Articles by Frederick Engels in The Rheinische Zeitung

The Liberalism of the Spenersche Zeitung

Written: on June 22, 1842;
First published: in the Rheinische Zeitung No. 177, June 26, 1842;
Marked with the sign ‘X’
Source: MECW, Volume 2;
Transcribed: in 2000 for by Andy Blunden.

Berlin, June 22. The other day, the Spenersche Zeitung [Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen]bestowed upon itself, since so far no one else has taken on the job, the praise which it feels it deserves. [153] A “review” of its activity over the past six months is sufficient for it to arrive at the important discovery that it is the paper which has pioneered the movement for a free press. It is amusing to see how, with a solemn air of heightened self-confidence, its frock-coat brushed fit for Sunday, it steps before its public, before the foreign newspapers, and places on its head the civic crown of liberalism. The Spenersche Zeitung claims that but for it or rather for the *, which stands for the article in question, but for this * no Prussian newspaper would to this day have attained the present standpoint of liberalism. For as soon as the censorship circular appeared [154] the * proceeded to sound out how far one might go in the opposition business; it knocked, softly, and lo! it was admitted. And naturally so, for these quiet, bowing, well-intentioned, humble, tame articles would eventually have been passed even before. The * should at least trust its censor to be able to tell a domestic animal from a wild one. But God forbid! This isolated philistinism is so limited that it takes the most trivial idea that crosses its mind for original, inspired by genius, unique of its kind. The censorship circular appears; now every writer must, of course, instantly change his manner of writing, give it freer rein. Our asterisk man, however, considers himself the only person in the world with an intellect capable of reaching this conclusion, and he wants to rub it under the noses of other journalists that they may now write more freely. But that is not enough. He thinks himself liberal. He has a certain flair for publicity. Perhaps in the most secret, hidden corner of his heart slumbers a little thought of the development of estate relations. — So what does he do then? He writes a series of articles which represent a complete range of liberalism; today the tamest is sent in, tomorrow the one which is half a grain less tame, and so on. But at the stage where the tameness and the so-called liberalism balance, he stops. Our asterisk man calls this “pioneering"!? The other Prussian editorial boards will no doubt -take the trouble to read the Spenersche Zeitung so as to learn from it the meaning of liberalism! Moreover, it is odd that our politicaster cannot understand why he does not cause as big a sensation with his articles as certain newspapers do with theirs; why he, the standard-bearer of Prussian liberalism, the great pioneer, finds himself nevertheless derided in all foreign newspapers, and must console himself with the thought that he is misunderstood.