Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality. A Contribution to German Cultural History. Contra Karl Heinzen

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written October 1847


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 312;
Written: at the end of October 1847;
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung Nos. 86,87,90,92 and 94; October 28 and 31; November 11, 18 and 25, 1847.

The work is a continuation of the polemic with Karl Heinzen. The latter replied to Engels (see this volume, pp. 291-306) with a long article “Ein ‘Repräsentant’ der Kommunisten” full of rude abuse of his opponent and of the theory of scientific communism in general (Marx ironically called this article “Heinzen’s Manifesto Against the Communists”). After the publication of this article in full in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung (No. 84, October 21, 1847) Bornstedt, the editor of the newspaper, again appealed to the contending parties to take the polemic elsewhere as the newspaper could not afford to publish such long articles. However, the editorial board had to agree to publish Marx’s reply to Heinzen in full. When they began to publish the reply in No. 86 on October 28, 1847 the editors even censured Heinzen in an editorial note for the harsh tone of his attacks. On November 14, before the whole of Marx’s article had appeared, the editors published a special note in answer to Heinzen’s attempt to continue the polemic: “We refuse to publish in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung Heinzen’s letter of November 1 from Geneva in which he attacks the editorial board of this paper in an infamous way and tries to involve the paper and Karl Marx, for his first article in No. 86, without waiting for the continuation, in a vile private squabble. We declare that this is the way we shall deal with Heinzen’s subsequent letters, despite his philistine assertions that he has a right to use our paper to express his views. We shall reply to possible public accusations in the proper time and place if we deem it necessary.”

Marx’s work was published in the Polemik column in several issues. There were some editorial notes to the first part of it (to the expression “grobian literature”, literary personages “Solomon and Marcolph”, “goose preacher”). Subsequently, however, author’s notes were provided. Nos. 92 and 94 of November 18 and 25, 1847 contained errata. All the corrections, some of which are author’s improvements, have been taken into account in the present edition.

This work was published in English abridged in K. Marx, Selected Essays, Parsons, London, 1926.

Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 86, October 28, 1847[edit source]

Shortly before and during the period of the Reformation there developed amongst the Germans a type of literature whose very name is striking — grobian literature. In our own day we are approaching an era of revolution analogous to that of the sixteenth century. Small wonder that among the Germans grobian literature is emerging once more. Interest in historical development easily overcomes the aesthetic revulsion which this kind of writing provokes even in a person of quite unrefined taste and which it provoked back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Flat, bombastic, bragging, thrasonical, putting on a great show of rude vigour in attack, yet hysterically sensitive to the same quality in others; brandishing the sword with enormous waste of energy, lifting it high in the air only to let it fall down flat; constantly preaching morality and constantly offending against it; sentiment and turpitude most absurdly conjoined; concerned only with the point at issue, yet always missing the point; using with equal arrogance petty-bourgeois scholarly semi-erudition against popular wisdom, and so-called “sound common sense” against science; discharging itself in ungovernable breadth with a certain complacent levity; clothing a philistine message in a plebeian form; wrestling with the literary language to, give it, so to speak, a purely corporeal character; willingly pointing at the writer’s body in the background, which is itching in every fibre to give a few exhibitions of its strength, to display its broad shoulders and publicly to stretch its limbs; proclaiming a healthy mind in a healthy body; unconsciously infected by the sixteenth century’s most abstruse controversies and by its fever of the body; in thrall to dogmatic, narrow thinking and at the same time appealing to petty practice in the face of all real thought; raging against reaction, reacting against progress; incapable of making the opponent seem ridiculous, but ridiculously abusing him through the whole gamut of tones; Solomon and Marcolph, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a visionary and a philistine in one person; a loutish form of indignation, a form of indignant loutishness; and suspended like an enveloping cloud over it all, the self-satisfied philistine’s consciousness of his own virtue — such was the grobian literature of the sixteenth century. If our memory does not deceive us, the German folk anecdote has set up a lyrical monument to it in the song of Heineke, der starke Knecht. To Herr Heinzen belongs the credit of being one of the re-creators of grobian literature and in this field one of the German swallows heralding the coming springtime of the nations.

Heinzen’s manifesto against the Communists in No. 84 of the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung has been our most immediate instigation in studying that degenerate variety of literature whose historically interesting aspect for Germany we have indicated. We shall describe the literary species represented by Herr Heinzen on the basis of his manifesto, exactly as literary historians characterise the writers of the sixteenth century from the surviving writings of the sixteenth century, for instance the “goose-preacher” [Thomas Murner]

Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 87, October 31, 1847*[edit source]

  • My reason for answering Herr Heinzen is not to rebut the attack on Engels. Herr Heinzen’s article does not need a rebuttal. I am answering because Heinzen’s manifesto furnishes entertaining material for analysis. K. M. [1]

Biron. Hide thy head, Achilles: here comes Hector in arms.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
King. Hector was but a Troyan in respect of this.
Boyet. But is this Hector?
Dumain. I think Hector was not so clean-timbered.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Biron. This cannot be Hector.
Dumain. He’s a god or a painter; for he makes faces.
[Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost [2]]

But that Herr Heinzen is Hector, of that there is no doubt.

“I have long been visited,” he confesses to us, “by a premonition that I would fall by the hand of a communist Achilles. Now that I have been attacked by a Thersites, the danger thus averted makes me bold once more,” etc.

Only a Hector can have a premonition that he will fall by the hand of an Achilles.

Or did Herr Heinzen derive his picture of Achilles and Thersites not from Homer but from Schlegel’s translation of Shakespeare?

If that is so, he assigns to himself the part of Ajax.

Let us look at Shakespeare’s Ajax.

Ajax. I will beat thee into handsomeness.
Thersites. I shall sooner rail thee into wit; but thy horse will sooner con an oration than thou learn a prayer without book. Thou canst strike, canst thou? a red murrain o’ thy jade’s tricks!
Ajax. Toadstool, learn me the proclamation.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thersites. Thou art proclaimed a fool, I think.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Ajax. You whoreson cur.
Thersites. Do, do.
Ajax, Thou stool for a witch!
Thersites. Ay, do, do;... thou scurvy-valiant ass! thou art here but to thrash Trojans; and thou art bought and sold among those of any wit, like a barbarian slave ... a great deal of your wit too lies in your sinews, or else there be liars.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thersites. A wonder!
Achilles. What?
Thersites. Ajax goes up and down the field, asking for himself.
Achilles. How so?
Thersites. He must fight singly tomorrow, and is so prophetically proud of an heroical cudgelling that he raves in saying nothing.
Achilles. How can that be?
Thersites. Why, he stalks up and down like a peacock, a stride and a stand; ruminates like a hostess that bath no arithmetic but her brain to set down her reckoning; bites his lip with a politic regard. as who would say, “There were wit in this head, an ‘twould out”.,. I had rather be a tick in a sheep than such a valiant ignorance.*

  • Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida.

Whichever character-mask Herr Heinzen now appears wearing — Hector or Ajax — scarcely has he entered the arena when he proclaims to the spectators in a mighty voice that his adversary has not dealt him the “coup de grâce”. With all the composure and epic breadth of an ancient Homeric hero, he expounds the reasons for his escape. “I owe my escape,” he tells us, “to an error on nature’s part.” “Nature” has not “fitted” me for my adversary’s level. He towers over him, the taller by two heads, and that is why the two “swinging blows” of his “little executioner” could not reach his “literary neck”. Herr Engels, it is stressed most emphatically and repeatedly, Herr Engels is “little”, a “little executioner”, a “little person”. He then says, with one of those turns of phrase such as we only come across in the old heroic lays, or in the puppet play of the giant Goliath and the small David: “If you were hanging that high” — from a lamp-post — “nobody would ever find you again”. That is the giant’s humour, at once whimsical and spine-chilling.

It is not just his “neck”, but his whole “nature”, his whole body for which Herr Heinzen thus finds “literary” application. He has put his “little” adversary beside him in order to set off his own physical perfection in fitting contrast. The deformed “dwarf” carries an executioner’s axe under his tiny arm, perhaps one of those little guillotines which were given to children as toys in 1794. He, the terrible warrior on the other hand, wields no other weapon in his furious-playful arrogance than the “birch-rod”, of which, he informs us, he has long made use to “chastise” the “naughtiness” of those bad “boys”, the Communists. The giant is content to confront his “insect-sized foe” as a pedagogue, instead of crushing the rash little fellow underfoot. He is content to speak to him as the children’s friend, to teach him a lesson in morality and reprimand him with the utmost severity for vicious wickedness, especially “lying”, “silly, puerile lying”, “insolence”, his “boyish tone”, lack of respect and other shortcomings of youth. And if in the process the schoolmasterly warrior’s rod sometimes swishes cruelly about the pupil’s ears, if from time to time over-vigorous language interrupts his moral sentences and even partially destroys their effect, one should not for a moment forget that a warrior cannot impart moral instruction in the same way as ordinary, schoolmasters, for example a Quintus Fixlein, and that nature comes in again by the window if one chases her out of the door. One should furthermore reflect that what would repel us as obscenity from the mouth of an elf like Engels, has for ear and heart the splendid resonance of nature herself when it comes from the mouth of a colossus like Heinzen. And are we to measure the language of heroes by the restricted linguistic standards of the common citizen? No more so than we should think Homer descends to the level of, for instance, grobian literature, when he calls one of his favourite heroes, Ajax, “as stiff-necked as an ass”.

The giant’s intentions were honest when he showed the Communists his birch-rod in No. 77 of the Deutsche-Brüssseler-Zeitung. And the “little” wretch for whose opinion he did not even ask — several times he expresses his warrior-like astonishment at the incomprehensible audacity of the pygmy — repaid him so unkindly. “It was not intended as a piece of advice,” he complains. “Herr Engels wants to kill me, he wants to murder me, the wicked man.”

And what of his own part? As when he faced the Prussian government, here too he had “enthusiastically begun a battle, in which he bore peace proposals, a heart of humane reconciliation between the opposing forces of the age, beneath his warlike coat”. [Karl Heinzen, Steckbrief.] But: “Enthusiasm was dowsed with the acid-sharp water of malice.” [Ibid.]

Isegrim showing his rage and fury, stretched out his paws and
Came at him with wide-gaping jaws and with powerful leaping.
Reineke, lighter than he, escaped his raging opponent,
And then hastily wetted his coarse-haired tail-brush with his
Acid-sharp water and trailed it through dust to load it with sand-grains.
Isegrim thought, now he had him at bay! But sly Reineke struck him
Over the eyes with his tail, preventing him seeing and hearing.
He had used such a stratagem often, many a creature
Had to his cost felt the noxious force of his acid-sharp water. [Goethe, Reineke Fuchs]

Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 90, November 11, 1847[edit source]

“I have been a republican, Herr Engels, as long as I have concerned myself with politics, and my convictions have not been turning about, they have been without wavering and fickleness unlike what has gone on in the heads of so many Communists. [Heinzen’s Manifesto, Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 84.]

“It is true I have only just become a revolutionary. It is part of the Communists tactics that, aware of their own incorrigibility, they criticise their adversaries as soon as they correct themselves” [Ibid.]

Herr Heinzen never became a republican, he has been one since his political birth. On his side, therefore, immutability, the immobility of a final state, consistency. On the side of his adversaries, wavering, fickleness, turning about. Herr Heinzen has not always been a revolutionary, he has become one. Now, of course, the turning about is on Herr Heinzen’s side, but then the immoral character of turning about has been turned about too; it is now known as “correcting themselves”. On the Communists’ side, on the other hand, immutability has lost its character of high morality. What has become of it? “Incorrigibility.”

Remaining constant or turning about, both are moral, both are immoral; moral on the side of the philistine, immoral on the side of his adversary. For the art of the philistine as critic consists in calling out rouge et noir [red and black, as at the gaming table, was given in the errata in the November 18 issue instead of the original “wohl und weh” — good and bad] at the right time, the right word at the right time.

Ignorance is generally considered a fault. We are accustomed to regard it as a negative quantity. Let us observe how the magic wand of the philistine as critic converts a minus quantity of intelligence into a plus quantity of morality.

Herr Heinzen reports amongst other things that he is still just as ignorant of philosophy as in 1844. Hegel’s “language” he has “continued to find indigestible”.

So much for the facts of the matter. Now for the moral processing of them.

Because Herr Heinzen has always found Hegel’s language “indigestible”, he has not, like “Engels and others”, succumbed to the immoral arrogance of ever priding himself on that same Hegelian language, any more than, by all accounts so far, Westphalian peasants “pride themselves” on the Sanskrit language. However, true moral behaviour consists in avoiding the motivation for immoral behaviour, and how can one better secure oneself against immoral “priding oneself” on a language than by taking good care not to understand that language!

Herr Heinzen, who knows nothing of philosophy, has for that reason, as he thinks, not attended the philosophers’ “school” either. His school was “sound common sense” and the “fullness of life”.

“At the same time,” he exclaims with the modest pride of the just, “this has preserved me from the danger of denying my school.”

There is no more proven remedy for the moral danger of denying one’s school than not going to school!

Any development, whatever its substance may be, can be represented as a series of different stages of development that are connected in such a way that one forms the negation of the other. If, for example, a people develops from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, it negates its former political being. In no sphere can one undergo a development without negating one’s previous mode of existence. Negating translated into the language of morality means: denying.

Denying! With this catchword the philistine as critic can condemn any development without understanding it; he can solemnly set up his undevelopable undevelopment beside it as moral immaculateness. Thus the religious phantasy of the nations has by and large stigmatised history, by transposing the age of innocence, the golden age, into pre-history, into the time when no historical development at all took place, and hence no negating and no denying. Thus in noisy eras of revolution, in times of strong, passionate negation and denial, as in the 18th century, there emerge honest, well-meaning men, well-bred, respectable satyrs like Gessner, who oppose the undevelopable state of the idylls to the corruption of history. It should nevertheless be observed to the credit of these idyll-poets, who were also critical moralists and moralising critics of a kind, that they conscientiously waver as to who should be accorded the palm of morality, the shepherd or the sheep.

But let us leave our worthy philistine undisturbed to pasture on his own diligence! Let us follow him to where he fancies he attacks the “heart of the matter”. Throughout we shall find the same method.

“I cannot help it if Herr Engels and other Communists are too blind to realise that power also controls property and that injustice in property relations is only maintained by power. — I call any man a fool and a coward who bears the bourgeois malice on account of his acquisition of money and lets a king he on account of his acquisition of power.” [Heinzen’s Manifesto, No. 84 of the D-B-Z.]

“Power also controls property!”

Property, at all events, is also a kind of power. Economists call capital, for instance, “power over the labour of others”.

We are therefore faced with two kinds of power, on the one hand the power of property, in other words, of the property-owners, on the other hand political power, the power of the state. “Power also controls property” means: property does not control the political power but rather it is harassed by it, for example by arbitrary taxes, by confiscations, by privileges, by the disruptive interference of the bureaucracy in industry and trade and the like.

In other words: the bourgeoisie has not yet taken political shape as a class. The power of the state is not yet its own power. In countries where the bourgeoisie has already conquered political power and political rule is none other than the rule, not of the individual bourgeois over his workers, but of the bourgeois class over the whole of society, Herr Heinzen’s dictum has lost its meaning. The propertyless of course remain untouched by political rule insofar as it directly affects property.

Whilst, therefore, Herr Heinzen fancied he was expressing a truth as eternal as it was original, he has only expressed the fact that the German bourgeoisie must conquer political power, in other words, he says what Engels says, but unconsciously, honestly thinking he is saying the opposite. He is only expressing, with some emotion, a transient relationship between the German bourgeoisie and the German state power, as an eternal truth, and thereby showing how to make a “solid core” out of a “movement”.

“Injustice in property relations,” continues Herr Heinzen, “is only maintained by power.”

Either Herr Heinzen here understands “injustice in property relations” as the above-mentioned pressure to which the absolute monarchy still subjects the bourgeoisie even in its “most sacred” interests, in which case he is only repeating what has just been said — or he understands “injustice in property relations” as the economic conditions of the workers, in which case his pronouncement has the following meaning:

The present bourgeois property relations are “maintained” by the state power which the bourgeoisie has organised for the protection of its property relations. The proletariat must therefore overthrow the political power where it is already in the hands of the bourgeoisie. It must itself become a power, in the first place a revolutionary power.

Again, Herr Heinzen is unconsciously saying the same thing as Engels is saying, but again in the steadfast conviction that he is saying the opposite. What he says he does not mean, and what he means he does not say.

Incidentally, if the bourgeoisie is politically, that is, by its state power, “maintaining injustice in property relations”, it is not creating it. The “injustice in property relations” which is determined by the modern division of labour, the modern form of exchange, competition, concentration, etc., by no means arises from the political rule of the bourgeois class, but vice versa, the political rule of the bourgeois class arises from these modern relations of production which bourgeois economists proclaim to be necessary and eternal laws. If therefore the proletariat overthrows the political rule of the bourgeoisie, its victory will only be temporary, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in the year 1794, as long as in the course of history, in its “movement”, the material conditions have not yet been created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production and therefore also the definitive overthrow of the political rule of the bourgeoisie. The terror in France could thus by its mighty hammer-blows only serve to spirit away, as it were, the ruins of feudalism from French soil. The timidly considerate bourgeoisie would not have accomplished this task in decades. The bloody action of the people thus only prepared the way for it. In the same way, the overthrow of the absolute monarchy would be merely temporary if the economic conditions for the rule of the bourgeois class had not yet become ripe. Men build a new world for themselves, not from the “treasures of this earth”, as grobian superstition imagines, but from the historical achievements of their declining world. In the course of their development they first have to produce the material conditions of a new society itself, and no exertion of mind or will can free them from this fate.

It is characteristic of the whole grobianism of “sound common sense”, which feeds upon the “fullness of life” and does not stunt its natural faculties with any philosophical or other studies, that where it succeeds in seeing differences, it does not see unity, and that where it sees unity, it does not see differences. If it propounds differentiated determinants, they at once become fossilised in its hands, and it can see only the most reprehensible sophistry when these wooden concepts are knocked together so that they take fire.

When Herr Heinzen, for instance, says that money and power, property and rule, the acquisition of money and the acquisition of power are not the same, he is committing a tautology inherent in the mere words themselves, and this merely verbal differentiation he considers an heroic deed which with all the faculties of a clairvoyant he brings into play against the Communists, who are so “blind” as not to stop in their tracks at this childlike first perception.

How “acquisition of money” turns into “acquisition of power”, how “property” turns into “political rule”, in other words, how instead of the rigid difference to which Herr Heinzen gives the force of dogma, there are rather effective relations between the two forces up to the point where they merge, of this he may swiftly convince himself by observing how the serfs bought their freedom, how the communes [3] bought their municipal rights, how the townspeople on the one hand, by trade and industry, attracted the money out of the pockets of the feudal lords and vaporised their landed property into bills of exchange, and on the other hand helped the absolute monarchy to its victory over the thus undermined feudal magnates, and bought privileges from it; how they later themselves exploited the financial crises of the absolute monarchy itself, etc., etc.; how the most absolute monarchies become dependent on the stock-exchange barons through the system of state debts — a product of modern industry and modern trade; how in international relations between peoples, industrial monopoly turns directly into political rule, as for instance, the Princes of the Holy Alliance in the “German war of liberation” were merely the hired mercenaries of England,[4] etc.

This self-important grobianism of “sound common sense”, however, by fixing such distinctions as between acquisition of money and acquisition of power in the form of eternal truths whose nature is ,acknowledged by all” to be “such and such”, in the form of unshakeable dogmas, creates for itself the desired position for pouring out its moral indignation about the “blindness”, “foolishness” or “wickedness” of the opponents of such articles of faith — an act of self-indulgence which in its blustering expectorations inevitably yields up a mess of rhetoric in which float a few meagre, bony truths.

Herr Heinzen will live to see the power of property even in Prussia achieve a mariage forcé with political power. Let us hear what he says next:

“You are trying to make social questions the central concern of our age, and you fail to see that there is no more important social question than that of monarchy or republic.” [Heinzen’s Manifesto, No. 84].

A moment ago, Herr Heinzen saw only the distinction between the power of money and political power; now he sees only the unity of the political question and the social question. Of course he continues to see the “ridiculous blindness” and “cowardly ignominy” of his antagonists.

The political relationships of men are of course also social, societal relationships, like all relations between men and men. All questions that concern the relations of men with each other are therefore also social questions.

With this view, which belongs in a catechism for eight-year-old children, this grobian naivety believes it has not only said something but has affected the balance in the conflicts of modern times.

It so happens that the “social questions” which have been “dealt with in our own day” increase in importance in proportion as we leave behind us the realm of absolute monarchy. Socialism and communism did not emanate from Germany but from England, France and North America.

The first manifestation of a truly active communist party is contained within the bourgeois revolution, at the moment when the constitutional monarchy is eliminated. The most consistent republicans, in England the Levellers,[5] in France Babeuf, Buonarroti, etc., were the first to proclaim these “social questions”. The Babeuf Conspiracy, by Babeuf’s friend and party-comrade Buonarroti, shows how these republicans derived from the “movement” of history the realisation that the disposal of the social question of rule by princes and republic did not mean that even a single “social question” has been solved in the interests of the proletariat.

The question of property as it has been raised in “our own day” is quite unrecognisable even formulated as a question in the form Heinzen gives it: “whether it is just that one man should possess everything and another man nothing.... whether the individual should be permitted to possess anything at all” and similar simplistic questions of conscience and clichés about justice.

The question of property assumes different forms according to the different levels of development of industry in general and according to its particular level of development in the different countries.

For the Galician peasant, for instance, the question of property is reduced to the transformation of feudal landed property into small bourgeois landownership. For him it has the same meaning as it had for the French peasant before 1789, the English agricultural day labourer on the other hand has no relationship with the landowner at all. He merely has a relationship with the tenant farmer, in other words, with the industrial capitalist who is practising agriculture in factory fashion. This industrial capitalist in turn, who pays the landowner a rent, has on the other hand a direct relationship with the landowner. The abolition of landed property is thus the most important question of property as it exists for the English industrial bourgeoisie, and their struggle against the Corn Laws[6] had no other significance. The abolition of capital on the other hand is the question of property as it affects the English agricultural day labourer just as much as the English factory worker.

In the English as well as the French revolution, the question of property presented itself in such a way that it was a matter of asserting free competition and of abolishing all feudal property relations, such as landed estates, guilds, monopolies, etc., which had been transformed into fetters for the industry which had developed from the 16th to the 18th century.

In “our own day”, finally, the significance of the question of property consists in it being a matter of eliminating the conflicts which have arisen from large-scale industry, the development of the world market and free competition.

The question of property, depending on the different levels of development of industry, has always been the vital question for a particular class. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when the point at issue was the abolition of feudal property relations, the question of property was the vital question for the bourgeois class. In the 19th century, when it is a matter of abolishing bourgeois property relations, the question of property is a vital question for the working class.

The question of property, which in “our own day” is a question of world-historical significance, has thus a meaning only in modern bourgeois society. The more advanced this society is, in other words, the further the bourgeoisie has developed economically in a country and therefore the more state power has assumed a bourgeois character, the more glaringly does the social question obtrude itself, in France more glaringly than in Germany, in England more glaringly than in France, in a constitutional monarchy more glaringly than in an absolute monarchy, in a republic more glaringly than in a constitutional monarchy. Thus, for example, the conflicts of the credit system, speculation, etc., are nowhere more acute than in North America. Nowhere, either, does social inequality obtrude itself more harshly than in the eastern states of North America, because nowhere is it less disguised by political inequality. If pauperism has not yet developed there as much as in England, this is explained by economic circumstances which it is not our task to elucidate further here. Meanwhile, pauperism is making the most gratifying progress.

“In this country, where there are no privileged orders, where all classes of society have equal rights” (the difficulty however lies in the existence of classes) “and where our population is far from ... pressing on the means of subsistence, it is indeed alarming to find the increase of pauperism progressing with such rapidity.” (Report by Mr. Meredith to the Pennsylvania Congress. [7])

“It is proved that pauperism in Massachusetts has increased by three-fifths within 25 years.” (From Niles’ Register, Niles being an American.)

One of the most famous North American political economists, Thomas Cooper, who is also a radical, proposes:

1. To prohibit those without property from marrying.

2. To abolish universal suffrage,

for, he exclaims:

“Society was instituted for the protection of property.... What reasonable claim can they have, who by eternal economic laws will eternally be without property of their own, to legislate on the property of others? What common motive and common interest is there between these two classes of inhabitants?

“Either the working class is not revolutionary, in which case it represents the interests of the employers, on whom their livelihood depends. At the last election in New England, the master-manufacturers, to ensure votes for themselves, had the candidates’ names printed on calico, and each of their workers wore such a piece of calico on their trouser-fronts.

“Or the working class becomes revolutionary, as a consequence of communal living together, etc., and then the political power of the country will sooner or later fall into its hands, and no property will be safe any more under this system."
[Thomas Cooper, Lectures on Political Economy, Columbia, pp. 361 & 365.[8]]

Just as in England the workers form a political party under the name of the Chartists, so do the workers in North America under the name of the National Reformers [9] and their battle-cry is not at all rule of the princes or the republic, but rule of the working class or the rule of the bourgeois class.

Since therefore it is precisely in modern bourgeois society with its corresponding forms of state, the constitutional or republican representative state, that the “question of property” has become the most important “social question”, it is very much the narrow need of the German bourgeois that interjects: the question of the monarchy is the most important “social question of the time”. It is in a very similar way that Dr. List, in the foreword to his Nationalökonomie [F. List, Das nationale System der politischen Oekonomie] expresses his so naive irritation that pauperism and not protective tariffs should have been “misconstrued” as the most important social question of our time.

Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 92, November 18, 1847[edit source]

The distinction between money and power was at the same time a personal distinction between the two combatants.

The “little” one appears as a kind of cut-purse who only takes on enemies who have “money”. The daring muscle-man by contrast fights with the “mighty” of this earth.

Indosso la corazza, e l'elmo in testa.
[Ariost Orlando Furioso: Harness on his back and helmet on his head]

And, he mutters,

“and incidentally, you are better off than I”.
[Heinzen’s Manifesto, Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 84]

But best off of all are the “mighty” of the earth who visibly heave a sigh of relief whilst Herr Heinzen lashes out at his pupil:

“Like all Communists, you have now lost the capacity to recognise the connection between politics and social conditions."
[ibid.]

We have just been present at a moral lesson, in which the great man revealed with surprising simplicity the connection between politics and social conditions in general. In the rule of the princes he now provides his pupil with a tangible application.

The princes, or the rule of the princes, he tells us, are the “chief authors of all poverty and distress”. Where the rule of the princes is eliminated, this kind of explanation is of course eliminated too, and the slave-economy, which caused the downfall of the republics of antiquity, the slave-economy, which will provoke the most fearful conflicts in the southern states of republican North America, [Cf. on this topic the memoirs of Jefferson, who was one of the group of founders of the American Republic and was twice president.] the slave-economy can exclaim, like John Falstaff, “if reasons were, as plenty as blackberries!” [Shakespeare, Henry IV]

And in the first place, who or what has created the princes or the rule of the princes?

Once upon a time, the people had to place the most eminent personalities at their head to conduct general affairs. Later, this position became hereditary within families, etc. And eventually the stupidity and depravity of men tolerated this abuse for centuries.

If one were to summon a congress of all the most primitive would-be politicians in Europe, they would be able to give no other answer. And if one were to open all Herr Heinzen’s works, they would provide no other answer.

Doughty “sound common sense” believes it explains the rule of princes by declaring itself opposed to it. The difficulty, from the standpoint of this norm of common sense, would, however, seem to consist in explaining how the opponent of sound common sense and of the moral dignity of man was born and how he dragged out his remarkably tenacious life for centuries. Nothing is simpler. The centuries did without sound common sense and the moral dignity of man. In other words, the sense and morality of centuries were in accordance with the rule of the princes instead of contradicting it. And it is precisely this sense and morality of past centuries which today’s “sound common sense” does not understand. It does not understand it, but despises it. It takes refuge from history in morality, and now it can allow free rein to the whole armoury of its moral indignation.

In the same way as political “sound common sense” here explains the origin and continued existence of the rule of the princes as the work of unreason, in the same way does religious “sound common sense” explain heresy and unbelief as works of the devil. In the same way, irreligious “sound common sense” explains religion as the work of the devils, the priests.

However, once Herr Heinzen has by means of moral platitudes proved the origin of the rule of the princes, the “connection between the rule of the princes and social conditions” follows quite naturally from this. Listen:

“An individual man takes possession of the state for himself, sacrifices a whole nation, more or less, not just materially, but morally too, to his own person and its entourage; institutes within it a scale of humiliation by degrees, classifies it variously into estates like so many fat and lean cattle, and basically just for the benefit of his own, individual person makes each member of the state society officially the enemy of the other.” [Heinzen’s Manifesto, loc. cit.]

Herr Heinzen sees the princes at the peak of the social structure in Germany. He does not for a moment doubt that they have created its social foundation and are re-creating it each day. What simpler explanation could there be for the connection between the monarchy and social conditions, whose official political expression it is, than by having the princes create this connection! What is the connection between the representative assemblies and modern bourgeois society which they represent? They created it. The political deity with its apparatus and gradations has thus created the secular world, whose most sacred object it is. In the same way the religious deity will have created earthly conditions, which are fantastically and in deified form reflected in it.

The grobianism which retails such homespun wisdom with appropriate sentiment cannot of course fail to be equally astonished and morally outraged at the opponent who toils to demonstrate to it that the apple did not create the apple-tree.

Modern histories have demonstrated that absolute monarchy appears in those transitional periods when the old feudal estates are in decline and the medieval estate of burghers is evolving into the modern bourgeois class, without one of the contending parties having as yet finally disposed of the other. The elements on which absolute monarchy is based are thus by no means its own product; they rather form its social prerequisite, whose historical origins are too well known to be repeated here. The fact that absolute monarchy took shape later in Germany and is persisting longer, is explained solely by the stunted pattern of development of the German bourgeois class. The answers to the puzzles presented by this pattern of development are to be found in the history of trade and industry.

The decline of the philistine German free cities, the destruction of the knightly estate, the defeat of the peasants [10] — the resulting territorial sovereignty of the princes — the decay of German industry and German trade, which were founded entirely on medieval conditions, at the very moment when the modern world market is opening up and large-scale manufacturing is arising — the depopulation and the barbaric conditions which the Thirty Years War[11] had left behind — the character of the national branches of industry which are now rising again — as of the small linen industry — to which patriarchal conditions and relations correspond, the nature of exported goods which for the most part derived from agriculture, and which therefore went almost exclusively to increase the material sources of wealth of the rural aristocracy and therefore its relative power vis-à-vis the townspeople — Germany’s lowly position in the world market in general, as a result of which the subsidies paid by foreigners to the princes became a chief source of the national income, the dependence of the townspeople upon the court consequent upon this — etc., etc., all these relationships, within which the structure of German society and a political organisation in keeping with it were taking shape become, in the eyes of sound-common-sensical grobianism, just a few pithy utterances, whose pith however consists in the statement that the “rule of the princes in Germany” has created “German society” and is “recreating” it each day.

The optical illusion, which enables sound common sense to “discern” the springhead of German society in the rule of the princes instead of the springhead of the rule of the princes in German society, is easily explained.

It perceives at first glance — and it always considers its first glance to be particularly perceptive — that the German princes are preserving and maintaining control over the old social conditions in Germany with which their political existence stands and falls, and that they react violently against the elements of decomposition. Equally, it sees on the other hand the elements of decomposition fighting against the power of the princes. The five sound senses thus unanimously testify that the rule of the princes is the basis of the old society, of its gradations, its prejudices and its contradictions.

When looked at more closely, these appearances however only refute the crude opinion of which they are the innocent occasion.

The violently reactionary role played by the rule of the princes only proves that in the pores of the old society a new society has taken shape, which furthermore cannot but feel the political shell, — the natural covering of the old society — as an unnatural fetter and blow it sky-high. The more primitive these new elements of social decomposition, the more conservative will even the most vigorous reaction by the old political power appear. The more advanced these new elements of social decomposition, the more reactionary will even the most harmless attempt at conservation by the old political power appear. The reaction of the rule of the princes, instead of proving that it creates the old society, proves rather that its day is over as soon as the material conditions of the old society have become obsolete. Its reaction is at the same time the reaction of the old society which is still the official society and therefore also still in official possession of power or in possession of official power.

Once society’s material conditions of existence have developed so far that the transformation of its official political form has become a vital necessity for it, the whole physiognomy of the old political power is transformed. Thus absolute monarchy now attempts, not to centralise, which was its actual progressive function, but to decentralise. Born from the defeat of the feudal estates and having the most active share in their destruction itself, it now seeks to retain at least the semblance of feudal distinctions. Formerly encouraging trade and industry and thereby at the same time the rise of the bourgeois class, as necessary conditions both for national strength and for its own glory, absolute monarchy now everywhere hampers trade and industry, which have become increasingly dangerous weapons in the hands of an already powerful bourgeoisie. From the town, the birth-place of its rise to power, it turns its alarmed and by now dull glance to the countryside which is fertile with the corpses of its old powerful opponents.

But by “the connection between politics and social conditions” Herr Heinzen actually understands only the connection between the rule of the princes in Germany and the distress and misery in Germany.

The monarchy, like every other form of state, is a direct burden on the working class on the material side only in the form of taxes. Taxes are the existence of the state expressed in economic terms. Civil servants and priests, soldiers and ballet-dancers, schoolmasters and police constables, Greek museums and Gothic steeples, civil list and services list — the common seed within which all these fabulous beings slumber in embryo is taxation.

And what reasoning citizen would not have referred the starving people to taxes, to the ill-gotten gains of the princes, as the source of its misery?

The German princes and Germany’s distress! In other words, taxes on which the princes gorge themselves and which the people pay with their sweat and blood!

What inexhaustible material for speechifying saviours of mankind!

The monarchy is the cause of great expenditure. No doubt. just consider the North American national budget and compare what our 38 petty fatherlands have to pay in order to be governed and disciplined! It is not the Communists who answer the thunderous outbursts of such self-important demagogy, no, it is the bourgeois economists such as Ricardo, Senior, etc., in just two words.

The economic existence of the state is taxes.

The economic existence of the worker is wages.

To be ascertained: the relationship between taxes and wages.

Competition necessarily reduces the average wage to the minimum, that is to say, to a wage which permits the workers penuriously to eke out their lives and the lives of their race. Taxes form a part of this minimum, for the political calling of the workers consists precisely in paying taxes. If all taxes which bear on the working class were abolished root and branch, the necessary consequence would be the reduction of wages by the whole amount of taxes which today goes into them. Either the employers’ profit would rise as a direct consequence by the same quantity, or else no more than an alteration in the form of tax-collecting would have taken place. Instead of the present system, whereby the capitalist also advances, as part of the wage, the taxes which the worker has to pay, he [the capitalist] would no longer pay them in this roundabout way, but directly to the state.

If in North America wages are higher than in Europe, this is by no means the consequence of lower taxes there. It is the consequence of the territorial, commercial and industrial situation there. The demand for workers in relation to the supply of workers is significantly greater than in Europe. And any novice knows the truth of this already from Adam Smith.

For the bourgeoisie on the other hand both the way in which taxes are distributed and levied, and the use to which they are Put, are a vital question, both on account of its influence on trade and industry and because taxes are the golden cord with which to strangle the absolute monarchy.

Having provided such profound insights into “the connection between politics and social conditions” and between “class relations” and the power of the state, Herr Heinzen cries out in triumph:.

“The ‘narrow-minded communist view’ which only treats people in terms of ‘classes’ and incites them against one another according to their ‘craft’, is something I must confess I have been innocent of in my revolutionary propaganda, because I make allowance for the ‘possibility’ that ‘humanity’ is not always determined by ‘class’ or the ‘size of one’s purse’.”

“Grobianist” common sense transforms the distinction between classes into the “distinction between the size of purses” and class contradictions into “craft-bickering”. The size of one’s purse is a purely quantitative distinction whereby any two individuals of the same class may be incited against one another at will. That the medieval guilds opposed each other “according to their craft” is common knowledge. But it is equally common knowledge that modern class distinctions are by no means based upon “craft” but rather that the division of labour brings about very different modes of work within the same class.

And this, his own “narrow-minded view”, derived entirely from his very own “fullness of life” and his very own “sound common sense” is what Herr Heinzen humorously calls a “narrow-minded communist view”.

But let us for a moment assume that Herr Heinzen knows what he is talking about, that he is therefore not talking about “the distinction between the size” of purses and “craft-bickering”.

It is perfectly “possible” that what individual persons do is not “always” determined by the class to which they belong, although this is no more crucial to the class struggle than an aristocrat going over to the tiers-état was crucial to the French Revolution. And then these aristocrats at least joined a specific class, the revolutionary class, the bourgeoisie. But for Herr Heinzen all classes melt away before the solemn concept of “humanity”.

However, if Herr Heinzen believes that whole classes which are based on economic conditions independent of their own will and are forced into the most virulent contradiction by these conditions, can by means of the quality of “humanity”, which attaches to all men, shed their real relationships, how easy must it be for one particular prince to rise by the power of “humanity” above his “princely condition”, above his “princely craft"? Why then does he resent it when Engels discerns a “good Emperor Joseph” behind his revolutionary phrases?

But if on the one hand Herr Heinzen obliterates all differences, by addressing himself vaguely to the “humanity” of the Germans, which would oblige him to include the princes in his exhortations too, on the other hand he nevertheless finds himself compelled to acknowledge the existence of one difference amidst German humanity, for without a difference there can he no contradiction and without a contradiction there can be no material for political sermonising.

So Herr Heinzen divides German humanity into princes and subjects. The perception and expression of this contradiction is on his part an exhibition of moral strength, a proof of personal daring, political understanding, outraged human feeling, serious-minded perspicacity and laudable bravery. And it would be a sign of intellectual blindness, of a policeman’s mentality, to point out that there are privileged and unprivileged subjects; that the former by no means see humiliating gradations in the political hierarchy, but an elevating, upward line; that finally amongst the subjects whose subjection is considered a fetter, it is however considered a fetter in very different ways.

Along come the “narrow-minded” Communists now and see not only the political difference between prince and subject but also the social difference between classes.

Whereas Herr Heinzen’s moral greatness a moment before consisted in perceiving and expressing the difference, his greatness now consists rather in overlooking it, averting his eyes from it and hushing it up. Expression of the contradiction ceases to be the language of revolution and becomes the language of reaction and the malicious “incitement” of brothers, united in their humanity, against one another.

It is common knowledge that shortly after the July revolution, the victorious bourgeoisie, in the September Laws, made the “incitement of the various classes of the nation against each other” a serious political offence, probably for reasons of “humanity” too, with penalties of imprisonment, fines, etc.[12] it is also common knowledge that the English bourgeois journals know no better way of denouncing the Chartist leaders and Chartist writers than by accusing them of inciting the various classes of the nation against each other. It is even common knowledge that German writers are lying in deep dungeons for this incitement of the various classes of the nation against each other.

Is not Herr Heinzen now speaking the language of the French September Laws, of the English bourgeois papers and the Prussian criminal code?

Not a bit of it. The well-meaning Herr Heinzen fears only that the Communists “were seeking to ensure the princes a revolutionary fontanel.” [13]

Thus the Belgian liberals assure us that the radicals have a secret understanding with the Catholics; the French liberals assure us that the democrats have an understanding with the legitimists; the English free traders assure us that the Chartists have an understanding with the Tories. And the liberal Herr Heinzen assures us that the Communists have an understanding with the princes.

Germany, as I already made clear in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, [Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. Introduction] has its own Christian-Germanic brand of bad luck. Its bourgeoisie has got so very far behind the times that it is beginning its struggle against absolute monarchy and seeking to create the foundation for its own political power at the moment when in all advanced countries the bourgeoisie is already engaged in the most violent struggle with the working class and when its political illusions are already antiquated in the European mind. In this country, where the political wretchedness of the absolute monarchy still persists with its whole appendage of run-down, semi-feudal estates and relationships, there also already partially exist, on the other, hand, as a consequence of industrial development and Germany’s dependence on the world market, the modern contradictions between bourgeoisie and working class and the struggle that results from them — examples are the workers’ uprisings in Silesia and Bohemia. [14] The German bourgeoisie therefore already finds itself in conflict with the proletariat even before being politically constituted as a class. The struggle between the “subjects” has broken out even before princes and aristocracy have been chased out of the country, all the songs sung at Hambach [15] notwithstanding.

Herr Heinzen can think of no other explanation for these contradictory circumstances, which of course are also reflected in German literature, except by laying them on his opponents’ consciences and interpreting them as a consequence of the counter-revolutionary activity of the Communists.

The German workers meanwhile know very well that the absolute monarchy does not waver for a moment, nor can it do so, in greeting them, in the service of the bourgeoisie, with cannon-balls and whip-lashes. Why, then, should they prefer the brutal harassment of the absolute government with its semi-feudal retinue to direct bourgeois rule? The workers know very well that it is not just politically that the bourgeoisie will have to make broader concessions to them than the absolute monarchy, but that in serving the interests of its trade and industry it will create, willy-nilly, the conditions for the uniting of the working class, and the uniting of the workers is the first requirement for their victory. The workers know that the abolition of bourgeois property relations is not brought about by preserving those of feudalism. They know that the revolutionary movement of the bourgeoisie against the feudal estates and the absolute monarchy can only accelerate their own revolutionary movement. They know that their own struggle against the bourgeoisie can only dawn with the day when the bourgeoisie is victorious. Despite all this they do not share Herr Heinzen’s bourgeois illusions. They can and must accept the bourgeois revolution as a precondition for the workers’ revolution. However, they cannot for a moment regard it as their ultimate goal.

That the workers really react in this way has been magnificently exemplified by the English Chartists in the most recent Anti-Corn Law League movement. Not for a moment did they believe the lies and inventions of the bourgeois radicals, not for a moment did they abandon the struggle against them, but quite consciously helped their enemies to victory over the Tories, and on the day after the abolition of the Corn Laws they were facing each other at the hustings, no longer Tories and free traders, but free traders and Chartists. And they won seats in parliament, in opposition to these bourgeois radicals. [16]

No more than Herr Heinzen understands the workers does he understand the bourgeois liberals, for all that he is unconsciously working in their service. He thinks it is necessary to repeat, where they are concerned, the old warnings against the “easy-going ways and submissiveness of the Germans”. He, the philistine, takes in absolute earnest the obsequious expressions that were served up by a Camphausen or a Hansemann. The bourgeois gentlemen would smile at such naivety. They know better where the shoe pinches. They are aware that in revolutions the rabble gets insolent and lays hands on things. The bourgeois gentlemen therefore seek as far as possible to make the change from absolute to bourgeois monarchy without a revolution, in an amicable fashion.

But the absolute monarchy in Prussia, as earlier in England and France, will not let itself be amicably changed into a bourgeois monarchy. It will not abdicate amicably. The princes’ hands are tied both by their personal prejudices and by a whole bureaucracy of officials, soldiers and clerics — integral parts of absolute monarchy who are far from willing to exchange their ruling position for a subservient one in respect of the bourgeoisie. Then the feudal estates also hold back; for them it is a question of fife or death, in other words, of property or expropriation. It is clear that the absolute monarch, for all the servile homage of the bourgeoisie, sees his true interest on the side of these estates.

The siren-songs of a Camphausen or a Hansemann will no more convince Frederick William IV, therefore, than the honeyed language of a Lally-Tollendal, a Mounier, a Malouet or a Mirabeau could talk a Louis XVI into casting in his lot with the bourgeoisie rather than with the feudal lords and remnants of the absolute monarchy.

But Herr Heinzen is concerned neither with the bourgeoisie nor with the proletariat in Germany. His party is the “party of men”, in other words, of worthy and generous-minded dreamers who advocate “bourgeois” interests in the guise of “human” ends, without however clearly understanding the connection between the idealistic phrase and its real substance.

Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 94, November 25, 1847[edit source]

To this party, the party of men, or to humanity resident in Germany, the founder of states Karl Heinzen offers the “best republic”, the best republic he himself has hatched, the “federal republic with social institutions”. Rousseau once designed a “best” political world for the Poles [Rousseau, Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne, et sur sa réformation projettée] as did Mably for the Corsicans.[17] The great citizen of Geneva has found an even greater successor.

“I am contented” — what modesty! — “to claim that just as I can assemble. a flower only from petals, so also I can assemble a republic only from republican elements."
[Heinzen’s Manifesto, Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 84]

A man who knows how to assemble a flower from petals, even though it were only a daisy, cannot fail in the construction of the “best republic”, let the wicked world think of it what it will.

Despite all slanderous tongues, the valiant founder of states takes as a model the charters of republican North America. Whatever seems offensive to him, he paints out with his grobian brush. Thus he brings about an amended edition — in usum delphini, [for the use of the Dauphin. — These words were used in the seventeenth century to mark the edition of Latin works intended for the heir to the French throne, from which “offensive” material had been removed] in other words for the use and edification of “German man”. And having thus “outlined the features of the republic, that is, of a specific republic”, he hoists his “little” disrespectful pupil up into the air “by his communist ears” and dashes him down with the question whether he too could “create” a world, and indeed a “best world"? And he does not desist from hoisting the “little one” up “into the air” by his “communist ears” until he has “banged” his “nose” against the gigantic picture of the “new” world, the best republic. For with his very own hands he has hung a colossal picture of the world, devised by himself, on the highest peak of the Swiss Alps.

“Cacatum non est pictum,” [To shit is not to paint] hisses the voice of the impenitent “little” snake.

And horrified, the republican Ajax drops the communist Thersites to the ground and out of his shaggy bosom heaves the terrible words:

“You are carrying absurdity to extremes, Herr Engels!”

And really, Herr Engels! Do you not believe “that the American federal system” is the “best political form” “which the art of politics has yet devised"? You shake your little head? What? You deny absolutely that the “American federal system” has been devised by “the art of politics"? And that “best political forms of society” exist in abstracto? That’s going a bit too far!

You are at the same time so “devoid of shame and conscience” as to suggest to us that the honest German who wishes his faithful fatherland to enjoy the benefits of the North American Constitution — embellished and improved at that, that he resembles that idiotic merchant who copied his rich competitor’s accounts and then imagined that having possession of this copy, he had also taken possession of the coveted wealth!

And you threaten us with the “executioner’s axe” under your little arm, with the miniature guillotine which you were given as a toy in 1794? Barbaroux, you mumble, and other persons of impressive height and girth, were shortened by a full head in those days when we used to play guillotine because they happened to proclaim “the American federal system” to be “the best political form”.[18] And such will be the fate of all other Goliaths, to whom it occurs in any democratic revolution in Europe and especially in Germany, which is still quite feudally fragmented, to wish to put the “American federal system” in place of the one indivisible republic and its levelling centralisation.

But good God! The men of the Comité de salut public[19] and those bloodhounds of Jacobins behind them were monsters, and Heinzen’s “best republic” has been “devised” by the “statecraft of heretofore” as the “best political form” for “men”, for good men, for human humans!

Really! “You are carrying absurdity to the extreme, Herr Engels!

And what is more, this Herculean founder of states does not copy the North American “federal republic” in every detail. He adorns it with “social institutions”, he will “regulate property relations according to rational principles”, and the seven great “measures” with which he disposed of the “evils” of the old bourgeois society are by no means wretched, insubstantial garbage begged at the doors of — abominable modern socialist and communist soup-kitchens. It is to the “Incas” and “Campe’s Books for Children” [20] that the great Karl Heinzen owes his recipes for the “humanisation of society”, just as he owes the latter profound slogan not to the Pomeranian philosopher Ruge but rather to some “Peruvian” grown old in wisdom. And Herr Engels describes all this, as arbitrarily concocted philistine dreams of world improvement!

We live of course in an age when “the better people are increasingly passing away” and the “best” are not even understood at all.

Take, for instance, any well-meaning citizen and ask his honest opinion as to what is wrong with present “property relations"? And the decent fellow will put his index finger to the tip of his nose, twice draw deep and pensive breath and then express his “humble” view that it is a shame that many people have “nothing”, not even the barest necessities, and that others, to the detriment not only of propertyless wretches but also of honest citizens, are with aristocratic brazenness accumulating millions! Aurea mediocritas! Golden mediocrity! the honest member of the middle class will exclaim! It is just a matter of avoiding extremes! What rational political constitution would be compatible with these extremes, these oh so abominable extremes!

And now take a look at Heinzen’s “federal republic” with “social institutions” and its seven measures for the “humanisation of society”. We find that each citizen is assured a “minimum” of wealth below which he cannot fall, and a maximum of wealth is prescribed which he may not exceed.

Has not Herr Heinzen solved all the difficulties, then, by reiterating in the form of state decrees the pious desire of all good citizens that no person should have too little and none, indeed, too much, and simply by so doing made it reality?

And in the same manner, which is as simple as it is splendid, Herr Heinzen has resolved all economic conflicts. He has regulated property according to the rational principles corresponding to an honest bourgeois equity. And please do not object that the “rational rules” of property are precisely the “economic laws” on whose cold-blooded inevitability all well-meaning “measures” will necessarily founder, though they be recommended by Incas and Campe’s Books for Children and cherished by the stoutest patriots!

How unfair to bring economic considerations into play against a man who, unlike some people, does not “boast of studies in political economy”, but has from modesty managed so far in all his works rather to preserve the virginal appearance of still having before him his first study of political economy! It must be accounted very much to the credit of the man’s primitive level of education that with solemn countenance he serves up to his little communist foe all the considerations which already in 1842 had penetrated to the German fullness of fife through the channels of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, [21] such as those concerning “acquired” property, “personal freedom and individuality” and the like. It really does show how low the communist writers have fallen that they seek out opponents who are schooled in economics and philosophy, but on the other hand provide no answer to the “unpresuming” fancies of grobianist sound common sense, to which they would first have to teach the elements of the economic relations in existing bourgeois’ society, in order to be able subsequently to enter into debate with it.

Since private properly, for instance, is not a simple relation or even an abstract concept, a principle, but consists in the totality of the bourgeois relations of production — for it is not a question of subordinate or extinct but of existing bourgeois private property — since all these bourgeois relations of production are class relations, an insight which any novice must have acquired from his Adam Smith or Ricardo — , a change in, or even the abolition of, these relations can only follow from a change in these classes and their relationships with each other, and a change in the relationship of classes is a historical change, a product of social activity as a whole, in a word, the product of a specific “historical movement”. The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

For example, in order to explain the elimination of feudal property relations, modern historians have had to describe how the bourgeoisie evolved to . the point where it had developed its conditions of life sufficiently to be able to eliminate all the feudal estates and its own feudal mode of existence and hence also feudal production relations, which were the economic foundation of these feudal estates. The elimination of feudal property relations and the foundation of modern bourgeois society were thus by no means the product of a particular doctrine based upon and elaborated from a specific principle as its core. It was much more the case that the principles and theories put forward by the writers of the bourgeoisie during its struggle against feudalism were nothing but the theoretical expression of a series of real events; indeed one can see that the extent to which this expression was more or less utopian, dogmatic or doctrinaire corresponded exactly to the degree of advancement of the phase of real historical development.

And in this respect Engels was rash enough to talk to his terrible opponent, the Herculean founder of states, about communism, insofar as it is theory, as the theoretical expression of a “movement”.

But, expostulates the mighty man in honest indignation: “My purpose was to urge the practical consequences, to get the ‘representatives’ of communism to acknowledge those consequences”, that is, those absurd consequences which, for a man who has only fantastic conceptions of bourgeois private property, are necessarily linked with its abolition. He thus wanted to compel Engels “to defend the whole absurdity” which according to Herr Heinzen’s worthy scheme “he would have dug up”. And Reineke Engels has so bitterly disappointed the honest Isegrim that he no longer finds in communism itself even a “core” to “bite on” and thus asks himself in wonderment “how this phenomenon is to be served up, so that it can be eaten"!

And in vain the honest fellow seeks to calm himself with ingenious turns of phrase, for example, by asking whether a historical movement is a “movement of the emotions”, etc., and even conjures up the spirit of the great “Ruge” to interpret this riddle of nature for him!

“After what has happened,” the disappointed man exclaims, “my heart is beating in a Siberian fashion, after what has happened I smell only treachery and dream of malice.” [Karl Heinzen, Steckbrief]

And really he explains the affair to himself finally by saying that Engels “denies his school”, “beats a retreat that is as cowardly as it is ridiculous”, “compromises the whole human race just so as to save his own person from being compromised”, “denies the party or deserts it at the crucial moment”, and a host of similar moralising outbursts of fury. Likewise Engels’ distinctions between “true socialism” and “communism”, between the utopian communist systems and critical communism — are all nothing but “treachery and malice”. Indeed nothing but Jesuitical “after-thought” distinctions, because they appear not to have been put at least so far to Herr Heinzen, nor to have been blown his way by the tempest of the fullness of life!

And how ingeniously Herr Heinzen manages to interpret these contradictions to himself, insofar as they have found literary expression!

“Then there is Weitling, who is cleverer than you, and yet can certainly be considered a Communist.”

Or else:

“What if Herr Grün claimed to he a Communist and were to expel Herr Engels?”

Arrived at this point, it goes without saying, the honest fellow, who could not “emancipate himself to the extent of considering loyalty and faith, outmoded though they might be, to be superfluous amongst rational beings” — serves up the most absurd lies, for example, that Engels also intended to write about a “social movement in Belgium and France”. But K Grün had “forestalled him”. And then he had been “unable to find a publisher for his boring repetition” and other such fabrications Herr Heinzen has derived as “conclusions” from a “certain principle”.

That moralising criticism has turned out to be so wretched is due to its “nature” and is by no means to be regarded as a personal shortcoming of the Telamonian Ajax. For all his stupidities and baseness, this St. Grobian has the moral satisfaction of being stupid and base with conviction and thus being a fellow with some stuffing in him.

Whatever the “facts” may do, which even the great Karl Heinzen allows to “run their course” unimpeded:

“I”, he proclaims, thrice beating his honest bosom, “I, meanwhile, bear my principle unflinchingly about with me and do not ditch it when a person asks me about it.”

Heinrich LXXII of Reuss-Schleitz-Ebersdorf has also been parading his “principle” some 20 years now.

N.B. We would recommend Stephan [Born]’s critique, Der Heinzen’sche Staat, to the readers of the Deutsche-Brüssseler-Zeitung. The author has of course only used Herr Heinzen as a peg, he could just as well have seized upon any other literary nonentity in Germany to confront the reasoning and grumbling petty bourgeois with the viewpoint of the really revolutionary worker. Herr Heinzen knows of no other way of answering Stephan than by first of all asserting that what he has written is rubbish; so much for objective criticism. As he does not know Stephan personally, he resorts simply to calling him names like gamin and commis-voyageur. [guttersnipe and commercial traveller] But he has not yet blackened his opponent enough, he finally turns him into a policeman. One can see incidentally how just this last accusation is, since the French police, presumably in league with Herr Heinzen, have confiscated 100 copies of Stephan’s pamphlet.

Having given the worker Stephan a practical moral lesson as described above, he apostrophises him in the following ingenuous terms:

“For my own part, gladly though I would have engaged in discussions with a worker, I fail to see in insolence a fit substitute for competence."
[Heinzen, “Ein ‘Representant’ der Kommunisten"]

The German workers will feel elated at the prospect of the democrat Karl Heinzen engaging in discussions with them as soon as they approach the great man with due modesty. Herr Heinzen is seeking to conceal his incompetence concerning Herr Stephan by the insolence of his outburst.

K. M.

  1. This note (to the title of the second instalment of the article) published in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung No. 87, October 31, 1847 was evidently written by Marx in reply to the editorial appeal to the contending parties to abstain from private polemics
  2. Here and below Marx cites Shakespeare from August Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck’s edition: Shakespeare’s dramatics Werke, Th. 1-9), Berlin, 1825-33
  3. Communes — self-governing urban communities in medieval France and Italy. For their description see Engels’ note to the 1888 English edition and the 1890 German edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party (this volume, p. 486)
  4. By the German war of liberation is meant the struggle for liberation from Napoleonic rule in 1813-14. In this war as well as in the campaign of 1815, after Napoleon’s short-lived restoration, the German states, including Austria and Prussia, which were members of the Holy Alliance, fought against Napoleonic France in the 6th anti-French coalition, the main organiser of which was Britain. In his articles “The State of Germany” Engels tried to refute the reactionary nationalistic interpretation of German history and, in particular, the glorification of the role played by the German ruling classes in the wars of 1813-14 and 1815 against Napoleonic France. But he gave a somewhat one-sided appraisal of the war itself. The war to liberate Germany from French domination following the defeat of Napoleon’s army in Russia in 1812 was, indeed, of a contradictory nature. Its character was affected by the counter-revolutionary and expansionist aims and policy of the ruling circles in the feudal monarchical states. But especially in 1813, when the struggle was aimed at liberating German territory from French occupation, it assumed the character of a genuinely popular national liberation war against foreign oppression. Later, when he once again considered that period in the history of Germany, Engels in a series of articles entitled “Notes on the War” (1870) stressed the progressive nature of the people’s resistance to Napoleon’s rule and in his work The Role of Force in History (1888) he wrote: “The peoples’ war against Napoleon was the reaction of the national feeling of all the peoples, which Napoleon had trampled on.”
  5. Marx refers to the “true Levellers” or “Diggers” who broke away from the democratic republican Levellers’ movement during the English bourgeois revolution of the mid-17th century. Representing the poorest sections of the population and suffering from feudal and capitalist exploitation in town and countryside, the Diggers, in contrast to the rest of the Levellers, who defended private property, carried on propaganda for community of property and other ideas of egalitarian communism, attempting to establish common ownership of the land through collective ploughing of commune] waste land
  6. The reference is to the Repeal of the Corn Laws passed in June 1846. (On the Corn Laws see Note 28.) The movement for the repeal of the Corn Laws was led by the Anti-Corn Law League founded in 1838 by the Manchester manufacturers Cobden and Bright. Acting under the slogan of unrestricted free trade the League fought to weaken the economic and political position of the landed aristocracy and at the same time to reduce workers’ wages.
  7. Marx cites the report of the commission under the chairmanship of William Morris Meredith to investigate the operation of the Poor Law. The report submitted to the Pennsylvania Congress on January 29, 1825 was published in The Register of Pennsylvania on August 16, 1828
  8. Apparently Marx is citing the following edition: Th. Cooper, Lectures on the Elements of Political Economy, London, 1831. (The first edition was published in Columbia in 1826.) This is proved by the coincidence of the pages referred to and the relevant passages in the above-mentioned edition, and also by the excerpts copied out by Marx (including the passage cited) in his preparatory notebooks (see MEGA, Abt. 1, Bd. 6, Berlin 1932, S. 604)
  9. 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.
  10. The reference is to the failure of the Peasant War in Germany (1524-25)
  11. Thirty Years’ War, 1618-48 — a European war, in which the Pope, the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs and the Catholic German princes rallied under the banner of Catholicism fought the Protestant countries: Bohemia, Denmark, Sweden, the Republic of the Netherlands and a number of German states which had become Protestant. The rulers of Catholic France — rivals of the Hapsburgs — supported the Protestant camp. Germany was the main arena of this struggle, the object of plunder and territorial claims. The Treaty of Westphalia concluded in 1648 scaled the dismemberment of Germany
  12. 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 for periodical publications and introduced imprisonment and large fines for publishing attacks on private property and the existing political system. The enactment of these laws in conditions of the constitutional July monarchy which had formally proclaimed freedom of the press, emphasised the anti-democratic nature of the bourgeois system
  13. Fontanel — an artificial ulcer practised in medieval medicine for the discharge of harmful tumours from the body
  14. The reference is to the uprising of the Silesian weavers on June 4-6, 1844 — the first big class battle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in Germany, which assumed the greatest scope in the Silesian villages of Langenbielau and Peterswaldau, and to the uprising of the Bohemian workers in the second half of June 1844.
  15. The reference is to the appeals for unity of all Germans against the German monarchs in the name of bourgeois freedoms and constitutional reforms, which were advanced by the participants in the Hambach festival — a political event that took place near the castle of Hambach in the Bavarian Palatinate on May 27, 1832
  16. The address of the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee to the Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor was written in connection with his victory at the Nottingham election meeting early in July 1846, when he stood for erection to the House of Commons. Voting at such meetings (up to 1872) was by show of hands, and all present took part in it. However, only “legitimate” electors (those having property and other qualifications) could take part in subsequent ballot — in which, consequently, candidates who had been outvoted by show of hands could be declared elected. Despite this anti-democratic system, O'Connor was duly elected to Parliament at the August 1847 ballot. The address of the Brussels Communists was read at a regular meeting of the Fraternal Democrats held on July 20, 1846 and was warmly received there (see The Northern Star No. 454, July 25, 1846).
  17. The reference to Mably is not exact: the draft constitution for the Corsicans was drawn up by Rousseau and not by Mably. (J. J. Rousseau, Lettres sur la législation de la Corse, Paris, 1765). Mably, as well as Rousseau, drew up the draft constitution for the Poles. (G. Mably, “Du gouvernement et des lois de Pologne” in: Collection complète des oeuvres, t. 8, Paris, 1794 A 1795.)
  18. An allusion to the conduct of the representatives of the party of the big bourgeoisie — the Girondists — after they had been removed from government and the Jacobins established their dictatorship in France following the popular uprising of May 31-June 2, 1793. In the summer of the same year the Girondists rose in revolt against the Jacobin government to defend the rights of the departments to autonomy and federation. After the revolt had been suppressed many Girondist leaders (Barbaroux among them) were sentenced by the revolutionary tribunal and executed
  19. Le Comité de salut public (The Committee of Public Safety) established by the Convention on April 6, 1793 during the Jacobin dictatorship (June 2, 1793-July 27, 1794) was the leading revolutionary government body in France. It lasted till October 26, 1795
  20. The reference is to the stories for children written by the German pedagogue J. H. Campe, in particular his book Die Entdeckung von Amerika, a section of which was devoted to the Peruvian Incas and the Spanish conquest of Peru
  21. An allusion to articles which appeared in the Allgemeine Zeitung, distorting the ideas of utopian communism and socialism and attempting to ascribe communist views to the radical organs of the German press. Marx exposed this attempt in his article “Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung” published in the Rheinische Zeitung of October 16, 1842 (see MECW, Vol. 1)