F O U R
No German newspaper, before or since, has ever had the same power and influence or been able to electrify the proletarian masses as effectively as the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. And that it owed above all to Marx.
F. Engels, 'Marx and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung', MESW 11 305.
I . F R O M B R U S S E L S T O P A R I S
T h e revolutionary movement that swept over Europe in 1848-49 began in Switzerland in November 1847 when the unwillingness of Austria to intervene in support of reactionary cantons against the radicals severely diminished her prestige in Italy: shortly afterwards, the Bourbon King Ferdinand of Naples was overthrown and republics proclaimed in Naples, Turin and Florence. In France, Louis Philippe continued complacently to believe that the Parisians never revolted in winter, but when his troops fired on unarmed demonstrators a rash of barricades sprang up; the King was exiled and a provisional republican government formed.
N e w s of the revolution in Paris reached Brussels on 26 February. At first the Belgian Government acted very cautiously and the King even offered to abdicate. But once its forces had been concentrated, the Government's policy became tougher. A mild demonstration on 28 February was broken up, Wilhelm Wolff was arrested and a list of foreigners to be deported was drawn up, with Marx's name at the top. The Democratic Association had already demanded that the Government arm the workers, and sent a congratulatory Address to the provisional French Government.
'Iwo weeks earlier Marx had inherited 6000 francs from his mother (probably as much as his total income for the three previous years) and the police suspected (there was no evidence) that he was using it to finance the revolutionary movement. They even went as far as asking the authorities in Trier to question Marx's mother, who protested that the only reason she had for sending the money at that time was that 'her son had long been asking her for money for his family and this was an advance on his inheritance'.1 On 3 March Marx received an order, signed by the King, to leave Belgium within twenty-four hours. The same day he received from Paris a reply to his request for the cancellation of the previous expulsion order:
Brave and loyal Marx,
The soil of the French Republic is a place of refuge for all friends of freedom. Tyranny has banished you, free France opens her doors to you and all those who fight for the holy cause, the fraternal cause of all peoples. Every officer of the French Government must interpret his mission in this sense. Salut et Fratemite.
Member of the Provisional Government.
Yet Marx was not left to depart in peace. The same evening the Central Committee of the Communist League met in the Bois Sauvage guest house where Marx had moved a week earlier on receipt of his inheritance, and decided to transfer the seat of the Central Committee to Paris and to give Marx discretionary powers over all the League's affairs. At one o'clock in the morning the over-zealous local police commissioner broke into the guest house and arrested Marx. A week later in a letter of protest to the Paris paper La Reforme, he described the situation: I was occupied in preparing my departure when a police commissioner, accompanied by ten civil guards, penetrated into my home, searched the whole house and finally arrested me on the pretext of my having no papers. Leaving aside the very correct papers that Monsieur Duch-atel gave me on my expulsion from France, I had in my hands the deportation pass that Belgium had issued to me only several hours before....
Immediately after my arrest, my wife had herself gone to M. Jottrand, President of the Belgian Democratic Association, to get him to take the necessary steps. On returning home, she found a policeman in front of the door who told her, with exquisite politeness, that if she wanted to talk to Monsieur Marx, she had only to follow him. My wife eagerly accepted the offer. She was taken to the police station and the commissioner told her at first that Monsieur Marx was not there; he brusquely asked her who she was, what she was doing at Monsieur Jottrand's house and whether she had any papers with her... . On the pretext of vagabondage my wife was taken to the prison of the Town Hall and locked in a dark room with lost women.4 At eleven o'clock in the morning she was taken, in full daylight and with a whole escort of policemen, to the magistrate's office. For two hours she was put in a cell in spite of the most forceful protests that came from all quarters.
She stayed there exposed to the rigours of the weather and the shameful propositions of the warders. At length she appeared before the magistrate who was astonished that the police had not carried their attentions to the extent of arresting the small children too. The interrogation could only be a farce since the only crime of my wife consisted in the fact that, although she belonged to the Prussian aristocracy, she shared the democratic opinions of her husband. I will not enter into all the details of this revolting affair. I will only say that, on our release, the 24 hours had just expired and we had to leave without even being able to take away our most indispensable belongings.
This whole affair caused widespread protests in Brussels which resulted in questions being asked in the Chamber of Deputies and the dismissal of the police commissioner concerned. On her release Jenny Marx sold what she could, left her silver plate and best linen in the charge of a friend, and the whole family was conducted, under police escort, to the frontier. Travelling was difficult since in Belgium there were large-scale troop movements while in France portions of the track had been torn up by those who had been put out of business by the railway. The Marx family eventually reached Paris the following day after a miserably cold journey.
In the city, charred ruins and the debris of recent barricades were still evident. The tricolour was everywhere, accompanied by the red flag. Marx settled his family in the Boulevard Beaumarchais, near the Place de la Bastille, and urged Engels (who had remained behind in Brussels) to collect his old debts and use them to bring his silver and other possessions over the frontier as far as Valenciennes. Revolutionary enthusiasm was still strong in Paris, and Marx took an active part in the meetings of the Society of the Rights of Man, one of the largest of the political clubs in existence in Paris in early 1848. The club had been sponsored by Ledru-Rollin and Flocon, and Marx joined it the same day he arrived in the city. Later he is known to have spoken in favour of deferring the elections to the National Assembly and for the easier recruitment of working men into the National Guard.6 Marx's main activities, however, were naturally among the expatriate Germans, many of whom were quite carried away by revolutionary enthusiasm. Before Marx's arrival the German Democratic Association had decided - as had the other main emigre groups - to form a German Legion. Recruits soon numbered several thousand and exercises were held on the Champ de Mars throughout March. The Provisional Government, by no means unwilling to see the departure of so many possible trouble-makers, placed barracks at the disposal of the Legion and granted them fifty centimes a day per man for the march to the frontier. Following the tradition of 1789, the leaders of the Legion - Bornstedt, who was a member of the Communist League, and Herwegh, the poet - believed that a revolutionary war was inevitable after a successful revolution and this time proposed themselves to contribute the vanguard of liberating forces. Marx was utterly opposed to these adventures. Sebastian Seiler, a member of the Communist League, later wrote:
The socialists and Communists declared themselves decidedly against any armed imposition of a German Republic from without. They held public sessions in the Rue St Denis attended by some of those who later became volunteers. In one of these sessions Marx developed in a long speech the theme that the February revolution should be viewed only as the superficial beginning of the European movement. In a short time here in Paris the open struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie would break out, as did happen, in fact, in June. The victory or defeat of revolutionary Europe would depend on this struggle.7
In order to give their opposition strength, Marx and his friends organised a meeting based on the four Parisian sections of the Communist League8
and founded a German Workers' Club (under the presidency first of Heinrich Bauer and then of Moses Hess) which by the end of March had 400 members - mainly drawn from tailors and bootmakers. It was also possible to reconstitute the Central Committee of the Communist League: the Fraternal Democrats in London had sent to Paris a deputation, including Harney and Jones, with an Address to the Provisional Government. Schapper and Moll were sent by the London German Workers' Association. At a meeting on 10 March Marx was elected President, Schapper Secretary, and Moll, Bauer, Engels, Wolff and Wallau committee members. Marx also enjoyed good relations with Ledru-Rollin and Flocon, both members of the Provisional Government. Flocon offered money to start a German-language newspaper, but Marx refused - as he wished to preserve his independence.
On 19 March news reached Paris which changed the situation radically: a week earlier Metternich had been driven out of Vienna and the Emperor was forced to grant the demands of the insurgents; and on the twentieth news came of revolution in Berlin. The Legion made immediate preparations for departure and marched out of Paris - appropriately on 1 April: at its first encounter with government troops after crossing the Rhine it was virtually annihilated. Marx and his followers also decided to return to Germany, but in a less spectacular manner. They, too, benefited from the Provisional Government's subsidy, and most of the members of the Communist League left for various towns in Germany (either singly or in small groups) with the intention of establishing a national network.
They carried with them two propaganda documents: one was the Communist Manifesto of which the first 1000 copies had just arrived from London; the other was a flysheet listing seventeen points elaborated by Marx and Engels in the last half of March and entitled The Demands of the Communist Party in Germany. Marx himself paid for the printing of the Demands which were an attempt to adapt the proposals of the Communist Manifesto to Germany. Only four of the ten points of the Manifesto were included: a state bank, nationalisation of transport, progressive income tax and free education. The right of inheritance was to be limited rather than abolished, and there was no proposal for nationalising land - but only the estates of the feudal princes.9 The Demands were a plan of action for a bourgeois (and not socialist) revolution; they were designed to appeal to the petty bourgeoisie and peasants as well as to the workers, and were very similar to programmes proposed by radical republicans.
II. P O L I T I C S I N C O L O G N E
Marx himself, armed with a passport valid for one year only, left Paris at the beginning of April and travelled to Mainz. He was accompanied by his family, Engels and Ernst Dronke (a young radical writer who had recently been brought into the Communist League). They stopped two days in Mainz where the Workers' Educational Association had shortly before issued an appeal for the organisation and unification of workers'
unions throughout Germany. Marx arrived in Cologne on 10 April, and settled in the north of the city. About three months later he was followed by Jenny and the children who had been waiting in Trier until he obtained a residence permit. They all moved into lodgings situated in the narrow streets of the Old City," almost next door to the future offices of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.
Cologne was an obvious base: it was the third biggest town in Prussia with nearly 100,000 inhabitants and was situated in the most industrialised region of Germany; Marx had many old contacts there and the Rhineland laws were known to be more liberal than those of any other German state. There was also a group of the Communist League there which in mid-1847 met twice weekly for singing, discussion and propaganda though by the time of Marx's arrival in Cologne, Wolff reported it to be 'vegetating and disorganised'. Its leading members had been Andreas Gottschalk, gifted son of a Jewish butcher who practised as a doctor among the poor of Cologne, and August Willich and Friedrich Anneke, both ex-Prussian officers. Cologne had also been the first city to witness mass action by the workers. On 3 March, two weeks before the outbreak of the revolution in Berlin, a crowd of several thousand assembled on the main square and invaded the session of the Town Council where Gottschalk and Willich presented their demands: universal suffrage, freedom of the Press and association, a people's militia, and state responsibility for work and education. The army was called in and, after some casualties, Gottschalk, Willich and Anneke were all arrested - to be released three weeks later after the successful revolution in Berlin. Four days before Marx's arrival, Gottschalk had founded a Workers' Association (which he viewed as an extension of the Communist League), recruiting 8000 members in a few months. The current business was transacted in a Committee of fifty elected members. Gottschalk was immensely popular with the Cologne workers, more than a quarter of whom were unemployed. The Association, organised in sections according to the different professions, persuaded the municipality to initiate a public works programme and negotiated with employers on wages and hours. It is, of course, important to remember that factory workers were still only a small proportion of Cologne's working population: the number of artisans and traders was much greater. Thus Marx entered a situation in Cologne in which the working-class movement was already well under way, and there were suggestions that he would do better to go on to Berlin or even run as a parliamentary candidate from Trier.
Differences between Marx and Gottschalk were inevitable. Gottschalk was a close friend of Moses Hess and a thoroughly 'true' socialist in his outlook, taking a conciliatory attitude to religion and rejecting notions of class struggle; he also supported a federalist solution to the problem of German unification. Soon after his arrival Marx attacked Gottschalk's organisation of the Workers' Association, no doubt because he considered its activities too limited to purely economic demands. But the immediate quarrel between Marx and Gottschalk was over tactics: whether or not to participate in the elections (at the beginning of May) to the Prussian Assembly and the National Parliament at Frankfurt. Although Gottschalk's immediate demands were moderate (he thought that the workers should agitate on the basis of 'monarchy with a Chartist base') he could not approve of participation in elections based on an indirect voting system, which in some states came near to disenfranchising the workers completely; he also thought that elections could only be successful when the working-class movement had developed considerably further, and wished to dissuade the workers from taking part in a struggle for a bourgeois republic in which the fruits of victory would not go to them.
Marx strongly criticised this isolation of the workers from the political process, and himself helped to found and preside over a Democratic Society in Cologne which successfully sponsored Franz Raveau as candidate for the Frankfurt Parliament. There was a further open clash between