Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1852

Heroes of the Exile


Chi mi dara la voce e le parole,
E un proferir magnanimo e profondo!
Che mai cosa piufiera sotto il sole
Nonfu veduta in tutto quanto il mondo;
L'altre battagliefur rose e viole,
Al raccontar di questa mi confondo;
Perche il valor, e'l pregio della terra
Afronte son condotti in questa guerra.

(Boiardo, Orlando Inamorato, Canto 27)

[Now who will give me words and who the tongue,
To sing of such brave deeds in sonorous sounds!
For ne'er was strife upon this earth begun
More proudly fought on bloodier battle grounds;
Compared to this all other wars are roses
To tell of it my Iyric art confounds
For on this earth there ne'er was seen such glory
Or noble velour bright as in this story]

The latest fashionable arrivals had made up the full complement of the Emigration and the time had now come for a more comprehensive “organisation”, to round it off upwards to a full dozen. As might have been expected these attempts degenerated into bitter feuds. The paper war conducted in the transatlantic journals now reached its climax. The privations of individuals, intrigues, plots, self-praise — the heroes spent their energies in such paltry activities. But the Emigration did have one achievement to its credit: a history of its own, lying outside world history, with its own political petti-foggery running parallel to public affairs. And the very fact that they fought each other so bitterly led each to believe in the importance of the other. Beneath the façade of all these strivings and conflicts lay the speculation in democratic party funds, “the Holy Grail”, and this transformed these transcendental rivalries, these disputes about the Emperor’s beard, into ordinary quarrels among fools. Anyone who wishes to pursue the study of this great war between the frogs and the mice will find all the decisive original documents in the New-Yorker Schnellpost, the New York Deutsche Zeitung, the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung and the Staatszeitung, in the Baltimore Correspondent, in the Wecker [Clarion] and in other German-American papers. However, this display of alleged connections and imagined conspiracies, this whole hue and cry raised by the émigrés was not without serious consequences. It provided the governments with the pretext they needed to arrest all sorts of people in Germany, to suppress the indigenous movements and to use these wretched strawmen in London as scarecrows with which to frighten the German middle classes. Far from constituting any danger to existing circumstances these heroes of the exile wished only that everything should die down in Germany so that their voice might be heard the better and that the general level of thought should decline so far that even men of their stature might appear outstanding.

The newly-arrived South German bonhommes, lacking in any definite commitment, found themselves in an excellent position to mediate between the various cliques and, at the same time, to gather the mass of émigrés around the leaders as a kind of chorus. Their sturdy sense of duty impelled them not to forgo this opportunity.

At the same time, however, they could already see Ledru-Rollin where he saw himself, namely in the chair of the president of France. As the most important neighbours of France it was vital for them to obtain recognition from the provisional government of France as the provisional overlords of Germany. Sigel especially wished to see his supreme command guaranteed by Ledru. But the way to Ledru led over Arnold’s corpse. However, they were still impressed by Arnold’s persona and he still passed as the philosophical Northern Light who would illumine their South German twilight. So they turned to Ruge.

On the opposing side stood in the first instance Kinkel with his immediate entourage — Schurz, Strodtmann, Schimmelpfennig, Techow etc.; then came the former deputies and members of parliament, led by Reichenbach with Meyen and Oppenheim as the representatives of literature; and, lastly, Willich with his host which, however, remained in the background. The roles were distributed as follows: Kinkel playing a passion-flower represented the German Philistines in general; Reichenbach playing a Count represented the bourgeoisie; Willich, playing Willich represented the proletariat.

The first thing to say about August Willich is that Gustav always felt secretly mistrustful of him because of his pointed skull signifying that the enormous overgrowth of self-esteem had stunted all other qualities.

A German Philistine who once caught sight of ex-Lieutenant Willich in a London pub snatched up his hat and fled exclaiming: My God, he looks just like Jesus Christ! In order to increase the similarity Willich became a carpenter for a while before the Revolution. Later on he emerged as a partisan leader in the campaign in Baden and the Palatinate.

The partisan leader, a descendant of the old Italian condottiere is a peculiar phenomenon of more recent wars, especially in Germany. The partisan leader, accustomed to act on his own initiative, is reluctant to subordinate himself to a more general command. His men owe their allegiance only to him, but he is likewise wholly dependent on them. For this reason the discipline in a free corps is somewhat arbitrary; according to circumstances it may be savagely strict, but mostly it is extremely lax. The partisan leader cannot always act the martinet, he must often flatter his men and win them over individually with the aid of physical caresses; the normal military practices are of little use here and boldness must be supplemented by other qualities if the leader is to retain the respect of his subordinates. If he is not noble he must at least have a noble consciousness to be complemented as always by cunning, the talent for intrigue and a covert practical baseness. In this way he not only wins over his soldiers but also bribes the inhabitants, surprises the enemy and contrives matters so that even his opponents acknowledge his strength of character. But all this does not suffice to hold together a free corps whose members either come from the Lumpenproletariat or are soon assimilated into it. What is needed in addition is a higher ideal. The partisan leader must therefore have a nucleus of idées fixes, he must be a man of principle in permanent pursuit of his mission to redeem the world. By means of sermons at the front and sustained didactic propaganda he must impart a consciousness of this higher ideal to every man individually and in this way he will transform the whole troop into sons within the faith. If this higher ideal is tinged with philosophy or mysticism or anything that surpasses normal understanding, if it is something Hegelian by nature (as was the case with the ideas that General Willisen [62] tried to infuse into the Prussian army), then so much the better. For this ensures that the noble consciousness will enter into each and every partisan and the deeds of the whole corps thereby attain to a speculative consecration which exalts them far above the level of ordinary unreflecting courage and in any case the fame of such an army depends less on its achievements than on its messianic calling. The strength of a corps can only be enhanced if all the warriors are made to swear an oath that they will not survive the destruction of the cause for which they are fighting and would prefer to be massacred to the last man beneath the apple tree on the frontier while singing a hymn. Of course, such a corps and such a leader inevitably feel degraded by contact with ordinary profane soldiers and they will make every effort either to keep at a distance from the army or else to shake off the society of the uncircumcised. They hate nothing more than a large army and a large war where their cunning buttressed by spiritual faith can achieve little if the normal rules of war are disregarded. The partisan leader must then be a crusader in the full sense of the word, he must be Peter the Hermit and Walther von Habenichts [63] rolled into one. Faced with the heterogeneous elements and the informal mode of life of his corps he must always uphold virtue. He must not allow his men to drink him under the table and so he must only drink in solitude, for instance at night in bed. If it should happen to him, as it might to any fallible human being, that he find himself returning to barracks late at night after inordinate indulgence in the pleasures of this life, he will take care not to enter through the main gate, but to go round the side and climb over the wall to avoid giving offence. Feminine charms should leave him cold, but it will make a good impression if he, like Cromwell, takes his NCOs or a tailor's apprentice into his bed from time to time. In general he cannot lead too strict and ascetic a life. Behind the cavalieri della ventura in his corps stand the cavalieri del dente [64] who live mainly from requisitions and free quarters to all of which Walther von Habenichts has to turn a blind eye so that Peter the Hermit has always to be at hand with the consolation that such unpleasant measures contribute to the salvation of the nation and so are in the interest of the victims themselves.

All the qualities that the partisan leader must possess in wartime reappear in peacetime in a modified form but one that can scarcely be regarded as an improvement. Above all else he must preserve the core of the regiment for later on and hence keep his recruiting officers in a state of constant activity. The core consisting of the remnants of the free corps and the general mob of émigrés is put into barracks either at government expense (as in Besançon) or by some other means. The consecration in the service of an ideal must not be lacking and it is provided by a barracks-communism that ascribes a higher significance to the custom of holding ordinary civic actions in contempt. As this communist barracks is no longer subject to the articles of war, but only to the moral authority and the dictates of self-sacrifice, it is inevitable that quarrels should break out over the communal funds. From these disputes moral authority does not always emerge unscathed. If there is an artisan’s club anywhere in the vicinity it can be employed as a recruiting base and the artisans are given the prospect of a jolly life full of adventures in exchange for the oppressive work of the present. By pointing to the higher ethical significance of the barracks for the future of the proletariat, it is even possible to induce the club to make financial contributions. In both the barracks and the club the sermonising and the patriarchal and gossipy style of personal relations will not fail to impress. Even in peacetime the partisan does not lose his indispensable assurance and just as in wartime every setback spurred him on to proclaim victory on the morrow, so now he is for ever expounding on the moral certainty and the philosophical inevitability with which "it" will start to happen within the next fortnight. As he must needs have an enemy and as the noble man is necessarily opposed by the ignoble ones he discovers in them a raging hostility towards himself, he imagines that they hate him merely because of his well-deserved popularity and would gladly poison him or stab him. With this in mind he resolves always to conceal a long dagger beneath his pillow. Just as the partisan leader in war will never succeed unless he assumes that the population reveres him, likewise in peace he will not indeed manage to form any lasting political groupings but he will constantly suppose them to exist and from this all sorts of strange mystifications can arise. The talent for requisitioning and obtaining free quarters appears again in the form of a cosy parasitism. By contrast, the strict asceticism of our Orlando, like everything that is good and great, is subject to terrible temptations in times of peace. Boiardo says in Canto 24:

Turpin behauptet, daß der Graf von Brava
Jungfräulich war auf Lebenszeit und keusch.
Glaubt ihr davon, was euch beliebt, ihr Herren —

[Turpin claims that the Count of Brava
Was virginal and chaste his whole life long.
Of that you may believe, Sirs, what you will — ]

But we also learn that later on Count Brava lost his reason at the sight of the beautiful Angelica and Astolf had to go to the moon to recover it for him, as Master Lodovico Ariosto so charmingly narrates. Our modern Orlando, however, mistook himself for the poet who tells how he, too, loved so greatly that he lost his reason and tried to find it with his lips and hands on the bosom of his Angelica and was thrown out of the house for his pains.

In politics the partisan leader will display his superiority in all matters of tactics. In conformity with the notion of a partisan he will go from one party to the next. Petty intrigues, sordid hole-and-corner activities, the occasional lie, morally outraged perfidy will be the natural symptoms of the noble consciousness. His faith in his mission and in the higher meaning of his words and deeds will induce him to declare emphatically: "I never lie!" The idées fixes become a splendid cloak for his secret treachery and cause the simpletons of the Emigration, who have no ideas at all, to conclude that he, the man of fixed ideas, is simply a fool. And our worthy slyboots could desire nothing better.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza rolled into one, as much in love with his knapsack as with his idées fixes, with the free provisions of the itinerant knight as much as with renown, Willich is the man of the duodecimal [65] war and the microscopic intrigue. He conceals his cunning beneath the mask of character. His real future lies in the prairies of the Rio Grande del Norte.

Concerning the relations between the two wings of the Emigration we have described, a letter from Mr. Goegg in the Deutsche Schnellpost in New York is very revealing:

“They (the South Germans) resolved to bolster up the reputation of the moribund central committee by attempting to unite with the other factions. But there is little prospect of success for this well intentioned idea. Kinkel continues to intrigue, has formed a committee consisting of his rescuer, his biographer and a number of Prussian lieutenants. Their aim is to work together in secret, to expand, if possible to gain possession of the democratic funds, and then suddenly tear off their mask and appear publicly as the powerful Kinkel party. This is neither honest nor just nor sensible!”

The “honesty” of the intentions of the South Germans can be seen from the following letter from Mr. Sigel to the same newspaper:

“If we, the few men with honourable intentions, have in part resorted to conspiracies, this is due to the need to protect ourselves against the terrible perfidy and the presumptuousness of Kinkel and his colleagues and to show them that they are not born to rule. Our chief aim was to force Kinkel to come to a large meeting in order to prove to him and to what he calls his close political friends that not all that glitters is gold. The devil take the instrument” (i.e. Schurz), “and the devil take the singer too” [66] (i.e. Kinkel). (Weekly edition of the New-Yorker Deutsche Zeitung, September 24 1851).

The strange constitution of the two factions that rebuke each other for being “north” and “south” can be seen from the fact that at the head of the South German elements stood the “mind” of Ruge, while at the head of the North German side were the “feelings” of Kinkel.

In order to understand the great struggle that was now waged we must waste a few words on the diplomacy of these two world-shaking parties.

Arnold (and his henchmen likewise) was concerned above all to form a “closed” society with the official appearance of “revolutionary activity”. This society would then give birth to his beloved “Committee for German Affairs” and this committee would then propel Ruge into the European Central Committee. Arnold had been indefatigable in his efforts to realise this aim since the summer of 1850. He had hoped that the South Germans would provide “that happy medium where he could dominate in comfort”. The official establishment of the Emigration and the formation of committees was the necessary policy of Arnold and his allies.

Kinkel and his cohorts, on the other hand, had to try and undermine everything that could legitimise the position Ruge had usurped in the European Central Committee. In reply to his appeal for an advance of £500 sterling Kinkel had received the promise of some money from New Orleans, whereupon he had formed a secret finance committee together with Willich, Schimmelpfennig, Reichenbach, Techow and Schurz, etc. They reasoned: once we have the money we shall have the Emigration; once we have the Emigration we shall also have the government in Germany. Their aim, therefore, was to occupy the whole Emigration with formal meetings but to undermine any attempt at setting up an official society that went beyond a “loose organisation” and above all to undermine all proposals to form committees. This would delay the enemy faction, block their activities and enable them to manoeuvre behind their backs.

Both parties, i.e. all the “distinguished men” had one thing in common: they both led the mass of émigrés by the nose, they concealed from them their real objectives, used them as mere tools and dropped them as soon as they had served their purpose.

Let us take a look at these democratic Machiavellis, Talleyrands and Metternichs and take note of their actions.

Scene 1. July 14, 1851. — After a "“private understanding with Kinkel to make common cause” had fallen through, Ruge, Goegg, Sigel, Fickler and Ronge invited the distinguished men of all shades of opinion to a meeting in Fickler’s home on July 14th. Twenty-six people appeared. Fickler proposed that a “private circle” of German refugees should be formed and this in turn would give birth to a “business committee for the advancement of revolutionary objectives”. This was opposed mainly by Kinkel and six of his supporters. After a violent debate lasting several hours Fickler’s motion was passed (16 votes to 10). Kinkel and the minority declared themselves unable to participate any further and took their departure.

Scene 2. July 20th. — The above majority constituted itself as a society. Joined, among others, by Tausenau, who had been introduced by Fickler.

If Ronge was the Luther and Kinkel the Melanchton then Tausenau is the Abraham a Sancta Clara [67] of the Gemman democrats. If the two augurs in Cicero could not look each other in the face without laughing then Mr. Tausenau cannot catch sight of his own earnest features in the mirror without bursting into laughter. If Ruge had discovered in the Badeners people whom he impressed, Fate now had its revenge when it introduced him to the Austrian Tausenau, a man who impressed him.

At the suggestion of Goegg and Tausenau the negotiations were postponed in order to try once again to bring about a union with Kinkel's faction.

Scene 3. July 27th. — Session in the Cranbourne Hotel. The “distinguished” Emigration there to a man. Kinkel's group appeared but not with the intention of joining the society already in existence; on the contrary, they pressed for the formation of an “open discussion club without a business committee and without definite objectives”. Schurz who acted as Kinkel's mentor throughout all these parliamentary negotiations, proposed:

“The present company should form itself into a private political society with the name German Émigré Club and should accept as new members other citizens from among the German refugees on the nomination of a member and after a majority vote in favour.”

Passed unanimously. The society resolved to meet every Friday.

“The passing of this motion was welcomed with general applause and with the cry: ‘Long live the German republic!!!’ Everyone felt that they had done their duty by being generally open-minded and that they had achieved something positive serving the cause of revolution.” (Goegg, Weekly edition of the Deutsche Schnellpost, August 20, 1851.)

Eduard Meyen was so delighted with this success that he waxed ecstatic in his lithographed report:

“The whole Emigration now form a coherent phalanx up to and including Bucher and with the sole exception of the incorrigible Marx clique.”

This same notice of Meyen’s can be found also in the Berliner lithographische Korrespondenz.

In this way, thanks to a general open-mindedness and to the accompaniment of three cheers for the German Republic the great Émigré Club which was to hold such inspiring meetings and which was to dissolve in satisfaction a few weeks after Kinkel’s departure for America, came into being. Its dissolution did not of course prevent it from playing an important part as a living entity in America.

Scene 4. August 1st. — Second meeting in the Cranbourne Hotel.

“Unfortunately we must already report today that the expectations raised by the formation of this club have been sadly disappointed.” (Goegg, loc. cit., August 27th.)

Kinkel introduced six Prussian refugees and six Prussian visitors to the Great Exhibition into the club without obtaining a majority decision. Damm (President, former president of the Baden Constituent Assembly) expressed his astonishment at this treacherous infringement of the statutes. [“Damm is here!” “Who is here?” “Damm is here!” “Who?” “Damm, Damm, surely you know Damm?”]

Kinkel explained: “The Club is only a loosely organised society with no other purpose than for people to get to know each other and to have discussions that are open to everyone. It is therefore desirable for visitors to be admitted to the Club in large numbers.”

Student Schurz attempted to cover up quickly for the Professor’s lack of tact by moving an amendment to permit the admission of visitors. Motion passed. Abraham a Sancta Clara Tausenau rose and put the two following motions with a perfectly straight face:

“1. A commission (the committee) ‘should be set up to report weekly on current affairs, particularly in Germany. These reports are to be preserved in the archive of the Club and published at an appropriate time. 2. There should be a commission (the committee) to deposit in the archive all possible details concerning violations of the law and acts of cruelty towards the supporters of democracy committed by the servants of the reaction during the last three years and at the present time.’

“Reichenbach opposed this vigorously: ‘He saw suspicious motives lurking behind these seemingly harmless proposals and also the wish to use the election of the members of this commission as a device to give the Club an official character not desired by himself or his friends.’

“Schimmelpfennig and Schurz: ‘These commissions could arrogate powers unto themselves that might be of a conspiratorial nature and gradually lead to an official committee.’

“Meyer: ‘I want words, not deeds.’”

According to Goegg's account the majority seemed inclined to accept the motion; Machiavelli Schurz proposed an adjournment. Abraham a Sancta Clara Tausenau agreed to the proposal so as not to seem unfriendly. Kinkel expressed the opinion that the vote should be postponed until the next meeting chiefly because his supporters were in the minority that evening and so he and his friends would be unable in the circumstances to regard the vote as “binding on their conscience”. Adjournment agreed.

Scene 5. August 8th. — Third meeting in the Cranbourne Hotel. Discussion of the Tausenau motions. — Ignoring the agreement, Kinkel/Willich had brought along the “rank and file refugees”, le menu peuple, so as to “bind their consciences” this time. — Schurz moved an amendment proposing voluntary lectures on current affairs and in accordance with a previous arrangement Meyen immediately volunteered to speak on Prussia, Schurz on France, Oppenheim on England and Kinkel on America and the future (since his immediate future lay in America). Tausenau's proposals were rejected. He declared movingly that his only wish was to sacrifice his just anger on the altar of the nation and to remain within the bosom of his allies. But the Ruge/Fickler contingent at once assumed the outraged indignation of beautiful souls who have been swindled.

Intermezzo. Kinkel had finally received £160 sterling from New Orleans and together with other distinguished heroes he had set about investing it for the revolution. The Ruge/Fickler faction, already embittered by the recent vote, now learned of this. They had no time to lose, action was essential. They founded a new cesspool and concealed its foul stagnation under the name of the Agitation Club. Its members were Tausenau, Frank, Goegg, Sigel, Hertle, Ronge, Haug, Fickler and Ruge. The Club immediately announced in the English press:

“Its aims are not to discuss but to work, it would produce not words but deeds and above all it appeals to likeminded comrades to make donations. The Agitation Club appoints Tausenau to be its executive leader and its foreign minister. It also recognises Ruge's position in the European Central Committee” (as Imperial Administrator) [68] “as well as his previous activity on behalf of and in the name of the German people.”

The new combination does not conceal the original constellation: Ruge, Ronge and Haug. After the struggles and the efforts of so many years Ruge had finally reached his goal: he was acknowledged to be the fifth wheel on the central carriage of democracy and had a clearly — all too clearly — defined part of the people behind him, consisting of eight men in all. But even this pleasure was poisoned for him as his recognition was purchased at the cost of an indirect slight and was agreed to only on the condition imposed by the peasant Fickler that Ruge should henceforth cease to “broadcast his rubbish to the whole world”.

The coarse Fickler regarded as “distinguished” only those writings by Ruge which he had not read and did not need to read.

Scene 6. August 22nd. — The Cranbourne Hotel. Firstly, there was a “diplomatic masterstroke” (vide Goegg) on the part of Schurz: he proposed the formation of a general refugee committee to comprise six members taken from the different factions together with five co-opted members of the already existing refugee committee of the Willich Artisan Club. (This would have given the Kinkel/Willich wing a permanent majority). Agreed. The elections were carried out but rejected by the members of the Rugean part of the state, which meant the complete collapse of the diplomatic master stroke. How seriously this refugee committee was meant to be taken can be seen from the fact that four days later Willich resigned from the committee of artisans and refugees which had only had a nominal existence for a long time, following upon repeated, wholly disrespectful revolts on the part of the “rank and file refugees” which had made the dissolution of the committee an inevitability. — Interpellation concerning the emergence in public of the Agitation Club. Motion: that the Émigré Club should have nothing to do with the Agitation Club and should publicly dissociate itself from all its actions. Furious attacks on the “Agitators” Goegg and Sigel junior (i.e. senior, see below) in their presence. Rudolph Schramm declared that his old friend Ruge was a minion of Mazzini and a “gossipy old woman”. Tu quoque, Brute! Goegg retorted, not as a great orator but as an honest citizen and he launched a bitter attack on the ambiguous, slack, perfidious, unctuous Kinkel.

“It is irresponsible to prevent those who wish to work from doing so, but these people want a fictitious, inactive union that they can use as a cover for certain purposes.”

When Goegg referred to the public announcement about the Agitator Club in the English papers Kinkel arose majestically and said that “He already controlled the whole American press and had taken steps to ensure his control of the French press too.”

The motion of the German faction was passed and provoked a declaration from “the Agitators” that the members of their club could no longer remain within the Émigré Club.

Thus arose the terrible gulf between the Émigré Club and the Agitators' Club which gapes through the whole history of the modern world.

The most curious fact about it is that both creatures only survived until their separation and now they vegetate in the Kaulbachian [69] battle of the ghosts that still rages in German-American meetings and papers and no doubt will continue to rage to the end of time.

The whole session was all the more stormy as the undisciplined Schramm went so far as to attack Willich, claiming that the Émigré Club degraded itself by its connections with that knight. The chairman, who happened to be the timorous Meyen, had already lost control several times in despair. But the debate about the Agitators' Club and the resignation of its members brought the tumult to a climax. To the accompaniment of shouts, drumming, crashes, threats and raging the edifying meeting went on until 2 a.m. when the landlord turned off the gas and so plunged the heated antagonists into darkness. This brought all plans to save the nation to an abrupt end.

At the end of August the chivalrous Willich and the cosy Kinkel made an attempt to smash the Agitators' Club by putting a proposal to the worthy Fickler.

“He should join with them and their closer political friends in forming a Finance Committee to manage the money that had come in from New Orleans. This committee should continue to function until it is superseded by a general finance committee of the< revolution. However, the acceptance of this offer would imply the dissolution of all German revolutionary and agitatorial societies that had existed hitherto.”

The worthy Fickler rejected the idea of this “imposed, secret and irresponsible committee” with indignation.

“How”, he exclaimed, “can a mere finance committee hope to unite all the revolutionary parties around it? The money that has arrived and that is still to come can never suffice to persuade the widely divergent strands of the democrats to sacrifice their autonomy.”

Thus instead of achieving the hoped-for destruction of the opposition this attempted seduction enabled Tausenau to declare that the breach between the two mighty parties of Emigration and Agitation had become irreparable.