Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 16 October 1842


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Date of writing: October 16, 1842
Collection(s): Rheinische Zeitung
Keywords : Communism

This article is the first written by Marx for the Rheinische Zeitung after he became its editor. The article in No. 284 of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung against which Marx polemises was published on October 11, 1842, under the title “Die Kommunistenlehren”. In English the article was published in Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, New York, 1967, pp. 136-42, and in Vol. 1 of On Revolution New York, 1971, pp. 3-6.

October 16, 1842 - Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung[edit source]

Cologne, October 13 -- Issue No.284 of the Augsburg paper is so inept as to find the Rheinische Zeitung to be a Prussian communist -- not a communist, to be sure, but still one that fanatically flirts with and platonically ogles communism.

Whether this ill-mannered fantasy of the Augsburger is unselfish or whether this idle trick of its excited imagination is connected with speculation and diplomatic affairs, the reader may decide -- after we have presented the alleged corpus delicti.

The Rheinische Zeitung, they say, has printed a communistic essay on Berlin family dwellings, accompanied by the following comment: This report "might not be without interest for the history of this important issue". From this it follows, according to the Augsburger's logic, that the Rheinische Zeitung "served up such dirty linen with approval". Thus, for example, if I say: "The following report from [Leipzig journal] Mefistofeles about the household affairs of the Augsburg paper might not be without interest for the history of this pretentious lady," do I thereby recommend dirty "material" from which the Augsburg lady could tailor a colorful wardrobe? Or should we not consider communism an important current issue because it's not a current issue privileged to appear at court, since it wears dirty linen and does not smell of rosewater?

But the Augsburg paper has reason to be angry at our misunderstanding. The importance of communism does not lie in its being a current issue of highest moment for France and England. Communism has "European significance", to repeat the phrase used by the Augsburg paper. One of its Paris correspondents, a convert who treats history the way a pastry cook treats botony, has recently had the notion that monarchy, in its own fashion, must seek to appropriate socialist-communist ideas. Now you will understand the displeasure of the Augsburg paper, which will never forgive us for revealing communism to the public in its unwashed nakedness; now you understand the sullen irony that tells us: So you recommend communism, which once had the fortunate elegance of being a phrase in the Augsburg paper!

The second reproach to the Rheinische Zeitung deals with the conclusion of a report on the communist speeches given at the congress in Strasbourg, because the two stepsister papers had so divided the booty that the Rhineland sister took the proceedings and the Bavarian one the fruits of the Strasbourg scholars. The exact wording of the incriminating passage is:

"It is with the middle class today as it was with the nobility in 1789. At that time, the middle class claimed the privileges of the nobility and got them; today, the class which possesses nothing demands to share in the wealth of the middle classes that are now in control. Today, however, the middle class is better prepared for a surprise attack than the nobility was in 1789, and it is to be expected that the problem will be solved peacefully."

That Sieyes' prophecy has come true and that the tiers etat ["Third Estate"] has become everything and wants to be everything -- all this is recognized with the most sorrowful indignation by Bulow-Cummerow, by the former Berliner Politische Wochenblatt [Berlin Political Weekly], by Dr. Kosegarten, and by all the feudalistic writers. That the class that today possesses nothing demands to share in the wealth of the middle class is a fact that, without the Strasbourg speeches and the silence of the Augsburg paper, is clearly recognized in the streets of Manchester, Paris, and Lyon. Does the Augsburger really believe that indignation and silence refute the facts of the time? The Augsburger is impertinent in fleeing. The Augsburg paper runs away from captious issues and believes that the dust it stirs up, and the nervous invectives it mutters in its flight, will blind and confuse the uncomfortable issue as well as the comfortable reader.

Or is the Augsburger angry at our correspondent's expectation that the undeniable collision will be solved in a "peaceful way"? Or does the Augsburger reproach us for not having given immediately a good prescription and not having put into the surprised reader's pocket a report as clear as daylight on the solution of the enormous problem? We do not possess the art of mastering problems which two nations are working on with one phrase.

But, my dear, best Augsburger! In connection with communism, you give us to understand that Germany is now poor in independent people, that nine-tenths of the better educated youth are begging the state for their future bread, that our rivers are neglected, that shipping has declined, that our once-flourishing commercial cities have faded, that in Prussia very slow progress is made toward free institutions, that the surplus of our population helplessly wanders away and ceases to be German among foreign nations -- and for all these problem there is not a single prescription, no attempt to become "clearer about the means of achieving the great act that is to redeem us from all these sins! Or don't you expect a peaceful solution? It almost seems that another article in the same issue, date-lined from Karlsruhe, points in that direction when you pose for Prussia the insidious question of the Customs Union: "Does anyone believe that such a crisis would pass like a brawl over smoking in the Tiergarten?" The reason you off your disbelief is communistic: "Let a crisis break out in industry; let millions in capital be lost; let thousands of workers go hungry." How inopportune our "peaceful expectation", after you had decided to let a bloody revolution break out! Perhaps, for this reason, your article on Great Britain by your own logic points approvingly to the demagogic physician, Dr. M'Douall, who emigrated to America because "nothing can be done with this royal family after all."

Before we part from you, we would, in passing, like to call your attention to your own wisdom -- your method which, with no shortage of phrases but without even a harmless idea here and there, makes you nevertheless speak up. You find that the polemic of Mr. Hennequin in Paris against the parceling out of the land puts him in surprising harmony with the Autonomes [aristocratic landowners]! Surprise, says Aristotle, is the beginning of philosophizing. You have ended at the beginning. Otherwise, would the surprising fact have escaped you that in Germany communistic principles are spread, not by the liberals, but by your reactionary friends?

Who speaks of handicraft corporations? The reactionaries. the artisan class is to form a state within a state. Do you find it extraordinary that such ideas, couched in modern terms, thus read: "The state should transform itself into an artisan class"? If the state is to be a state for the artisan, but if the modern artisan, like any modern man, understands and can understand the state only as a sphere shared by all his fellow citizens -- how can you synthesize both of these ideas in any other way except in an artisan state?

Who polemicizes about parceling out the land? The reactionaries. A recently published feudalistic writing (Kosegarten on land parceling) went so far as to call private property a privilege. This is Fourier's principle. Once there is agreement on principles, may not there then be disagreement over consequences and implications?

The Rheinische Zeitung, which cannot concede the theoretical reality of communist ideas even in their present form, and can even less wish or consider possible their practical realization, will submit these ideas to a thorough criticism. If the Augsburg paper demanded and wanted more than slick phrases, it would see that writings such as those of Leroux, Considerant, and above all Proudhon's penetrating work, can be criticized, not through superficial notions of the moment, but only after long and deep study. We consider such "theoretical" works the more seriously as we do not agree with the Augsburg paper, which finds the "reality" of communist ideas not in Plato but in some obscure acquaintance who, not without some merit in some branches of scientific research, gave up the entire fortune that was at his disposal at the time and polished his confederates' dishes and boots, according to the will of Father Enfantin. We are firmly convinced that it is not the practical Attempt, but rather the theoretical application of communist ideas, that constitutes the real danger; for practical attempts, even those on a large scale, can be answered with cannon as soon as they become dangerous, but ideas, which conquer our intelligence, which overcome the outlook that reason has riveted to our conscience, are chains from which we cannot tear ourselves away without tearing our hearts; they are demons that man can overcome only by submitting to them. But the Augsburg paper has never come to know the troubled conscience that is evoked by a rebellion of man's subjective wishes against the objective insights of his own reason, because it possesses neither reason nor insight nor conscience.

October 22, 1842 - Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung - Editorial Note[edit source]

Following the reprint by the Rheinische Zeitung No. 292 of an article from the Mannheimer Abendzeitung from Pfalz, October 12", which begins with the words:

“I was really surprised when I found yesterday that the Augsburg Allgmeine Zeitung had printed an article (on communism), taken from Aachen news-sheets, which truly did not deserve to be accepted by a newspaper which otherwise has such good material”, the Aachener Zeitung No. 293 has published a reply, extracts from which we certainly do not want to withhold from our- readers, in view of a special wish expressed by the editorial board of this newspaper, and all the more since it affords us the opportunity we desire for a subsequent correction. The Aachener Zeitung rightly believes that the Rheinische

“could have known that the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung had torn out only a few passages from its article on the Communists (in No. 277 of the Aachener Zeitung) and added comments of its own, which of course gave a different complexion to the article”.

As stated, the Rheinische Zeitung was not only aware of this, but knew also that the Aachener Zeitung was quite innocent in regard to those fragments, insipidly and cunningly put together by the Augsburg newspaper No. 284, which were aimed solely at the Rheinische Zeitung. Therefore, in settling accounts with the Augsburg newspaper in No. 289, the Rheinische Zeitung very properly did not draw the Aachener Zeitung into the debate. But if someone from Pfalz could be misled into a false assumption by the heading in spaced type of that Augsburg newspaper's article: “We Read Aachen News-sheets”, that is at any rate an indication that the Aachener Zeitung could have anticipated earlier such a misunderstanding in respect of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung. Having once undertaken to deal wholly on its own account with the Augsburg article, the Rheinische Zeitung could very well allow the incidental reprint of the -note in the Mannheimer Abendzeitung to pass without any guide-mark since, of course, its readers already knew where that came from. The following passage from today's article in the Aachener Zeitung requires no further comment:

“It knows that we are not against any free research, that we shall not weaken the efforts of those who are concerned for the welfare of any class of people. We are liberal towards all, which is more than the majority of liberals of many varieties can so far say about themselves. What we said, however, is that communism cannot find any soil among us, but that, on the other hand, it is a natural phenomenon in France and England. We added, lastly, that we were not ourselves opposed to communist efforts in Germany, but were very definitely against any club-like brotherhoods of the kind that are said to have sprung up in Silesia. Liberal ideas are not yet so firmly rooted among us, and have not yet made such progress among us, that every endeavour does not need to be carefully fostered. As a rule, however, we see in our country far too little harmony between newspapers of the same colour. They do not bear in mind that an isolated undertaking cannot cover the whole field, and that a total effect can be produced only by each in turn becoming the bearer and disseminator of the ideas of the other. ”

The editorial board of the Rheinische Zeitung