Karl Marx in La Réforme 1848

To The Editor of La Réforme

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 564;
Written: about March 6, 1848;
First published: in La Réforme, March 8, 1848.

Dear Sir,

At the present moment the Belgian government is aligning itself entirely with the policy of the Holy Alliance. Its reactionary fury falls on the German democrats with unprecedented brutality. Were we not too distressed by the persecution directed specifically against us, we would openly laugh at the ridiculous attitude assumed by the Rogier ministry when it accuses a few Germans of wishing to impose a republic on the Belgians against their wishes; but it so happens that, in the special case to which we refer, the hateful aspect of it outweighs the absurd.

First of all, Sir, it is as well to know that almost all the Brussels newspapers are edited by Frenchmen, most of whom escaped from France to avoid the ignominious punishments which threatened them in their own country. These Frenchmen now have the utmost interest in protecting the Belgian independence which they all betrayed in 1833.[319] The king [Leopold I], the ministry and their supporters have used these rags to give credibility to the idea that a Belgian revolution, in the republican sense, would merely be an imitation of a francequillonnerie [a scornful expression in Flemish, meaning stupidly copying anything that is French] and that all the democratic activity which is now making itself felt in Belgium has only been provoked by some hot-headed Germans.

The Germans do not in the least deny that they openly associated with the Belgian democrats, and this without the slightest degree of hot-headedness. In the eyes of the King’s Prosecutor this means arousing the workers against the bourgeois, making the Belgians suspicious of a German king they so dearly love, and opening the gates of Belgium to a French invasion.

Having received, on March 3 at five o'clock in the evening, an order to leave the kingdom of Belgium within twenty-four hours, I was busy, that same night, with preparing for the journey when a commissary of police, accompanied by ten municipal guards, burst into the place where I was living, searched the whole house, and ended by putting me under arrest on the pretext that I was without papers. Apart from the quite proper papers sent me by M. Duchâtel in expelling me from France,[320] I had at hand the expulsion papers delivered to me by Belgium only a few hours earlier.

I would not have spoken to you, Sir, about my arrest and the brutalities I suffered, were these not connected with an incident which would be difficult to understand even in Austria.

Immediately after my arrest, my wife went to the home of M. Jottrand, President of the Democratic Association of Belgium, to urge him to take the necessary measures. On returning home she found at her door a policeman who told her, with perfect politeness, that if she should wish to speak to M. Marx, she need only follow him. My wife accepted the offer with alacrity. She was taken to the police station, and the Commissary at first told her that M. Marx was not there; then he brutally demanded who she was, why she had gone to M. Jottrand’s house, and whether she had her papers with her. A Belgian democrat, M. Gigot, had followed my wife to the police station with the municipal guard, and when he protested strongly against the Commissary’s absurd and insolent questions he was silenced by guards who seized him and threw him into a cell. My wife, under the charge of “vagabondage”, was taken to the prison at the Hôtel de Ville and locked up in a dark room with prostitutes. At eleven o'clock in the morning she was taken, under police escort and in broad daylight, to the office of the examining magistrate. For two hours she was held in close custody, despite the most vigorous protests from all sides. She stayed there, in bitter cold, exposed to the most shameless remarks by the gendarmes.

Finally she appeared before the examining magistrate, who was surprised that the police, in their solicitude, had not at the same time arrested the young children. The interrogation was naturally a sham, and my wife’s only crime consists in the fact that, although belonging to the Prussian aristocracy, she shares the democratic opinions of her husband.

I have not entered into all the details of this revolting affair. I merely add that, when we were released, the twenty-four hours had just ended, and we had to leave without being able to take even the most essential of our belongings.

Karl Marx,

Vice-President of the Brussels Democratic Association