Proclamation on Poland by the German Workers' Educational Society in London

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The Proclamation on Poland was written by Marx at the request of the German Workers' Educational Society in London (see Note 308), which had set up a committee to raise funds for the participants in the Polish uprising of 1863-64. The Proclamation was first published in English in: Karl Marx, Surveys from Exile, Vol. 2, Harmondsworth, 1973, pp. 354-56. p. 296

The London German Workers’ Educational Society?[1] in agreement with an agent of the Polish national government,[2] has authorised the undersigned committee to organise a collection of funds for Poland among the German workers in England, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. Even if only little material help can be given Poland in this manner, great moral assistance can be rendered.

The Polish question is the German question. Without an independent Poland there can be no independent and united Germany, no emancipation of Germany from the Russian domination that began with the first partition of Poland.[3] The German aristocracy long since recognised the Tsar as secret supreme sovereign. The German bourgeoisie looks on, silent, passive and indifferent, at the slaughter of the heroic nation which alone still shields Germany from the Muscovite deluge. Part of the bourgeoisie realises the danger, but is willing to sacrifice German interests to those of the individual German states, whose existence depends on the dismemberment of Germany and the maintenance of the Russian hegemony. Another section of the bourgeoisie regards the autocracy in the east as it does the reign of the coup d’etat[4] in the west, as a necessary buttress of order. Finally, a third part is so absolutely obsessed by the important business of making money that it has completely lost understanding of and insight into major historical relations. The Germans of 1831 and 1832, by their open demonstration in support of Poland,[5] at least forced the Federal Diet to take strong measures. Today Poland finds its most eager opponents, and hence Russia finds its most useful tools, among the liberal masterminds of the so-called National Association.[6] Everyone is free to decide for himself how far this liberal Russophilism is linked to the Prussian upper crust.

In this fateful moment, the German working class owes it to the Poles, to foreign countries and to its own honour to raise a loud protest against the German betrayal of Poland, which is at the same time treason to Germany and to Europe. It must inscribe the Restoration of Poland in letters of flame on its banner, since bourgeois liberalism has erased this glorious motto from its own flag. The English working class has won immortal historical honour for itself by thwarting the repeated attempts of the ruling classes to intervene on behalf of the American slaveholders by its enthusiastic mass meetings, even though the prolongation of the American Civil War subjects a million English the most fearful suffering and privations.

If police restrictions prevent the working class in Germany from conducting demonstrations on such a scale for Poland, they do not in any way force them to brand themselves in the eyes of the whole world as accomplices in the betrayal, through apathy and silence.

The undersigned committee requests that money be sent to Mr. Bolleter, the occupant of the Society’s premises at 2 Nassau Street, Soho, London. The expenditure of the money is controlled by the Society and public account thereof will be given as soon as the purpose of this collection permits.

Bolleter, Berger, Eccarius, Krüger,

Lessner, Limburg, Linden, Matzrath,

Tatschky, Toups, Wolff

  1. The German Workers' Educational Society in London was founded in February 1840 by Karl Schapper, Joseph Moll and other members of the League of the Just (an organisation of German craftsmen and workers, and also of emigrant workers of other nationalities). After the League of the Just was reorganised into the Communist League in the summer of 1847, the latter's local communities played the leading role in the Society. During various periods of its activity, the Society had branches in working-class districts in London. In 1847 and 1849-50, Marx and Engels took an active part in its work, but on September 17, 1850, they and a number of their followers withdrew because the Willich-Schapper adventurist sectarian faction had temporarily increased its influence in the Society, causing a split in the Communist League. In the 1850s, Marx and Engels resumed their work in the Educational Society, which existed until 1918, when it was closed down by the British government. p. 296
  2. This refers to the Central National Committee, which in January 1863 headed the national liberation uprising in the parts of Poland held by Tsarist Russia. Though inspired by the striving to end tsarist oppression, the 1863-64 uprising also reflected the crisis of feudal relations in the Kingdom of Poland. At the beginning of the uprising the National Committee announced a programme of struggle for Poland's independence and put forward a number of democratic agrarian demands. In May 1863, the Committee assumed the name of National Government. However, its inconsistency and indecision, in particular its failure to abolish the privileges of the big landowners, alienated the peasants, the majority of whom stayed away from the uprising. This was one of the main causes of its defeat. The movement was, by and large, crushed by the Tsarist government in the autumn of 1863, though some units of the insurgents continued the struggle until the end of 1864. p. 296
  3. See Note 253. p. 296
  4. The reign of Napoleon III.— Ed.
  5. Under the impact of the July 1830 revolution in France and the 1830-31 uprising in Poland, there was an upsurge of opposition feeling almost in all the states of the German Confederation in 1831-32. On May 27, 1832, a political demonstration by members of the South German liberal and radical bourgeoisie took place at the castle of Hambach, in the Bavarian Palatinate. As well as demanding Constitutional reforms and urging German unity, the participants in the "Hambach Festival" hoisted the Polish national flag in solidarity with the fighting Poles. In retaliation, the reactionary Federal Diet, the central body of the German Confederation, in June and July 1832 adopted six articles banning political demonstrations of any kind, introducing strict censorship of the press and severer punishment for political crimes, and calling for other repressive measures. The articles evoked widespread protests. p. 296
  6. The National Association was formed at a congress of bourgeois liberals from different German states meeting in Frankfurt am Main on September 15 and 16, 1859. The Association's aim was the union of Germany under Prussia's aegis. It was disbanded in November 1867. p. 297