Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne
Republished in 1874-1875 in Der Volksstaat. And again in 1885 by Engels who wrote the introductory article On The History of the Communist League.
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 11, p. 399.
Note from MECW :
In Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne Marx exposed the unseemly methods used by the Prussian police state against the communist movement. On October 27, 1852 Marx wrote to Engels: “My pamphlet is not intended to defend any principles but to brand the Prussian Government on the basis of an account of the facts and the course of the trial.” Marx began writing the pamphlet at the end of October 1852, when the trial of the Communists was still in progress in Cologne, and completed it by early December despite his material difficulties and the fact that he was very busy collecting evidence for the defence counsel in Cologne to discredit the prosecution. His main sources of information were the documents of the trial, in particular the official minutes published in the Kölnische Zeitung from October 5 to November 13, 1852, newspaper reports, and the material collected by himself and his friends, Engels included. On December 6 a copy of the MS was sent to the publisher Schabelitz junior, in Switzerland, and on the following day a second copy was despatched to Adolf Cluss, a member of the Communist League in the USA, to he published there. In his covering letter to Cluss Marx wrote: “You will appreciate the humour of the pamphlet when you realise that its author is practically interned through his lack of adequate covering for his posterior and feet and moreover at any moment expects to see really horrid misery overwhelming his family. The trial is to blame for this as well, because I have had to spend five weeks working for the Party against the machinations of the government instead of working for my daily bread.”
The pamphlet was published in Basle in January 1853, but in March almost the whole edition (2,000 copies) was confiscated by the police in the Baden frontier village of Weill on the way to Germany. (See the letters of 23rd February & 25th March). In the USA the work was at first published in instalments (on March 6 and April 2 and 28, 1853) in the democratic Boston newspaper Neue-England-Zeitung and at the end of April 1853 it was printed as a separate pamphlet by the same publishing house. However, the Boston edition was circulated at the time mostly among the German refugees in North America.
In 1874 this work was reprinted in 13 instalments in the Volksstaat (Leipzig), organ of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (from October 28 to December 18, 1874), and Marx was named as its author for the first time. On January 20 and 22, 1875, the Volksstaat published, as a supplement to the Revelations. Marx’s Appendix 4 (“The Communist Trial in Cologne”) to his pamphlet Herr Vogt written in 1860, and on January 27 it published his special postscript to the Revelations dated January 8, 1875. The Revelations appeared as a book in Leipzig in 1875, reproducing the text from the Volksstaat.
The third edition came out in Hottingen-Zürich in 1885 under the editorship of Engels, with notes and an introductory article by Engels: “On the History of the Communist League”. Engels included in this edition Marx’s Postscript of 1875, Appendix 4 to Herr Vogt and the March and June 1850 Addresses of the Central Authority to the Communist League.
The editions of the Revelations printed during Marx’s lifetime, and the 1885 edition prepared for publication by Engels after Marx’s death, differ only in minor respects, such as discrepancies in separate words, the spelling of some proper names and the use of italics. In the 1875 and 1885 editions some misprints of the first edition are corrected and certain factual and stylistic improvements made, sometimes on the basis of the Boston (1853) edition. In the present edition these improvements of the text, as well as those made in the 1885 edition as compared with the last authorised edition of 1875, are taken into account.
In English the Revelations were first published in 1971 in the book: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Cologne Communist Trial, Lawrence and Wishart, London.
I. Preliminaries[edit source]
On May 10, 1851 Nothjung was arrested in Leipzig and Bürgers, Röser, Daniels, Becker and the others were arrested shortly after. The arrested men appeared before the Court of Assizes in Cologne on October 4, 1852 on a charge of “treasonable conspiracy” against the Prussian state. Thus the preliminary detention (in solitary confinement) had lasted a year and a half.
When Nothjung and Bürgers were arrested the police discovered copies of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the “Rules of the Communist League” (a communist propaganda society), two Addresses of the Central Authority of this League as well as a number of addresses and other publications. A week after Nothjung’s arrest had become public knowledge there were house-searches and arrests in Cologne. So if there had still been something to discover it would certainly have disappeared by then. And in fact the haul yielded only a few irrelevant letters. A year and a half later when the accused finally appeared before the jury, the bona fide material in the possession of the prosecution had not been augmented by a single document. Nevertheless as we are assured by the Public Prosecutor’s office (represented by von Seckendorf and Saedt) all government departments of the Prussian state had undertaken the most strenuous and many-sided activity. What then had they been doing? Nous verrons!
The unusually long period of pre-trial detention was explained in the most ingenious way. At first it was claimed that the Saxon government refused to extradite Bürgers and Nothjung to Prussia.
The court in Cologne appealed in vain to the ministry in Berlin, which appealed in vain to the authorities in Saxony. The Saxon authorities however relented. Bürgers and Nothjung were handed over. By October 1851 enough progress had been made at last for the files to be presented to the indictment board of the Cologne Court of Appeal. The board ruled that “there was no factual evidence of an indictable offence and ... the investigation must therefore start again from the beginning”. Meanwhile the zeal of the courts had been kindled by a recently approved disciplinary law which enabled the Prussian government to dismiss any official of the judiciary who incurred its displeasure. Accordingly the case was dismissed on this occasion because there was no evidence of an indictable offence. At the following quarterly session of the assizes it had to be postponed because there was too much evidence. The mass of documents was said to be so huge that the prosecutor was unable to digest it. Gradually he did digest it, the bill of indictment was presented to the prisoners and the action was due to be heard on July 28. But in the meantime the great driving wheel of the government’s case, Chief of Police Schulz, fell ill. The accused had to sit in gaol for another three months awaiting an improvement in Schulz’s health. Fortunately Schulz died, the public became impatient and the government had to bring up the curtain.
Throughout this whole period the police authorities in Cologne, the police headquarters in Berlin and the Ministries of Justice and of the Interior had continually intervened in the investigations, just as Stieber, their worthy representative, was to intervene later on as witness in the public court proceedings in Cologne. The government succeeded in assembling a jury that is quite unprecedented in the annals of the Rhine Province. In addition to members of the upper bourgeoisie (Herstadt, Leiden, Joest), there were city patricians (von Bianca, vom Rath), country squires (Häbling von Lanzenauer, Freiherr [i.e. baron] von Fürstenberg, etc.), two Prussian government officials, one of them a royal chamberlain (von Münch-Bellinghausen) and finally a Prussian professor (Kräusler). Thus in this jury every one of the ruling classes in Germany was represented and only these classes were represented.
With this jury the Prussian government, it seems, could stop beating about the bush and make the case into a political trial pure and simple. The documents seized from Nothjung, Bürgers and the others and admitted by them to be genuine did not indeed prove the existence of a plot; in fact they did not prove the existence of any action provided for in the Code pénal. But they showed conclusively the hostility of the accused to the existing government and the existing social order. However, what the intelligence of the legislators had failed to achieve might well be made good by the conscience of the jury. Was it not a stratagem of the accused that they should have conducted their hostile activities directed against the existing social order in such a way that they did not violate any article of the Code? Does a disease cease to be infectious because it is not listed in the Police Medical Register? If the Prussian government had restricted itself to using the material actually available to prove the harmfulness of the accused and if the jury had confined itself to rendering them harmless by its verdict of guilty, who could censure either government or jury? Who indeed but the foolish dreamer who imagines that the Prussian government and the ruling classes in Prussia are strong enough to give even their opponents a free rein as long as they confine themselves to discussion and propaganda.
However the Prussian government had deprived itself of the opportunity of using this broad highway of political trials. Owing to the unusual delay in bringing the case before the court, the Ministry’s direct intervention in the proceedings, the mysterious hints about unheard-of horrors, the rodomontade about a conspiracy ensnaring the whole of Europe and, finally, the signally brutal treatment of the prisoners, the trial was swollen into a procès monstre, the eyes of the European press were upon it and the curiosity and suspicions of the public were fully aroused. The Prussian government had put itself in a position in which for decency’s sake the prosecution was simply obliged to produce evidence and the jury to demand it. The jury itself had to face another jury, the jury of public opinion.
To rectify its first blunder, the government was forced into a second one. The police, who acted as examining magistrates during the preliminary investigation, had to appear as witnesses during the trial. By the side of the ordinary Public Prosecutor the government had to put an extraordinary one, beside the Public Prosecutor’s office the police, beside a Saedt and Seckendorf a Stieber together with his Wermuth, his griffin Greif and his little Goldheim. It was inevitable that yet another government department should intervene in court and, by virtue of the miraculous powers of the police, should continuously supply the facts whose shadows the legal prosecution had pursued in vain. The court was so thoroughly aware of the position that with the most laudable resignation the President, the judge and the prosecutor abandoned their functions to Stieber the Police Superintendent and the witness and continually disappeared behind him. Before we proceed to elucidate these revelations made by the police, revelations which form the basis of the “indictable offence” that the indictment board was unable to discover, one more preliminary observation remains to be made.
It became evident from the papers seized from the accused, as well as from their own statements, that a German communist society had existed with a central authority originally based in London. On September 15, 1850, the Central Authority split. The majority — referred to in the indictment as the “Marx party” — moved the seat of the Central Authority to Cologne. The minority, which was later expelled from the League by the group in Cologne, established itself as an independent central authority in London and founded a separate league  in London and on the continent. The indictment refers to this minority and its supporters as the “Willich-Schapper party”.
Saedt-Seckendorf claim that the split in the London Central Authority had its origin solely in personal disagreements. Long before Saedt-Seckendorf the “chivalrous Willich” had spread the most vicious rumours among the London émigrés about the causes of the split and had found in Herr Arnold Ruge, that fifth wheel on the state coach of European Central Democracy, and in others of the same sort, people who were willing to act as channels leading to the German and American press. The democrats realised that they could gain an easy victory over the Communists by making the “chivalrous Willich” the impromptu representative of the Communists. The “chivalrous Willich” for his part realised that the “Marx party” could not reveal the causes of the split without betraying the existence of a secret society in Germany and in particular exposing the Central Authority in Cologne to the paternal attention of the Prussian police. This situation no longer obtains and so we may cite a few passages from the minutes of the last session of the London Central Authority, dated September 15, 1850.
In support of his motion calling for separation, Marx said inter alia the following which is given here verbatim:
“The point of view of the minority is dogmatic instead of critical, idealistic instead of materialistic. They regard not the real conditions but a mere effort of will as the driving force of the revolution. Whereas we say to the workers: ‘You will have to go through 15, 20, 50 years of civil wars and national struggles not only to bring about a change in society but also to change yourselves, and prepare yourselves for the exercise of political power’, you say on the contrary: ‘Either we seize power at once, or else we might as well just take to our beds.’ Whereas we are at pains to show the German workers in particular how rudimentary the development of the German proletariat is, you appeal to the patriotic feelings and the class prejudice of the German artisans, flattering them in the grossest way possible, and this is a more popular method, of course. Just as the word ‘people’ has been given an aura of sanctity by the democrats, so you have done the same for the word ‘proletariat’. Like the democrats you substitute the catchword of revolution for revolutionary development,” etc., etc.
Herr Schapper’s verbatim reply was as follows:
“I have voiced the opinion attacked here because I am in general an enthusiast in this matter. The question at issue is whether we ourselves chop off a few heads right at the start or whether it is our own heads that will fall.” (Schapper even promised to lose his own head in a year, i.e. on September 15, 1851) “In France the workers will come to power and thereby we in Germany too. Were this not the case I would indeed take to my bed; in that event I would he able to enjoy a different material position. If we come to power we can take such measures as are necessary to ensure the rule of the proletariat. I am a fanatical supporter of this view but the Central Authority favours the very opposite,” etc., etc.
It is obvious that it was not for personal reasons that the Central Authority was divided. But it would be just as wrong to speak of a difference of principle. The Schapper-Willich party have never laid claim to the dignity of having their own ideas. Their own contribution is the peculiar misunderstanding of other people’s ideas which they set up as dogmas and, reducing these to a phrase, they imagine to have made them their own. It would be no less incorrect to agree with the prosecution in describing the Willich-Schapper party as the “party of action”, unless by action one understands indolence concealed behind beerhouse bluster, simulated conspiracies and meaningless pseudo-alliances.
II The Dietz Archive[edit source]
The document found in the possession of the accused, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, which had been printed before the February revolution and had been available from booksellers for some years, could neither in its form nor in its aims be the programme of a “plot”. The confiscated Addresses of the Central Authority were concerned exclusively with the relations of the Communists to the future democratic government and therefore not to the government of Frederick William IV. Lastly, the “Rules” were indeed the rules of a secret propaganda society, but the Code pénal prescribes no penalties for secret societies. The ultimate aim of this propaganda is said to be the destruction of existing society; but the Prussian state has already perished once and could perish ten times more and indeed for good and all without the existing social order being even the slightest bit harmed. The Communists can help accelerate the dissolution of bourgeois society and yet leave the dissolution of the Prussian state in the hands of bourgeois society. If a man whose immediate aim was the overthrow of the Prussian state were to preach the destruction of the social order as a means to this end he would be like that deranged engineer who wished to blow up the whole planet in order to remove a rubbish-heap.
But if the final goal of the League is the overthrowing of the social order, the method by which this is to be achieved is necessarily that of political revolution and this entails the overthrow of the Prussian state, just as an earthquake entails the overthrow of a chicken-house. The accused, however, proceed in fact from the outrageous assumption that the present Prussian government would collapse without their having to lift a finger. They accordingly did not found a league to overturn the present government of Prussia, and were not guilty of any “treasonable conspiracy”.
Has anyone ever accused the early Christians of aiming at the overthrow of some obscure Roman prefect? The Prussian political philosophers from Leibniz to Hegel have laboured to dethrone God, and if I dethrone God I also dethrone the king who reigns by the grace of God. But has anyone ever prosecuted them for lèse-majesté against the house of Hohenzollern?
From whatever angle one looked at it, when the corpus delicti was subjected to public scrutiny it vanished like a ghost. The complaint of the indictment board that there was “no indictable offence” remained valid and the “Marx party” was spiteful enough to refrain from providing one single iota for the indictment during the whole year and a half of the preliminary investigation.
Such an embarrassing situation had to be remedied. The Willich-Schapper party, in conjunction with the police, remedied it.
Let us see how Herr Stieber, the midwife of this party, introduces it into the trial in Cologne. (See Stieber’s testimony in the sitting of October 18, 1852.)
While Stieber was in London in the spring of 1851, allegedly to protect the visitors to the Great Exhibition from pilferers and thieves, the Berlin police headquarters sent him a copy of the papers found in Nothjung’s home.
“In particular,” Stieber swore, “my attention was directed to the conspirators’ archive which according to papers found in Nothjung’s home were in the possession of a certain Oswald Dietz in London and which would undoubtedly contain the whole correspondence of the League’s members.”
The conspirators’ archive? The whole correspondence of the League’s members? But Dietz was the secretary of the Willich-Schapper Central Authority. If the archive of a conspiracy was in his possession it was the archive of the Willich-Schapper conspiracy. If Dietz had correspondence belonging to the League it could only be the correspondence of the separate league that was hostile to the accused in Cologne. But even more became clear from the scrutiny of the documents found in Nothjung’s home, namely that nothing in them points to the fact of Oswald Dietz being the keeper of an archive. Moreover, how should Nothjung, who was in Leipzig, know what was not even known to the “Marx party” in London?
Stieber could not say outright: Now note this, Gentlemen of the jury! I have made amazing discoveries in London. Unfortunately they refer to a conspiracy with which the accused in Cologne have nothing to do and which it is not the task of the Cologne jury to judge, but which provided a pretext for keeping the accused in solitary confinement for one and a half years. Stieber could not say this. The intervention of Nothjung was indispensable to create even the semblance of a connection between the revelations and documents from London and the trial in Cologne.
Stieber then swore on oath that a man offered to buy the archive for cash from Oswald Dietz. The plain fact is that a certain Reuter, a Prussian police spy who has never belonged to a communist society, lived in the same house as Dietz and, during the latter’s absence, broke into his desk and stole his papers. That Herr Stieber paid him for the theft is quite credible, but this would hardly have protected Stieber from a journey to Van Diemen’s Land [i.e., Tasmania, to which British convicts were transported] if the manoeuvre had become public knowledge while he was in London.
On August 5, 1851, Stieber, who was in Berlin, received from London the Dietz archive, “in a bulky parcel wrapped in stout oil-cloth”, which turned out to be a heap of documents consisting of “60 separate items”. To this Stieber could swear, and at the same time he swore that the parcel he received on August 5, 1851 contained also letters from the leading district in Berlin dated August 20, 1851. If someone were to assert that Stieber was perjuring himself when he claimed that he received on August 5, 1851 letters dated August 20, 1851, Stieber would justly retort that a royal Prussian counsellor, like the Evangelist Matthew, has the right to perform chronological miracles.
En passant. From the list of documents stolen from the Willich-Schapper party and from the dates of these documents it follows that although the party had been warned by Reuter’s burglary, it still constantly found ways and means of having its documents stolen and allowing them to fall into the hands of the Prussian police.
When Stieber found himself in possession of the treasure wrapped in stout oil-cloth he was beside himself with joy. “The whole network,” he swore, “lay revealed before my eyes.” And what did the treasure-trove contain about the “Marx party” and the accused in Cologne? According to Stieber’s own testimony, nothing at all except for
“the original of a declaration by several members of the Central Authority, who obviously formed the nucleus of the ‘Marx party’; it was dated London, September 17, 1850, and concerned their resignation from the communist society consequent on the well-known breach of September 15, 1850”.
Stieber says so himself but even in this simple statement he is unable simply to confine himself to the facts. He is compelled to raise them to a higher plane in order to make them truly worthy of the police. For the original declaration contained nothing more than a statement of three lines to the effect that the majority members of the former Central Authority and their friends were resigning from the public Workers’ Society of Great Windmill Street; but they did not resign from a “communist society”.
Stieber could have spared his correspondents the oil-cloth and his authorities the postal dues. He had only to ‘rummage’ [a pun on Stieber's name] through the various German papers of September 1850 and he would have found in black and white the declaration of the “nucleus of the Marx party” announcing their resignation from the Refugee Committee and also from the Workers’ Society of Great Windmill Street.
The immediate product of Stieber’s researches was then the amazing discovery that the “nucleus of the Marx party” had resigned from the public Society of Great Windmill Street on September 17, 1850. “The whole network of the Cologne plot lay revealed before his eyes.” But the public couldn’t believe their eyes.
III. The Cherval Plot[edit source]
Stieber, however, was able to make the most of his stolen treasure-trove. The papers that had come into his possession on August 5, 1851, led to the discovery of the so-called “Franco-German plot in Paris”. They contained six reports sent from Paris by Adolph Majer, an emissary of Willich-Schapper, as well as five reports from the leading district in Paris to the Willich-Schapper Central Authority. (Stieber’s testimony in the sitting of October 15). Stieber then went on a diplomatic pleasure trip to Paris and there he made the personal acquaintance of the great Carlier who in the recent notorious affair of the Gold Bullion Lottery had just delivered proof that though a great enemy of the Communists, he was an even greater friend of other people’s private property.
“Accordingly I went to Paris in September 1851. Carlier, the Prefect of Police there at the time, was most eager and ready to lend me his support.... With the aid of French police agents the threads laid bare in the London letters were speedily and surely traced; we were able to track down the addresses of the various leaders of the conspiracy and to keep all their movements, and especially all their meetings and correspondence, under observation. Some very sinister things came to light.... I was compelled to yield to Prefect Carlier’s demands and measures were taken during the night of September 4, 1851.” (Stieber’s testimony of October 18.)
Stieber left Berlin in September. Let us assume it was September 1. At best he could have arrived in Paris on the evening of the 2nd. On the night of the 4th measures were taken. Thirty-six hours remain then for the conference with Carlier and for the necessary steps to be taken. In these thirty-six hours not only were the addresses of the various leaders “tracked down”; but all their movements, all their meetings and all their correspondence were “kept under observation”, that is of course after their “addresses had been tracked down”. Stieber’s arrival not only inspires the “French police agents” with a miraculous “speed and sureness”, it also makes the conspiratorial leaders “eager and ready” to perpetrate so many movements, meetings and so much correspondence within twenty-four hours that already the following evening measures can be taken against them. But it is not enough that on September 3 the addresses of the individual leaders should have been traced and all their movements, meetings and correspondence put under observation:
“French police agents,” Stieber swears, “found an opportunity to be present at the meetings of the conspirators and to hear their decisions about the plan of campaign for the next revolution.”
No sooner have the police agents observed the meetings than the observation gives them an opportunity to be present, and no sooner have they been present at one meeting than it becomes several meetings, and no sooner has it become several meetings than decisions are adopted about the plan of campaign during the next revolution — and all this on the same day. On that very same day when Stieber first meets Carlier, Carlier’s police discover the addresses of the various leaders, the various leaders meet Carlier’s police, invite them to their meetings that very day, hold a whole series of meetings on the same day for their benefit and cannot part from them without hastily adopting decisions on the plan of campaign for the next revolution.
However eager and ready Carlier might be — and no one will doubt his readiness to uncover a communist plot three months before the coup d'état — Stieber ascribes more to him than he could achieve. Stieber asks miracles of the police; he does not merely ask for them, he believes them; he does not merely believe them, he swears to them on oath.
“At the beginning of this venture, i.e. the taking of measures, first of all a French police inspector and I personally arrested the dangerous Cherval, the ringleader of the French Communists. He resisted vigorously and a stubborn struggle ensued.”
Thus Stieber’s testimony of October 18.
“Cherval made an attempt on my life in Paris, in my own home where he had broken in during the night. In the course of the ensuing struggle my wife, who came to my aid, was wounded.”
Thus Stieber’s further testimony of October 27.
On the night of the 4th, Stieber intervenes at Cherval’s dwelling and it comes to fisticuffs in which Cherval resists. On the night of the 3rd, Cherval intervenes at Stieber’s dwelling and it comes to fisticuffs in which Stieber resists. But it was precisely on the 3rd that a veritable entente cordiale obtained between conspirators and police agents as a result of which so many great deeds were performed in one day. It is now alleged that not only the conspirators were found out by Stieber on the 3rd, but Stieber too was found out on the 3rd by the conspirators. While Carlier’s agents discovered the addresses of the conspirators, the conspirators discovered Stieber’s address. While he played the role of an “observer” towards them, they pursued an active role towards him. While he was dreaming about their plot against the government, they were engaged in an assault on his person.
Stieber’s testimony of October 18 continues:
“In the course of the struggle” (this is Stieber on the attack) “I observed that Cherval was endeavouring to put a piece of paper into his mouth and swallow it. Only with great difficulty was it possible to retrieve one half of the paper, the other half being already devoured.”
So the paper was situated in Cherval’s mouth, between his teeth in fact, for only one half was retrieved, the other half having already been devoured. Stieber and his henchman, a police inspector or whoever, could only retrieve the other half by placing their hands in the jaws of the “dangerous Cherval”. Against such an onslaught biting was the most obvious method of defence that Cherval could adopt, and the Paris papers actually reported that Cherval had bitten Frau Stieber; in that scene however Stieber was assisted not by his wife but by the police inspector. On the other hand, Stieber declares that when Cherval assaulted him in his own home, it was Frau Stieber who had been wounded while coming to his aid. If one compares Stieber’s statements with the reports of the Paris papers it would appear that on the night of the 3rd Cherval bit Frau Stieber in an attempt to save the papers that Herr Stieber tore from between his teeth on the night of the 4th. Stieber will retort that Paris is a city of miracles and that long before him La Rochefoucauld had said that in France everything is possible. Putting the belief in miracles to one side for a moment it seems that the first miracles arose because Stieber compressed into one day, September 3, a whole series of events that were in reality spread over a long period of time, while the latter miracles arose when he claimed of different events that happened in one place and on one evening that they occurred in two places on two evenings. Let us confront his tale from A Thousand and One Nights with the actual facts. But first one very strange fact, though by no means a miracle. Stieber tore from Cherval one half of the paper that had been swallowed. What was in the retrieved half? The whole that Stieber wanted.
“This paper,” he swears, “contained a vital instruction for Gipperich, the emissary in Strasbourg, together with his complete address.”
Now for the facts of the matter.
We know from Stieber that he received the Dietz archive in a stout oil-cloth wrapping on August 5, 1851. On August 8 or 9, 1851, a certain Schmidt arrived in Paris. Schmidt, it seems, is the name inevitably assumed by Prussian police agents travelling incognito. In 1845-46 Stieber travelled through the Silesian Mountains under the name of Schmidt. Fleury, his London agent, went as Schmidt to Paris in 1851. Here he searched for the various leaders of the Willich-Schapper conspiracy and lit upon Cherval. He pretended that he had fled from Cologne rescuing the League’s cash-box with 500 talers. He produced credentials from Dresden and various other places and spoke about reorganising the League, uniting the different parties, as the schisms were caused solely by personal disagreements (the police preached unity and union even then), and promised to use the 500 talers to inject fresh life into the League. Schmidt gradually made the acquaintance of various leaders of the Willich-Schapper communities in Paris. He not only learned their addresses, but visited them, watched their post, observed their movements, found his way into their meetings and, as an agent provocateur, egged them on. Cherval in particular became more boastful than ever as Schmidt lavished more and more admiration on him, hailing him as the League’s great unknown, as the “Great Chief” who was only unaware of his own importance, a fate that had befallen many a great man. One evening when Schmidt went with Cherval to a meeting of the League, the latter read out his famous letter to Gipperich before sending it off. In this way Schmidt learned of Gipperich’s existence. “As soon as Gipperich returns to Strasbourg,” Schmidt observed, “we can give him an order for the 500 talers lying in Strasbourg. Here is the address of the man who is holding the money. Give me in exchange Gipperich’s address to send it as a credential to the man to whom Gipperich will present himself.” In this way Schmidt obtained Gipperich’s address. On the same evening a quarter of an hour after Cherval posted the letter to Gipperich, a message was sent by electric telegraph and Gipperich was arrested, his house was searched and the famous letter was intercepted. Gipperich was arrested before Cherval.
Some little while after this Schmidt informed Cherval that a man called Stieber who was a member of the Prussian police had arrived in Paris. He had not only learned his address but had also heard from a waiter in a café opposite that Stieber had conferred about having him (Schmidt) arrested. Cherval was the man who could give this wretched Prussian policeman a lesson he would not easily forget. “We'll throw him in the Seine” was Cherval’s answer. They agreed to gain entry into Stieber’s house the next day under some pretext or other in order to confirm that he was there and to make a mental note of his personal appearance. The next evening our heroes really set out on their expedition. As they approached their goal Schmidt expressed the opinion that it would be better if Cherval were to enter the house while he patrolled in front of it. “Just ask the porter for Stieber,” he went on, “and when Stieber lets you in tell him that you want to speak to Herr Sperling and ask him whether he has brought the expected bill of exchange from Cologne. Oh, and one thing more. Your white hat is too conspicuous, it is too democratic. There, take my black one.” They exchanged hats, Schmidt prepared to stand guard, Cherval pulled the bell-rope and found himself in Stieber’s house. The porter doubted whether Stieber was at home and Cherval was about to withdraw when a woman’s voice called from upstairs: “Yes, Stieber is at home.” Cherval followed the voice and the trail led to an individual wearing green spectacles who identified himself as Stieber. Cherval then produced the formula agreed on about Sperling and the bill of exchange. “That won’t do,” Stieber interrupted him quickly. “You come into my house, ask for me, are shown up, then you try to withdraw, etc. I find that is extremely suspicious.” Cherval answered brusquely. Stieber pulled the bell, several men appeared immediately, they surrounded Cherval, Stieber reached for his coat pocket from where a letter was visible. It did not in fact contain Cherval’s instructions to Gipperich, but it was a letter from Gipperich to Cherval. Cherval tried to eat the letter, Stieber attempted to take it from his mouth, Cherval hit out and bit and lashed out. Husband Stieber tried to save one half, wife Stieber the other half and an injury was all the reward she had for her zeal. The noise of the scene brought all the other tenants from their apartments. Meanwhile one of Stieber’s types had thrown a gold watch downstairs and while Cherval was shouting: “Spy!” Stieber and Co. screamed: “Stop thief!” The porter recovered the gold watch and the cry of “Stop thief!” became general. Cherval was arrested and on his way out he was met at the door not by his friend Schmidt but by four or five soldiers.
When confronted with the facts, all the miracles invoked by Stieber disappear. His agent Fleury had been at work for over three weeks, he not only laid bare the threads of the plot, he also helped to weave them. Stieber had only to arrive from Berlin and he could exclaim: Veni, vidi, vici! He could present Carlier with a ready-made plot and Carlier needed only to be “willing” to intervene. There was no need for Frau Stieber to be bitten by Cherval on the 3rd because Herr Stieber put his hand into Cherval’s mouth on the 4th. There was no need for Gipperich’s address and the appropriate instructions to be salvaged whole from the jaws of the “dangerous Cherval”, like Jonah from the whale’s belly, after they have been half eaten. The only miracle that remains is the miraculous faith of the jurymen to whom Stieber dares to serve up seriously such fairy tales. Genuine representatives of the obtuse thinking of loyal subjects!
“In prison, after I had shown Cherval to his great astonishment,” Stieber swears (in the sitting of October 18), “all his original reports which he had sent to London, he realised that I knew all and made a frank confession to me.”
The papers that Stieber showed Cherval at first were by no means his original reports to London. Only afterwards were these together with other documents from the Dietz archive sent to Stieber from Berlin. He first showed Cherval a circular signed by Oswald Dietz that Cherval had just received and a few of the most recent letters from Willich. How did Stieber get possession of these? While Cherval was occupied biting and fighting Herr and Frau Stieber the valiant Schmidt-Fleury hurried to Mme Cherval, an Englishwoman (Fleury being a German businessman in London naturally speaks English) and told her that her husband had been arrested, that the danger was great, that she should hand over his papers so that he might be compromised no further, and that Cherval had instructed him to give them to a third person. As proof that he came as a genuine emissary he showed her the white hat he had taken from Cherval because it looked too democratic. Thus Fleury obtained the letters from Mme Cherval and Stieber obtained them from Fleury.
At any rate he now had a more favourable base from which to operate than previously in London. He could simply steal the Dietz archive, but he could concoct Cherval’s evidence. Accordingly (in the sitting on October 18) he makes his Cherval expatiate about “contacts in Germany” as follows:
“He had lived in the Rhineland for a considerable time and more particularly he had been in Cologne in 1848. There he made the acquaintance of Marx and the latter admitted him to the League, which he then zealously propagated in Paris on the basis of elements already existing there.”
In 1846 Cherval was nominated and admitted to the League in London by Schapper at a time when Marx was in Brussels and was himself not yet a member of the League.  So Cherval could not be admitted to the same League by Marx in Cologne in 1848.
On the outbreak of the March revolution Cherval went to Rhenish Prussia for a few weeks but from there returned to London where he remained without interruption from the end of spring 1848 until the summer of 1850. He cannot therefore at the same time “have zealously propagated the League in Paris” unless Stieber, who performs chronological miracles, also finds spatial miracles within his powers and can even confer the quality of ubiquity on third persons.
Only after his expulsion from Paris did Marx come to know Cherval superficially along with a hundred other workers when he joined the Workers’ Society in Great Windmill Street in London in September 1849. So he cannot have met him in Cologne in 1848.
At first Cherval told Stieber the truth on all these points. Stieber tried to compel him to make false statements. Did he succeed? We have only Stieber’s testimony that he did, and that is a shortcoming. Stieber’s prime concern was, of course, to establish a fictitious connection between Cherval and Marx so as to establish an artificial connection between the accused in Cologne and the Paris plot.
Whenever Stieber is required to go into details about the connections and correspondence of Cherval and his colleagues with Germany, he takes good care not even to mention Cologne and instead speaks complacently and at length of Heck in Brunswick, Laube in Berlin, Reininger in Mainz, Tietz in Hamburg, etc., etc., in short of the Willich-Schapper party. This party, says Stieber, had “the League’s archive in its hands”. — Through a misunderstanding it changed from their hands to his. In the archive he found not one single line written by Cherval to anyone in London, let alone to Marx in person, before September 15, 1850, before the split of the London Central Authority.
With the help of Schmidt-Fleury he swindled Frau Cherval out of her husband’s papers. But again, he could not find a single line written by Marx to Cherval. To remedy this awkward state of affairs he makes Cherval write in his statement that
“he had fallen out with Marx because the latter had demanded that correspondence should still be sent to him even though the Central Authority was now situated in Cologne.”
If Stieber found no Marx-Cherval correspondence before September 15, 1850, this must be due to the fact that Cherval ceased all correspondence with Marx after September 15, 1850. Pends-toi, Figaro, tu n'aurais pas inventé cela!
The documents against the accused that had been laboriously brought together by the Prussian government and, in part, by Stieber himself during the year and a half that the investigation lasted refuted every suggestion of a connection between the accused and the Paris community or the Franco-German plot.
The Address from the London Central Authority of June 1850 proved that the Paris community was dissolved even before the split in the Central Authority. Six letters from the Dietz archive showed that after the Central Authority was transferred to Cologne the Paris communities were set up afresh by A. Majer, an emissary of the Willich-Schapper party. The letters of the leading district in Paris that were found in the archive proved that it was decidedly hostile towards the Cologne Central Authority. Finally, the French bill of indictment proved that all the acts Cherval and his associates were accused of did not occur until the year 1851. In the sitting of November 8 Saedt, despite the Stieberian revelations, found himself therefore reduced to the bare supposition that it was surely not impossible that the Marx party had at some time somehow been involved in some plot or other in Paris but that nothing was known of this plot or the time when it took place other than the fact that Saedt, acting on official instructions, deemed it possible. How dull-witted the German press must be to go on inventing stories of Saedt’s incisive intelligence.
De longue main the Prussian police had sought to persuade the public that Marx and, through Marx, the accused in Cologne were involved in the Franco-German plot. During the Cherval trial Beckmann, the police spy, sent the following notice from Paris to the Kölnische Zeitung on February 25, 1852:
“Several of the accused have fled, among them a certain A. Majer, who is described as an agent of Marx and Co.”
Whereupon the Kölnische Zeitung printed a statement by Marx that “A. Majer is one of the most intimate friends of Herr Schapper and the former Prussian lieutenant Willich, and that he is a complete stranger to Marx”. Then, in his testimony of October 18, 1852, Stieber himself admitted:
“The members of the Central Authority expelled by the Marx party in London on September 15, 1850, sent A.Majer to France, etc.”
and he even divulged the contents of the correspondence between A. Majer and Willich-Schapper.
In September 1851 during the police campaign against aliens in Paris a member of the “Marx party”, Konrad Schramm, was arrested, together with 50 or 60 other people sitting in a café, and was detained for almost two months on the charge of being implicated in the plot instigated by the Irishman Cherval. On October 16 while still in the depot of the Prefecture of Police he received a visit from a German who addressed him as follows:
“I am a Prussian official. You are aware that all over Germany and especially in Cologne there have been many arrests following the discovery of a communist society. The mere mention of a person’s name in a letter is enough to bring about his arrest. The government is somewhat embarrassed by the large number of prisoners of whom it is uncertain whether or not they are really implicated. We know that you had no part in the complot franco-allemand but on the other hand you are very closely acquainted with Marx and Engels and are doubtless very well informed about all the details of the German communist connections. We would be greatly indebted to you if you could help us in this respect and give us more detailed information as to who is guilty and who innocent. In this way you could bring about the release of a large number of people. If you wish we can draw up an official document about your statement. You will have nothing to fear from such a statement,” etc., etc.
Schramm naturally showed this gentle Prussian official the door, protested to the French Ministry about such visits and was expelled from France at the end of October.
That Schramm was a member of the “Marx party” was known to the Prussian police from the official resignation found in the Dietz archive. That the “Marx party” had no connection with the Cherval plot, they themselves admitted to Schramm. If it was possible to establish a connection between the “Marx party” and the Cherval plot this could not be done in Cologne but only in Paris where a member of that party sat in gaol at the same time as Cherval. But the Prussian government feared nothing more than a confrontation of Cherval and Schramm, which was bound to nullify in advance the successful outcome they expected from the Paris trial with regard to the accused in Cologne. By his acquittal of Schramm the French examining magistrate ruled that the trial in Cologne was in no way connected with the Paris plot.
Stieber then made a last attempt:
“With reference to the above-mentioned leader of the French Communists, Cherval, we endeavoured, for a long time in vain, to discover Cherval’s true identity. It finally became clear from a remark made in confidence to a police agent by Marx that he had escaped from gaol in Aachen in 1845, where he was serving a sentence for forgery of bills, that he was then granted admittance to the League by Marx during the troubles of 1848 and that he went as an emissary from there to Paris.”
Just as Marx was unable to inform Stieber’s spiritus familiaris, the police agent, that he had admitted Cherval into the League in Cologne in 1848, for Schapper had admitted him into the League in London as early as 1846, or that he had induced him to live in London and at the same time to hawk propaganda around in Paris, so too, he was unable to inform Stieber’s alter ego, the police agent as such, that Cherval served a sentence in Aachen in 1845 and that he had forged bills, facts that he learnt only from Stieber’s testimony. Only a Stieber can allow himself such a hysteron proteron. Antiquity has bequeathed to us its dying warrior; the Prussian state will leave us its swearing Stieber.
Thus for a long, long time they had vainly endeavoured to discover Cherval’s true identity. On the evening of September 2 Stieber arrived in Paris. On the evening of the 4th Cherval was arrested, on the evening of the 5th he was taken from his cell to a dimly lit room. Stieber was there but in addition there was also a French police official present, an Alsatian who spoke broken German but understood it perfectly, had a policeman’s memory and was not favourably impressed by the arrogantly servile Police Superintendent from Berlin. In the presence of this French official the following conversation took place:
Stieber in German: “Now look here, Herr Cherval, we know what’s at the bottom of this business with the French name and the Irish passport. We know who you are, you are a Rhenish Prussian. Your name is K. and it is entirely in your own hands to escape the consequences by making a full confession,” etc., etc.
Cherval denied this.
Stieber: “Certain people who forged bills and escaped from Prussian gaols were extradited to Prussia by the French authorities. So I would again urge you to think carefully; the penalty is twelve years solitary confinement.”
The French police official: “We must give the man time to think it over in his cell.”
Cherval was led back to his cell.
Naturally enough Stieber could not afford to blurt out the truth, he could not admit publicly that he was trying to force false admissions from Cherval by conjuring up the spectre of extradition and twelve years solitary imprisonment.
And even now Stieber had still not been able to discover Cherval’s true identity. He still referred to him in front of the jury as Cherval and not as K. And that was not all. He did not know where Cherval really was. In the sitting of October 23 he had him still locked up in Paris. When in the sitting on October 27 Schneider II, counsel for the defence, pressed him to say “whether the afore-mentioned Cherval was at present in London?” Stieber answered that “he could not give any precise information on this point; and could only inform them of the rumour that Cherval had escaped in Paris”.
The Prussian government suffered its customary fate of being duped. The French government had allowed it to pull the chestnuts of the Franco-German plot out of the fire but not to eat them. Cherval had managed to gain the sympathy of the French government and a few days after the Paris Assizes it let him and Gipperich flee to London. The Prussian government had hoped that in Cherval it would have a tool for the trial in Cologne, whereas in fact it only provided the French government with yet another agent.
One day before Cherval’s pretended flight he received a visit from a Prussian faquin dressed in a black tail-coat and cuffs, with a bristling black moustache, and sparse grey hair cut short, in a word, a very pretty fellow who, he was told later, was Police Lieutenant Greif and who indeed afterwards introduced himself as Greif. Greif had obtained access to him by means of an entrance ticket he had obtained (having by-passed the prefect of police) directly from the Minister of Police. The Minister of Police thought it great fun to deceive the dear Prussians.
Greif: “I am a Prussian official. I have been sent here to negotiate with you. You will never get out of here without our aid. I have a proposal to make to you. We need you as a witness in Cologne. If you submit a request to the French government to hand you over to Prussia they have agreed to grant permission. After you have fulfilled your obligations and the case is over we shall release you on your word of honour.”
Cherval: “I'll get out without your help.”
Greif (emphatically): “That is impossible!”
Greif also had Gipperich brought to him and proposed that he should spend five days in Hanover as a communist emissary. Likewise without success. The next day Cherval and Gipperich escaped. The French authorities smirked, the telegraph brought the bad news to Berlin and as late as October 23 Stieber swore in court that Cherval was locked up in Paris, and as late as October 27 he could not give any information and had merely heard the rumour that Cherval had escaped “in Paris”. Meanwhile, Police Lieutenant Greif had visited Cherval in London three times during the Cologne proceedings in order to discover, among other things, Nette’s address in Paris in the belief that he could be bribed to testify against the defendants in Cologne. This plan misfired.
Stieber had his reasons for casting a veil of obscurity over his relations with Cherval. K. therefore remained Cherval, the Prussian remained Irish and Stieber does not know to this day where Cherval is and what is “his true identity”.*
- Even in the Black Book  Stieber still does not know who Cherval really is. It is written there, Part II, p. 38, under No. 111, Cherval: see Crämer; and under No. 116 Crämer: “as stated in No. 111, he has been very active in the Communist League under the name of Cherval. In the League he is also known as Frank. Under the name of Cherval he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment by the Paris Assizes in February 1853” (this should read 1852) “but he soon escaped and fled to London.” So ignorant is Stieber in Part II where he provides an alphabetical, numbered list of suspects with their particulars. He has already forgotten that in Part I, p. 81 he has let slip the admission: “Cherval is the son of a Rhenish official called Joseph Krümer who” (who? the father or the son?) “abused his craft of lithography to forge bills, and was arrested for this but escaped from prison in Cologne” (false, it was Aachen!) “in 1844 and fled to England and later to Paris.” — Compare this with Stieber’s evidence before the jury quoted above. The plain fact is that the police are absolutely incapable of telling the truth. [Note by Engels to the edition of 1885]
In Cherval’s correspondence with Gipperich the trifolium Seckendorf-Saedt-Stieber had at last found what it was looking for:
Schinderhannes, Karlo Moor
Whom I took as model sure.
In order that Cherval’s letter to Gipperich might be deeply engraved upon the lethargic cerebral matter of the 300 top tax-payers whom the jury represented, it received the honour of being read aloud three times. Behind this harmless gipsy pathos no experienced person could fail to see the figure of the buffoon who tries to appear terrifying both to himself and others.
Cherval & Co., moreover, shared the general expectation of the democrats that the second [Sunday] of May 1852 would work miracles and so they decided to join the revolution on that day. Schmidt-Fleury had helped to bestow upon this fixed idea the form of a plan and so the activities of Cherval and Co. now came within the legal definition of a plot. Thus through them proof was provided that the plot that had not been perpetrated by the accused in Cologne against the Prussian government had at any rate been perpetrated by the Cherval party against France.
With the help of Schmidt-Fleury the Prussian government had sought to fabricate the semblance of a connection between the plot in Paris and the accused in Cologne, a connection to the reality of which Stieber then swore on oath. This trinity of Stieber, Greif, Fleury played the chief role in the Cherval plot. We shall see them at work again.
Let us then sum up:
A is a republican, B also calls himself a republican. A and B are enemies. B is commissioned by the police to construct an infernal machine. Whereupon A is dragged before the courts. If B rather than A has built the machine this is due to the enmity between A and B. In order to find proof of A’s guilt B is called as a witness against him. This was the comedy of the Cherval plot.
It will be readily understood that as far as the general public was concerned the logic of this was a flop. Stieber’s “factual” revelations dissolved amidst malodorous vapours; the complaint of the indictment board that “there was no factual evidence of an indictable offence” was as valid as ever. New police miracles had become necessary.
IV. The Original Minute-Book[edit source]
During the sitting on October 23, the Presiding judge announced: “Police Superintendent Stieber has indicated to me that he has to make important new depositions” and for that purpose he called this witness back into the box. Up jumped Stieber and the performance began.
Hitherto Stieber had described the activities of the Willich-Schapper party, or more briefly, the Cherval party, activities that took place both before and after the arrest of the accused in Cologne. He said nothing about the accused themselves either before or after their arrest. The Cherval plot took place after their arrest and Stieber now declared:
“In my earlier testimony I described the development of the Communist League and the activities of its members only up to the time when the men now accused were arrested.”
Thus he admitted that the Cherval plot had nothing to do with “the development of the Communist League and the activities of its members”. He confessed to the nullity of his previous testimony. Indeed, he was so complacent about his statements on October 18 that he regarded it as quite superfluous to continue to identify Cherval with the “Marx party”.
“Firstly,” he said, “the Willich group still exists and of its members hitherto only Cherval in Paris has been seized, etc.”
Aha! So the ringleader Cherval is a leader of the Willich group. But now Stieber wished to make some most important announcements, not merely the very latest announcements that is, but the most important ones. The very latest and most important ones! These most important announcements would lose some of their significance if the insignificance of his earlier announcements were not emphasised. Up to now, Stieber declared, I have not really said anything, but now the time has come. Pay attention! Hitherto I have talked about the Cherval party, which is hostile to the accused, and strictly speaking, none of that has been in place here. But now I shall discuss the “Marx party”, and this trial is concerned exclusively with the Marx party. But Stieber could not put the matter as plainly as this. So he says:
“Up to now I have described the Communist League before the arrest of the accused; I shall now describe the League after their arrest.”
With characteristic virtuosity he manages to convert even mere rhetorical phrases into perjury.
After the arrest of the accused in Cologne Marx formed a new central authority.
“This emerges from the statement of a police agent whom the late Chief of Police Schulz had managed to smuggle unrecognised into the London League and into the immediate proximity of Marx.”
The new central authority kept a minute-book and this, the “original minute-book”, was now in Stieber’s possession. Horrifying machinations in the Rhine provinces, in Cologne and even in the courtroom itself, all this is proved by the original minute-book. It contains, proof that the accused had maintained an uninterrupted correspondence with Marx through the very walls of the prison. In a word, if the Dietz archive was the Old Testament, the original minute-book is the New Testament. The Old Testament was wrapped in stout oil-cloth, but the New Testament is bound in a sinister red morocco leather. Now the red morocco is indeed a demonstratio ad oculos, but people today are even more sceptical than in Thomas’ time; they do not even believe what they see with their own eyes. Who still believes in Testaments, let them be Old or New, now that the religion of the Mormons has been invented? But Stieber, who is not wholly unsympathetic to Mormonism, has foreseen even this.
“It might be objected,” Stieber the Mormon observed, “that these are nothing but the tales of contemptible police agents but,” Stieber swore, “I have complete proofs of the veracity and reliability of their reports.”
Just listen to that! Proofs of their veracity and proofs of their reliability? and complete proofs at that. Complete proofs! And what are these proofs?
Stieber had long known
“that a secret correspondence existed between Marx and the accused men in the gaol, but had been unable to track it down. Then on the previous Sunday a special courier from London arrived bringing me the news that we had finally managed to discover the secret address from which the correspondence had been conducted. It was the address of D. Kothes, a businessman in the Old Market here. The same courier brought me the original minute-book used by the London Central Authority which had been procured from a member of the League for money.”
Stieber then communicated with Chief of Police Geiger and the postal authorities.
“The necessary precautionary measures were taken and after no more than two days the evening post from London brought with it a letter addressed to Kothes. On the instructions of the Chief Public Prosecutor the letter was detained and opened and in it was found a seven-page-long briefing for Schneider II, the Counsel for the Defence, in Marx’s own handwriting. It indicated the method of defence that Counsel should adopt.... On the reverse side of the letter there was a large Latin B. The letter was copied and an easily detachable piece of the original was retained together with the original envelope. The letter was then put into a new envelope, sealed and given to a police officer from another town with the order that he should go to Kothes, and introduce himself as an emissary from Marx,” etc.
Stieber then narrated the rest of the disgusting farce enacted by the police, about how the police officer from another town had pretended to be an emissary from Marx, etc. Kothes was arrested on October 18 and after 24 hours he declared that the B on the inside of the letter stood for Bermbach. On October 19 Bermbach was arrested and his house searched. On October 21 Kothes and Bermbach were released.
Stieber gave this evidence on Saturday, October 23. “The previous Sunday”, that is Sunday, October 17, was allegedly the day the special courier arrived with Kothes’ address and the original minute-book and two days after the courier, the letter arrived for Kothes, that is on October 19. But Kothes had already been arrested on October 18 because of the letter the police officer from another town had brought him on October 17. The letter to Kothes, therefore, arrived two days before the courier with Kothes’ address, that is Kothes was arrested on October 18 for a letter that he did not receive until October 19. A chronological miracle?
Later, having been worried by Counsel, Stieber declared that the courier with Kothes’ address and the original minute-book arrived on October 10. Why on October 10? Because October 10 happened to be likewise a Sunday and on October 23 it too would be a “previous” Sunday and in this way the original statement about the previous Sunday could be sustained and to this extent the perjury could be concealed. In that event, however, the letter did not arrive two days but a whole week after the courier. The perjury now fell on the letter rather than on the courier. Stieber’s oath is like Luther’s peasant. If you help him to mount the horse from one side he falls down on the other.
And finally during the sitting of November 3 Police Lieutenant Goldheim of Berlin declared that Police Lieutenant Greif of London had delivered the minute-book to Stieber on October 11, that is to say on a Monday, in his presence and that of Chief of Police Wermuth. Goldheim’s statement therefore makes Stieber guilty of perjury twice over.
As the original envelope with the London postmark shows, Marx posted the letter to Kothes on Thursday, October 14. So the letter should have arrived on Friday evening, October 15. For a courier to deliver Kothes’ address and the original minute-book two days before the letter arrived, he must have come on Wednesday, October 13. He could not arrive on October 17th, nor on the 10th nor on the 11th.
Greif, in his role of courier, did indeed bring Stieber his original minute-book from London. Stieber was as well aware as his crony Greif of the real significance of this book. He hesitated therefore to produce it in court for this time it was not a matter of statements taken behind prison bars in Mazas. Then came the letter from Marx. It was a godsend for Stieber. Kothes is a mere address, for the contents of the letter were not intended for Kothes but for the Latin B on the back of the enclosed sealed letter. Kothes is therefore nothing but an address. Let us suppose he is a secret address. Let us suppose further he is the secret address through which Marx communicates with the accused in Cologne. Let us suppose lastly that our London agents had sent by the same courier at the same time both the original minute-book and this secret address but that the letter arrived two days after the courier, the address and the minute-book. In this way we kill two birds with one stone. Firstly we have proof of the secret correspondence with Marx and secondly we prove that the original minute-book is authentic. The authenticity of the minute-book is shown by the correctness of the address, the correctness of the address is shown by the letter. The veracity and reliability of our agents is shown by the address and the letter, the authenticity of the minute-book is shown by the veracity and reliability of our agents. Quod erat demonstrandum. Then comes the merry comedy with the police official from another town and then come the mysterious arrests. Public, jurymen and even the accused, all stand thunderstruck.
But why did not Stieber let his special courier arrive on October 13, which would have been quite easy for him? Because in that case he would not have been special, because, as we have seen, chronology was not his strong point and the common calendar is beneath the dignity of a Prussian police superintendent. Moreover, he kept the original envelope; so who would be able to unravel the affair?
But giving his evidence, Stieber compromised himself from the outset by the omission of one fact. If his agents knew of Kothes’ address they would also know to whom the mysterious B referred on the reverse of the inside letter. Stieber was so little initiated into the mysteries of the Latin B that on October 17 he had Becker searched in gaol in the hope of finding the letter from Marx on him. He only learnt from Kothes’ statement that the B stood for Bermbach.
But how did Marx’s letter fall into the hands of the Prussian government? Very simply. The Prussian government regularly opens the letters entrusted to its postal service and during the trial in Cologne it did this with particular assiduity. In Aachen and Frankfurt am Main they could tell some pretty stories about it. It was a pure chance whether a letter would slip through or not.
When the story about the original courier collapsed, the one about the original minute-book had to share its fate. Naturally, Stieber did not yet suspect this in the sitting on October 23 when he triumphantly revealed the contents of the New Testament, that is the red book. The immediate effect of his statement was the re-arrest of Bermbach, who was present at the trial as a witness.
Why was Bermbach re-arrested?
Because of the papers found on him? No, for after his house had been searched he was released again. He was arrested 24 hours after Kothes. Therefore if he had had incriminating documents they would certainly have disappeared by then. Why then was witness Bermbach arrested, when the witnesses Hentze, Hätzel, Steingens, who had been shown to be accomplices or members of the league, still sat unmolested on the witness bench?
Bermbach had received a letter from Marx which contained a mere criticism of the indictment and nothing else besides. This Stieber admitted since the letter was there for the jury to see. But he couched the admission in his hyperbolic policeman’s manner thus: “Marx himself exercises an uninterrupted influence on the present case from London.” And the jury might well ask themselves, as Guizot asked his voters: Est-ce que vous vous sentez corrompus? What then was the reason for Bermbach’s arrest? From the beginning of the inquiry the Prussian Government as a matter of principle strove consistently to deprive the accused of all means of defence. In direct contradiction to the law, defence counsel, as they announced in open court, were refused access to the accused even after presentation of the bill of indictment. On his own testimony Stieber had been in possession of the Dietz archive ever since August 5, 1851. But the Dietz archive was not appended to the indictment. Not until October 18, 1852, was it produced in the middle of a public hearing — and only so much of it was produced as Stieber thought politic. The jury, the accused and the public were all to be caught off their guard and taken by surprise; defence counsel were to stand by helplessly in the face of the surprise prepared by the police.
And even more so after the presentation of the original minute-book! The Prussian Government trembled at the thought of revelations. Bermbach however had received material for the defence from Marx and it could be foreseen that he would receive information about the minute-book. His arrest denoted the proclamation of a new crime, that of corresponding with Marx, and the punishment for this crime was imprisonment. That was intended to deter every Prussian citizen from permitting his address to be used. A bon entendeur demi mot. Bermbach was locked up so that evidence for the defence might be locked out. And Bermbach remained in gaol for five weeks. For if they had released him immediately after the case was concluded the Prussian courts would have publicly proclaimed their docile subservience to the Prussian police. So Bermbach remained in gaol, ad majorem gloriam of the Prussian judiciary.
Stieber swore on oath that
“after the arrest of the accused in Cologne, Marx joined together the ruins of his party in London and formed a new central authority with about eighteen people,” etc.
The ruins had never come apart for they were so joined together that they had formed a private society ever since September 1850. But at a word from Stieber they promptly vanished only to be revived by another command from Stieber after the arrest of the accused in Cologne and this time they appear in the form of a new central authority.
On Monday, October 25, the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with an account of Stieber’s testimony of October 23.
The “Marx party” had neither formed a new central authority nor kept minutes of its meetings. They guessed at once who had been the chief manufacturer of the New Testament — Wilhelm Hirsch from Hamburg.
Early in December 1851 Hirsch appeared at the “Marx society” saying he was a communist refugee. Simultaneously, letters arrived from Hamburg denouncing him as a spy. But it was decided to allow him to remain in the society for the time being and watch him with a view to procuring proof of his innocence or guilt. At the meeting on January 15, 1852, a letter from Cologne was read aloud in which a friend of Marx referred to another postponement of the trial and to the difficulty experienced even by relatives in gaining access to the accused. On this occasion mention was made of Frau Dr. Daniels. People were struck by the fact that Hirsch was not seen again after this meeting either in anyone’s “immediate proximity” or at a distance. On February 2, 1852, Marx was notified from Cologne that Frau Dr. Daniels’ house had been searched as the result of a police denunciation which claimed that a letter from Frau Daniels to Marx had been read out in the communist society in London and that Marx had been instructed to write back to her telling her that he was busy reorganising the League in Germany, etc. This denunciation literally fills the first page of the original minute-book.
Marx replied by return of post that as Frau Daniels had never written to him he could not possibly have read out a letter from her; the whole denunciation had been invented by a certain Hirsch, a dissolute young man who had no objection to supplying the Prussian police with as many lies as they had a mind to pay for in cash.
Since January 15 Hirsch had disappeared from the meetings; he was now formally expelled from the society. At the same time it was resolved to change the time and place of the meetings. Hitherto, meetings had taken place on Thursdays on premises belonging to J. W. Masters, Markethouse, in Farringdon Street, City. From now on it was agreed that the society would meet on Wednesdays in the Rose and Crown Tavern, Crown Street, Soho. Hirsch, whom “Chief of Police Schulz had managed to smuggle unrecognised into the immediate proximity of Marx”, despite his “proximity” was unaware even eight months later of the place and day of the meetings. Both before and after February he persisted in manufacturing his “original minute-book” on a Thursday and dating the meetings on Thursdays. If the Kölnische Zeitung is consulted the following can be found: Minutes of January 15 (Thursday), likewise January 29 (Thursday), and March 4 (Thursday), and May 13 (Thursday), and May 20 (Thursday), and July 22 (Thursday), and July 29 (Thursday), and September 23 (Thursday), and September 30 (Thursday).
The landlord of the Rose and Crown Tavern made a declaration before the magistrate in Marlborough Street to the effect that “Dr. Marx’s circle” had met in his tavern every Wednesday since February 1852. Liebknecht and Rings, whom Hirsch had named as the secretaries for his original minute-book, had their signatures witnessed by the same magistrate. And finally, the minutes Hirsch had kept in Stechan’s Workers’ Society were obtained so that his handwriting might be compared with that in the original minute-book.
In this way the spurious nature of the original minute-book was demonstrated without it being necessary to embark upon a criticism of the contents which their own contradictions caused to disintegrate.
The real difficulty was how to send these documents to Counsel. The Prussian Post was merely an outpost, situated between the Prussian frontier and Cologne, and designed to frustrate the passage of munitions to the defence.
It was necessary to use roundabout ways and so the first documents, despatched on October 25, arrived in Cologne only on October 30.
Counsel were at first forced to make do with the very meagre resources that lay at hand in Cologne. The first blow against Stieber came from a direction he had not foreseen. Frau Dr. Daniels’ father Müller, a King’s Counsel and a man in high repute as a legal expert and well known for his conservative views, declared in the Könische Zeitung on October 26 that his daughter had never corresponded with Marx and that Stieber’s original book was a piece of “mystification”. The letter Marx had sent to Cologne on February 3, 1852, in which Hirsch was alluded to as a spy and a manufacturer of false police notices, was found by chance and put at the disposal of the defence. In the “Marx party’s” notice of resignation from the Great Windmill Street Society which was included in the Dietz archive, a genuine specimen of W. Liebknecht’s handwriting was discovered. Lastly, Schneider II, Counsel for the Defence, obtained some genuine letters by Liebknecht from Birnbaum, the secretary of the Council for Poor-Relief in Cologne, and genuine letters by Rings from a private secretary called Schmitz. At the offices of the court Counsel compared the minute-book with Liebknecht’s handwriting in the notice of resignation and also with letters by Rings and Liebknecht.
Stieber, who was already alarmed by the declaration of Müller, King’s Counsel, now heard of these ominous handwriting investigations. To forestall the imminent blow he again leaped up in court during the sitting on October 27, and declared that
“the fact that Liebknecht’s signature in the minute-book differed greatly from a signature that already was in the dossier had seemed very suspicious to him. He had therefore made further inquiries and had learnt that the signatory in the minute-book in question was H. Liebknecht whereas the name in the dossier was preceded by the initial W.”
When Counsel, Schneider II, asked him: “Who informed you that an H. Liebknecht also exists?”, Stieber refused to answer. Schneider II then asked for further information about Rings and Ulmer who appear together with Liebknecht as secretaries in the minute-book. Stieber smelt a new trap. He ignored the question three times, and tried to conceal his embarrassment and to regain his composure by recounting three times and for no reason how the minute-book had come into his possession. At last he stammered: The names Rings and Ulmer are probably not real names at all but only “League names”. Stieber explained the frequent mention in the minute-book of Frau Dr. Daniels as a correspondent of Marx by surmising that perhaps the young notary Bermbach was really meant, when the book said Frau Dr. Daniels. Counsel, von Hontheim, questioned him about Hirsch.
“He did not know this man Hirsch either,” Stieber swore. “Contrary to rumour however it is obvious that he is not a Prussian agent if only because the Prussian police are on the lookout for him.”
At a signal from Stieber Goldheim buzzed into view and said that
“in October 1851 he was sent to Hamburg in order to apprehend Hirsch”.
We shall see how the very same Goldheim was sent to London on the following day to apprehend the very same Hirsch. So the very same Stieber who claimed that he had bought the Dietz archive and the original minute-book from refugees for cash, that same Stieber now asserts that Hirsch cannot be a Prussian agent because he is a refugee! You have only to be a refugee and Stieber will guarantee your absolute venality or absolute incorruptibility, just as it suits his book. And is not Fleury likewise a political refugee, the same Fleury whom Stieber denounced as a police agent in the sitting on November 3?
When the defences of his original minute-book had been breached on every side, Stieber summed up the situation on October 27 with a classical display of impudence, stating that
“his belief in the authenticity of the minute-book is firmer than ever”.
At the sitting of October 29 an expert compared the letters of Liebknecht and Rings, which had been submitted by Birnbaum and Schmitz, with the minute-book and declared the signatures in the latter to be false.
The Chief Public Prosecutor, Seckendorf, said in his speech:
“The information contained in the minute-book coincides with facts derived from other sources. But the prosecution is quite unable to prove the book’s authenticity.”
The book is authentic, but its authenticity cannot be proved. The New Testament! Seckendorf continued:
“But the defence has itself shown that at least the book contains much that is true, for example it gives us information about the activities of Rings, who is mentioned there, activities about which no one knew anything before.”
If no one knew anything about Rings’ activities before, the minute-book does not provide any information about it either. Therefore the statements about Rings’ activities could not confirm the truth of the minute-book’s contents and as regards its form they demonstrated that the signature of a member of the “Marx party” was in truth false, and had been forged. They proved then, according to Seckendorf, that “at least the book contains much that is true” — i.e. a true forgery. The Chief Public Prosecutors (Saedt-Seckendorf) and the postal authorities had together with Stieber opened the letter to Kothes. Therefore they knew the date of its arrival. Therefore they knew that Stieber committed perjury when he caused the courier to arrive at first on October 17 and, later, on the 10th, and the letter first on October 19 and then on the 12th. They were his accomplices.
At the sitting on October 27 Stieber tried in vain to preserve a calm appearance. He feared that any day the incriminating documents might arrive from London. Stieber felt ill at ease and the Prussian state, incarnate in him, felt ill at ease too. The public exposure had reached a dangerous stage. So Police Lieutenant Goldheim was sent to London on October 28 to save the fatherland. What did Goldheim do in London? Aided by Greif and Fleury, he attempted to persuade Hirsch to go to Cologne and, under the name of H. Liebknecht, to swear to the authenticity of the minute-book. Hirsch was offered a real state pension, but Hirsch’s policeman’s instincts were as good as Goldheim’s. Hirsch knew that he was neither Public Prosecutor nor Police Lieutenant, nor Police Superintendent, and therefore had not the privilege of committing perjury with impunity. His instincts told him that he would be dropped as soon as things began to go wrong. Hirsch did not want to become a goat, and least of all a scapegoat. Hirsch flatly refused. But the Christian-Germanic government of Prussia won lasting fame for having attempted to bribe a man to bear false witness in the course of criminal proceedings in which the heads of its own citizens were at stake.
Goldheim thus returned to Cologne without having achieved his object.
In the sitting on November 3, when the prosecutor had concluded his address and before Counsel for the defence could commence his, Stieber, caught between the two, leaped once again into the breach swearing that
“he had now ordered further research into the minute-book. He had sent Police Lieutenant Goldheim from Cologne to London to pursue the inquiry there. Goldheim left on October 28 and returned on November 2. Here is Goldheim.”
At a signal from his master Goldheim buzzed into view and swore that
“on arriving in London he went first to Police Lieutenant Greif who took him to police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington for it was Fleury from whom Greif had obtained the book. Fleury admitted as much to him, the witness Goldheim, and asserted that he had really received the book from a member of the Marx party called H. Liebknecht. Fleury definitely recognised the receipt H. Liebknecht had given him for the money he had received for the book. Goldheim was not able to catch hold of Liebknecht himself in London because he was, according to Fleury, afraid to appear in public. During his stay in London witness became convinced that, a few errors apart, the content of the book was entirely genuine. Reliable agents who had been present at Marx’s meetings had confirmed this to him. The book itself however was not the original minute-book but only a notebook on the proceedings at Marx’s meetings. There are only two possible explanations for the admittedly still rather obscure origin of the book. Either, as the agent insists, it really emanates from Liebknecht, who has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting in order that there should be no proof of his treachery; or the agent Fleury obtained the notes for the book from Dronke and Imandt, two other émigré friends of Marx, and put them in the form of an original minute-book in order to increase the value of his commodity. Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.... The witness Goldheim asserts his stay in London has convinced him that everything that had been said previously about secret meetings in Marx’s home, about the contacts between London and Cologne and about the secret correspondence, etc., was true in every particular. As evidence of how well informed the Prussian agents in London were even today, he would inform the Court that a completely secret meeting took place in Marx’s house on October 27 to discuss what steps should be taken to counteract the minute-book and above all the activities of Police Superintendent Stieber, who was a thorn in the side of the London Party. The relevant decisions and documents were sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II. In particular, among the papers sent to Schneider II was a private letter that Stieber himself wrote to Marx in Cologne in 1848 and that Marx had hitherto kept very secret in the hope that it might be used to compromise the witness Stieber.”
Witness Stieber leaped up and declared that he had written to Marx about an infamous slander, and had threatened to sue him, etc.
“No one but Marx and he could know this and this was indeed the strongest proof of the accuracy of the information from London.”
So according to Goldheim the original minute-book is “entirely genuine”, apart from the false parts. What convinced him of its authenticity is in particular the circumstance that the original minute-book is no original minute-book but only a “notebook”. And Stieber? Stieber was by no means thunderstruck; on the contrary a great weight had been lifted from his mind. At the very last moment, when the sound of the prosecutor’s last words had hardly faded away and before the first word of the defence had been uttered, Stieber managed with the aid of his Goldheim quickly to transform the original minute-book into a notebook. When two policemen accuse each other of lying, does that not prove that they are both addicted to telling the truth? Through Goldheim Stieber was able to cover his retreat.
Goldheim testified that “on arriving in London he went first to Police Lieutenant Greif,who took him to police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington”. Now who would not swear on oath that poor Goldheim and Police Lieutenant Greif must have worn themselves out walking or driving to Fleury’s house in the remote borough of Kensington? But Police Lieutenant Greif lives in the same house as police agent Fleury, in fact he lives on the top floor of Fleury’s house, so that in reality it was not Greif who took Goldheim to Fleury, but Fleury who took Goldheim to Greif.
“Police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington!” What precision! Can you still doubt the truthfulness of a Prussian government that denounces its own spies, gives their name and address and every detail, body and soul? If the minute-book is false you can still rely on “police agent Fleury in Kensington”. Yes, indeed. On private secretary Pierre in the 13th arrondissement. If you wish to specify a person you must give his Christian name as well as his surname. Not Fleury but Charles Fleury. And you must also name the profession that he practises in public, and not his clandestine activities. So it is Charles Fleury, a businessman not Fleury, the police agent. And when you state his address you do not merely name a London borough, a town in itself, but you give the borough, the street and the number of the house. So it is not police agent Fleury in Kensington but Charles Fleury, a businessman, 17 Victoria Road, Kensington.
But “Police Lieutenant Greif”, that at any rate is frankly spoken! But when Police Lieutenant Greif attaches himself to the embassy in London and the Lieutenant turns into an attaché that of course is an attachment of no concern to the courts. The heart’s desire is the voice of fate.
So Police Lieutenant Goldheim asserts that police agent Fleury asserted that he had the book from a man who really asserted that he was H. Liebknecht and who had even given a receipt to Fleury. The only drawback is that Goldheim was unable “to catch hold of” the said H. Liebknecht in London. So Goldheim could have stayed quietly in Cologne for Police Superintendent Stieber’s assertion does not look any healthier for the fact that it appears as an assertion of Police Lieutenant Goldheim’s, which had been asserted by Police Lieutenant Greif, for whom in his turn police agent Fleury had done the favour of agreeing to assert his assertion.
Goldheim’s London experiences were hardly encouraging but, undeterred and with the aid of his considerable faculty for convincing himself (which in his case must do duty for the faculty of reasoning), he convinced himself “completely” that “everything” that Stieber had affirmed on oath concerning the “Marx party”, about its contacts in Cologne, etc., was “all true in every particular”. And now that Goldheim, his junior official, has issued him with a testimonium paupertatis, surely Police Superintendent Stieber is fully covered now? Stieber’s method of swearing has at least one achievement to its credit: he has turned the whole Prussian hierarchy upside down. You don’t believe the Police Superintendent? Very well. He has compromised himself. But surely you will believe the Police Lieutenant? You don’t believe him either? Better still. Then you have no other choice than to believe at least the police agent alias mouchardus vulgaris. Such is the heretical conceptual confusion that our swearing Stieber has created.
Goldheim proved that in London he had established the non-existence of the original minute-book, and as for the existence of H. Liebknecht that he was unable “to catch hold” of it in London, and it was precisely this that convinced him that “all” Stieber’s statements about the “Marx party” “were true in every particular”. In addition to these negative proofs, which in Seckendorf’s view contained “much that was true”, he had in the end to produce the positive proof of “how well informed the Prussian agents in London were even today”. As evidence of this he mentions that on October 27 there had been a “completely secret meeting in Marx’s house”. In this completely secret meeting steps were discussed to counteract the minute-book and Police Superintendent Stieber, that “thorn in their side”. The relevant orders and decisions were “sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II”.
Although the Prussian agents were present at these meetings the route taken by these letters remained so “completely secret” that all the efforts of the postal authorities to intercept them were in vain. Listen to the cricket chirping sadly from among the ageing and venerable ruins: “The relevant letters and documents were sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II.” Completely secret for Goldheim’s secret agents.
The imaginary decisions about the minute-book cannot have been made at the completely secret meeting in Marx’s house on October 27 for already on October 25 Marx had sent the chief reports about the spurious nature of the minute-book not indeed to Schneider II, but to Herr von Hontheim.
It was not merely the bad conscience of the police that gave them the idea that documents had been sent to Cologne. On October 29 Goldheim arrived in London. On October 30 Goldheim found a statement signed by Engels, Freiligrath, Marx and Wolff in The Morning Advertiser, The Spectator, The Examiner, The Leader and The People's Paper in which the attention of the English public was drawn to the revelations that the defence would make of forgery, perjury, the falsification of documents in short of all the infamies perpetrated by the Prussian police. The sending of the documents was veiled in such “complete secrecy” that the “Marx party” openly informed the English public about this, though not until October 30 by which time Goldheim had arrived in London and the documents in Cologne.
However, on October 27 documents were also sent to Cologne. How did the omniscient Prussian police learn of this?
The Prussian police did not pursue their activities with quite such “complete secrecy” as the “Marx party”. On the contrary, for weeks they had openly posted two of their spies in front of Marx’s house and from the street they watched him du soir jusqu'au matin and du matin jusqu'au soir and dogged his every step. Now the absolutely secret documents, containing the genuine specimens of Liebknecht’s and Rings’ handwriting together with the statement of the landlord of the Crown Tavern concerning the days of the society’s meetings, these absolutely secret documents Marx had officially witnessed in the absolutely public police court in Marlborough Street in the presence of reporters from the English daily press on October 27. His Prussian guardian angels followed him from his house to Marlborough Street and from Marlhorough Street back to his house and from his house to the post office. They did not in fact disappear until Marx had gone in absolute secrecy to the local magistrate in order to obtain a warrant for the arrest of his two “followers”.
Moreover, yet another way lay open to the Prussian government. For Marx sent the documents that were dated October 27 and had been witnessed on October 27 directly to Cologne through the post in order to ensure that the talons of the Prussian eagle would not seize the duplicates that had been sent in absolute secrecy. Both postal authorities and the police in Cologne knew then that documents dated October 27 had been forwarded by Marx and there was no need for Goldheim to make the journey to London in order to unravel the mystery.
Goldheim felt that after all he ought “in particular” to reveal something “particular” that the “absolutely secret meeting on October 27” had resolved to send to Schneider II, he therefore mentioned the letter written by Stieber to Marx. Unfortunately Marx had sent this letter not on October 27 but on October 25 and it was sent not to Schneider II but to Herr von Hontheim. But how did the police know that Marx still had Stieber’s letter in his possession and that he intended to send it to the defence? Let us however permit Stieber to leap up once more.
Stieber hoped to forestall Schneider II and thus prevent him from reading aloud in court what was for him a very “unpleasant letter”. Stieber calculated: If Goldheim says that Schneider II has my letter and that he has it thanks to his “criminal contact with Marx”, then Schneider II will suppress the letter so as to prove that Goldheim’s agents were misinformed and that he himself does not maintain any criminal contact with Marx. So Stieber leaped up, gave a false account of the content of the letter and concluded with the astonishing declaration that “no one but himself and Marx could know this and this was indeed the strongest proof of the reliability of the information from London”.
Stieber has a strange method of keeping secret facts that he finds unpalatable. If he remains silent, the whole world must keep silence. Hence “no one can know” apart from him and a certain elderly lady that he once lived near Weimar as an homme entretenu. But if Stieber had every reason to make sure that no one but Marx should know of the letter, Marx had every reason to let everyone apart from Stieber know about it. We now know the strongest proof of the information from London. What does Stieber’s weakest proof look like?
But once again Stieber knowingly commits perjury when he says “no one but myself and Marx could know this”. He knew that it was not Marx but another editor of the Rheinische Zeitung who had answered his letter. So there had been at least “one man other than Marx and himself”. In order that even more people may learn of it we print the letter here:
“No. 177 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung contains a news item from your correspondent in Frankfurt am Main dated December 21 in which a base lie is reported to the effect that being a police spy I went to Frankfurt to try, while pretending to hold democratic views, to discover the murderers of Prince Lichnowski and General Auerswald. I was in fact in Frankfurt on the 21st but stayed only one day and as you can see from the accompanying certificate I was engaged in purely private business on behalf of a lady from here, Frau von Schwezler. I have long since returned to Berlin and resumed my work as defence counsel. I would refer you moreover to the official correction in this matter that has already appeared in No. 338 of the Frankfurter Oberpostamts-Zeitung of December 21 and in No. 248 of the Berlin National-Zeitung. I believe that I may expect from your respect for the truth that you will print the enclosed correction in your paper without delay and that you will also give me the name of your slanderous informant in accordance with your legal obligations, for I cannot possibly permit such a libel to go unpunished, otherwise I shall regretfully be compelled to proceed against your editorial board.
“I believe that in recent times democracy is indebted to no one more than myself. It was I who rescued hundreds of democrats who had been charged from the nets of the criminal courts. It was I who even while a state of siege was proclaimed here persistently and fearlessly challenged the authorities (and do so to this very day), while all the cowardly and contemptible fellows (the so-called democrats) had long since fled the field. When democratic organs treat me in this fashion it is scarcely an encouragement to me to make further efforts.
“The real joke, however, in the present case lies in the clumsiness of the organs of democracy. The rumour that I went to Frankfurt as a police agent was spread first by that notorious organ of reaction, the Neue Prussische Zeitung in order to undermine my activities as defence counsel that gave that paper such offence. The other Berlin papers have long since corrected this report. But the democratic papers are so inept that they parrot this stupid lie. If I had wished to go to Frankfurt as a spy it would certainly not be announced beforehand in every newspaper. And how could Prussia send a police official to Frankfurt which has enough competent officials of its own? Stupidity has always been the failing of the democrats and their opponents’ cunning has always brought them to victory.
“It is likewise a contemptible lie to say that years ago I was a police spy in Silesia. At that time I was openly employed as a police officer and as such I did my duty. Contemptible lies have been circulated about me. If anyone can prove that I insinuated my way into his favour let him come forth and do so. Anyone can make assertions and tell lies. I think of you as an honest, decent man and so I expect from you a satisfactory answer by return of post. The democratic papers are generally in disrepute here because of the many lies they publish. I hope that you are a man of a different stamp.
“Berlin, December 26, 1848
Stieber, Doctor at Law, etc.,
Berlin, Ritterstrasse 65.”
How then did Stieber know that on October 27 Marx had sent this letter to Schneider II? But it was not sent on October 27 but on October 25, and it was not sent to Schneider II but to von Hontheim. Stieber therefore knew only that the letter still existed and he suspected that Marx would put it in the hands of some defence counsel or other. Whence this suspicion? When the Kölnische Zeitung brought Stieber’s testimony on October 18 about Cherval, etc., to London, Marx sent a statement dated October 21 to the Kölnische Zeitung, the Berlin National-Zeitung and the Frankfurter Journal and at the end of this statement Stieber was threatened with his still existing letter. In order to keep this letter “completely secret” Marx himself announced it in the newspapers. He failed, because of the cowardice of the daily press in Germany, but the Prussian post was now informed and with the Prussian post, its — Stieber.
What then was the message Goldheim chirruped back from London?
That Hirsch has not committed perjury, that H. Liebknecht has no “tangible” existence, that the original minute-book is no original minute-book and that the all-knowing London agents know all that the “Marx party” has published in the London press. To save the honour of the Prussian agents Goldheim placed in their mouths the few titbits of information that Stieber ‘discovered’ in letters he had opened or purloined.
In the sitting on November 4 after Schneider II had annihilated Stieber and his minute-book and shown him to be guilty of forgery and perjury, Stieber leaped into the breach for the last time and gave vent to his moral indignation. They even dare, he cried out, his Soul mortally wounded, they even dare to accuse Herr Wermuth, Chief of Police Wermuth, of perjury! Stieber thereby returned to the orthodox hierarchy, to the rising scale. Earlier he had moved on the heterodox, descending scale. If he, a police superintendent, could not be trusted, well then surely his police lieutenant could be; and if not the police lieutenant, then surely his police agent; and if not agent Fleury, then surely subagent Hirsch. But now it is in reverse. He, the police superintendent, can perhaps commit perjury, but Wermuth, a Chief of Police? Unbelievable! In his rage he praised Wermuth with mounting bitterness, he served Wermuth up to the public neat, Wermuth as a human being, Wermuth as a lawyer, Wermuth as paterfamilias, Wermuth as a Chief of Police, Wermuth for ever. Even now, during the public hearing, Stieber did not stop trying to isolate the accused and to erect a barrier between the defence and the defence materials. He accused Schneider II of “criminal contact” with Marx. In attacking him Schneider was impugning the highest authorities of Prussia. Even Göbel, the Presiding judge of the court, even a Göbel felt overwhelmed by Stieber’s onslaught. He could not overlook it and even though in a timorous and servile way he did lash Stieber with a few rebukes. But Stieber was in the right for all that. It was not merely he as a person that stood exposed to public view: it was the prosecution, the courts, the postal authorities, the government, the police headquarters in Berlin, it was the ministries and the Prussian embassy in London, in short it was the whole Prussian state that stood in the pillory with him, original minute-book in hand.
Herr Stieber is herewith granted permission to print the answer the Neue Rheinische Zeitung returned to his letter.
Let us now return once more to London with Goldheim.
Just as Stieber is still ignorant of Cherval’s whereabouts and true identity so too, according to Goldheim’s testimony (in the sitting on November 3), the origin of the minute-book is an enigma that is still not fully resolved. To resolve it Goldheim put forward two hypotheses.
“There are only two possible explanations,” he said, “for the still rather obscure origin of the book. Either, as the agent insists, it really emanates from Liebknecht, who has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting in order that there should be no proof of his treachery.”
W. Liebknecht is well known as a member of the “Marx party”. But it is no less well known that the signature in the minute-book does not belong to W. Liebknecht. In the sitting on October 27 Stieber therefore swore that the signature was not that of W. Liebknecht but of another Liebknecht, an H. Liebknecht. He had learnt of the existence of this double without being able however to disclose the source of his discovery. Goldheim swore: “Fleury asserted that he had really received the book from a member of the ‘Marx party’ called H. Liebknecht.” Goldheim swore further: “I was not able to catch hold of the said H. Liebknecht in London.” Up to now, therefore, what signs of life has the H. Liebknecht that Stieber has discovered given to the world in general and to Police Lieutenant Goldheim in particular? No sign of life other than his handwriting in the original minute-book; but now Goldheim declares: “Liebknecht has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting.”
Up to the present H. Liebknecht existed only as a signature. Now nothing remains of H. Liebknecht at all, not even a signature, not even the dot on the i. How Goldheim could possibly know that H. Liebknecht’s handwriting differs from the handwriting in the minute-book, when the handwriting in the minute-book is his only proof of H. Liebknecht’s existence, that is Goldheim’s secret. If Stieber has his miracles, why should not Goldheim have his miracles too?
Goldheim forgot that his superior, Stieber, had sworn to H. Liebknecht’s existence before him, and that he too had just sworn to it. In the same breath in which he swears to H. Liebknecht he recollects that H. Liebknecht is nothing but a makeshift, invented by Stieber, a necessary fib and necessity knows no law. He remembers that there is but one genuine Liebknecht, W. Liebknecht, but that if W. Liebknecht is genuine then the signature in the minute-book is a forgery. He cannot confess that Fleury’s subagent had manufactured the false signature along with the false minute-book. Accordingly he invents the hypothesis: “Liebknecht has refused to give a specimen signature.” Let us likewise construct a hypothesis. Goldheim once forged banknotes. He is brought before the courts; it is proved that the signature on the banknote is not that of the bank director. Don’t take offence, gentlemen, Goldheim will say, don’t take offence. The banknote is genuine. It comes from the bank director himself. If his name appears signed by someone other than him what does that matter? “He merely refused to give a specimen of his handwriting.”
Or, Goldheim continues, if the hypothesis with Liebknecht turns out to he false: “Or the agent Fleury obtained the notes for the book from Dronke and Imandt, two other émigré friends of Marx, and then put them in the form of an original minute-book in order to increase the value of his commodity. Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.”
Or? How so, or? If a book like the original minute-book signed by three people, Liebknecht, Rings and Ulmer, no deduce that “it emanates either from Liebknecht” — or from Dronke and Imandt, but: It emanates either from Liebknecht or from Rings and from Ulmer. Should our unfortunate Goldheim, now that he has climbed to the dizzy heights of a disjunction — either-or — should he now repeat: “Rings and Ulmer have refused to give specimens of their handwriting"? Even Goldheim realises the need for new tactics.
If the original minute-book does not emanate from Liebknecht, as the agent Fleury claimed, then it must have been manufactured by Fleury himself, but the notes for it were provided by Dronke and Imandt of whom Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that they frequently consorted with Fleury.
“To increase the value of his commodity,” says Goldheim, Fleury put the notes in the form of an original minute-book. He not only commits a fraud, he also forges signatures and all this to “increase the value of his commodity”. So scrupulous a man as this Prussian agent, who for profit manufactures forged minutes and forged signatures, is obviously incapable of manufacturing forged notes. Such is Goldheim’s inference.
Dronke and Imandt did not come to London until April 1852, after they had been expelled by the Swiss authorities. However, one-third of the original minute-book consists of entries for the months of January, February and March 1852. Fleury therefore manufactured one-third of the original minute-book without Dronke and Imandt although Goldheim had sworn that the minute-book was written either by Liebknecht — or else by Fleury, following, however, the notes of Dronke and Imandt. Goldheim swore to it, and Goldheim it is true is no Brutus, but he is Goldheim.
But the possibility still remains that Dronke and Imandt furnished Fleury with notes from April onwards for, Goldheim swore: “Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.”
Let us examine this association.
As we have noted above Fleury was known in London not as a Prussian police agent but as a businessman in the City, and indeed as a democratic businessman. Born in Altenburg he had come to London as a political refugee, had later married an English woman from a wealthy and respected family and apparently enjoyed a quiet life with his wife and his father-in-law, an old Quaker industrialist. On October 8 or 9 Imandt began to “consort frequently” with Fleury, in the capacity, that is, of tutor. But according to the improved version of Stieber’s evidence the original minute-book arrived in Cologne on October 10 — according to Goldheim’s final statement on the 11th. By the time that Imandt, whom he had never set eyes on till then, had given him his first French lesson, Fleury had not only had the original minute-book bound in red morocco leather, he had already entrusted it to the special courier who brought it to Cologne. So heavily did Fleury rely on Imandt’s notes when writing the original minute-book. As for Dronke, Fleury only saw him once and by chance with Imandt, and this was on October 30 by which time the original minute-book had long since dissolved into its original nothingness.
Thus the Christian-Germanic government is not content with breaking into desks, stealing papers, obtaining false testimony by underhand means, creating false plots, forging false documents, swearing false oaths, and attempting to suborn witnesses — all this to bring about the condemnation of the Cologne defendants. The government attempts also to cast suspicion on the London friends of the accused so as to conceal the activities of their Hirsch now that Stieber has sworn that he does not know him and Goldheim has sworn that he is no spy.
On Friday, November 5, the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with the report of the court sitting on November 3 and Goldheim’s evidence. Inquiries about Greif were made at once and the very same day it was learnt that he lived in Fleury’s house. At the same time Dronke and Imandt paid Fleury a visit taking with them a copy of the Kölnische Zeitung. They gave him Goldheim’s testimony to read. He went pale, tried to regain his composure, pretended to be utterly astonished and declared himself perfectly willing to make a statement against Goldheim before an English magistrate. But he said he must consult his solicitor first. They agreed to meet the following afternoon, Saturday, November 6. Fleury promised to have his statement officially witnessed and said he would bring it to the meeting. Of course, he did not appear. Imandt and Dronke then went to his house on Saturday evening and found there the following note addressed to Imandt:
“With the solicitor’s help everything has been arranged; further steps can be taken as soon as the person in question has been found. The solicitor sent the relevant documents off today. Business commitments have made it imperative for me to go to the City. If you would like to visit me tomorrow I shall be at home the whole afternoon until 5 o'clock. Fl.”
On the other side of the note there was the following postscript:
“I have just arrived home but had to go out again with Herr Werner and my wife- I can prove this to you tomorrow, Leave me a note saying when you would like to come.”
Imandt left the following reply:
“I am extremely surprised not to find you at home now, especially as you did not come to meet us this afternoon as arranged. I must confess that in the circumstances my opinion of you is already fixed. If you wish me to revise it you will visit me by tomorrow morning at the latest for I cannot guarantee that your activities as a Prussian police spy might not find their way into the English newspapers. Imandt.”
Fleury did not appear on Sunday morning either, so in the evening Dronke and Imandt went to his house once again in order to obtain his statement by making it appear as if their confidence in him had only at first been shaken. Finally, after all sorts of procrastinations and doubts the statement was formulated. Fleury hesitated most when it was pointed out to him that he must sign with his Christian name as well as his surname. The statement went literally as follows:
“To the editors of the Kölnische Zeitung
“The undersigned declares that he has known Herr Imandt for about a month during which time the latter gave him tuition in the French language and that he met Herr Dronke for the first time on Saturday, October 30 of this year.
“He declares further that neither of them gave him any information in connection with the minute-book mentioned in the Cologne trial.
“That he does not know of any person by the name of Liebknecht nor has he ever been in contact with anyone of that name.
“Kensington, London, November 8, 1852.
Dronke and Imandt were, of course, quite sure that Fleury would instruct the Kölnische Zeitung not to print any statement signed by him. Accordingly they sent his statement not to the Kölnische Zeitung but to Schneider II, the lawyer, who however received it when the case was too far advanced for him to make use of it.
Fleury is not indeed the Fleur de Marie of the police prostitutes, but he is a flower and he will bear blossom, albeit only fleurs-de-lys.* But the story of the minute-book is not yet finished.
Fleurs-de-lys [lilies] is the French colloquial name of the letters T. F. (travaux forcés [forced labour]), the brand-mark of criminals. The accuracy of Marx’s judgment is demonstrated in the Postscript (VIII, 1). [Note by Engels to the edition of 1885]
On Saturday, November 6, W. Hirsch of Hamburg made an affidavit before the magistrate at Bow Street, London, to the effect that under the direction of Greif and Fleury he himself had fabricated the original minute-book that figured in the Cologne communist trial.
Thus, it had at first been the original minute-book of the “Marx party” — after that it was the notebook of the police spy Fleury — and lastly it became the manufacture of the Prussian police, a simple police manufacture, a police manufacture sans phrase.
On the same day that Hirsch revealed the secret of the original minute-book to the English magistrate at Bow Street another representative of the Prussian state was busy packing at Fleury’s house in Kensington, and this time the things he was packing in stout oil-cloth were neither stolen nor forged nor even documents at all, but his own personal belongings. And this bird was none other than Greif whom we remember from Paris, the special courier to Cologne, the chief of the Prussian police agents in London, the official director of mystifications, the Police Lieutenant attached to the Prussian Embassy. Greif had received instructions from the Prussian government to leave London at once. There was no time to be wasted.
Just as at the end of spectacular operas the rising amphitheatrical set in the background that had previously been obscured by curtains now suddenly flares up in a blaze of Bengal light dazzling all eyes, so too at the end of this Prussian police tragicomedy the hidden amphitheatrical workshop was revealed in which the original minute-book was forged. On the lowest level could be seen the wretched spy Hirsch working at piece rates; a little higher up was the respectably situated spy and agent provocateur, the City businessman Fleury; higher still the diplomatic Police Lieutenant Greif and highest of all the Prussian Embassy itself to which he was attached. For 6-8 months Hirsch had laboured week by week to forge the original minute-book in Fleury’s study and under his watchful eyes. But one floor above Fleury dwelt the Prussian Police Lieutenant Greif, who supervised and inspired him. However, Greif himself regularly spent a part of his day in the Prussian Embassy, where he in his turn was supervised and inspired. Thus the Prussian Embassy was the real hothouse where the original minute-book grew and flowered. Hence Greif had to disappear. He disappeared on November 6, 1852.
The authenticity of the original minute-book could not he sustained any longer, not even as a notebook. The Public Prosecutor, Saedt, buried it in the address he gave in reply to the concluding speeches by Counsel for the Defence.
The trial had now reached the point at which the Indictment Board of the Court of Appeal had begun when it ordered a new investigation because “there was no factual evidence of an indictable offence”.
V. The Letter Accompanying the Red Catechism[edit source]
In his evidence during the sitting on October 27 Police Inspector Junkermann of Créfeld said that
“he confiscated a parcel containing copies of the Red Catechism [by Moses Hess]; it was addressed to the waiter in an inn in Créfeld and bore a Düsseldorf post mark. It contained also an accompanying letter which was unsigned. It has not been possible to identify the sender.” “As the prosecution has pointed out, the accompanying letter appeared to be written in Marx’s hand,”
In the sitting on October 28 the expert (???) Renard discovered that the letter was in fact in Marx’s handwriting. This accompanying letter said:
“Citizen! As we have complete confidence in you, we herewith present you with 50 copies of the Red. Your task is to push them under the doors of citizens — preferably workers — who are known to sympathise with the Revolution, on Saturday, June 5, at eleven o'clock at night. We are definitely counting on your civic virtues and accordingly expect you to carry out this instruction. The Revolution is closer than many people think. Long live the Revolution!
“Berlin, May 1852
With Fraternal Greetings.
The Revolutionary Committee”
Witness Junkermann declared further that “the parcels in question had been sent to the witness Chianella”.
Chief Commissioner of Police Hinckeldey of Berlin was the Supreme Commander in charge of operations against the accused in Cologne during the preliminary investigations. The laurels won by Maupas prevented him from sleeping.
The actors in the proceedings include two Chiefs of Police, one alive and one dead, one superintendent (only one, but that one a Stieber), two police lieutenants one of whom was constantly en route from London to Cologne, the other constantly journeying from Cologne to London, myriads of police agents and subagents, named, anonymous, heteronymous, pseudonymous, with tails and without. Lastly an Inspector of Police.
No sooner had the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with the evidence heard on October 27 and 28 than Marx went to the magistrate in Marlborough Street, where he copied out from the newspaper the text of the accompanying letter and had the copy witnessed, and at the same time the following affidavit:
1. That he had not written the letter in question; 2. that he had only learnt of its existence from the Kölnische Zeitung; 3. that he had never seen the so-called Red Catechism; 4. that he had never helped in any way at all to distribute it.
It may be pointed out in passing that if such a declaration made before a magistrate is found to be false, then it counts as perjury in England with all the consequences attendant thereupon.
The above document was sent to Schneider II but it appeared simultaneously in the London Morning Advertiser as the conviction had gained ground during the trial that as regards the observance of the secrecy of correspondence the Prussian post seems to have the strange notion that letters entrusted to its care must be kept secret from the addressee. The prosecution objected to the submission of the document, even for purposes of comparison. For the prosecution was aware that a single glance from the original accompanying letter to the officially attested copy by Marx would reveal the deception, the deliberate imitation of his handwriting could not remain hidden even from such a sharp-sighted jury as this. Therefore, in order to defend the morality of the Prussian state, the prosecution denounced any attempt at comparison.
Schneider II observed
“that Chianella, the addressee who had freely given information to the police about the supposed identity of the sender and who had even offered to act as a spy, had not in the remotest degree thought of Marx in this connection.”
No one who has ever read a single line by Marx could possibly attribute to him the authorship of this melodramatic accompanying letter. The midnight dream hour in summer on June 5, and the officiously graphic procedure of pushing the Red under the doors of the revolutionary philistines — that could perhaps point to Kinkel’s turn of mind, just as the references to “civic virtues” and the way in which they are “definitely counting on” this military “instruction being carried out” seem to reflect the imagination of a Willich. But why should Kinkel-Willich write their prescriptions for revolution in Marx’s hand?
If it is permissible to form a hypothesis about the “as yet somewhat obscure origins” of this accompanying letter written in an imitated hand: the police found the 50 Reds in Créfeld as well as the convenient, high sounding accompanying letter. In Cologne or in Berlin qu'importe? they had the text copied in Marx’s handwriting. For what purpose? “So as to increase the value of their commodity.”
However, even the Chief Public Prosecutor did not dare to revert to the accompanying letter in his catilinarian speech. He let it drop. Hence it did not assist in ascertaining the still missing “indictable offence”.
VI. The Willich-Schapper Group[edit source]
With the defeat of the revolution of 1848-49 the party of the proletariat on the Continent lost use of the press, freedom of speech and the right to associate, i.e. the legal instruments of party organisation, which it had enjoyed for once during that short interval. The social status of the classes they represented enabled both the bourgeois-liberal and the petty-bourgeois democratic parties to remain united in one form or another and to assert their common interests more or less effectively despite the reaction. After 1849 just as before 1848, only one path was open to the proletarian party — that of secret association. Consequently after 1849 a whole series of clandestine proletarian societies sprang up on the Continent, were discovered by the police, condemned by the courts, broken up by the gaols and continually resuscitated by the force of circumstances.
Some of these secret societies aimed directly at the overthrow of the existing state. This was fully justified in France where the proletariat had been defeated by the bourgeoisie and hence attacking the existing government and attacking the bourgeoisie were one and the same thing.. Other secret societies aimed at organising the proletariat into a party, without concerning themselves with the existing governments. This was necessary in countries like Germany where both bourgeoisie and proletariat had succumbed to their semi-feudal governments and where in consequence a victorious assault on the existing governments, instead of breaking the power of the bourgeoisie or in any case of the so-called middle classes, would at first help them to gain power. There is no doubt that here too the members of the proletarian party would take part once again in a revolution against the status quo, but it was no part of their task to prepare this revolution, to agitate, conspire or to plot for it. They could leave this preparation to circumstances in general and to the classes directly involved. They had to leave it to them if they were not to abandon the position of their own party and the historic tasks that follow of themselves from the conditions governing the existence of the proletariat. For them the contemporary governments were but ephemeral phenomena, the status quo a brief stopping place and the task of toiling away at it could be left to the petty narrow-minded democrats.
The “Communist League”, therefore, was no conspiratorial society, but a society which secretly strove to create an organised proletarian party because the German proletariat is publicly debarred, igni et aqua, from writing, speaking and meeting. Such a society can only be said to conspire against the status quo in the sense that steam and electricity conspire against it.
It is self-evident that a secret society of this kind which aims at forming not the government party of the future but the opposition party of the future could have but few attractions for individuals who on the one hand concealed their personal insignificance by strutting around in the theatrical cloak of the conspirator, and on the other wished to satisfy their narrow-minded ambition on the day of the next revolution, and who wished above all to seem important at the moment, to snatch their share of the proceeds of demagogy and to find a welcome among the quacks and charlatans of democracy.
Thus a group broke off from the Communist League, or if you like it was broken off, a group that demanded, if not real conspiracies, at any rate the appearance of conspiracies, and accordingly called for a direct alliance with the democratic heroes of the hour: this was the Willich-Schapper group. It was typical of them that Willich was, together with Kinkel, one of the entrepreneurs in the business of the German-American revolutionary loan.
Such in short is the relation of this party to the majority of the Communist League, to which the Cologne defendants belonged. Bürgers and Röser defined it succinctly and exhaustively in the proceedings of the Cologne Assizes.
Let us pause before finally bringing our narrative to a close in order to take a glance at the behaviour of the Willich-Schapper group during the Cologne trial.
As was pointed out above, the data contained in the documents purloined from the group by Stieber make it plain that their documents contrived to find their way to the police even after Reuter’s theft. To this day the group has failed to give an explanation of this phenomenon.
Schapper knew the facts about Cherval’s past better than anyone. He knew that Cherval had entered the League on his nomination in 1846 and not on that of Marx in 1848, etc. By his silence he gives confirmation to Stieber’s lies.
The group knew that Haacke, who was their member, had written the threatening letter to the witness, Haupt; but it allows the suspicion to remain on the heads of the party of the accused.
Moses Hess, a member of the group and the author of the Red Catechism — that unfortunate parody of the Manifesto of the Communist Party — Moses Hess, who not only writes but also distributes his own works, knew exactly to whom he had delivered parcels of his Red. He knew that Marx had not deprived him of his profusion of Reds to the extent of even a single copy. But Moses calmly let suspicion fall on the accused, as if it were their party that had hawked his Red, together with its melodramatic accompanying letter, in the Rhine Province.
That the group made common cause with the Prussian police is apparent not only in their silence but also in their utterances: whenever they entered the trial it was not in the dock with the accused, but as “witnesses for the Crown”.
Hentze, Willich’s friend and benefactor, who admitted that he knew about the activities of the League, spent a few weeks in London with Willich and then journeyed to Cologne where he falsely testified that Becker (against whom there was far less evidence than against himself) had been a member of the League in 1848.
Hätzel, as the Dietz archive reveals, was a member of the group and received financial support from it. He had already been put on trial in Berlin for his association with the League and now he appeared as a witness for the prosecution. His testimony was false for he invented a wholly fictitious connection between the Rules of the League and the exceptional arming of the Berlin proletariat during the revolution.
Steingens, whose own letters proved (in the sitting on October 18) that he was the group’s chief agent in Brussels, appeared in Cologne not as a defendant, but as a witness.
Not long before the court action in Cologne Willich and Kinkel sent a journeyman tailor as emissary to Germany. Kinkel is not indeed a member of the group but Willich was co-director of the German-American revolutionary loan.
Kinkel was at that time already threatened by the danger, which was later to become a reality, of seeing himself and Willich removed by the London guarantors from control of the loan moneys and seeing the money itself drift back to America despite the indignant protests of Willich and himself. Kinkel was just then in need of the pseudo-mission to Germany and a pseudo-correspondence with Germany, partly in order to demonstrate that an area still existed there for his revolutionary activities and the American dollars, and partly to provide a pretext for the enormous costs of the correspondence, postal expenses, etc., that he and Willich managed to charge to the account (see Count O. Reichenbach’s lithographed circular). Kinkel knew he had no contacts either with the bourgeois liberals or with the petty-bourgeois democrats in Germany. As he could not afford to be particular he used an emissary of the group as the emissary of the German-American Revolutionary League.  This emissary’s sole function was to promote antagonism among the workers towards the party of the accused in Cologne. It must be admitted that the moment was well chosen and it offered a new pretext in the nick of time to reopen the investigation. The Prussian police had been fully apprised of the emissary’s identity, of the day of his departure and of his route. Who thus apprised them? We shall see. Their spies were present at the secret meetings he held in Magdeburg and they reported on the debates. The friends of the Cologne accused in Germany and in London trembled.
We have already narrated how on November 6 Hirsch went before the magistrate at Bow Street and admitted to having forged the original minute-book under the guidance of Greif and Fleury. It was Willich who induced him to take this step, and it was Willich and Schärttner the innkeeper who accompanied him to the magistrate. Three copies were made of Hirsch’s confession and these were sent through the post to various addresses in Cologne.
It was of supreme importance to arrest Hirsch as soon as he left the court. With the aid of the officially witnessed statement in his possession it would have been possible for the case lost in Cologne to be won in London. If not for the accused, at any rate against the government. However, Willich did everything in his power to make such a step impossible. He observed the strictest silence not only towards the “Marx party”, which was directly involved, but also towards his own people and even towards Schapper. Schärttner alone was taken into his confidence. Schärttner declared that he and Willich had accompanied Hirsch to the ship, for according to Willich’s scheme Hirsch was to give evidence against himself in Cologne.
Willich informed Hirsch of the route by which the documents had been sent, Hirsch informed the Prussian Embassy, and the Prussian Embassy informed the post. The documents did not arrive at their destination; they disappeared. Some time after this, Hirsch, who had also vanished, re-appeared in London and declared at a public meeting of democrats that Willich was his accomplice.
Although it had been on a motion from Willich that Hirsch had been expelled as a spy from the Great Windmill Street Society in 1851, Willich admitted, when questioned, that he had resumed relations with Hirsch at the beginning of August 1852. For Hirsch had revealed to him that Fleury was a Prussian spy and had apprised him of all of Fleury’s incoming and outgoing correspondence. He, Willich, made use of this to keep himself informed of the activities of the Prussian police.
It was notorious that Willich had been on terms of intimate friendship with Fleury for about a year, and he had received assistance from him. But if Willich knew since August 1852 that he was a Prussian spy and if he was likewise familiar with his activities how was it possible that he should have remained ignorant of the original minute-book?
That he did not intervene until the Prussian government itself disclosed that Fleury was a spy?
That he intervened in a way which at best caused the removal of his ally Hirsch from England and of the officially witnessed proofs of Fleury’s guilt from the hands of the “Marx party"?
That he continued to receive assistance from Fleury, who boasts that he has in his possession Willich’s receipt for £15 sterling?
That Fleury continued to he actively engaged in the German-American revolutionary loan?
That he informed Fleury of the meeting place of his own secret society so that Prussian agents in the next room could make records of the debates?
That he revealed to Fleury the route of the above-mentioned emissary, the journeyman tailor, and that he even received money from Fleury towards the costs of this mission?
That, lastly, he told Fleury that he had instructed Hentze, who lived with him, how he should testify against Becker at the trial in Cologne?* It must be admitted — que tout cela n'est pas bien clair.
- As to relations between Willich and Becker: “Willich writes me the funniest letters; I do not reply, but this does not prevent him from describing his latest plans for a revolution. He has appointed me to revolutionise the Cologne garrison!!! The other day we laughed till the tears came. His idiocy will spell disaster for countless people yet; for a single letter would suffice to guarantee the salaries of a hundred Demagogue judges for three years. As soon as I have completed the revolution in Cologne he would have no objection to assuming the leadership for all subsequent operations. Very kind of him! “ (From a letter by Becker to Marx, January 27, 1851) [Note by Marx.]
VII. Judgment[edit source]
As the police mysteries were gradually explained, public opinion declared itself increasingly in favour of the defendants. When it became apparent that the original minute-book was a fraud an acquittal was generally expected. The Kölnische Zeitung felt induced to defer to public opinion and to dissociate itself from the government. Little items favourable to the defendants and casting suspicion on Stieber suddenly found their way into columns that had earlier contained nothing but police insinuations. Even the Prussian government threw in the sponge. Its correspondents in The Times and The Morning Chronicle suddenly began to prepare public opinion abroad for an unfavourable outcome. Monstrous and destructive as the teachings of the defendants were, horrifying as were the documents found in their possession, conclusive evidence of a conspiracy was nevertheless wanting and a conviction was therefore unlikely. So low-spirited and discouraged did the Berlin correspondent of The Times write, who obsequiously echoed the fears that were circulating in the upper circles of the city on the Spree. [i.e., Berlin] All the more extravagant then was the rejoicing of the Byzantine court and its eunuchs when the electric telegraph flashed its message of the jury’s verdict of “Guilty” from Cologne to Berlin.
With the unmasking of the minute-book the case had advanced to a new stage. The jury was no longer free merely to find the defendants guilty or not guilty; they must either find the defendants guilty — or the government. To acquit the accused would mean condemning the government.
Replying to the summing-up for the defence, Public Prosecutor Saedt abandoned the original minute-book. He was unwilling to make use of a document on which such a slur had been cast, he himself thought that it was “unauthentic”, it was an “unfortunate” book, it had resulted in much time being wasted, it added nothing factual to the case, Stieber’s praiseworthy zeal had led in this instance to his being deceived, etc.
But the prosecution itself had maintained in its indictment that there was “much that was true” in the book. Far from declaring it spurious the prosecution had regretted only that it could not prove it to be authentic. But if the original minute-book was not authentic though Stieber had sworn to its authenticity, Cherval’s statement in Paris was invalidated despite Stieber’s sworn testimony, and to this statement Saedt had returned in his summing-up; indeed all the material evidence accumulated by the most strenuous efforts of all the authorities of the Prussian state for 1 1/2 years was invalidated at one stroke. The court sitting set down for July 28 was postponed for three months. Why? Because Chief of Police Schulz had been taken ill. And who was Schulz? The original discoverer of the original minute-book. Let us go back even further. In January and February 1852, Frau Dr. Daniels’ house had been searched. On what grounds? On the grounds discovered in the first few pages of the original minute-book that Fleury had sent to Schulz, that Schulz had sent to the police authorities in Cologne, that the police authorities in Cologne had sent to the examining magistrate, that led the examining magistrate to the house of Frau Dr. Daniels.
In October 1851, despite the Cherval conspiracy, the Indictment Board was still unable to discover the missing indictable offence and on instructions from the Ministry it therefore ordered a new investigation. Who was in charge of this investigation? Chief of Police Schulz. It was therefore Schulz’s task to discover the offence. What did Schulz discover? The original minute-book. The only new material he provided was limited to the loose leaves of the minute-book which on Stieber’s orders were later completed and bound. Twelve months’ solitary confinement for the accused simply to give the original minute-book the time necessary to he born and to grow. “Bagatelles!” Saedt exclaims and finds evidence of the guilt of the accused in the mere fact that it took them and their counsel eight days to clean out an Augean stable that all the authorities of the Prussian state had needed 1 1/2 years to fill while the accused had to remain 1 1/2 years in gaol. The original minute-book was no mere single item of evidence; it was the focal point where all the threads spun by the various Prussian governmental authorities met-embassy and police, ministry and magistracy, prosecution and postal authorities, London, Berlin and Cologne. The original minute-book meant so much to the case that it was invented in order that a case might be made out. Couriers, telegrams, the intercepting of letters, arrests, perjuries to support the original minute-book, forgeries to bring it into existence, attempted bribery to authenticate it. When the mystery of the original minute-book was revealed the mystery of the whole monster trial was revealed with it.
The miracles performed by the police were originally necessary to conceal the completely political nature of the trial. “The revelations you are about to witness, Gentlemen of the jury,” said Saedt when opening for the prosecution, “will prove to you that this trial is not a political trial.” But now he emphasises its political character so that the police revelations should be forgotten. After the 1 1/2-year preliminary investigation the jury needed objective evidence in order to justify itself before public opinion. After the five-week-long police comedy they needed “politics pure and simple” to extricate themselves from the sheer mess. Saedt therefore did not only confine himself to the material that had led the Indictment Board to the conclusion that “there was no factual evidence of an indictable offence”. He went even further. He attempted to prove that the law against conspiracy does not require any indictable action, but is simply a law with a political purpose, and the category of conspiracy is therefore merely a pretext for burning political heretics in a legal way. The success of his attempt promised to be all the greater because of the decision to apply the new Prussian Penal Code that had been promulgated after the accused had been arrested. On the pretext that this code contained extenuating provisions the servile court was able to permit its retroactive application.
But if it was simply a political trial why a preliminary investigation lasting 1 1/2 years? For political reasons.
As it is therefore a question of politics are we to engage in a fundamental discussion of politics with a Saedt-Stieber-Seckendorf, with a Göbel, with a Prussian government, with the 300 most highly taxed people in the district of Cologne, with the Royal Chamberlain von Münch-Bellinghausen and with the Freiherr von Fürstenherg? Pas si bête.
Saedt admits (in the sitting on November 8) that
“when some few months ago, the Chief Public Prosecutor commissioned him to join him in representing the prosecution in this affair, and when, as a result, he began to read through the files he first hit upon the idea of making a somewhat more thorough study of communism and socialism. He felt impelled to impart the results of his studies to the jury, especially since he thought he might proceed on the assumption that many of them like himself may have not greatly concerned themselves with the subject hitherto.”
So Saedt bought the well-known compendium by Stein.
And what he has learnt today,
he'll teach to others tomorrow.
But the prosecution was afflicted by a singular misfortune. It sought objective evidence for a case against Marx and found objective evidence for the case Cherval. It went in search of the communism propagated by the defendants and found the communism they combated. Various sorts of communism can indeed be found in Stein’s compendium, but not the sort Saedt was seeking. Stein had not yet recorded German, critical communism. It is true that Saedt has in his possession a copy of the Manifesto of the Communist Party that the defendants recognise as the manifesto of their party. This Manifesto contains a chapter devoted to a criticism of the whole previous literature of socialism and communism, i.e. of the whole of the wisdom recorded in Stein. From this chapter the distinction between the kind of communism propounded by the defendants and all previous kinds must become apparent; that is to say the specific content and the specific political tendency of the theory against which Saedt seeks to act. But no Stein will help him over this stumbling-block. Here understanding was essential, if only in order to prosecute. How did Saedt manage when Stein left him in the lurch? He claimed:
“The Manifesto consists of three sections. The first section contains a historical account of the social status of the various citizens (!) from the communist point of view” (very fine)....... The second section expounds the communist point of view vis-à-vis the proletariat.... Lastly, the final section treats of the position of the Communists in different countries...... (!) (Sitting of November 6.)
Now in fact the Manifesto consists of four sections, not of three, but what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over. Saedt claims therefore that there are three sections and not four. The section which for him does not exist is that same accursed section with the critique of communism as recorded by Stein, that is to say the section that contains the specific brand of communism advocated by the defendants. Poor Saedt! First he cannot find an indictable offence, and now he cannot find indictable political views.
But “grey, dear friend, is every theory”.
“In recent times,” as Saedt observed, “competent and incompetent people have been concerned with the so-called social question and its solution.”
Saedt at any rate belongs to the “competent,” for three months ago the Chief Public Prosecutor, Seckendorf, officially authorised him to study socialism and communism. The Saedts of all times and all places have from time immemorial unanimously declared that Galileo was “incompetent” to explore the movements of the heavenly bodies, but that the inquisitor who accused him of heresy was “competent” to do so. E pur si muove.*
- Saedt was not only “competent”. He was moreover — as a reward for his performance in this trial — appointed Chief Public Prosecutor for the Rhine Province and remained in this post until he was pensioned, and afterwards, provided with the holy sacraments, he passed on. [Note by Engels to the edition of 1885]
The defendants, who represented the revolutionary proletariat, stood defenceless before the ruling classes who were represented by the jury; the defendants therefore were condemned because they stood before this jury. What could, for a moment, move the bourgeois conscience of the jury, just as it had deeply disturbed public opinion, was the unmasking of the intrigues of the government, the corruption of the Prussian government that had been laid bare before their eyes. But, the members of the jury reasoned, if the Prussian government could risk using such infamous and at the same time such foolhardy methods against the accused, if it could, as it were, stake its European reputation, then the accused must be damnably dangerous, however small their party, and their theories in any case must be a real power. The government has violated every law in the penal code in order to protect us from these monstrous criminals. Let us for our part sacrifice our little point d'honneur to save the government’s honour. Let us be thankful and let us condemn.
With their verdict of Guilty the Rhenish nobility and the Rhenish bourgeoisie joined in the cry uttered by the French bourgeoisie after December 2: “Property can be saved only by theft, religion only by perjury, the family only by bastardy, order only by disorder!”
In France the whole political edifice has prostituted itself. And yet no institution prostituted itself so deeply as French courts of law and French juries. Let us surpass the French judges and jurymen, the judge and jury exclaimed in Cologne. In the Cherval case immediately after the coup d'état the Paris jury acquitted Nette though there was more evidence against him than against any one of the accused [in Cologne]. Let us surpass the jury of the coup d'état of December 2. Let us, in condemning Röser, Bürgers, etc., also condemn Nette retrospectively.
Thus the superstitious faith in the jury, still rampant in Rhenish Prussia, was broken. People realised that the jury was a court-martial of the privileged classes; it was created to bridge the gaps in the law with the broad bourgeois conscience.
Jena! [Jena, site of Napoleon’s defeat of the Prussian army in 1806] That is the final outcome of a government that requires such methods in order to survive and of a society that needs such a government for its protection. The word that should stand at the end of the communist trial in Cologne is ... Jena!
- The reference here is to the Willich-Schapper group, which Marx and Engels called the Sonderbund - perhaps an allusion to the separatist union of the seven economically backward Catholic cantons of Switzerland formed in the 1840s to resist progressive bourgeois reforms. This sectarian-adventurist group split away from the Communist League after September 15, 1850, and formed an independent organisation with its own Central Authority. In view of the factionalists’ refusal to abide by the decision to transfer the Central Authority to Cologne and because of their disorganising activities, on November 11, 1850 the London District proposed to the Cologne Central Authority to expel the members of the Sonderbund from the League (see MECW, Vol. 10, p. 633). The Central Authority endorsed the proposal and gave notification of this in its Address of December 1. By their activities the members of the Willich-Schapper group helped the Prussian police to discover the League’s illegal communities in Germany and frame a case in Cologne in 1852 against prominent members of the League.
- The reference is to the German Workers’ Educational Society in London which was founded in February 1840 by Karl Schapper, Joseph Moll and other members of the League of the Just (an organisation of German artisans and workers and also of emigrant workers of other nationalities). After the reorganisation of the League of the Just in the summer of 1847 and the founding of the Communist League, the League’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 the Society’s work, but on September 17, 1850 Marx, Engels and a number of their followers withdrew because the Willich-Schapper sectarian and adventurist faction had temporarily increased its influence in the Society, causing a split in the Communist League. In the late 1850s Marx and Engels resumed their work in the Educational Society, which existed up to 1918, when it was closed down by the British Government.
- Marx emphasises the fact that Cherval was admitted into the League of the Just prior to its reorganisation into the Communist League in June 1847. Though Marx and Engels were not members of the League of theJust, founded in 1836, they were in touch with its leaders. They agreed to join the League and take part in its reorganisation provided it became transformed from a conspiratorial society into an association built on democratic principles, and provided it adopted the principles of scientific communism as its programme.
- Marx adduced fresh data exposing Cherval as a spy and an agent provocateur in his, work Herr Vogt, in the appendices to it, and in the Postscript to the 1875 edition of his Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne. According to these data, Cherval, whose real name was Joseph Crémer, was an agent of the Prussian envoy in Paris and a French spy. He escaped from prison with the connivance of the French and Prussian police. On his arrival in London in May 1852 he was admitted into the German Workers’ Educational Society led by Schapper but was soon expelled from it because of his role of provocateur in the case of the so-called German-French plot.
- The reference is to the book Die Communisten-Verschwörungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Berlin, Part One 1853, Part Two 1854) by the police officials Wermuth and Stieber. In his article “On the History of the Communist League” (1885), Engels describes it as a “crude compilation, which bristles with deliberate falsifications, fabricated by two of the most contemptible police scoundrels of our century”. The appendices to the first part, which purported to tell the history of the workers’ movement for the information of police agents, reproduced some of the League’s documents that had fallen into the hands of the police. The second part contained a “black list” and biographical particulars of people connected with the workers’ and democratic movement.
- This refers to the workers’ society founded in London in January 1852 with Marx’s support, its president being a Hanoverian refugee, the joiner Gottlieb Stechan. It included workers who broke away from the German Workers’ Educational Society, which had come under the influence of the Willich-Schapper group. Georg Lochner, a worker close to Marx and Engels and member of the Communist League, also took an active part in organising this society. Later, many of its members, including Stechan himself, became influenced by the Willich-Schapper group and joined the earlier organisation.
- Among Marx’s manuscripts is preserved a draft in Marx’s own hand of a reply to Stieber which contains a sharp accusation of him as a police spy (see MECW, Vol. 38). The letter refutes Stieber’s attempts to dispute the revelations concerning his activities as a spy, in particular in Silesia before the revolution of 1848-49, made in a report from Frankfurt am Main which was published in issue No. 177 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung on December 24, 1848 under the title “Dr. Stieber”. Concerning Stieber’s attempts to depict himself as a more consistent democrat than representatives of the democratic trends and his attacks against the latter, Marx limited himself to this remark: “We excuse the lectures on democracy and democratic organs contained in your letter on the grounds of novelty.” At the same time the editors of the newspaper thought fit to publish, in a supplement to issue No. 182, December 30, an official correction to the passage of the above-mentioned report which said that Stieber went to Frankfurt in connection with the popular uprising in September 1848, and pointed out that he went there to arrange personal matters. The reply to Stieber drafted by Marx was in all probability sent over the signature of another editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, most likely Wilhelm Wolff, who may have been well aware of Stieber’s activity in Silesia.
- Engels refers to the first supplement to the 1875 and 1885 editions of the Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne, which reproduced without the title Appendix 4 (“The Communist Trial in Cologne”) to Marx’s pamphlet Herr Vogt (1860). It said that soon after the Cologne trial Fleury was charged with forgery and sentenced to several years’ penal servitude.
- In the Postscript to the 1875 edition of his work Marx pointed out that the Red Catechism had been written not by Moses Hess but by a certain Levy. However, it turned out later that Marx had been right in affirming that the Red Catechism had in fact been written by Hess. This can he proved in particular by a letter of Hess to Weydemeyer of July 21, 1850, which Marx did not know about.
- The reference is apparently to the German-American Revolutionary Association - an organisation of German emigrants in the USA founded in January 1852 by the petty-bourgeois democrats Goegg and Fickler who went to the USA to place the so-called German-American revolutionary loan.
- Criticism of the behaviour of the leader of the sectarian group and some of his followers during the Cologne Communist trial evoked a mordant reaction on the part of Willich. On October 28 and November 4, 1853 he published his article “Doctor Karl Marx und seine ‘Enthüllungen'” (Belletristisches Journal und New-Yorker Criminal-Zeitung, Nos. 33 and 34) violently attacking Marx and his work Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne. Marx replied with his pamphlet Knight of Noble Consciousness published with the help of Adolf Cluss and Joseph Weydemeyer in New York in January 1854.