Articles by Frederick Engels in The Northern Star

“Young Germany” In Switzerland [232]
(Conspiracy Against Church and State!)

Source: MECW Volume 4, p. 651;
Written between September 20 and 26, 1845;
Published: in The Northern Star. No. 411, September 27, 1845 with an editorial note “From our German correspondent”.

The Constitutionnel Neuchâtelois gives a long, apparently official, report on a “vast conspiracy of atheists spread all over Switzerland” We take from it the following extracts: —

After the discovery made some time ago of the Communist secret society, in the canton of Neuchâtel, another far more dangerous association has been discovered — an association extending its nets all over the Swiss confederacy, and purposing to overthrow, by means of Atheism, the fundamental principles of morality, and to revolutionise Germany by any means, Regicide not expected. The members of this Association, which is known by the name of Young Germany, or the Leman Confederacy, are almost without exception German working men, with some of the old political refugees. In consequence of some information at the headquarters of the conspiracy, Lausanne, the chiefs of the great club of La Chaux-de-Fonds were apprehended, and a commission of inquiry appointed, the results of which are the following disclosures. This secret society exists since 1838, and has at its head Messrs. Standau and Döleke, professors of the German language, Wm. Marr, editor of their paper [Blätter der Gegenwart für soziales Leben]; and Hoffmann, druggist. Dr. Fein and Dr. Rauschenplatt, German refugees; the first imprisoned at Lucerne on account of his having taken part in the late civil war [233] — the second at Strasburg, appear also to be connected with this society. The rules of the association contain the following articles:

The society is essentially and necessarily a secret one, its end being political propaganda. Every member obliges himself to remain within the association until forty years of age, to devote all his powers to the attainment of its aims, and not to stand in fear of any sacrifice. Every member engages himself to destroy all written documents, by which the association or its members might be traced. In Switzerland a central office is formed, corresponding with all those members that are returned to Germany, and leading the whole of the operations. None to he admitted as members who do not profess themselves atheists and revolutionists.

By the incredible activity of its members among the German working men — of whom there is a floating population of about 25,000 in Switzerland — this society has succeeded in establishing its branch-clubs in 26 towns in Switzerland, viz.: — Carouge, Nyon, Rolle, Aubonne, Morges, Lausanne, Aigle, Vevey, Yverdon, Moudon, Payerne, Chaux-de-Fonds, Fleurier, Berne, Biel, St. Imer, Porentruy, Burgdorf, Chur, Zug, Zurich, Winterthur, Basel, Lucerne, Friburg, and Geneva, besides two clubs in France, in Strasburg and Marseilles. Every six months the deputies of these clubs assemble in one of the localities, which for the next six months is then charged with the management of the general business. The incredible activity. and the really diabolic means brought into bearing by these propagandists for attracting the Germans, are frightful indeed. One of them, writing from Zurich to the central office, says:

“We are obliged to use great caution, on account of most of the newly arriving men being frightened by the ordinances and intimidations of the German governments. They will never enter a club unless they are told that it is not a political one. ‘Mus we are obliged to treat them very cautiously, to bring them bit by bit into the right road, and the principal thing in this respect is to show them that religion is nothing but a pile of rubbish and dung. The only thing we can do is to prepare them here for the clubs in French Switzerland, and there we send those who intend leaving Zurich.”

When the Morges club wanted to get into connection with the whitesmiths of that town, none of whom was a member, they instantly wrote to the central office, to send them a whitesmith who might be clever enough to bring those workmen into the society. The clubs were all in correspondence with each other, as well as with the central office. This correspondence has been partly seized, and shows by its contents how much the whole conspiracy was pervaded by a revolutionary spirit. Every dub had a committee for preparing the subjects of discussion. The debates extended over all political, ~, and religious questions. Some clubs were comparatively rich, and possessed libraries, newsrooms, pianos, &c; they were furnished with everything which might attract the workmen. The most powerful clubs were those of Geneva, Berne, Zurich, Lausanne, and La Chaux-de-Fonds; the last named club numbered (in a very small town) 200 members; and if we consider that in this same town, besides Young Germany, there existed a very numerous Communist club, we may think ourselves entitled to say, that Atheists and Communists in Switzerland are to be numbered by thousands. The association had a secret agitation committee, which was generally not known to the members at large; but every club contained one or two of those “Propagandists”, whose business it was to keep up the steam, to direct the proceedings, and to develop the spirit of Atheism and revolutionism. Unfortunately, they succeeded but too wen in this, as is proved by the fact, that the “infernal” periodical of Young Germany, published by Marr, numbered above 500 subscribers among the working people only. The paper openly proclaims Atheism as its principle. — “Germany,” says this paper, “wants a political, religious, and social revolution; and if religion and politics should, during the course of this revolution, end in smoke, so much the better; socialised man will come forth purer and better from this purgatory.”

Thus far the report, which is altogether written in an infamous and calumniatory style. Young Germany had existed in Switzerland since 1831, when, in consequence of the many insurrections in Germany, great numbers of young men, students, workmen, &c.; were obliged to leave their country. After a period of considerable activity this association collapsed towards 1837, when. the general Bourgeoisie Government throughout Europe succeeded in suppressing the spirit of political agitation. Soon afterwards, however, the Communist clubs commenced to form themselves in the old home of Young Germany, on the shores of the Leman Lake, and to commence an animated debate with that merely political association. This debate ended in a settled quarrel, and decided enmity of the two parties; the main result, however, was, that Young Germany was obliged to extend its field of action, and not only to better define their political principles, as those of Radical, Republic, and Democratic, but also to take up social questions. While the middle classes of Germany kill their time; with “German Catholicity” and “Protestant Reforms” while they run after Ronge, and play the “Friends of Light” [234]; thus making it their chief business to effect some very little, almost invisible, good-for-nothing (but a Bourgeois) reform in religious matters, the working people of our country read and digest the writings of the greatest German philosophers such as Feuerbach, &c., and embrace the result of their inquiries, as radical as this result may appear. The people of Germany have no religion. How else would it have been possible to convert masses of them, not only in Switzerland, but in France, England, and at home, within the short space of a year? I refer to what I said last week but one on Bourgeoise movements and working-class movements; 1 think these disclosures are a full confirmation of my statement.