Marx and Engels:REVIEWS FROM THE NEUE RHEINISCHE ZEITUNG. POLITISCH-ÖKONOMISCHE REVUE No. 4,Apr
Marx and Engels:REVIEWS FROM THE NEUE RHEINISCHE ZEITUNG. POLITISCH-ÖKONOMISCHE REVUE No. 4,Apr
Marx and Engels:REVIEWS FROM THE NEUE RHEINISCHE ZEITUNG. POLITISCH-ÖKONOMISCHE REVUE No. 4,Apr
Source: The Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. General Works 1844-1895. Volume 10.Page numbers are original.
― 301 ―
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
[REVIEWS FROM THE NEUE RHEINISCHE ZEITUNG. POLITISCH-ÖKONOMISCHE REVUE No. 4,April 1850]
On the reviews written by Marx and Engels for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue see Note 182. These reviews have never been published in English except for excerpts from the review of the pamphlets written by Chenu and de la Hodde, which appeared in: Karl Marx, On Revolution, edited and translated by S.K. Padover, New York, 1971. Excerpts from the review of Émile Girardin's book were quoted in an article by M. Beer, “Further Selections from the Literary Remains of Karl Marx”, in Labour Monthly, London, 1923, Vol. 5, No. 2. — p. 301 †231
LATTER-DAY PAMPHLETS, EDITED
BY THOMAS CARLYLE —
No. I, THE PRESENT TIME, No. II, MODEL PRISONS —
LONDON, 1850 In their review of Thomas Carlyle's pamphlets, The Present Time and Model Prisons, the authors continue their critical analysis of Carlyle's sociological and historical conception which Marx and, particularly, Engels (see present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 444-68) began in their earlier works. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, they criticised “feudal socialism” (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 507-08), of which Carlyle was an exponent. Their criticism became more intense as Carlyle moved to the right after the revolution of 1848-49. During the lifetime of Marx and Engels the review was reprinted unsigned in Der Volksstaat, Leipzig, 1871, Nos. 93 and 94, November 18 and 22. In quotations from Carlyle's pamphlets, the authors of the review do not always follow Carlyle's italics; they silently omit some paragraphs, change punctuation and introduce their own italics. In the given publication, in places where part of the text was left out, the editors have introduced marks of omission. — p. 301 †232
Thomas Carlyle is the only English writer on whom German literature has exercised a direct and particularly significant influence. Courtesy at the very least demands that a German should not let his writings pass without notice.
The latest publication by Guizot (No. 2 of the N. Rh. Z. See this volume, pp. 251-56. — Ed. †a) has shown us that the intellectual powers of the bourgeoisie are in a process of decline. In the present two pamphlets by Carlyle we witness the decline of literary genius in historical struggles which have reached a point of crisis and against which it attempts to assert its unrecognised, direct, prophetic inspirations.
To Thomas Carlyle belongs the credit of having taken the literary field against the bourgeoisie at a time when its views, tastes and ideas held the whole of official English literature totally in thrall, and in a manner which is at times even revolutionary. For example, in his history of the French Revolution, in his apology for Cromwell, in the pamphlet on Chartism and in Past and Present. Th. Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History, Vols. 1-3, London, 1837; Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, Vols. 1-2, London, 1845; Chartism, London, 1840; Past and Present, London, 1843. — Ed. †b But in all these writings the critique of the present is closely bound up with a strangely unhistorical apotheosis of the Middle Ages, which is a frequent characteristic of other English revolutionaries too, for instance Cobbett and a section of the Chartists. Whilst he at least admires in the past the classical periods of a specific stage of society, the present drives him to despair and he shudders at the thought of
― 302 ―
the future. Where he recognises the revolution, or indeed apotheosises it, in his eyes it becomes concentrated in a single individual, a Cromwell or a Danton. He pays them the same hero-worship that he preached in his Lectures on Heroes and Hero-Worship Th. Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, London, 1841. — Ed. †a as the only refuge from a present pregnant with despair, as a new religion.
Carlyle's style is at one with his ideas. It is a direct violent reaction against the modern bourgeois English Pecksniffery, whose enervated affectedness, circumspect verbosity and vague, sentimentally moral tediousness has spread from the original inventors, the educated Cockneys, to the whole of English literature. In comparison, Carlyle treated the English language as though it were completely raw material which he had to cast utterly afresh. Obsolete expressions and words were sought out again and new ones invented, in the German manner and especially in the manner of Jean Paul. The new style was often in bad taste and hugely pretentious, but frequently brilliant and always original. In this respect too the Latter-Day Pamphlets represent a remarkable step backwards.
It is, incidentally, characteristic that out of the whole of German literature the mind that had the greatest influence on Carlyle was not Hegel but the literary apothecary Jean Paul.
In the cult of genius, which Carlyle shares with Strauss, the genius has got lost in the present pamphlets. The cult remains.
The Present Time begins with the statement that the present is the child of the past and the parent of the future, but quite apart from that is a new era.
The first manifestation of this new era is a reforming Pope. Gospel in hand, Pius IX set out to promulgate from the Vatican “the Law of Veracity” to Christendom.
“More than three hundred years ago, the throne of St. Peter received peremptory judicial notice [...] authentic order, registered in Heaven's chancery and since legible in the hearts of all brave men, to take itself away, — to begone, and let us have no more to do with it and its delusions and impious deliriums; — and it has been sitting every day since [...] at its own peril [...], and will have to pay exact damages yet for every day it has so sat. Law of veracity? What this Popedom had to do by the law of veracity, was to give up its own foul galvanic life, an offence to gods and men; honestly to die; and get itself buried! Far from this was the thing the poor Pope undertook [...]; — and yet on the whole it was essentially this too. Reforming Pope? [...] Turgot and Necker were nothing to this. God is great; and when a scandal is to end, brings some devoted man to take charge of it in hope, not in despair!” (P. 3.)
With his manifestos of reform the Pope had aroused questions,
― 303 ―
“mothers of the whirlwinds, conflagrations, earthquakes.... Questions which all official men wished, and mostly hoped, to postpone till Doomsday. Doomsday itself had come; that was the terrible truth”. (P. 4.)
The law of veracity was proclaimed. The Sicilians
“were the first people that set about applying this new [...] rule sanctioned by the holy Father; [...] We do not by the law of veracity belong to Naples and these Neapolitan Officials; we will, by favour of Heaven and the Pope, be free of these”.
Hence the Sicilian Revolution.
The French people, which considers itself as a kind of “Messiah people”, as “the chosen soldiers of liberty”, feared that the poor, despised Sicilians might take this trade The German word Industriezweig is used in the original and the corresponding English word “trade” is given in parenthesis. — Ed. †a out of their hands — February Revolution. [Pp. 4-5.]
“As if by sympathetic subterranean electricities, all Europe exploded, boundless, uncontrollable; and we had the year 1848, one of the most singular, disastrous, amazing, and on the whole humiliating years the European world ever saw.... Kings everywhere, and reigning persons, stared in sudden horror, the voice of the whole world bellowing in their ear, 'Begone, ye imbecile hypocrites, histrios not heroes! Off with you, off!' — and, what was peculiar and heard of in this year for the first time, the Kings all made haste to go, as if exclaiming, 'We are poor histrios, we sure enough; — do you need heroes? Don't kill us; we couldn't help it!' — Not one of them turned round, and stood upon his Kingship, as upon a right he could afford to die for, or to risk his skin upon.... That, I repeat, is the alarming peculiarity at present. Democracy, on this new occasion, finds all Kings conscious that they are but Playactors. [...] They fled precipitately, some of them with what we may call an exquisite ignominy, — in terror of the treadmill or worse. And everywhere the people, or the populace, take their own government upon themselves; and open 'kinglessness', The authors of the review use the word Königslosigkeit and give the English equivalent in parenthesis. — Ed. †b what we call anarchy, — how happy if it be anarchy plus a street-constable! — is everywhere the order of the day. Such was the history, from Baltic to Mediterranean, in Italy, France, Prussia, Austria, from end to end of Europe, in those March days of 1848. [...] And so, then, there remained no King in Europe; no King except the Public Haranguer, haranguing on barrelhead, in leading article; or assembling with his like in the National Parliament. And for about four months all France, and to a great degree all Europe, rough-ridden by every species of delirium [...] was a weltering mob, presided over by M. de Lamartine at the Hôtel-de-Ville [....] A sorrowful spectacle to men of reflection, during the time he lasted, that poor M. de Lamartine; with nothing in him but melodious wind and soft sowder [....] Sad enough: the most eloquent latest impersonation of Chaos-come-again; able to talk for itself, and declare persuasively that it is Cosmos! However, you have but to wait a little, in such cases; all balloons [...] must give up their gas in the pressure of things, and are collapsed in a repulsively flabby manner before long.” (Pp. 6-8.)
Who was it that kindled this universal revolution, the fuel for which was of course at hand?
― 304 ―
“Students, young men of letters, advocates, newspaper writers, hot inexperienced enthusiasts, or fierce and justly bankrupt desperadoes [...]. Never till now did young men, and almost children, take such a command in human affairs. A changed time since the word Senior (Seigneur, or Elder) was first devised to signify lord or superior; — as in all languages of men we find it.... Looking more closely [...] you will find that the old has ceased to be venerable, and has begun to be contemptible; a foolish boy still, a boy without the graces, generosities and opulent strength of young boys [...]. This mad state of matters will of course before long allay itself, as it has everywhere begun to do; the ordinary necessities of men's daily existence cannot comport with it, and these, whatever else is cast aside, will go their way. Some remounting [...] of the old machine, under new colours and altered forms, will probably ensue soon in most countries: the old histrionic Kings will be admitted back under conditions, under Constitutions, with national Parliaments, or the like fashionable adjuncts; and everywhere the old daily life will try to begin again. But there is now no hope that such arrangements can be permanent [...]. In such baleful oscillation, afloat as amid raging bottomless eddies and conflicting sea-currents, not steadfast as on fixed foundations, must European Society continue swaying; now disastrously tumbling, then painfully readjusting itself, at ever shorter intervals, — till once the new rock-basis does come to light, and the weltering deluges of mutiny, and of need to mutiny, abate again!” (Pp. 8-10.)
So much for history, which even in this form offers the old world little comfort. Now for the moral.
“For universal Democracy, whatever we may think of it, is the inevitable fact of the days in which we live.” (P. 10.)
What is democracy? It must have a meaning, or it would not exist. It is all a matter, then, of finding the true meaning of democracy. If we succeed in this, we can deal with it; if not, we are lost. The February Revolution was “a universal Bankruptcy of Imposture; that may be the brief definition of it”. (P. 14.) Counterfeit and falsities, “shams”, “delusions”, “phantasms”, Here and below the words “shams”, “delusions”, and “phantasms” are given in English in the original. — Ed. †a instead of real relationships and things, names that have lost all meaning, in a word, lying instead of truth has held sway in modern times. Individual and social divorce from these falsities and phantoms, that is the task of reform, and the necessity of putting an end to all sham and deceit is not to be gainsaid.
“Yet strange to many a man it may seem; and to many a solid Englishman, wholesomely digesting his pudding among what are called the cultivated classes, it seems strange exceedingly; a mad ignorant notion, quite heterodox, and big with mere ruin. He has been used to decent forms long since fallen empty of meaning, to plausible modes, solemnities grown ceremonial, — what you in your iconoclast humour call shams, — all his life long; never heard that there was any harm in them, that there was any getting-on without them. Did not cotton spin itself, beef grow, and groceries
― 305 ―
and spiceries come in from the East and the West, quite comfortably by the side of shams?” (P. 15.)
Now will democracy accomplish this necessary reform, this liberation from shams?
“Democracy, when it is organised by means of universal suffrage will itself accomplish the salutary universal change from Delusive to Real, from false to true, and make a new blessed world by and by?” (P. 17.)
Carlyle denies this. Indeed, he sees in general in democracy and in universal suffrage only a contagion of all nations by the superstitious English belief in the infallibility of parliamentary government. The crew of the ship that had lost its course round Cape Horn and, instead of keeping watch on wind and weather and using the sextant, voted on the course to be set, declaring the decision of the majority to be infallible — that is the universal suffrage that lays claim to steering the state. As for every individual, so for society it is just a matter of discovering the true regulations of the Universe, the everlasting laws of nature relative to the task in hand at each moment, and acting accordingly. Whoever reveals these eternal laws to us, him shall we follow, “were it the Russian Autocrat or Chartist Parliament, the Archbishop of Canterbury or Grand Lama”. But how do we discover these eternal, divine precepts? At all events universal suffrage, which gives each man a ballot paper and counts heads, is the worst method of doing so. The Universe is of a very exclusive nature and has ever disclosed its secrets but to a few elect, a small minority of wise and noble-minded alone. That is why no nation was ever able to exist on the basis of democracy. The Greeks and Romans? We all know today that theirs were no democracies, that slavery was the basis of their states. It is quite superfluous to speak of the various French Republics. And the Model Republic of North America? It cannot yet even be said of the Americans that they form a nation or a state. The American population lives without a government; what is there constituted is anarchy plus a street-constable. What makes this condition possible is the great area of yet unbroken land and the respect brought over from England for the constable's baton. As the population grows, that too comes to an end.
“What great human soul, what great thought, what great noble thing that one could worship, or loyally admire, has America yet produced?” (P. 25.)
It has doubled its population every twenty years — voilá tout.
On this side of the Atlantic and on that, democracy is thus for ever impossible. The Universe itself is a monarchy and hierarchy. No nation in which the divine everlasting duty of directing and
― 306 ―
controlling the ignorant is not entrusted to the Noblest, with his select series of Nobler Ones, has the Kingdom of God, or corresponds to the eternal laws of nature.
Now we are also apprised of the secret, the origin and the necessity of modern democracy. It consists simply in the fact that the sham-noble The authors use the expression falsche Edle and give the English equivalent in parenthesis. — Ed. †a has been raised up and consecrated by tradition or newly invented delusions.
And who is to discover the true precious stone with all its setting of smaller human jewels and pearls? Certainly not universal suffrage, for only the noble can discern the noble. And so Carlyle affirms that England still possesses many such nobles and “kings”, and on p. 38 he summons them to him.
We see the “noble” Carlyle proceed from a thoroughly pantheistic mode of thinking. The whole process of history is determined not by the development of the living masses themselves, naturally dependent on specific but in turn historically created changing conditions, it is determined by an eternal law of nature, unalterable for all time, from which it departs today and to which it returns tomorrow, and on the correct apprehension of which everything depends. This correct apprehension of the eternal law of nature is the eternal truth, everything else is false. With this mode of thinking, the real class conflicts, for all their variety at various periods, are completely resolved into the one great and eternal conflict, between those who have fathomed the eternal law of nature and act in keeping with it, the wise and the noble, and those who misunderstand it, distort it and work against it, the fools and the rogues. The historically produced distinction between classes thus becomes a natural distinction which itself must be acknowledged and revered as a part of the eternal law of nature, by bowing to nature's noble and wise: the cult of genius. The whole conception of the process of historical development is reduced to the shallow triviality of the lore of the Illuminati and the Freemasons of the previous century, to the simple morality we find in the Magic Flute The Freemasons (called more fully Free and Accepted Masons) — members of a religious and ethical movement that arose in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century and spread to other European countries and America. Freemasons condemned the feudal system and the Established Church and sought to set up a world-wide new religion. The Order of Freemasons had secret lodges in various countries, and a mystical ritual copied from the ritual of medieval masons' guilds (hence the name). Members of the Order set themselves the task of ethically purifying and improving people in order to renovate the world. Freemasons believed in eternal and immutable laws of nature known only to the wisest leaders of the Order who enjoyed unquestionable authority and brought up rank-and-file members in obedience to these laws and in the spirit of fraternity, justice and enlightenment. The Illuminati (from the Latin illuminatus) — members of a secret society founded in Bavaria in 1776, a variety of Freemasonry. The society consisted of opposition elements from the bourgeoisie and nobility, who were dissatisfied with princely despotism. In 1785 the society was banned by the Bavarian authorities. Similar societies also existed in Spain and France. Mozart was a Freemason and his opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) (text by Emmanuel Schikaneder, first staged in 1791), embodies Masonic ideals in the form of a naive fairy-tale. — p. 306 †233 and to an infinitely depraved and trivialised form of Saint-Simonism. And there of course we have the old question of who then should in fact rule, which is discussed at great length and with self-important shallowness and is finally answered to the effect that the noble, wise and knowledgeable should rule, which leads quite naturally to the conclusion that there would have to be a large amount, a very large amount of governing, and
― 307 ―
there could never be too much governing, for after all governing is the constant revelation and assertion of the law of nature vis-á-vis the masses. But how are the noble and the wise to be discovered? They are not revealed by any celestial miracle; they have to be looked for. And here the historical class distinctions which have been made into purely natural distinctions once more rear their heads. The noble man is noble because he is wise and knowledgeable. He will therefore have to be sought among the classes which have the monopoly of education — among the privileged classes, and it will be the same classes who will have to seek him out in their midst and to judge his claims to the rank of a noble and wise man. In so doing the privileged classes automatically become, if not precisely the noble and wise class, at least the “articulate” class; the oppressed classes are of course the “silent, inarticulate” and class rule is thereby sanctioned anew. All this highly indignant bluster turns out to be a thinly disguised acceptance of existing class rule whose sole grumble and complaint is that the bourgeoisie does not assign a position at the top of society to its unrecognised geniuses, and for highly practical reasons does not accede to the starry-eyed drivellings of these gentlemen. Carlyle incidentally provides us with striking examples of the way in which here too pompous cant becomes its opposite and the noble, knowledgeable and wise man is transformed in practice into a base, ignorant and foolish man.
Since for him everything depends on strong government, he turns upon the cry for liberation and emancipation with extreme indignation:
“Let us all be free of one another [...]. Free without bond or connexion except that of cash payment; fair day's wages for the fair day's work; determined by voluntary contract, and law of supply and demand: this is thought to be the true solution of all difficulties and injustices that have occurred between man and man. To rectify the relation that exists between two men, is there no method, then, but that of ending it?” (P. 29.)
This complete dissolution of all bonds, all relationships between men naturally reaches its climax in anarchy, the law of lawlessness, the condition in which the bond of bonds, the government, is completely cut to pieces. And this is what people in England and on the Continent alike are striving towards, yes, even in “staid Germany”.
Carlyle blusters on like this for several pages, lumping together Red Republic, fraternité, Louis Blanc, etc., in a most disconcerting way with free trade, The words “free trade” are in English in the original. — Ed. †a the abolition of the duty on corn, etc. (Cf. pp. 29-42.) The destruction of the remnants of feudalism which are still preserved by tradition, the reduction of the state to what is
― 308 ―
unavoidably necessary and absolutely cheapest, the complete realisation of free competition by the bourgeoisie, are thus mixed up together and identified by Carlyle with the elimination of these same bourgeois relations, with the abolition of the conflict between capital and wage labour, with the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat. Brilliant return to the “Night of the Absolute” in which all cats are grey! Deep knowledge of the “knowledgeable man” who does not know the first thing about what is happening around him! Strange perspicacity which believes that with the abolition of feudalism or free competition, all relations between men are abolished! Unfathomable fathoming of the “eternal law of nature”, seriously believing that no more children will be born from the moment that the parents cease to go to the Mairie Town hall. — Ed. †a first to “bind” themselves in matrimony!
After this edifying example of a wisdom amounting to unmitigated ignorance, Carlyle goes on to demonstrate to us how high-principled nobility of character at once turns into undisguised baseness as soon as it descends from its heaven of sententious verbiage to the world of real relations.
“In all European countries, especially in England, one class of Captains and commanders of men, recognisable as the beginning of a new, real and not imaginary Aristocracy, has already in some measure developed itself: the Captains of Industry; — happily the class who above all [...] are wanted in this time. [...] And surely, on the other hand, there is no lack of men needing to be commanded: the sad class of brother-men whom we have described as 'Hodge's emancipated horses', reduced to roving famine, this too has in all countries developed itself and, in fatal geometrical progression, is ever more developing itself, with a rapidity which alarms everyone. On this ground [...] it may be truly said, the Organisation of Labour [...] is the universal vital Problem of the world.” (Pp. 42, 43.)
Carlyle having thus vented all his virtuous fury time and time again in the first forty pages against selfishness, free competition, the abolition of the feudal bonds between man and man, supply and demand, laissez-faire, Laissez-faire, laissez-aller — the formula of economists who advocated Free Trade and non-intervention by the state in economic relations. — p. 308 †234 cotton-spinning, cash payment, etc., etc., we now suddenly find that the main exponents of all these shams, the industrial bourgeoisie, are not merely counted among the celebrated heroes and geniuses but even comprise the most indispensable part of these heroes, that the trump card in all his attacks on bourgeois relations and ideas is the apotheosis of bourgeois individuals. It appears yet odder that Carlyle, having discovered the commanders and the commanded of labour, in other words, a certain organisation of labour, nevertheless declares this organisation to be a great problem requiring solution. But one should not be deceived. It is not
― 309 ―
a question of the organisation of those workers who have been regimented, but of the organisation of those who are unregimented and captainless, and this Carlyle has reserved for himself. At the end of his pamphlet we suddenly see him in the role of the British Prime Minister in partibus, Outside the sphere of reality. The words are part of the expression in partibus infidelium, meaning literally “in the realm of infidels”. It was added to the titles of Catholic bishops appointed to purely nominal dioceses in non-Christian countries. — Ed. †a summoning together the three million Irish and other beggars, the able-bodied lackalls, nomadic or stationary, and the general assembly of British paupers, outside the workhouse The original has the English word. — Ed. †b and inside the workhouse, The original has the English word. — Ed. †b and “haranguing” them in a speech in which he first repeats to the lackalls everything that he has previously confided to the reader and then addresses the select company as follows:
“Vagrant Lackalls and Good-for-nothings, foolish most of you, criminal many of you, miserable all; the sight of you fills me with astonishment and despair. [...] Here are some three millions of you [...]: so many of you fallen sheer over into the abysses of open Beggary; and, fearful to think, every new unit that falls is loading so much more the chain that drags the others over. On the edge of the precipice hang uncounted millions; increasing, I am told, at the rate of 1,200 a-day [...] falling, falling one after the other; and the chain is getting ever heavier [...] and who at last will stand? What to do with you?... The others that still stand have their own difficulties, I can tell you! — But you, by imperfect energy and redundant appetite, by doing too little work and drinking too much beer, you [...] have proved that you cannot do it! [...] Know that, whoever may be 'sons of freedom', you for your part are not and cannot be such. Not 'free' you, ... you palpably are fallen captive ... you are of the nature of slaves, or if you prefer the word, of nomadic [...] and vagabond servants that can find no master.... Not as glorious unfortunate sons of freedom, but as recognised captives, as unfortunate fallen brothers requiring that I should command them, and if need were, control and compel them, can there henceforth be a relation between us.... Before Heaven and Earth, and God the Maker of us all, I declare it is a scandal to see such a life kept in you, by the sweat and heart's blood of your brothers; and that, if we cannot mend it, death were preferable!... Enlist in my Irish, my Scotch and English 'Regiments of the New Era' ... ye poor wandering banditti; obey, work, suffer, abstain, as all of us have had to do.... Industrial Colonels, Workmasters, Taskmasters, Life-commanders, equitable as Rhadamanthus and inflexible as he: such [...] you do need; and such, you being once put under law as soldiers are, will be discoverable for you.... To each of you I will then say: Here is work for you; strike into it with manlike, soldierlike obedience and heartiness, according to the methods I here dictate, — wages follow for you without difficulty.... Refuse, shirk the heavy labour, disobey the rules, — I will admonish and endeavour to incite you; if in vain, I will flog you; if still in vain, I will at last shoot you.” (Pp. 46-55.)
The “New Era”, in which genius rules, is thus distinguished from the old era principally by the fact that the whip imagines it possesses genius. The genius Carlyle is distinguished from just any prison.
― 310 ―
Cerberus or poor-law beadle by his virtuous indignation and the moral consciousness of flaying the paupers The original has the English word. — Ed. †a only in order to raise them to his level. We here observe the high-principled genius in his world-redeeming anger fantastically justifying and exaggerating the infamies of the bourgeoisie. If the English bourgeoisie equated paupers The original has the English word. — Ed. †a with criminals in order to create a deterrent to pauperism and brought into being the Poor Law of 1834, See Note 75. — p. 310 †235 Carlyle accuses the paupers The original has the English word. — Ed. †a of high treason because pauperism generates pauperism. Just as previously the ruling class that had arisen in the course of history, the industrial bourgeoisie, was privy to genius simply by virtue of ruling, so now any oppressed class, the more deeply it is oppressed, the more is it excluded from genius and the more is it exposed to the raging fury of our unrecognised reformer. So it is here with the paupers. The original has the English word. — Ed. †a But his morally noble wrath reaches its highest peak with regard to those who are absolutely vile and ignoble, the “scoundrels”, i.e. criminals. He treats of these in the pamphlet on Model Prisons.
This pamphlet is distinguished from the first only by a fury much greater, yet all the cheaper for being directed against those officially expelled from established society, against people behind bars; a fury which sheds even that little shame which the ordinary bourgeois still for decency's sake display. Just as in the first pamphlet Carlyle erects a complete hierarchy of Nobles and seeks out the Noblest of the Noble, so here he arranges an equally complete hierarchy of scoundrels and villains and exerts himself in hunting down the worst of the bad, the supreme scoundrel in England, for the exquisite pleasure of hanging him. Assuming he were to catch him and hang him; then another will be our Worst and must be hanged in turn, and then another again, until the turn of the Noble and then the More Noble is reached and finally no one is left but Carlyle, the Noblest, who as persecutor of scoundrels is at once the murderer of the Noble and has murdered what is noble even in the scoundrels; the Noblest of the Noble, who is suddenly transformed into the Vilest of Scoundrels and as such must hang himself. With that, all questions concerning government, state, the organisation of labour, and the hierarchy of the Noble would be resolved and the eternal law of nature realised at last.
Written in March and April 1850
First published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue No. 4, 1850
Printed according to the journal
― 311 ―
LES CONSPIRATEURS, PAR A. CHENU,
EX-CAPITAINE DES GARDES DU CITOYEN CAUSSIDIÉRE.
LES SOCIÉTÉS SECRÉTES;
LA PRÉFECTURE DE POLICE SOUS CAUSSIDIÉRE;
LA NAISSANCE DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE EN FÉVRIER 1848,
PAR LUCIEN DE LA HODDE,
PARIS, 1850 This review, slightly abridged, was reprinted during Engels' lifetime in the theoretical organ of the German Social-Democratic Party, Die Neue Zeit, Stuttgart, 1886, 4. Jg., H. 12. While preparing the given publication, the editors checked quotations from Chenu and de la Hodde according to the 1850 edition of the pamphlets. The authors of the review may have used a different edition published in the same year, hence the different page numbers. In the text, the pages given by the review's authors are followed by those of the edition used by the editors of the present publication, which are given in square brackets. — p. 311 †236
Nothing is more to be desired than that the people who were at the head of the active party, whether before the revolution in the secret societies or the press, or afterwards in official positions, should at long last be portrayed in the stark colours of a Rembrandt, in the full flush of life. Hitherto these personalities have never been depicted as they really were, but only in their official guise, with buskins on their feet and halos around their heads. All verisimilitude is lost in these idealised, Raphaelesque pictures.
It is true that the two present publications dispense with the buskins and halos in which the “great men” of the February Revolution hitherto appeared. They penetrate the private lives of these people, they show them to us in informal attire, surrounded by all their multifarious subordinates. But they are for all that no less far removed from being a real, faithful representation of persons and events. Of their authors, the one is a self-confessed long-time mouchard Police spy. — Ed. †a of Louis Philippe, and the other a veteran conspirator by profession whose relations with the police are similarly very ambiguous and of whose powers of comprehension we have an early indication in the fact that he claims to have seen “that splendid chain of the Alps whose silver peaks dazzle the eye” between Rheinfelden and Basle, and “the Rhenish Alps whose distant peaks are lost on the horizon” between Kehl and Karlsruhe. From such people, especially when in addition they are writing to justify themselves, we can of course only expect a more or less exaggerated chronique scandaleuse of the February Revolution.
― 312 ―
M. de la Hodde, in his pamphlet, attempts to portray himself after the manner of the spy in Cooper's novel. Harvey Birch, the hero of Fenimore Cooper's novel The Spy. — Ed. †a He has, he claims, earned society's gratitude by paralysing the secret societies for eight years. But Cooper's spy is a very far cry from M. de la Hodde. M. de la Hodde, who worked on Le Charivari, was a member of the Central Committee of the Société des nouvelles saisons from 1839, The secret Société des nouvelles saisons came into being soon after the rout (in 1839) of the Société des saisons led by Auguste Blanqui and Armand Barbés, and was virtually its successor. Workers formed the main body of the society, which also included students. Its members adhered to revolutionary Babouvism and were strongly influenced by the utopian communist ideas of Théodore Dézamy. — p. 312 †237 was co-editor of La Réforme from its foundation and at the same time a paid spy of the Prefect of Police, Delessert, is compromised by no one more than by Chenu. His publication is a direct response to Chenu's revelations, but it takes very good care not to say even a syllable in reply to Chenu's allegations concerning de la Hodde himself. That part of Chenu's memoirs at least is therefore authentic.
“On one of my nocturnal excursions,” recounts Chenu, “I noticed de la Hodde walking up and down the quai Voltaire.... It was raining in torrents, a circumstance which set me thinking. Was this dear fellow de la Hodde also helping himself from the cash-box of the secret funds, by any chance? But I remembered his songs, his magnificent stanzas about Ireland and Poland, and particularly the violent articles he wrote for the journal La Réforme” (whereas M. de la Hodde tries to make out he tamed La Réforme). “'Good evening, de la Hodde, what on earth are you up to here at this hour and in this fearful weather?' — 'I am waiting for a rascal who owes me some money, and as he passes this way every evening at this time, he is going to pay me, or else' — and he struck the parapet of the embankment violently with his stick.”
De la Hodde attempts to get rid of him and walks towards the Pont du Carrousel. Chenu departs in the opposite direction, but only to conceal himself under the arcades of the Institut. De la Hodde soon comes back, looks round carefully in all directions and once more walks back and forth.
“A quarter of an hour later I noticed the carriage with two little green lamps which my ex-agent had described to me” (a former spy who had revealed a large number of police secrets and identification signs to Chenu in prison). “It stopped at the corner of the rue des Vieux Augustins. A man got out; de la Hodde went straight up to him; they talked for a moment, and I saw de la Hodde make a movement as though putting money into his pocket. — After this incident I made every effort to have de la Hodde excluded from our meetings and above all to prevent Albert falling into some trap, for he was the cornerstone of our edifice [...]. Some days later La Réforme rejected an article by de la Hodde. This wounded his vanity as a writer. I advised him to avenge himself by founding another journal. He followed this advice and with Pilhes and Dupoty he even published the prospectus of a paper, Le Peuple, and during that time we were almost completely rid of him.” (Chenu, pp. 46-48 [p. 55].)
As we see, this spy á la Cooper turns out to be a political prostitute of the vilest kind who hangs about in the street in the rain for the
― 313 ―
payment of his cadeau Gift. — Ed. †a by the first officier de paix Officer of the peace. — Ed. †b who happens to come along. We see furthermore that it was not de la Hodde, as he would have us believe, but Albert who was at the head of the secret societies. This follows from Chenu's whole account. The mouchard “in the interests of order” is here suddenly transformed into the offended writer who is angry that the articles of the Charivari correspondent are not accepted without question by La Réforme, and who therefore breaks with La Réforme, a real party organ in which he was able to be of some use to the police, to found a new paper in which at best he was able to satisfy his vanity as a writer. Just as prostitutes make use of sentiment of a kind, so this mouchard sought to make use of his literary pretensions in order to escape from his dirty role. Hatred for La Réforme, which pervades his whole pamphlet, is resolved into the most trivial writer's vindictiveness. In the end we see that during the most important period of the secret societies, shortly before the February Revolution, de la Hodde was being increasingly forced out of them; and this explains why they, according to his account, quite contrary to Chenu, declined more and more in this period.
We now come to the scene in which Chenu describes the exposure of de la Hodde's treacheries after the February Revolution. The Réforme party had assembled with Albert in the Luxembourg at Caussidiére's invitation. Monnier, Sobrier, Grandménil, de la Hodde, Chenu, etc., were present. Caussidiére opened the meeting and then said:
“'There is a traitor among us. We shall form a secret tribunal to try him.' — Grandménil, as the oldest of those present, was appointed chairman, and Tiphaine secretary. 'Citizens,' continued Caussidiére as public prosecutor, 'for a long time we have been accusing honest patriots. We were far from suspecting what a serpent had slipped in among us. Today I have discovered the real traitor: it is Lucien de la Hodde!' — The latter, who hitherto had sat quite unperturbed, leapt up at so direct an accusation. He made a move towards the door. Caussidiére closed it quickly, drew a pistol and shouted: 'One move and I'll blow your brains out!' — De la Hodde passionately protested his innocence. 'Very well,' said Caussidiére. 'Here is a file containing eighteen hundred reports to the Prefect of Police'... and he gave each of us the reports specially concerning him. De la Hodde obstinately denied that these reports, signed Pierre, originated with him until Caussidiére read out the letter published in his memoirs, in which de la Hodde offered his services to the Prefect of Police and which he had signed with his real name. From then on the wretched man stopped denying and tried to excuse himself on the grounds of poverty which had given him the fatal idea of throwing himself into the arms of the police. Caussidiére held out to him the pistol, the last means of escape left to him. De la Hodde then pleaded with his judges and whimperingly begged for mercy, but they remained
― 314 ―
inflexible. Bocquet, one of those present, whose patience was exhausted, seized the pistol and offered it to him three times with the words: 'Allons, Go on. — Ed. †a blow your brains out, you coward, or I'll kill you myself!' — Albert snatched it out of his hand, saying, 'But just think, a pistol-shot here in the Luxembourg would bring everybody running here!' — 'That's true,' cried Bocquet, 'we need poison.' 'Poison?' said Caussidiére. 'I brought poison with me — of every kind.' He took a glass, filled it with water, which he sugared, then poured in a white powder and offered it to de la Hodde, who recoiled in horror: 'You want to kill me then?' — 'Yes we do,' said Bocquet, 'drink.' — De la Hodde was fearful to look at. His features were ashen, and his very curly, well-kempt hair stood on end on his head. His face was bathed in sweat. He implored, he wept: 'I don't want to die!' But Bocquet, inflexible, still held out the glass to him. 'Allons, drink,' said Caussidiére, 'it will be all over before you know what has happened.' — 'No, no, I will not drink.' And in his deranged state of mind he added with a terrible gesture: 'Oh, I shall have my revenge for all these torments!'
“When it was seen that no appeal to his point d'honneur Sense of honour. — Ed. †b had any effect, de la Hodde was finally pardoned on Albert's intercession, and was taken to the Conciergerie prison.” (Chenu, pp. 134-36 [pp. 147-50].)
The self-styled spy á la Cooper becomes increasingly pathetic. We see him here in all his ignominy, only able to stand up to his opponents by cowardice. What we reproach him for is not that he did not shoot himself but that he did not shoot the first comer amongst his opponents. He seeks to justify himself after the event by means of a pamphlet in which he attempts to represent the whole revolution as a mere escroquerie. Act of fraud. — Ed. †c The title of this pamphlet ought to be: The Disillusioned Policeman. It demonstrates that a true revolution is the exact opposite of the ideas of a mouchard, who like the “men of action” sees in every revolution the work of a small coterie. Whilst all movements which were to a greater or lesser extent arbitrarily provoked by coteries did not go beyond mere insurgency, it is clear from de la Hodde's account itself that on the one hand the official republicans at the beginning of the February days still despaired of achieving the republic, and that on the other hand the bourgeoisie was obliged to help achieve the republic without wanting it, and thus that the February Republic was brought about by the force of circumstances driving the proletarian masses, who were outside any coterie, out into the streets and keeping the majority of the bourgeoisie at home or forcing them into common action with the proletarians. — What de la Hodde reveals apart from that is scanty indeed and amounts to no more than the most banal gossip. Only one scene is of interest: the meeting of the official democrats on the evening of February 21 on the premises of La Réforme, at which the leaders declared themselves firmly opposed to an attack by force.
― 315 ―
The content of their speeches testifies by and large to what was for that date still a correct understanding of the situation. They are ridiculous only because of their pompous style and the later claims of the same people to have consciously and deliberately worked towards the revolution from the start. And the worst thing, incidentally, that de la Hodde can say of them is that they tolerated him for so long in their midst.
Let us turn to Chenu. Who is M. Chenu? He is a veteran conspirator, took part in every insurgency since 1832 and is well known to the police. Conscripted for military service, he soon deserted and remained undiscovered in Paris, despite his repeated participation in conspiracies and the 1839 revolt. See Note 64. — p. 315 †238 In 1844 he reported to his regiment, and strangely enough, despite his well-known record, he was spared a court-martial by the divisional general. And that was not all: he did not serve his full time with the regiment but was allowed to return to Paris. In 1847 he was implicated in the incendiary bomb conspiracy An allusion to attempts by a small group of conspirators, members of secret revolutionary societies, to commit terrorist acts using home-made incendiary bombs. Police agents were also involved in the venture, giving regularly information about the conspirators' movements. This enabled the police to arrest all those involved. Their trial in 1847 revealed that police agents had succeeded in infiltrating deeply into secret societies. — p. 315 †239; he escaped an attempted arrest, but for all that remained in Paris, although he had been sentenced to four years in contumaciam. For contempt of the court (in refusing to appear). — Ed. †a Only when his fellow-conspirators accused him of being in league with the police did he go to Holland, whence he returned on February 21, 1848. After the February Revolution he became a captain in Caussidiére's guards. Caussidiére soon suspected him (a suspicion having a high degree of probability) of being in league with Marrast's special police and dispatched him without much resistance to Belgium and later to Germany. M. Chenu submitted willingly enough to successive enrolments in the Belgian, German and Polish volunteer corps. And all this at a time when Caussidiére's power was already beginning to totter and although Chenu claims to have had complete control over him; thus he maintains he forced Caussidiére by means of a threatening letter to free him immediately when he had once been arrested. So much for our author's character and credibility.
The quantities of make-up and patchouli beneath which prostitutes attempt to smother the less attractive aspects of their physical being have their literary counterpart in the bel esprit with which de la Hodde perfumes his pamphlet. The literary qualities of Chenu's book on the other hand frequently remind one of Gil Blas Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, a novel by Alain René Le Sage. — Ed. †b by their naivety and the vivacity of their presentation. Just as in the most varied adventures Gil Blas always remains a servant and judges everything by a servant's standards, so Chenu always remains, from
― 316 ―
the 1832 revolt up to his dismissal from the prefecture, the same low-ranking conspirator, whose own particular form of narrow-mindedness can incidentally be very clearly distinguished from the dull ruminations of the literary “faiseur” apportioned to him by the Elysée. It is clear that there can be no question of any understanding of the revolutionary movement in Chenu's case either. For this reason the only chapters in his book which are of any interest are those in which he describes things more or less uninhibitedly from his own observation: the Conspirators and Caussidiére the Hero.
The propensity of the Latin peoples to conspiracy and the part which conspiracies have played in modern Spanish, Italian and French history are well known. After the defeat of the Spanish and Italian conspirators at the beginning of the twenties, Lyons and especially Paris became the centres of revolutionary clubs. It is a well-known fact that the liberal bourgeoisie headed the conspiracies against the Restoration up to 1830. After the July Revolution the republican bourgeoisie took their place; the proletariat, trained in conspiracy even under the Restoration, began to dominate to the extent that the republican bourgeoisie were deterred from conspiring by the unsuccessful street battles. The Société des saisons, through which Barbés and Blanqui organised the 1839 revolt, was already exclusively proletarian, and so were the Nouvelles saisons, formed after the defeat, whose leader was Albert and in which Chenu, de la Hodde, Caussidiére, etc., participated. Through its leaders the conspiracy was constantly in contact with the petty-bourgeois elements represented by La Réforme, but always kept itself strictly independent. These conspiracies never of course embraced the broad mass of the Paris proletariat. They were restricted to a comparatively small, continually fluctuating number of members which consisted partly of unchanging, veteran conspirators, regularly bequeathed by each secret society to its successor, and partly of newly recruited workers.
Of these veteran conspirators, Chenu describes virtually none but the class to which he himself belongs: the professional conspirators. With the development of proletarian conspiracies the need arose for a division of labour; the members were divided into occasional conspirators, conspirateurs d'occasion, i.e. workers who engaged in conspiracy alongside their other employment, merely attending meetings and holding themselves in readiness to appear at the place of assembly at the leaders' command, and professional conspirators who devoted their whole energy to the conspiracy and had their living from it. They formed the intermediate stratum between the workers and the leaders, and frequently even infiltrated the latter.
― 317 ―
The social situation of this class determines its whole character from the very outset. Proletarian conspiracy naturally affords them only very limited and uncertain means of subsistence. They are therefore constantly obliged to dip into the cash-boxes of the conspiracy. A number of them also come into direct conflict with civil society as such and appear before the police courts with a greater or lesser degree of dignity. Their precarious livelihood, dependent in individual cases more on chance than on their activity, their irregular lives whose only fixed ports-of-call are the taverns of the marchands de vin Publicans. — Ed. †a — the places of rendezvous of the conspirators — their inevitable acquaintance with all kinds of dubious people, place them in that social category which in Paris is known as la bohême. These democratic bohemians of proletarian origin — there are also democratic bohemians of bourgeois origin, democratic loafers and piliers d'estaminet Public house regulars. — Ed. †b — are therefore either workers who have given up their work and have as a consequence become dissolute, or characters who have emerged from the lumpenproletariat and bring all the dissolute habits of that class with them into their new way of life. One can understand how in these circumstances a few repris de justice Persons with a criminal record. — Ed. †c are to be found implicated in practically every conspiracy trial.
The whole way of life of these professional conspirators has a most decidedly bohemian character. Recruiting sergeants for the conspiracy, they go from marchand de vin to marchand de vin, feeling the pulse of the workers, seeking out their men, cajoling them into the conspiracy and getting either the society's treasury or their new friends to foot the bill for the litres inevitably consumed in the process. Indeed it is really the marchand de vin who provides a roof over their heads. It is with him that the conspirator spends most of his time; it is here he has his rendezvous with his colleagues, with the members of his section and with prospective recruits; it is here, finally, that the secret meetings of sections (groups) and section leaders take place. The conspirator, highly sanguine in character anyway like all Parisian proletarians, soon develops into an absolute bambocheur Boozer. — Ed. †d in this continual tavern atmosphere. The sinister conspirator, who in secret session exhibits a Spartan self-discipline, suddenly thaws and is transformed into a tavern regular whom everybody knows and who really understands how to enjoy his wine
― 318 ―
and women. This conviviality is further intensified by the constant dangers the conspirator is exposed to; at any moment he may be called to the barricades, where he may be killed; at every turn the police set snares for him which may deliver him to prison or even to the galleys. Such dangers constitute the real spice of the trade; the greater the insecurity, the more the conspirator hastens to seize the pleasures of the moment. At the same time familiarity with danger makes him utterly indifferent to life and liberty. He is as at home in prison as in the wine-shop. He is ready for the call to action any day. The desperate recklessness which is exhibited in every insurrection in Paris is introduced precisely by these veteran professional conspirators, the hommes de coups de main. Men of daring raids. — Ed. †a They are the ones who throw up and command the first barricades, who organise resistance, lead the looting of arms-shops and the seizure of arms and ammunition from houses, and in the midst of the uprising carry out those daring raids which so often throw the government party into confusion. In a word, they are the officers of the insurrection.
It need scarcely be added that these conspirators do not confine themselves to the general organising of the revolutionary proletariat. It is precisely their business to anticipate the process of revolutionary development, to bring it artificially to crisis-point, to launch a revolution on the spur of the moment, without the conditions for a revolution. For them the only condition for revolution is the adequate preparation of their conspiracy. They are the alchemists of the revolution and are characterised by exactly the same chaotic thinking and blinkered obsessions as the alchemists of old. They leap at inventions which are supposed to work revolutionary miracles: incendiary bombs, destructive devices of magic effect, revolts which are expected to be all the more miraculous and astonishing in effect as their basis is less rational. Occupied with such scheming, they have no other purpose than the most immediate one of overthrowing the existing government and have the profoundest contempt for the more theoretical enlightenment of the proletariat about their class interests. Hence their plebeian rather than proletarian irritation at the habits noirs, Frock-coats. — Ed. †b people of a greater or lesser degree of education who represent that aspect of the movement, from whom, however, they can never make themselves quite independent, since they are the official representatives of the party. The habits noirs also serve at times as their source of money. It goes without saying that the
― 319 ―
conspirators are obliged to follow willy-nilly the development of the revolutionary party.
The chief characteristic of the conspirators' way of life is their battle with the police, to whom they have precisely the same relationship as thieves and prostitutes. The police tolerate the conspiracies, and not just as a necessary evil: they tolerate them as centres which they can keep under easy observation and where the most violent revolutionary elements in society meet, as the forges of revolt, which in France has become a tool of government quite as necessary as the police themselves, and finally as a recruiting place for their own political mouchards. Just as the most serviceable rogue-catchers, the Vidocqs and their cronies, are taken from the class of greater and lesser rascals, thieves, escrocs Swindlers. — Ed. †a and fraudulent bankrupts, and often revert to their old trade, in precisely the same way the humbler political policemen are recruited from among the professional conspirators. The conspirators are constantly in touch with the police, they come into conflict with them all the time; they hunt the mouchards, just as the mouchards hunt them. Spying is one of their main occupations. It is no wonder therefore that the short step from being a conspirator by trade to being a paid police spy is so frequently made, facilitated as it is by poverty and prison, by threats and promises. Hence the web of limitless suspicion within the conspiracies, which completely blinds their members and makes them see mouchards in their best people and their most trustworthy people in the real mouchards. That these spies recruited from among the conspirators mostly allow themselves to become involved with the police in the honest belief that they will be able to outwit them, that they succeed in playing a double role for a while, until they succumb more and more to the consequences of their first step, and that the police are often really outwitted by them, is self-evident. Whether, incidentally, such a conspirator succumbs to the snares of the police depends entirely on the coincidence of circumstances and rather on a quantitative than a qualitative difference in strength of character.
These are the conspirators whom Chenu parades before us, often in a most lively manner, and whose characters he sometimes eagerly and sometimes reluctantly describes. He himself, incidentally, is the epitome of the conspirator by trade, right down to his somewhat ambiguous connections with Delessert's and Marrast's police.
To the extent that the Paris proletariat came to the fore itself as a party, these conspirators lost some of their dominant influence, they
― 320 ―
were dispersed and they encountered dangerous competition in proletarian secret societies, whose purpose was not immediate insurrection but the organisation and development of the proletariat. Even the 1839 revolt was decidedly proletarian and communist. But afterwards the divisions occurred which the veteran conspirators bemoan so much; divisions which had their origin in the workers' need to clarify their class interests and which found expression partly in the earlier conspiracies themselves and partly in new propagandist associations. The communist agitation which Cabet began so forcefully soon after 1839 and the controversies which arose within the Communist Party soon had the conspirators out of their depth. Both Chenu and de la Hodde admit that at the time of the February Revolution the Communists were by far the strongest party group among the revolutionary proletariat. The conspirators, if they were not to lose their influence on the workers and thus their importance as a counterbalance to the habits noirs, were obliged to go along with this trend and adopt socialist or communist ideas. Thus there arose even before the February Revolution that conflict between the workers' conspiracies, represented by Albert, and the Réforme people, the same conflict which was reproduced shortly afterwards in the Provisional Government. We would of course never dream of confusing Albert with these conspirators. It is clear from both works that Albert knew how to assert his own independent position above them, his tools, and he certainly does not belong to that category of people who practised conspiracy to earn their daily bread.
The 1847 bomb affair, a matter in which direct police action was greater than in any previous case, finally scattered the most obstinate and contrary-minded of the veteran conspirators and drove their former sections into the proletarian movement proper.
These professional conspirators, the most violent people in their sections and the détenus politiques Political detainees. — Ed. †a of proletarian origin, mostly veteran conspirators themselves, we find again as Montagnards in the Prefecture of Police after the February Revolution. The conspirators however form the core of the whole company. It is understandable that these people, suddenly armed and herded together here, mostly on quite familiar terms with their prefects and their officers, could not fail to form a somewhat turbulent corps. Just as the Montagne in the National Assembly was a parody of the original Montagne and by its impotence proved in the most striking manner that the old revolutionary traditions of 1793 no longer
― 321 ―
suffice today, so the Montagnards in the Prefecture of Police, the new version of the original sansculottes, proved that in the modern revolution this section of the proletariat is also insufficient and that only the proletariat as a whole can carry the revolution through.
Chenu describes the sansculotte life-style of this honourable company in the Prefecture in a most lively manner. These comic scenes, in which M. Chenu was obviously an active participant, are sometimes rather wild, but very understandable in view of the character of the old conspiratorial bambocheurs, and form a necessary and even a healthy contrast to the orgies of the bourgeoisie in the last years of Louis Philippe.
We will quote just one example from the account of how they established themselves in the Prefecture.
“When the day broke, I saw the group leaders arrive one after the other with their men, but for the most part unarmed [...]. I drew Caussidiére's attention to this. 'I'll get arms for them,' he said. 'Look for a suitable place to quarter them in the Prefecture.' I carried out this order at once and sent them to occupy that former police guardroom where I had once been so vilely treated myself. A moment later I saw them come running back. 'Where are you going?' I asked them. 'The guardroom is occupied by a crowd of policemen,' Devaisse replied to me; 'they are fast asleep and we're looking for something to waken them with and throw them out.' — They now armed themselves with whatever came to hand, ramrods, sabre-sheaths, straps folded double and broom-sticks. Then my lads, who had all had greater or lesser reason to complain of the insolence and brutality of the sleepers, fell on them with fists flying and for over half an hour taught them such a harsh lesson that some of them took a considerable time to recover. At their cries of terror I dashed up, and I only managed with difficulty to open the door which the Montagnards wisely kept locked on the inside. It was a sight for sore eyes to see the policemen dashing half-undressed into the courtyard. They jumped down the stairs in one bound, and it was lucky for them they knew every nook and cranny in the Prefecture and were able to escape from the sight of their enemies hard on their heels. Once masters of the place whose garrison they had just relieved with such courtesy, our Montagnards decked themselves out triumphantly in what the vanquished had left behind, and for a long time they were to be seen walking up and down the courtyard of the Prefecture, swords by their sides, coats over their shoulders and their heads resplendent in the three-cornered hats once so feared by the majority of them.” (Pp. 83-85 [pp. 95-96].)
Now we have made the acquaintance of the Montagnards, let us turn to their leader, the hero of the Chenu saga, Caussidiére. Chenu parades him all the more frequently before us as the whole book is actually directed against him.
The main accusations levelled against Caussidiére relate to his moral life-style, his cavalier dealings in bills of exchange and other modest attempts to rustle up money such as any spirited Parisian commis voyageur in debt may and does resort to. Indeed, it is only the amount of capital which determines whether the cases of fraud, profiteering, swindling and stock-exchange speculation on which the
― 322 ―
whole of commerce is based, impinge to any degree on the Code pénal. With regard to stock-exchange coups and the Chinese fraud which are especially typical of French commerce, it is worth referring for instance to Fourier's spicy descriptions in the Quatre mouvements, the Fausse industrie, the Traité de l'unité universelle and his posthumous works. Among Fourier's posthumous works there is the unfinished manuscript Des trois unités externes which deals partially with the problems of trade. It was published in 1845 in the journal La Phalange. Lengthy passages from this work were translated by Engels into German and published in 1846 in the Deutsches Bürgerbuch (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 613-44). — p. 322 †240 M. Chenu does not even try to prove that Caussidiére exploited his position as Prefect of Police for his own ends. Indeed a party can congratulate itself if its victorious opponents can do nothing more than expose such pathetic instances of commercial immorality. What a contrast between the petty dabblings of the commis voyageur Caussidiére and the grandiose scandals of the bourgeoisie in 1847! The only reason for the whole attack is that Caussidiére belonged to the Réforme party, which sought to conceal its lack of revolutionary energy and understanding behind protestations of republican virtue and an attitude of sombre gravity.
Caussidiére is the only entertaining figure amongst the leaders of the February Revolution. In his capacity as loustic Wag, joker. — Ed. †a to the revolution, he was a most appropriate leader for the veteran professional conspirators. Sensual and endowed with a sense of humour, a regular of long standing in cafés and taverns of the most varied kind, happy to live and let live, but at the same time a brave soldier, concealing beneath broad-shouldered bonhomie and lack of inhibition great cunning, astute thought and acute observation, he possessed a certain revolutionary tact and revolutionary energy. At that time, Caussidiére was a genuine plebeian who hated the bourgeoisie instinctively and shared all the plebeian passions to a high degree. Scarcely was he established in the Prefecture when he was already conspiring against the National, but without in so doing neglecting his predecessor's cuisine or cellar. He immediately organised a military force for himself, secured himself a newspaper, launched clubs, gave people parts to play and generally acted from the first moment with great self-confidence. In twenty-four hours the Prefecture was transformed into a fortress from which he could defy his enemies. But all his schemes either remained mere plans or amounted in practice to no more than plebeian pranks leading to nothing. When the conflicts became more acute, he shared the fate of his party, which remained indecisively in the middle between the National people and the proletarian revolutionaries such as Blanqui. His Montagnards split; the old bambocheurs grew too big for him and were no longer to be restrained, whilst the revolutionary section went over to Blanqui. Caussidiére himself became increasingly
― 323 ―
bourgeois in his official position as Prefect and representative; on May 15 See Note 45. — p. 323 †241 he kept prudently in the background and excused himself in the Chamber in an irresponsible manner; on June 23 he deserted the insurrection at the crucial moment. As a reward he was naturally removed from the Prefecture and shortly afterwards sent into exile.
We now go on to some of the most significant passages from Chenu and de la Hodde concerning Caussidiére.
Scarcely was de la Hodde established on the evening of February 24 as General Secretary to the Prefecture under Caussidiére when the latter said to him:
“'I need reliable people here. The administrative side of things will always take care of itself more or less; for the time being I have kept on the old officials; as soon as the patriots have been trained, we shall send them packing. That is a secondary matter. What we must do is to make the Prefecture the stronghold of the revolution; give our men instructions to that effect; bring them all here. Once we have a thousand trusty comrades here, we shall have the whip hand. Ledru-Rollin, Flocon, Albert and I understand each other, and I hope everything will turn out all right. The National is for the high jump. And after that we shall republicanise the country all right, whether it likes it or not.'
“Thereupon Garnier-Pagés, the Mayor of Paris, under whose command the National had placed the police, arrived on a visit and suggested to Caussidiére he might prefer to take over command of the castle at Compiégne instead of the unpleasant post at the Prefecture. Caussidiére replied in that thin high-pitched voice of his which contrasted so strangely with his broad shoulders: 'Go to Compiégne? Out of the question. I am needed here. I have got several hundred merry lads down there doing a splendid job; I am expecting twice as many again. If you at the Hôtel de Ville haven't enough good will or courage, I'll be able to help you.... Ha, ha, la révolution fera son petit bonhomme de chemin, il le faudra bien!' The revolution will go its little way, it will have to! — Ed. †a — 'The revolution? But it's over!' — 'Pshaw, it's not even started yet!' — The poor Mayor stood there looking like an utter ninny.” (De la Hodde, p 72 [pp. 103-05].)
Amongst the most amusing scenes described by Chenu is the reception of the police officers and officiers de paix by the new Prefect, who was in the middle of a meal when they were announced.
“'Let them wait,' said Caussidiére, 'the Prefect is working.' He went on working for a good half-hour more and then set the scene for the reception of the police officers who were meanwhile lined up on the great staircase. Caussidiére sat down majestically in his armchair, his great sabre at his side; two wild, bloodthirsty-looking Montagnards were guarding the door, arms ordered and pipes in their mouths. Two captains with drawn sabres stood at each side of his desk. Then there were all the section leaders and the republicans who formed his general staff, grouped around the room, all of them armed with great sabres and cavalry pistols, muskets and shot-guns. Everyone was smoking and the cloud of smoke filling the room made their faces seem even more sombre and gave the scene a really frightening aspect. In the centre a space had remained clear for the police officers. Each man put on his hat and Caussidiére gave the order for them to be brought in. The poor police officers wanted nothing
― 324 ―
better, for they were exposed to the vulgarity and threats of the Montagnards, who would have liked to fricassee them in every sauce known to man. 'You gang of blackguards,' they bellowed, 'now it's our turn to have got you! You won't get out of here, you'll be flayed alive!...' As they entered the Prefect's office they felt they were exchanging Scylla for Charybdis. The first to set foot on the threshold seemed to hesitate a moment. He was uncertain whether to advance or retreat, so menacing were all the eyes fixed upon him. At last he ventured a step forward and bowed, another step and bowed more deeply, another step again and bowed even more deeply still. Each made his entry with deep bows in the direction of the awful Prefect, who received all these marks of respect coldly and in silence, his hand resting on the hilt of his sabre. The police officers took in this extraordinary scene with eyes like saucers. Some of them, beside themselves with fear and no doubt wanting to curry favour with us, found the tableau imposing and majestic. — 'Silence!' commanded a Montagnard in sepulchral tones. — When they had all come in, Caussidiére, who had neither spoken nor moved until that moment, broke the silence and said in his most fearful voice:
“'A week ago you scarcely expected to find me here in this position, surrounded by trusty friends. So they are your masters today, these cardboard republicans, as you once called them! You tremble before those whom you subjected to the most ignoble treatment. You, Vassal, were the vilest séïde Fanatic. — Ed. †a of the fallen government, the most violent persecutor of the republicans, and now you have fallen into the hands of your most implacable enemies, for there is not one present here who escaped your persecutions. If I listened to the just demands that are put to me, I would take reprisals. I prefer to forget. Return to your posts again, all of you; but if I ever hear that you have lent a hand to any reactionary trickery, I shall crush you like vermin. Go!'
“The police officers had been through every gradation of terror, and happy to escape with a dressing-down from the Prefect, they went off in good spirits. The Montagnards who were waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs escorted them to the end of the rue de Jérusalem with a hubbub of catcalls and jeers. Scarcely had the last of them disappeared when we burst out into a tremendous fit of laughter. Caussidiére was beaming and laughed more than anyone at the magnificent prank he had just played on his police officers.” (Chenu, pp. 87-90 [pp. 99-102].)
After March 17, in which Caussidiére played a big part, he said to Chenu:
“'I can raise up the masses and set them against the bourgeoisie whenever I like.'” (Chenu, p. 140 [p. 154].)
Caussidiére never actually went further with his opponents than playing at giving them a fright.
Finally, concerning Caussidiére's relations with the Montagnards, Chenu says:
“When I mentioned to Caussidiére the excesses his men were indulging in, he sighed, but his hands were tied. The majority of them had lived his life with him, he had shared their joys and sorrows; several had done him good turns. If he was unable to restrain them, it was a consequence of his own past.” (P. 97 [pp. 109-10].)
― 325 ―
We would remind our readers that both these books were written at the time of the campaign for elections of March 10. On the by-elections to the Legislative Assembly (March 10, 1850) see this volume, pp. 129-31. — p. 325 †242 Their effect is clear from the election result — the brilliant victory of the reds.
Written in March and April 1850
First published in the Neue Rheinische
Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue
No. 4, 1850
Printed according to the journal
Published in English in full for
the first time
― 326 ―
LE SOCIALISME ET L'IMPÔT, PAR ÉMILE DE GIRARDIN,
PARIS, 1850 This review of the book by Émile Girardin, an exponent of bourgeois socialism, is in effect a critique of bourgeois socialism. Here the authors go on to analyse in greater detail the trend in bourgeois social thinking which they described in the Manifesto of the Communist Party as an expression of the bourgeoisie's desire to redress “social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society”. When quoting passages from Girardin's work, the authors in a number of cases combined texts from different pages, omitted paragraphs and changed the punctuation. They also introduced their own italics. This form of quotation has been preserved. The pages of the quoted book are given in square brackets. In a number of instances, when part of the text is omitted, the editors of this volume have introduced omission marks not in the review itself. — p. 326 †243
There are two distinct kinds of socialism, “good” socialism and “bad” socialism.
Bad socialism is “the war of labour against capital”. At its door are laid all the horrors: equal distribution of the land, abolition of the family ties, organised plunder, etc.
Good socialism is “harmony between labour and capital”. In its train are found the abolition of ignorance, the elimination of the causes of pauperism, the establishment of credit, the multiplication of property, the reform of taxation, in a word,
“the system which most closely approximates to mankind's conception of the kingdom of God on earth” [p. 9].
This good socialism must be used to stifle the bad variety.
“Socialism is possessed of a lever; that lever was the budget. But it needed a fulcrum if it was to turn the world upside down. That fulcrum was supplied by the Revolution of February 24: universal suffrage” [p. 12].
The source of the budget is taxation. So the effect of universal suffrage on the budget must be its effect on taxation. And it is by its effect on taxation that “good” socialism is realised.
“France cannot pay more than 1,200 million francs in taxes annually. How would you set about reducing expenditure to this sum?”
“You have written into two charters and one constitution in the last thirty-five years that every Frenchman shall contribute to the upkeep of the state in proportion to his wealth. In the last thirty-five years, this equality of taxation has been a myth.... Let us examine the French system of taxation” [pp. 14-15, 17].
I. Land-tax. The land-tax does not fall equally on all landowners:
“If two adjacent plots are given the same assessment in the land-register, the two landowners pay the same tax, without any distinction between the apparent and the actual owners” [p. 22],
― 327 ―
i.e. between the owner who is encumbered with mortgages and the one who is not.
Furthermore, the tax on land bears no relation to the taxes which are levied on other kinds of property. When the National Assembly introduced it in 1790, it was influenced by the physiocratic school, which regarded the soil as the only source of net income and therefore placed the full burden of taxation on the landowners. The tax on land is therefore based on an error in economics. If taxation were distributed equally, the owner of land would be liable for 20 per cent of his income, whereas he now pays 53 per cent.
Finally, according to its original purpose, the tax on land ought only to fall on the owner and never on the tenant of the farm-land. Instead, according to M. Girardin, it always falls on the tenant of the farm-land.
In this M. Girardin commits an error in economics. Either the tenant farmer really is a tenant farmer, in which case it is not he but the owner or the consumer on whom the tax falls; or else he is, despite the appearance of tenancy, basically merely in the owner's employ, as in Ireland and frequently in France, in which case the taxes imposed on the owner will always fall on him, whatever name they are given.
II. Tax on persons and movable property. This tax, which was also decreed by the National Assembly in 1790, was intended to fall directly on liquid assets. The amount of house-rent paid was taken to indicate the value of the assets. This tax falls in reality on the landowner, the peasant and the manufacturer, whilst it represents an insignificant burden or none at all for the rentier. It is therefore the complete opposite of what its authors intended. Besides, a millionaire may live in a garret with two rickety chairs — unjust, etc.
III. Door and window tax. An attack on the health of the people. A fiscal device directed against clean air and daylight.
“Almost one half of the dwellings in France have either only one door and no windows, or at most one door and one window” [p. 38].
This tax was adopted on 24th Vendémiaire of the year VII (October 14, 1799) because of an urgent need for money, as a temporary and extraordinary measure; but in principle it was rejected.
IV. Licence-tax (trades-tax). A tax not on profit but on the exercise of industry. A penalty for work. Designed to fall on the manufacturer, it falls largely on the consumer. In any case, when this tax was
― 328 ―
imposed in 1791, it was also only a question of satisfying a momentary need for money.
V. Registration and stamp duty. The droit d'enregistrement Droit d'enregistrement — a tax imposed on the registration and drawing up of various documents: sale and purchase contracts, deeds, court decisions, etc. Apart from confirming the authenticity of documents, such registration was also a source of revenue for the Exchequer. — p. 328 †244 originated with Francis I and had initially no fiscal purpose (?). In 1790 the obligatory registration of contracts concerning property was extended and the fee raised. The tax operates in such a way that buying and selling cost more than donations and legacies. Stamp duty is a purely fiscal device which applies equally to unequal profits.
VI. Beverage-tax. The quintessence of injustice, an impediment to production, an irritant, the most costly to collect. (See moreover Issue III: 1848-1849, Consequences of June 13. See this volume, pp. 117-21. — Ed. †a)
VII. Customs-duties. A chaotic historical accumulation of pointless, mutually contradictory rates of duty injurious to industry. E. g. raw cotton is taxed at 22 frs. 50 cts. per 100 kilos in France. Passons outre. Let us proceed. — Ed. †b
VIII. Octroi. See Note 28. — p. 328 †245 Lacks even the excuse of protecting a national industry. Internal customs. Originally a local poor-tax, but now chiefly a burden upon the poorer classes, resulting in the adulteration of their food. Puts as many obstacles in the way of national industry as there are towns.
So much for what Girardin has to say concerning the individual taxes. The reader will have noticed that his criticism is as shallow as it is correct. It is reducible to three arguments:
1. that no tax ever falls on the class intended by those who imposed the tax, but is shifted on to another class;
2. that every temporary tax takes root and becomes permanent;
3. that no tax is proportional to wealth, just, equal, or equitable.
These general economic objections to present taxation are repeated in every country. However, the French tax system has one characteristic peculiarity. Just as the British are the historic nation par excellence with regard to public and private law, so the French are with regard to the system of taxation, although in all other respects they have codified, simplified and broken with tradition in accordance with universal principles. Girardin says on this point To support his arguments Girardin cites in the following passage the opinion of Eugéne Daire, the publisher and commentator of the works of physiocrats and other economists. — Ed. †c:
“In France we live under the rule of almost all the fiscal procedures of the ancien régime. Taille, A direct tax which mainly affected the peasants. — Ed. †d poll-tax, aide, Indirect taxes. — Ed. †e customs, salt-tax, registration fees, tax on legal
― 329 ―
submissions, greffe, tobacco monopoly, excessive profits from the postal services and the sale of gunpowder, the lottery, parish or state corvée, billetting, octrois, river and road tolls, extraordinary levies — all these things may have changed their names, but they all persist in essence and have become no less a burden on the people nor any more productive for the treasury. The basis of our financial system is totally unscientific. It reflects nothing more than the traditions of the Middle Ages, which are in turn themselves the legacy of the ignorant and predatory fiscal practice of the Romans” [p. 102].
Nevertheless, as long ago as the National Assembly of the first revolution, our fathers cried out:
“We have made the revolution only in order to take taxation into our own hands.”
But although this state of affairs was able to persist under the Empire, the Restoration and the July monarchy, its hour has now struck:
“The abolition of electoral privilege necessarily entails the abolition of all fiscal inequality. [...] There is therefore no time to be lost in coming to grips with the finance reform, if science is not to be ousted by violence.... Taxation is virtually the sole foundation on which our society rests.... Social and political reforms are sought in the remotest and most elevated places; the most important are to be found in taxation. Seek here, and ye shall find” [pp. 103, 105, 108].
And what do we find?
“As we conceive taxation, taxation should be an insurance premium paid by those who have property, to insure themselves against all risks which might disturb them in the possession and enjoyment of it.... This premium must be proportional and strict in its exactitude. Every tax which is not a guarantee against a risk, the price for a commodity or the equivalent for a service, must be abandoned — we allow but two exceptions: tax on foreign countries (douane) and tax on death (enregistrement).... The taxpayer is thus replaced by the insured person.... Everyone who has an interest in payment pays, and pays only to the extent of his interest.... We go further and say: every tax stands condemned by the mere fact that it bears the name of tax or imposition. Every tax must be abolished [...] for the peculiar characteristic of a tax is that it is obligatory, whereas it is in the nature of insurance to be voluntary” [pp. 120, 122, 127-28].
This insurance premium must not be confused with a tax on income; it is rather a tax on capital, in the same way that an insurance premium does not guarantee income but capital assets as a whole. The state acts in exactly the same way as the insurance companies, who do not want to know what revenue the thing insured yields but what it is worth.
“The national wealth of France is estimated at 134 thousand million, from which liabilities of 28 thousand million must be subtracted. If the budget expenditure is reduced to 1,200 million, only 1 per cent of the capital would need to be levied to raise the state to the level of a colossal mutual insurance company” [p. 130].
And from that moment onward — “no more revolutions!” [P. 131.]
― 330 ―
“The word solidarity will replace the word authority; communal interest will become the bond linking the members of society” [p. 133].
M. Girardin does not rest content with this general suggestion but at the same time gives us a form for an insurance policy or registration such as will be issued to every citizen by the state.
Each year the former tax-collector gives the insured a policy consisting of “four pages of the size of a passport”. On the first page is the name of the insured with his registration number, as well as the form for the receipts of the premium payments. On the second page are all the personal particulars of the insured and his family, along with a detailed estimate of the value he puts on his total assets, certified as correct; on the third page, the budget of the state along with a general balance for France, and on the fourth, all sorts of more or less useful statistical information. The policy serves as a passport, election card and travel record for workers, etc. The registers of these policies allow the state in turn to prepare the four Great Books: the Great Book of Population, the Great Book of Property, the Great Book of the Public Debt, and the Great Book of Mortgage Debts, which together contain full statistics of all the assets of France.
Taxation is merely the premium paid by the insured to permit him to enjoy the following benefits: 1. the right to public protection, a free legal service, free religious practice, free education, credit against security and a savings-bank pension; 2. exemption from military service in peace time; 3. protection from destitution; 4. compensation for loss through fire, floods, hail, cattle-disease and shipwreck.
We further observe that M. Girardin intends to raise the compensation sum which the state has to pay, in case of loss by insured persons, by means of various fines, etc., from the product of the nationally-owned estates and the fees from enregistrement and customs, which will have been maintained, as well as from the state monopolies.
Tax reform is the hobby-horse of every radical bourgeois, the specific element in all bourgeois economic reforms. From the earliest medieval philistines to the modern English free-traders, the main struggle has revolved around taxation.
Tax reform has as its aim either the abolition of traditional taxes which impede the progress of industry, or less extravagant state budgets, or more equal distribution. The further it slips from his grasp in practice, the more keenly does the bourgeois pursue the chimerical ideal of equal distribution of taxation.
― 331 ―
The distribution relations, which rest directly upon bourgeois production, the relations between wages and profit, profit and interest, rent and profit, may at most be modified in inessentials by taxation, but the latter can never threaten their foundations. All investigations and discussions about taxation presuppose the everlasting continuance of these bourgeois relations. Even the abolition of taxes could only hasten the development of bourgeois property and its contradictions.
Taxation may benefit some classes and oppress others harshly, as we observe, for example, under the rule of the financial aristocracy. It is ruinous only for those intermediate sections of society between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, whose position does not allow them to shift the burden of taxation to another class.
Every new tax depresses the proletariat one step further; the abolition of an old tax increases not wages but profits. In a revolution, taxation, swollen to colossal proportions, can be used as a form of attack against private property; but even then it must be an incentive for new, revolutionary measures or eventually bring about a reversion to the old bourgeois relations.
The reduction of taxes, their more equitable distribution, etc., etc., is a banal bourgeois reform. The abolition of taxes is bourgeois socialism. This bourgeois socialism appeals especially to the industrial and commercial middle sections and to the peasants. The big bourgeoisie, who are already living in what is for them the best of possible worlds, An ironical paraphrase of Pangloss' famous dictum from Voltaire's Candide: “All is for the best in the best of possible worlds.” — Ed. †a naturally despise the utopia of a best of worlds.
M. Girardin abolishes taxes by transforming them into an insurance premium. By paying a certain percentage, the members of society insure each other's assets against fire and flood, against hail and bankruptcy and against every possible risk which today disturbs the peace of bourgeois enjoyment. The annual contribution is not merely fixed by the insured persons collectively, but is determined by each individual himself. He estimates his assets himself. The crises of trade and agriculture, the torrent of losses and bankruptcies, all the fluctuations and vicissitudes of the bourgeois mode of life, which have been epidemic since the introduction of modern industry, all the poetry of bourgeois society will disappear. Universal security and insurance In the original a pun on the words Sicherheit (security) and Versicherung (insurance). — Ed. †b will become a reality. The burgher has it in writing from the state that he cannot under any circumstances
― 332 ―
be ruined. All the shady sides have gone from the present world, its bright sides live on, their brilliancy enhanced, in short, that system of government has become reality “which most closely approximates to the bourgeois conception of the kingdom of God on earth”. In place of authority, solidarity; in place of compulsion, freedom; in place of the state, a committee of administrators — and the puzzle of Columbus and the egg is solved, the mathematically precise contribution of each “insured person”, according to his assets. Each “insured person” carries a complete constitutional state, a fully formed bicameral system, within his breast. The fear of paying the state too much, the bourgeois opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, impels him to underestimate his assets. His interest in preserving his property, the conservative element of the Chamber of Peers, inclines him to overestimate them. The constitutional interaction of these opposing tendencies of necessity engenders the true balance of powers, the precisely correct valuation of assets, the exact proportion of the contribution.
A certain Roman wished his house might be made of glass so that his every action would be visible to all. The bourgeois wishes that not his own house but that of his neighbour should be of glass. This wish too is fulfilled. For example: a citizen asks me for an advance, or wishes to form an association with me. I ask him for his policy, and in it I have a confession, entire and in detail, of all his civil circumstances, guaranteed by his interest correctly understood and countersigned by the insurance board. A beggar knocks at my door and begs for alms. Let me see his policy. The burgher must be sure that his alms are going to the right man. I engage a servant, I take him into my house, I entrust myself to him for good or ill: let me see his policy!
“How many marriages are concluded without the two parties knowing exactly what to rely on concerning the reality of the dowry or their mutually exaggerated expectations” [p. 178].
Let us see their policies!
In future the exchange of loving hearts will be reduced to the exchange of policies by the two parties. Thus fraud will disappear, which today provides the sweetness and the bitterness of life, and the Kingdom of Truth in the strict sense of the word will become a reality. Nor is that all:
“Under the present system, the courts cost the state some 7 1/2 million, under our system offences will bring revenue instead of expense, for they will be transmuted into fines and compensation — what an idea!” [Pp. 190-91.]
― 333 ―
Everything in this best of possible worlds brings in profit: crimes disappear and offences yield revenue. In the original a pun on the words vergehen (disappear) and Vergehen (offences). — Ed. †a Finally, as under this system property is protected against all risks and the state is no more than the universal insurance for all interests, the workers are always employed: “No more revolutions!”
If that is not what the bourgeois wants,
Then I don't know what else he wants!
The bourgeois state is nothing more than the mutual insurance of the bourgeois class against its individual members, as well as against the exploited class, insurance which will necessarily become increasingly expensive and to all appearances increasingly independent of bourgeois society, because the oppression of the exploited class is becoming ever more difficult. The change of name changes nothing in the nature of this insurance. M. Girardin himself is at once obliged to abandon the apparent independence from insurance which he for a moment allows individuals to enjoy. Anyone who estimates his assets too low is liable to punishment: the insurance fund buys his property from him at the price he has set and even encourages informers with rewards. Nor is that the worst: anyone who prefers not to insure his assets at all is declared outside society and simply outlawed. Society of course cannot tolerate the formation of a class in its midst which rebels against its very conditions of existence. Compulsion, authority, bureaucratic interference which are precisely what Girardin wants to eliminate, reappear in society. If for a moment he made abstraction of the conditions of bourgeois society, he did so only in order to return to them by another route.
Behind the abolition of taxation lurks the abolition of the state. The abolition of the state has meaning with the Communists, only as the necessary consequence of the abolition of classes, with which the need for the organised might of one class to keep the others down automatically disappears. In bourgeois countries the abolition of the state means that the power of the state is reduced to the level found in North America. There, the class contradictions are but incompletely developed; every clash between the classes is concealed by the outflow of the surplus proletarian population to the west; intervention by the power of the state, reduced to a minimum in the east, does not exist at all in the west. In feudal countries the abolition of the state means the abolition of feudalism and the creation of an
― 334 ―
ordinary bourgeois state. In Germany it conceals either a cowardly flight from the struggles that lie immediately ahead, a spurious inflating of bourgeois freedom into absolute independence and autonomy of the individual, or, finally, the indifference of the bourgeois towards all forms of state, provided the development of bourgeois interests is not obstructed. It is of course not the fault of the Berliners Stirner and Faucher that this abolition of the state “in the higher sense” is being preached in so fatuous a way. La plus belle fille de la France ne peut donner que ce qu'elle a. The most beautiful girl in France can only give what she has. — Ed. †a
What remains of M. Girardin's insurance company is the tax on capital, as opposed to the tax on income, and in place of all other taxes. Capital for M. Girardin is not confined to capital employed in production, it embraces all movable and immovable assets. In respect of this tax on capital, he boasts:
“It is like the egg of Columbus, it is a pyramid which must stand on its base and not on its apex, [...] it is the stream cutting a course for itself, the revolution without revolutionaries, progress with never a backward step, movement with neither jar nor jolt, finally it is the Idea in all its simplicity and the true Law” [pp. 135-36].
There is no denying that of all the costermongering advertisements that M. Girardin has ever produced — and they, as we know, are legion — this prospectus for capital-tax represents the masterpiece.
Incidentally the tax on capital, as the sole form of taxation, has its merits. All the economists and Ricardo in particular have demonstrated the advantages of a single form of taxation. The tax on capital, as the sole form of taxation, eliminates at a stroke the expense of the numerous staff previously needed to administer taxation, interferes least with the regular process of production, circulation and consumption and is the only tax to fall on luxury capital.
But M. Girardin's tax on capital is not limited to this. Its effects include yet other and very special blessings.
Capital assets of equal size will be obliged to pay the same rates of tax to the state, regardless of whether they bring in 6 per cent, 3 per cent or no income at all. The consequence of this is that idle capital will be put to work and will increase the volume of productive capital, and that capital which is already productive will be put to yet further exertions, i. e. it will produce more in less time. The consequence of these two things will be a fall in profit and in the rate of interest.
― 335 ―
M. Girardin however asserts that profit and the rate of interest will then rise — a true economic miracle. The transformation of unproductive into productive capital and the increasing productivity of capital in general have intensified and aggravated the development of crises in industry and depressed profits and the rate of interest. The tax on capital can only hasten this process, exacerbate crises and thereby increase the growth of revolutionary elements. — “No more revolutions!”
A second miraculous effect of the tax on capital, according to M. Girardin, is that it would attract capital from the land, where its yield is low, to industry, where its yield is higher, bring down land prices and transplant to France the concentration of land, Britain's large-scale agriculture and therewith all of Britain's advanced industry. Quite apart from the fact that this would require a similar migration to France of the other conditions of British industry too, M. Girardin is here guilty of quite peculiar errors. Farming in France is suffering not from a surplus but from a lack of capital. Not by withdrawing capital from farming but on the contrary by pouring industrial capital into agriculture have British concentration and British farming come about. The price of land in Britain is far higher than in France; the total value of the land in Britain is almost as much as the whole national wealth of France, in Girardin's estimation. Concentration in France would therefore not merely not cause the price of land to fall, on the contrary it would cause it to rise. The concentration of landed property in Britain has furthermore totally swept away whole generations of the population. The same concentration, to which the tax on capital will of course necessarily contribute by hastening the ruin of the peasants, would in France drive the great mass of the peasants into the towns and make revolution all the more inevitable. And finally, if in France the tide has already begun to turn from fragmentation to concentration, in Britain the large landed estates are making giant strides towards renewed disintegration, conclusively proving that agriculture necessarily proceeds in an incessant cycle of concentration and fragmentation of the land, as long as bourgeois conditions as a whole continue to exist.
Enough of these miracles. Let us turn to the provision of credit for mortgage deposits.
Credit for mortgage deposits will initially only be available to landowners. The state will issue mortgage notes, resembling banknotes in all respects except that land is the guarantee instead of cash or bullion. These mortgage notes will be advanced by the state at 4 per cent to peasants in debt, and will be used to satisfy their
― 336 ―
mortgage creditors; in place of the private creditor, the state now has the mortgage on the land and consolidates the debt so that repayment can never be demanded. The total of mortgage debts in France amounts to 14 thousand million. It is true that Girardin only envisages the issue of 5 thousand million mortgage notes, but the augmentation of paper money by such a sum would have the effect, not of making capital cheaper, but of devaluing paper money entirely. Moreover, Girardin lacks the courage to impose a fixed rate on this new paper. To obviate devaluation he proposes that the holders of these notes should exchange them al pari At their nominal value. — Ed. †a for 3 per cent national debt certificates. The outcome of the transaction is thus as follows: the peasant who formerly paid 5 per cent interest and 1 per cent conveyancing, and renewal and other fees, now only pays 4 per cent and thus gains 2 per cent; the state borrows at 3 per cent and lends at 4 per cent, and thus gains 1 per cent; the former mortgage creditor, who previously received 5 per cent, is obliged by the threatening devaluation of mortgage notes gratefully to accept the 3 per cent he is offered by the state; he therefore loses 2 per cent. Furthermore the peasant does not need to pay his debt and the creditor can never realise what the state owes him. What these dealings therefore amount to is that behind the thin camouflage of the mortgage notes the mortgage creditors are directly robbed of 2 out of their 5 per cent. On the only occasion, apart from taxation, therefore that M. Girardin plans to change social relations themselves, he is forced to make a direct attack on private property, he has to become a revolutionary and to give up his whole utopia. And this attack is not even of his own invention. He borrowed it from the German Communists, who after the February Revolution were the first to demand that mortgage debts should be transformed into debts to the state, See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Demands of the Communist Party in Germany (present edition, Vol. 7, pp. 3-7). — Ed. †b admittedly in an entirely different fashion from M. Girardin, who even publicly opposed it. It is characteristic that on the sole occasion when M. Girardin proposes a somewhat revolutionary measure he has not the courage to suggest anything but a palliative which can only make the development of fragmentation in landownership in France the more chronic, and turn the clock back in that regard by a few decades, until the present state of affairs is finally reached again.
The only thing the reader will have missed throughout Girardin's exposé is the workers. But of course bourgeois socialism always
― 337 ―
presupposes that society is exclusively composed of capitalists, so as to be able then to resolve the issue between capital and wage labour according to this point of view.
Written in the second half of April 1850
First published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue No. 4, 1850
Printed according to the journal
Published in English in full for the first time
†231 On the reviews written by Marx and Engels for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue see Note 182.
These reviews have never been published in English except for excerpts from the review of the pamphlets written by Chenu and de la Hodde, which appeared in: Karl Marx, On Revolution, edited and translated by S.K. Padover, New York, 1971. Excerpts from the review of Émile Girardin's book were quoted in an article by M. Beer, “Further Selections from the Literary Remains of Karl Marx”, in Labour Monthly, London, 1923, Vol. 5, No. 2. — p. 301
†232 In their review of Thomas Carlyle's pamphlets, The Present Time and Model Prisons, the authors continue their critical analysis of Carlyle's sociological and historical conception which Marx and, particularly, Engels (see present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 444-68) began in their earlier works. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, they criticised “feudal socialism” (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 507-08), of which Carlyle was an exponent. Their criticism became more intense as Carlyle moved to the right after the revolution of 1848-49.
During the lifetime of Marx and Engels the review was reprinted unsigned in Der Volksstaat, Leipzig, 1871, Nos. 93 and 94, November 18 and 22.
In quotations from Carlyle's pamphlets, the authors of the review do not always follow Carlyle's italics; they silently omit some paragraphs, change punctuation and introduce their own italics. In the given publication, in places where part of the text was left out, the editors have introduced marks of omission. — p. 301
†233 The Freemasons (called more fully Free and Accepted Masons) — members of a religious and ethical movement that arose in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century and spread to other European countries and America. Freemasons condemned the feudal system and the Established Church and sought to set up a world-wide new religion. The Order of Freemasons had secret lodges in various countries, and a mystical ritual copied from the ritual of medieval masons' guilds (hence the name). Members of the Order set themselves the task of ethically purifying and improving people in order to renovate the world. Freemasons believed in eternal and immutable laws of nature known only to the wisest leaders of the Order who enjoyed unquestionable authority and brought up rank-and-file members in obedience to these laws and in the spirit of fraternity, justice and enlightenment.
― 677 ―
The Illuminati (from the Latin illuminatus) — members of a secret society founded in Bavaria in 1776, a variety of Freemasonry. The society consisted of opposition elements from the bourgeoisie and nobility, who were dissatisfied with princely despotism. In 1785 the society was banned by the Bavarian authorities. Similar societies also existed in Spain and France.
Mozart was a Freemason and his opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) (text by Emmanuel Schikaneder, first staged in 1791), embodies Masonic ideals in the form of a naive fairy-tale. — p. 306
†234 Laissez-faire, laissez-aller — the formula of economists who advocated Free Trade and non-intervention by the state in economic relations. — p. 308
†235 See Note 75. — p. 310
†236 This review, slightly abridged, was reprinted during Engels' lifetime in the theoretical organ of the German Social-Democratic Party, Die Neue Zeit, Stuttgart, 1886, 4. Jg., H. 12.
While preparing the given publication, the editors checked quotations from Chenu and de la Hodde according to the 1850 edition of the pamphlets. The authors of the review may have used a different edition published in the same year, hence the different page numbers. In the text, the pages given by the review's authors are followed by those of the edition used by the editors of the present publication, which are given in square brackets. — p. 311
†237 The secret Société des nouvelles saisons came into being soon after the rout (in 1839) of the Société des saisons led by Auguste Blanqui and Armand Barbés, and was virtually its successor. Workers formed the main body of the society, which also included students. Its members adhered to revolutionary Babouvism and were strongly influenced by the utopian communist ideas of Théodore Dézamy. — p. 312
†238 See Note 64. — p. 315
†239 An allusion to attempts by a small group of conspirators, members of secret revolutionary societies, to commit terrorist acts using home-made incendiary bombs. Police agents were also involved in the venture, giving regularly information about the conspirators' movements. This enabled the police to arrest all those involved. Their trial in 1847 revealed that police agents had succeeded in infiltrating deeply into secret societies. — p. 315
†240 Among Fourier's posthumous works there is the unfinished manuscript Des trois unités externes which deals partially with the problems of trade. It was published in 1845 in the journal La Phalange. Lengthy passages from this work were translated by Engels into German and published in 1846 in the Deutsches Bürgerbuch (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 613-44). — p. 322
†241 See Note 45. — p. 323
†242 On the by-elections to the Legislative Assembly (March 10, 1850) see this volume, pp. 129-31. — p. 325
†243 This review of the book by Émile Girardin, an exponent of bourgeois socialism, is in effect a critique of bourgeois socialism. Here the authors go on to analyse in greater detail the trend in bourgeois social thinking which they described in the Manifesto of the Communist Party as an expression of the bourgeoisie's desire to redress “social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society”.
― 678 ―
When quoting passages from Girardin's work, the authors in a number of cases combined texts from different pages, omitted paragraphs and changed the punctuation. They also introduced their own italics. This form of quotation has been preserved. The pages of the quoted book are given in square brackets. In a number of instances, when part of the text is omitted, the editors of this volume have introduced omission marks not in the review itself. — p. 326
†244 Droit d'enregistrement — a tax imposed on the registration and drawing up of various documents: sale and purchase contracts, deeds, court decisions, etc. Apart from confirming the authenticity of documents, such registration was also a source of revenue for the Exchequer. — p. 328
†245 See Note 28. — p. 328
Posted: 2010-01-05 07:35 |
|- CR STUDIES
|- CR DOCUMENTS
Total 0.021419(s) query 5, Time now is:05-05 20:17, Gzip enabled