembly in Brandenburg.” In its issue of November 9, 1848, the Neue Preussische Zeitung changed this to: “Brandenburg in the Assembly and the Assembly in Brandenburg.”

2. This refers to the Hohenzollerns who became hereditary margraves of Brandenburg in 1417.

3. The Emperor Charles V, shortly before his death, is said to have ordered his own funeral service to be performed and he took part in these obsequies.

4. The criminal code of Charles V (Constitutio criminalis carolinai, enacted by the Imperial Diet in Regensburg in 1532, was notorious for its excessively cruel penalties.

5. During the uprising of August 10, 1792, which overthrew the French monarchy, Louis XVI (Louis Cap et) vainly sought protection in the National Assembly. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung published a series of articles under the heading “The Debates of the National Convention on Louis Capet, Ex-King of France” on 19, 21, 22 and 26 June, and 9 September 1848.

6. The majority of Slav deputies in the Austrian Imperial Diet of 1848, who were associated with the bourgeoisie or the landowners, sought to set up a Slav federal state within the Hapsburg monarchy.

7. When on November 9, 1848, the Prussian National Assembly was informed of the royal decree suspending its session and transferring it from Berlin to Brandenburg, most Right-wing deputies obediently left the building.

8. The term “Schnurrbart” (moustache) in eighteenth-century student slang stood also for policeman. – Ed.

9. Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orleans, Act III, Scene 6.

10. Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene 3.

11. Le Moniteur Universel – a French daily published in Paris from 1789 to 1901. It was the official government organ from 1799 to 1811 and from 1816 to 1868. During the French revolution the paper published the parliamentary reports as well as the laws and decrees of 1 the revolutionary government.

12. In its issue of November 3, 1848, the Kolnische Zeitung carried an article about an imaginary African tribe, the Hyghlans, an intermediate form between man and ape. On November 5 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung ridiculed the report, adding: “this discovery is at any rate of the greatest importance for the party of the howlers for whom the Hyghlans will provide a fitting reinforcement.”

In 1848-49 the advocates of a bourgeois constitutional system in Germany called the republican democrats “agitators” and these in turn called their opponents “howlers.”

13. According to the French Constitution adopted on November 4, 1848, the presidential elections had to take place in December 1848. The President as the head of the executive was given wide powers by the Constitution, which reflected the growing counter-revolutionary trend among the ruling sections of the bourgeoisie, who had been frightened by the June uprising of the workers of Paris. As a result of the December elections Louis Bonaparte became President of the Republic.

14. Despite the royal decree of November 8, 1848, transferring the sessions of the Prussian National Assembly from Berlin to Brandenburg, the majority of delegates decided to continue their deliberations in Berlin. They were thereupon expelled from the building where their sessions had been held hitherto; from November 11 to 13 the delegates met in the Berlin shooting-gallery.

The historical session of the French National Assembly in the tennis-court at Versailles took place on June 20, 1789.

15. Kölnische Zeitung – a German daily which started publication in Cologne in 1802; during 1848 – 49 it supported the cowardly and treacherous policy of the Prussian liberal bourgeoisie and continuously attacked the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

16. On 14 and 15 November the Neue Rheinische Zeitung published an article by Georg Weerth under the heading “The Refusal to Pay Taxes During the Struggle for the Reform Bill in England in 1832.”