Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848

The Latest News from the “Model State”

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 459;
Written: between October 8 and 11, 1848;
First published: in the supplement to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 114, October 12, 1848.

Brussels, October 8. La Nation yesterday led off with the following article about two members of the editorial staff of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Herr Frederick Engels and Herr Ernst Dronke:

“The expulsions are succeeding one another and are unfortunately all too similar. While we are still awaiting a few words of explanation about the expulsion of Herr Adam, a similar measure is taken against two German citizens who were foolish enough to rely on the protection which the Belgian Constitution grants every foreigner. Yes, this protection exists in the wording of the Constitution; until a few days ago it even beamed down from one of the façades of that charming little constitutional monument with which the courtyard of the Palais de Nation was graced; but as soon as the intoxication of the national holidays[299] is over, the liberals who rule over us hurriedly stuff away the slogans with which they so gallantly regaled the inquisitive citizens of the city and the provinces. Brussels has returned to normal and the police is fulfilling exactly as before its lofty mission of compensating by its brutal manners for the generosity of our ill-advised constitutional theories.

“Herr Engels and Herr Dronke had been staying in our city for a few days. Both members of the editorial staff of a democratic journal, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, they left Cologne to avoid the consequences of warrants issued for their arrest because of a few speeches made at public meetings. They made their way to Belgium not in order to abuse that Belgian hospitality which on account of its rarity can be so valuable, but only to wait for the money they needed to continue their journey to Paris. The unhappy events that occurred in Cologne after their departure strengthened them in their intention. The Prussian Government has been blessed with good fortune since it followed the Belgian example and set out on the broad constitutional path — after finding a general [Kaiser] who decreed a state of siege and the suspension of the press a la Cavaignac, it also managed to find a public prosecutor-general [Zweiffel] who agreed to employ the concept of moral complicity ŕ la Hébert and ŕ la de Bavay. But Herr Engels and Herr Dronke had forgotten that though the traveller proposes the police disposes.

“Scarcely had the news of their arrival in Brussels the day before yesterday become public when an inspector with his retinue turned up in their hotel. They were having their dinner. The inspector took them to the Town Hall and from there to the prison of the Petits-Carmes, whence after an hour or two they were transported in a scaled carriage to the Southern Railway Station. The police were merely using their powers in relation to “vagabonds” and, as it happened, the papers of our political refugees were not in order. It is true that they had on them a safe-conduct issued by the Cologne authorities stating that they were members of the civic militia of that city; moreover as a result of their stay in Brussels before March, they had friends who could prove their identity. But the police, only too well informed about them, preferred to treat them as vagabonds before any proof to the contrary could be obtained.

“If this is obstinacy, at least it is not blind obstinacy.

“Judging from the way in which the arrests are at present taking place, we believe that this article will probably have its sequels in future issues, unless the friends of liberty of all countries become convinced that it is better ‘to refrain under all circumstances from dropping in on us during their travels through this world’.”

It is clear from this that the Belgian Government is increasingly learning to recognise its position. The Belgians gradually become policemen for all their neighbours, and are overjoyed when they are complimented on their quiet and submissive behaviour. Nevertheless, there is something ridiculous about the good Belgian policeman. Even the earnest Times only jestingly acknowledged the Belgian desire to please. Recently it advised the Belgian nation, after it had got rid of all the clubs, to turn itself into one big club with the motto: “Ne risquez rien![The Times, October 2 1848]

It goes without saying that the official Belgian press ‘ , in its cretinism, also reprinted this ‘piece of flattery and welcomed it jubilantly. The fact that in its very first issue the Neue Rheinische Zeitung quite properly ridiculed any illusions about the Belgian “model” state makes it easier to understand, moreover, why the Belgian Government meted out such brutal treatment to two members of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung’s editorial staff.

The Belgian press itself reveals to us how the Belgian Government seeks to perpetuate these illusions. The following report is printed word for word in the Messager de Gand:

“We now know of what this Germany consists that cherishes such great admiration for us’ This Germany consists of Herr Wolfers from Louvain, whom M. Rogier pays to produce enthusiastic articles about Belgium in German for the Kölnische Zeitung. In view of the search for all possible ways to economise, it seems to us that we could easily abolish the fund of admiration which we are paying to all the journalists in Europe. In Brussels, in the provinces, in Paris, in London and even as far as Bucharest we are buying their compliments at a very high price. Savings in this field could add up to a sum not to be despised. In London, for example, the Belgian who writes admiring articles about Belgium for the Times and for the Daily News has to be paid out of the 80,000 francs allocated to our embassy. As soon as the Prince Ligne is installed we shall have to pay for the admiration of a Roman journalist as well.”

Are these revelations not delightful? But I have not finished yet. La Nation carries the following small item in its issue of October 10.

“We have often noticed that the ‘private correspondent’s’ column in the Indépendance, dated Frankfurt and Berlin, is as like the articles in the Kölnische Zeitung (to which Wolfers contributes) as two drops of dirty water. This newspaper does not appear on Sundays; and the Indépendance, too, has no private correspondent’s column on Mondays.”

We need not add much. To show its gratitude to the Indépendance for copying its German news from the Kölnische Zeitung, the Kölnische Zeitung in turn obtains its views on Belgium and France from the Indépendance.

But as everyone knows, the Indépendance is the organ of the same M. Rogier who buys admiration for Belgium, who had the Belgian patriots of 1830, and the eighty-year-old General Mellinet, condemned to death and who has political refugees conveyed across the frontier in sealed carriages.