Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

The Kölnische Zeitung on the June Revolution

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 150;
Written: by Engels on June 30, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 31, July 1, 1848.

Cologne, June 30. If one reads the following passages from the London Telegraph and compares them to the babble about the Paris June revolution that emanates from the German liberals, especially Herr Brüggemann, Herr Dumont and Herr Wolfers, one will have to admit that the English bourgeois, apart from many other distinctions, surpass the German philistines in at least this regard: although they judge great events from a bourgeois point of view, they judge them as men and not in the manner of gutter-snipes.

The Telegraph comments in its issue No. 122:

“... And here we may be expected to say something of the origin and consequence of this terrible bloodshed.
"At once it proclaims itself a complete battle between classes.

(A kingdom for such a thought — is the mental exclamation of the august Kölnische Zeitung and its “Wolfers”.)

“it is an insurrection of the workmen against the government they believed themselves to have created, and the classes who now support it. How the quarrel immediately originated is less easy to explain, than to detect its lasting and ever present causes. The revolution of February was chiefly effected by the working classes [... ] and it was proclaimed to have been made for their advantage. It was a social, more than a political revolution. The masses of discontented workmen have not all of a sudden sprung, endowed with all the capabilities of soldiers, into existence; nor are their distress and their discontent the offspring merely of the events of the last four months. On Monday only we quoted the statement, perhaps exaggerated, of M. Leroux, which was made, however, in the National Assembly, and not denied [... ] that there are in France 8,000,000 beggars and 4,000,000 workmen who have no secure wages. He spoke generally, and meant expressly to describe the time before the revolution; for his complaint was, that since the revolution nothing had been done to remedy that great disease. The theories of Socialism and Communism which had become rife in France, and now exercise such influence over the public mind, grew from the terribly depressed condition of the bulk of the population under the government of Louis Philippe [...]. The main fact to be kept in view is the distressed condition of the multitude as the great living cause of the revolution. [...]

... “The National Assembly [...] speedily voted to deprive the workmen of the advantages which the politicians of the revolution had so hastily and unthinkingly conferred on them. In a social, if not political, point of view, a great reaction was apparent, and authority was invoked, backed by a large part of France, to put down the mm who had given that authority existence [...] That they should from such proceedings — first flattered and fed, then divided and threatened with starvation, drafted off to the country, where all the labour connections were destroyed, and a deliberate plan adopted to annihilate their power — that they should have been irritated can surprise no man; that after accomplishing one successful revolution they should have spontaneously thought they could bring about another, is not astonishing, and their chances of success against the armed force of the government, from the great length of time they have already resisted, seem greater than most people were prepared to expect. According to this view, which is confirmed by no political leaders having been detected amongst the people, and by the fact that the ouvriers ordered to quit Paris proceeded no further than just outside the banners and then returned, the insurrection is the consequence of a general feeling of indignation amongst the working classes and not of any political agency. They fancy their interest is again betrayed by their own government, and they have taken up arms now as they took them up in February to fight against the terrible distress of which they have so long been the victims.

The present battle, then, [...] is but a continuation of the battle which took place in February. The contest is only a continuation of that struggle which pervades all Europe, more or less, for a fairer distribution of the annual produce of labour. Put down in Paris now it probably will be; for the force which the new authority has inherited from the old authority that it displaced, is apparently overwhelming. But, however successfully put down, it will be again and again renewed, till government either makes a fairer distribution of the produce of labour, or, finding that impossible, retreats from the awful responsibility of attempting it and leaves it to be decided by the [...] open competition of the market.... The real fight is for the means of comfortable subsistence, the middle classes have been deprived of them by the politicians who undertook to guide the revolution; they have been savaged as well as the workmen; the strongest passions of both are now roused into mischievous activity; and, forgetting their brotherhood, they make brutal war on each other. The ignorant if not ill-meaning government, which seems to have no conception of its duty in ‘ this extraordinary crisis, [...] has first hurled the workmen on the middle classes, and is now helping the middle classes to exterminate the deceived, deluded, and indignant workmen. The principle of the Revolution. the resolve to fight against distress and oppression must not he suffered to bear the blame of this great calamity, it must be thrown rather on those ignorant meddling politicians who have so aggravated all the disasters bequeathed to them by Louis Philippe.”

Thus writes a London newspaper of the bourgeoisie about the June revolution, a newspaper which represents the principles of Cobden, Bright etc. and which after the Times and the Northern Star, the two despots of the English press, according to the Manchester Guardian, is the most widely read paper in England.

Let us compare No. 181 of the Kölnische Zeitung! This remarkable newspaper transforms the battle between two classes into a battle between respectable people and rogues! What a worthy paper! As if the two classes did not hurl these epithets at each other. It is the same newspaper which at first, when rumours about the June uprising began to circulate, admitted its total ignorance as to the nature of the insurrection, and then had to get the information from Paris that an important social revolution was taking place whose scope would not be circumscribed by one defeat. Finally, strengthened by one defeat of the workers, it sees in the insurrection nothing but a battle between “the enormous majority” and a “wild horde” of “cannibals, robbers and murderers”.

What was the Roman slave war? A war between respectable people and cannibals! Herr Wolfers will write Roman history and Herr Dumont and Herr Brüggemann will enlighten the workers, the “unfortunate ones”, as to their real rights and duties and

“initiate them into the science which leads to order and which forms the true citizen"!

Long live the science of Dumont-Brüggemann-Wolfers, the secret science! To cite one example of this secret science: This praiseworthy triumvirate has told its gullible readers throughout two issues that General Cavaignac wants to mine the district of St. Antoine. The district of St. Antoine happens to be somewhat larger than the golden city of Cologne. The scientific triumvirate, however, that we recommend to the German National Assembly for ruling Germany, the triumvirate Dumont-Brüggemann-Wolfers, have overcome this difficulty; they know how to blow up the city of Cologne with one mine! Their notions of the mine which blows up the Faubourg St. Antoine correspond to the notion of the subterranean forces which undermine modern society, caused the Paris earthquake in June and spat up bloody lava from its revolutionary crater.

But dearest triumvirate! Great Dumont-Brüggemann-Wolfers, great personalities proclaimed by the world of advertisement! Cavaignacs of the world of advertisement! We modestly bowed our heads, bowed them before the greatest historical crisis that has ever broken out: the class war between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. We have not created the fact, we have stated it. We have stated that one of the classes is the conquered one as Cavaignac himself says.[120] On the grave of the conquered, we have cried “ woe!” to the victors and even Cavaignac shrinks from his historical responsibility! And the National Assembly charges with cowardice every member who does not openly accept the terrible historical responsibility. Did we open up the Sibylline Book for the Germans so that they should burn it? Do we ask the Germans to become Englishmen when we describe the battle between the Chartists and the English bourgeoisie?

Germany, however, ungrateful Germany, you may know the Kölnische Zeitung and its advertisements but you do not know your greatest men, your Wolfers, your Brüggemann and your Dumont! How much sweat of the brain, sweat of the face and sweat of the blood has been shed in the battle between classes in the battle between free men and slaves, patricians and plebeians, feudal lords and serfs, capitalists and workers! But only became there was no Kölnische Zeitung. But, most courageous triumvirate, if modern society produces “criminals”, “cannibals”, “murderers” and “plunderers” in such masses and with such energy that their insurrection shakes the basis of official society, what kind of society is this? What anarchy in alphabetical order! And you believe that you can heal the schism, that you have uplifted the actors and spectators of this terrible drama by dragging them down into a servant tragedy ŕ la Kotzebue.

Among the national guardsmen of the faubourgs St. Antoine, St. Jacques and St. Marceau only 50 could be found who followed the call of the bourgeois bugle. Thus reports the Paris Moniteur, the official newspaper, the paper of Louis XVI, Robespierre, Louis Philippe and Marrast-Cavaignac! There is nothing simpler for the science which “turns” a man into a true citizen! The three largest faubourgs of Paris, the three most industrialised faubourgs of Paris, whose patterns made the muslins of Dacca and the velvet of Spitalfields pale and fade, are supposed to be inhabited by “cannibals”, “plunderers”, “robbers” and “criminals”. So says Wolfers!

And Wolfers is an honourable man![Shakespeare, Julius Caesar] He has bestowed honours upon the rogues by having them fight greater battles, produce greater works of art and accomplish more heroic deeds than those of Charles X, Louis Philippe, Napoleon and the spinners of Dacca and Spitalfields.

We were just now mentioning the London Telegraph. Yesterday our readers heard Emil Girardin. The working class, he says, after allowing its debtor, the February revolution, to delay paying off its debts for a month, the working class, the creditor, knocked at the debtor’s house with the musket, the barricade and its own body! But Emil Girardin! Who is he? No anarchist! Heaven forbid! He is, however, a republican of the coming day, a republican of the morrow (républicain du lendemain) whereas the Kölnische Zeitung, the Wolferses, Dumonts and Brüggemanns are all republicans of the day before yesterday, republicans before the republic and republicans of the eve (républicains de la veille)! Can Emil Girardin give evidence by the side of Dumont?

Admire the patriotism of the Cologne newspaper as it gloats with malicious pleasure over the deportation and hangings. It only wants to prove to the world, to the incredulous, stone-blind German world, that the republic is more powerful than the monarchy and that the republican National Assembly with Cavaignac and Marrast was able to carry out what the constitutional Chamber of Deputies with Thiers and Bugeaud was unable to do! Vive la république! Long live the republic! exclaims the Spartan Cologne paper at the sight of Paris, bleeding, moaning and burning. The crypto-republican! That is why this paper is suspected of being cowardly and unprincipled by a Gervinus by an Augsburg paper! The immaculate one! The Charlotte Corday of Cologne!

Please notice that not one Paris newspaper, not the Moniteur, not the Débats and not the National, speaks of “cannibals”, “plunderers”, “robbers” and “murderers”. There is only one newspaper, the paper of Thiers; the man whose immorality was condemned by Jacobus Venedey in the Kölnische Zeitung, the man against whom the Cologne paper screamed at the top of its voice:

They are not going to get it,
Our own free German Rhine,
[Nikolaus Becker, “Der deutsche Rhein"]

it is Thiers’ paper, the Constitutionnel from which the Belgian Indépendance and Rhenish science embodied in Dumont, Brüggemann and Wolfers derive their knowledge!

Examine now in a critical vein these scandalous anecdotes with which the Kölnische Zeitung brands the oppressed, the same newspaper which at the outbreak of fighting declared its complete ignorance of the nature of the struggle, which during the battle declared it to be an “important social revolution”, and which after the battle calls it a boxing match between the police and the robbers.

They looted But what did they loot? Weapons, ammunition, surgical dressings and the most necessary items of food. The robbers wrote on the window shutters: “Mort aux voleurs!” Death to the robbers!

They “murdered like cannibals”. The cannibals did not willingly permit the national guardsmen, who advanced upon the barricades behind the regular troops, to smash the skulls of their wounded, to shoot their overwhelmed comrades and to stab their women. The cannibals who exterminated during a war of extermination as a French bourgeois newspaper writes! They set on fire? Yet the sole incendiary torch which they hurled against the legitimate incendiary rockets of Cavaignac in the 8th arrondissement was a poetic, imaginary torch, as the Moniteur confirms.

“Some,” says Wolfers, “held up high the programme of Barbčs, Blanqui and Sobrier, the others hailed Napoleon and Henry V.”

The chaste Cologne newspaper, which has not been pregnant either with the descendants of Napoleon or with Blanqui, declared already on the second day of the insurrection that the “fight was waged in the name of the red republic”. What then is she babbling about pretenders? She is, however, as has already been intimated, an obdurate crypto-republican, a female Robespierre that scents pretenders everywhere, and these pretenders cause her morality to shudder.

“Almost all of them had money and several of them had considerable sums.”

There were from 30,000 to 40,000 workers and “almost all of them had money” during this time of want and business slump! The money was probably so scarce because the workers had hidden it!

The Paris Moniteur has published with the greatest conscientiousness all cases where money was found on the insurgents. There were at most twenty such cases. Different newspapers and correspondents have repeated these cases and cited different sums. The Kölnische Zeitung, with its tried critical tact, which takes all these different reports of the twenty cases for so many different cases and then still adds all the cases circulated by rumours, might at best perhaps arrive at 200 cases. And that entitles the paper to state that almost all the 30,000 to 40,000 workers had money! All that has been established is that legitimist, Bonapartist and perhaps Philippist emissaries provided with money mingled or intended to mingle with the barricade fighters. M. Payer, that most conservative member of the National Assembly, who spent 12 hours as a prisoner among the insurgents, declares:

Most of them were workers who had been driven to desperation by four months of misery. They said: Better to die of a bullet than of starvation!”

Many, very many of the dead,” affirms Wolfers, “bore the ominous mark with which society stigmatises crime.”

That is one of the base lies, shameful calumnies and infamies which Lamennais, the foe of the insurgents and the man of the National, has stigmatised in his Peuple constituant — and which the always chivalrous legitimist Larochejaquelain has stigmatised in the National Assembly. The entire lie is based upon the quite unconfirmed assertion of one press-agency, which has not been corroborated by the Moniteur, that eleven corpses had been discovered which were marked with the letters T. F [Convict brand — travaux forcés: forced labour] And in which revolution have the eleven corpses not been found? And which revolution will not brand with these letters eleven times 100?

Let us note that the newspapers, proclamations and illuminations of the victors testify that they starved out, drove to desperation, bayoneted, fusilladed, buried alive and deported the vanquished and desecrated their corpses. And against the conquered there are only anecdotes, and only anecdotes that are related by the Constitutionnel reprinted by the Indépendance and translated into German by the Kölnische. There is no greater insult to truth than to try to prove it by an anecdote, says — Hegel. [Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes. VI. “Der Geist”, § Die Bildung und ihr Reich der Wirklichkeit]

The women are sitting in front of the houses of Paris and scraping lint for dressings for the wounded, even the wounded insurgents. The editors of the Kölnische Zeitung pour sulphuric acid into their wounds.

They have denounced us to the bourgeois police. We recommend in return that the workers, the “unfortunate ones”, let themselves “be enlightened as to their real rights and duties and initiated into the science which leads to order and which forms the true citizen”, by the immortal triumvirate Dumont-Brüggemann-Wolfers.