Circular Against Kriege
Written: between April 20 and May 11, 1846;
First published: as a lithographic circular in May 1846;
Signed: Engels, K. Marx and others
This is a circular of the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee founded by Marx and Engels early in 1846 for the propaganda of communist ideas and correspondence with advanced workers and revolutionary intellectuals in various countries of Europe (similar committees were founded shortly afterwards in London, Paris, Cologne and some other cities). The Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee made use of such circulars, as Engels stated later, “on particular occasions, when it was a question of internal affairs of the Communist Party in process of formation” (F. Engels, “On the History of the Communist League”, 1885).
The “Circular Against Kriege” was directed against “true socialism”, a trend followed by the German journalist Hermann Kriege who had emigrated to New York in the autumn of 1845. It was also to a considerable extent directed against the egalitarian communism of Weitling, which had found a number of advocates among the supporters of Kriege and the staff of Der Volks-Tribun of which he was editor.
It seems likely that the principal part of the “Circular Against Kriege”, which was written by Marx and Engels when they were completing the main part of the work on the manuscript of The German Ideology (see MECW, Vol. 5), was originally intended for inclusion in Vol. II of that work.
The document against Kriege was circulated in lithographic copies (in Wilhelm Wolff’s hand without title).
A copy was sent to New York with a covering letter written by Edgar von Westphalen: “To Herr Hermann Kriege, Editor of Der Volks-Tribun. — On behalf of the local communist society and as chairman of the meeting which took place on May 11, I am forwarding to you the decision in which our opinion of Der Volks-Tribun is expressed. In case you do not publish the decision together with its motivation in your paper it will nevertheless be published in the press of Europe and America. We, however, expect that in the nearest future you will send us the issue of Der Volks-Tribun containing our resolution to: M. Gigot, rue de Bodenbroek, No. 8, Brussels, May 16, 1846. Edgar van Westphalen.” Kriege was compelled to comply with this demand and publish the “Circular” in Der Volks-Tribun Nos. 23 and 24 of June 6 and 13, 1846, adding his own insinuations against the authors and the ironical title Eine Bannbulle. It was also published in the July issue of Das Westphälische Dampfboot under the title of “Der Volks-Tribun, redigirt von Hermann Kriege in New York” without the authors’ name. However, the editor of the journal, the “true socialists’ Otto Lüning subjected the document to biased re-editing, adding his own introduction and conclusion, in contradiction to the ideas and spirit of the original document and in some cases changing the text arbitrarily. The original text was for a long time unavailable to scholars; in the book Aus dem literarischen Nachlass van Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle, published by Franz Mehring, the document was printed according to the text in Das Westphälische Dampfboot. The authentic version was for the first time reproduced according to the lithographic copy of the “Circular” in Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Erste Abteilung, Bd. 6, Berlin, 1932.
In October 1846, the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee issued a second circular against Kriege written by Marx, the text of which has not yet been found.
At a meeting attended by the undermentioned Communists: Engels, Gigot, Heilberg, Marx, Seiler, Weitling, von Westphalen and Wolff, the following resolutions concerning the New York German-language journal “Der Volks-Tribun” edited by Hermann Kriege were passed unanimously — with the single exception of Weitling ..who voted against”. The appendix explains the motives behind the resolutions.
1. The line taken by the editor of the Volks-Tribun, Hermann Kriege, is not communist.
2. Kriege’s childish pomposity in support of this line is compromising in the highest degree to the Communist Party, both in Europe and America, inasmuch as he is held to be the literary representative of German communism in New York.
3. The fantastic emotionalism which Kriege is preaching in New York under the name of “communism” must have an extremely damaging effect on the workers’ morale if it is adopted by them.
4. The present resolutions, together with the grounds for them, shall be communicated to the Communists in Germany, France and England.
5. One copy shall be sent to the editors of the Volks-Tribun with the request that these resolutions together with the grounds for them should be printed in the forthcoming issues of the Volks-Tribun.
Brussels, May 11, 1846
Engels, Phil. Gigot, Louis Heilberg, K. Marx, Seiler, von Westphalen, Wolff
Section One How Communism Became Love-Sick[edit source]
No. 13 of the Volks-Tribun contains an article entitled: “An die Frauen”.
1) “Women, priestesses of love."
2) “It is love that has sent us."
3) “Apostles of love.”
a) Literary interlude: “The flaming eyes of humanity”, “the sounds of truth”.
b) Woman’s hypocritical and ignorant captatio benevolentiae [thirst for approval]: “Even in the attire of a queen you cannot deny your femininity ... nor have you learned to speculate upon the tears of the unhappy; you are too soft-hearted to let a mother’s poor child starve so that you may profit.”
4) “The future of the beloved child."
5) “Beloved sisters."
6) “O give ear to us, you are betraying love if you do not do so."
8) “Of love."
8) “Of love."
9) “For the sake of love."
10) “The most sacred labour of love which we entreat of you” (whimper).
c) Literary-biblical platitude: “Woman is destined to bear the son of man”, whereby the fact is proclaimed that men do not bear children.
11) “The holy spirit of community must evolve from the heart of Love”
d) Interpolated Ave Maria: “Blessed, thrice blessed are you women, being chosen to pronounce the first consecration of the long-promised kingdom of bliss.”
12) “Beloved sisters."
13) “Not love but hatred” (contrasting bourgeois and communist society).
14) “You loved ones."
15) “Raise love on to the throne."
16) “Active people in loving community."
17) “True priestesses of love.”
e) Aesthetic parenthesis: “If your trembling soul has not yet forgotten the flight sublime” — (a feat whose feasibility has yet to be demonstrated).
18) “The world of love."
19) “The kingdom of hatred and the kingdom of love.”
f) An attempt to hoodwink women: “And therefore you have a most mighty voice in politics too. You but need to use your influence, and all the old kingdom of hatred will fall in ruins to make way for the new kingdom of love.”
g) Philosophical fanfare to drown reflection: “The ultimate goal of their activity is that all mankind should take an ever-joyful delight in itself.”
20) “Your love.” At this point women are required to be “unstinting” in their love so that it may “embrace all mankind with equal surrender”. A demand that is as indecent as it is extravagant.
h) Fugue: “That thousands and yet more thousands of deserted orphans are abandoned to the fearful massacre of circumstances.” What does this “fearfulness” consist in? In the “orphans” massacring the “circumstances” or the “circumstances” massacring the “orphans"?
i) Unveiling of the neo-communist policy: “We have no wish to lay bands on the private property of any man; what the usurer now has, let him keep; we merely wish to forestall the further pillaging of the people’s assets and prevent capital from continuing to withhold from labour its rightful property.” This purpose is to be achieved as follows: “Every poor man ... will instantly become a useful member of human society as soon as he is offered the opportunity of productive work.” (According to this no one is more deserving in respect of “human society” than the capitalists, including those in New York .against whom Kriege thunders so mightily.) “And this opportunity is assured him for ever, as soon as society gives him a piece of land on which he can produce food for himself and his family.... If this vast area of land” (the 1,400 million acres of the American state lands) “is withdrawn from commerce and ensured to labour in limited quantities, at one stroke all the poverty in America will have been eliminated; for each man will be given the opportunity to establish with his own hands an inviolable home for himself.” That it does not lie in the legislators’ power to decree either that the patriarchal system desired by Kriege shall not evolve into an industrial system or that the industrial and commercial states of the east coast of the United States shall revert to patriarchal barbarism — one had a right to expect that this would be realised. Meanwhile, for the day when the paradise just described will have arrived, Kriege prepares the following country-parson utterance: “And then we can teach men to live together in peace, to lighten for each other the burden and toil of their fife and:
21) build the first dwelling-places on earth for celestial love” (each one 160 acres in area).
Kriege concludes his address to married women as follows: “Turn first to
22) the men of your love,
ask them ... to turn their backs on the politics of old,... show them their children, implore them in their name” (who are without reason) “to adopt reason.” Secondly, to the “virgins":
23) “For your lovers
let the liberation of the land be the touchstone of their human worth and have no faith in
24) their love
until they have sworn fealty to mankind.” (What is that supposed to mean?) If the virgins behave in this manner, he guarantees them that their children
25) “will become as loving
as they themselves” (that is, “the birds of heaven”) and concludes this cant with another round of
26) “true priestesses of love”, “great kingdom of community” and “consecration”.
No. 13 of the Volks-Tribun. — “Antwort an Sollta.”
27) “It” (the great spirit of community) “flashes from fraternal eyes as the fire of love.”
28) “What is a woman without the man whom she can love, to whom she can surrender her trembling soul?"
29) “To join all mankind in love."
31) “Love of mankind
32) “All the first sounds of love
33) “The radiance of love.”
k) The purpose of communism is to “subject the whole life of mankind to its” (the sentient heart’s) “beating”.
34) “The sound of love flees before the rattle of money."
35) “Everything may be achieved by love and surrender.”
In this one issue, then, we have love in approximately thirty-five shapes. It is in perfect accordance with this amorous slobbering that Kriege, in his “Antwort an Sollta” and elsewhere, presents communism as the love-imbued opposite of selfishness and reduces a revolutionary movement of world-historical importance to the few words: love — hate, communism — selfishness. Part and parcel of it is likewise the cowardice with which he here panders to the usurer by promising to let him keep what he already has and with which further on he assures that he does not want “to destroy the cherished sentiments of family life, of belonging to one’s native land and people” but “only to fulfil them”. This cowardly, hypocritical presentation of communism not as “destruction” but as “fulfilment” of existing evils and of the illusions which the bourgeoisie have about them, is found in every issue of the Volks-Tribun. This hypocrisy and cowardice are matched by the attitude which he adopts in discussions with politicians. He declares it (No. 10 ) a sin against communism to attack political visionaries like Lamennais and Börne who dabble in Catholicism, with the result that men like Proudhon, Cabet, Dézamy, in short all the French Communists, are just men “who call themselves Communists”. The fact that the German Communists have left Börne as far behind as the French have Lamennais, is something Kriege could have discovered back in Germany, Brussels and London.
We leave Kriege to reflect for himself on the enervating effect this love-sickness cannot fail to have on both sexes and the mass hysteria and anaemia it must produce in the “virgins”.
Section Two The Volks-Tribun’s Political Economy and its Attitude Towards Young America [edit source]
We fully recognise that the American national Reformers’ movement is historically justified. We know that this movement has set its sights on a goal which, although for the moment it would further the industrialism of modern bourgeois society, nevertheless, as the product of a proletarian movement, as an attack on landed property in general and more particularly in the circumstances obtaining in America, will by its own inner logic inevitably press on to communism. Kriege, who has joined the Anti-Rent movement along with the German Communists in New York, pastes over this plain fact with his customary communist and extravagant phrases, without ever going into the positive substance of the movement, thereby proving that he is quite unclear in his own mind about the connection between Young America and circumstances prevailing in America. In addition to the individual passages which in passing we have already quoted, we would give another example of how his humanitarianising quite smothers the issue of land-distribution to the small farmer on an American scale.
In No. 10, “Was wir wollen”, we read:
“They” — that is, the American National Reformers — “call the soil the communal heritage of all mankind ... and want the legislative power of the people to take steps to preserve as the inalienable communal property of all mankind the 1,400 million acres of land which have not yet fallen into the hands of rapacious speculators.”
In order communally to “preserve for all mankind” this “communal heritage”, this “inalienable communal property”, he adopts the plan of the National Reformers: “to place 160 acres of American soil at the command of every farmer, from whatever country he may hail, so that he may feed himself”, or, as it is put in No. 14, “Antwort” to Conze:
“Of this as yet untouched property of the people no one shall take more than 160 acres into his possession, and that only if he farms it himself.”
So in order that the soil shall remain “inalienable communal property”, for “all mankind” to boot, a start must be made without delay on dividing it up; Kriege here imagines he can use the law to forbid the necessary consequences of this division, that is, concentration, industrial progress, etc. He considers 160 acres of land as an ever-constant measure, as if the value of such an area did not vary according to its quality. The “farmers” will have to exchange, if not their land itself, then at least the produce of their land, with each other and with third parties, and when this juncture has been reached, it will soon become apparent that one “farmer”, even though he has no capital, will, simply by his work and the greater initial productivity of his 160 acres, reduce his neighbour to the status of his farm labourer. And is it not then immaterial whether “the land” or the produce of the land “falls into the hands of rapacious speculators"?
Let us for the moment take Kriege’s present to mankind seriously.
1,400 million acres are to be “preserved as the inalienable communal property of all mankind”. Specifically, 160 acres are to be the portion of each “farmer”. From this we can calculate the size of Kriege’s “all mankind” — exactly 8 3/4 million “farmers”, each of whom as head of family represents a family of five, a sum total therefore of 433/4 million people. We can likewise calculate how long “all eternity” will last, for the duration of which “the proletariat in its capacity as humanity” may “claim” “the whole earth” — at least in the United States. If the population of the United States continues to grow at the same rate as hitherto (i.e., if it doubles in 25 years), this “all eternity” will not last out 40 years; within this period the 1,400 million acres will be settled, and there will be nothing left for future generations to “claim”. But since the release of the land would greatly increase immigration, Kriege’s “all eternity” might well be foreclosed even earlier. The more so when one considers that land for 44 million would not even suffice to channel off the now existing pauper-population of Europe, where every tenth man is a pauper and the British Isles alone supply 7 million. Similar economic naivety is to be found in No. 13, “An die Frauen”, in which Kriege says that if the city of New York were to release its 52,000 acres on Long Island, this would suffice to relieve New York “at one stroke” of all its pauperism, poverty and crime for all time.
If Kriege had seen the free-land movement as a first, in certain circumstances necessary, form of the proletarian movement, as a movement which because of the social position of the class from which it emanates must necessarily develop into a communist movement, if he had shown how communist tendencies in America could, to begin with, only emerge in this agrarian form which appears to be a contradiction of all communism, then no objection could have been raised. As things are, however, he declares what is after all a still subordinate form of movement of real specific people to be a matter for mankind in general, presents it, against his better knowledge, as the ultimate, supreme goal of all movement in general, and thereby transforms the specific aims of the movement into sheer, extravagant nonsense.
In the same essay (No. 10) he however continues his paean unperturbed, as follows:
“In this way, therefore, the old dreams of the Europeans at last came true, on this side of the ocean a plot was prepared for them which they needed only to settle and make fruitful with the labour of their hands, and they would be able proudly to proclaim to all the tyrants of the world:
This is my hut
Which you did not build,
This is my hearth
Whose fire you envy me."
[paraphrased from Goethe’s Prometheus]
He could have added: This is my midden, which I and my wife, child, farm labourer, maid-servant and cattle have produced. Who are these Europeans then, whose “dreams” here come true? Not the communist workers, but bankrupt shopkeepers and master-craftsmen or ruined cottagers striving for the bliss of becoming petty bourgeois and peasants once more in America. And what kind of “wish” is this which the 1,400 million acres are to make reality? None other than that everybody should be turned into a private-property owner, a wish that is just as practicable and communist as that everybody should be turned into an emperor, king or pope. The following sentence shall serve as a final sample of Kriege’s insight into communist revolutionary movements and economic conditions:
“Every man should at least learn enough of every trade to be able to stand on his own feet for a while if necessary, if misfortune should sever him from human society."
[Kriege, “Antwort an Cattanio"]
It is of course much easier to “gush” “love” and “surrender” than to concern oneself with the development of real conditions and practical questions.
Section Three Metaphysical Trumpetings[edit source]
No. 13 of the Volks-Tribun: “Antwort an Sollta”.
1) Kriege here asserts he is “not accustomed to performing on a logical tight-rope in the barren desert of theory”. That he is walking on a “tight-rope”, not a logical one, it is true, but one spun from philosophical and love-besotted phrases, is clear from every issue of the Volks-Tribun.
2) The proposition that “each separate person lives individually” (which is itself nonsense) is expressed by Kriege as he walks the following illogical “tight-rope": “as long as the human species continues to find its representation in individuals at all”,
3) “putting an end to the present state of things” is supposed to depend on the “pleasure” of the “creative spirit of mankind”, which does not exist anywhere.
4) The following is the ideal of the communist man: “He bears the stamp of the species” (and who does not do so by the mere fact of his existence?), “determines his own goals according to the goals of the species” (as if the species were a person who could have goals) “and seeks to be completely his own, solely in order to dedicate himself to the species with everything that he is and is capable of becoming” (total self-sacrifice and self-abasement before a vaporous fantasy-concept).
5) The relationship of the individual to the species is also described in the following extravagant nonsense: “All of us and our particular activities are but symptoms of the great movement which is afoot in the inner depths of mankind” “In the inner depths of mankind” — where is that? According to this proposition, then, real people are only “symptoms”, features of a “movement” that is afoot “in the depths” of a phantom conjured up by thinking.
6) This country parson transforms the struggle for a communist society into “the search for that great spirit of community”. He pictures this “great spirit” “foaming full and fine from the cup of communion” and as “the holy spirit flashing from fraternal eyes”.
Now that the revolutionary communist movement has thus been transformed into the “search” for the holy spirit and holy communion, Kriege can of course also assert that this spirit “needs only to be recognised for all men to be joined together in love”.
7) This metaphysical conclusion is preceded by the following confusion of communism with communion: “The spirit that conquers the world, the spirit that commands the storm and the thunder and lightning (!!!!), the spirit that heals the blind and the lepers, the spirit that offers all men to drink of one wine” (we prefer a variety of kinds) .'and to eat of one bread” (the French and English Communists are rather more demanding), “the spirit that is eternal and omnipresent, that is the spirit of community.” If this “spirit” is “eternal and omnipresent”, it is quite beyond comprehension how, according to Kriege, private property has managed to exist for so long. But, true enough, it has not been “recognised” and was thus “eternal and omnipresent” solely in his own imagination.
Kriege is therefore here preaching in the name of communism the old fantasy of religion and German philosophy which is the direct antithesis of communism. Faith, more specifically, faith in the “holy rit of community” is the last thing required for the achievement of communism.
Section Four Flirtations with Religion[edit source]
It is self-evident that Kriege’s amorous slobberings and his antithesis to selfishness are no more than the inflated utterances of a mind that has become utterly and completely absorbed in religion. We shall see how Kriege, who in Europe always claimed to be an atheist, here seeks to foist off all the infamies of Christianity under the signboard of communism and ends, perfectly consistently, with man’s self-desecration.
In No. 10, “Was wir wollen” and “Hermann Kriege an Harro Harring” define the purpose of the communist struggle in the following terms:
1) “To make a truth of the religion of love and a reality of the long yearned-for community of the blessed denizens of heaven.” Kriege merely overlooks the fact that these obsessions of Christianity are only the fantastic expression of the existing world and that their “reality” therefore already exists in the evil conditions of this existing world.
2) “We demand in the name of that religion of love that the hungry should be given food, the thirsty be given drink and the naked clothed.” — A demand which has been reiterated ad nauseam for 1,800 years already, without the slightest success.
3) “We teach the practice of love” in order to
4). “receive love”.
5) “In their realm of love there is no room for devils.”
6) “It is his” (man’s) “most sacred need to merge his own person and whole individuality in the society of loving beings, towards whom he can retain nothing but
7) his boundless love.” One might think that with this boundlessness the theory of love had reached its highest peak, a peak so high that one can think of nothing higher; and yet the ascent continues.
8) “This hot outpouring of love, this surrender to all, this divine urge towards community — what else is this but the Communists’ innermost religion which is only lacking in the appropriate external world to express itself in the fullness of human life.” The present “external world” however seems to be quite sufficient for Kriege to lend the most lavish “expression” to his “innermost religion”, his “divine urge”, his “surrender to all” and his “hot outpouring” in the “fullness” of his own “human life”.
9) “Do we not have the right to take the long pent-up desires of the religious heart seriously and march into battle in the name of the poor, the unhappy, and the rejected, for the final realisation of the sublime realm of brotherly love?” Kriege marches into battle, then, in order to take seriously the desires not of the real and the secular, but of the religious heart, not those of the heart made bitter by real need but those of the heart inflated by a fantasy of bliss. He forthwith offers proof of his “religious heart” by marching into battle as a priest, in the name of others, that is, in the name of the “poor”, and in such a manner as to make it absolutely plain that he does not need communism for himself, he would have it that he is marching into battle in a spirit of pure, generous, dedicated, effusive self-sacrifice for the “poor, the unhappy and the rejected” who are in need of it — a feeling of elation which swells the heart of this worthy man in times of isolation and dejection, and outweighs all the troubles of this evil world.
10) Kriege concludes his pompous prating: “Any man who does not support such a party can with justice be treated as an enemy of mankind.” This intolerant sentence appears to be in contradiction to “surrender to all”, and the “religion of love” towards all. It is however a perfectly consistent conclusion of this new religion, which like every other mortally detests and persecutes all its enemies. The enemy of the party is quite consistently turned into a heretic, by transforming him from an enemy of the actually existing party who is combated, into a sinner against humanity — which only exists in the imagination — who must be punished.
11) In the letter to Harro Harring we read: “Our aim is to make all the poor of the world rebel against Mammon, under whose scourge they are condemned to work themselves to death, and when we have toppled the fearsome tyrant from his ancient throne, our aim will be to unite mankind by love, our aim will be to teach men to work communally and enjoy communally until the long-promised kingdom of joy finally comes about.” In order to work up a fury against the present-day sovereignty of money, he first has to transform it into the idol Mammon. This idol is toppled — how, we do not discover; the revolutionary movement of the proletariat of all countries shrinks to no more than a rebellion — and when this toppling is complete, then the prophets — “we” — appear to “teach” the proletariat what is to be done next. These prophets “teach” their disciples, who here appear in remarkable ignorance of their own interests, how they are “to work and enjoy communally”, not, indeed, for the sake of “working and enjoying communally” but rather just so that the scriptures shall be fulfilled and a number of visionaries shall not have prophesied in vain 1,800 years ago. — This prophetical manner is found elsewhere as well, for example:
In No. 8, “Was ist das Proletariat?” and “Andreas Dietsch”, with
a) “Proletarians,... the hour of your redemption has come.”
b) “A thousand hearts beat joyfully in anticipation of the promised time” — in other words, “of that great realm of love ... for the long yearned-for realm of love.”
c) In No. 12, “Antwort an Koch, den Antipfaffen”
“Already the gospel of the infinite redemption of the world goes quivering from eye to eye” and — even — “from hand to hand”. This miracle of the “quivering gospel”, this nonsense about the “infinite redemption of the world” is in perfect accordance with another miracle, namely that the long-abandoned prophecies of the old evangelists are unexpectedly fulfilled by Kriege.
12) Seen from this religious point of view, the answer to all real questions can only consist in a few images of extravagant religiosity which befog all sense, in a few high-sounding catchwords, such as “mankind”, “humanity”, “species”, etc., and in turning every real action into a fantastic phrase. This is particularly evident in the essay “Was ist das Proletariat?” (No. 8). The answer given to this title — question is: “The proletariat is mankind”, — a deliberate lie, according to which the Communists are aiming at the abolition of mankind. This answer, “mankind”, is supposed to be the same as the one Sieyès gave to the question: What is the tiers-état? Proof enough of how Kriege befuddles historical facts. He then forthwith provides more proof of this in his bigoted presentation of the American Anti-Rent movement: “And how would it be in the end if this proletariat, in its capacity as mankind” (a necessary character-mask for its appearance on the scene — a moment ago the proletariat was mankind, now mankind is only a capacity of the proletariat), “laid claim to the whole earth as its undisputed property for all eternity?” One observes how even an extremely simple, practical movement is transformed into empty phrases like “mankind”, “undisputed property”, “all eternity”, etc., and for that reason rests content with a mere “claim”. — Apart from the usual catchwords such as “outcast”, etc., which is joined by the religious “accursed”, all Kriege’s statements about the proletariat amount to no more than the following mythological-biblical images:
"the Lamb of God which bears the sins of the world”,
"the Wandering Jew”,
and finally he brings up the following remarkable question: “Is mankind to wander for ever, then, a homeless vagabond, about the earth?” Meanwhile it is precisely the exclusive settlement of a part of “mankind” on the land which is his particular bugbear!
13) The real point about Kriege’s religion is revealed in the following passage: “We have other things to do than worry about our miserable selves, we belong to mankind.” With this shameful and nauseating grovelling before a “mankind” that is separate and distinct from the “self “ and which is therefore a metaphysical and in his case even a religious fiction, with what is indeed the most utterly “miserable” slavish self-abasement, this religion ends up like any other. Such a doctrine, preaching the voluptuous pleasure of cringing and self-contempt, is entirely suited to valiant — monks, but never to men of action, least of all in a time of struggle. It only remains for these valiant monks to castrate their “miserable selves” and thereby provide sufficient proof of their confidence in the ability of “mankind” to reproduce itself! — If Kriege has nothing better to offer than these sentimentalities in pitiful style, it would indeed be wiser for him to translate his “Père Lamennais” again and again in each issue of the Volks-Tribun.
What the practical consequences are of Kriege’s religion of infinite mercy and boundless surrender, is shown by the pleas for work which feature in almost every issue of the Volks-Tribun. We read, for instance, in No. 8:
“Arbeit! Arbeit! Arbeit!”
“Is there no one amongst all the wise’ gentlemen who does not consider it a waste of effort to provide sustenance for deserving families and preserve helpless young people from poverty and despair? Firstly there is Johann Stern from Mecklenburg, still without work, and he is only asking to work himself to skin and bone for the benefit of some capitalist and at the same time earn enough bread as will suffice to sustain him for his work, — is that asking too much, then, in civilised society? — And then Karl Gescheidtle from Baden, a young man of the most excellent qualities and not without higher education — he looks so trustworthy and good, I guarantee he is honesty itself.... And an old man, too, and several other young people are begging for occupation for their hands, for their daily bread. — Let any person who can help delay no longer, or his conscience will one day rob him of his sleep when he most needs it. It is true you might say: There are thousands crying out in vain for work, and we certainly can’t help all of them — you could, no doubt, but you are slaves of selfishness and have no heart to do anything. But for as long as you will not help all, at least show that you have left still a vestige of human feeling and help as many individuals as is in your power.”
Of course, if they wished, they could help more than is in their power. That is how it is in practice, that is the real implementation of the self-abasement and degradation which this new religion teaches.
Section Five Kriege’s Personal Stand[edit source]
The nature of Kriege’s personal stand in his journal cannot fail to be evident from the above quotations; we will therefore only single out a small number of points.
Kriege appears as a prophet and therefore necessarily also as an emissary from a secret league of Essenes, the “League of Justice”. Hence, when he is not speaking in the name of the “oppressed”, he is speaking in the name of “justice”, which is not ordinary justice, however, but the justice of the “League of Justice”. He not merely envelops himself in a fog of mystery, but history too. He envelops the real historical development of communism in the various countries of Europe, which he is not acquainted with, in a fog of mystery, by ascribing the origin and progress of communism to fabulous, novelettish and fictitious intrigues by this league of Essenes. There is evidence of this in every issue, especially in the reply to Harro Harring, which also contains the most absurd fantasies about the power of this league.
As a true apostle of love Kriege addresses himself firstly to women, whom he cannot believe to be so depraved as to resist a heart beating with love, secondly, to the newly discovered agitators “filially and conciliatorily”, — as a “son” — as a “brother” — as “brother of the heart” — and finally as a human being to the rich. Hardly has he arrived in New York when he sends out circulars to all rich German merchants, presses the popgun of love to their chests, takes very good care not to say what he wants of them, signs variously as “A Human Being”, “A Friend of Man” or “A Fool” — and, “would you believe it, my friends?”, nobody responds to his highfalutin’ tomfoolery. This can surprise no one but Kriege himself. — The familiar phrases of love we have already quoted are occasionally spiced with ejaculations like (No. 12, “Antwort an Koch”): “Hurrah! Long five community, long live equality, long live love!” Practical questions and doubts (cf. No. 14, “Antwort” to Conze) he can only explain to himself as deliberate malice and obtuseness. As a true prophet and exponent of love, he expresses all the hysterical irritation which a sensitive soul who has been snubbed feels towards the mockers, the unbelievers and those people in the old world whom the sweet warmth of his love fails to transmute into “the blessed denizens of heaven”. It is in such a mood of sulky sentimentality that he cries out to them in No. 11, under the heading, “Frühling": “Therefore, you who mock us now, you shall soon have faith, for you shall know, spring is coming.”
- Young America — an organisation of American craftsmen and workers; it formed the nucleus of the mass National Reform Association founded in 1845. In the second half of the 1840s the Association agitated for land reform, proclaiming as its aim free allotment of a plot of 160 acres to every working man; it came out against slave-owning planters and land profiteers. It also put forward demands for a ten-hour working day, abolition of slavery, of the standing army, etc. Many German emigrant craftsmen, including members of the League of the Just, took part in the movement headed by the National Reform Association. By 1846 the movement among the German workers began to subside. One of the reasons for this was the activity of Kriege’s group whose “true socialism” diverted the German emigrants from the struggle for democratic aims
- The reference is to the following passage from Emmanuel Sieyès’ Quest-ceque le tiers-état? published in Paris in 1789 on the eve of the French Revolution: “1. What is the third estate? Everything. 2. What was it until now in the political respect? Nothing. 3. What is it striving for? To be something
- Essenes — a religious sect in ancient Judea (2nd century B. C. — 3rd century A. D.)