The Gallic Cock
MARX’S Introduction to a Critique of the Hegelian
Philosophy of Right, published in the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher” in the year 1843, closed with the prophetic words: “When all the internal conditions have been fulfilled, the day of the German uprising will be heralded by the crowing of the Gallic cock.”
Towards the end of the forties, the “internal conditions” had, in the case of France, been so far fulfilled that the Gallic cock could, by its crowing, give the signal for a revolution.
From 1845 onwards, the economic difficulties in which the French workers and petty bourgeois were involved, had been continually increasing. The potato disease and a failure of other crops had led to scarcity and to a rise in the prices of the necessaries of life, ‘and the consequent hardships seemed to be intensified by the shameless way in which the upper ten thousand were celebrating orgies of extravagance. The general unrest was increased by a great industrial and commercial crisis, beginning in England, and soon extending to the Continent. “Foreshadowed in the autumn of 1845 by the widespread failure of railway speculators, postponed during the year 1846 by a number of incidental factors (such as the imminence of the repeal of the Corn Laws), it was finally inaugurated in 1847 by the bankruptcy of a number of important mercantile houses in London, by the insolvency of the agricultural banks, and by the closing down of factories in the English industrial regions . .. . . In Paris, an additional outcome of the industrial crisis was that a number of manufacturers and wholesale traders, being unable in existing circumstances to do any more business in foreign markets, were forced back into the home market. They set up great establishments of their own, and the competition of these ruined large numbers of grocers and other shopkeepers. Hence there were many business failures among this section of the Parisian bourgeoisie, and that accounts for its revolutionary attitude in February.” (Marx.)
At this juncture, therefore, the bourgeoisie was keenly interested in effecting the overthrow of the financial aristocracy; but it dreaded the masses, whose support was needed to down the financiers. It knew how much underground work had been going on throughout the days of the bourgeois monarchy, for it had itself furthered many of these subterranean machinations. It was inclined to overestimate the strength and the political maturity of the working class, and was afraid lest, in the event of a revolutionary change of government, the reins might slip out of its hands. It therefore endeavoured, in the first instance, to bring about a change of government without calling in the aid of the masses.
It opened an electoral campaign in the hope of securing a parliamentary majority. Since July 1847, it had held all over France a number of noisy festivals of reform, public dinners where, between courses, the chances of a “dry revolution” were discussed. The proletariat had no interest in this typically bourgeois way of carrying on a political struggle. On the other hand, the government that was run by the financial aristocracy, whose aim it necessarily was to counteract the endeavours of the opposition, had a poor hand to play. Guizot and the majority in the Chambers adopted an uncompromising attitude, and bluntly refused to lower the property qualification, to increase the number of parliamentary seats, and to inaugurate other reforms that were demanded. This stubbornness fanned the flames of discontent. Louis Philippe tried to arrest the spread of the conflagration by forming a liberal ministry, but the endeavour came too late. In a trice, the fire of revolution had burst through the roof, and the Gallic cock was crowing its signal to an attentive world.
When the revolution broke out, Marx and Engels were taken by surprise. From a distance, they had been unable to recognize the speed and the intensity of recent developments, or to allow for the factors which proved decisive at the last moment. Even in Paris, where Engels had been on a visit in January 1848, the attitude of the workers in general and that of the Communist League in particular was calculated to encourage scepticism as to the possibilities of an upheaval. On January 14th, Engels wrote to Marx: “The League is in a bad way here. Never have I seen such general drowsiness, never have these fellows been so hopelessly divided by petty jealousies. Weitlingery and Proudhonistery are the final expression of these blockheads’ vital relations, and there is nothing to be made of them. Some are typical Straubinger, elderly journeymen; but others are budding petty bourgeois. A class which lives, immigrant Irish fashion, by undercutting the French in the matter of wages, is utterly hopeless. I shall make one more effort, but if that fails I shall abandon this kind of propaganda.” Among the better known leaders, only Flocon, a petty-bourgeois democrat, favoured the communist cause; but even he was afraid that the open unfurling of the communist banner would do more harm than good as far as the spread of revolutionary ideas was concerned. When Engels returned to Brussels on January 3 1st, he was greatly discouraged.
Three weeks later, the revolution began. There were street risings in Paris; the workers took the initiative, manned the barricades, held their own against a murderous fire for two days, overthrew the Guizot ministry, burned the throne in front of the July Column in the Place de la Bastille, and drove Louis Philippe and his ministers out of the country. On February 24th, a provisional government was appointed; and, under the pressure of the masses, though reluctantly, a republic was proclaimed. Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, Flocon, and Albert (a working. man), were among the members of the provisional government, which on March 1st summoned Marx to Paris in a letter signed by Flocon.
At the first news of the outbreak of the revolution, the central committee of the Communist League in London had hastened to transfer its powers to the Brussels group. But, as Engels tells us, the news of this decision only reached Brussels after a state of siege had been declared in that city, and when the soldiers were taking extreme measures to suppress meetings and check the activities of political organizations. Above all it was difficult for foreigners to assemble. Furthermore, for days Marx, Engels, and the rest of them, had been eager to set out for Paris. It was decided therefore to dissolve the central committee, and to entrust full powers to Marx, who was instructed to get a new committee together as soon as he reached Paris. Hardly had this resolution been passed, in Marx’s own dwelling, when the police made a raid, arrested him and his wife, kept them in the lock-up for the night, and deported them next day. They went at once to Paris.
In Paris, the revolution had roused to activity the whole general staff of socialist sectarians and miracle workers. Louis Blanc was endeavouring to secure the adoption of the red flag as national emblem, and the establishment of national work-shops. Proudhon, while condemning any idea of State-socialist experiments, was demanding “the organization of credit and speculation.” Bakunin was continually advocating further risings, so that Caussidière, the barricade prefect, exclaimed in despair: “What a man! The first day, he is wonderful; the second day, he ought to be shot!” Others who, though their heads were stuffed full of theories and programmes, had no schemes for practical application, clamoured for the help of the State in the realization of the revolutionary idea. Yet others (as Leroux wrote to Cabet) were inquiring how it might be possible to found a republic that would be free from socialist taint. Meanwhile, in the first delirium of success, trees of liberty were being jubilantly set up in the boulevards, while everybody was singing the Marseillaise, joining in processions, and letting off fireworks.
The foreign workers in Paris, thrown out of employment and hard put to it for a subsistence, gave ready ear to Herwegh’s foolish proposal that they should form themselves into legions to fight on behalf of liberty in their respective countries. The government adopted the scheme, even as it had accepted the plan of establishing national workshops. Just as, in the latter case, the authorities hoped that the failure of the workshops would discredit Louis Blanc with the masses; so, in the matter of the legions, they hoped that, by supplying funds to the legionaries, they would free Paris of a number of inconvenient foreigners at comparatively little cost. Herwegh’s inflammable temperament made him lay especial stress on the formation of a German legion. Once again (as after the publication of his Gedichte elnes Lebendgen) he had become the hero of the hour, old and young flocked to him, took up arms, and clamoured for marching orders. Among the youngest of his volunteers was Wilhelm Liebknecht, now twenty-two years old. A member of the German Workers’ Society of Zurich, he had hastened to Paris to take part in the fighting.
Marx reached Paris on March 4th. As luck would have it, Engels was out of funds, and could not join his friend until March 25th. On March 6th, Marx already appeared in the political arena. At a huge meeting, he fell foul of Herwegh’s opera-bouffe scheme, subjecting it to a cold and biting critical analysis. To lead a legion to Germany would mean, he said, an invitation to the Prussian reactionaries to crush the revolution. The legions would not have an earthly chance against the armed forces of Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Heroism would be of no avail. If the legions did any service, it would only be to the French bourgeoisie, which would be freed from the nightmare caused by the presence of revolutionary elements from all over the world. In fact, the idea of founding the legions was the outcome of bourgeois inspiration; and Herwegh, in this matter, was only a catspaw of the bourgeoisie. Carried away by his zeal and by the impetus of his own arguments, Marx ignored the shouts of those who taunted him with cowardice and expressed their indignation at the lapse into demagogy to which he was always inclined at such moments. Nevertheless, the meeting could not withstand his obstinate insistence, and the prompt victory of the revolution in Vienna and Berlin made any thought of a revolutionary invasion of Germany and Austria out of date. None the less, Herwegh led a troop of workers to Germany. The little force was cut to pieces in the course of the Baden rising, thus showing the accuracy of Marx’s forecast.
In fulfilment of his commission, Marx set to work without delay at the formation of a new central committee for the Communist League. It consisted of Marx, Engels, Wolff, and the members of the London central committee, who had also made their way to Paris. Thereupon, a manifesto drafted by Marx was issued, comprising the “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany,” in seventeen points: a declaration that Germany was a one and undivided republic; payment of parliamentary deputies; a general arming of the population; nationalization of the royal and seignorial estates, the railways, the canals, the steamships, the mines, etc.; the taking over of mortgages by the State; a restriction of the right of inheritance; the introduction of steeply graduated taxation of incomes and the abolition of taxes levied upon the necessaries of life; the establishment of national workshops; free education; etc. The focus of political activity was a newly founded communist club, whose chief aim it was, aided by Flocon, to send a number of German revolutionists across the frontier, that they might foster the German revolution, lead it, and gain political control of it. Wolff went to Breslau, Schapper to Nassau, and Stephan Born to Berlin.
The upshot of this manuvre was, of course, to deprive the Parisian movement of its most capable and trustworthy members. The few that were left behind could not possibly cope with the multiplicity of tasks waiting to be performed, of problems that pressed for solution. With the best will in the world, those who remained could not do more than lay down general directives and formulate outlooks. As Engels puts it, from the moment when the causes which had made a secret society necessary ceased to be operative, the secret society ceased to have any significance.
While in France evolution was pursuing its inevitable course, while the revolution was working out its essential nature as a mere restratification within the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels had their gaze directed towards Rhineland, the seat of large-scale industry and the great bourgeoisie, the place where, as indicated in the Communist Manifesto, the revolution must assume its ripest form and bear its best fruit.
In the beginning of April, the two left Paris, and hastened to Germany.
The “Neue Rheinische Zeitung”
The flames of the revolution, sweeping across South Germany and Austria, had also reached Prussia.
In Baden, Wurtemberg, and Bavaria, the revolution had singed the faces of countless bigwigs; in Vienna, the crumbling edifice of the Holy Alliance had gone up in smoke; in. Berlin, a revolutionary storm had raged in March.
To begin with, Frederick William IV had imagined that the revolution would come to a respectful halt before reaching Prussia, and he had therefore seen no need for bestirring himself in the way of granting concessions and inaugurating civil liberties. He had summoned the United Diet in order that this body might vote him the money he needed money which Rothschild refused to supply without the sanction of the estates. This, he thought, would be sufficient tribute to the spirit of the age.
The liberal and democratic bourgeois opposition had used brave words to begin with; but had beat a retreat on perceiving that in Paris, as the outcome of the February revolution, manual workers and socialists were sharing in the powers of government. Evolution, however, had continued its march, leaving the bourgeois opposition behind. Taking action in default of the bourgeoisie, workers and petty bourgeois had set free the forces of a new age.
The bourgeoisie contemplated this new development with alarm. Its gaze was anxiously fixed upon the threatening gestures with which the French proletariat, in the name of the revolution, was voicing its social demands. Especially alarming, especially damping to bourgeois revolutionary enthusiasm, was the fact that in France the very form of government which the bourgeoisie wished to set up in Germany had now been overthrown, and had been overthrown by men who appeared to be the enemies of property, order, religion, and all bourgeois political and social ideals. The bourgeoisie, terrified at the possibilities of the future, sought refuge in the arms of the nobility and the monarchy. The compromise that ensued, decided the fate of the German revolution.
It decided also the fate of the German republic. In the enthusiasm of the first successes in March, when bold illusions were rife, the radical leaders of the bourgeoisie had regarded as self-evident the establishment of a republic. This was to be the outcome of the revolution. The assertion roused an approving echo in the widest circles.
But when the fumes 0f intoxication had evaporated, when the revolutionary honeymoon was waning, there was a change of scene. The philistines demanded “the close of the revolution”; the authorities declared that tranquillity was the first of civil duties; the bourgeoisie raised a clamour against “foreigners” and “disturbers of the peace.” Revolution had become a crime; republic was tantamount to “robbery, murder, and a Russian invasion.” Jung, writing from Cologne, had already told Marx about this change of mood; and when in April Bakunin passed through Cologne, he noticed that the bourgeoisie was “despairingly rejecting the republic.” Dronke wrote from Frankfort that any one who declared himself a communist was in danger of being stoned. Marx and Engels, therefore, were under no illusions as to the nature of the political atmosphere which awaited them in Germany. Nevertheless they carried out their intention. “In the circumstances of the time,” wrote Engels later, “we could have no doubt that the decisive struggle had begun, that it must be fought to an issue during a long revolutionary period, which would be marked by ups and downs, but could end in no other way than in the ultimate victory of the proletariat.” Engels went to Barmen, Marx to Cologne. Their design was to revive the “Rheinische Zeitung,” as an organ in which to fly the banner of the revolution in the sense of the Communist Manifesto. This notion harmonized with other democratic and communist plans for the foundation of a great daily newspaper. It was far from easy to overcome the obstacles which resulted from the multiplicity of schemes. Even when these hindrances had been surmounted, a supply of funds for the enterprise was hard to obtain. Bourgeois in comfortable circumstances would not hear a word of any discussion of the revolutionary problem, and kept their pockets tightly buttoned. Engels, who still cherished vivid memories of the communist movement in the Wuppertal, and had hoped great things from these enthusiasts of a few years back, was greatly disheartened by the actualities he encountered. “The people here,” he wrote to Marx, “shun any discussion of social problems like the plague; they call it ‘agitation.’ If a single copy of our seventeen points were to be circulated here, our chances would be utterly ruined. The bourgeois mood is really contemptible . . . . I can’t get a stiver out of my governor. He actually regards the ‘Kölnische Zeitung’ as a firebrand, and he would rather shoot a thousand bullets at us than present us with a thousand thalers.”
In the end, however, it was possible to shark up the requisite number of shareholders, so that the paper was founded, although upon a very inadequate financial basis. On June I, 1848, it began publication in Cologne as the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.” The red flag of the revolution was hoisted.
In addition to Marx and Engels, the staff consisted of the brothers Wilhelm and Ferdinand Wolff, Ernst Dronke, Georg Weerth, Ferdinand Freiligrath, and Heinrich Burgers. Marx’s special topic was to be German politics, but he also functioned as editor-in-chief, wielding his powers with the sovereign con-fidence and clear-headedness of a highly gifted dictator. In actual fact, he had no journalistic talent, wrote laboriously, and took a long time over the composition of his articles, touching them up again and again. The ease and fluency with which Engels could at any time commit his thoughts to paper in a form ready for the press, always aroused Marx’s envy and ad-miration. As a compensation, however, he had a sure insight, which could not be troubled or diverted by any stress of feeling; an imperturbable judgment, whatever the confusions and vicissitudes of the hour; and an inviolable mastery of the situation. Engels, of more accommodating temperament, one whose comprehensive understanding and imaginative sympathies made him a born journalist, being in addition a good linguist, kept the foreign press under observation, and was especially interested in French and British affairs. Freiligrath contributed impassioned lays of revolution and freedom, whose tones resounded throughout Germany. The other members of the staff fitted so harmoniously into the team that the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” from the first number to the last, gave an impression of perfect unity. Thus in all respects it was a model revolution-ary newspaper.
But in June 1848, when the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” be-gan publication, the revolution was wholly lost as regards the proletariat, and already half lost as regards the bourgeoisie. Those who had lacked courage for the fight which might have saved the revolution, had now anchored their hopes upon the right to talk, the right to turn phrases-upon parliament. They were firmly convinced that German unity and German liberties were to be established in a legal, orderly, and moderate fashion, at Frankfort, in St. Paul’s Church. Any doubts on this head were unpatriotic; any further talk of revolution and barricades was criminal.
It may well be supposed that the burghers of the good city of Cologne were aghast when they read the opening number of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.” Their lamblike piety was subjected to pitiless mockery; their prudence was stigmatized as selfish cowardice; their political hope, the National Assembly, was ridiculed as a “talking shop,” and as a “council of old women.” Half the shareholders hastened to withdraw their support; and there were fierce disputes in the democratic party, whose organ the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” was supposed to be.
But the editors were not to be intimidated, and could not be induced to modify their tone. In issue after issue, they continued their unmerciful onslaughts on the government, the National Assembly, the reaction, and the policy of compromise. Then came the June days in Paris. Whereas the French work-ers failed to grasp the significance of this blood bath, and whereas the German workers took practically no notice of it, Marx made it the occasion for a biting and incisive analysis of the civil war, which drew nearer and ever nearer in Germany likewise. Unreservedly espousing the cause of the June fighters, he wrote:
“The Executive Committee, the last official vestige of the February revolution, has vanished like a mist-wraith. Lamar-tine’s fireballs have transformed themselves into Cavaignac’s war-rockets.
“That fraternity of the two opposing classes (one of which exploits the other), this fraternity which in February was in-scribed in huge letters upon all the façades of Paris, upon all the prisons and all the barracks-its true and unsophisticated and prosaic expression is civil war, civil war in its most terrible form, the war between capital and labour. On the evening of June 25th, this fraternity was flaming from all the windows of Paris when the Paris of the bourgeoisie was illuminated while the Paris of the proletariat was burning and bleeding and lamenting.
“Fraternity lasted just so long as the interests of the bourgeoisie could fraternize with the interests of the proletariat.” “The February revolution was a decorous revolution, a revo-lution made by general acclaim, because the oppositions which in it exploded against the monarchy were undeveloped, and slumbered harmoniously side by side; because the social struggle which formed its real background had as yet won only an airy existence, the existence of a phrase or a word. The June revolution is an indecorous, a detestable revolution, because in it substance has taken the place of phrase, because the establish-ment of the republic disclosed the head of the monster when it removed the sparkling guise of the crown.
“ ‘Order’ was Guizot’s watchword. ‘Order reigns in Warsaw,’ said Sebastiani, the Guizotin, when the Poles were crushed by the Russians. ‘Order!’ shouts Cavaignac, the brutal echo of the French National Assembly and the republican bourgeoisie. ‘Order!’ rattles his grape-shot, as it mows down the proletariat.
“Not one of the countless revolutions made by the French bourgeoisie since 1789 was an attack upon order, for they left untouched the dominion of class, the slavery of the workers, bourgeois order—while changing again and again the political form of this dominion and this slavery. But June laid hands upon bourgeois order. Woe, therefore, to June!”
This article, appearing on June 29th, aroused intense indignation among the members of the democratic party. Wrath flamed up against the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” and especially against Marx. The “Kreuzzeitung” demanded that the authorities should take action against this “Chimborazo impudence,” and the Ministry for Justice instructed the public prosecutor to intervene.
Unaifrighted, the journal continued its campaign. Now the second half of the shareholders cut off supplies, but the members of the editorial staff renounced their salaries, that the paper might be able to carry on. They drew their belts tighter. Marx sacrificed the remainder of his little property. “Stick to the guns!” was the defiant watchword. The task of the democratic press, said these stalwarts, was to continue fighting for the revolution side by side with the proletariat until victory over the reaction had been achieved.
In The Democratic Party
While the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” under the gis of the democratic party, was forging the steel of the revolution, those members of the Communist League who had found their way to Cologne were busily at work. They felt that their revolutionary past made it necessary for them to serve the revolutionary present, and to do so in the front rank. Their activities were mainly devoted to organization and to oral propaganda.
The Communist League was in poor case at the time when the revolution broke out in Germany. Passing through Cologne on his way from Paris to Breslau, Wilhelm Wolff reported that in Cologne the league was “vegetating.” From Berlin came tidings that the league was in a bad way, that the group there had “about twenty members, who hold together, but without any sort of form.” In Breslau there was “no organization.” No less unsatisfactory were the reports from other towns and provinces. Dronke was delighted when, on May 5th, he was able to say that he had founded a commune in Coblenz, enrolling four members; that in Frankfort he had won over “two very efficient persons, with hopes of others”; but he added that there was no prospect of setting the league afoot in Hanau and Kas-Sel; and that in Mainz, the condition of the league was “completely anarchical.”
Thus the organization was like a ship which has sprung a leak, and in which all hands must man the pumps. Schapper and Mall had joined Marx in Cologne, and, with this city as headquarters, had begun to found workers’ societies throughout Rhineland and Westphalia, hoping to organize these important provinces successfully. They had a twofold aim: to establish platforms for revolutionary activity; and to win readers for the “Rheinische.” In the Wuppertal, too, Engels was busied upon similar work.
These doings could not fail to attract the attention of the authorities. Although there were eight thousand men stationed in Cologne, the government did not think the garrison large enough to maintain order. Trusty reinforcements were drafted into Rhineland from the eastern provinces. In view of the general lethargy, however, and of the widespread reluctance to take up arms, there could be no question of a local uprising on the Rhine. Marx and Engels were strongly opposed to hotheaded insurrectionism, which could only play into the enemy’s hands. None the less, since there was likelihood of a coup d’etat, they did not hide their views as to what the people ought to do in that case.
The practical counterpart to these theoretical disquisitions was that a great open-air meeting was held in Cologne, and that at this meeting Heinrich BUrgers voiced the policy of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.” A resolution proposed by Engels and sent to the National Assembly in Berlin demanded that that body, in the event of an attempt to dissolve or suppress it, should do its duty by open resistance, even if the authorities should attempt to stop its sittings by armed force.
A second public meeting, even more largely attended, held in a field near Wörringen-on-the-Rhine, gave expression to like sentiments. It was a noteworthy demonstration in another respect, for it was attended by Ferdinand Lassalle, a young man of twenty-three, as leader of a delegation from Düsseldorf. In that town, Lassalle was an active member of the democratic party. He had sent news items and articles to the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” and had in this way kept in close touch with its editorial board. Now he saw Engels in the flesh for the first time. Marx, who had forfeited his civil standing as a Prussian subject and was in danger of deportation, was not present, although he had been the moving spirit. He did not wish to give the authorities a pretext.
Soon, however, there were disturbances, which gave occasion for the military to intervene. Schapper, Moll, and Hermann Becker (a young barrister, and in later days mayor of Cologne), were arrested. A state of siege was declared, and the publication of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” was prohibited. Engels, Wilhelm Wolff, and Dronke, who had been especially active in the movement, knew that if arrested they would have to serve long terms of imprisonment, and they therefore kept out of the way. Wolff went to the Palatinate. Engels hurried to Barmen to destroy his correspondence there, and then, after a violent scene with his father, fled with Dronke to Brussels. Here both men were arrested, and were escorted over the French frontier. After a brief stay in Paris, Engels went on to Switzerland.
Marx stayed in Cologne, and continued to publish the “Neue Rheinische” in defiance of the order of suppression, collaborating with Lassalle, who had taken part in the Cologne congress of the democratic party at which Marx was likewise one of the delegates. Their aim was to induce the congress to adopt the revolutionary line advocated by Marx. The latter’s aspect and demeanour on this occasion have been described by Carl Schurz, then nineteen years of age, present at the congress in the company of Gottfried Kinkel. “Marx was then a man of thirty, and was already the recognized chief of a socialist school. He was sturdily built, with a broad forehead, raven-black hair, a huge beard, and dark, sparkling eyes, so that he attracted general attention. I had been told that he was a man of great erudition, and since I knew very little of his social and economic discoveries and theories, I was eager to hear the words of wisdom that would, I supposed, fall from the lips of so celebrated a man. I was greatly disappointed. What Marx said was (unquestion-ably) weighty, logical, and clear. But never have I seen any one whose manner was more insufferably arrogant. He would not give a moment’s consideration to any opinion that differed from his own. He treated with open contempt every one who contradicted him. Arguments that were not to his taste were answered, either by mordant sarcasms upon the speaker’s lamentable ignorance, or else by casting suspicion upon the motives of his adversary. I shall never forget the scornful tone in which he uttered the word ‘bourgeois,’ as if he were spewing it out of his mouth; and he stigmatized as ‘bourgeois,’ by which he meant to imply the embodiment of profound moral degradation, every one who ventured to contradict him. It is not sur-prising that Marx’s proposals were rejected; that those whose feelings he had wounded by his offensive manner were inclined to vote in favour of everything which ran counter to his wishes; and that, far from winning new adherents, he repelled many who might have been inclined to support him.”
The portrait is unflattering, but may well have been fairly accurate, for it harmonizes with other personal descriptions of Marx. Two years later, Lieutenant Techow portrayed him in almost identical words.
There is no use blaming a man for his character. All we are entitled to infer from these descriptions is that Marx, despite his thirty years, his extensive achievements, and his reputation as a man of learning and a politician, was still what he had been in youth, one fighting to secure recognition, one doubtful as to his prestige. His arrogance, his self-conceit, his dogmatism and disputatiousness and irritability, must reveal themselves to every one who understands human nature as masks for a lack of self-confidence, under stress of which he was perpetually trying to avert the danger of exposure. He could not listen quietly to an opponent, because he was afraid that his opponent might get the better of him if allowed to continue. He had to shout down every hostile opinion because he was haunted by spectral doubts lest this opinion should gain adherents and leave him unsupported. He tried to discredit his adversaries because he hoped that personal onslaughts would shake the validity of opposing arguments. He could not tolerate rivals because he was perpetually tortured with the dread lest it should become apparent in one way or another that not he, but his rival, was the ablest of the able, the most efficient of the ef-ficient, the most revolutionary of the revolutionists.
This domineering behaviour was animated by the unconscious conviction that he would be able to overawe the timid among his opponents. When he made fun of the opinions of others, he was trying to fortify the sense of his own superiority. When he crowned himself with anticipatory laurels, he did so in the belief that this would ensure his triumph, and entitle him to wear the laurel crown.
Only one person would Marx allow to express opinions-Engels. The sole reason for his tolerance in this quarter was that he could rely on being able to use Engels’ remarkable talents for his own purposes as a dictator, without Engels ex-pecting any return, or thanks, or grant of equality. As long as a collaborator was a willing servant, he could work on the best of terms with Marx. But when this collaborator expressed an opinion of his own, or claimed the right to assert his own will against that of Marx, the fat was in the fire. Marx was a typical authoritarian.
These dictatorial ways of his were a perennial distress to every one who came within the spell of his fascinating person-ality. No one suffered more than Marx himself. He could not breathe freely except in situations where the load of ambition transformed into anxiety had been lifted, and where the sense of inferiority masquerading as superiority was in abeyance. When this happened, he was transformed. He became unpretentious, gentle, tender, cordial, self-sacrificing, and kind.
Such amiability, of course, could not suffice him for the performance of the colossal tasks to which his life had been devoted. One who was to work for the whole of mankind, to look forward through the centuries, and to win a world, must be a man whose flanks were incessantly bloodied by the spurs of a superhuman stimulus.
Collapse Of The Revolution
Step by step, the counter-revolution had gained ground, and had gathered its forces. But the reactionaries still hesitated to strike the decisive blow. At length the happenings in Vienna showed them that they were strong enough to crush the revolution.
In the end of August, Marx had visited Vienna, to counsel the revolutionary members of the bourgeoisie, and to recruit the workers on behalf of a united front against the reaction. His attempts were unsuccessful, and the second congress of the democrats, held in Berlin, was of no avail. Vienna was left to its fate. In the October days, the soldiers got possession of the town, despite a vigorous defence. On November 9th, Robert Blum had to face a firing squad.
On the evening of this memorable day, the democrats of Cologne held a great public meeting. While it was in progress, Marx entered the hall, and read a telegram to those present: “In accordance with the March law, Robert Blum has been shot in Vienna.” A yell of wrath from the assembly was the answer, a cry which echoed throughout Germany.
But the authorities in Berlin knew that bayonets are stronger than cries and tears. Leaving sentiment to the petty bourgeois and the workers, they relied on force. The dress rehearsal in Vienna was followed by the public performance, the coup d’etat. The newly appointed Brandenburg ministry, which replaced the hesitant Pfuel ministry, suspended the constitution, dispersed the National Assembly, disarmed the militia, and declared a state of siege. No one moved a finger to resist. Never had a revolution a more pitiful end.
At the last moment, indeed, the National Assembly, just before dispersing under the pressure of Wrangel’s grenadier guards, had-as a protest against expulsion, and in lieu of genuine heroismdecided on a general refusal to pay taxes.
This was a thrust in the air, but the “Neue Rheinische Zeit-ung” tried to turn it to account. It issued an appeal to all citizens, urging them to organize against the authorities. Upon this instigation, the democratic circle committee issued a proclamation drafted by Marx, Schapper, and Schneider, advocating the preparation of armed resistance. Any attempt to levy taxes was “to be countered by every kind of resistance”; further, the Landsturm must be organized everywhere to repel the foe; impecunious persons were to be “supplied with arms and voluntary -ammunition at the cost of the community, or by contributions”; if the authorities should refuse to carry out the decision of the National Assembly, committees of public safety were to be nominated. Of course this proclamation was not worth the paper on which it was printed. The cowardice of the members of the National Assembly, their discouraging example, and their innumerable exhortations on behalf of law and order, had had the due effect. The masses remained incorri-gibly obedient and respectful at a time when disobedience and disrespect were their only hope. The upshot was that the counter-revolution was successful all along the line.
The only concrete result of the activities of the Rhenish revolutionists was that Lassalle was arrested in Düsseldorf; and that Marx, as editor-in-chief of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” Engels as his associate, and Korif as publisher of the paper, were prosecuted for advocating armed resistance to the military and civil authorities. On February 8, 1849, the case was heard before a Cologne jury. Marx made a brilliant speech in defence. His first point was a protest against the attempt to punish him under laws which the government had long since torn up by its coup d’etat. He went on to show how the belief that society rests upon law, itself rests upon a legal fiction. In reality, law rests on society, and the Code Napoleon becomes a scrap of paper as soon as it ceases to correspond to social relations. To conclude, he passionately advocated the right of the people to revolt when its elected representatives have failed to carry out their mandates. “If the National Assembly does not fulfil its mandate, it has ceased to exist. Then the people enters on the stage in its own person, and sets to work with its own plenipotentiary powers. If the throne makes a counter-revolution, the people has the right to answer with a revolution.” This speech, which ranks in revolutionary literature as a classical example of a speech for the defence, had a powerful effect. The court, which two days earlier had acquitted Marx of a charge of libel, acquitted him on the present count likewise.
The foreman of the jury, in the name of his colleagues, thanked the accused for his interesting and instructive speech.
Three months later, Lassalle’s case came up for trial in Düsseldorf. Here, too, the accused was acquitted. Lassalle had prepared a speech for the defence, a speech which has also become famous. It had been printed in advance, and the judicial authorities, having got wind of the matter, decided to sit in camera. Consequently, Lassalle refrained from delivering the oration.
Invigorated by his trial, Marx continued his campaign in the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.” During the six months of its existence, this journal had done an immense amount of work, contributing in unexampled fashion to the arousing and clarifying of people’s minds. Not content to denounce the futility of the parliamentary proceedings in Berlin and Frankfort, to criticize the Camphausen-Hansemann ministry unsparingly, to make mock of the backwardness and cowardice of the petty bourgeoisie in political matters, and to expose the reactionaries pitilessly as the advocates of a “policy of conciliation”—the “Rheinische” had advocated a revolutionary war against Russia, had ardently espoused the cause of Poland, had supported the war to annex Schleswig-Holstein as a national one, had protested against the truce of Malmö, had discussed the Vienna affair, and had voiced its heartfelt sympathy with the Hungarian revolution. Subsequently it had criticized Bakunin’s democratic panslavism, had published Wilhelm Wolff’s articles on the Silesian milliards, and had begun the publication
of Marx’s Brussels lectures on Wage Labour and Capital, in order to demonstrate the economic conditions “which form the material foundation of contemporary class struggles and national wars.”
There was one weak spot in the multifarious and extensive programme of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.” The paper gave very inadequate information regarding the labour movement during the revolution. Not to say that there was practically no revolutionary activity in the labour movement at that time. No doubt, even in the large towns, the workers were still undeveloped politically. They followed in the wake of the liberal and democratic chatterers of the petty bourgeoisie, or were hangers-on behind the crowd of half-hearted revolutionary spouters, speculators, and confusionists—the scum which had risen to the top in these troublous times. Still, there were plenty of workers prepared to support the revolution. Writing to Marx from Berlin, Stephan Born said: “The proletariat is revolutionary through and through. Everywhere I am organizing its dispersed forces into a concentrated strength. Here I am, so to say, at the head of the labour movement.
In June will appear, under my editorship, the first number of a labour journal, ‘Das Volk.’ I know plenty of people, and have good hopes of success.” Born did actually succeed in establishing a “Workers’ Brotherhood” of considerable size. This body inaugurated strikes, founded trade unions and productive cooperatives, and made a fair amount of noise in the world, so that its influence extended far beyond Berlin, to Leipzig, to Dresden, and eastward of the Elbe.
The “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” had restricted its campaign of agitation to the left-wing bourgeois democracy, in the belief that room for the development of a purely proletarian revolutionary programme could only be secured by preliminary political struggles on the part of bourgeois elements. It was thought that the strength of the workers was not yet great enough to affect the issue. But the more the hopes based upon these tactics were frustrated by the cowardice and treachery of the bourgeoisie, the more was the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” forced into the working-class camp. A movement in this latter direction became absolutely essential after the decay of the democratic organization in Rhineland, and after the complete failure of the democrats to cope with the revolutionary situation.
On April 15, 1849, Marx, Wilhelm Wolff, Schapper, and Hermann Becker announced their resignation from the democratic circle committee: “We consider that the extant organization of the democratic societies includes so many heterogeneous elements that the adoption of appropriate tactics is impossible. Our opinion is that there ought to be a closer union with working-class societies, since these are comprised of homogeneous elements.”
Simultaneously the Cologne Workers’ Society seceded from the Union of Rhenish Democratic Societies. The seceders’ plan was to summon all the workers’ societies of the Rhine province to a congress, called for May 6th, and to enter into communication with the “Workers’ Brotherhood,” which had summoned a congress of all the German workers’ societies in Leipzig.
To provide an economic basis for this tactical move, in the middle of April Marx set out on a tour in the hope of securing funds. The “Rheinische’s” finances were exhausted, Marx’s own property had been all used up, and the shareholders had withdrawn their money. Thus the position of the newspaper was desperate. Before Marx got back, a mortal blow had been struck from another quarter, a blow directed against both the journal and its editor-in-chief.
On May 18 th, the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” published the following announcement: “A little while ago, the local authorities received instructions from Berlin to declare a state of siege once more in Cologne. The intention was to use the powers of martial law for the suppression of the ‘Neue Rheinische Zeitung,’ but unexpected difficulties were encountered. Thereupon His Majesty’s government applied to the local magistrates, in order to achieve the same end by means of arbitrary arrests. Here there was a check owing to the legal scruples of the magistrates, just as there had twice been a check before owing to the good sense of the Rhenish juries. The authorities, therefore, had, as a last resource, to avail themselves of their police powers. On May 16th, the following order was served upon our editor-in-chief, Karl Marx: ‘In its recent issues, the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” has published more and more definite incitations to contempt of the existing government, to the forcible overthrow of that government, and to the establishment of a socialist republic. Consequently, the hospitality 1!] which he has so scandalously abused is withdrawn from the editor-in-chief, Dr. Karl Marx; and in as much as he has not secured permission for further residence in these States, he is instructed to quit them within twenty four hours. Should he fail to comply with this demand voluntarily, he is to be forcibly deported.’
Thus it was that the last number of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” was published on May 19, 1849It was printed in red ink, and was headed by Freiligrath’s famous poem “Not an Open Thrust in Open Fight.” A sum of fifteen hundred thalers borrowed from a certain Herr Henze, together with the money received from subscriptions, from the sale of the presses, and so on, was devoted to the payment of the newspaper’s liabilities to compositors, machinists, paper merchant, bookkeepers, correspondents, and other members of the staff. Frau Marx sold what remained of their possessions, including some old family plate, and with their three little children she and her husband went abroad to face a life of poverty.
All was lost!
Flight Into Poverty
For Marx, Cologne had been the first stage in his revolutionary career.
The period of preparation and clarification which introduced him to political life, had been followed by a period of trial. His theoretical acquirements, his practical efficiency, his personal courageall had been put to the test. The test had been successfully withstood.
He had followed the line of the revolutionary class struggle with pitiless clarity and unambiguity. He had faced and surmounted obstacles with skill, energy, and endurance. Undismayed, and at great personal cost, he had defied all dangers and inconveniences.
He had preferred an honourable defeat to laodicean compromise.
It was part of the man’s spiritual makeup that (willy-nilly, and unconsciously for the most part) his behaviour should have increased every difficulty, complicated every conflict, annihilated every possibility of peaceful understanding.
That was why he was now compelled to strain his forces to the uttermost, to make illimitable sacrifices for the cause, to attempt the incredible.
Only thus could he acquire the titanic intellectual stature and develop the unprecedented qualities needed for the work which he perceived to be his historic mission.
Beyond question, as a man and a champion, he had made good in Cologne.
Whether and to what extent the ideas embodied in the Communist Manifesto would prove practical politics, would be made manifest to inquirers of a later day. The settlement of this account, the drafting of this political inventory, was not a matter of immediate concern. What was of immediate concern was direct revolutionary action.
But when, immediately after his expulsion from Rhineland, Marx went with Engels to Frankfort, it became obvious that the National Assembly in Frankfort was not the place for such action. In this council of German pusillanimity he found overwhelming confirmation of what he had once written in the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung”: “There is no lack of good will, certainly; what is lacking is courage!”
There was still a faint hope that in South Germany, where the struggle for a constitution had developed into a general insurrection, the cause of the revolution might still be saved. Marx and Engels hastened thither; but when they came to Mannheim and Karlsruhe, they found that the revolution there had got into the hands of a few philistines run mad, had taken the form of lynch law, and had already come to naught. In Karisruhe, the petty bourgeois had chased the grand duke away and had seized power. Then, terrified at their own courage, they perpetrated one imbecility after another, and were only too pleased in the end when Lorenz Brentano, the pinch-beck dictator, reestablished law and order, and inculcated a renewed respect for authority. In the Palatinate there had been a mellower kind of revolution. There, wine had played a more important part than gunpowder, and the intoxication of liberty had found expression in bibulous exploits which were excused as manifestations of enthusiasm for the revolution.
Marx saw that there was nothing to be done here. His next thought was, Paris. In Kaiserslautern, he happened upon the deputy d’Ester of Cologne, a prominent member of the democratic central committee. D’Ester supplied him with a mandate to represent the democratic party in conversations with the social democratic Left of the French National Assembly in Paris. On his way thither, through Frankfort, he fell into the hands of the Hessian soldiery, who regarded him as one of the local insurrectionists. After two days’ arrest, however, he was set at liberty, and went hotfoot to Paris.
Engels had returned to Kaiserslautern, where he watched the vinous revolution for a while. When the Prussian forces arrived, he became adjutant to Lieutenant Willich, who was leading a troop of Palatine volunteers. But in the Palatinate the insurrection was speedily suppressed, just as it had been in Baden. Some of the rebels found their way into the casemates of the fortress of Rastatt, while others were lucky enough to escape across the Swiss frontier. Engels was one of those who reached neutral territory. In Berne, he met Stephan Born; and in Geneva he had his first encounter with Wilhelm Liebknecht. From Vevey he wrote to Marx. The latter had reached Paris safely. When he arrived there, with his family, he was penniless, and he found to his dismay that the French capital was in the full swing of reaction. The Legislative Assembly, which had met on May 28, 1849, was under the control of a monarchical majority. The bourgeois republicans had lost heavily at the polls, retaining no more than 50 seats out of 750. The left opposition, the social democrats, and the radical petty bourgeois, had oo seats. They were known as the Mountain, and were regarded as the inheritors of the revolutionary tradition. It was with them that Marx was to get into touch.
Ledru-Rollin was the parliamentary leader of this fraction. His followers comprised the stratum of shopkeepers, petty traders, victuallers, and small masters, who had collapsed so ignominiously after the February revolution. The large capitalists had speedily mopped up their scanty possessions, their poor savings, and large numbers of them had gone bankrupt. This had opened their eyes to the significance of the June days, and they had gone over to the opposition. Wishing to regain popularity, they had, under Ledru-Rollin’s leadership, made overtures to the workers, joined in banquets of reconciliation, drafted a united programme, set up electoral committees and appointed candidates—in a word, they had entered into a formal alliance. As Marx put the matter, “the revolutionary point of the socialist demands of the proletariat was blunted, and these demands were given a democratic gloss. Conversely, in the case of the democratic demands of the petty bourgeoisie, the purely political form was effaced, and they were made to seem as socialistic as possible.” The political amalgam thus constituted was given the name of “social democracy”; and its peculiar characteristics were manifested in parliament, inas-much as these social democrats demanded democratic and republican institutions, not in order to abolish the two extremes of capital and wage. labour, but in order to combine them into a harmony. Their aim was to remodel society democratically, to effect a social reform within the confines of the petty-bourgeois system. An attack made by Ledru-Rollin on Louis Bonaparte because the latter had infringed the liberties of an other nation by his military invasion of Italy, gave occasion for widespread demonstrations, which were suppressed by the army.
A fierce persecution of all liberal elements followed. Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, and others, fled to London. Nor was Marx allowed to stay in Paris; and, being absolutely without funds, he had to leave his family behind. In his wife’s diary, occurs the entry: “We spent a month in Paris, and then our visit was cut short. One morning a police sergeant whose acquaintance we had already made came to inform us that Karl ‘et sa dame’ must quit Paris within twenty-four hours. The authorities were kind enough to say that we might, if we pleased, take up our residence at Vannes in Morbihan. Of course we had no taste for exile in such a place, and I got together my few poor possessions in order to seek a safer port in London. Karl had hastened thither before us.” There was need for haste in the matter of finding a new home, seeing that the writer was expecting the birth of her fourth child within a few weeks.
The “Neue Rheinische Revue”
At that time, England was the chief haven of refuge for political exiles. Its hospitality was extended to revolutionists from all lands—from France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Russia. Here refugees could find safe harbourage. Thus England earned the honourable title of “Mother of the Exiles,” at this period when the forces of reaction were triumphant throughout the continent of Europe.
The Marx family was poverty-stricken on arrival in London, where they settled in a furnished room in Camberwell. Marx still had a small fragment of landed property in Treves, and the sale of this supplied a pittance on which they were able to live for the first few months. But it was essential to find some permanent means of livelihood.
It seemed to Marx self-evident that his future occupation would be, pen in hand, to serve the cause of the revolution. His first thought, therefore, was to found a periodical which should aim at concentrating all the forces of the revolution, should undertake a critical study of the mistakes made during the recent revolutionary period, and should help to excogitate a more successful plan of campaign for the future. He regarded it as absolutely certain that within a few months the social revolution would resume its course. As of old, the spark would come from France, and would set the world aflame.
In a letter to Engels, Marx sketched his plan. He proposed to edit from London a politicoeconomic monthly, the “Neue Rheinische Revue,” each number of which was to contain about eighty pages. Funds for this undertaking were to be obtained by founding a joint-stock company. The “Revue” would be printed in Hamburg, and from that city its distribution was to take place. The purpose being “to exert a continuous and permanent influence on public opinion,” the periodical was to be issued more frequently as time went on. Indeed, “as soon as circumstances make it possible for me to return to Germany,” the monthly “Revue” was to become a daily newspaper.
Engels, who was eager to revive the fires of the revolution, made no objection. He was still in Switzerland, but determined to rejoin Marx in London. To avoid the catchpolls in France and Belgium, he went by sailing ship from Genoa to London, where he arrived in August.
The “Neue Rheinische Revue,” however, was ill-starred, just as the “Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher,” Marx’s first venture of the kind, had been. There was a serious lack both of funds and of copy. it is doubtful whether many shares were subscribed, and certainly Marx and Engels had to supply almost the whole of the literary materials. The first issue had been planned for January 1, 1850, but the manuscripts for this number did not reach Hamburg until February.
Marx had penned a dear sighted and exhaustive study of the French February revolution, and this was published in three issues of the “Revue,” under the title Klassenkãmpfe n Fremkreich [Class Struggles in France]. Engels wrote a long account of the constitutional campaign in Germany and the risings in Baden and the Palatinate. This also ran for three numbers. In addition, Engels contributed an extensive essay on the Peasant War in Germany, which occupied almost the whole of a double number. From him, too, came a short essay on the Ten Hours Bill in England.
In all, there were four single numbers of the “Revue,” and finally a double number in November. During a period which had ceased to be revolutionary, there was no scope for a revolutionary periodical, and no chance of a long life. People did not wish to listen to the voice of a critic or a counsellor. They had had enough of revolution, had gone back to work, were on the look out for chances of making money, desired order and tranquillity. The bourgeois, ashamed of their passing revolutionary enthusiasm, were busied in their counting—houses, banks, and factories, devoting themselves to the lucrative occupation of upbuilding capitalism. The petty bourgeois thanked God that they had escaped with nothing worse than a drubbing. The workers, grumbling, exhausted, but resigned on the whole, put their necks back under the yoke of victorious capital. Thus it was that the articles in the “Revue,” admirable though they were as literary exercises, aroused no echoes. They were theories with no possibility of practical application; revolutionary thought in a world devoid of revolutionary reality.
Marx had come to the conclusion “that the commercial crisis of 1847 had been the real mother of the February and March revolution.” It was inevitable, therefore, that, when the crisis came to an end in the middle of 1848, the forces of the revolution should decline. But Marx was too near to the events to see this clearly, and in the beginning of i85o he was still counting upon the likelihood of a speedy revival of the revolution. As late as April 1851, even the Prussian government opined that “during the next four weeks a red revolution will break out in France, and will spread to Germany.” But Marx was taken aback when the news of great discoveries of gold in California reached Europe. In the second issue of the “Revue” he alluded to the enormous importance of this discovery, and to the beginning of a period of flourishing trade. By the summer of 1850, had come the crushing conviction that the prospect of a revolution in Europe had been indefinitely postponed. In the closing number of the “Revue” he wrote: “There can be no talk of a real revolution in such a time as this, when general prosperity prevails, when the productive forces of bourgeois society are flourishing as luxuriantly as is possible within the framework of bourgeois conditions. Such a revolution can only take place in periods when these two factors, the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production, are in antagonism each to the other.”
Californian gold had saved European capital. This was a fact which made all manifestos inoperative, all proclamations vain, all revolutionary hopes futile.
It was a rock, moreover, upon which the ship of the “Neue Rheinische Revue” was wrecked. There was nothing left but to wind up the affair.
Split In The Communist League
Not all revolutionists, however, shared the conviction that the revolution had been indefinitely postponed. At any rate, many revolutionists failed to recognize this at the date when Marx had begun to advocate the liquidation of the revolution. Those who were still hopeful, could not understand Marx; they became suspicious of him; they regarded him as a renegade, and openly opposed him.
It was certainly difficult for persons who lacked Marx’s and Engels’ theoretical insight to understand so sudden a change in outlooks and tactics. For, until very recently, Marx had made no secret of his opinion that the revolution was dose at hand.
In the end of 1849 and the beginning of 1850, the Communist League had been reconstructed, with London as centre. One of the original members of the central committee, Moll, had fallen in the skirmish on the Murg; but Schapper and Bauer were still in the land of the living. Willich, who had led the Badenese volunteers with Engels as his adjutant, was a new member of the central committee. In March 1850, this committee issued to the League an address penned by Marx, describing the political situation, and specifying what ought to be the behaviour of the working class in the expected revolution.
“The revolution is imminent. It may be brought about by an independent rising of the French proletariat, or by an attack on the part of the Holy Alliance directed against the revolutionary Babel.”
“The relationship of the revolutionary labour party to the petty-bourgeois democracy is as follows: it joins forces with the petty-bourgeois democracy against the fraction whose over-throw it aims at effecting; but it opposes both the one and the other in matters it wishes to establish on its own account.”
“Whereas the democratic petty bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to an end as speedily as possible while satisfying their own claims, it is our interest and our aim to make the revolution permanent, until all the more or less possessing classes have been deprived of power, until the proletariat has achieved the conquest of the powers of State, and until the association of the proletarians, not in one country alone, but in all the leading countries of the world, has advanced so far that competition between the proletarians of these various countries has ceased to exist, and until at least the most important productive forces have been concentrated in the hands of proletarians. It cannot be our concern to palliate class oppositions, for we wish to abolish classes; it cannot be our concern to improve extant society, for we wish to found a new one.”
“From the first moment of victory, those whom we shall have to regard with suspicion will not be the members of the conquered reactionary party, but those who belong to the party with which we have been allied, those who will try to exploit our joint victory on their own account alone.”
With this address, based on the belief that a revolution was imminent, Bauer was sent to Cologne, and secured there an abundance of adherents. Out of former members of the League and former members of the Workers’ Brotherhood founded by Stephan Born, there was constituted a new organization which began “to play a leading part” in the workers’ societies, peasants’ societies, and gymnastic societies. When emissaries from Switzerland (dispatched at this time by a “central bureau of the German emigrants” organized by Struve, Sigel, Schurz, and others) attempted to recruit German workers, they found it necessary to report that “all the utilizable forces are already in the hands of the League.”
But the summer of 1850 came and went, and there had been no revolution. The economic conditions of the day had favoured a luxuriant development of the German bourgeoisie, which had been able to take advantage of the financial difficulties of the government in order to secure political advancement. The petty bourgeoisie had retired from the political stage. The stormy waves of the revolution had by now become mere ripples, plashing gently on the sands of Prussia.
That was why, in the course of the summer of 1850, Marx abandoned his hopes of a second revolution. But he could find few to follow him in this change of mood. The international refugees in London, the main supporters of the Communist League, were impatiently expecting the revival of the revolution. They were impoverished, they were homesick, they were tired of passivity, they longed for battle and vengeance. Since nothing but a revolution could help them, they believed in a revolution. Their wishes and hopes coloured their picture of the political situation; their affects falsified the logic of history. Thus their revolutionary appetites were whetted, and, sharpset, they were ready to sit down at the revolutionary board long after everything had been eaten. “The forcible defeat of a revolution,” wrote Marx subsequently, with reference to this period, “leaves in the minds of those who have been participators, and especially of those who have been uprooted from home and cast into exile, a condition of shock thanks to which even efficient personalities become, so to say, mentally incapable for a shorter or longer time. They cannot adapt themselves to the course of history; they are unwilling to see that the form of the movement has changed. That is why they wish to engage in conspiratorial activities, to play at revolution-mongering, in a way which is compromising both to themselves and to the cause they have espoused.”
We can readily understand that such men as Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, Mazzini, Kossuth, Ruge, Willich, etc.—whose whole revolutionary past had been devoted to inaugurating revolutionary outbreaks and conspiracies, or who, being communists on emotional rather than rational grounds, were inaccessible to argument were prone to regard Marx’s change of front as the expression of heresy, poltroonery, or treason. This mingling of romanticism and morality, of sentimentalism and blindness towards historical reality, poisoned the discussions in the Communist League, with the result that argument degenerated into personal abuse, and Willich actually challenged Marx to a duel. The unhappy outcome of all this was that on September i, 1850, the Communist League split up. On Marx’s side were Engels, Bauer, Eccarius, Pfinder, and Conrad Schramm. In the opposing party were Willich, Schapper (Marx’s old companion-in-arms), Lehmann, and FrLnkel. The proposal for separation came from Marx, and was supported by him in the following terms: “The minority has a dogmatic outlook instead of a critical one, an idealist outlook instead of a materialist one. It makes mere will the motive force of the revolution, instead of actual relations. Whereas we say to the workers: ‘You will have to go through fifteen or twenty or fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change extant conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and to render yourselves fit for political dominion’; you, on the other hand, say to the workers: ‘We must attain to power at once, or else we may just as well go to sleep.’ Whereas we draw the German workers’ attention to the undeveloped condition of the German proletariat, you grossly flatter the national sentiment and the class prejudices of the German handicraftsmen, which is of course far more popular. Just as the democrats have sanctified the word ‘people,’ so you sanctify the word ‘proletariat.’ Like the democrats, you subordinate revolutionary development to revolutionary phrasemaking.”
The Communist Workers’ Educational Society in London was almost united in support of the minority. Marx and his followers therefore withdrew from it. But Great Windmill Street, where it had its headquarters, continued for a long time to play a considerable part in the discussions of Marx and Engels, and in the letters they exchanged; for Marx watched all the doings of the society with close attention and interest, kept himself informed as to what was going on, and passed on the news to Engels, who had quitted London, being once more at work as book-keeper in his father’s Manchester factory. But what Marx had to say about his sometime associates was full of bitterness. He was especially mortified that the revolutionary champions from abroad, like Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, Mazzini, etc., and the Chartist leaders, like Harney, Ernest Jones, and Feargus O’Connor, should be in the opposing camp as representatives of the revolution. Although he had voluntarily withdrawn from the society, he conducted himself as if he had been expelled from it.
The confined circumstances in which these impoverished refugees had to live, and the heated political atmosphere which surrounded them, made their circle (as Engels said) “a school of tittletattle and back-biting . . . an institute in which every one who does not break away from it perforce becomes a fool, a donkey, and a common rascal.” Marx, therefore, came to lead a more and more isolated life. Writing to Engels, he declared that this was congenial to him. “I like the public, authentic isolation in which we two, you and I, now find ourselves.. It harmonizes very well with our position and our principles. The system of mutual concessions, of half-measures tolerated from complaisance, and the need for shouldering before the public one’s share (as a member of the party) of responsibility for all the absurdities of these donkeys—are things over and done with.” Engels rejoined: “We have at length once more—the first time for so long—the chance of showing that we do not want popularity, do not require the support of any party in any country; and that our position is totally independent of such rubbish. Henceforward we are responsible to ourselves alone; and when the moment comes in which these gentry have need of us, we shall be able to dictate our own conditions. Till then, at any rate, we can have tranquillity. No doubt, also, a measure of loneliness . . . .”
Thus the result of the disputes in the Communist League was, as far as Marx was concerned, that he cut himself off completely from communal work, reduced his sphere of activity to the smallest possible radius, and became completely isolated. His only contacts were with Engels, who was settled in Manchester, and a small number of devoted friends, or rather pupils and disciples. He was king in his own country, but a king with scarcely any subjects. This retreat into isolation might have ended tragically, had it not also been a retreat to labour.
His first task was to save the Communist League for the Continent. With this end in view, the central committee was transferred to Cologne. Heinrich BUrgers, Hermann Becker, Ferdinand Freiligrath, and the physician Roland Daniels, took over the leadership. Marx had sent instructions that “citizen L. of Düsseldorf” was also to be on the committee; but Roeser, a cigarmaker by trade, wrote to say that the instructions had been disregarded, “because we have had this same citizen [Lassalle] under close observation here, and have discovered that he continues to cherish aristocratic principles, and is less concerned than he ought to be for the general welfare of the workers.”
In Cologne, the central committee did good work for six months. Then the police took action, and made a large number of arrests. An important criminal trial followed.
The trial of the communists in Cologne represents the concluding chapter, not only of the history of the Communist League, but also of the practical revolutionary phase in the life of Karl Marx.
The Trial Of The Communists In Cologne
After the suppression of the rising in Baden, Prince William of Prussia, the “cartridge prince,” recalled from England by the reaction, had “reorganized” the Badenese army. He had become the brain and the arm of the reaction, for the king, still terrified by his memories of the dreadful days of the revolution, did not venture, as yet, to come into the open as champion of the counterrevolution. Prince William did everything he could to “reorganize,” not only the army, but also the constitution, the administration, the law courts, public opinion, as they were before the March days. He intervened in affairs of State by writing a memorial upon the revision of the constitution which the king had been forced to grant; and in like manner he arbitrarily interfered with the course of justice when the law courts failed to, deal with revolutionists as harshly as he wished.
Among the insurgents taken prisoner by the Prussians in the skirmish on the Murg, was the poet Gottfried Kinkel, who had sought as musketeer under the command of Willich, and had been wounded in the head by a shot, though not severely. Tried by a court martial composed of Prussian officers, he was condemned to lifelong imprisonment in a fortress. Prince William considered the sentence too lenient, and demanded that Kinkel should be sentenced to death. In this matter, however, he was opposed, not only by the ministry, but also by public opinion, for the general view was that the sentence of lifelong imprisonment was excessive. In the end, however, the judgment of the court martial was confirmed, except that the king, following the advice of the ministry, changed the imprisonment in a fortress into ordinary imprisonment.
This was not, as it seemed, an intensification of the punishment, but an alleviation. There were two kinds of imprisonment in a fortress: “Festungshaft” (detention in a fortress), the usual punishment for gentlemen offenders; and “Festungs-baustrafe” (punishment in a fortress by work on the fortifications, etc.), one of the most detestable barbarities in the military code. It was the latter to which Kinkel had been condemned. The public, however, did not understand the difference between the two, and regarded the king’s commutation of the sentence as a reactionary measure. There was a lively agitation, in which the bourgeoisie took part, expressing loud indignation. The general anger was increased when Kinkel, in prison, was put to forced labour and was refused the privileges usually accorded to political offenders. The movement on his behalf became a popular one, a sort of Kinkel cult. Amid the rumpus, people overlooked the fate of the numberless victims of the March rising who had not the advantage of being poets and members of the cultured classes; they forgot, too, that before the courts Kinkel had cut a poor figure.
In the “Revue,” Marx and Engels had taken a strong line against him. Too strong, perhaps, for Kinkel had not betrayed the cause of freedom, but, being of an emotional temperament, had merely let his tongue run away with him. Besides, there could be no question but that he had fought on behalf of liberty, and was now, in prison, bearing the brunt of the counterrevolution. For these reasons, the article in the “Revue” aroused fierce wrath in the bourgeois camp, and considerable discontent even in revolutionary circles. The end of the Kinkel affair was that the prisoner, aided in especial by his friend Carl Schurz, escaped from Spandau prison, fled to London, and got in touch there with the section of the Communist League controlled by Willich and Schapper.
As far as Marx and his friends were concerned, the Kinkel affair had a further consequence. The king, angered by the prisoner’s escape, determined to take vengeance on the bourgeoisie by relentless persecution of the liberal opposition. To begin with, however, the object of attack was to remain concealed, and public attention was to be diverted by sharp measures against the communists. On November i ii, 1850, the king wrote to his minister, von Manteuffel, as follows: “Dear Manteuffel: I have just read the report on Kinkel’s escape. This has put into my head an idea which I will not class among the brightest. Namely, whether Stieber would not be the best person to disentangle the web of the conspiracy on behalf of liberty, and to provide the Prussian public with the long and rightly desired spectacle of discovered and (above all) punished conspiracy. Push on, therefore, with Stieber’s appointment, and let him try his hand. I think the idea is fruitful, and I lay great stress upon its prompt realization . . . . Frederick William.”
This same Stieber was a discredited tool of the police, a man whom Hinkeldey, chief superintendent of the Berlin police, had now, much against his will, to make chief of the political police. Thus was Stieber enabled to try his hand at a campaign on behalf of the throne, the altar, the maintenance of law and order.
In Haupt, a German refugee in London and a member of the Communist League, he found a traitor to give him his first inside knowledge. Then, among his numerous spies and agents, he discovered two who could do him yeoman’s service by their cunning and unscrupulousness. One of these was a sometime cigarmaker in Dresden, Krause by name, who had served various terms of imprisonment, and was now living in London under the alias of Charles de Fleury, reputed to be a city merchant, and actually a spy on the communist movement. The other, Hirsch, who had been a commercial clerk in Hamburg, and was likewise a recidivist, worked under Fleury in London as provocative agent. To get the requisite materials for their chief, they had to break open desks, commit burglaries, steal papers, make false declarations, construct pseudoconspiracies, forge documents, commit perjury, undertake bribery and corruption, induce people to bear false witnessin a word, practise all the arts proper to the trade of police spies.
Yet it was not until a year had elapsed since Frederick William had written the letter just quoted, not until November 1851, that it became possible to arrest the tailor Nothjung in Leipzig. In the raid on his house, the only things of importance discovered were: a copy of the Communist Manifesto, which could be bought at any bookseller’s; the rules and regulations of the Communist League; two publications of the League; and a few private addresses. This list of addresses enabled the police to follow up Nothj ung’s arrest by arresting in Cologne: Burgers the journalist, Roeser the cigarmaker, Dr. Hermann Becker; three medical practitioners, Dr. Roland Daniels, Dr. Abraham Jacoby, and Dr. Klein; a chemist named Otto, a clerk named Erhard, the tailor Lessner, and another workingman named Reiff. Ferdinand Freiligrath had removed to London, and thus escaped arrest. By these arrests, Stieber had laid the foundation for the “long and rightly desired spectacle” which, in accordance with the king’s wish, was now to be staged. All that was needed was to furbish up evidence of the conspiracy that was to be discovered and punished.
There was absolutely nothing of a serious character with which to charge the accused. They were members of a secret organization, but this was not prohibited by Rhenish law. Furthermore, the aim of the secret organization was to carry on a perfectly legal political movement, the Marxist trend being distinguished in this matter from the trend of Willich and Schapper, who were inclined to conspiratorial machinations. “Since the collapse of the revolution of 1848,” writes Marx, “the German labour movement had continued to exist only in the form of theoretical propaganda, restricted to a narrow circle, and propaganda as to whose practical innocuousness the Prussian government was under no illusions for a moment.
Some of the secret societies did directly aim at overthrowing the extant State power. This was justified in France, where the proletariat had been conquered by the bourgeoisie, and where an attack upon the existing government coincided with an attack on the bourgeoisie. Another section of the secret societies aimed at forming the proletariat into a party, without concerning themselves about the extant governments. This was necessary in such countries as Germany, where the bourgeoisie and the proletariat were jointly subordinate to their semifeudal governments, so that a victorious onslaught upon the existing governments would not break the power of the bourgeoisie or of the socalled middle classes, but would necessarily help these to power. No doubt here, likewise, the members of the proletarian party would participate anew in a revolution against the status quo; but it was not their business to prepare the way for this revolution.”
But the police paid no heed to such distinctions. They needed a conspiracy, a sensational prosecution, a State trial; and they turned their knowledge of the split in the Communist League, their personal acquaintance with members of this body, and the documents they had seized, to account in order to create an appropriate atmosphere for the drama they wished to stage. If they could not find what they wanted, they were prepared to invent it. Still, luck was against them. Despite all their domiciliary visits, interceptions of letters, widespread inquiries, and imprisonment of the accused for months pending trial, they could not discover materials for the sensational affair they hoped to manufacture. Month after month, they had to postpone bringing the case into court. Their search for evidence to connect the accused with a conspiracy, a plan for assassination, or a scheme of insurrection, had been fruitless.
At length, in October 1852, Stieber thought he had collected enough to begin the trial. But the course of the affair was unprosperous. Every he of the prosecution was disclosed, every falsification of the minions of the law was revealed, every move of Stieber and his spies was successfully countered. Marx and his friends in London were doing their utmost in the hope of transforming the trial from a blow directed against the communist movement into a tremendous defeat of the police, the judicial authorities, and the government. Although the police, the postal service, and the press had joined forces against his work of enlightenment, he was able to attain his end. Frau Marx wrote in a private letter: “My husband has to work all day and far on into the night, for the proofs of falsification have to be elaborated here in London. Every document has to be written six or eight times over, and then sent to Germany by various routes, by way of Frankfort, Paris, etc., for all letters directed to my husband, and all letters sent hence to Cologne, are opened and intercepted. The whole thing has now become a struggle between the police on the one hand, and my husband on the other, seeing that everything, even the conduct of the defence, is thrown upon his shoulders . . . . We have a regular office established here. Two or three of us write; others run messages; others scrape pennies together, so that the writers can keep themselves alive, and can furnish proofs of the scandalous behaviour of the official world.”
When Stieber, as desperate as a trapped fox, saw that his cause was practically lost, he played his last trump, producing as evidence of the conspiratorial activities of the accused the minute book of the Communist League. But it speedily became apparent that this exhibit was a forgery. It was recorded in the minutes that the meetings of the “Marx Party” in London had always occurred on Thursdays, whereas since January 1852 they had been held on Wednesdays; it re ported the meetings as having been held at the old headquarters, whereas, since the same date, they had been transferred to new headquarters; it showed that the minutes were signed by H. Liebknecht, whereas Liebknecht (who, by the way, did not sign the minutes at all) was called Wilhelm. Marx showed that the provocative agent Hirsch had for six or eight months, week after week, been concocting this minute book in the room and under the eyes of his chief Fleury in London. “In the room above Fleury was living the Prussian police lieutenant Greif, who kept watch on Fleury and inspired his activities. Greif spent part of every day at the Prussian embassy, where he himself was supervised and supplied with inspiration. Thus the Prussian embassy was the original hothouse in which the forged minute book ripened.”
The case for the prosecution collapsed. When Stieber, amid a flood of subterfuges, falsehoods, and perjuries, had admitted that the alleged minute book was a mere notebook, the public prosecutor ceased to claim that the document had evidential value. Nevertheless, it was essential that the accused should be found guilty, not only because such were the king’s wishes, but also because (as, during the prosecution, Hinkeldey wrote to the embassy in London) “the whole existence of the political police hangs upon the issue of this trial.” In the end, the guilt of the accused was considered to be proved because they had secretly diffused the principles of the Communist Manifesto, principles that endangered the State. For this crimewhich was not a crime at all, seeing that every one who wished could acquaint himself with the contents of a document which had been openly printed and soldthe accused received savage sentences. Nothjung, Burgers, and Roeser were condemned to six years’ imprisonment in a fortress; Reiff, Otto, and Becker, to five years; Lessner, to three years. The others, all of whom had been in prison for eighteen months pending trial, were acquitted. The result of this sentence was “to dispel for ever the superstitious faith in trial by jury, a faith which still flourished in Rhenish Prussia. People realized that trial by jury is trial by a court of the privileged classes, a court established in order to bridge over the gaps in the law by the breadth of the bourgeois conscience.”
Marx elaborated the materials relating to the trial into a booklet, which was published in Switzerland. The whole edition was seized on the German frontier. Then the work was reissued in the United States, where it attracted considerable attention, and caused much distress to some of the refugees, who had removed across the Atlantic since the arrests had taken place. Especially does this remark apply to Willich. He had for a considerable time been in close personal touch with Fleury, and had received money from that spy. On reaching America, Willich had entered the United States service. In order to cover up the dubious part he had played in the affair, he published diatribes against Marx in American journals, and Marx answered these in a little essay entitled Der Ritter vom edelmitigen Bewusstsein [The Knight of the Magnanimous Spirit]. One of the results of the trial of the communists in Cologne, a trial which had intensified the mutual enmities of the refugees, was the final break-up of the Communist League.
Marx withdrew from public propaganda, and buried himself in scientific study.