Chapter VII Critical Criticism’s Correspondence
- Chapter I “Critical Criticism in the Form of a Master-Bookbinder”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Reichardt
- Chapter II “Critical Criticism” As a ‘Mill-Owner’, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Jules Faucher
- Chapter III “The Thoroughness of Critical Criticism”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr J. (Jungnitz?)
- Chapter IV “Critical Criticism” As the Tranquillity of Knowledge, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Edgar
- Chapter V “Critical Criticism” As a Mystery-Monger, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Szeliga
- Chapter VI Absolute Critical Criticism, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Bruno
- Chapter VII Critical Criticism’s Correspondence
- Chapter VIII The Earthly Course and Transfiguration Of “Critical Criticism”, Or “Critical Criticism” As Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein
- Chapter IX The Critical Last Judgment and Historical Epilogue
1) The Critical Mass[edit source]
Where can one feel better Than in the bosom of one’s family?
In its Absolute existence as Herr Bruno, Critical Criticism has declared the mass of mankind, the whole of mankind that is not Critical Criticism, to be its opposite, its essential object; essential, because the Mass exists ad majorem gloriam dei [For the greater glory of God], the glory of Criticism, of the Spirit; its object, because it is only the matter on which Critical Criticism operates. Critical Criticism has proclaimed its relationship to the Mass as the world-historic relationship of the present time.
No world-historic opposition is formed, however, by the statement that one is in opposition to the whole world. One can imagine that one is a stumbling-block for the world because one is clumsy enough to stumble everywhere. But for a world-historic opposition it is not enough for me to declare the world my opposite; the world for its part must declare me to be its essential opposite, and must treat and recognise me as such. Critical Criticism ensures itself this recognition by its correspondence, which is called upon to bear witness before the world to Criticism’s function of redeemer and equally to the general irritation of the world at the Critical gospel. Critical Criticism is its own object as the object of the world. The correspondence is intended to show it as such, as the world interest of the present time.
Critical Criticism is in its own eyes the Absolute Subject. The Absolute Subject requires a cult. A real cult requires other believing individuals. The Holy Family of Charlottenburg therefore receives from its correspondents the cult due to it. The correspondents tell it what it is and what its adversary, the Mass, is not.
However, Criticism falls into an inconsistency by thus having its opinion of itself represented as the opinion of the world and by its concept being converted into reality. Within Criticism itself a sort of Mass is forming, a Critical Mass whose simple function is untiringly to echo the stock phrases of Criticism. For consistency’s sake this inconsistency may be forgiven. Not feeling at home in the sinful world, Critical Criticism must set up a sinful world in its own home.
The path of Critical Criticism’s correspondent, a member of the Critical Mass, is not a rosy one. It is a difficult, thorny path, a Critical path. Critical Criticism is a spiritualistic lord, pure spontaneity, actus purus, intolerant of any influence from without. The correspondent can therefore be a subject only in appearance, can only seem to behave independently towards Critical Criticism, can only seemingly want to communicate something new and of his own to it. In reality he is Critical Criticism’s own product, its perception of its own voice made for an instant objective and self-existing.
That is why the correspondents do not fail to assert incessantly that Critical Criticism itself knows, realises, understands, grasps, and experiences what at the same moment is being communicated to it for appearance’s sake. Thus Zerrleder, for instance, uses the expressions: “Do you grasp it? You know. You know for the second and third time. You’ have probably heard enough to be able to see for yourself.”
So too the Breslau correspondent Fleischammer says: “But the fact,” etc., “will be as little of a puzzle to you as to me.” Or the Zurich correspondent Hirzel: “You will probably find out for yourself.” The Critical correspondent has such anxious respect for the absolute understanding of Critical Criticism that he attributes understanding to it even where there is absolutely nothing to understand. For example, Fleischhammer says:
You will perfectly [!] understand [!] me when I tell you that one can hardly go out without meeting young Catholic priests in their long black cowls and cloaks.”
Indeed, in their fear the correspondents hear Critical Criticism — saying, answering, exclaiming, deriding!
Zeerleder, for example, says: “But — you say. Well, then, listen.” And Fleischhammer. “Yes, I hear what you say — I only mean that...” And Hirzel: “Good for you, you will exclaim!” And a Tübingen correspondent: “Do not laugh at me!”
The correspondents, therefore, also express themselves as though they were communicating facts to Critical Criticism and expect from it the spiritual interpretation; they provide it with premises and leave the conclusion to it, or they even apologise for repeating things Criticism has known for a long time.
Zerrleder, for example, says:
“Your correspondent can only give a picture, a description of the facts. The Spirit which animates these things is certainly not unknown to you.” Or again: “Now you will surely draw the conclusion for yourself.”
And Hirzel says:
“I shall not presume to entertain you with the speculative proposition that every creation arises out of its extreme opposite.”
Sometimes, too, the experiences of the correspondents are merely the fulfilment and confirmation of Criticism’s prophecies. Fleischhammer, for example, says:
“Your prediction has come true.”
“Far from being disastrous, the tendencies that I have described to you as gaining ever greater scope in Switzerland, are very fortunate; they only confirm the thought you have already often expressed,” etc.
Critical Criticism sometimes feels urged to express the condescension involved by its participation in the correspondence and motivates this condescension by the fact that the correspondent has successfully carried out some task. Thus Herr Bruno writes to the Tübingen correspondent:
“It is really inconsistent on my part to answer your letter. — On the other hand, you have again ... made such an apt remark that I ... cannot refuse the explanation you request.”
Critical Criticism has letters written to it from the provinces; not the provinces in the political sense, which, as we know, do not exist anywhere in Germany, but from the Critical provinces of which. Berlin is the capital, Berlin, the seat of the Critical patriarchs and of the Holy Critical Family, whereas the provinces are where the Critical Mass resides. The Critical provincials dare not engage the attention of the supreme Critical authority without bows and apologies. Thus, someone writes anonymously to Herr Edgar, who, being a member of the Holy Family, is also an eminent personage:
“Honourable Sir, I hope you will excuse these lines on the grounds that young people like to unite in common strivings (there is not more than two years’ difference in our ages).”
The coeval of Herr Edgar describes himself incidentally as the essence of modern philosophy. Is it not in the nature of things that Criticism should correspond with the essence of philosophy? If Herr Edgar’s coeval affirms that he has already lost his teeth, that is only an allusion to his allegorical essence. This “essence of modern philosophy” has “learned from Feuerbach to set the factor of education in objective view”. It at once gives a sample of its education and views by assuring Herr Edgar that it has acquired a “complete view of his short story”, “Es leben feste Grundsätze!” [Long Live firm principles!” A. Weill und E. Bauer, Berliner Novellen] At the same time it openly admits that Herr Edgar’s point of view is by no means quite clear to it, and finally invalidates the assurance concerning the complete view by the question: “Or have I completely misunderstood you?” After this sample it will be found quite normal that the essence of modern philosophy, referring to the Mass, should say:
“We must at least once condescend to examine and untie the magic knot which bars common human reason from access to the unrestricted flood of thought.”
In order to get a complete view of the Critical Mass one should read the correspondence of Herr Hirzel from Zurich (Heft V). This unfortunate man memorises the stock phrases of Criticism with really touching docility and praiseworthy power of recall, not omitting Herr Bruno’s favourite phrases about the battles he has waged and the campaigns he has planned and led. But Herr Hirzel exercises his profession as a member of the Critical Mass especially by raging against. the profane Mass and its attitude to Critical Criticism.
He speaks of the Mass claiming a part in history, “of the pure Mass”, of “pure Criticism”, of the “purity of this contradiction” — “a contradiction purer than any that history has provided” — of the “discontented being”, of the “perfect emptiness, ill humour, dejection, heartlessness, timidity, fury and bitterness of the Mass towards Criticism”; of “the Mass which only exists in order by its resistance to make Criticism sharper and more vigilant”. He speaks of “creation from the extreme opposite”, of how Criticism is above hate and similar profane sentiments. The whole of Herr Hirzel’s contribution to the Literatur-Zeitung is confined to this profusion of Critical stock phrases. While reproaching the Mass for being satisfied with mere “disposition”, “good will”, “the phrase”, “faith”, etc., he himself, as a member of the Critical Mass, a content with phrases, expressions of his “Critical disposition”, his “Critical faith”, his “Critical good will” and leaves “action, work, struggle” and “works” to Herr Bruno and Co.
Despite the terrible picture of the world-historic tension between the profane world and “Critical Criticism” which the members of the “Critical Mass” outline, for the non-believer at least not even the fact of the matter is stated, the factual existence of this world-historic tension. The obliging and un-Critical repetition of Criticism’s “imaginations” and “pretensions” by the correspondents only proves that the fixed ideas of the master are the fixed ideas of the servant as well. It is true that one of the Critical correspondents [The reference is to the author of an anonymous report published in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Heft VI, May 1844, in the section “Correspondenz aus der Provinz"] makes an attempt at a proof based on fact.
“You see,” he writes to the Holy Family, “that the Literatur-Zeitung is fulfilling its purpose, ie., that it meets with no approval. It could meet with approval only if it sounded in unison with the general thoughtlessness, if you strode proudly before it with the jingling of hackneyed phrases of a whole janissary band of current categories.”
The jingling of hackneyed phrases of a whole janissary band of current categories It is evident that the Critical correspondent does his best to keep pace with non-"current” hackneyed phrases. But his explanation of the fact that the Literatur-Zeitung meets with no approval must he rejected as purely apologetic. This fact could be better explained in just the opposite way by saying that Critical Criticism is in unison with the great mass, to be precise, the great mass of scribblers who meet with no approval.
It is therefore not enough for the Critical correspondent to address Critical hackneyed phrases to the Holy Family as “prayers” and at the same time to the Mass as “anathemas”. Un-Critical, mass-type correspondents, real delegates of the Mass to Critical Criticism, are needed to show the real tension between the Mass and Criticism.
That is why Critical Criticism also assigns a place to the un-Critical Mass. It makes unbiased representatives of the latter correspond with it, acknowledge the opposition to itself, Criticism, as important and absolute, and utter a fearful cry for redemption from this opposition.
2) The “Un-Critical Mass” and “Critical Criticism”[edit source]
a) The “Obdurate Mass” and the “Unsatisfied Mass”[edit source]
The hardness of heart, the obduracy and blind unbelief of “the Mass” has one rather determined representative. This representative speaks of the exclusively “Hegelian philosophical education of the Berlin Couleur” 
“The only true progress that we can make,” he says, “lies in the acknowledgment of reality. But we learn from you that our knowledge was not knowledge of reality but of something unreal.”
He calls “natural science” the basis of philosophy.
“A good naturalist stands in the same relation to the philosopher as. the philosopher to the theologian.”
Further he comments as follows on the “Berlin Couleur”.
“I do not think it would be exaggerating to try to explain the state of these people by saying that, although they have gone through a process of spiritual mouking, they have not yet altogether got rid of their old skin in order to be able to absorb the elements of renovation and rejuvenation.” “We must yet assimilate this” (natural-scientific and industrial) “knowledge”. “The knowledge of the world and of man, which we need most of all, cannot be acquired only by acuity of thought; all the senses must collaborate and all the aptitudes of man must be applied as indispensable instruments; otherwise contemplation and knowledge will always remain defective — and will lead to moral death.”
This correspondent, however, sweetens the pill that he hands out to Critical Criticism. He “makes Bauer’s words find their correct application”, he has “followed Bauer’s thoughts”, he agrees that “Bauer has spoken the truth” and in the end he seems to polemise, not against Criticism itself, but against a “Berlin Couleur” which is distinct from it. Critical Criticism, feeling itself hit and, moreover, being as sensitive as an old maid in all matters of faith, is not taken in by these distinctions and this semi-homage.
“You are mistaken,” it answers, “if you have taken the party you described at the beginning of your letter for your opponent. Rather admit” (and now comes the crushing sentence of excommunication) “that you are an opponent of Criticism itself!”
The miserable wretch! The man of the Mass! An opponent of Criticism itself! But as far as the content of that mass-type polemic is concerned, Critical Criticism declares its respect for its critical attitude to natural science and industry”.
“All respect for natural science! All respect for James Watt and” (a really noble turn!) “no respect at all for the millions that he made for his relatives.”
All respect for the respect of Critical Criticism! In the same letter in which Critical Criticism reproaches the above-mentioned Berlin Couleur with too easily disposing of thorough and solid works without studying them and having finished with a work when they have merely remarked that it is epoch-making, etc. — in that same letter Criticism itself disposes of the whole of natural science and industry by merely declaring its respect for them. The clause which it appends to its’ declaration of respect for natural science reminds one of the first fulminations of the deceased knight Krug against natural philosophy.
“Nature is not the only reality because we eat and drink it in its individual products.”
Critical Criticism knows this much about the individual products of nature that “we eat and drink them”. All respect for the natural science of Critical Criticism! Criticism is consistent in countering the embarrassingly importunate demand to study “nature” and “industry” with the following indisputably witty rhetorical exclamation:
“Or” (!) “do you think that the knowledge of historical reality is already complete? Or” (!) “do you know of any single period in history which is already actually known?”
Or does Critical Criticism believe that it has reached even the beginning of a knowledge of historical reality so long as it excludes from the historical movement the theoretical and practical relation of man to nature, i.e., natural science and industry? Or does it think that it actually knows any period without knowing, for example, the industry of that period, the immediate mode of Production of life itself? Of course, spiritualistic, theological Critical Criticism only knows (at least it imagines it knows) the main political, literary and theological acts of history. Just as it separates thinking from the senses, the soul from the body and itself from the world, it separates history from natural science and industry and sees the origin of history not in vulgar material production on the earth but in vaporous clouds in the heavens. The representative of the “obdurate” and “hard-hearted” Mass with his trenchant reproofs and counsels is disposed of as a mass-type materialist. Another correspondent, not so malicious or mass-like, who places his hopes in Critical Criticism but finds them unsatisfied ‘ fares no better. The representative of the “unsatisfied” Mass writes:
“I must, however, admit that the first number of your paper was by no means satisfying. We expected something else.”
The Critical patriarch answers in person:
“I knew beforehand that it would not satisfy expectations, because I could rather easily imagine those expectations. One is so exhausted that one wishes to have everything at once. Everything? No! If possible everything and nothing at the same time. An everything that costs no trouble, an everything that one can absorb without going through any development, an everything that is contained in a single word.”
In his vexation at the undue demands of the “Mass”, which demands something, indeed everything, from Criticism, which by principle and disposition “gives nothing”, the Critical patriarch relates an anecdote in the way that old men do. Not long ago a Berlin acquaintance complained bitterly of the verbosity and profusion of detail of his works — Herr Bruno is known to make a bulky work out of the tiniest semblance of a thought. He was consoled with the promise of being sent the ink necessary for the printing of the book in a small pellet so that he could easily absorb it. The patriarch explains the length of his “works” by the bad spreading of the ink, as he explains the nothingness of his Literatur-Zeitung by the emptiness of the “profane Mass”, which, in order to be full, wants to swallow everything and nothing at the same time.
Just as it is difficult to deny the importance of what has so far been related, it is equally difficult to see a world-historic contradiction in the fact that a mass-type acquaintance of Critical Criticism considers Criticism empty, while Criticism, for its part, declares him to be un-Critical; that a second acquaintance does not find that the Literatur-Zeitung satisfies his expectations, and that a third acquaintance and friend of the family finds Criticism’s works too bulky. However, acquaintance No. 2, who entertains expectations, and friend of the family No. 3, who wishes at least to find out the secrets of Critical Criticism, constitute the transition to a more substantial and tenser relationship between Criticism and the ‘.un-Critical Mass”. Cruel as Criticism is to the “hard-hearted” Mass which has only “common human reason”, we shall find it condescending to the Mass that is pining for redemption from contradiction. The Mass which approaches Criticism with a contrite heart, a spirit of repentance and a humble mind will be rewarded for its honest striving with many a wise, prophetic and outspoken word.
b) The “Soft-Hearted” Mass “Pining for Redemption”[edit source]
This chapter is written by Engels
The representative of the sentimental, soft-hearted Mass pining for redemption cringes and implores Critical Criticism for a kind word with effusions of the heart, deep bows and rolling of the eyes, as follows:
“Why am I writing this to you? Why am I justifying myself before you? Because I respect you and therefore desire your respect; because I owe you deepest thanks for my development and therefore love you. My heart impels me to justify myself before you ... who have upbraided me.... Far be it from me to obtrude upon you; judging by myself, I thought you might be pleased to have proof of sympathy from a man who is still little known to you. I make no claim whatsoever that you should answer my letter: I wish neither to take up your time, of which you can make better use, nor to he irksome to you, nor to expose myself to the mortification of seeing something that I hoped for remain unfulfilled. You may interpret my letter as sentimentality, importunity or vanity” (!) “or whatever you like; you may answer me or not, I cannot resist the impulse to send it and I only hope that you will realise the friendly feeling which inspired it” (!!).
Just as from the beginning God has had mercy on the poor in spirit, this mass-like but humble correspondent, too, who whimpers for mercy from Critical Criticism, has his wish fulfilled. Critical Criticism gives him a kind answer. More than that! It gives him most Profound explanations on the objects of his curiousity.
“Two years ago,” Critical Criticism teaches, “it was opportune to remember the Enlightenment of the French in the eighteenth century in order to be able to make use of those light troops, too, at a place in the battle that was then being waged. The situation is now quite different. Truths now change very quickly. What was then opportune is now an oversight.”
Of course it was only “an oversight” then too, but an “opportune” one, when the Absolute Critical All-high itself (cf. Anekdota, Book II, p. 89) called those light troops “our saints”, our “prophets”, “patriarchs” etc. Who would call light troops a troop of “patriarchs"? It was an “opportune” oversight when it spoke with enthusiasm of the self-denial, moral energy and inspiration with which these light troops “thought, worked — and studied — throughout their lives for the truth”. It was an “oversight” when, in the preface to Das entdeckte Christenthum, it was stated that these “light” troops seemed invincible and any one well-informed would have wagered that they would put the world out of joint” and that “it seemed beyond doubt that they would succeed in giving the world a new shape”. Those light troops? Critical Criticism continues to teach the inquisitive representative of the “cordial Mass":
“Although it was a new historical merit of the French to attempt to set up a social theory, they are none the less now exhausted; their new theory was not yet pure, their social fantasies and their peaceful democracy are by no means free from the assumptions of the old state of things.”
Criticism is talking here about Fourierism — if it is talking about anything — and in particular of the Fourierism of La Démocratie pacifique. But this is far from being the “social theory” of the French. The French have social theories, but not a social theory; the diluted Fourierism that La Démocratie pacifique preaches is nothing but the social doctrine of a section of the philanthropic bourgeoisie. The people is communistic, and, as a matter of fact, split into a multitude of different groups; the true movement and the elaboration of these different social shades is not only not exhausted, it is really only beginning. But it will not end in pure, i.e., abstract, theory as Critical Criticism would like it to; it will end in a quite practical practice that will not bother at all about the categorical categories of Criticism.
“No nation,” Criticism chatters on, “has so far any advantage over another. If one can succeed in winning some spiritual superiority over the others, it will be the one which is in a position to criticise itself and the others and to discover the causes of the universal decay.”
Every nation has so far some advantage over another. But if the Critical prophecy is right, no nation will have any advantage over another, because all the civilised peoples of Europe — the English, the Germans, the French — now “criticise themselves and others” and “are in a position to discover the causes of the universal decay”. Finally, it is high-sounding tautology to say that “criticising”, “discovering”, i.e., spiritual activities, give a spiritual superiority, and Criticism, which in its infinite self-consciousness places itself above the nations and expects them to kneel at its feet and implore it for enlightenment, only shows by this caricatured Christian-Germanic idealism that it is still up to its neck in the mire of German nationalism.
The criticism of the French and the English is not an abstract, preternatural personality outside mankind; it is the real human activity of individuals who are active members of society and who suffer, feel, think and act as human beings. That is why their criticism is at the same time practical, their communism a socialism in which they give practical, concrete measures, and in which they not only think but even more act, it is the living, real criticism of existing society, the recognition of the causes of “the decay”.
After Critical Criticism’s explanations for the inquisitive member of the Mass, it is entitled to say of its Literatur-Zeitung:
“Here Criticism that is pure, graphic, relevant and adds nothing is practised.”
Here “nothing self-existing is given”; here nothing at all is given except criticism that gives nothing, that is, criticism which culminates in extreme non-criticism. Criticism has underlined passages printed and reaches its full bloom in excerpts. Wolfgang Menzel and Bruno Bauer stretch a brotherly hand to each other and Critical Criticism stands where the philosophy of identity stood at the beginning of this century, when Schelling protested against the mass-like supposition that he wanted to give something, anything except pure, entirely philosophical philosophy.
c) Grace Bestowed on the Mass[edit source]
The soft-hearted correspondent whose instruction we have just witnessed stood in a comfortable relationship to Criticism. In his case there was only an idyllic hint of the tension between the Mass and Criticism. Both sides of the world-historic contradiction behaved kindly and politely, and therefore exoterically, to each other.
Critical Criticism, in its unhealthy, soul-shattering effect on the Mass, is seen first in regard to a correspondent who has one foot already in Criticism and the other still in the profane world. He represents the “Mass” in its inner struggle with Criticism.
At times it seems to him “that Herr Bruno and his friends do not understand mankind”, that “they are the ones who are really blinded”. Then he immediately corrects himself:
“Yes, it is as clear as daylight to me that you are right and that your thoughts are correct; but excuse me, the people is not wrong either.... Oh yes! The people is right.... I cannot deny that you are right.... I really do not know what it will all lead to: you will say ... well, stay at home.... Alas! I can no longer stand it.... Alas! One might otherwise go mad in the end.... Kindly accept... Believe me, the knowledge one has acquired sometimes makes one feel as stupid as if a mill-wheel were turning in one’s head.”
Another correspondent, too, writes that he “is occasionally disconcerted”. One can see that Critical grace is about to be bestowed on this mass-type correspondent. The poor wretch! The sinful Mass is tugging at him on one side and Critical Criticism on the other. It is not the knowledge he has acquired that reduces this pupil of Critical Criticism to a state of stupor; it is the question of faith and conscience; Critical Christ or the people, God or the world, Bruno Bauer and his friends or the profane Mass! But just as bestowal of divine grace is preceded by extreme wretchedness of the sinner, Critical grace is preceded by a crushing stupefaction. And when it is at last bestowed, the chosen one loses not stupidity but the consciousness of stupidity.
3) The Un-Critically Critical Mass Or “Criticism” and The “Berlin Couleur”[edit source]
Critical Criticism has not succeeded in depicting itself as the essential opposite, and hence at the same time as the essential object, of the mass of humanity. Apart from the representatives of the obdurate Mass which reproaches Critical Criticism for its objectlessness and gives it to understand in the most courteous possible way that it has not yet gone through the process of its spiritual “moult” and must first of all acquire solid knowledge, there is the soft-hearted correspondent. He is no opposite at all, but then the actual reason for his approach to Critical Criticism is a purely personal one. As we can see a little further on in his letter, he really only wants to reconcile his devotion to Herr Arnold Ruge with his devotion to Herr Bruno Bauer. This attempt at reconciliation does credit to his kind heart, but it in no way constitutes an interest of a mass nature. Finally, the last correspondent to appear was no longer a real member of the Mass, he was only a catechumen of Critical Criticism.
In general, the Mass is an indefinite object, and therefore can neither carry out a definite action nor enter into a definite relationship. The Mass, as the object of Critical Criticism, has nothing in common with the real masses who, for their part, form among themselves oppositions of a pronounced mass nature. Critical Criticism’s mass is “made” by Criticism itself, as would be the case if a naturalist, instead of speaking of definite classes, contrasted the Class to himself.
Hence, in order to have an opposite of a really mass nature, Critical Criticism needs, besides this abstract Mass which is the figment of its own brain, a definite Mass that can be empirically demonstrated and not just conjured up. This Mass must see in Critical Criticism both its essence and the annihilation of its essence. It must wish to be Critical Criticism, non-Mass, without being able to. This Critically un-Critical Mass is the above-mentioned “Berlin Couleur”. The mass of humanity which is seriously concerned with Critical Criticism is confined to a Berlin Couleur.
The “Berlin Couleur”, the “essential object” of Critical Criticism, of which it is always thinking and which, Critical Criticism imagines, is always thinking of Critical Criticism, consists, as far as we know, of a few ci-devant [former] Young Hegelians in whom Critical Criticism claims to inspire partly a horror vacui [horror of emptiness] and partly a feeling of futility. We are not investigating the actual state of affairs, we rely on what Criticism says.
The Correspondence is mainly intended to expound at length to the public this world-historic relation of Criticism to the “Berlin Couleur”, to reveal its profound significance, to show why Criticism must necessarily be cruel towards this “Mass”, and finally to make it appear that the whole world is in fearful agitation over this opposition, expressing itself now in favour of, and then against the actions of Criticism. For example, Absolute Criticism writes to a correspondent who sides with the “Berlin Couleur":
“I have already heard things like that so often that I have made up my mind not to take any more notice of them.”
The world has no idea how often it has dealt with Critical things like that. Let us now hear what a member of the Critical Mass reports on the Berlin Couleur:
“'If anyone recognises the Bauers'” (the Holy Family must always be recognised pêle-mêle) “began his answer [The reference is to the answer given by an adherent to the Berlin Couleur to one of the authors of the anonymous report “Aus der Provinz” published in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Heft VI, May 1844] — I am the one. But the Literatur-zeitung! Let us be quite fairl’ It was interesting for me to hear what one of those radicals, those clever men of anno 42, thought of you....”
The correspondent goes on to repckrt that the unfortunate man had all sorts of reproaches to make to the Literatur-Zeitung. Herr Edgar’s short story, Die drei Biedermdnner he found lacking in polish and exaggerated. He could not understand that censorship is not so much a fight of man against man, an external fight, as an internal one. They do not take the trouble to bethink themselves and to replace the phrase the censor okects to by a cleverly expressed and thoroughly developed Critical thought. He found Herr Edgar’s essay on Béraud lacking in thoroughness. The Critical reporter thinks it was thorough. True he admitted himself: “I have not read Béraud’s book.” But he believes that Herr Edgar has succeeded, etc., and belief, we know, is bhss. “In general,” the Critical believer continues, “he” (the one from the Berlin Couleur) “is not at all satisfied with Herr Edgar’s works.” He also finds that “Proudhon is not dealt with thoroughly enough”. And here the reporter gives Herr Edgar a testimonial:
“It is true” (1?) “ that Iam acquainted with Proudhon. I know that Edgar’s presentation took the characteristic points from him and set them out clearly.”
The only reason why Herr Edgar’s excellent criticism of Proudhon is not liked, the reporter says, can only be that Herr Edgar does not fulminate against property. And just imagine it, the opponent finds Herr Edgar’s essay on the “Union ouvrière"’ unimportant. To console Herr Edgar the reporter says:
“Of course, it does not give anything independent, and these people have really gone back to Gruppe’s point of view, which, to be sure, they have always maintained. Criticism must give, give and give!”
As though Criticism had not given quite new linguistic, historical, philosophical, economic, and juridical discoveriesl And it is so modest as to let itself be told that it has not given anything independent! Even our Critical correspondent gave mechanics something that it had not hitherto known when he made people go back to the same point of view which they had always maintained. It is clumsy to recall Gruppe’s point of view. In his pamphlet, which is otherwise miserable and not worth mentioning, Gruppe asked Herr Bruno what criticism he could give on speculative logic. Herr Bruno referred him to future generations and —
“a fool is waiting for an answer”.
As God punished the unbelieving Pharaoh by hardening his heart and did not think him worthy of being enlightened, so the reporter assures us:
“They are therefore not at all worthy of seeing or knowing the contents of your Literatur-Zeitung.”
And instead of advising his friend Edgar to acquire thoughts and knowledge he gives him the following advice:
“Let Edgar get a bag of phrases and draw blindly out of it when he writes essays in future, in order to acquire a style in harmony with the public.”
Besides assurances of “a certain fury, ill-favour, emptiness, thoughtlessness, an inkling of something which they are not able to fathom, and a feeling of nullity” (all these epithets apply, of course, to the Berlin Couleur), eulogies like the following are made of the Holy Family:
“Lightness of treatment penetrating the matter, command of the categories, insight acquired by study, in a word, command of the Objects. He” (of the Berlin Coulcur) “takes an easy attitude to the thing, you make the thing easy.” Or: “Your criticism in the Literatur-Zeitung is pure, graphic and relevant.”
Finally it is stated:
“I have written it all to you at such length because I know that I shall give you pleasure by reporting the opinions of my friend. From this you can see that the Literatur-Zeitung is fulfilling its purpose.”
Its purpose is opposition to the Berlin Coulcur. Having just witnessed the Berlin Couleur’s polemic against Critical Criticism and the reproof it received for that polemic, we are now giuen a double picture of its efforts to obtain mercy from Critical Criticism. One correspondent writes:
“My acquaintances in Berlin told me when I was there at the beginning of the year that you repel all and keep all at a distance; that you keep yourself to yourself and let nobody approach you, assiduously avoiding all intercourse. 1, of course, cannot tell which side is to blame.”
Absolute Criticism replies:
“Criticism does not form any party and will have no party of its own; it is solitary because it is engrossed in its” (!) “object and opposes itself to it. It isolates itself from everything.”
Critical Criticism thinks it rises above all dogmatic antitheses by substituting for the real antitheses the imaginary antithesis between itself and the world, between the Holy Ghost and the profane Mass. In the same way it thinks it rises above parties by falling below the party point of view, by counterposing itself as a party to the rest of mankind and concentrating all interest in the personality of Herr Bruno and Co. The truth of Criticism’s admission that it sits enthroned in the solitude of abstraction, that even when it seems to be occupied with some object it does not come out of its objectless solitude into a truly social relation to a real object, because its object is only the object of its imagination, only an imaginary object — the truth of this Critical admission is proved by the whole of our exposition. Equally correctly Criticism defines its abstraction as absolute abstraction, in the sense that “it isolates itself from everything”, and precisely this isolation of nothing from everything, from all thought., contemplation, etc., is absolute nonsense. Incidentally, the solitude which it achieves by isolating and abstracting itself from everything is no more free from the object from which it abstracts itself than Origen was from the genital organ that he isolated from himself. Another correspondent begins by describing one of the members of the “Berlin Couleur”, whom he saw and spoke with, as “gloomy”, “depressed”, “no longer able to open his mouth” (although he was formerly always “ready with a quite impudent word”), and “despondent”. This member of the “Berlin Couleur” related the following to the correspondent, who in turn reported it to Criticism:
“He cannot grasp how people like you two, who formerly respected the principle of humanity, can behave in such an aloof, repelling, indeed arrogant manner.” He does not know “why there are some people who, it seems, Intentionally cause a split. Have we not all the same point of view? Do we not all pay homage to the extreme, to Criticism? Are we not all capable, if not of producing, at least of grasping and applying an extreme thought?” He “finds that this split is motivated by no other principle than egoism and arrogance”.
Then the correspondent puts in a good word:
“Have not at least some of our friends grasped Criticism, or perhaps the good will of Criticism .. ‘ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas’.” [the strength may he lacking, but the will is praiseworthy]
Criticism replies with the following antitheses between itself and the Berlin Couleur: “There are various standpoints on criticism.” The members of the Berlin Couleur “thought they had criticism in their pocket”, but Criticism “really knows and applies the force of criticism”, i.e., does not keep it in its pocket. For the former, criticism is pure form, whereas for Criticism, on the other hand, it is the “most substantial or rather the only substantial thing”. Just as Absolute Thought considers itself the whole of reality, so does Critical Criticism. That is why it sees no content outside itself and is therefore not the criticism of real objects existing outside the Critical subject; on the contrary, it makes the object, it is the Absolute Subject-Object. Further! “The former kind of criticism disposes of everything, of the investigation of things, by means of phrases. The latter isolates itself from everything by means of phrases.” The former is “clever in ignorance”, the latter is “learning”. The latter, at any rate, is not clever, it learns par ça, par là [here and there], but only in appearance, only in order to be able to fling what it has superficially learnt from the Mass back at the Mass in the form of a “catchword”, as wisdom that it itself has discovered, and to resolve it into the nonsense of Critical Criticism.
“For the former, words such as ‘extreme’, ‘proceed’, ‘not go far enough’ are of importance and highly revered categories; the latter investigates the standpoints and does not apply to them the measures of those abstract categories.”
The exclamations of Criticism No. 2 that it is no longer a question of politics, that philosophy is done away with, and its dismissal of social systems and developments by means of words like “fantastic”, “utopian”, etc. — what is all that if not a Critically revised version of “proceeding” and “not going far enough"? And are not its “measures”, such as “History”, “Criticism”, “summing up of objects”, “the old and the new”, “Criticism and Mass”, “investigation of standpoints” — in a. word, are not all its catch-words categorical measures and abstractly categorical ones at that! ?
“The former is theological, spiteful, envious, petty, presumptuous, the latter is the opposite of all that.”
After thus praising itself a dozen times in one breath and ascribing to itself all that the Berlin Couleur lacks, just as God is all that man is not, Criticism bears witness to itself that:
“It has achieved a clarity, a thirst for learning, a tranquillity in which it is unassailable and invincible.”
Hence it can “at the most treat” its opponent, the Berlin Couleur, “with Olympic laughter”. This laughter — it explains with its customary thoroughness what it is and what it is not — “this laughter is not arrogance”. By no means! It is the negation of the negation. It is “only the process that the Critic must apply in all ease and equanimity against a subordinate standpoint which thinks itself equal to him” (what conceit!). When the Critic laughs, therefore, he is applying a process! And “in all equanimity” he applies the process of laughter not against persons, but against a standpoint! Even laughter is a category which he applies and even must apply! Extramundane Criticism is not an essential activity of the human subject who is real and therefore lives and suffers in present-day society, sharing in its pains and pleasures. The real individual is only an accidental feature, an earthly vessel of Critical Criticism, which reveals itself in it as eternal Substance. The subject is not the human individual’s criticism, but the non-human individual of Criticism. Criticism is not a manifestation of man, but man is an alienation of Criticism, and that is why the Critic lives completely outside society.
“Can the Critic live in the society which he criticises?”
It should be asked instead: Must he not live in that society? Must he not himself be a manifestation of the life of that society? Why does the Critic sell the products of his mind, for thereby he makes the worst law of present-day society his own law?
“The Critic must not even dare to mix personally with society.”
That is why he creates for himself a Holy Family, just as the solitary God endeavours in the Holy Family to end his tedious isolation from society. If the Critic wants to free himself from bad society he must first of all free himself from his own society.
“Thus the Critic dispenses with all the pleasures of society, but its sufferings, too, stay remote from him. He knows neither friendship” (except that of Critical friends) “nor love” (except self-love) “but on the other hand calumny is powerless against him; nothing can offend him; no hatred, no envy can affect him; vexation and grief are feelings unknown to him.”
In short, the Critic is free from all human passions, he is a divine person; he can apply to himself the song of the nun.
I think not of a lover,
I think not of a spouse.
I think of God the Father
For he my life endows.
Criticism cannot write a single passage without contradicting itself. Thus it tells us finally:
“The Philistinism that stones the Critic” (he has to be stoned by analogy with the Bible), “that misjudges him and ascribes impure motives to him” (ascribes impure motives to pure Criticism!) “in order to make him equal to itself” (the conceit of equality reproved above!), “is not laughed at by him, because it is not worth it, but is seen through and calmly rciezated to its own insignificant significance.”
Earlier the Critic had to apply the process of laughter to the “subordinate standpoint that thought itself equal to him”. Critical Critkism’s unclarity about its mode of procedure with the godless “Mass” seems almost to indicate an interior irritation, a sort of bile to which “feelings” are not “unknown”.
However, there should be no misunderstanding. Having waged·a Herculean struggle to free itself from the uncritical “profane Mass” and “everything”, Critical Criticism has at last succeeded in achieving its solitary, god-like, self-sufficient, absolute existence. If in its first pronouncement in this, its “new phase”, the old world of sinful feelings seems still to have some power over it, we shall now see Criticism find aesthetic relaxation and transfiguration in an “artistic form” and complete its penance so it can finally as a second triumphant Christ accomplish the Critical last judgment and after its victory over the dragon ascend calmly to heaven.
- From the French writer J. F. Marmontel’s one-act comedy Lucile, Scene 4.
- Berlin Couleur was the name given by the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung correspondent to the Young Hegelians who did not belong to B. Bauer’s group and who criticized Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on certain petty questions. One of them was Max Stirner.
- Marx here means B. Bauer’s article “Leiden und Freuden des theologischen Bewusstseins” (Suffering and Joys of Theological Consciousness”) in Anekdota zur neuesten deutschen Philosophie und Publicistik.
- La Democratie Pacifique – a daily paper of the Fourierists published in Paris from 1843 to 1851 tinder the editorship of V. Considerant.
- Heine – Die Nordsee (Second cycle “Fragen”)
- From the German folk song Nönnchen.