Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung January 1849

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Revolutionary Movement
By Karl Marx

Written: 31 December 1848;
First Published: Neue Rheinische Zeitung, No. 184, 1 January 1849;
Source: Marx and Engels: Articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Moscow 1972, pp. 205–207;
Transcribed: Einde O'Callaghan for the Marxists Internet Archive (May 2014).

Cologne, December 31. Never was a revolutionary movement opened with such an edifying overture as the revolutionary movement of 1848. The Pope gave it the blessing of the Church, and Lamartine’s aeolian harp vibrated with tender philanthropical tunes on the words of fraternité, the brotherhood of members of society and nations.

Welcome all ye myriad creatures!
Brethren, take the kiss of love! [1]

Driven out of Rome, the Pope at present is staying at Gaeta under the protection of the tigerish idiot Ferdinand; Italy’s “iniciatore[2] conspires against Italy with Austria, Italy’s traditional mortal enemy, whom in happier days he threatened to excommunicate. The recent French presidential elections have given statistical proof of the unpopularity of Lamartine, the traitor. There has been no event more philanthropic, humane, and weak than the February and March revolutions, nothing more brutal than the inevitable consequences of this humanity of weakness. The proofs are Italy, Poland, Germany, and above all, those who were defeated in June.

But the defeat of the French workers in June was the defeat of the June victors themselves. Ledru- Rollin and the other men of the Mountain[3] were ousted by the party of the National, the party of the bourgeois republicans; the party of the National was ousted by Thiers-Barrot, the dynastic opposition; these in turn would have had to make way for the legitimists if the cycle of the three restorations had not come to an end, and if Louis Napoleon was something more than an empty ballot-box by means of which the French peasants announced their entry into the revolutionary social movement, and the French workers their condemnation of all leaders of the preceding periods – Thiers-Barrot, Lamartine and Cavaignac-Marrast. But let us note the fact that the inevitable consequence of the defeat of the revolutionary French working class was the defeat of the republican French bourgeoisie, to which it had just succumbed.

The defeat of the working class in France and the victory of the French bourgeoisie at the same time signified the renewed suppression of the nationalities, who had responded to the crowing of the Gallic cock with heroic attempts to liberate themselves. Prussian, Austrian and English Sbirri once more plundered, ravished and murdered in Poland, Italy and Ireland. The defeat of the working class in France and the victory of the French bourgeoisie was at the same time the defeat of the middle classes in all European countries where the middle classes, united for the moment with the people, responded to the crowing of the Gallic cock with sanguinary insurrections against feudalism. Naples, Vienna, Berlin. The defeat of the working class in France and the victory of the French bourgeoisie was at the same time a victory of East over West, the defeat of civilization by barbarism. The suppression of the Romanians by the Russians and their tools, the Turks, began in Wallachia; Croats, pandours, Czechs, serezhans [4] and similar rabble throttled German liberty in Vienna, and the Tsar is now omnipresent in Europe. The overthrow of the bourgeoisie in France, the triumph of the French working class, and the liberation of the working class in general is therefore the rallying-cry of European liberation.

But England, the country that turns whole nations into her proletarians, that spans the whole world with her enormous arms, that has already once defrayed the cost of a European Restoration, the country in which class contradictions have reached their most acute and shameless form – England seems to be the rock which breaks the revolutionary waves, the country where the new society is stifled before it is born. England dominates the world market. Any upheaval in economic relations in any country of the European continent, in the whole European continent without England, is a storm in a teacup. Industrial and commercial relations within each nation are governed by its intercourse with other nations, and depend on its relations with the world market. But the world market is dominated by England and England is dominated by the bourgeoisie.

Thus, the liberation of Europe, whether brought about by the struggle of the oppressed nationalities for their independence or by overthrowing feudal absolutism, depends on the successful uprising of the French working class. Every social upheaval in France, however, is bound to be thwarted by the English bourgeoisie, by Great Britain’s industrial and commercial domination of the world. Every partial social reform in France or on the European continent as a whole, if designed to be lasting, is merely a pious wish. Only a world war can break old England, as only this can provide the Chartists, the party of the organized English workers, with the conditions for a successful rising against their powerful oppressors. Only when the Chartists head the English government will the social revolution pass from the sphere of utopia to that of reality. But any European war in which England is involved is a world war, waged in Canada and Italy, in the East Indies and Prussia, in Africa and on the Danube. A European war will be the first result of a successful workers’ revolution in France. England will head the counter-revolutionary armies, just as she did during the Napoleonic period, but the war itself will place her at the head of the revolutionary movement and she will repay the debt she owes to the revolution of the eighteenth century.

The table of contents for 1849 reads: Revolutionary rising of the French working class, world war.


1. From Schiller’s An die Freude. The English translation is taken from Poems by Schiller, “Hymn to Joy,” by Bowring, Chicago.

2. After his election in 1846, Pope Pius IX initiated a number of liberal reforms to prevent the spread of the popular movement.

3. La Montagne (The Mountain) – in 1848-51 the name was given to a group of petty-bourgeois democrats and republicans headed by Ledru-Rollin. Their newspaper was La Réforme.

4. Mounted troops in the Austrian army who were notorious for their cruelty. – Ed.