Karl Marx

In Connection with the article
"Failures of the Liberal Opposition in Hanover"
Editorial Note [97]

Written: about November 8, 1842;
Source: MECW Volume 1, p 264;
First published: in the Supplement to the Rheinische Zeitung No. 312, November 8, 1842.

Since the expression "liberal opposition" in the title originated not with the author of the article in question, but with the editorial board, the latter takes this occasion to add something to explain this designation.

Two reasons are put forward against this expression. As regards its form, it is said that the opposition is not liberal, because it is conservative, because it aims at the continuance of an existing legal situation. According to this dialectic, the July revolution was a conservative and therefore illiberal revolution, for it aimed first of all at preserving the Charte. Nevertheless, liberalism claimed the July revolution as its own. Liberalism,. of course, is conservative, it conserves freedom and, in the face of the assaults of crude, material force, even the stunted status quo forms of freedom. It should be added that, if such an abstraction wishes to be consistent, from its own point of view the opposition of a legal situation dating from the year 1833 must be regarded as progressive and liberal compared with a reaction which is forcing the year 33 back to the year 19.

As regards the content, it is further contended that the content of the opposition, the fundamental state law of 1833, is not a content of freedom. Granted! However little the fundamental state law of 1833 is an embodiment of freedom when measured by the idea of freedom, it is very much an embodiment of freedom when measured by the existence of the fundamental state law of 1819. Altogether, it is not a question primarily of the particular content of this law; it is a question of opposing illegal usurpation in favour of legal content.

The editorial board was the more entitled to call the Hanover opposition liberal since almost all German assemblies acclaimed it as a liberal opposition, as an opposition of legal freedom. Whether it deserves this predicate when looked at from the judgment seat of criticism, whether it has progressed beyond the mere opinion and pretension of being liberal to real liberalism, to examine this was precisely the task of the article in question.

Incidentally, we point out that in our view true liberalism in Hanover in the future has neither to champion the fundamental state law of 1833 nor to hark back to the law of 1819, but must strive for a completely new form of state corresponding to a more profound, more thoroughly educated and freer popular consciousness.

The editorial board of the Rheinische Zeitung