Skip to main content Accessibility help

Heute Deutschland! Marx as Provincial Politician

  • David Felix


Fully trained in the appropriate skills, Karl Marx, then in Brussels, went out to meet the revolutions sweeping Europe during 1848. He had already established himself as a genial thinker, inspiring or, if the circumstances required it, annihilating propagandist, and masterly leader. From London the Central Committee of the Communist League, recognizing Marx's quality and separated from the great events by the English Channel, entrusted him with the command of the organization. Up to then the bookman and journalist Marx had been simply and unofficially the league's chief ideologist. As leader Marx began badly. In his revolutionary optimism he lost himself in a fantasy of the great French Revolution repeating itself, tried to make a Belgian revolution in its image, and got himself arrested and expelled. In Paris at his next revolutionary station, however, he oriented himself immediately, and during the month he spent there acted with economic effectiveness. He made no mistakes in Paris. On the day of his arrival Marx spoke at a meeting of the revived Society of the Rights of Man, which he had joined: “I am a revolutionary. I want to march in the shadow of the great Robespierre.” This was sentimentality and diplomacy. He was not interested in France's revolution en soi. Enlisting a number of Germans he had found there, he proceeded to make use of it as a base for his revolution.



Hide All

1. Quoted, Bernstein, Samuel, “Marx in Paris, 1848: A Neglected Chapter,” Science and Society 3 (Summer 1939): 348.

2. Forderungen der kommunistischen Partei in Deutschland,” Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Werke, 43 vols. ([East] Berlin, 19561968), 5: 35; Marx, and Engels, , Collected Works (hereafter Works), 18 vols, to date (New York, 1975– ), 7: 37. Both editions are based on a Russian edition published by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the U.S.S.R.

3. Hammen, Oscar J., The Red' 48ers (New York, 1969) is a detailed study of Marx's activities during this period and invaluable to any scholar investigating it. The density of detail provided me with an almost daily awareness of events even when I did not need to refer to them explicitly. The book, however, did not always cite its sources, while the Marx-Engels editions, with their own detailed notes, and other republications of original sources, some appearing after the Hammen work, permitted me to develop an independent evaluation of the facts and issues. This was set in the frame of the whole of Marx's life, which I see as that of a consummate political leader in my Marx as Politician (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983).

4. According to a statement by a member of the Communist League, quoted in Blumenberg, Werner, “Zur Geschichte des Bundes der Kommunisten; Die Aussagen des Peter Gerhard Röser,” International Review of Social History 9 (1964): 8990. Röser was not a league member at the time Marx made the decision to dissolve it, and his statement (on Dec. 30, 1853) was evidently made to get better treatment in prison, to which he had been sentenced for six years on a charge connected with communist activities. The statement, however, accords well with all the other known facts.

5. Der Bund der Kommunisten: Dokumente und Materialien, 1: 1836–1849, ed. Förder, Herwig et al. ([East] Berlin, 1970), pp. 783, 784.

6. Born, Stephan, Erinnerungen eines Achtundvierzigers (Leipzig, 1898), pp. 196–99.

7. Engels, “Marx und die NRZ” (originally published in 1884), Werke, 21: 19; Selected Works in Two Volumes (London, 19421943), 2: 32.

8. Werke, 21: 20–22; Selected Works, 2: 33–35.

9. McLellan, David, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (London, 1973), pp. 202, 221.

10. Marx was penniless when he left Cologne for the last time, and his wife had pawned her silver, ibid., p. 223. Marx later claimed to have contributed 7,000 (Prussian) thalers ($5, 250), an impossibly huge sum, to the NRZ, according to a letter of his in 1853, Werke, 28: n. 578. The advance from his mother totaled a sufficiently substantial 6,000 francs ($1,200), of which he expended a third to arm revolution-minded Belgian workers, according to Belgian records. This is detailed in a memorandum by an official of the Belgian Ministry of Justice, mentioned in Schlechte, Horst, “Karl Marx und sein Wirkungskreis in Brüssel: Dokumente aus belgischen Archiven,” Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 1 (1966): 113. Jenny Marx mentioned Marx's donation, although not the amount, in her memoir, “Kurze Umrisse eines bewegten Lebens,” in Mohr und General: Erinnerungen an Marx und Engels ([East] Berlin, 1964), p. 207.

11. Engels, , “Marx und die NRZ,” Werke, 21:19; Selected Works, 2: 32.

12. Kümhof, Herbert, Karl Marx und die “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” (Berlin, 1961), pp. 151–52.

13. Quoted in Nicolaievsky, Boris and Maenchen-Helfen, Otto, Karl Marx: Man and Fighter (London, 1936), p. 181.

14. Mehring, Franz, Karl Marx: Geschichte seines Lebens (Frankfurt, 1964; 1st ed., 1918) On p. 175 Mehring first mentions the “Workers' Association at the head of which were Moll and Schapper.…” That is true enough but suggests that Moll and Schapper or spontaneous generation created the association.

15. Quoted in Nicolaievsky and Maenchen-Helfen, Karl Marx, p. 182.

16. Schurz, Carl, The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz (New York, 1907), 1: 139–40. Schurz said he took Marx as a negative model when he entered American politics, thus the suggestion that one should avoid gratuitously making enemies. But Marx was operating on different terrain, the class struggle, where bourgeois enemies were essential to the cause.

17. Article of June 29, 1848, Werke, 5: 133, 134, 136; Works, 7: 144, 144–47, 149.

18. Issue of July 12, 1848, Werke, 5: 202; Works, 7: 212.

19. Issue of Sept. 10, 1848, Werke, 5: 394; Works, 7: 422.

20. Henderson, W. O., The Life of Friedrich Engels (London, 1970), 1: 149.

21. See Protokoll der Komiteesitzung des Kölner Arbeitervereins,” Der Bund der Kommunisten, 1: 902–4.

22. Werke, 6:12; Works, 8:19.

23. Issue of Nov. 7, 1848, Werke, 5:455; Works, 8:503.

24. Werke, 5:457; Works, 7:505–6.

25. Werke, 6:102; Works, 8:154.

26. Werke, 6:148–50; quotation, p. 150. Works, 8:213–15, 215.

27. Werke, 6:233–34; Works, 8:316–17. See Padover, Saul K., Karl Marx: An Intimate Biography (New York, 1978), p. 272. Engels and another NRZ staff member were tried and acquitted with Marx. Engels also spoke, characteristically with facility but much less power.

28. Werke, 6: 257, 245; Works, 8:339, 327.

29. There were also two other defendants, Schapper and Karl Schneider, the latter a Democrat and a lawyer by profession. Schneider had, with Marx, signed the NRZ's call to arms.

30. Werke, 6:195; Works, 8:266.

31. In an open letter in Feb., quoted in McLellan, Karl Marx, p. 217. When the German Revolution ended, and quiet had been reestablished in Cologne, Gottschalk returned—and returned to his old profession. Later in 1849 he died while caring for his working-class patients in a cholera epidemic.

32. Statement of Röser, in Blumenberg, “Zur Geschichte des Bundes des Kommunisten,” pp. 90–91. Röser did not specify a more precise date than “the spring of 1849.”

33. Werke, 6:397–423; Works, 9: 197–228.

34. Werke, 6:397; Works, 9:197.

35. Werke, 6:426; Works, 9:282.

36. The Red Edition, Werke, 6:503–19; photograph of front page with Freiligrath's poem, p. 521; Marx quotations, pp. 504, 505. Red Edition, Works, 9:451–67; photograph of front page, p. 469; Marx quotations, pp. 452, 453.

37. Werke, 27:142.

38. Minutes of the “Sitzung der Zentralbehörde vom 15. September 1850,” Werke, 8:597–601; Marx, and Engels, , The Cologne Communist Trial, ed. and trans. Livingstone, Rodney (London, 1971), pp. 250–53.

39. The legend of poverty is a product of Marx's Micawbrian improvidence; his debts were always in advance of his income. The Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow calculated that Engels gave Marx more than £7,500 over his lifetime, a huge amount for those days. Marx also earned a modest income as correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune from 1851 to 1862; Jenny and Karl Marx together inherited £1,794 between 1856 and 1864. See Blumemberg, Werner, Karl Marx in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Hamburg, 1970), pp. 109–10.

40. See chapter, “The Politics of Capital,” pp. 126–54 passim, Felix, Marx as Politician.

41. The theme of exploitation is pervasive in all three volumes of Capital. The military character of industrial management, Das Kapital, 1 (vol. 23 of the Werke): 345, 351–52; Capital, 1 (trans. Moore, Samuel and Aveling, Edward; New York, 1947 [original ed., 1887]): 315, 322–23.

42. See Marx, , Der Bürgerkrieg in Frankreich, Werke, 17: 313–62; The Civil War in France, in On the Paris Commune (Moscow, 1971), pp. 4897.

43. Letter, Marx to his daughter, Jenny Longuet, Apr. 11, 1881, Werke, 35:129.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed