Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

The Dissolution of the Democratic Associations in Baden

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 288;
Written: by Engels on July 27, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 58, July 28, 1848

Cologne, July 27. The reactionary police measures against the right of association follow each other in rapid succession. First it was the Democratic Association in Stuttgart that was abolished, then it was the turn of the Association in Heidelberg. Success made the gentlemen of the reaction bold; now the Baden Government has banned all democratic associations in Baden.

All this occurs at the same moment when the soi-disant National Assembly in Frankfurt is occupied with the task of securing for all time the right of association as one of the “fundamental rights of the German people”.

The primary condition for the right of free association must be that no association and no society can be dissolved or prohibited by the police, that such measures can only be taken after a court sentence has established the illegality of the association or of its actions and purposes and the originators of these actions have been punished.

This method, of course, is much too protracted for the disciplinarian impatience of Herr Mathy. just as it was too much trouble for him first to obtain a warrant of arrest or at least to have himself appointed as a special constable, before, in virtue of the policeman in his nature, he arrested Fickler[182] as a “traitor to his country”, just so contemptible and impractical the judicial and legal path appears to him now.

The motives for this new police violence are most edifying. The associations had allegedly affiliated to an organisation of democratic associations for all of Germany which had originated at the Democratic Congress in Frankfurt.[183] This Congress is alleged to have

“set as its goal the establishment of a democratic republic” (as if that were prohibited!) “and what is meant by the means by which this goal is to be reached is shown by, among other things, sympathies for the rebels expressed in those resolutions” (since when are “sympathies” unlawful “means"?), “as well as by the fact that the Central Committee of these associations even refused to grant any further recognition to the German National Assembly and called for the formal separation of the minority for the purpose of forming a new Assembly by unlawful means”.
[quoted from the article “Karlsruhe, 23. Juli. Ernst der Regierung, die Aufhebung der demokratischen Vereine betreffend”, Deutsche Zeitung, July 26, 1848]

There follow the resolutions of the Congress concerning the organisation of the democratic party.

Thus, according to Herr Mathy, the associations of Baden are to be held responsible for the resolutions of the Central Committee even if they do not carry them out. For if these associations, following the request of the Frankfurt Committee, had really issued an address to the Left in the National Assembly urging its withdrawal, Herr Mathy would not have failed to announce this. Whether or not the request concerned is illegal is for the courts and not for Herr Mathy to decide. And to declare illegal the organisation of the party into districts, congresses and central committees, one has really to be Herr Mathy! And are not the constitutional and reactionary associations [184] organising themselves according to this model?

Well, of course!

It “appears inadmissible and pernicious to undermine the basis of the constitution and thus to shake the entire state edifice by the force of the associations”.

The right of association, Herr Mathy, exists just so that one may “undermine” the constitution with impunity, provided, of course, one does it legally! And if the power of the associations is greater than that of the state, so much the worse for ‘ the state!

We are calling once more upon the National Assembly to indict Herr Mathy at once if it does not want to lose all prestige.