Preface to Marx-Engels Collected Works Volume (7)
Neue Rheinische Zeitung Articles, June-November 1848[edit source]
The seventh volume of the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels covers the period from March to November 1848. It is the first of three volumes (Vols. 7-9) containing their writings during the revolutionary years 1848 and 1849.
The series of revolutions of this period arose primarily from the crisis of feudalism and absolutism, which still prevailed in a considerable part of Europe. Emerging bourgeois society needed to rid itself of feudal relics and abolish such legacies of the feudal age as the political dismemberment of Germany and Italy and the national oppression of the Poles, Hungarians and other European nations that were striving for independence.
Feudalism had already been swept away in France by the revolution of 1789-94. But another bourgeois revolution became inevitable when the rapacious rule of the financial aristocracy, the top crust of the bourgeoisie, and the political monopoly it enjoyed began to hamper the further development of capitalism.
Unlike previous bourgeois revolutions, those of 1848 and 1849 took place when fundamental social contradictions had already developed within bourgeois society and when the proletariat had already entered the political arena. The deepening conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie — a conflict which became especially acute in France, and also in England, the most advanced capitalist country at that time — left its imprint on the revolutionary events of that period, influenced their course and determined their specific character.
Marx and Engels in these years made clear the organic unity of their revolutionary theory and practice. They were by no means merely detached observers, but played a very active and practical part in the revolutionary events themselves. They demonstrated their qualities as dedicated revolutionary writers, pamphleteers and true tribunes of the people, who organised and led the democratic and proletarian movements and headed the vanguard of the working class.
The revolutions of 1848-49 were indeed the first crucial practical test for Marxism both as the scientific world outlook of the working class and as a political movement. Revolutionary epochs, with their rapidly and drastically changing situations, the sharp demarcations of class forces and the powerful rise of the revolutionary activities of the masses are always testing times for party doctrines and ideologies. For Marxism this test in 1848-49 demonstrated the solid foundation and viability of its theoretical and tactical principles. Equally it exposed sectarian and dogmatic features of petty-bourgeois utopian socialism and the theoretical and tactical weaknesses of many of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois democrats.
Before 1848 what had been of paramount importance in Marxism had been the creation of its general theoretical basis — its philosophy, the working out of its dialectical and materialist method to analyse social phenomena. But now immediate problems of political strategy and tactics had urgently to be solved. And Marx and Engels were able accurately to define the intrinsic nature of the tempestuous events of the revolutionary years by clearly revealing the class forces at work, and in many cases to predict the further course and the after-effects of the events. The political programme they put forward at various stages of the revolution expressed the basic requirements of social change. It was a programme to prepare the ground for further social advance by. a consistent and complete, bourgeois-democratic revolution.
The analysis of current events by Marx and Engels in 1848-49 permanently enriched revolutionary theory with new conclusions and general principles derived from actual experience of the class struggle waged by the masses and, in particular, by the proletariat. Lenin was later to emphasise that “their participation in the mass revolutionary struggle of 1848-49 ... was their point of departure when determining the future pattern of the workers’ movement and democracy in different countries. It was to this point that they always returned in order to determine the essential nature of the different classes and their tendencies...” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 13, Moscow, 1962, p. 37).
The volume opens with the “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany” drawn up by Marx and Engels in the name of the Central Authority of the Communist League. This set forth concrete political objectives for the proletariat in the German revolution which began with uprisings in Prussia and other German states in March 1848. And running like a single thread throughout was the sense of the indissoluble connection of the class interest of the proletariat with the national interest. The first demand was for the establishment of a single and indivisible German republic. Marx and Engels saw in the abolition of the economic and political dismemberment of the country, which was divided into some three dozen large and small states, and in the creation of a single democratic German state the necessary precondition for further progress. This demand was then closely linked with another — for the abolition of feudal oppression, the liberation of the peasants from all feudal services and the destruction of the whole economic base of the rule of the nobility. The full programme of the “Demands” provided for the democratisation of the entire economic and political system of the country — the creation of a truly democratic and representative legislative assembly, the introduction of universal suffrage, fundamental legal reforms, universal free education, and universal arming of the people as the sure means to defend their democratic rights.
Marx and Engels looked forward to the heightening and intensification of the revolutionary wave, carried forward by the resolute and rising struggle of the German proletariat, the lower middle class in the towns and the small peasants. These they saw as the social forces which could carry through a successful bourgeois-democratic revolution. And this viewpoint was a very important element of the emerging Marxist doctrine of permanent revolution, for which the starting point was the sweeping away of all survivals of feudalism but for which the goal was the overthrow of the capitalist system effected in the interests of the working class and of all exploited people. They saw in the successful bourgeois-democratic revolution the prologue to a proletarian revolution. And accordingly they outlined in the “Demands” a number of transitional measures, such as the transformation of feudal estates into state property and the organisation of large-scale agriculture on these confiscated lands, the nationalisation of the mines and of all means of transport, provision of work for all workers and state maintenance for those unable to work.
Thus in the “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany” the general propositions just announced in the Manifesto of the Communist Party were already expressed in concrete terms adapted to the specific situation in one country and the particular conditions of the German revolution of 1848-49.
The bulk of the volume consists of articles by Marx and Engels written after their return to Germany and published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung between June 1 and November 7, 1848. These were articles not just to record and interpret but to influence events. They reflect Marx’s and Engels’ direct participation in the revolutionary struggle and the tactics they used during the German and the European revolution.
The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was an organ of democracy — but, as Engels wrote, of “a democracy which everywhere emphasised in every point the specific proletarian character” (see “Marx and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 1848-1849” written in 1884). This trend of the paper was determined by the specific historical features of the German revolution, the actual alignment of class forces, in which the level of development reached by the German proletariat, its weakness and lack of organisation, made it impracticable to set up immediately a mass proletarian party. Two or three hundred members of the Communist League, scattered throughout the country, could not exert any substantial influence on the broad masses of the people. Marx and Engels, accordingly, decided to take their stand on the extreme Left wing of the democratic movement.
Although the Neue Rheinische Zeitung carried the banner of democracy, it was nevertheless the official organ of no particular democratic organisation. From the very first days of the revolution Marx and Engels criticised the weaknesses and errors of the German democrats, their inconsistencies and vacillations, and also their inclination to go to extremes and to engage in “revolutionary adventures”. Even before returning from Paris, Marx and Engels strongly opposed a scheme drawn up by Herwegh, Bornstedt and other petty-bourgeois democrats to invade Germany with a volunteer corps in order to start a republican uprising. The documents published in this volume (e.g. “Letter to Etienne Cabet, Editor of the Populaire” and “To the Committee of the German Democratic Society in Paris”) show up the real nature of this plan. As a matter of principle, Marx and Engels repudiated any such adventurous and conspiratorial schemes to “export the revolution”. They consistently upheld the proletarian point of view within the general democratic movement. And so they tried to draw the petty-bourgeois democrats into the genuine revolutionary mass struggle and get them to adopt a firmer and more consistent course. At the same time they drew their followers’ attention to the importance of organising workers’ associations and the political education of the proletariat, indispensable prerequisites for the creation of a workers’ mass party.
Marx and Engels defended their line against, in particular, the sectarian views of Gottschalk and his supporters. These had completely failed to understand the tasks facing the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and had come out against the workers taking any part in the general democratic movement. They were against the struggle for democratic political demands and against joint action with the democrats. The beginning of the conflict between Marx, together with those who shared his convictions, and Gottschalk is reflected in the “Minutes of the Meeting of the Cologne Community of the Communist League” (see this volume, p. 542). Marx and Engels likewise rejected the tactics of Stephan Born, who wanted to circumscribe the fight of the working class by setting it strictly occupational economic goals, which would in fact have diverted the proletariat from the general political tasks that confronted the German people. Though they did not publicly criticise Born’s opportunism, since his endeavour to unite the various workers’ associations helped to consolidate the forces of the proletariat, they emphatically protested against any attempt to equate Born’s programme and tactics with the course pursued by the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (see “The Concordia of Turin”).
The editorial board of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which was headed by Marx, became the true headquarters of the militant proletariat. It became in effect the leading centre of the Communist League, directing the political activity of its members throughout Germany during the revolutionary period. The paper’s revolutionary propaganda, its unmasking of the counter-revolutionary forces and their abettors, and its defence of democratic demands, won the editors immense prestige in democratic circles of Germany and beyond her borders as courageous fighters for the interest of the people. “Outside, throughout the Reich,” Engels wrote later, 1. wonder was expressed that we carried on our activities so unconcernedly within a Prussian fortress of the first rank, in the face of a garrison of 8,000 troops and in the face of the guardhouse” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 3, Moscow, 1970, p. 171).
The Neue Rheinische Zeitung’s stand against the arbitrary behaviour of the courts, the police and the military, against the victimisation of those who took part in the revolutionary movement and against attempts to muzzle the press (see for example the articles “Hüser”, “Arrests”, “The Attempt to Expel Schapper”, “Public Prosecutor ‘Hecker’ and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung”, and others) found widespread support. The paper’s great popularity was largely due to its brilliant journalism, its militancy, its precise language, the wide use it made of political exposure, and the devastating sarcasm with which it attacked the enemies of the revolution.
Not only did the Neue Rheinische Zeitung disseminate revolutionary ideas, it also promoted the organisation of the masses and helped them acquire courage, endurance and readiness for resolute action. The example its editors themselves set by their practical activity in the workers’ and democratic organisations of the Rhineland (such as the Cologne Workers’ Association and the Cologne Democratic Society), and their constant efforts, by means of the newspaper and through personal contacts, to exert a revolutionary influence on the German proletarian and democratic movement also played a great part in rallying people around the revolutionary standard.
The Neue Rheinische Zeitung carried comments not only on vital questions of the German revolutionary movement but also on those of the European one. In their articles Marx and Engels sought to analyse all important aspects of social development during the revolutionary epoch. They saw the revolution in broad historical perspective, as a phase of universal history, and so understood the interconnectedness of widely dispersed events as separate links in a single chain.
The Neue Rheinische Zeitung, supporting as it did the revolutionary actions in many countries, was rightly regarded as the revolutionary organ not only of German democracy, but also of European democracy. It was the first influential popular newspaper to voice the class interests of the European proletariat and to formulate the democratic and socialist aims of the international proletarian struggle for emancipation. No wonder that progressive leaders of the contemporary European labour movement expressed their admiration for its consistent revolutionary trend. The Chartist Northern Star of June 24, 1848, for instance, wrote: “The Neue Rheinische Zeitung .... which announces itself ‘the organ of democracy’, is conducted with singular ability and extraordinary boldness; and we hail it as a worthy, able, and valiant comrade in the grand crusade against tyranny and injustice in every shape and form. “
The paper’s proletarian and internationalist attitude became especially evident during the uprising of the Paris workers in June 1848. It was the only newspaper in Germany, and practically in the whole of Europe, that from the very outset firmly sided with the insurgents, and fearlessly took their part against the slander and abuse showered on them by the ruling classes and their press. A series of articles and comments by Engels is devoted to the June uprising, as is also one of the most powerful of Marx’s articles, “The June Revolution”. These articles, which were written while the events were still in progress or immediately afterwards, are imbued with fighting spirit and at the same time they contain a profound analysis of the causes of the uprising and of its historical significance.
In his article on “The June Revolution” Marx shows the fundamental difference between this uprising and all previous revolutions. It was aimed at the system of exploitation itself, and was the first major manifestation of the profound class contradictions inherent in bourgeois society, “civil war in its most terrible aspect, the war of labour against capital” (see this volume, p. 147). Marx states that the uprising was the predictable consequence of developments in France after February 22 to 24, when the workers and artisans of Paris toppled the July monarchy and set up a bourgeois republic; it was the proletarian masses’ reply to the bourgeois attack on their rights. The June events, as Marx demonstrates, destroyed the illusion that universal brotherhood and harmony prevailed in bourgeois society. They revealed the irreconcilable contradictions between the capitalist class and the proletariat, and proved that the only way to emancipate the workers was by the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. It was this that constituted the world-historic significance of the June uprising, despite the serious defeat the workers suffered.
The military aspects of the June events were examined in Engels’ articles, “Details about the 23rd of June”, “The 23rd of June”, “The 24th of June”, “The 25th of June”, “The Kölnische Zeitung on the June Revolution” and “The June Revolution (The Course of the Paris Uprising)”, which describe the June uprising as “the first decisive battle of the proletariat” (see this volume, p. 143) and which contain a number of important observations about the nature, the significance and the methods of street and barricade fighting under the conditions existing at that time. These articles provided the basis of the Marxist theory of armed insurrection. Engels admired not only the heroism and selflessness of the barricade fighters, but also the ability of the Paris workers to acquire the necessary practical military skill and knowledge. He wrote: “It is quite remarkable how quickly the workers mastered the plan of campaign, how well-concerted their actions were and how skilfully they used the difficult terrain” (see this volume, p. 159).
Marx and Engels realised from the start that the June uprising in Paris was an event of European importance and regarded it as a turning-point in the European revolution. They pointed out that the Insurgents’ victory would have radically changed the balance of forces to the advantage of the revolution in all countries. Their defeat, on the other hand, encouraged the counter-revolutionaries everywhere. The French bourgeoisie, by crushing the insurrection, fought in fact on the same side as feudal and absolutist reaction in Europe, which was beginning to lift up its head again.
After June 1848 Marx and Engels continued attentively to follow events in France and to discuss them in the pages of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (“Proudhon’s Speech against Thiers”, “The Paris Réforme on the Situation in France”, and other articles). Their articles on France show that they still expected a new revolutionary upsurge, in which the French proletariat was to play a leading part. Marx and Engels stressed the connection and interdependence existing between the revolutions in the different European countries. And for this very reason they judged that a victory of the French workers would be of decisive importance, for it would give a new and powerful impetus to the revolutionary struggles of the people in the other European countries. They hoped that this victory would make it easier to carry through to the end the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Germany and would pave the way for a proletarian revolution throughout Europe.
Engels wrote later that their expectations at that time of a proletarian revolution in the near future were due to some extent to their having overestimated the level of economic development in Europe and also the degree of organisation and class consciousness reached by the proletariat at that time. But neither the objective nor the subjective prerequisites of the revolution were then mature enough for the liquidation of the capitalist mode of production.
The attention of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was, however, invariably focussed on Germany, on the course of the revolution in the German states and the driving forces of the German revolutionary movement and its perspectives.
In their analysis of the immediate outcome of the German March revolution of 1848 Marx and Engels emphasised that the revolution had not been carried through to the end (e.g. in the articles on “The Berlin Debate on the Revolution”, “The Debate on Jacoby’s Motion” and “The Suppression of the Clubs in Stuttgart and Heidelberg”). Although in Vienna on March 13, in Berlin on March 18 and 19, and also in various other German states the people forced the monarchs to make a number of concessions (they promised to adopt constitutions, to convene national assemblies and to form liberal or semi-liberal governments) they failed to achieve a decisive victory over feudalism. The entire political structure and the entire civil service and police apparatus were left intact. “The Bastille ... has not yet been stormed,” wrote the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, stressing that the decisive battle had not yet been won (see this volume, p. 89). .
The reason for this half-heartedness of the German revolution was, according to the founders of Marxism, the policy pursued by the liberal bourgeoisie after it had attained power. The German bourgeoisie, scared by the determination of the masses, and especially by the revolutionary action of the French proletariat, betrayed the interests of the people. “The big bourgeoisie, which was all along anti-revolutionary, concluded a defensive and offensive alliance with the reactionary forces, because it was afraid of the people, i.e. of the workers and the democratic bourgeoisie” (see this volume, p. 74). In the articles which dealt with the debates in the Prussian National Assembly and analysed the policy of the Camphausen-Hansemann Ministry and the Auerswald-Hansemann Ministry, which replaced it in July 1848, Marx and Engels firmly opposed the “agreement theory”, which the leaders of the Prussian liberal bourgeoisie advanced to justify their compromises with the feudal and monarchical forces (see, inter alia, “The Government of Action”, “The Crisis and the Counter-Revolution”).
Marx and Engels clearly foresaw that two antithetical courses were possible after the March uprising. One was that designed to carry the revolution further in the interest of the broad masses of the people, by radically abolishing all feudal and monarchical institutions, all vestiges of feudalism, first of all in agriculture, just as they had been abolished by the French revolution between 1789 and 1794. The other, pursued by the German liberals, was designed to curtail the revolutionary movement and to come to an arrangement with the feudal aristocracy. The second course, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung warned, would inevitably lead to a monarchical counter-revolution and to the partial or complete restoration of the state of affairs which had existed before the March revolutionary events.
Marx and Engels waged a tireless struggle to solve the principal task facing the German revolution — the national unification of the country. In a number of articles (e.g. “The Programmes of the Radical-Democratic Party and of the Left at Frankfurt”, “The Zeitungs-Halle on the Rhine Province”) they expressed their opposition to plans hatched by the German liberals to unite Germany under the hegemony of Prussia or Austria, and likewise to the setting up of a federal state on Swiss lines, a project that had found wide support in democratic circles. Marx and Engels demonstrated that only the establishment of a truly united and truly democratic state could entirely abolish the economic division and political fragmentation of Germany, together with all survivals of medieval particularism and local isolation. Such centralisation, carried through on a really democratic basis, would, they thought, create favourable conditions for a genuine consolidation of the German proletariat, and of the German revolutionary movement, too, which was greatly hampered by separatist tendencies and by parochial narrowmindedness. They advocated the unification of Germany “from below”. It should be brought about by the revolutionary onslaught of the people on the decaying absolutist system in the states of the German Confederation, and above all in Prussia and Austria. “Germany,” Engels wrote, “must become one state not only in word but in deed. And to bring this about it is necessary above all that there should be ‘neither an Austria nor a Prussia"’ (see this volume, p. 400).
Marx and Engels pointed out that Germany’s unification was a European problem, and that it could only be achieved in the course of a struggle waged by the revolutionary forces of the European countries against the internal and external forces of reaction, and above all against the counter-revolutionary rulers of Britain and against Russian Tsarism then acting as the principal gendarme of Europe.
It was from this revolutionary point of view that they approached the question of Schleswig-Holstein. According to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the national liberation movement in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, which were ruled by the Danish King and inhabited mainly by Germans, had become part of the struggle for the unification of Germany into a single democratic state. The Prussian Government, which by the logic of events was involved in the Schleswig-Holstein war waged by the German Confederation against Denmark, tried to come to an arrangement with the Danish Government; it was prepared to sacrifice German national interests, not only in response to the pressure exerted by Britain and Russia, who supported the Danish Crown, but also because it wanted to disengage the Prussian troops so as to be able to employ them against the masses of the people in Prussia itself. This treacherous policy of the Prussian Government, carried on with the collusion of the Prussian and German liberal bourgeoisie, was unequivocally exposed by Marx and Engels, who regarded it as a fatal concession to the counter-revolutionary powers and an obstacle to German unity. “Prussia, England and Russia,” wrote Engels in the article “The Danish-Prussian Armistice”, “are the three powers which have greater reason than anyone else to fear the German revolution and its first result — German unity: Prussia because she would thereby cease to exist, England because it would deprive her of the possibility of exploiting the German market, and Russia because it would spell the advance of democracy not only to the Vistula but even as far as the Dvina and the Dnieper. Prussia, England and Russia have conspired against Schleswig-Holstein, against Germany and against the revolution” (see this volume, pp. 424-25).
A revolutionary war against Tsarism and the other reactionary forces in Europe was regarded by Marx and Engels not only as a means to defend the revolution but as a condition of its further development. They reasoned that in the course of such a war the resistance of the people to the counter-revolutionary forces within the country was also bound to grow and that the preconditions for revolutionary outbursts could come into being even in those countries where popular discontent had not yet led to overt revolutionary action. The news about Russia’s unstable internal situation — disturbances taking place in various districts, rising discontent in St. Petersburg etc. — received in Germany and printed in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (see “The Russian Note”) justified the hope that, in the event of such a war, a revolutionary outbreak might occur even in the Tsarist Empire.
For Marx and Engels power was the fundamental question in every revolution. And in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung they firmly upheld the concept of the sovereignty of the people and the establishment of a people’s democratic government as conditions indispensable for the consolidation of the victory of the revolutionary masses and the implementation of the tasks facing the revolutionary movement. These ideas run through “The Assembly at Frankfurt”, one of their first articles to appear in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Subsequently the concept of the people’s sovereignty was continually returned to by them and, on the basis of the experience gained in the revolutionary struggle, further developed and made more concrete at every stage in the German revolution — at the time of the political crisis in Prussia caused by the action of the people in Berlin on June 14, during the intensification of the fight between the counter-revolutionary and the democratic forces in September, and during the October uprising in Vienna and the ensuing events.
Already the experience of the first months of the revolution convinced Marx and Engels of the necessity to abolish all the old administrative, military and judicial authorities, thoroughly purge the entire government apparatus, and end the rule of the bureaucracy, which was especially powerful in Prussia (see “The Agreement Session of July 4” and other articles). They saw in the arming of the people, who stood up against the counter-revolutionary soldiery, the principal guarantee of the sovereignty of the people (see “The Agreement Assembly Session of June 17”, “The Civic Militia Bill” and other articles).
Marx and Engels, who regarded mass revolutionary struggle as the decisive factor in carrying through the revolution, vigorously supported all who fought in the revolutionary battles, e.g. the Viennese workers who fought again on the barricades in May 1848 to compel the ruling circles to make new concessions; the workers of Berlin who in June 1848 stormed the arsenal to obtain weapons and to repulse the counter-revolutionary conspirators; and the insurgents in Frankfurt am Main who rose in September 1848 in protest against the ratification of the infamous armistice with Denmark by the Frankfurt Assembly.
On the other hand, Marx and Engels emphasised again and again that a premature or badly prepared uprising would only result in defeat and thus strengthen the counter-revolutionary forces. For example, in the articles “Cologne in Danger” and “The ‘Revolution of Cologne"’ they urged the Cologne workers not to allow the Prussian Government to provoke them to action, but to preserve their forces for the decisive battle. The explanatory campaign conducted by Marx and Engels and their comrades-in-arms in Cologne in fact prevented the destruction of the democratic movement in the Rhine Province during the September crisis.
According to the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, revolutionary action from below must be matched by a vigorous policy in the representative institutions created by the revolution, which should act as constituent assemblies in the name of the people. Marx and Engels fought for the creation of democratic representative bodies, which would reflect the will of the masses, be closely connected with them and rely on their support. By stressing that deputies elected by the people should be accountable to the people and carry out its wishes, they upheld the right of the revolutionary people to exert pressure on elected assemblies and to demand that they adopt effective revolutionary decisions and take steps to implement them (“Freedom of Debate in Berlin” and other articles).
In a number of articles dealing with the German National Assembly and also in a series devoted to the debates in the Prussian National Assembly, Marx and Engels sharply criticised the conduct of the liberal majorities. Because all drastic measures were sabotaged by the liberals, the Frankfurt and Berlin assemblies, which failed to appeal to the masses and never assumed real power, engaged only in futile verbal disputes and became merely pitiable imitations of representative assemblies. The deputies representing the democratic bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, who formed the Left wing in these assemblies, failed to display sufficient energy either. Marx and Engels often rebuked the parliamentary leaders of the “Left” and the leaders of democratic organisations for their indecision and their refusal openly to side with the people. (See, for example, Marx’s article “Appeal of the Democratic Congress to the German People”.) They stressed the detrimental effect of the constitutional illusions in the grip of which many Left-wing politicians still remained, and their unfounded hope of carrying through radical measures by parliamentary means alone, without the support of the revolutionary masses.
During the September days Marx and Engels, who were convinced that the conciliatory policy of the Berlin and Frankfurt assemblies merely led to ever increasing concessions to the counter-revolution, coined the slogan of the revolutionary dictatorship of the people to express the concept of the people’s sovereignty during the revolution. In the article “The Crisis and the Counter-Revolution” Marx wrote: “Every provisional political set-up following a revolution requires a dictatorship, and an energetic dictatorship at that” (see this volume, p. 43 1). For the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung this dictatorship constituted power genuinely wielded by the people: this power is by its very nature democratic and at the same time bold and vigorous, capable of crushing all counter-revolutionary conspiracies, of abolishing the monarchy and feudal landownership, and of ensuring the complete victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. That Marx and Engels firmly rejected the sectarian interpretation of revolutionary power as the arbitrary dictatorship of a small group of men is evident from the speech against Weitling which Marx made at the meeting of the Cologne Democratic Society on August 4, 1848 (see this volume, pp. 556-57).
The participation of the masses of the peasantry in the revolutionary struggle was regarded by Marx and Engels as a most important condition for the extension and consolidation of the democratic front. They thought that the spontaneous actions of the peasants which were taking place all over Germany should be rendered organised and purposeful. In such articles as “Patow’s Redemption Memorandum”, “Debate about the Existing Redemption Legislation” and others Marx and Engels set forth the agrarian programme of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. They called upon the peasants to fight for the immediate and complete abolition without compensation of all feudal services. They vehemently denounced the Prussian liberal bourgeoisie, which was betraying the peasants “who are its natural allies,.... without whom it cannot stand up to the aristocracy” (see this volume, p. 295), because it was afraid that to abolish feudal property might lead to attacks on bourgeois property. Marx and Engels, who spoke for the proletariat, the consistently revolutionary class, were convinced champions of the anti-feudal peasant movement, which they regarded as one of the principal motive forces of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
The struggle for the liberation of the oppressed nations was likewise in the eyes of Marx and Engels integrally connected with this revolution. They welcomed with enthusiasm the upsurge of the national liberation movement among the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and Italians, and saw in them allies in the fight against feudal and absolutist counter-revolution.
In the articles “Germany’s Foreign Policy”, “German Foreign Policy and the Latest Events in Prague” and others, Marx and Engels took their stand for the genuine freedom and the brotherhood of all nations and again denounced the German bourgeoisie, which carried on the oppressive national policy of the Hohenzollerns and the Habsburgs. “A revolutionised Germany ought to have renounced her entire past,” wrote Engels, “especially as far as the neighbouring nations are concerned. Together with her own freedom, she should have proclaimed the freedom of the nations hitherto suppressed by her” (see this volume, p. 92). According to Marx and Engels the German people could become a free democratic nation only if they supported the liberation movements of the oppressed nations. “Germany will liberate herself to the extent to which she sets free neighbouring nations” (see this volume, p. 166).
The founders of Marxism fought resolutely and consistently for the restoration of an independent Poland and pressed for an alliance of German democrats with the revolutionary wing of the Polish movement, which was fighting not only for national resurrection and liberation but also for the radical democratic reorganisation of Poland. The policy of the Prussian Government, which first provoked a national uprising in Posen and then crushed it, and which under the pretext of “reorganisation” had formally incorporated the greater part of Posen into Germany, was castigated by Engels, in particular in the series of articles entitled “The Frankfurt Assembly Debates the Polish Question”. Marx and Engels condemned the attitude of the liberal majority in the Frankfurt National Assembly which sanctioned the new partition of Poland.
In the just-mentioned series of articles on the Polish question, Engels showed that the restoration of the Polish state on a democratic basis would be in the interest of German and international democracy. It would, moreover, strike a heavy blow at the three counter-revolutionary powers — Prussia, Austria, and Russia — who had shared in the partitioning of Poland. Thus it would help bring about a change in the balance of power in favour of the revolution; and this in turn would make it easier for the Germans ‘,to eradicate patriarchal feudal absolutism in Germany” (see this volume, p. 351).
The national liberation struggle waged by the Czech people in the summer of 1848 was enthusiastically supported by the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. The potential revolutionary significance of this uprising against the arbitrary rule of the Austrian Government and the Czech feudal aristocracy was stressed by Engels in “The Prague Uprising” and “The Democratic Character of the Uprising”. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung bitterly denounced the massacre of the Prague insurgents which the brutal Austrian soldiery carried through with the connivance of the German liberal bourgeoisie, and pointed out that the crushing of the uprising was bound to have serious consequences for the Czech democratic movement and the German revolution. And it is true that after the tragic events in Prague the leadership of the Czech movement passed entirely into the hands of liberal aristocrats and bourgeois, who looked to the Austrian monarchy and the Russian Tsar for assistance.
Warm sympathy for the Italian people, which was fighting for its freedom and independence, was expressed in a letter written by Marx to the editorial board of the Italian democratic newspaper Alba and in several articles of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in which the revolutionary events in Italy were analysed. The Italian revolution, which began with the popular uprising in Sicily in January 1848, was confronted with serious problems. The country consisted of a conglomeration of large and small states, a considerable number of which were oppressively ruled by Austria. The progressive development of Italy was only possible if she liberated herself from foreign domination and abolished the feudal and monarchical regimes. But the Italian liberals, who at the time controlled the Italian movement, were trying to unite the country “from above” within the framework of a constitutional monarchy to be headed by Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia. Marx and Engels called upon the Italian people to take the leadership of the national liberation movement into their own hands, to free themselves from the tutelage of the liberals and monarchists and to frustrate all dynastic intrigues. In many of his articles Engels demonstrated that the self-seeking policy of Charles Albert and his supporters, which counteracted the truly popular resistance to the Austrians, was largely responsible for the reverses the Italians suffered during the Austro-Italian war. He observed that only a revolutionary people’s war could end Austrian domination over Italy.
The articles on the national question which Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 constitute, in sum, an important set of statements making clear their internationalist attitude towards national liberation movements.
Among the most important events of the German and European revolution was the uprising of the Viennese people in October 1848, when for three weeks the workers, students and democratic intellectuals withstood the onslaught of numerically stronger reactionary forces. Marx and Engels believed that the outcome of this rising was bound to affect substantially the fate of the revolution not only in Germany but also in Europe. Marx called the June uprising in Paris the first act of the revolutionary drama, and the October uprising in Vienna the second act (see this volume, p. 505). He emphasised that the Viennese workers had played an outstanding part in this revolutionary battle (ibid., p. 595).
A number of articles published in this volume (“Revolution in Vienna”, “The Frankfurter Oberpostamts-Zeitung and the Viennese Revolution”, “The Viennese Revolution and the Kölnische Zeitung”, “The Latest News from Vienna, Berlin and Paris” and “The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna”) and also the speeches delivered by Marx at the committee meetings of the Cologne Workers’ Association on October 16 and November 6, 1848, are devoted to the Viennese uprising and analyse the causes which led to its defeat. The principal cause, according to Marx, was the fact that the liberal bourgeoisie in Austria and in Germany deserted the revolution. Vienna was captured “only as a result of the manifold betrayal on the part of the bourgeoisie” (see this volume, p. 598). Marx concluded, moreover, that the failure of the German democrats to organise and lead a popular movement in support of the Viennese insurgents had disastrous consequences. The Viennese events confirmed, indeed, Marx’s and Engels’ conviction that the treacherous tactics of the bourgeoisie had urgently to be countered by rallying all truly revolutionary forces for the decisive battle against the counter-revolutionary offensive.
Marx and Engels also paid attention to those European countries which, although not directly involved in the revolutionary upheaval, were in one way or another affected by it. In “The Kölnische Zeitung on the State of Affairs in England” and other articles about Britain, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung exposed the social conflicts which existed in Britain behind the façade of bourgeois and aristocratic security and stability, and the intensification of these conflicts as the result of the revolutionary upsurge in the whole of Europe. It stressed the magnitude of the class movement of the British workers who were fighting under the Chartist banner, and it described this fight against the official British establishment as the war of “the organised party of the proletariat against the organised political power of the bourgeoisie” (see this volume, p. 297). It was in the true spirit of proletarian internationalism that Marx and Engels supported the Chartists, who were persecuted by the authorities in 1848, and defended them against the slanderous accusations made by the bourgeois press. They also backed the fight for an independent Ireland, one of the principal hotbeds of revolutionary discontent in the British Isles (see “Cologne in Danger”, “The Neue Berliner Zeitung on the Chartists”).
The articles “The ‘Model State’ of Belgium” and “The Antwerp Death Sentences” outline the consequences of capitalist development in Belgium, where it was proceeding in an apparently peaceful and constitutional way. But the rule of the liberal bourgeoisie, which was able to crush the incipient republican movement in 1848, had, as is pointed out in these articles, caused the conditions of the workers to deteriorate substantially, and pauperism and criminality to increase. It also strengthened political reaction in the country, so that brutal repressive measures were taken against democrats and socialists, with arrests and deportations of political emigrants. Marx and Engels adduce the example of this bourgeois “model” state to show that in order to preserve its domination and prevent a revolution the ruling bourgeoisie is prepared to resort to the most arbitrary and subtle police methods, which can compete with any that are practised under feudal and absolutist monarchies.
Engels’ unfinished sketch “From Paris to Berne” is published at the end of this volume. After being compelled to leave Germany at the end of September 1848, and after his subsequent deportation from Belgium to France, Engels decided to walk from Paris to Switzerland, where he wrote these travel notes. Considerable space is devoted to a description of the French peasants and their way of life and thinking. Engels notes the antipathy of the French peasants to the revolution of 1848 and to the revolutionary movement in the towns, and especially in Paris, together with their Bonapartist sympathies and illusions. This he attributes to the peasants’ parochialism and political backwardness. And he adds that the demagogic exploitation of the peasants’ proprietary instincts by the bourgeoisie, and the fiscal policy of the Provisional Government, which went against the interests of the peasants and alienated them from the revolution, were also largely responsible for this antipathy.
The Appendices contain a number of documents which illustrate the many-sided revolutionary activity of Marx and Engels in 1848 and their practical work among the people. They comprise papers relating to the Communist League, the Cologne Democratic Society and the Cologne Workers’ Association, among the leaders of which were Marx and Engels and their comrades-in-arms. Reports of speeches delivered by Marx and Engels in these organisations and at public meetings are also included: though brief and incomplete, these give some idea of the content of the speeches. The Appendices comprise also a series of documents showing how the Neue Rheinische Zeitung came into being, and throwing light on the police and court proceedings against its editors and the difficult conditions (they were persecuted by the government authorities and slandered by the “loyal” press) in which Marx and Engels published this newspaper of the revolutionary proletariat.
The collection of articles written by Marx and Engels in 1848 and 1849 which is presented in Volumes 7 to 9 of this edition is more complete than any previously published. Not only the writings of Marx and Engels which appeared in Volumes 5 and 6 of the Russian and German editions of their Collected Works are included, but also many articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung which more recent research carried out in the USSR and the GDR has shown to have been also written by them. Included, too, are a number of documents relating to their activity in workers’ and other democratic organisations. This volume contains 16 articles and notes — e.g. “Defeat of the German Troops at Sundewitt”, “The Question of Union”, “The Downfall of the Camphausen Government”, “Reichensperger”, “The Milan Bulletin”, “Miscellaneous”, “The Cologne Committee of Public Safety” — which have never before been published in any edition of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels. Of the 146 articles forming the main section of the volume, 103 are published in English for the first time. The Appendices consist entirely of material not previously published in English.
A specific feature of this volume is the fact that in a number of cases it has not been possible to establish whether a given article was written by Marx or by Engels. Since most of the articles published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung are unsigned and none of the manuscripts have been preserved, the question of which of them wrote it is, indeed, generally difficult to answer. And many of the articles seem in any case to be their joint work. In those cases where up to now it has proved impossible to ascertain which one of them wrote a particular item, no name is given at the end of the article.
The titles of the articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung are printed according to the table of contents given in the paper. Those supplied by the editors are in square brackets. Those works included in this volume which have been previously published in English are given either in new or in carefully revised translations. Peculiarities in the presentation of the text of some articles, in particular the manuscripts, are described in the notes.
All the texts have been translated from the German except where otherwise indicated.
The volume was compiled and the preface, notes and subject index written by Tatyana Vasilyeva and edited by Lev Golman (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU). The indexes of names and of books and periodicals mentioned or quoted were prepared by Galina Kostryukova (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU).
The translations were made by Gregor Benton, Clemens Dutt, Barbara Ruhemann, Salo Ryazanskaya, Kai Schoenhals and Christopher Upward, and edited by Margaret Mynatt and Barbara Ruhemann (Lawrence & Wishart), Salo Ryazanskaya, Yelena Chistyakova, Margarita Lopukhina and Maria Shcheglova (Progress Publishers) and Vladimir Mosolov, scientific editor (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU).
The volume was prepared for the press by Lyudgarda Zubrilova (Progress Publishers).