Comité de sûreté générale in Berlin

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 5 June 1848

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 46;

First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 6, June 6, 1848.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Excerpts from an announcement published in the supplement to the Berliner Zeitungs-Halle No. 128, June 4, 1848, under the title “Berliner Tagesgeschichte” [Sicherheits-Ausschutz], are quoted in this article with some digressions.

Cologne, June 5. Now Berlin, too, has its Comité de sûreté générale just as Paris had in the year 1793. There is, however, one difference: the Paris committee was revolutionary, whereas the one in Berlin is reactionary. For according to an announcement which appeared in Berlin, “the authorities entrusted with the maintenance of order” have found it necessary “to join in a combined effort”. They have therefore appointed a Committee of Public Safety which has taken up residence in Oberwallstrasse. This new administrative body is composed as follows: 1. President: Puttkamer, director in the Ministry of the Interior; 2. Commandant Aschoff, the former commander-in-chief of the civic militia; 3. Chief of Police Minutoli; 4. Public Prosecutor Temme; 5. Burgomaster Naunyn and two councillors; 6. The chairman of the City Council and three city councillors; 7. Five officers and two soldiers of the civic militia. The committee will

“take notice of all events which disturb or threaten to disturb public order and it promises to subject the facts to a profound and thorough investigation. While circumventing old and inadequate means and methods, and avoiding unnecessary correspondence, the committee will agree upon suitable steps and initiate the rapid and energetic implementation of the necessary orders by the various organs of the administration. Only such joint co-operation can bring speed and safety, combined with the requisite circumspection, into the conduct of business which is often very difficult in the present circumstances. In particular, however, the civic militia, which has assumed the protection of the city, will be enabled, when required, to lend appropriate weight to the decisions made with its advice by the authorities. With full confidence in. the participation and collaboration of all inhabitants, particularly the honourable (!) estate of artisans and (!) workers, the deputies, free of all party views and aims, begin their laborious task and hope that they may be able to fulfil it, preferably by the peaceful method of mediation, so that the well-being of all may be assured”.

The very unctuous, ingratiating, humbly pleading language used leads one to suspect that what is being formed here is a centre for reactionary activities against the revolutionary people of Berlin. The composition of this committee changes this suspicion to certainty. There is first of all Herr Puttkamer, who as Chief of Police became well known for his expulsions. As under the bureaucratic monarchy, no high authority without at least one Puttkamer. Then there is Herr Aschoff, who, because he is as rude as a drill-sergeant and on account of his reactionary intrigues, came to be so hated by the civic militia that it decided to remove him. He has now indeed resigned. Then we come to Herr Minutoli, who in 1846 saved the fatherland in Posen [Poznan] by discovering the Polish conspiracy[1] and who recently threatened to expel the compositors when they were striking because of wages disagreements.[2] Then there are the representatives of two bodies that have become extremely reactionary: the Municipal Government and the City Council, and, finally, among the civic militia officers the arch-reactionary Major Blesson. We hope that the people of Berlin will by no means let themselves be held in tutelage by this arbitrarily constituted committee of reaction.

The committee, by the way, has already started its reactionary activity by asking that the popular procession, announced for yesterday (Sunday), to the grave of those killed in March should be called off since this would be a demonstration and demonstrations in general are held to be an evil.

  1. In February 1846, the Prussian police in Posen tracked down the leaders of preparations for a national liberation uprising in Poland and carried out wholesale arrests. As a result, a general uprising aimed at restoring Poland’s independence was staved off and only sporadic outbursts occurred (among them an unsuccessful attempt b.,. a group of Polish revolutionaries to capture the Posen fortress on March 3). Only in the Republic of Cracow, which since the Congress of Vienna had been under the joint control of Austria, Russia and Prussia, did the insurgents gain power on February 22 and create a National Government of the Polish Republic, which issued a manifesto abrogating all feudal obligations. The Cracow uprising was suppressed in early March 1846 and, in November, Austria, Prussia and Russia signed a treaty incorporating the free city of Cracow into the Austrian Empire
  2. In late April and early May 1848, Berlin was the scene of a compositors’ strike for higher wages and shorter working hours. The workers disregarded the threat of deportation, and succeeded in forcing their employers to abandon an attempt to make them sign, as a condition of agreement, a statement in which the workers would acknowledge their “errors” and repent