A Reply to Bruno Bauer’s Anti-Critique

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 20 November 1845


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 5, p. 15;
Written: November 20, 1845;
Published: in Gesellschaftsspiegel,Heft VII, Januar 1846.
Collection(s): Gesellschaftsspiegel

Note from MECW vol. 5, 1976 :

This item, which was published anonymously, is the reply of the authors of The Holy Family to the anti-critique contained in Bruno Bauer’s article “Charakteristik Ludwig Feuerbachs” published in Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, 1845, Bd. 3. it i., roughly identical with a passage in Chapter II, Volume I of The German Ideology (see this volume, pp. 112-14). In English the item was first published in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964.

Brussels, November 20. In Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, Vol. III, p. 138 ff., Bruno Bauer stammers out a few words in answer to Die heilige Familie, oder Kritik der kritischen Kritik, 1845, by Engels and Marx. At the outset Bruno Bauer declares that Engels and Marx have misunderstood him; with unaffected naïveté he repeats his old pretentious phrases, which have long since been reduced to nothing, and regrets that these writers do not know his catchwords about “the constant struggle and victory, the destruction and creation of criticism”, which is the “only historical force”, his assertions that ‘,the critic and only the critic has smashed religion in its entirety and the state in its various manifestations”, that “the critic has worked and still works”, and similar high-sounding protestations and lofty effusions. In his reply Bauer immediately provides new and striking proof of “how the critic has worked and still works”. For the “hard-working” critic considers that it serves his purpose better not to make the book by Engels and Marx the object of his exclamations and quotations, but a mediocre and confused review of this book published in the Westphälische Dampfboot (May issue, p. 206 ff.) [1] — a conjuring trick, which, with critical prudence, he conceals from the reader.

While Bauer is copying from the Dampfboot, he interrupts his “arduous work” only with laconic, but highly ambiguous shrugging of his shoulders. Critical criticism has limited itself to shrugging its shoulders since it has no more to say. It finds salvation in the shoulder-blades despite its hatred of the sensuous world, which it can only conceive in the shape of a “stick” (see Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, p. 130), an instrument for chastising its theological bareness.

In his superficial haste the Westphalian reviewer gives a ridiculous summary which is utterly at variance with the book he is reviewing. The “hard-working” critic copies the fabrications of the reviewer, attributes them to Engels and Marx and triumphantly shouts to the uncritical mass — which he annihilates with one eye, while with the other he flirtatiously invites it to come nearer — see, these are my opponents!

Let us now place side by side the words of these documents. The reviewer writes in the Westphälische Dampfboot:

“In order to kill the Jews he” (Bruno Bauer) “transforms them into theologians, and the problem of political emancipation into that of human emancipation; to annihilate Hegel he transforms him into Herr Hinrichs; to get rid of the French Revolution, communism and Feuerbach he shouts ‘mass, mass, mass!’ and again ‘mass, mass, mass!’ and crucifies it to the glory of the spirit, which is criticism, the true incarnation of the absolute idea in Bruno of Charlottenburg” (Das Westpälische Dampfboot, 1. c., p. 212).

The “hard-workingcritic writes:

“The critic of critical criticism” becomes “in the end childish”, “plays the Harlequin on the theatro mundi” and “would have us believe”, “asserting in all seriousness, that Bruno Bauer in order to kill the Jews”, etc., etc. — there follows verbatim the whole passage from the Westphälische Dampfboot, which is nowhere to be found in Die heilige Familie (Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, p. 142).

Compare this with the attitude of critical criticism to the Jewish question and to political emancipation in Die heilige Familie, inter alia, pp. 163-85; regarding its attitude to the French Revolution cf. pp. 185-95; and its attitude to socialism and communism, pp. 22-74, p. 211 ff., pp. 243-44 and the whole chapter on critical criticism in the person of Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein, pp. 258-333. Regarding the attitude of critical criticism to Hegel see the mystery of “speculative construction” and the following explanation on p. 79 ff., also pp. 121 and 122, 126-28, 136-37, 208-09, 215-27 and 304-08; on the attitude of critical criticism to Feuerbach see pp. 138-41, and finally on the result and the trend of the critical fight against the French Revolution, materialism and socialism see pp. 214-15.

One can see from these quotations that the Westphalian reviewer has given a completely distorted and only imaginary summary showing that he has absurdly misunderstood the arguments. It is this summary which with “creative and devastating” agility the “pure” and “hard-working” critic substitutes for the original.

Furthermore.

The reviewer writes in the Westphälische Dampfboot:

“To his” (that is, Bruno Bauer’s) “silly self-apotheosis, in which he seeks to prove that wherever he was formerly in thrall to the prejudices of the mass, this enthralment was merely a necessary guise of criticism, Marx replies by offering to provide the following little scholastic treatise: ‘Why the conception of the Virgin Mary had to be proved by no other than Herr Bruno Bauer'” etc., etc. (Dampfboot, p. 213).

The “hard-working” critic:

“He” (the critic of critical criticism) “wants to make us believe, and in the end himself believes his humbug, that wherever Bauer was formerly in thrall to the prejudices of the mass he wants to present this enthralment merely as a necessary guise of criticism and not on the contrary as the result of the necessary development of criticism; in reply to this ‘silly self-apotheosis’ he therefore offers the following little scholastic treatise: ‘Why the conception of the Virgin Mary"’ etc., etc. (Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, pp. 142-43).

The reader will find in Die heilige Familie, pp. 150-63, a special section on Bruno Bauer’s self-apology, but unfortunately nothing is written there about the little scholastic treatise, which is therefore by no means offered in reply. to Bruno Bauer’s self-apology, as the Westphalian reviewer writes; and the obliging Bruno Bauer copies this — even enclosing some words in inverted commas — assuming it to be a quotation from Die heilige Familie. The little treatise is mentioned in a different section and in a different context (see Die heilige Familie, pp. 164 and 165). What it signifies there the reader may find out for himself and again admire the “pure” cunning of the “hard-working critic”.

In the end the “hard-workingcritic exclaims:

This” (namely the quotations which Bruno Bauer has borrowed from the Westphälische Dampfboot and attributed to the authors of Die heilige Familie) “has of course reduced Bruno Bauer to silence and brought criticism to its senses. On the contrary, Marx has presented us with a spectacle by finally himself appearing in the role of the amusing comedian” (Wigand’s Vierteljahrsschrift, p. 143).

To understand this “on the contrary” one has to know that the Westphalian reviewer, for whom Bruno Bauer works as a copyist, dictates the following to his critical and hard-working scribe:

“The world-historic drama” (that is, the fight of Bauer’s criticism against the mass) “quite simply disintegrates into the most amusing comedy” (Das Westphälische Dampfboot, p. 213).

Here the hapless copyist jumps to his feet: to transcribe his own condemnation is beyond his power. “On the contrary,” he cries interrupting the dictation of the Westphalian reviewer, “on the contrary ... Marx ... is the most amusing comedian!” and he wipes the cold sweat from his brow.

By resorting to incompetent jugglery, to the most deplorable conjuring trick, Bruno Bauer has in the final analysis confirmed the death sentence passed upon him by Engels and Marx in Die heilige Familie.

  1. The review was published anonymously under the heading “Die heilige Familie oder Kritik der kritischen Kritik. Gegen Br. Bauer und Consorten. Von F. Engels und K. Marx, Frankfurt, 1845