Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution

by Karl Marx

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 165
Translated by the Marx-Engels Institute
Transcribed for the Internet by, 1994

Cologne, December 9. We have never concealed the fact that we do not proceed from a legal basis, but from a revolutionary basis. Now the government has for its part abandoned the false pretense of a legal basis. It has taken its stand on a revolutionary basis, for the counter-revolutionary basis, too, is revolutionary.

S 6 of the law of April 6, 1848, ordains:

"The right to approve all laws as well as to determine the national budget and to pass taxes must in any case belong to the future representatives of the people."

S 13 of the law of April 8, 1848, reads:

"The Assembly convened on the basis of this law is called upon to establish the future Constitution by agreement with the Crown and during its lifetime to exercise the prerogatives of the former Imperial Diet, in particular regarding the passing of taxes."

The government sends this Assembly of conciliators to the devil, imposes a so-called constitution [121] upon the country and levies taxes which the representatives of the people had refused to grant it.

The Camphausen epic, a sort of pompous legal Jobsiad, [122] was brought to an abrupt end by the Prussian government. In retaliation the great Camphausen, the author of this epic, continues coolly to deliberate in Frankfurt as envoy of this same Prussian government, and goes on scheming with the Bassermanns in the interests of that same Prussian government. This Camphausen, who invented the theory of agreement in order to preserve the legal basis, that is, in order first of all to cheat the revolution of the respect that is due to it, at the same time invented the mines which were later to blow up the legal basis together with the theory of agreement.

This man provided for indirect elections, which produced an assembly to which, at a moment of sudden revolt, the government could shout: Trop tard! He recalled the Prince of Prussia, the head of the counter-revolution, and even resorted to an official lie to transform Prince's flight into an educational journey. [123] He abolished neither the old Prussian laws dealing with political crimes nor the old courts. Under his government the old bureaucracy and the old army gained time to recover from their fright and to reorganize their whole structure. All the leading personalities of the old regime were left untouched in their positions. Under Camphausen the camarilla carried on a war in Poznan, while he himself carried on a war in Denmark. The Danish war was intended as a channel to draw off the superabundant patriotism [124] of the German youth, on whom after their return the police inflicted fitting disciplinary punishment. This war was to give some popularity to General Wrangle and his infamous regiments of the Guards and in general to rehabilitate the Prussian army. This purpose achieved, the sham war had to be ended at any price by a disgraceful armistice, which was once again negotiated at Frankfurt between the same Camphausen and the German National Assembly. The outcome of the Danish war was the appointment of the "Commander-in-Chief of the two Brandenburgs" [125] and the return to Berlin of the regiments of the Guards which had been driven out in March.

And the war which the Potsdam camarilla waged in Poznan under the auspices of Camphausen!

The war in Poznan was more than a war against the Prussian revolution. It was the fall of Vienna, the fall of Italy, the defeat of the heroes of June. It was the first decisive victory gained by the Russian Tsar over the European revolution. And all this was done under the auspices of the great Camphausen, the thinking friend of history, [126] the knight of the great debate, the champion of negotiation.

Under Camphausen and with his help the counter-revolution seized all important positions; it prepared an army ready for action while the Assembly of conciliators debated.

Under Hansemann-Pinto, [127] the Minister of Action, the old police force was fitted out with new uniforms, and the bourgeoisie waged a war -- as bitter as it was petty -- against the people. The conclusion from these premises was drawn under Brandenburg's rule. The only things needed for this were a moustache and sword instead of a head.

When Camphausen resigned we exclaimed:

He has sown reaction as interpreted by the bourgeoisie, he will reap reaction as interpreted by the aristocracy and absolutism.

We have no doubt that His Excellency, the Prussian envoy Camphausen, at this moment regards himself a feudal lord and has come to a peaceable agreement with his "misunderstanding".

One should not, however, commit the error of ascribing initiatives of world historical significance to such mediocrities as a Camphausen and a Hansemann. They were nothing but the instruments of a class. Their language, their actions, were merely the official echo of the class which brought them to the forefront. They were simply the big bourgeoisie placed in the forefront.

The members of this class formed the liberal opposition in the late United Provincial Diet of blessed memory, which Camphausen resurrected for a moment.

The gentlemen of this liberal opposition have been reproached with having deserted their principles after the March revolution. This is a fallacy.

The big landowners and capitalists -- and they were the only ones to be represented in the United Provincial Diet -- in short the money-bags, became wealthier and more educated. With the development of bourgeois society in Prussia, in other words, with the development of industry, trade and agriculture, the old class distinctions had, on the one hand lost their material basis.

The aristocracy itself was largely bourgeoisified. Instead of dealing in loyalty, love and faith, it now dealt primarily in beetroot, liquor and wool. Its tournaments were held on the wool market. On the other hand, the absolutist state, which in the course of development lost its old social basis, became a restrictive fetter for the new bourgeois society with its changed mode of production and its changed requirements. The bourgeoisie had to claim its share of political power, if only by reason of its material interests. Only the bourgeoisie itself could legally assert its commercial and industrial requirements. It had to wrest the administration of these, its "most sacred interests" from the hands of an antiquated bureaucracy which was both ignorant and arrogant. It had to demand control over the national wealth, whose creator it considered itself. Having deprived the bureaucracy of the monopoly of so-called education and conscious of the fact that it possesses a far superior knowledge of the real requirements of bourgeois society, the bourgeoisie had also the ambition to secure for itself a political status in keeping with its social status. To attain this aim it had to be able freely to debate its own interests and views and the actions of the government. It called this "freedom of the press". The bourgeoisie had to be able to enter freely into associations. It called this the "right of free association". As the necessary consequence of free competition, it had likewise to demand religious liberty and so on. Before March 1848 the Prussian bourgeoisie was rapidly moving towards the realization of all its aims.

The Prussian state was in financial difficulties. Its borrowing power was exhausted. This was the secret reason for the convocation of the United Provincial Diet. Although the government struggled against its fate and ungraciously dissolved the United Provincial Diet, lack of money and of credit facilities would inevitably have driven it gradually into the arms of the bourgeoisie. Those who are kings by the grace of God have always bartered their privileges for hard cash, as did the feudal barons. The first great act of this historic deal in all Christian Germanic states was the emancipation of the serfs; the second act was the constitutional monarchy. "L'argent n'a pas de mattre", but the maitres cease to be maitres as soon as they are demonetized.

And so the liberal opposition in the United Provincial Diet was simply the bourgeoisie in opposition to a political form that was no longer appropriate to its interests and needs. In order to oppose the Court, the bourgeoisie had to court the people.

It may have really imagined that its opposition was for the people.

Obviously, the rights and liberties which the bourgeoisie sought for itself could be demanded from the government only under the slogan: popular rights and popular liberties.

This opposition, as we have said, was rapidly moving towards its goal when the February storm broke.