The Frankfurt March Association and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 15 March 1849

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, p. 84;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 248, March 17, 1849.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Cologne, March 15. We are returning once more to the unfortunate March Association this fitting offspring of the “March revolution”. We are being reproached “with harming the cause of freedom” since we undermine the March Association. But did we not already in December 1848, to the horror of the Kölnische Zeitung, denounce the March Association as the unconscious tool of counter-revolution?[1] Did we not, therefore, already long ago communicate to the “March Association” our opinion of the “March Association"? Were the March Association an organisation of a revolutionary party, were it even only a logical sound fruit of the March revolt, we would put up with such ineptitude as its speculation with announcements undoubtedly was. In the first place the March Association displays no activity unless perhaps the issuing of addresses ranks as such; further, the March Association is an optimistic simpleton between the constitutionalists (whom we regard as worse supporters of reaction than the club of the Knight von Radowitz [2]) and some really worthy democrats who have allowed their sight to be clouded by nebulous ideas of imperial conciliation. The majority in that central commercial association will always be governed by the indecision peculiar to it; the Association will perhaps stimulate discontent among the people, but at the decisive moment it will betray them and subsequently bemoan its error. Well, may the commercial association fare well! Its sensitivity in other respects does not move us, and freedom of the press seems still to be understood by these liberal people merely as their personal achievement. Herr Eisenmann, for example, openly declared himself a constitutionalist for all time and an opponent of republicanism at the very same meeting of the March Association where the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was mentioned as a model of “true German disunity”. Thus, it is being demanded of us that, out of a doltish desire for unification, we should support the newspaper of a man who, whatever else he may be the devil only knows, is at any rate a German national-minded dolt. For the sake of decency we would “take along with us” these gentlemen as far as they like, if it were not that their task in Frankfurt is to be “irremovable”. There are thinking friends of history[3] among these gentlemen. It can hardly have escaped their notice that not merely in Germany but everywhere and at all times, in spite of all March Associations, the Feuillants [4] invariably had to be got out of the way before the outbreak of the real revolution. What use is it to the adherents of the social republic if the very same Vogt, who blustered “above all” against Bonaparte in the manner of the beer drinkers of a small university, will become an unsuccessful imperial Barrot of a Bonaparte of the German empire?[5]

  1. The reference is to the article “Ein Aktenstück des Märzvereins” published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 181 of December 29, 1848, which exposed the half-hearted and inconsistent policy of a number of the Frankfurt Left leaders whose actions only helped the counter-revolution. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung called these leaders the “Girondists of our revolution
  2. This refers to the counter-revolutionary Catholic Union attached to the Frankfurt National Assembly and headed by von Radowitz, an extreme Right-wing leader
  3. Thinking friends of history” is a phrase which Marx and Engels ironically used of Camphausen and other liberals, alluding to the subtitle of the then well-known book by the liberal historian Karl von Rotteck, Allgemeine Geschichte vom Anfang der historischen Kenntniss bis auf unsere Zeiten. Für denkende Geschichtsfreunde bearb. van Karl von Rotteck, Bd. 1-9, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1834
  4. The Feuillants — moderate liberal constitutionalists who, during the French Revolution, withdrew from the Jacobin Club on July 16, 1791, after it had adopted a petition to dethrone the King. They formed their own political club which held meetings in the premises of the monastic order of the same name which was dissolved in 1789. The Feuillants upheld the interests of the big bourgeoisie and liberal nobility and did their utmost to prevent the revolution from developing further
  5. An allusion to the stand adopted by Karl Vogt and other leaders of the March Association over the future state structure of Germany. At the concluding stage of the debates in the Frankfurt National Assembly on the imperial Constitution, Vogt and other moderate democrats began to be inclined to agree with the pro-Prussian liberals (Gagern and others) who strove to unite Germany as an empire, with Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, at the head