Articles by Marx & Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Hohenzollern General Plan of Reform

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 65;
Written: Written by Marx on March 14, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 246, March 15, 1849

Cologne, March 14. "The exceptional states of siege will be lifted as soon as the general state of siege has been imposed on the entire kingdom by laws and has become part of our constitutional customs. The series of these 'firm' laws will begin with September legislation on associations and the press."

These are the words we used to accompany the publication of the speech from the throne (No. 234 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung). And what is the content of the first parliamentary act of the Government? It comes before the Chambers and declares:

"We shall deliver you from the state of siege. In exchange you will impose permanent martial law on meetings, associations and the press."

We cannot for a moment conceal the fact that from the outset the parliamentary Left by its timid behaviour has made it easier for the Government to go over to the offensive.

We shall compare en detail the splendid three Bills with the September laws, with the pre-March Bill on criminal legislation, and with the Prussian Law.[58] But first of all we inform our readers of the general plan of the old-Prussian reformers to which our special supplement the day before yesterday already drew attention.

On the very same day on which the unofficial Berlin newspapers published the three splendid Bills, the Neue Preussische Zeitung, that Moniteur of Brandenburg providence, published an "Opinion on the Essential Tasks of the Present Assembly of the So-called Representation of the People." The Hohenzollern dynasty and its Brandenburg Government are of too "noble" a lineage to be hypocritical at moments when the sun of "power" shines on the unweakened Crown.[59] At such moments the royal heart knows no restraint and humiliates the plebeian masses by a rough, unceremonious expression of its most intimate desires and thoughts. It has pleased fate—the fact cannot be concealed—, heartless fate, more than once by a peculiar turn of events to bring to naught prophecies, threats and desires which "our good King", Frederick William IV (the ingenious Frederick William IV, who in putting on the crown used precisely the same words as Napoleon had when assuming the iron crown of Lombardy)[60] uttered at moments of triumphant power, moments of "divine intoxication", as Goethe says. But it is well known that iron destiny rules even over the gods. In any case, for a royal heart, just as for a woman's heart, and for every heart, it remains an intoxicating supreme delight to give full vent without hindrance to one's most intimate thoughts, and to attune the world if only by a speech, by a document, to the desires of one's own heart.

Hence the outpouring of the Neue Preussische Zeitung, which is more or less that of the royal heart, is in itself of great psychological interest; on the other hand, it lets the people know what is expected of them, what if necessary will be obtained by force from them—of course, in their own well-understood interest.

The Neue Preussische Zeitung (No. 59, supplement), in order to facilitate a survey of the Hohenzollern general plan of reform, has arranged it under headings, which in any case is a commendable condescension towards the public. Was it not at liberty to report the royal decisions in apocalyptic form in the manner of the Revelations of St. John? Let us keep to the headings!

The "essential tasks of the present assembly of the so-called representation of the people" are sub-divided as follows:

1) Purging the Chamber from political criminals. A Jove principium. The first law for a Chamber which should act in accordance with the wishes of the royal heart, is to transform itself in accordance with the wishes of the royal heart. For the time being, its composition is still a product of disrespectful universal suffrage, even if it is indirect suffrage.

And what does the royal heart demand?

The present representation of the people, the Neue Preussische Zeitung divulges, is disfigured by "a blemish" which makes it unworthy and incapable of "being in its entirety an embodiment of Prussian honour, Prussian loyalty and love of the Fatherland". This is a nuisance of which it must rid itself, in order to be "righteous" in the eyes of His Majesty.

"This blemish, this nuisance, consists in the fact that its membership includes persons who toot part in the criminal actions of the parliamentary faction headed by Unruh, particularly in the factional decision on refusal to pay taxes."

"The Government," it goes on to say, "owing to its own regrettable weakness or from distrust of the judiciary, which indeed is to a large event infected with revolutionary sentiments, did not put those men on trial. To make up for this omission, this mistake, is the task of the Chambers; to press for this is particularly the duty of all judges and lawyers who are members of the Chambers, if only to preserve the vanishing honour of their profession. A motion therefore must be put to the Government—and it should be one of the first actions after the Chamber has been constituted—that the Minister of Justice should now institute a court investigation and punishment of these criminals. Such an expurgation is the first and most urgent requirement for the successful progress of the deliberations."

It is the dearest wish of the King to see punishment meted out to the tax-refusing evil-doers and desecrators unto the third generation. The royal Government was too weak to fulfil this wish. The royal-Prussian people was so shameless, so obstinate that it once more elected evil-doers and sinners as its representatives in open revolt against the Emperor's heart. It is now up to the Chambers to compel the royal Government to carry out the most personal intentions of His Majesty. On bended knees, they must beg the Ministry to allow them to expel from their midst all infected elements who are in a higher sense not presentable at court. And, above all, the theologians and Pharisees, the "judges and lawyers" have to save their "profession", whose "honour" began to vanish from the moment Manteuffel began to harbour the suspicion, of course without foundation, that the Prussian Themis might remain blind to the clear hints of the Crown. But how can a judiciary save its honour in the eyes of the people, for which every fancy of the embodiment of divine grace would not be a law, which would not obey implicitly the orders of the King himself?

It is well known that in all religions penitence, sacrifice, and if possible self-sacrifice, are the real essence of divine worship, of the cult. The so-called representation of the people, in order to prove that it is a representation of the royal heart—and the royal heart is the vital, individualised incarnation of the real heart of the people—the "so-called" representation of the people must therefore above all sacrifice itself, that is itself as an emanation of the sovereignty of the people, on the steps of the throne.

It must cast out all members who are obnoxious to His Majesty and deliver them to prison and the executioner as an expiatory offering of the religion of absolute monarchy. In that way it will atone, firstly, for the crime of its original sin, the sin of having been brought into existence by popular sovereignty. At the same time it will expiate a crime-laden past which is defamatory of royalty and therefore blasphemous. It will purify itself to become a true expression of the fullness of royal power. From a "so-called" popular representation it will become a real popular representation—in the higher, royal Prussian sense. The King is the real Prussian people. The real Prussian people—which must in no way be confused, after the bad foreign custom, with the superficial number of inhabitants of the state—therefore elects representatives solely in order that the royal wishes shall be re-echoed to the King as the people's wishes and in this way the most secret demands of his sovereign heart achieve a reality both prosaic and generally accepted in the form of public legislative proposals and decisions of the Chamber.

Consequently, we expect from the Berlin Chambers that they will commence their cult of the King by self-sacrifice, by casting out the sinners who refuse payment of taxes.

The Neue Preussische Zeitung does not conceal that even then the Chamber will still not be righteous in the eyes of His Majesty. The other part of the sacrifice, however, cannot be performed by the Chamber as a corporation. It remains dependent on the active consciousness of sin and the self-crucifixion of the individual members concerned.

"It is true that such a purge," says the Neue Preussische Zeitung with a sigh, "would not expel all those members whom, because of their antecedents in politics and statesmanship, it would be desirable to see removed for so long as they fail to realise and repent their share in the misfortune of the Fatherland and to take a vow publicly pledging themselves to check to the best of their ability the crimes for which in part they were personally to blame. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that there can be no question of expelling from the Chambers on legal grounds all those persons who have served the revolution, who in particular between March 18 and November 8 as highly placed officials have been used up in this service" (genuine Prussian grammar). "It would however be desirable that their own consciousness should cause them to absent themselves, unless they turn over a new leaf in the way indicated above. Also, in connection with this" (supreme) "wish, in all fairness distinctions make themselves felt, for example, between Rhenish traders who should become pillars of the state overnight, and men of the old-Prussian" (feudal) "families, whose honourable names have from of old been most closely bound up with the history of our royal house and of the original heart-lands"(is Silesia also an original heart-land?) "of the monarchy."

We told the "Rhenish traders" about this long ago. It is only with degout that the feudal house of Hohenzollern chose this bourgeois canaille as a lowly tool and it waits impatiently for the moment when it can get rid of them with kicks in a radical fashion. Hansemann! Camphausen Kühlwetter! On your knees! Clothed in a penitent's shroud in front of the royal palace, in full view of the people, with ashes strewn on your crime-laden heads, vow and publicly testify that in the most profound remorse you repent having for a moment dared with bourgeois-constitutional intrigues to prepare the counter-revolution, the accomplishment of which befits only "My glorious army"[61] and—you skinflints, haggling serfs, pedantic traders in army fats,[62] cunning railway speculators—having not only saved the throne, but having even boasted of this salvation in high-flown woe-begone phrases. On your knees! Don the penitent's shroud! Or get you to a monastery!

And as regards the " men of the old-Prussian families", nobly-born and favoured by predestination off-shoots of the chosen people, we expect in the near future to read in the Staats-Anzeiger obituary notices of these, of an Arnim, Auerswald, Bonin, Pfuel. Only if they go voluntarily to their death can we believe in their repentance. From a Rhenish trader such as Hansemann, such greatness of soul is not to be expected. Hansemann is a Voltairean of the most objectionable sort, superficial, and above all, hard-hearted in money matters.

Vanish therefore from the Chambers, leave the stage, you living monuments of March 18, of royal tribulations, humiliations, inconsistencies and weaknesses! Withdraw from the Chambers, or condemn yourselves to be the scapegoats for March 18!

The Chambers themselves, however, will present the tax-refusers to the royal throne as a hecatomb of their purification and expiation and thus make themselves worthy of fulfilling the further "tasks" dictated by the King to "the so-called representation of the people".

(Continuation follows)