Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung January 1849

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Montesquieu LVI

by Karl Marx

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 201
Translated by the Marx-Engels Institute
Transcribed for the Internet by, 1994

Cologne, January 20. The "honorable" Joseph Dumont allows an anonymous writer, who is not paid by him but pays him and who in the feuilleton seeks to work upon the Primary voters, to address the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in the following way:

"The Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the Organ of Democracy, has been pleased to take notice of the articles published in this paper under the title "To the Primary Voters", and to state that they were borrowed from the Neue Preussische Zeitung.

"In face of this lie, we simply declare that these articles are paid for as advertisements, and that, with the exception of the first one borrowed from the Parlaments-Korrespondenz, they were written in Cologne and their author has up to now not even seen, let alone read, the Neue Preussische Zeitung."

We understand how important it is for Montesquieu LVI to authenticate his property. We also understand how important for Herr Dumont is the statement that he is "paid" even for the leaflets and advertisements which he sets up, prints and distributes in the interest of his class, the bourgeoisie. As for the anonymous writer, he is aware of the French saying: "Les beaux esprits se rencontrent." It is not his fault that his own intellectual products and those of the Neue Preussische Zeitung and of the "Prussian Associations" [113] are as alike as two peas. We have never read his advertisements in the Kolnische Zeitung, but the leaflets produced by Dumont's printing-house and sent to us from various quarters, we deemed worthy of a casual glance. Now, however, comparison has shown us that the same stuff plays the simultaneous role of advertisement and leaflet.

In order to atone for the injustice we have done to the anonymous Montesquieu LVI we have imposed upon ourselves the harsh penance of reading all his advertisements in the Kolnische Zeitung and making his intellectual private property available to the German public as "common property". Here is wisdom! Montesquieu LVI is chiefly concerned with the social question. He has found the "easiest and simplest way" to solve it, and he extols his Morrison pill with the unctuous, naively shameless pathos of a quack.

"The easiest and simplest way to achieve this however" (that is, the solution of the social question) "is to accept the constitution imposed on December 5, 1848, revise it, then make everyone swear allegiance to it, and thus to establish it. This is our only way to salvation. Consequently, any man who has a sympathetic heart for the misery of his poor brothers, who wants to feed the hungry and clothe the naked... anyone, in short, who wants to solve the social question... should not vote for anyone who is opposed to the constitution" (Montesquieu LVI).

Vote for Brandenburg, Manteuffel, Ladenberg, and the social question will be solved in the "simplest" and "easiest way"! Vote for Dumont, Camphausen, Wittgenstein or else for minor gods such as Compes and Mevissen -- and the social question will be solved! The "social question" for a vote! He who "wants to feed the hungry and clothe the naked" should vote for Hansemann and Stupp! One social question less for each vote! Acceptance of the imposed constitution -- that is the solution of the social problem! 

We do not for a moment doubt that neither Montesquieu LVI nor his patrons in the Citizens' Associations [154] will wait for the imposed constitution to be accepted, revised, [155] sworn, and promulgated before "feeding the hungry and clothing the naked". Appropriate measures have already been taken. 

During the last few weeks circulars have been distributed in which capitalists inform craftsmen, shopkeepers, and others that, considering the present state of affairs and the revival of credit, the rate of interest, for philanthropical reasons, has been raised from 4 to 5 per cent. First solution of the social question! 

The municipal council of Cologne has in the same spirit drawn up a "Worker's Card" for the unfortunate people who must either starve or sell their hands to the city (cf. No. 187 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung). It will be remembered that under this Charter, imposed on the workers, the worker who has lost his job is bound by contract to place himself under police surveillance. Second solution of the social question! 

Shortly after the March events, the municipal council established an eating-house in Cologne at cost prices, beautifully furnished, with fine rooms that could be heated, etc. After the imposition of the constitution other premises were substituted for this, premises managed by the poor-law administration, where there is no heating, no crockery, where food may not be consumed on the spot and where a quart of indescribable gruel costs eight pfennigs. Third solution of the social question! 

While they ruled Vienna the workers guarded the banks, the houses and the wealth of the bourgeois, who had fled. These same bourgeois, on their return, denounced these workers to Windischgratz as "robbers" who ought to be hanged. Unemployed who applied to the municipal council were put into the army to fight Hungary. Fourth solution of the social question! 

In Breslau the wretched people who were obliged to seek refuge in the poor house were calmly exposed to cholera by the municipal council and the government who deprived them of the most essential physical necessaries of life, and took notice of the victims of their cruel charity only when they themselves were attacked by the disease. Fifth solution of the social question! 

In the Berlin association "with God for King and Country", a supporter of the imposed constitution declared that it was distressing that in order to further one's interests and plans one still had to pay compliments to the "proletariat". 

That is the solution of the "solution of the social question"! 

"The Prussian spies are so dangerous because they are never paid but are always hoping to be paid," says our friend Heine. And the Prussian bourgeois are so dangerous because they never pay but always promise to pay. 

An election costs the English and French bourgeois quite a lot of money. Their corrupt practices are well known. The Prussian bourgeoisie are very shrewd! They are much too virtuous and upright to dip into their pocket; they pay with the "solution of the social question". And that costs nothing. Montesquieu LVI, however, as Dumont officially assures us, pays at least for the advertisements in the Kolnische Zeitung and appends -- gratis -- the solution of the "social question".

The practical part of our Montesquieu's petites oeuvres thus boils down to the following: vote for Brandenburg, Manteuffel, Ladenberg! Elect Camphausen and Hansemann! Send us to Berlin, let our people establish themselves there. That is the solution of the social question. 

The immortal Hansemann has solved these problems. First, the establishment of law and order to revive credit. Then, the solution of the "social question" with powder and shot, as in 1844, when "my dear Silesian weavers ought to be helped".

Hence, vote for the advocates of the imposed constitution! 

But Montesquieu LVI accepts the imposed constitution only to be able afterwards to "revise" and "swear allegiance to it"! Montesquieu, my good man! Once you have accepted the constitution you can revise it only on its own basis, that is, in so far as it suits the King and the second Chamber consisting of country squires, financial magnates, high-ranking officials and clerics. The only possible revision has been judiciously indicated in the imposed constitution itself. It consists in abandoning the constitutional system and restoring the former Christian-Germanic system of estates.

After the acceptance of the imposed constitution this is the only possible and only permitted revision, which cannot have escaped the shrewd Montesquieu. 

Thus the essays of Montesquieu LVI, in their practical part, amount to this: vote for Hansemann and Camphausen! Vote for Dumont and Stupp! Vote for Brandenburg and Manteuffel! Accept the imposed constitution! Elect delegates who accept the imposed constitution -- and all this under the pretext of solving the "social question". 

What the hell does the pretext matter to us, when it is a question of the imposed constitution. 

But our Montesquieu of course prefaces his practical instructions for the solution of "the social question", the quintessence of his monumental work, with a theoretical part. Let us examine this theoretical part. The profound thinker explains first what the "social questions" are.

"And so, what, in effect, is the social question? 

"Human beings must and want to live.

"To live they need dwellings, clothes and food.

"Dwellings and clothes are not produced by nature at all, and only a scanty and by no means sufficient amount of food grows naturally. 

"Hence man himself must procure everything to satisfy these needs.

"This he does by labor. 

"Labor, therefore, is the first condition of our life; without labor we cannot live. 

"Among primitive peoples everybody built his own hut, made his own clothes from animal skins and gathered fruit for his meals. That was the primitive state. 

"But if man needs nothing beyond shelter, clothes and food, if he satisfies merely his physical wants, then he remains at the same level as the animals, for animals can do this too. 

"But man is a higher being than an animal, he needs more, he needs joy, he must raise himself to moral values. But he can do that only if he lives in society. 

"But when men began to live in societies entirely new conditions arose. They soon perceived that work was much easier when each individual performed only one particular job. Thus, one made clothes, another built houses, a third provided food, and the first gave the second what he lacked. The various estates of men thus developed automatically, one becoming a hunter, another a craftsman, and a third a cultivator. But men did not stop at this, for humanity must go forward. People began to invent. They invented spinning and weaving, they learned to forge iron and tan hides. The more inventions were made the more diverse did the crafts become, and the easier did farming become with the aid of the plough and spade which the handicrafts gave it. All helped each other and co-operated. Then intercourse started with neighboring peoples; one people had what the other needed, and the latter possessed things which the former lacked. These were exchanged. Thus trading arose, that is, a new branch of human activity. Thus culture advanced step by step; from the first clumsy inventions through the centuries down to the inventions of our day. 

"Thus, science and art arose among men and life became richer and more varied... The physician treated the sick, the clergyman preached, the merchant traded, the farmer tilled the land, the gardener grew flowers, the mason built houses, for which the carpenter made the furniture, the miller ground flour from which the baker baked bread. Everything was interconnected, no one could live in isolation, nobody could satisfy all his needs himself.

"These are the social relations.

"They have arisen quite naturally of their own accord. And if today you make a revolution which destroys the very foundations of these relations, and if tomorrow you start life anew, then relations exactly the same as the Present ones will arise again. This was so for thousands of years among all the nations on earth. And if anyone draws a distinction between the workers and the bourgeoisie this is a big lie. We all work, each in his own way, each according to his strength and abilities. The physician works when he visits the sick, the musician when he plays a dance tune, the merchant when he writes his letters. Everyone works, each at his job."

Here is wisdom! He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 

What, then, in effect is the physiological question? Every material being presupposes a certain weight, density, etc. 

Every organic body consists of various component parts, each of which performs its own special function, and reciprocal interaction takes place between the organs. 

"These are physiological relations." 

Montesquieu LVI cannot be denied an original talent for simplifying science. He ought to be granted a patent (without government guarantee). 

The products of labor cannot be produced without labor. One cannot reap without sowing, one cannot have yarn without weaving, etc. Europe will bend in admiration before the great genius who here, in Cologne, without any aid from the Neue Preussische Zeitung has himself brought these truths to light. 

In their work men enter into certain relations with one another. There takes place a division of labor which may be more or less diversified. One person bakes, another forges one person agitates, another howls, [156] Montesquieu writes and Dumont prints. Adam Smith, acknowledge thy master!

The discoveries that labor and the division of labor are essential conditions of every human society enable Montesquieu LVI to draw the conclusion that the existence of "various estates" is quite natural, that the distinction between "bourgeoisie and proletariat" is a "big lie", that even if a "revolution" were completely to destroy the existing "social relations" today, "relations exactly the same as the present ones will arise again", and finally that for anyone who has "a sympathetic heart for the misery of his poor brothers" and who wishes to gain the respect of Montesquieu LVI, it is absolutely necessary to elect delegates in keeping with the ideas of Manteuffel and the imposed constitution.

"This was so for thousands of years among all the nations on earth"!! In Egypt there was labor and division of labor -- and castes; in Greece and Rome labor and division of labor-and free men and slaves; in the Middle Ages labor and division of labor -- and feudal lords and serfs, guilds, estates, etc. In our day there is labor and division of labor -- and classes, one of which owns all means of production and all means of subsistence, while the other lives only so long as it sells its labor, and it sells its labor only so long as the employing class enriches itself by purchasing this labor. 

Is it not obvious, therefore, that "for thousands of years the same conditions existed among all the nations on earth" as in Prussia today, since labor and division of labor always existed in one form or another? Or is it, on the contrary, not evident that it is the continuously changing method of labor and division of labor which is constantly transforming social relations and property relations? 

In 1789 the bourgeois did not tell feudal society that an aristocrat should remain an aristocrat, a serf a serf and a guildsman a guildsman -- because there is no society without labor and division of labor. There is no life without breathing of air. Hence, argues Montesquieu LVI, breathe the stuffy air and do not open any window. 

One must possess the naively clumsy insolence of a German imperial philistine grown grey in crass ignorance to contribute oracular pronouncements upon problems on which our century is breaking its teeth, after having rammed the first elements of political economy -- labor and division of labor -- in a superficial and distorted manner his inert head.

"There is no society without labor and the division of labor.


"Elect advocates of the imposed Prussian constitution, and only advocates of the imposed constitution, as delegates."

This epitaph will be inscribed in large letters on walls of the magnificent marble mausoleum which a grateful posterity will feel obliged to erect for Montesquieu LVI (not to be confused with Henry CCLXXXIV of Reuss-Schleiz-Greiz-Lobenstein-Eberswalde [An allusion to Henry LXXII, Prince of Reuss-Lobenstein-Ebersdorf. -- Ed.]) who solved the social question.

Montesquieu LVI does not conceal from us "where the difficulty lies" and what he intends to do as soon as he is proclaimed a lawgiver.

"The state," he teaches, "must see to it that everybody receives sufficient education to be able to learn something useful in this world.'

Montesquieu LVI has never heard that under existing conditions the division of labor replaces complex labor by simple labor, the labor of adults by that of cbildren, the labor of men by that of women, the labor of the independent workers by automatons; that, with the development of modern industry, the education of workers becomes unnecessary and impossible. We refer the Montesquieu of Cologne neitber to Saint- Simon nor to Fourier but to Malthus and Ricardo. This worthy should first acquaint himself with the rudiments of present-day conditions before trying to improve them and making oracular utterances.

"The community must take care of people who have bee reduced to poverty as a result of illness or old age."

And if the community itself is reduced to poverty which will be the inevitable result of the 100-million tax and the recurrent imposition of martial law together with the new constitution?

"When new inventions or commercial crises destroy entire industries the state must come to their assistance and find remedies."

Though he may be little versed in the things of this world, it can hardly have escaped the Montesquieu of Cologne that "new inventions" and commercial crises are features just as permanent as Prussian ministerial decrees and legal basis. New inventions, especially in Germany, are only introduced when competition with other nations makes it vital to introduce them; and should the newly arising branches of industry be expected to ruin themselves in order to render assistance to the declining ones. The new industries that come into being as a result of inventions come into being precisely because they can produce more cheaply than the declining industries. What the deuce would be the advantage if they had to feed the declining industries? But it is well known that the state, the government, only seems to give. It has to be given first in order to give. But who should do the giving, Montesquieu LVI? The declining industry, so that it decline even faster? Or the rising industry, so that it wither on the stem? Or those industries that have not been affected by the new inventions, so that they go bankrupt because of the invention of a new tax? Think it over carefully, Montesquieu LVI!

And what about the commercial crises, my dear man? When a European commercial crisis occurs the Prussian state is above all anxious to extract the last drops, by means of distraint, etc., from the usual sources of revenue. Poor Prussian state! In order to neutralize the effect of commercial crises, the Prussian state would have to possess, in addition to national labor, a third source of income in Cloud- Cuckoo-Land. If royal New-Year's greetings, Wrangel's army orders or Manteuffel's ministerial decrees could indeed conjure up money, then the "refusal to Pay taxes" would not have caused such panic among the Prussian "trusty and well-beloved subjects", and the social question, too, would have been solved without an imposed constitution.

It will be remembered that the Neue Preussische Zeitung called our Hansemann a communist because he intended to do away with exemption from taxation. In Cologne our Montesquieu, who has never read the Neue Preussische Zeitung, has all by himself conceived the idea of calling everyone a "communist" and "red republican" who endangers the imposed constitution. Therefore, vote for Manteuffel, or you are not only personal enemies of labor and the division of labor, but also communists and red republicans. Acknowledge Bruggemann's latest "legal basis" or renounce the Code Civil. [157] Figaro, tu n'aurais pas trouve ca! More about Montesquieu LVI tomorrow.