limited understanding of a loyal subject 9.lim.992992 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

2 The letter to the editor of the Populaire and the Declaration are in Engels’ handwriting. Both documents were drawn up at the end of March 1848 after Engels’ arrival in Paris and reflect the struggle which the leaders of the Communist League were waging against those German petty-bourgeois emigrant leaders in Paris, Herwegh and Bornstedt among others, who intended to speed up revolution in Germany by moving in a volunteer legion organised by using private donations and subsidies from the Provisional Government of the French Republic. Appeals to enlist were accompanied by demagogic appeals to the patriotic and revolutionary sentiments of German emigrants. Marx, Engels and other members of the Central Authority of the Communist League spoke out against the adventurist nature of such plans to “export revolution” and advised German workers instead to return to their home country individually in order to take part in the revolutionary events that were brewing there. “We opposed this playing with revolution in the most decisive fashion,” Engels later wrote in his work On the History of the Communist League. “To carry out an invasion, which was to import the revolution forcibly from outside, into the midst of the ferment then going on in Germany, meant to undermine the revolution in Germany itself, to strengthen the governments and to deliver the legionaries … defenceless into the hands of the German troops.”

The letter and the Declaration were first published in English in the journal Science and Society, 1940, Vol. IV, No. 2. The first publication in the language of the original appeared in the collection Der Bund der Kommunisten. Dokumente und Materialien, Bd. 1, 1836-1849, Berlin, 1970.

3 The German Democratic Society (below it is called the Society of German Democrats) was formed in Paris after the February revolution of 1848. The society was headed by petty-bourgeois democrats, Herwegh, Bornstedt (the latter expelled from the Communist League) and others, who campaigned to raise a volunteer legion of German emigrants with the intention of marching into Germany. In this way they hoped to carry out a revolution in Germany and establish a republic there. Late in April 1848 the volunteer legion moved to Baden where it was dispersed by government troops.

4 The German Workers’ Club was founded in Paris on March 8 and 9, 1848, on the initiative of Communist League leaders. The club’s aim was to unite German emigrant workers in Paris, to explain to them the tactics of the proletariat in a bourgeois-democratic revolution, and also to counter the attempts of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democrats to stir up the German workers by nationalist propaganda and enlist them into the adventurist invasion of Germany by volunteer legions. The club successfully arranged the return of German workers one by one to their home country to take part in the revolutionary struggle there.

5 On March 29, 1848, the supplement to No. 89 of the Trier’sche Zeitung carried a report from Paris, dated March 24, in which the activity of the German Democratic Society (see Note 3) was criticised. This article was apparently written by one of Marx’s followers in the Communist League, probably with Marx’s help.

The author vehemently denounced the idea of an armed invasion of Germany by the volunteer legion and stated that the German Workers’ Club associated with the Communist League had nothing to do with this venture.

Deeply hurt by this article, the leaders of the German Democratic Society sent Marx a note signed by Bornstedt, Löwenfels, Börnstein, Volk and Mayer in which they demanded the author’s name. The reply is published here from a copy made by Engels. After Marx had rejected their demand, one of the society’s leaders, Herwegh, wrote a memorandum for the German periodicals (on April 3,1848), in which he justified the idea of a volunteer legion and venomously attacked communists.

6 Marx’s letter was published in L’Alba on June 29, 1848, with the following introductory note by the editors: “We publish the following letter received from Cologne to show what feelings the noble-minded Germans entertain towards Italy; they ardently wish to establish fraternal relations between the Italian and German peoples, whom European despots have tried to set against each other.”

The reply by the editors of L’Alba signed by L. Alinari, is quoted in Engels’ article “Germany’s Foreign Policy” (see this volume, p. 167).

An English translation of this letter was published in the magazine Labour Monthly No. 5, 1948, and in the collection: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1955, London, 1956). P. 11

7 This statement of the editorial board was printed in the first number of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which appeared in the evening of May 31, but was dated June 1, 1848. (In English the statement was published in the magazine Labour Monthly No. 5, 1948, and in the collection: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Articles from the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung”. 1848-49, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972.)

Marx and Engels began to plan the publication of a German revolutionary paper as far back as March 1848 when they were still living in Paris. On March 26 and 28, 1848, Engels wrote about this plan to his brother-in-law Emil Blank.

The publication of a proletarian newspaper was regarded by Marx and Engels as an important step towards a mass party of the German proletariat, which, they believed, should be founded on the basis of the Communist League. On their arrival in Germany, they realised that the conditions for creating such a party were not yet ripe: the German workers were disunited; their immaturity and lack of organisation made them easy prey to narrow craft and petty-bourgeois influences and particularise moods, while the Communist League, for which there was no sense in continuing secret activities during the revolution, was too weak and small in number to be instrumental in consolidating the workers. Marx and Engels realised this after studying the reports submitted by the Central Authority emissaries on the situation in the League’s local communities. In this context, the role of a newspaper in influencing the masses, in their ideological and political education and consolidation, seemed peculiarly important. The paper could be used for political guidance of the activities of Communist League members, who were instructed by Marx and Engels to avail themselves of every legal opportunity and join the emerging workers’ associations and democratic societies.

Marx and Engels decided to publish the paper in Cologne, the capital of the Rhine Province, one of the most economically and politically advanced regions in Germany. The new paper was given the name of the New Rheinische Zeitung to emphasise that it was to continue the revolutionary-democratic traditions of the Rheinische Zeitung, which Marx had edited in 1842 and 1843. Taking account of the specific circumstances, with the absence of an independent mass workers’ party in Germany, Marx, Engels and their followers entered the political scene as a Left, actually proletarian, wing of the democratic movement. This determined the stand of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which began to Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire appear under the subtitle “The Organ of Democracy”.

When they started the paper, Marx and Engels had to cope with serious financial difficulties as well as with the opposition from sectarian elements in the Communist League (Hess, Anneke and others), who intended to publish a purely local sheet under a similar title. In April and May 1848, Marx and Engels worked hard selling shares in the paper, finding contributors and establishing regular contacts with democratic periodicals in other countries. The editorial committee was known for its unanimity of views, well-co-ordinated work and strict division of functions.

As a rule, Marx and Engels wrote the editorials formulating the paper’s stand on the most important questions of the revolution. These were usually marked “*Köln” and “**Köln”. Sometimes editorial articles marked with one asterisk were printed in other sections under the heading of news from Italy, France, England, Hungary and other countries. In the early months of the paper’s existence Marx was fully occupied with administrative and organisational matters and most of the leading articles were written by Engels. In addition to this, Engels also contributed critical reviews of debates in the Berlin and Frankfurt National Assemblies, articles on the national liberation movements in Bohemia, Posen and Italy, and on the war in Schleswig-Holstein, revolutionary developments in Hungary and political life in Switzerland. Wilhelm Wolff contributed articles on the agrarian question, on the condition of the peasants and their movement, particularly in Silesia. He was also responsible for the current events section. Georg Weerth wrote feuilletons in verse and prose. Ernst Dronke was for some time the Neue Rheinische Zeitung correspondent in Frankfurt am Main and wrote several articles on Poland. Ferdinand Wolf f was for a long time one of the paper’s correspondents in Paris. The only article which Heinrich Bürgers wrote for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was almost entirely rewritten by Marx. Ferdinand Freiligrath, who became one of the paper’s editors in October 1848, published his own verses.

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was a daily paper (from September 1848 it appeared every day except Monday). Its editors often published a second edition on one day in order to supply their readers with prompt information on all the most significant revolutionary developments in Germany and Europe; supplements were printed when there was too much material to be squeezed into the four pages of the number, while special supplements and special editions printed in the form of leaflets carried the latest and most important news.

The consistent revolutionary tendency of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, its militant internationalism and political accusations against the Government displeased its bourgeois shareholders in the very first months of the paper’s existence; its editors were persecuted by the Government and attacked in the feudal-monarchist and liberal-bourgeois press. Following the appearance of the paper’s first number, which carried Engels’ article “The Assembly at Frankfurt” (see this volume, pp. 16-19), a large number of the shareholders withdrew their financial support, and articles in defence of the June uprising of the Paris proletariat frightened away most of the rest. The editors now had to rely on German and Polish revolutionary circles for funds.

To make Marx’s stay in the Rhine Province more difficult, the Cologne authorities, on instructions from Berlin, refused to reinstate him with the rights of Prussian citizenship (which Marx had renounced in 1845); on several occasions he and other editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung were summoned to court. On September 26, 1848, when a state of siege was introduced in Cologne, several democratic newspapers, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung among them, were suspended. To avoid arrest, Engels, Dronke and Ferdinand Wolff had to leave Germany for a time. Wilhelm Wolf I stayed in Cologne but for several months lived illegally. When the state of siege was lifted, the paper resumed publication on October 12, thanks to the great efforts of Marx who sank all his ready money into the paper. Until January 1849, the whole burden of the work, including editorial articles, lay on Marx’s shoulders since Engels had to stay out of Germany (in France and Switzerland).

Persecution of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung editors by the legal authorities and the police was intensified, particularly after the counter-revolutionary coup in Prussia in November-December 1848.

In May 1849, when the counter-revolution went into the offensive all over Germany, the Prussian Government issued an order for Marx’s expulsion from Prussia on the grounds that he had not been granted Prussian citizenship. Marx’s expulsion and repressions against other editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung caused publication of the paper to be ceased. Its last issue (No. 30 1), printed in red ink, came out on May 19, 1849. In their farewell address to the workers, the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung said that “their last word will everywhere and always be: emancipation of the working class!”

8 The September Laws, promulgated by the French Government in September 1835, restricted the rights of jury courts and introduced severe measures against the press. They provided for increased money deposits (caution money) for periodical publications and introduced imprisonment and large fines for publication of attacks on private property and the existing political system.

9 The opening session of the all-German National Assembly, the purpose of which was to unite the country and draft a Constitution, took place on May 18, 1848, in Frankfurt am Main at St. Paul’s Church. Among the deputies elected in various German states late in April and early in May, there were 122 government officials, 95 judges, 81 lawyers, 103 teachers, 17 manufacturers and wholesale dealers, 15 physicians and 40 landowners. The liberal deputies, who were in the majority, turned the Assembly into a mere debating club, incapable of taking any resolute decisions.

In writing this and the following articles concerning the debates in the Frankfurt National Assembly, Marx and Engels made use of the stenographic reports which later appeared as a separate publication, Stenographischer Bericht über die Verhandlungen der deutschen constituirenden Nationalversammiung zu Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig, 1848-1849.

Engels’ article was first published in English in the collection: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Articles from the “New Rheinische Zeitung”. 1848-49, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972.

10 At the sitting of the Frankfurt National Assembly on May 19, 1848, the liberal Deputy Raveaux proposed that Prussian deputies elected to both the Berlin and Frankfurt Assemblies should have the right to be members of both. The Berlin Assembly, i. e. the Prussian National Assembly, was convened on May 22, 1848, to draft a Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire Constitution “by agreement with the Crown”. The Assembly was elected under the electoral law of April 8, 1848, by universal suffrage and an indirect (two-stage) voting system. Most of the deputies belonged to the bourgeoisie or liberal bureaucracy.

11 The limited understanding of a loyal subject — an expression used by the Prussian Minister of the Interior von Rochow. In his letter of January 15, 1838, addressed to the citizens of Elbin who expressed their dissatisfaction at the expulsion of seven oppositional professors from the Hanover Diet, Rochow wrote: “Loyal subjects are expected to exhibit due obedience to their king and sovereign, but their limited understanding should keep them from interfering in affairs of heads of state.”

12 The Pre-parliament which met in Frankfurt am Main from March 31 to April 4, 1848, consisted of representatives from the German states, most of its delegates being constitutional monarchists. The Pre-parliament passed a resolution to convoke an all-German National Assembly and produced a draft of the “Fundamental Rights and Demands of the German People”. Although this document proclaimed certain rights and liberties, including the right of all-German citizenship for the residents of any German state, it did not touch the basis of the semi-feudal absolutist system prevalent in Germany at the time.


%d bloggers like this: