Franz Mehring

Karl Marx:
The Story of His Life

Chapter Three: Exile in Paris


1. The Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher

The new publication was not born under a lucky star. A double volume was published at the end of February, 1844. It was the first number and also the last.

It proved impossible to realize the “Gallo-Germanic Principle,” or as Ruge had re-named it, “the intellectual alliance between France and Germany.” The “political principle of France” showed no eagerness to accept Germany’s contribution, the “logical acumen” of Hegelian philosophy, which was to serve it as a sure compass in the metaphysical regions where Ruge saw the French drifting at the mercy of wind and wave.

Ruge intended to approach first Lamartine, Lamennais, Louis Blanc, Leroux and Proudhon, but even this preliminary list was mixed enough in all conscience. Only Leroux and Proudhon had any idea of German philosophy, and of these two, one lived in the provinces whilst the other had temporarily abandoned writing in order to wrack his brains over the invention of a type-setting machine. The others, including even Louis Blanc, who regarded anarchism in politics as a development from atheism in philosophy, all refused to cooperate, advancing this or that religious objection.

On the other hand, however, the new publication collected an imposing array of German contributors: apart from the editors themselves there were Heine, Herwegh and Johann Jacoby, all names of the first magnitude, whilst in the second rank, Moses Hess and a young lawyer from the Palatinate named F.C. Bernays were men of consequence, not to mention the youngest contributor of all, Friedrich Engels, who, after various excursions into the field of authorship, now appeared in the arena for the first time in full armour and with raised visor. But even this German band was mixed. Some of them understood little of Hegelian philosophy and still less of its “logical acumen,” and, above all, disagreement between the two editors themselves soon arose and rendered further co-operation impossible. The double number, which was to prove its one and only issue, opened with Correspondence between Marx, Ruge, Feuerbach and Bakunin, a young Russian who had attached himself to Ruge in Dresden and written a much-discussed contribution to the Deutsche Jahrbücher. This “Correspondence” consists of eight letters, each signed with the initials of its author, and showing us that three each were written by Marx and Ruge, and one each by Bakunin and Feuerbach. At a later date Ruge declared that the “Correspondence” was his work, though he had “used extracts from real letters here and there.” It is included in his collected works, but, significantly with serious mutilations and the suppression of the final letter, which is signed with the initials of Marx and contains the real point of the whole correspondence. The contents of the letters leave no doubt that they are really the work of the authors whose initials they bear, and, as far as they represent a uniform composition, Marx plays the first fiddle in the concert. It is not necessary, however, to deny that Ruge may have tinkered with his own letters and those of Bakunin and Feuerbach.

Marx opened and closed the correspondence. His introduction is like a short and spirited fanfare: The romanticist reaction was leading to revolution. The State was much too serious a matter to be degraded to the level of a harlequinade. A shipload of fools might drift before the wind for quite a time before anything happened, but it would finally meet its doom just because the fools refused to believe it. Whereupon Ruge answered with a long Jeremiad on the inexhaustible and sheeplike patience of the German Philistine. His contribution was “plaintive and hopeless” as he afterwards declared himself, or as Marx replied immediately and more politely: “Your letter is a good elegy, a breath-robbing dirge, but it is not in the least political. If the world was the property of the Philistines then it was worth while studying these Lords of the World, although the Philistine was the Lord of the World only because, like worms in a corpse, he filled the world with his society. So long as the Philistine was the material basis of the monarchy, the monarch himself could never be more than King of the Philistines. More wide awake and alive than his father, the new King of Prussia had attempted to dissolve the Philistine State on its own ground, but so long as the Philistines remained Philistines he would be able to make neither himself nor his subjects really free men. Thus the old petrified servile and slave State had returned, but even in this desperate situation there was new hope. Marx then pointed to the incompetence of the masters and the inertia of their servants and subjects, who let everything come and go as God pleased. The two qualities together were sufficient to bring about a catastrophe. He pointed to the enemies of Philistinism, all thinking and suffering men, who had come to an understanding; he even pointed to the passive system of perpetuation on the part of the old loyal subjects which daily was soliciting recruits in the cause of a new humanity. While the system of profits and trading, of property and the exploitation of humanity, was leading even more rapidly to a split within society, a split which the old system would be unable to repair because it did not heal and create, but only exist and enjoy. The task was therefore to drag the old world into the full light of day, and to develop the new world along positive lines.

Both Bakunin and Feuerbach wrote encouragingly, each in his own way, to Ruge, who thereupon declared that he had been converted by “the new Anarcharsis [1] and the new philosophers.” Feuerbach compared the end of the Deutsche Jahrbücher with the end of Poland, declaring that the efforts of a few men must prove ineffective in the general quagmire of a rotten society, and Ruge then wrote to Marx: “As the Catholic faith and aristocratic freedom failed to save Poland, so theological philosophy and respectable science failed to save us. We can get rid of our past only by making a decisive breach with it. The Jahrbücher are dead and Hegelian philosophy belongs to the past. Let us strive for an organ in Paris in which we can criticize ourselves and Germany as a whole with complete freedom and relentless honesty.

Marx had the first word and he also had the last: Clearly, a new rallying point must be created for thinking and independent brains. Although there was no doubt about the past, there was confusion enough about the future. “General anarchy has broken out amongst the reformers, and all of them would be compelled to admit that they have no exact ideas about the future. However, it is precisely the advantage of the new movement that we do not seek to anticipate the new world dogmatically, but rather to discover it in the criticism of the old. Up to now the philosophers have always had the solution of the riddle lying ready in their writing desks, and all the stupid external world had to do was to close its eyes and open its mouth to receive the ready-baked pie of absolute science. Philosophy has become secular and the most striking proof of this is that the philosophic consciousness itself has been drawn into the heat of the fray not only superficially, but thoroughly. It is certainly not our task to build up the future in advance and to settle all problems for all time, but it is just as certainly our task to criticize the existing world ruthlessly. I mean ruthlessly in the sense that we must not be afraid of our own conclusions and equally unafraid of coming into conflict with the prevailing powers.

Marx had no desire to unfurl any dogmatic standard, and communism as preached by Cabet, Dezamy and Weitling he regarded as a dogmatic abstraction. Whether one liked it or not, the chief interest of contemporary Germany was in religion and only secondarily in politics. It was no use presenting them with a ready-made system such as was contained in The Journey to Icaria [2], one must begin with them just as they were.

Marx condemned the attitude of the “crass socialists” who felt that political questions were beneath their dignity. Social truth could be arrived at everywhere from the contradiction in the political State, from the conflict between its ideal mission and its practical hypothesis: “There is therefore nothing to prevent us beginning our criticism with a criticism of politics, taking part in politics, that is to say, in real struggles. In this way we should avoid presenting ourselves to the world in a doctrinaire fashion and with a new principle, declaring: here is truth, bow down and worship it. We should develop new principles for the world out of its old principles. We must not say to the world: stop your quarrels, they are foolish, and listen to us. We possess the real truth. Instead we must show the world why it struggles, and this consciousness is a thing it must acquire whether it likes it or not.” Marx sums up the program of the new organ as follows: To assist the age to come to a realization (critical philosophy) of its struggles and its wishes.

Marx came to this realization, but not Ruge. Even the “correspondence” shows that Marx was the driver and Ruge the driven. A supplementary factor was that after his arrival in Paris Ruge fell ill and was able to take very little part in the editorial work. He was thus unable to exercise his chief capacity to the full and Marx seemed to him “too circumstantial” for the purpose. Ruge was unable to give the organ the form and the attitude which he considered the most suitable and he was even unable to publish a contribution of his own in it. However, he was not altogether displeased with the first issue and he found “some quite remarkable things in it which will create a sensation in Germany,” although he complained that “a number of unpolished things” had been served up in a hurry and that he would have improved them. The undertaking would probably have continued to appear, but for the fact that a number of outside hindrances prevented it.

First of all, the funds of the Literarisches Kontor soon became exhausted and Frobel declared that he could not carry on without more money, and secondly, the Prussian government took action immediately after the first announcement of the publication of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. Its action, however, met with little sympathy from Metternich and less from Guizot, and it had to stop for the moment with informing the governors of all Prussian provinces that the Jahrbücher represented high treason and lese-majeste, and this it did on the 18th of April, 1844. At the same time the governors were instructed to have their police arrest Ruge, Marx, Heine and Bernays with as little stir as possible and to confiscate their papers should they set foot on Prussian soil. As a hare must be caught before it can be jugged, this action was comparatively harmless, but the uneasy conscience of the King of Prussia became more dangerous when it caused him to instruct his subordinates to increase their vigilance at the frontiers. They succeeded in confiscating 100 copies of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher on a Rhine steamer, and well over 200 copies on the French-Palatinate frontier near Bergzabern. In view of the very small circulation with which the publishers were entitled to reckon these were very grievous blows.

Where internal differences already exist they are readily embittered and accentuated by external difficulties. According to Ruge these circumstances accelerated his breach with Marx or even caused it, and there may be something in this because whilst Marx always displayed a sovereign indifference in money matters, Ruge did just the contrary, displaying the suspicious avarice of a grocer. He did not hesitate to apply the truck system when paying out the salary agreed upon to Marx, presenting him with copies of the Jahrbücher in lieu of money, and he became really indignant at an alleged suggestion that he should risk his money in an attempt to proceed with the publication, pointing out that he had no knowledge of the book trade. In a similar situation Marx certainly risked his own money, but it is very unlikely that he proposed the same to Ruge. Perhaps he advised Ruge not to throw down the cards at the first failure, and it is possible that Ruge, who had already been angered by a proposal that he should put up a few more francs to secure the publication of Weitling’s works, suspected this advice to be a dangerous attack on his pocket-book.

Further, Ruge himself indicates the real reason for the breach when he admits that the immediate occasion was a quarrel about Herwegh whom he had called “a rogue,” though “perhaps with rather too much emphasis,” whilst Marx had stressed Herwegh’s “great future.” As a matter of fact, as far as Herwegh was concerned, Ruge was right; the man had no “great future,” and the mode of life he was leading in Paris at the time would really seem to have been open to objection. Even Heine condemned him sharply, whilst Ruge himself admits that Marx also was none too pleased with the man. In any case, the generous error did more honour to the “bitter” and “malignant” Marx than the uncanny instinct did to the “honest and irreproachable” Ruge, for Marx was concerned with the revolutionary poet whilst Ruge was thinking of petty-bourgeois morality.

This was the deeper significance of the insignificant incident which separated the two men forever. The breach with Ruge did not possess the political significance of the later polemics with Bruno Bauer and Proudhon. As a revolutionary Marx had probably been annoyed with Ruge for a long time before the quarrel about Herwegh caused his bile to rise, even assuming that it all took place exactly as Ruge describes.

If one wishes to know Ruge from his best side, one must read the memoirs which he published about twenty years later. The four volumes deal with his life up to the time when the Deutsch Jahrbücher ceased publication, that is to say, throughout a period when Ruge was an irreproachable example of that literary advance guard of schoolmasters and students who spoke on behalf of a bourgeoisie which lived from small trading and great illusions. They contain a wealth of charming genre pictures from Ruge’s childhood, spent on the lowlands of Rugen and Pomerania, and they give a description, unique in German literature, of the stirring times of the Burschenschaften and the Demagogue hunt. Ruge’s misfortune was that his memoirs appeared at a time when the German bourgeoisie was beginning to abandon its great illusions in favour of big business; and so his memoirs went almost without notice, whilst Reuter’s Festungstid, a book incomparably inferior both historically and as literature, was received with storms of applause. Ruge had really been an active member of the Burschenschaften wheras Reuter had casually fallen in with them. However, the German bourgeoisie was already flirting with Prussian bayonets, and it much preferred Reuter’s “golden humour” and the jocular manner in which he treated the infamous mockery of justice committed in the days of the Demagogue hunt, to the “audacious humour,” to quote Freiligrath’s appropriate words, with which Ruge described how his gaolers had faded to break his spirit and how he won inner-liberty during his imprisonment.

But even in the graphic descriptions of Ruge one feels keenly that pre-March liberalism was in the last resort nothing but Philistinism despite all its fine words, and that its spokesmen were Philistines and must remain so to the last. Ruge was the most high-spirited of them all and within his ideological limits he fought bravely enough, but the same temperament made his defection all the easier when in Paris he came face to face with the great contradictions of modern life.

He had reconciled himself with socialism as the hobby of philosophic humanists, but the communism of the Paris artisans filled him with panic-stricken horror and Philistine fear, not so much for his personal safety as for his pocket-book. In the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher he had signed the death warrant of Hegelian philosophy with a flourish; but before the year was out he had welcomed its most grotesque successor, the philosophy of Stirner, as a champion against communism which he regarded as the most stupid of all stupidities, as the new Christianity preached by the simple, as a system whose realization would mean the degeneration of human society into a farmyard.

The breach between Ruge and Marx became irreparable.



2. A Philosophic Perspective

The Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher was therefore a stillborn child. Once it became clear that its editors could not work together permanently, then it mattered little when and how they separated, in fact, an early breach was preferable to a later one. It was enough that Marx himself should have taken a great step forward along the path to a clear view of things.

He published two contributions in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher: an Introduction to a Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Law, and a notice of two books which Bruno Bauer had published on the Jewish Question. Despite the different matter with which these two contributions deal, they are very closely connected in ideological content. Later Marx summed up his criticism of the Hegelian philosophy of law in the declaration that the key to an understanding of historical development must be sought in society, which Hegel disdained, and not in the State, which he praised. In the second contribution he deals with this viewpoint in still greater detail than in the first.

From another angle the two contributions are related to each other as means and end. The first gives a philosophic outline of the proletarian class struggle, whilst the second gives a philosophic outline of socialist society. However, neither the one nor the other appeared extemporaneously; rather, both indicate the intellectual development of their author in a strictly logical order. The first contribution proceeded directly from Feuerbach, who had completed the criticism of religion, the hypothesis of all criticism, in its essentials: man makes religion, religion does not make man.

Man, begins Marx, is not an abstract being existing outside the world. Man is the world of men, the State, society, a world which has produced religion as an inverted world consciousness because it is an inverted world. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Thus it becomes the task of history to establish the reality of the world, since the reality of heaven has disappeared. The criticism of heaven thus turns into a criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into a criticism of law, the criticism of theology into a criticism of politics.

For Germany, however, this historical task can be performed only by philosophy. If one negatives the conditions in Germany in 1843 one finds that, according to French historical computation, the year 1789 has hardly been reached, still less the focus of contemporary problems. If modern politico-social reality is to be subjected to criticism, then criticism finds itself outside of German reality or it would fail to reach its real object. As an example of the fact that up to then German history had, like a clumsy recruit, only the task of performing the same old wearisome drill, Marx mentions “one of the chief problems of modern times,” the relation of industry, of the world of wealth in general, to the political world.

This problem occupies the Germans in the form of protective tariffs, prohibitory duties, the system of national economy. The Germans are thus beginning where the English and the French are ending. The old and rotten conditions against which these countries are theoretically in rebellion and which they tolerate only as one tolerates chains, are being welcomed in Germany as the rising sun of a rosy future. Whilst in France and England the problem is: political economy or the dominance of society over wealth, in Germany it is: national economy or the dominance of private property over nationality. In the one case it is a question of untangling the knot, and in the other one of first tying it.

Although they are not historical contemporaries of other nations, the Germans are philosophic contemporaries. The criticism of the German philosophy of law and the State, which has received its most logical form in the hands of Hegel, leads directly into the centre of these burning questions of the day. Marx then clearly defines his attitude both to the two tendencies which had existed side by side in the Rheinische Zeitung and to Feuerbach. Feuerbach had thrown philosophy on to the scrap-heap, but if one wished to deal with really vital matters, one must not forget, points out Marx, that up to the present the really vital life of the German people had flourished in its skull only. To “the cotton barons and iron magnates” he declares: you are quite right to demand the liquidation of philosophy, but you cannot liquidate it without first having realized it. And to his old friend Bruno Bauer and the latter’s followers he declares on the contrary: you are quite right to demand the realization of philosophy, but you cannot realize it without liquidating it.

The criticism of the philosophy of law resolves itself into tasks for which there is only one means of solution – practice. How can Germany raise itself to a practical level a la hauteur de principes, that is to say, to a revolution which will not only raise it to the level of the modern peoples, but to that human level which will be the immediate future of these peoples? How can it turn a single somersault not only over its own limitations, but at the same time over the limitations of the modern peoples, limitations which it must in reality feel to be an emancipation from its own limitations, and which it must itself seek to attain?

The weapon of criticism can certainly not supplant the criticism of weapons. Material force must be overthrown by material force, but theory itself becomes a material force when it takes hold of the masses, and it does so immediately it becomes radical. However, a radical revolution needs a passive element, a material basis. Theory is realized in a people only to the extent of that people’s needs. It is not enough that the idea should press forward to realization; reality itself must urge toward the idea. This would seem to be lacking in Germany where the various spheres of society are related not dramatically, but epically; where even the moral confidence of the middle class is based solely on the consciousness that it is the general representative of the Philistine mediocrity of all other classes; where each sphere of bourgeois society suffers its defeat before it has celebrated its victory, and shows its narrow-mindedness before it has had a chance of showing its broad-mindedness; so that each class is involved in a struggle with the class below it before it can engage in a struggle with the class above it.

However, this does not prove that radical revolution, general human emancipation, is impossible in Germany. It proves only the impossibility of a merely political revolution, a revolution which would leave the pillars of the house standing. The preliminary conditions for such a political revolution are lacking in Germany: on the one hand a class which from its own particular situation undertakes the general emancipation of society, even though only on the assumption that the whole of society faces the same situation as this class; that is to say, that it possesses, for instance, money or education, or can obtain them at its pleasure. And on the other hand a class in which all the defects of society are concentrated, a particular social sphere which is held responsible for the notorious crime of the whole of society, so that emancipation from this class appears as the general self-emancipation of society. The negative-general significance of the French aristocracy and the French clergy conditioned the positive-general significance of the immediately contiguous and opposing class, the bourgeoisie.

From the impossibility of a half-revolution Marx concludes the possibility of a radical revolution. Asking where this possibility exists, he answers: “In the formation of a class with radical links, a class of bourgeois society which is not a class of bourgeois society. This class must represent the dissolution of all classes. It must be a sphere of society of universal character as a result of its universal suffering, demanding no particular right, because no particular wrong has been done to it, but only wrong as such. It must no longer be able to appeal to a historical title, but to a human title only. It must no longer merely stand in a one-sided contradiction to the consequences, but in general and all-round contradiction to the very hypotheses of the German State. Finally it must be of such a nature that it cannot emancipate itself at all without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society, thus emancipating them at the same time. In a word, there must be a complete forfeiture of man as he is, compelling an equally complete rebirth of a new humanity. This dissolution of society is the proletariat.” It began to develop in Germany as the industrial revolution swept over the country, for it was formed not by natural but by artificial poverty, not by the masses crushed by the mere weight of society, but by the masses resulting from the acute dissolution of society, chiefly the dissolution of the middle classes; although gradually and as a matter of course the naturally poor and the Christian-Germanic serfs entered the ranks of these masses.

As philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its intellectual weapons in philosophy, and as soon as the lightning of thought has struck deep into the mass of the common people, the emancipation of the Germans into human beings will take place. The emancipation of the Germans is the emancipation of man. Philosophy cannot be realized without the liquidation of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot liquidate itself without realizing philosophy. When all the inner conditions have been fulfilled the day of German resurrection will be announced by the crowing of the Gallic chanticleer.

Judged both by its form and its content, this article is in the front rank of all those youthful writings of Marx which have been preserved. A short sketch of the basic ideas contained in it cannot give even an approximate idea of the overt~owing richness of thought which Marx masters in such epigrammatic and concise form; and those German professors who found its style grotesque and its manner in appalling taste have thereby Börne inglorious testimony against themselves. However, even Ruge found its “epigrams too artificial.” He criticized its “formlessness and super-form,” but discovered in it “a critical talent developing into dialectic, but occasionally degenerating into brashness.” This is not unfair criticism, for the youthful Marx sometimes exulted in the mere swish of his sword through the air, though in action it proved sharp and heavy enough. Arrogance is the dowry of all talented youth.

However, the philosophic perspective into the future which this article opens up is still far off. No one has proved more conclusively than the later Marx that no nation can at a single bound leap over the necessary stages of its historical development, but though the perspectives he sketched in this article were shadowy, they were not incorrect. In detail many things have come about differently, but on the whole they have come about as he prophesied. Both the history of the German bourgeoisie and that of the German proletariat are his vindication.



3. On the Jewish Question

The second contribution which Marx published in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher is not so arresting in its form, but in the power of critical analysis it displays it is almost superior. In this second contribution he examines the difference between human emancipation and political emancipation on the basis of two treatises on the Jewish question written by Bruno Bauer.

At that time the question had not sunk so deeply into the morass of anti-Semitic and pro-Semitic badgering. A class of society which was increasing its power as one of the most prominent representatives of mercantile and loan capital was deprived of all civil rights on account of its religion, with the exception of those special privileges it enjoyed as a result of its usurious practices. The most famous representative of “enlightened absolutism,” the philosopher of Sans-Souci, Frederick the Great, gave the world an edifying object lesson by granting “the liberty of Christian bankers” to those moneyed Jews who assisted him in his coining forgeries and other doubtful financial operations; while he tolerated the presence of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn within his territory not because the latter was a philosopher and strove to guide his “nation” into the intellectual life of Germany, but because he occupied the post of book-keeper to one of the privileged and moneyed Jews. His dismissal by his master would have deprived him of all rights.

With one or two exceptions, even the pioneers of the bourgeois enlightenment movement displayed no particular objection to the proscription of a whole section of the population merely on account of its religion. The Israelitic religion was repugnant to them because it was the prototype of religious intolerance from which Christianity had first learned its “human censoriousness,” whilst, on the other hand, the Jews showed no interest whatever in the bourgeois enlightenment movement. The Jews were delighted when enlightened criticism took the Christian religion to task, for they had themselves always cursed it, but when the same criticism turned its attention to the Jewish religion they howled aloud as though humanity were being betrayed. The Jews demanded political emancipation for Judaism, but not in the sense of equal rights for all and with the intention of abandoning their own special position, but rather with the intention of consolidating that special position; and all the time they were prepared to abandon liberal principles the moment they came into conflict with any specifically Jewish interest.

The criticism of religion conducted by the Young Hegelians of course extended to the Jewish religion, which they regarded as a preliminary stage of Christianity. Feuerbach had analysed Judaism as the religion of egoism: “The Jews have maintained their special peculiarities down to the present day. Their principle, their God, is the practical principle of the world – egoism in the form of religion. Egoism centres and concentrates man upon himself, but at the same time it limits his theoretical outlook because he is indifferent to everything which is not directly related to his own welfare.” Bruno Bauer said much the same thing, declaring that the Jews had crawled into the nooks and crannies of bourgeois society to exploit its uncertain elements like the gods of Epicurus who lived in the interstices of the world, where they were freed from certain labour. The religion of the Jews was animal cunning and trickery, and with it they satisfied their sensual needs. They had always opposed historical progress and in their hatred of all other peoples they had cut themselves off from the world and lived the most fantastic and circumscribed life.

Feuerbach explained the character of the Jewish religion from the character of the Jew, while Bauer, despite thoroughness, daring and trenchancy in his treatises on the Jewish question, which earned high praise from Marx, saw the question exclusively through theological spectacles. Like the Christians, he declared, the Jews could win through to freedom only by overcoming their religion. Owing to its own religious character the Christian State was unable to emancipate the Jews, whilst at the same time the Jews could not be emancipated owing to their own religious character. Christians and Jews must cease to be Christians and Jews if they wished to be free. But since Judaism as a religion had been superseded by Christianity, the Jew had a longer and more difficult path to traverse than the Christian before he could win freedom. In Bauer’s opinion the Jew must first take a course in Christianity and Hegelian philosophy before he could hope to emancipate himself.

At this point Marx intervened, declaring that it was not enough to ask who was to do the emancipating and who was to be emancipated. Criticism must go further and ask what kind of emancipation was in question, political emancipation or human. In certain States both Christians and Jews were completely emancipated politically without thereby being humanly emancipated. There must therefore be some difference between political emancipation and human emancipation.

The essence of political emancipation was the highly-developed modern State, which was also the fully-developed Christian State; for the Christian-Germanic State, the State of privileges, represented only the incomplete, the still theological State not yet developed in all its political clarity. However, the political State in the highest stages of its development did not demand the abandonment of Judaism by the Jews or the abandonment of religion in general by humanity as a whole. It had emancipated the Jews and its very character had compelled it to do so. Even where the State Constitution expressly declared the exercise of political rights to be completely independent of religious beliefs, the citizens of that State nevertheless refused to believe that a man without religion could be a decent man and a good citizen. Thus the existence of religion was not in any way in contradiction to the full development of the State. The political emancipation of the Jew, of the Christian, of the religious man in general, was the emancipation of the State from Judaism, Christianity and religion in general. The State could shake off a restraint though the human being in the State need not be free of it, and herein lay the limit of political emancipation.

Marx develops this idea even further. The State as such negatived private property. Man liquidated private property in a political fashion immediately he abolished the property qualification for the active and passive franchise, as had been done in many of the North American States. The State liquidated differences in birth, social standing, education and occupation in its own way when it declared differences of birth, social standing, education and occupation to be unpolitical differences, and when, regardless of such differences, it declared every member of the body politic to be an equal participant in the sovereignty of the people. Nevertheless, the State permitted private property, education and occupation to operate in their own fashion and to make their own particular character felt, that is to say, as private property, education and occupation. Far from abolishing these actual differences, the existence of the State rather presupposed their existence. It regarded itself purely as a political State and made its universality felt in contrast to these its constituent elements.

The fully-developed political State was essentially the social life of humanity as against its material life. All the hypotheses of this egoistic life remained in existence outside the State sphere in bourgeois society and as attributes of bourgeois society. The relation of the political State to its own hypotheses, whether they are material elements such as private property, or ideological elements such as religion, was the antagonism between public interests and private interests. The conflict in which the human being as the adherent of a particular religion found himself with his State citizenship and with other men as members of the community, reduced itself to the cleavage between the political State and bourgeois society.

Bourgeois society is the basis of the modern State as classical slavery was the basis of the classical State. The modern State recognized its origins with the proclamation of the general rights of man, whose enjoyment is as much open to the Jews as the exercise of political rights. The general rights of man recognize the egoistic bourgeois individual and the untrammeled movement of the intellectual and material elements which make up the content of his life and the content of contemporary bourgeois life. They do not free man from religion, but give him religious freedom. They do not free him from property, but give him the freedom of property. They do not free him from the indignity of trading, but give him freedom to trade. The political revolution created bourgeois society by destroying the patchwork system of feudalism – all the corporations, guilds and associations which were so many expressions of the separation of the people from the commonwealth. It created the political State as the concern of all, as a real State.

Marx then sums up: “Political emancipation is the reduction of man to a member of bourgeois society, to the egoistic independent individual, on the one hand, and to a citizen of the State, a moral being, on the other. Only when the real individual re-absorbs the abstract citizen of the State and becomes a social being – in practical life, in his own work and under his own conditions; only when man recognizes and organizes his forces propres as social forces and, therefore, no longer separates the social force from himself in the form of political force – only then will the emancipation of humanity be completed.”

The contention that the Christian as such was more capable of emancipation than the Jew, a contention which Bauer sought to prove from the Jewish religion, still remained to be examined. Marx proceeded from Feuerbach, who had explained the Jewish religion from the Jew and not the Jew from the Jewish religion, but he went beyond Feuerbach by revealing the special social element which reflects itself in the Jewish religion. What was the secular basis of Judaism? Practical necessity, self-interest. What was the secular cult of the Jew Buying and selling. What was his secular God? Money. “Very well then: emancipation from buying and selling and from money, that is to say, from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time. An organization of society which abolished the necessary conditions for buying and selling, that is to say, the possibility of buying and selling, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would evaporate in the clear and vital atmosphere of society. On the other hand, when the Jew recognizes this practical character of his as futile and works for its abolition, then he is working from the basis of his own previous development for the emancipation of humanity itself and turns against the highest practical expression of human self-alienation.” Marx regards Judaism as a general, contemporary, anti-social element driven to its present height by historical development and the zealous co-operation of the Jews themselves, a height at which it must necessarily dissolve itself.

What Marx achieved with this treatise was a twofold gain. He went to the very roots of the connection between society and the State. The State was not, as Hegel imagined, the reality of the moral idea, absolute reason and the absolute aim in itself, and it had to content itself with the incomparably more modest task of presiding over the anarchy of bourgeois society which had enrolled it as watchman. This anarchy was the general struggle of man against man, of individual against individual, the universal war of all individuals, separated from each other only by their individuality, the general and unhindered movement of all the elementary forces released from their feudal fetters. It was actual slavery, although the individual seemed free and independent to himself, mistaking the unhindered movement of his alienated elements such as property, industry and religion for his own freedom, whereas in reality it represented his complete enslavement and alienation from humanity.

And then Marx recognized that the religious questions of the day had no more than a social significance. He showed the development of Judaism not in religious theory, but in industrial and commercial practice which found a fantastic reflection in the Jewish religion. Practical Judaism is nothing but the fully-developed Christian world. As bourgeois society is of a completely commercial Jewish character the Jew necessarily belongs to it and can claim political emancipation just as he can claim the general rights of man. However, the emancipation of humanity is a new organization of the social forces, which will make man the master of those sources which give him life. Thus, in shadowy contours, we observe an outline of socialist society beginning to form.

In the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher Marx is still ploughing the philosophic field, but in the furrows turned over by his critical ploughshare, the first shoots of the materialist conception of history began to sprout, and under the warm sun of French civilization they soon shot up into flower.



4. French Civilization

Judging by the way in which Marx usually worked, it is very probable that he had already drafted the two contributions to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, at least in their fundamentals, while he was still in Germany, very likely during the first few months of his happy marriage. As the ideas contained in them turned on the Great French Revolution, nothing was more natural than that he should plunge into the study of the history of this revolution as soon as his presence in Paris gave him an opportunity of exploring its sources, and also the sources of its predecessor, French materialism, and of its successor, French socialism.

Paris at that time could justly claim that it was in the van of bourgeois civilization. After a series of illusions and catastrophes, the French bourgeoisie had finally secured in the July revolution of 1830 that which it had begun in the Great Revolution of 1789. Its forces were now relaxing comfortably although the resistance of the old powers had by no means been completely broken, and new powers were beginning to make themselves felt. The result was that a ceaseless battle of intellects raged – rolling now here, now there – such as could be found nowhere else in Europe and certainly not in Germany which lay motionless in the silence of intellectual death.

Marx now plunged into this rejuvenating flood. In 1844 Ruge wrote to Feuerbach informing him that Marx was reading a tremendous amount and working with unusual intensity. However, he finished nothing, broke off his work constantly and plunged again and again into an endless sea of books. He was irritable and violent, particularly when he had worked himself sick and had not been to bed for three or four nights in succession. He had put his criticism of Hegelian philosophy on the shelf in order to utilize his stay in Paris to write a history of the Convention, having already collected the necessary material and adopted a number of very fruitful viewpoints. The evidence of this letter is all the more valuable because it was written in no commendatory sense.

Marx did not write a history of the Convention, but this fact does not disprove the information of Ruge. On the contrary, it makes it rather more credible if anything. The deeper Marx penetrated into the historic significance of the revolution of 1789, the easier it became for him to dispense with a criticism of the Hegelian philosophy as a means of arriving at a clear view of the struggles and demands of the age. However, the history of the Convention alone could not satisfy him because, although it represented a maximum of political energy, political power and political understanding, it had proved itself impotent in the face of social anarchy.

Apart from the meagre indications of Ruge there is unfortunately no evidence to assist us in following in detail the course of study Marx pursued in the spring and summer of 1844. However, the general way in which his studies developed can be seen. The study of the French Revolution led him on to the historical literature of the “Third Estate,” a literature which originated under the Bourbon restoration and was developed by men of great historical talent who followed the historical existence of their class back into the eleventh century and presented French history as an uninterrupted series of class struggles. Marx owes his knowledge of the historical nature of the classes and their struggles to these historians – he mentions in particular Guizot and Thierry – and he then proceeded to study the economic anatomy of the classes from the bourgeois economists, mentioning Ricardo in particular. Marx always denied having originated the theory of the class struggle. What he claimed as his contribution was having supplied proof that the existence of the classes was bound to definite historical struggles in the development of production, that the class struggle necessarily led to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that this dictatorship was only a transitional period leading to the complete abolition of the classes and the establishment of a classless society. This series of ideas developed during his stay in Paris.

The most brilliant and most trenchant weapon used by the “Third Estate” in its struggle against the ruling classes in the eighteenth century was the philosophy of materialism. During his exile in Paris Marx zealously studied this philosophy, but less the branch represented by Descartes which developed into natural science, than the branch which proceeded from Locke and developed into social science. Other stars which hung over the Paris studies of the young Marx were Helvetius and Holbach, who carried materialism into social life and who presented as chief points in their system the natural equality of human intellects, the essential unity between the progress of reason and the progress of industry, the natural goodness of humanity, and the omnipotent power of education. He called their teachings “real humanism” as he had called Feuerbach’s philosophy, the difference being that the materialism of Helvetius and Holbach had become “the social basis of communism.”

Paris now offered him all the opportunities he needed for studying communism and socialism, as he had promised in the Rheinische Zeitung. The intellectual world which he had entered in Paris was dazzling, almost confusing in its richness of ideas and forms. The intellectual atmosphere of Paris was pregnant with the germs of socialism, and even the Journal des Debats, the traditional organ of the ruling finance oligarchy, which was in receipt of a considerable government subsidy annually, was unable to hold itself completely aloof from the spirit of the day, though it did no more than publish Eugene Sue’s socialist thrillers in its feuilleton columns. The opposing camp contained such brilliant thinkers as Leroux, men who were now being produced by the proletariat. Between the hostile camps were the remnants of the Saint-Simonists and the active Fourierist sect led by Considerant whose organ was the Démocratie Pacifique, Christian socialists like the Catholic priest Lamennais and the former Carbonaro Buchez, petty-bourgeois socialists like Sismondi, Buret, Pecqueur and Vidal, whilst even in belles lettres magnificent productions, such as the songs of Beranger and the novels of George Sand, brilliantly reflected socialist ideas and problems.

The common characteristic of all these socialist systems was that they all reckoned on the good-will and the reasonableness of the possessing classes whom they hoped to convince by peaceful propaganda of the necessity of social reforms or revolution. They were all born out of the disappointments of the Great Revolution, and they disdained the political path which had resulted in these disappointments. They desired to assist the suffering masses because the latter were unable to assist themselves. The insurrections of the workers in the thirties had failed, and even their most determined leaders, men like Barbes and Blanqui, knew nothing of any socialist theory or of any definite practical means for achieving a social revolution.

Notwithstanding, the working class movement grew all the more rapidly, and with the prophetic eye of the poet, Heinrich Heine sketched the problem which arose in the following words: “The communists represent the only party in France deserving of respect. I should feel the same way about the remnants of the Saint-Simonists perhaps, who still exist under strange banners, or about the Fourierists, who are still alive and active, but these good fellows are moved by the word only, by the social problem as a question of traditional concepts and not by any demoniacal necessity. They are not the servants predestined by the supreme world spirit to fulfil its tremendous decisions. Sooner or later the scattered army of Saint-Simon and the whole general staff of the Fourierists will go over to the growing army of communism, there to play the role of the Fathers of the Church, lending brutal necessity the creative word.” Thus Heine on June 15th, 1843, and within the year the man arrived in Paris who was to play the role Heine thought the Saint-Simonists and the Fourierists might play; he lent brutal necessity the creative word.

In all probability whilst he was still in Germany, and in any case whilst his standpoint was still predominantly philosophic, Marx had declared himself against cut-and-dried systems for the future, against any attempt to settle all problems for all time, against the unfurling of any dogmatic standard, and against the idea of the “crass socialists” that political questions were beneath their dignity. And if he had declared it not enough that the idea should press forward to reality, but that reality must become the idea, this condition fulfilled itself before his eyes. Since the last insurrection of the workers in 1839 the working class movement and socialism had begun to approach each other in three ways.

First of all there was the Democratic Socialist Party. Its socialism was not of any very great import because it was composed of lower middle-class and proletarian elements and because the slogans which it inscribed on its banners: the organization of labour and the right to work, were nothing but lower middleclass utopias impossible of fulfilment in capitalist society. The latter organizes labour as it must be organized, namely, as wage-labour, and this pre-supposes the existence of capital and can be abolished only along with it, while the situation with regard to the right to work is no different. Such a right can be fulfilled only in the joint ownership of the means of production, that is to say, by the abolition of bourgeois society, but the leaders of this party, Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin and Ferdinand Flocon, solemnly refused to lay the axe to the roots of bourgeois society, declaring that they were neither communists nor socialists.

However, although the social aims of this party were completely utopian, it nevertheless represented a great step forward because it chose the political path for their realization. It declared that no social reform was possible without political reform, and that the conquest of political power was the only means by which the suffering masses could save themselves, and therefore it demanded the general franchise, a demand which met with a lively echo in the ranks of the proletariat, which was tired of putsches and conspiracies, and sought more effective weapons for the prosecution of the class struggle.

Still greater masses of the workers rallied to the banner of proletarian communism unfurled by Cabet, who had originally been a Jacobin and was later converted to communism by his reading and in particular by the Utopia of Sir Thomas More. Cabet professed communism as openly as the Democratic Socialist. Party rejected it, but he agreed with the latter that political democracy was a necessary transitional stage. Thus The Journey to Icaria, in which Cabet attempted to describe the society of the future, became an incomparably more popular work than the brilliant fantasies of Fourier, although the narrow limits of Cabet’s work made it immeasurably inferior to the genius of the former.

And finally, voices began to sound loud and clear within the ranks of the proletariat itself, indicating beyond a doubt that it was beginning to emerge from its infancy. Marx was acquainted with Leroux and Proudhon, both of whom were printers- and members of the working class, from the days of the Rheinische Zeitung, and he had already promised to study their works thoroughly. Their works appealed to him because both men sought to harness the results of German philosophy to their own aims, although both of them fell victim to serious misunderstandings. Marx himself has informed us that he spent many hours, often throughout the night, trying to explain Hegelian philosophy to Proudhon. The two men came together for a while only to part soon afterwards, but writing after Proudhon’s death Marx readily bore witness to the great impetus which Proudhon’s first appearance gave to the working class movement, an impetus, in fact, which certainly affected Marx also. Marx regarded Proudhon’s first work (in which the latter abandoned all utopianism and subjected private property to a thorough and ruthless criticism as the cause of all social evil) as the first scientific manifesto of the modern proletariat.

All these tendencies helped to prepare the way for a unification between the working-class movement and socialism, but they were all in contradiction with each other, and after the first few steps they involved themselves in new contradictions. Marx had studied socialism and he now began to study the proletariat. In July, 1844, Ruge wrote to a friend in Germany: “Marx has plunged into German communism here – socially, I mean, for he can hardly consider the dismal affair of any political importance. Germany can stand the minor damage the artisans (particularly the meager handful of converts here) are likely to do without much doctoring.” Ruge was soon to discover why Marx took the meagre handful of artisans and their doings seriously.



5. The Vorwärts and the Expulsion of Marx

We have no very detailed record of Marx’s personal life during his exile in Paris. His wife presented him with their first child, a daughter, and then returned proudly to Germany to show it to their relatives. Mark remained on the best of terms with his friends in Cologne and their gift of a thousand thaler helped considerably towards making the year in Paris such a fruitful one.

He was in close touch with Heinrich Heine and he did much to make the year 1844 a memorable one in the life of the poet, assisting at the birth of the Winter Fables, the Song of the Weavers and the immortal satires on the German despots. They were not long together, but Marx remained loyal to Heine even when the howling of the Philistines against him became still more furious than it had been against Herwegh, and he generously.remained silent when the bedridden Heine cited him untruthfully as a witness that the annual grant the poet received from the Guizot Ministry was irreproachable. As we know, in his youth Marx himself had vainly yearned for poetic laurels, and all his life he retained a lively sympathy for poets, invariably showing great toleration towards their little weaknesses. He felt that poets were peculiar people who should be permitted to go their own way and must not be measured with the standards of ordinary or even extraordinary mortals. If they were to sing they must be Battered; it was no use belabouring them with severe criticism.

But he regarded Heine as something more than a poet, as a tighter also, and in the dispute between Börne and Heine, which served at the time as a sort of dividing line between the sheep and the goats, he steadfastly supported Heine, declaring that the doltish treatment accorded to Heine’s work on Börne by the Christian-Germanic oafs was unique in any period of German literature, which had never at any time lacked its full complement of dolts. He was never misled by the shout about Heine’s alleged treachery which even affected Engels and Lassalle, though both had the excuse of extreme youth. “We need very few signs to understand each other,” wrote Heine on one occasion to excuse his “confused scribble,” and the sentence had a deeper significance than the immediate one which prompted it.

Marx was still a student when Heine, in 1834, declared: “The spirit of freedom breathed by our classical literature is less active amongst our scholars, poets and literary men than amongst the great mass of our artisans and workers.” And ten years later, when Marx was living in Paris, Heine declared: “In their struggle against the existing state of affairs the proletarians can claim the most progressive minds, the greatest philosophers, as their leaders.” The freedom and accuracy of this judgment become still clearer when one realizes that at the same time Heine was pouring scorn on the pot-house politics of the little conventicles of exiles, in which Börne played the role of giant-killer. Heine realized that there was a great difference between Marx occupying himself with “a meagre handful” of artisans and Börne doing so.

Heine and Marx were bound together by the spirit of German philosophy and French socialism, and by a common and deep-rooted dislike for that Christian-Germanic sloth, that false Teutonism, which sought to modernize the ancient garb of German folly with radical phrases. The Massmanns and Venedeys who live in Heine’s satires trudged along in Börne’s footsteps, though Börne may have been far above them in intellect and wit. Börne had no feeling either for art or philosophy as was revealed by his declaration that Goethe was a rhymed and Hegel an unrhymed knave, and when he broke with the great traditions of German history he established no new intellectual relation to the new powers of Western European culture. Heine, on the other hand, could not abandon Goethe and Hegel without abandoning himself, and he therefore plunged with fierce avidity into French socialism as a new source of intellectual life. His works live on and arouse the anger of the grandchildren as they aroused the anger of their grandfathers, whilst the writings of Börne are forgotten, less on account of their “jog-trot” style than on account of their content.

Referring to the back-biting gossip which Börne had set going against Heine even whilst the two were standing shoulder to shoulder, and which Börne’s literary legatees were unwise enough to publish later on, Marx declared that he had never imagined the man to be so absurd, superficial and petty. However, he would never have called the personal honesty of the gossiper into question on that account had he actually carried out his intention of writing about the dispute. It is always difficult to find worse Jesuits in public life than those narrow-minded and orthodox radicals who wrap themselves up in the threadbare cloak of their own virtue and stop at nothing in their insinuations against the finer and freer spirits to whom it is given to recognize the deeper relations of history. Marx was always on the side of the latter and never with the former, particularly as he had made the acquaintance of the virtuous ones himself.

In later years Marx spoke of “Russian aristocrats” who had shown him the greatest solicitude during his Paris exile, adding that this should not be rated too highly: the Russian aristocrats were educated at German universities and spent their youth in Paris. They invariably snatched at all the extremes the West offered, but this did not prevent them becoming thorough blackguards immediately they entered the service of the State. Marx appears to have been referring to a certain Count Tolstoi, a secret agent of the Russian government, or to others of a like kidney. He was certainly not referring to that Russian aristocrat on whose intellectual development he exercised a great influence in those days, namely, Michael Bakunin. Even after the paths of the two men had widely separated Bakunin bore witness to this influence, and in the dispute between Marx and Ruge he took Marx’s side although up to then Ruge had been his protector.

This dispute flared up again in the summer of 1844 and this time publicly. A paper entitled the Vorwärts had been appearing twice a week in Paris since the first day of 1844. Its origin was by no means irreproachable. It was founded by a certain Heinrich Bornstein who ran a theatrical and general publicity business and sought to further his interests thereby. The necessary funds had been provided by Meyerbeer who lived preferably in Paris. We know from Heine that this Royal Prussian conductor was very keen on obtaining the greatest possible amount of publicity, and he probably needed it. As a cunning business man Bornstein gave his paper a patriotic cloak and appointed Adalbert von Bornstedt, a former Prussian officer and a thoroughly venal character who was the “confidant” of Metternich and at the same time in the pay of the Berlin government, as its editor. When the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher appeared it was greeted with a salve of abuse by the Vorwärts, and it would be difficult to say whether the abuse was characterized more by its foolishness than by its vulgarity.

However, the affairs of the paper did not prosper. Bornstein had organized a regular translation factory in order to sell the latest pieces played in Paris with the greatest possible speed to German stage managers, and he sought to cut out the young German dramatists and win the German Philistines, who were becoming restive, by mouthing a few phrases about “moderate progress” and condemning “ultra-ism” both on the left and on the right. His editor, Bornstedt, was in the same boat because he had to lull the suspicions of the emigrants if he was to associate with them freely, a proceeding which was absolutely necessary if he was to earn his blood-money. However, the Prussian government was blind even to its own interest of self-preservation, and it prohibited the sale of the Vorwärts in its territory, an example which was followed by other German governments.

Bornstedt threw in his hand at the beginning of May, regarding the game as hopeless, but not so Bornstein, who wanted to do business and was not at all particular about the way in which he did it. With the cold-blooded calculation of a cunning speculator he said to himself that if the Vorwärts was to be prohibited in Prussia in any case, it might just as well seek for itself all the advantages of a prohibited paper, so that the German Philistines would consider it worth while to obtain such a paper secretly. It suited his book extremely well, therefore, when the youthful firebrand Bernays offered him a fiery article for the Vorwärts, and after a certain amount of preliminary skirmishing Bernays was made editor in place of Bornstedt. Owing to the lack of any other medium, the German exiles in Paris now began to contribute to the Vorwärts, each on his own responsibility and independent of the editorial board.

One of the first to do so was Ruge, who came forward under his own name and even defended Marx’s contributions to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher as though he were in agreement with them.

A few months later, however, he published two anonymous articles in the Vorwärts, a few short observations concerning Prussian policy and a long article containing nothing but gossip about the Prussian dynasty, interlarded with remarks about “the drinking King and “the limping Queen” and their “purely spiritual marriage,” etc. The articles were signed “A Prussian,” and under the circumstances it appeared as though Marx was the author, for Ruge was a member of the Dresden Town Council and registered at the Saxon Embassy in Paris, Bernays was a Bavarian from Rhineland-Westphalia, whilst Bornstein was a Hamburger, and although he had lived for a long time in Austria he had never lived for any length of time in Prussia.

It is impossible to discover now what Ruge had in mind when he adopted such a misleading pen-name, but, as his letters to his friends and relations show, he had worked himself up into a furious rage against Marx, to whom he referred as “a thoroughly vile fellow” and “an insolent Jew,” and it is undeniable that two years later in a penitent petition to the Prussian Minister of the Interior he betrayed the comrades of his exile in Paris, and against his better knowledge loaded on the shoulders of these “nameless young men the sins he had himself committed in the Vorwärts. It is of course quite possible that he signed his articles “A Prussian” in order to give them greater weight as they dealt with Prussian affairs, but if this were the case he acted with irresponsible thoughtlessness, and it is quite understandable that Marx hastened to parry the trick of the alleged “Prussian.”

Marx’s answer was couched in a dignified tone: he dealt solely with the one or two, so to speak, objective observations which Ruge had made on Prussian policy and dismissed the whole gossip about the Prussian dynasty in a short footnote: “Special reasons cause me to point out that the above contribution is the first I have made to the Vorwärts.” As a matter of fact, it was also the last.

The point at issue was the revolt of the Silesian weavers in 1844, which Ruge treated as an unimportant affair, declaring that it had no political core and that without such a core no social revolution was possible. The essence of Marx’s reply had already been dealt with in his treatise On the Jewish Question. Political force cannot heal social evils because the State cannot abolish the conditions whose product it is. He sharply attacked utopianism, declaring that socialism was not possible without a revolution, but he attacked Blanqui and his followers just as sharply, declaring that political sagacity was deceiving the social instinct when it sought to make progress by means of small, useless putsches. He defined the character of the revolution with epigrammatic trenchancy: “Every revolution dissolves the old society and in so far it is social. Every revolution overthrows the old power and in so far it is political.” A social revolution with a political core, as demanded by Ruge, was senseless, but a political revolution with a social core was reasonable. The revolution in general – the overthrow of the existing power and the dissolution of the old relations – was a political act. In so far as socialism first had need of destruction and dissolution, it needed this political act, but when its organizational activity began, when its innate aim, its core, appeared, socialism flung off the political cloak.

These ideas were developed from Marx’s own treatise On the Jewish Question, and the revolt of the Silesian weavers quickly confirmed what: he had written about the feebleness of the class struggle in Germany. His friend Jung wrote from Cologne that there was now more communism to be found in the columns of the Kölnische Zeitung than formerly in the columns of the Rheinische Zeitung, and that the former had opened up a subscription list for the families of the fallen and imprisoned weavers. At a farewell dinner party for the retiring district governor a hundred thaler had been collected for the list amongst the highest officials and richest merchants of Cologne, and sympathy was being shown everywhere for the dangerous rebels. “What a few months ago would have been a daring and completely new attitude for them, has now become a matter of course.”

Marx made use of the general sympathy shown towards the weavers against Ruge’s under-estimation of their revolt, but he was not deceived for one moment by the “lack of resistance shown by the bourgeoisie towards new social tendencies and ideas.” He realized that immediately the working-class movement gained any real power, the effect would be to stifle the political antipathies and antagonisms within the camp of the ruling classes and to cause the latter to direct their whole hostility against the workers. He showed the deep difference between bourgeois and proletarian emancipation when he pointed out that the one sprang from social well-being and the other from social misery. The bourgeois revolution was caused by the isolation from the political commonwealth and the State, whilst the proletarian revolution was caused by the isolation from humanity and the real commonwealth of humanity. The isolation from the latter was incomparably more thorough, more intolerable, more terrible and more innately contradictory than isolation from the political commonwealth, and therefore the liquidation of this isolation, even as a partial phenomenon represented by the revolt of the Silesian weavers, meant incalculably more, just as the human being was more than the citizen, and human life more than political life.

Marx’s views on the revolt of the Silesian weavers were thus fundamentally different from those of Ruge: “Consider only the song of the weavers; the striking, trenchant, ruthless and powerful way in which the proletariat hurls the battle-cry of its antagonism against the society of private property. The Silesian revolt began where the French and English insurrections ended, with the consciousness of the proletariat as a class. The whole action was of this character. Not only did it destroy machinery, the rival of the workers, but also the merchants’ records, their property titles. In the beginning at least, all other movements were directed exclusively against the industrialists, against the visible enemy, but this movement was also directed against the banker, the invisible enemy. And finally, no English insurrection was carried out with the same courage, deliberation and persistence.”

In this connection Marx also refers to the brilliant writings of Weitling who often excelled Proudhon in theory although he remained behind him in practice: “Can the bourgeoisie – its philosophers and scribes included – show us a work on its own emancipation, political emancipation, comparable to Weitling’s Guarantees of Harmony and Liberty? When one compares the sober and subdued mediocrity of German political literature with this incomparably brilliant debut of the German worker, and when one compares the undersized and down-at-heel political shoes of the German bourgeoisie with the giant boots of the youthful proletariat, one is entitled to prophesy the frame of an athlete for this neglected son of Germany.” Marx declared that the German proletariat was the theoretician amongst the European proletariats, as the English proletariat was their economist and the French proletariat their politician.

Marx’s verdict on Weitling’s writings has been confirmed by the judgment of posterity. For their time they were brilliant achievements, and their brilliance was enhanced by the fact that the German journeyman tailor prepared the way for an understanding between the working-class movement and socialism before Louis Blanc, Cabet and Proudhon, and more effectively. However, Marx’s historical estimation of the revolt of the Silesian weavers seems extraordinary to us to-day. He read tendencies into it which were certainly not present, and Ruge seems to have estimated the revolt more correctly when he declared it to be no more than a hunger revolt without any deeper significance. However, as was the case with regard to their earlier dispute about Herwegh, so here we see again that to be formally in the right is the failing of the Philistine against genius, and that in the last resort a great heart always triumphs over a narrow mind.

The “meagre handful of artisans” referred to disdainfully by Ruge, but zealously studied by Marx, were organized in the “League of the Just” which had developed in the thirties from the French secret societies and out of their final defeat in 1839. This defeat had been a good thing for the organization because its dispersed elements reassembled not only in their old centre, Paris, but also in England and Switzerland, where the freedom of meeting and association offered them more room for development, so that these slips from the old trunk began to develop more powerfully than the mother tree. The Paris organization was led by Hermann Ewerbeck of Danzig, who was entangled in Cabet’s moralizing utopianism and had translated Cabet’s utopia into German. Weitling, who led the agitation in Switzerland, proved himself the intellectual superior of Ewerbeck, whilst the London leaders of the League, the watchmaker Joseph Moll, the shoemaker Heinrich Bauer, and Karl Schapper, a former student of forestry who earned his living sometimes as a compositor and sometimes as a teacher of languages, also proved themselves superior to Ewerbeck, at least in revolutionary determination.

Marx probably first heard about these “three real men” from Engels who, when he visited Marx in September, 1844, while passing through Paris, spoke of the “deep impression” they had made on him. During the ten days Engels stayed in Paris much of his time was spent in the company of Marx, and they had an opportunity of confirming the far-reaching agreement in their ideas which had already revealed itself in their contributions to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. In the meantime, their old friend Bruno Bauer had turned against these ideas and published a criticism in a literary publication he had founded. The two learned of this attack whilst they were together and immediately decided to answer it. Engels sat down at once and put all he had to say about the matter on paper, but in accordance with his character Marx went much more deeply into the matter than they had originally planned and in several months of hard work he produced a work of over 300 pages. With the conclusion of this work in january 1845 his stay in Paris also came to an end.

After taking over the editorship of the Vorwärts, Bernays had energetically continued his attacks on “the Christian-Germanic simpletons in Berlin” and there was no lack of lese-majeste in the paper, whilst Heine shot one barbed arrow after the other against “the new Alexander” in the Palace of Berlin. It was not long before the legitimate monarchy in Germany petitioned the non-legitimate bourgeois monarchy in France for the use of the police cudgel against the Vorwärts, but Guizot proved hard of hearing. Despite his reactionary opinions he was a man of some culture, and in addition he had no desire to play the myrmidon to Prussian despotism and thus court the scorn and contempt of the opposition at home, but he became more complaisant when the Vorwärts published “a nefarious article” on the attempt made by Mayor Tschech on the life of Frederick William IV. [3] After a discussion in the Cabinet Guizot agreed to take action against the Vorwärts on two counts: the prosecution of the responsible editor for not having deposited a sufficient bond with the authorities and his indictment on a charge of incitement to regicide.

The Berlin government agreed to the first proposal, but when it was carried into execution it proved ineffective. Bernays was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and fined zoo francs for his failure to comply with the deposit provisions, but the Vorwärts immediately announced that in the future it would appear as a monthly, and in this way it completely circumvented the deposit law. The Berlin government would not hear of the second proposal, in all probability in the well-founded fear that the jurymen of Paris would show little inclination to strain their consciences on behalf of the King of Prussia, but it continued to lodge complaints and finally it demanded the expulsion of the editors and contributors of the paper from France. After long negotiations Guizot agreed.

It was assumed at the time, and Engels repeated the charge in his speech at the grave of Frau Marx, that Guizot was won over by the inglorious mediation of Alexander von Humboldt, who was related by marriage to the Prussian Minister for Foreign Affairs. Lately attempts have been made to clear Humboldt’s memory of this charge on the ground that the Prussian archives contain no reference to any such mediation. That, however, is hardly enough because, first of all, the archives are known to be incomplete and, secondly, it is not usual for such matters to be committed to writing. All that the archives prove is that one of the decisive acts in the affair took place behind the scenes.

The Berlin government had been irritated chiefly by Heine, who had published in the Vorwärts eleven of his sharpest satires on the situation in Prussia and in particular on the King, but for Guizot, Heine represented the most ticklish point in the whole disagreeable business. He was a poet with a European reputation, and the French people regarded him almost as a national poet. Naturally, Guizot could not explain these difficulties direct to Berlin and therefore a little bird seems to have made some mention of the matter to the Prussian Ambassador in Paris, for on the 4th of October he suddenly reported to Berlin that it was very doubtful whether Heine, who had published only two of his poems in the Vorwärts, was a member of the editorial staff of the paper, and at last the authorities in Berlin understood.

Heine himself was therefore not molested, but on January 11th, 1845, a number of other German fugitives who had contributed to the Vorwärts or who were suspected of having done so, received orders of expulsion, including Marx, Ruge, Bakunin, Bornstein and Bernays. Some of them saved themselves, Bornstein by giving an undertaking to cease publishing the Vorwärts, and Ruge by running from the Saxon Ambassador to various French deputies and back again in order to assure everyone what a loyal citizen he really was. Naturally, Marx was not open for anything of that sort and he therefore prepared to move to Brussels.

His exile in Paris had lasted a little over a year, but it was perhaps the most important one in all his years of wandering and apprenticeship. It was rich in experience and stimulation, and it was made still richer by the winning of a comrade-in-arms who served him magnificently and to the very end.




1. Anarcharsis is the pseudonym of A. Cloorz, a Prussian who became a French citizen, advocated extreme revolutionary and atheist principles in Paris, and was executed in 1794. He likened himself to the Scythian philosopher Anarcharsis, reputed to have sojourned at Athens.

2. Etienne Cabet’s Utopia. – Tr.

3. Heinrich Ludwig Tschech, Mayor of Storckow in Prussia, democrat and philanthropist, made an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Frederick William IV in July 1844 and was executed the same year. – Tr.


Last updated on 27.2.2004