Marx in Neue Rheinische Zeitung October 1848

Public Prosecutor “Hecker” and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung [317]

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 485;
Written: by Marx on October 28, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 129, October 29, 1848.

Cologne, October 28. No. 116 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung carried in the feuilleton section, i.e. outside the political part of the newspaper, “A Word to the German People” signed “Hecker”. This “historical document” was printed by a number of German newspapers before the Neue Rheinische Zeitung printed it. Other German newspapers, Rhenish-Prussian and old-Prussian not excluded, carried it later. Even the Kölnische Zeitung possessed enough historical sense to print the proclamation of Struve and likewise that of Fuad Effendi.[318]

We do not know whether the laurels of the republican Hecker did not let Public Prosecutor Hecker sleep in peace. Was the astonished world to learn that the German revolution had been twice beaten by the flight of the republican Hecker to New York and the presence of the Public Prosecutor Hecker in Cologne? It cannot be denied. Posterity will see in these two giant figures the dramatic synopsis of the contradictions of the modern movement. A future Goethe will unite them in a Faust. We shall leave it to him to which Hecker he wants to assign the role of Faust and to which that of Wagner.

In short. The fantastic farewell address of the republican Hecker was followed by the no less fantastic case of Public Prosecutor Hecker.

Or are we mistaken? Does Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, believe that “the word to the German people” is the product of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung itself, that this newspaper with its inventive maliciousness has signed its own proclamation “Hecker” in order to make the German people believe that Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, is emigrating to New York, that Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, proclaims the German republic, that Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, officially sanctions pious revolutionary wishes?

Such a trick was credible because the document reproduced in the supplement to No. 116 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung is not signed Friedrich Hecker but tout bonnement “Hecker”. A Hecker without flourishes, a simple Hecker! And does not Germany possess a twofold Hecker?

And who of the two is the “simple Hecker"? In any case, this simplicity remains ambiguous and, in our opinion, embarrassing for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

Be that as it may, Herr Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, apparently viewed the “word to the German people” as a product of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. He saw in it a direct appeal to overthrow the Government, high treason in its most developed form or at the very least complicity in high treason which according to the Code pénal[319] constitutes “simple” high treason.

Thus Herr Hecker requested the examining magistrate to “assume” not that the undersigned responsible publisher [Korff] but that the editor-in-chief, Karl Marx, is guilty of high treason. But to “assume” somebody guilty of high treason means in other words to put him into prison for the time being and to punish him until further notice with detention pending investigation. We are dealing here with the “imposition” of solitary confinement. The examining magistrate refused to do this. Once Herr Hecker has conceived of an idea, he pursues his idea. To “constitute” the editor-in-chief of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung became a fixed idea for him just as the name of “Hecker” underneath the “farewell address” was for him fictitious. Hence he turned to the Council Chamber. The Council Chamber declined. He went from the Council Chamber to the Senate of Appeal. The Senate of Appeal refused to become involved. Herr Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, however, did not give up his fixed idea to “constitute”, always in the above sense, the editor-in-chief of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Karl Marx. As one can see, the ideas of the Public Prosecutor’s office are not speculative ideas in the Hegelian sense. They are ideas in the Kantian sense, notions of “practical” reason.

Karl Marx could never be directly “accused” of high treason, even if the printing of revolutionary facts or proclamations constituted a newspaper guilty of high treason. In the first place, one had to charge the one who had signed the newspaper, especially in this case, where the document in question appeared in the feuilleton section. What else could one do? One idea leads to another. One could cite Karl Marx, under Article 60 of the Code pénal, as an accomplice to the crime allegedly committed by the responsible publisher. One can also cite him, if one wants to, as an accomplice of that declaration even if it was printed in the Kölnische Zeitung. Hence Karl Marx received a summons from the examining magistrate. He appeared and his evidence was taken down. The compositors were, as far as we know, summoned as witnesses, the proof-reader was summoned as a witness and the owner of the printshop was summoned as a witness. Finally, though, the responsible publisher was invited as a witness. We do not understand the last summons.

Is the alleged author supposed to bear witness against his accomplice?

So that nothing is omitted from our narrative: a police raid was conducted against the office of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, has surpassed Hecker, the republican. The one accomplishes rebellious facts and issues rebellious proclamations. The other, despite every reluctance, erases facts from the memoirs of contemporary history, from the newspapers. He makes what has happened not to have happened. If the “bad press” reports revolutionary facts and proclamations, it commits twofold high treason. It is a moral accomplice since it only reports the rebellious facts because it is inwardly titillated by them. It is an accomplice in the ordinary juridical sense; by reporting, it disseminates, and by disseminating, it turns itself into a tool of the rebellion. It will, therefore, be “constituted” on both counts and will thus enjoy the fruits of the “constitution”. The “good press”, by contrast, will have the monopoly to report or not to report, to falsify or not to falsify revolutionary documents and facts. Radetzky has made use of this theory by prohibiting the Milanese newspapers to report the Viennese facts and proclamations. The Milanese Newspaper, [Gazzetta di Milano] on the other hand, reported in place of the great Viennese “revolution” a small Viennese riot especially composed by Radetzky. It is rumoured that an insurrection has nonetheless broken out in Milan.

Herr Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, is, as everybody knows, a contributor to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. As our contributor we forgive him much except the sin against the unholy “spirit” of our newspaper. And he commits this sin by transforming, with a lack of critical faculty unheard of in a contributor to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the proclamation of Hecker the fugitive into the proclamation of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Friedrich Hecker adopts a passionate attitude and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung a critical attitude towards the movement. Friedrich Hecker expects everything from the magic influence of single personalities. We expect everything from the collisions which arise from the economic conditions. Friedrich Hecker travels to the United States in order to study the “republic”. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung finds that the grandiose class struggles which are taking place in the French Republic are more interesting subjects of study than those in a republic in which in the west class struggles do not yet exist and in the east move only within the old quiet English forms. For Friedrich Hecker social questions are consequences of political struggles, for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung political struggles are merely the manifestations of social collisions. Friedrich Hecker could be a good tricolour republican. The actual opposition of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung only begins with the tricolour republic.

How, for example, could the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, without completely repudiating its past, have called upon the German people to

“rally around the men who hold high the banner of popular sovereignty and who guard it faithfully, the men of the extreme Left in Frankfurt am Main; join firmly by word and deed the brave leaders of the republican rising”.

We have repeatedly declared that we are not a “parliamentary” newspaper and that we do not hesitate, therefore, from time to time to draw the wrath of even the extreme Left of Berlin and Frankfurt upon our heads. We have called upon the gentlemen of Frankfurt to join the people, we have never called upon the people to join the gentlemen of Frankfurt. And “the brave leaders of the republican rising”, where are they and who are they? Hecker is, as is well known, in America, Struve is in prison. Is it Herwegh? The editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, in particular Karl Marx, have at public meetings decisively opposed Herwegh’s initiative[320] in Paris without fearing the ill favour of the excited masses. They were, therefore, duly mistrusted at that time (compare the Deutsche Volkszeitung,[321] among others) by utopians who mistook themselves for revolutionaries. Are we supposed to join the people of the opposite opinion now that events have repeatedly confirmed our predictions?

But let us be just. Herr Hecker, the Public Prosecutor, is still a young contributor to our newspaper. The novice in politics just as the novice in natural science resembles that painter who knows only two colours, white and black, or, if you prefer, black-white and red. The finer differences within each espèce reveal themselves only to the skilled and experienced eye. And besides, was Herr Hecker not dominated by the fixed idea to “constitute” Karl Marx, the editor-in-chief of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a fixed idea which melted in the purgatory neither of the Investigating Court, nor of the Council Chamber, nor of the Senate of Appeal; hence it must be a fire-proof fixed idea.

The greatest achievement of the March revolution is unquestionably, to use the words of Brutus Bassermann, the “rule of the most noble and best” and their rapid rise on the scale of power. We hope therefore that the merits of Public Prosecutor Hecker, our esteemed contributor, will also carry him to the heights of the state’s Olympus, as the snow-white doves which were harnessed to the chariot of Aphrodite, carried her with lightning speed to Olympus. As everybody knows, our Government is constitutional. Pfuel is full of enthusiasm for constitutionalism. It is the custom in constitutional states to pay close attention to the recommendations of opposition newspapers. We are therefore moving on constitutional grounds when we advise the Government to award to our Hecker the vacant position of Chief Public Prosecutor of Düsseldorf. Public Prosecutor Ammon of Düsseldorf, who, as far as we know, has not yet earned a life-saving medal for his services to the fatherland, will not hesitate for one moment to dictate reverential silence to his own possible claims in view of the higher merits. If, however, Herr Heimsoeth should become Minister of Justice, as we hope he will, we will recommend Herr Hecker as Attorney General. We expect still bigger things for Herr Hecker. Herr Hecker is still young. And as the Russians say: the Tsar is great, God is greater still, but the Tsar is still young.