Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Karl Marx 1853


265 The reference here is to the Willich-Schapper group, which Marx and Engels called the Sonderbund - perhaps an allusion to the separatist union of the seven economically backward Catholic cantons of Switzerland formed in the 1840s to resist progressive bourgeois reforms. This sectarian-adventurist group split away from the Communist League after September 15, 1850, and formed an independent organisation with its own Central Authority. In view of the factionalists’ refusal to abide by the decision to transfer the Central Authority to Cologne and because of their disorganising activities, on November 11, 1850 the London District proposed to the Cologne Central Authority to expel the members of the Sonderbund from the League (see present edition, Vol. 10, p. 633). The Central Authority endorsed the proposal and gave notification of this in its Address of December 1. By their activities the members of the Willich-Schapper group helped the Prussian police to discover the League’s illegal communities in Germany and frame a case in Cologne in 1852 against prominent members of the League.

269 The reference is to the German Workers’ Educational Society in London which was founded in February 1840 by Karl Schapper, Joseph Moll and other members of the League of the Just (an organisation of German artisans and workers and also of emigrant workers of other nationalities). After the reorganisation of the League of the Just in the summer of 1847 and the founding of the Communist League, the League’s local communities played the leading role in the Society. During various periods of its activity, the Society had branches in working-class districts in London. In 1847 and 1849-50 Marx and Engels took an active part in the Society’s work, but on September 17, 1850 Marx, Engels and a number of their followers withdrew because the Willich-Schapper sectarian and adventurist faction had temporarily increased its influence in the Society, causing a split in the Communist League. In the late 1850s Marx and Engels resumed their work in the Educational Society, which existed up to 1918, when it was closed down by the British Government.

274 Marx emphasises the fact that Cherval was admitted into the League of the Just prior to its reorganisation into the Communist League in June 1847. Though Marx and Engels were not members of the League of theJust, founded in 1836, they were in touch with its leaders. They agreed to join the League and take part in its reorganisation provided it became transformed from a conspiratorial society into an association built on democratic principles, and provided it adopted the principles of scientific communism as its programme.

276 Marx adduced fresh data exposing Cherval as a spy and an agent provocateur in his, work Herr Vogt, in the appendices to it, and in the Postscript to the 1875 edition of his Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne. According to these data, Cherval, whose real name was Joseph Crémer, was an agent of the Prussian envoy in Paris and a French spy. He escaped from prison with the connivance of the French and Prussian police. On his arrival in London in May 1852 he was admitted into the German Workers’ Educational Society led by Schapper but was soon expelled from it because of his role of provocateur in the case of the so-called German-French plot.

277 The reference is to the book Die Communisten-Verschwörungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Berlin, Part One 1853, Part Two 1854) by the police officials Wermuth and Stieber. In his article “On the History of the Communist League” (1885), Engels describes it as a “crude compilation, which bristles with deliberate falsifications, fabricated by two of the most contemptible police scoundrels of our century”. The appendices to the first part, which purported to tell the history of the workers’ movement for the information of police agents, reproduced some of the League’s documents that had fallen into the hands of the police. The second part contained a “black list” and biographical particulars of people connected with the workers’ and democratic movement.

281 This refers to the workers’ society founded in London in January 1852 with Marx’s support, its president being a Hanoverian refugee, the joiner Gottlieb Stechan. It included workers who broke away from the German Workers’ Educational Society, which had come under the influence of the Willich-Schapper group. Georg Lochner, a worker close to Marx and Engels and member of the Communist League, also took an active part in organising this society. Later, many of its members, including Stechan himself, became influenced by the Willich-Schapper group and joined the earlier organisation.

282 Among Marx’s manuscripts is preserved a draft in Marx’s own hand of a reply to Stieber which contains a sharp accusation of him as a police spy (see present edition, Vol. 38). The letter refutes Stieber’s attempts to dispute the revelations concerning his activities as a spy, in particular in Silesia before the revolution of 1848-49, made in a report from Frankfurt am Main which was published in issue No. 177 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung on December 24, 1848 under the title “Dr. Stieber”. Concerning Stieber’s attempts to depict himself as a more consistent democrat than representatives of the democratic trends and his attacks against the latter, Marx limited himself to this remark: “We excuse the lectures on democracy and democratic organs contained in your letter on the grounds of novelty.” At the same time the editors of the newspaper thought fit to publish, in a supplement to issue No. 182, December 30, an official correction to the passage of the above-mentioned report which said that Stieber went to Frankfurt in connection with the popular uprising in September 1848, and pointed out that he went there to arrange personal matters.

The reply to Stieber drafted by Marx was in all probability sent over the signature of another editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, most likely Wilhelm Wolff, who may have been well aware of Stieber’s activity in Silesia.

283 Engels refers to the first supplement to the 1875 and 1885 editions of the Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne, which reproduced without the title Appendix 4 (“The Communist Trial in Cologne”) to Marx’s pamphlet Herr Vogt (1860). It said that soon after the Cologne trial Fleury was charged with forgery and sentenced to several years’ penal servitude.

284 In the Postscript to the 1875 edition of his work Marx pointed out that the Red Catechism had been written not by Moses Hess but by a certain Levy. However, it turned out later that Marx had been right in affirming that the Red Catechism had in fact been written by Hess. This can he proved in particular by a letter of Hess to Weydemeyer of July 21, 1850, which Marx did not know about.

285 The reference is apparently to the German-American Revolutionary Association - an organisation of German emigrants in the USA founded in January 1852 by the petty-bourgeois democrats Goegg and Fickler who went to the USA to place the so-called German-American revolutionary loan.

287 Criticism of the behaviour of the leader of the sectarian group and some of his followers during the Cologne Communist trial evoked a mordant reaction on the part of Willich. On October 28 and November 4, 1853 he published his article “Doctor Karl Marx und seine ‘Enthüllungen'” (Belletristisches Journal und New-Yorker Criminal-Zeitung, Nos. 33 and 34) violently attacking Marx and his work Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne. Marx replied with his pamphlet Knight of Noble Consciousness published with the help of Adolf Cluss and Joseph Weydemeyer in New York in January 1854.