Works of Frederick Engels 1849

The German Social Democrats and The Times

Source: MECW Volume 10, p. 3-4;
Written: London, Nov. 28th, 1849;
First published: in The Northern Star No. 632, December 1, 1849.

This statement was written by Engels soon after his arrival in London from Switzerland on approximately November 10, 1849. In July 1849, Engels crossed into Switzerland, together with the retreating Baden-Palatinate insurgent army, and then left for London via Genoa by sea around the Iberian Peninsula. Marx, who had emigrated to London in August 1849, carried on extensive work there to restore the Communist League and to assist revolutionary refugees coming to England. Engels, too, immediately joined in and was brought into the League's Central Authority which Marx had restored.

Engels' statement to the Chartist newspaper The Northern Star was prompted by articles of the petty-bourgeois journalist Karl Heinzen, with whom Marx and Engels had had a controversy as far back as 1847, and the fact that Heinzen's articles were used by English Conservative circles for the persecution and expulsion of political refugees from Britain. Thus, Heinzen's pamphlet Lehren der Revolution (Lessons of the Revolution) reprinted in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung Nos. 241 and 242 of November 9 and 16, 1849, contained gross demagogic statements compromising the German revolutionary refugees. Referring to those statements, the author of a letter published in The Times of November 23, 1849, and signed Anti-Socialist suggested to the Home Secretary that "the writer of such hellish doctrines" should be ordered "to quit the English dominions within 24 hours".

To the Editor of The Northern Star

Sir,--The Times of Friday last contains a letter signed "Anti-Socialist", denouncing to the English public, and to the English Home-Secretary, some of the "hellish doctrines" developed in the London German Newspaper, by a certain Mr. Charles Heinzen, described as a "shining light of the German Social Democratic party". These "hellish doctrines" consist chiefly of a benevolent proposal for killing, in the next continental revolution, "a couple of millions of reactionaries".

We may safely leave it with you to qualify the conduct of the editors of The Times, in allowing their columns to be made the receptacle of direct police information and denunciation in political matters. We are however rather astonished to see in the "leading journal of Europe" Herr Heinzen described as "a shining light of the German Social Democratic party" "The leading journal of Europe" certainly might have known that Herr Heinzen, so far from serving as a shining light to the party in question, has, on the contrary, ever since 1842, strenuously, though unsuccessfully, opposed everything like Socialism and Communism "The German Social Democratic party", therefore, never took, nor is it likely ever to take, the responsibility of anything said or written by Mr. Charles Heinzen.

As to the danger likely to result from the "hellish doctrines" aforesaid, The Times might have known that Mr. Heinzen, far from trying to put these doctrines into practice during the last eighteen months of revolutionary convulsions in Germany, hardly ever during that time put his foot upon German soil, and played no part whatever in any of those revolutions.

The idea, Sir, of a man who never did any damage even to the most diminutive of German princes, being able to do harm to the gigantic British empire, would be, in our eyes, an insult to the English nation. We therefore beg leave to move that the whole matter be wound up by The Times giving a vote of thanks to Mr. Charles Heinzen, for the courage malheureux [wretched courage] with which he combated Socialism and Communism. I am, Mr. Editor,

Yours very obediently,
A German Social Democrat