MARX AND ENGELS ON LITERATURE AND ART:
I am now coming to Franz von Sickingen. [Original Footnote: A Drama by Lassalle-Ed First of all, I must praise the composition and action, and that is more than can be said of any other modern German drama. In the second instance, leaving aside the purely critical attitude to this work, it greatly excited me on first reading and it will therefore produce this effect in a still higher degree on readers who are governed more by their feelings. And this is a second and very important aspect.
Now the other side of the medal: First -this is a purely formal matter - since you have written it in verse, you might have polished up your iambs with a bit more artistry.
But however much professional poets may be shocked by such carelessness I consider it on the whole as an advantage, since our brood of epigonous poets have nothing left but formal polish. Second: The intended conflict is not simply tragic but is really the tragic conflict that spelled the doom, and with reason, of the revolutionary party of 1848-49. I can therefore only most heartily welcome the idea of making it the pivotal point of a modern tragedy. But then I ask myself whether the theme you took is suitable for a presentation of this conflict. Balthasar may really imagine that if Sickingen had set up the banner of opposition to imperial power and open war against the princes
instead of concealing his revolt behind a knightly feud, he would have been victorious. But can we subscribe to this illusion? Sickingen (and with him Hutten, more or less) did not go under because of his cunning. He went under because it was as a knight and a representative of a moribund class that he revolted against the existing order of things or rather against the new form of it. Strip Sickingen of his individual traits and his particular culture, natural ability, etc., and what is left is - Gotz von Berlichingen. Gotz that miserable fellow, embodies in adequate form the tragic opposition of the knights to the Emperor and princes; and that is why Goethe has rightly made him the hero [Original foot-note: Marx refers to Goethe's drama Gotz von Berlichingen]. In so far as Sickingen - and even Hutten to a certain extent, although with regard to him and all ideologists of a class, statements of this kind ought to be considerably modified -- fights against the princes (for the conflict with the Emperor arises only because the Emperor of the knights turns into an Emperor of the princes), he is indeed only a Don Quixote, although one historically justified. The fact that he began the revolt in the guise of a knightly feud means simply that he began it in a knightly fashion. Had he begun it otherwise he would have had to appeal directly and from the outset to the cities and peasants, i.e., precisely to the classes whose development was tantamount to the negation of the knights.
Hence, if you did not want to reduce the collision to that presented in Gotz von Berlichingen - and that was not your plan - then Sickingen and Hutten had to succumb because they imagined they were revolutionaries (the latter cannot be said of Gotz) and, just like the educated Polish nobility of 1830, on the one hand, made themselves exponents of modern ideas, while, on the other, they actually represented the interests of a reactionary class. The aristocratic representatives of the revolution --behind whose watchwords of unity and liberty there still lurked the dream of the old empire and of club-law -- should, in that case, not have absorbed all
interest, as they do in your play, but the representatives of the peasants (particularly these) and of the revolutionary elements in the cities ought to have formed a quite significant active background. In that case you could to a much greater extent have allowed them to voice the most modern ideas in their most naive form, whereas now, besides religious freedom, civil unity actually remains the main idea. You would then have been automatically compelled to write more in Shakespeare's manner whereas I regard as your gravest shortcoming the fact that a la Schiller you transform individuals into mere mouthpieces of the spirit of the time. Did you not yourself to a certain extent fall into the diplomatic error, like your Franz von Sickingen, of placing the, Lutheran-knightly opposition above the plebeian Munzer opposition?
Further, the characters are lacking in character. I exclude Charles V, Balthasar and Richard of Trier. Was there ever a time of more impressive characters than the 16th century? Hutten, I think, is too much just a representative of "inspiration" and this is boring. Was he not at the same time an ingenious person of devilish wit, and have you not therefore done him a great injustice?,
The extent to which even your Sickingen, who incidentally is also much too abstractly depicted, is the victim of a collision independent of all his personal calculations is seen, on the one hand, in the way he must preach to his knights friendship with the cities, etc., and, on the other, in the pleasure with which he metes out fist-law justice to the cities.
As far as details are concerned, I must here and there censure the exaggerated introspections of the individuals something which stems from your partiality for Schiller. E.g. p. 121. As Hutten tells Marie his life story, it would be absolutely natural to let Marie say:
"The whole gamut of feelings",
etc up to :
"And it is heavier than the weight of years".
The preceding verses from "It is said" up to "grown old", could then follow, but the reflection "The maid becomes a woman in one night" (although it shows that Marie knows more than the mere abstraction of love), was quite unnecessary; but least of all should Marie begin with the reflection on her own "age". After she had said all that she related in the "one" hour, she could give her feeling general expression in the sentence on her age. Further, in the following lines I was shocked by: "I considered it my right" (namely happiness). Why give the lie to the naive view of the world which Marie maintains to have had hitherto by converting it into a doctrine of right? Perhaps I shall set forth my view in greater detail for you another time.
I regard the scene between Sickingen and Charles V as particularly successful, although the dialogue becomes a little too defensive on both sides; further also the scenes in Trier. Hutten's sentences on the sword are very fine.
Enough for this time.
You have won a particular adherent for your drama in my wife. Marie is the only character with whom she is not satisfied.
Marx/Engels, Werke, Bd. 29, 1967,
2) ENGELS TO FERDINAND LASSALLE Transcribed by Alliance from: "Marx and Engels on Literature and Art"; Moscow; 1976
Manchester, May 18, 1859
You will have thought it somewhat strange that I have not written for such a long time, especially as I was to give you my opinion on your Sickingen. But that is the very thing which has kept me from writing for so long. With the present
ubiquitous dearth of good literature I seldom have the opportunity to read a work of this kind and it is years since I read one in such a way as to give an exhaustive judgment, a firmly established opinion at the end. Trash is not worth the trouble. Even the few better English novels which I come across from time to time, Thackeray, for example, have never been able to capture my interest in such a way, despite their indisputable literary, and cultural and historical significance. My judgment has, however, become very dulled after such a long period of inactivity, and it required some time before I could permit myself to voice an opinion. But your Sickingen deserves to be treated differently from that rubbish and so I took my time. The first and second readings of your work, which is in every sense, in terms of the subjectmatter and treatment, a German national drama, excited me to such an extent that I had to put it aside for some time, especially, I am ashamed to say, as my taste has so dulled in these lean times that even things of inferior value have some effect on me on first reading. In order to be completely impartial, completely "critical", I put Sickingen aside, i.e., I lent it to some acquaintances (there are a few other Germans here who are more or less educated in the literary sense). Habent sua fata libelli [Original Footnote:Books have their own fate] - if one lends them, one seldom sees them again, and so I had to win back my Sickingen by force. I can tell you that my impression on the third and fourth readings was the same, and convinced that your Sickingen can withstand criticism I shall give you my opinion on it.
I know that it will be no great compliment to you, if I say that none of the present official poets of Germany would be capable of writing such a drama. Nevertheless, this is a fact, and a fact too characteristic of our literature to be ignored. First, to deal with the form, I was very pleasantly surprised by the clever development of the plot and the intense dramatism of the piece. You have admittedly taken
some liberties with the versification which, however, interfere more in the reading than on the stage. I should have liked to read the stage version; the piece certainly cannot be performed in its present form. I had a young German poet (Carl Siebel) here. He is a countryman and distant relative of mine and has had quite a lot to do with the stage; he may come to Berlin as a Prussian guards reservist, in which case I shall perhaps take the liberty of giving him a few lines to convey to you. He thinks a great deal of your drama, but considers it to be entirely. unsuitable for the stage on account of the long monologues, during which one actor holds the stage and the others have to go through their entire mimicry two or three times so as not to stand like supernumeraries. The last two acts demonstrate clearly enough that you will have no difficulty in making the dialogue quick and lively and as, with the exception of a few scenes (which is the case with every drama), it seems to me that the same could be done in the first three, I do not doubt that you will have taken this into account in the stage version. The idea content must, of course, as a result suffer, but this is unavoidable. The full fusion of the greater depth of thought, of the conscious historical content, which you not unjustly attribute to German drama, with Shakespearian liveliness and fullness of treatment will probably be attained only in the future, perhaps not even by Germans. In any case I see in this the future of drama. Your Sickingen is on absolutely the right track; the main characters are representatives of definite classes and trends and therefore of definite ideas of their time. They find their motives not in petty individual lusts, but in the historical stream which is carrying them along. But the step forward which has still to be taken is that the action itself should be in the motives more vigorously, actively and, so to speak, elementally into the foreground while the debates (in which, by the way, I recognised with pleasure -your old oratorical gift which you displayed before the assizes and at the public meeting), on the contrary, become more and more superfluous. You seem to
acknowledge this ideal yourself as the goal, since you make the distinction between stage drama and literary drama; I think Sickingen lends itself in this sense to conversion into a stage drama, although with some difficulty (for perfection is truly not easy to achieve). The characterisation of the dramatis personae is linked with this. You have every right to speak out against the prevalent bad individualisation which amounts simply to petty wise-cracking and is an essential sign of the impoverishing literature of epigones. It seems to me, however, that an individual is not merely characterised by what he does, but by how he does it, and, in this respect, I do not think the idea content of the drama would have suffered if individual characters had been somewhat more sharply differentiated and contrasted with each other. The characterisation of the ancients no longer suffices nowadays, and here, I think, it would have done no harm to have taken a little more account of the significance of Shakespeare in the development of drama. But these are side issues which I only mention so that you can see that I have also paid attention to the form of your drama.
Now as far as the historical content is concerned, the two sides of the movement of that time which were of greatest interest to you-the national movement of the nobility, represented by Sickingen, and the humanistic-theoretical movement with its further development in the theological and ecclesiastical sphere, the Reformation-have been depicted by you very vividly and with justified reference to subsequent developments. What I like most here is the scene between Sickingen and the Emperor and that between the legate and the archbishop of Treves. (Here you have succeeded in drawing fine individual portraits when you present the contrast between the well-bred, politically and theoretically farseeing legate, who has an aesthetic and classical education, and the narrow-minded German ecclesiastical prince - a portrayal which nevertheless follows directly from the representative nature of the two characters.) The pen picture in the Sickingen-Karl scene is also very striking. In Hutten's
autobiography, whose content you rightly described as essential, you have certainly chosen a desperate means of working this content into the drama. Of great importance is also the talk between Balthasar and Franz in Act V, in which the former explains to his master the really revolutionary policy he should have followed. It is here that the really tragic manifests itself; and it seems to me that just because it is so significant it should have been emphasised somewhat more strongly already in Act III, where there are several convenient places. But I am again lapsing into minor matters.
The position of the cities and the princes of that time is also set forth on several occasions with great clarity and thus the official elements, so to speak, of the contemporary movement are fairly well accounted for. I have the impression however that you have not laid due stress upon the non-official, the plebeian and peasant, elements and their concomitant representatives in the field of theory. The peasant movement was in its way just as national and just as much opposed to the princes as was that of the nobility, and the colossal dimensions of the struggle in which it succumbed contrast very strongly with the readiness with which the nobility, leaving Sickingen in the lurch, resigned itself to its historical calling, that of flunkeys. Even accepting your interpretation of the drama - which, as you will have seen, is somewhat too abstract, not realistic enough for me - I think the peasant movement deserves closer attention. Although the peasant scene with Fritz Jos is characteristic and the distinct personality of this "agitator" presented very correctly, it does not however depict with sufficient force the peasant unrest - which already at that time was a swelling torrent, in contrast to the movement of the nobility. In accordance with my view of drama, which consists in not forgetting the realistic for the idealistic, Shakespeare for Schiller, the inclusion of the sphere of the so wonderfully variegated plebeian society of that day would have supplied, in addition, entirely new material for enlivening the drama, an invaluable background for the national movement of the
nobility in the foreground, and would have set this movement in the proper light. What peculiarly expressive types were produced during this period of the dissolution of the feudal ties is illustrated by the roaming beggar kings, unemployed lansquenets and adventurers of every description - a Falstaffian background which in an historical drama of this kind would have even greater effect than it did in Shakespeare! But apart from this, it seems to me that it is precisely by relegating the peasant movement to the rear that you have been induced, I believe, to misrepresent also one aspect of the national movement of the nobility and at the same time to allow the really tragic element in Sickingen's fate to escape you. As I see it, the majority of the nobility directly subject at that time to the emperor had no intention of concluding an alliance with the peasantry. Their dependence on incomes obtained by oppressing the peasants did not permit this. An alliance with the cities would have been more feasible. But no such alliance was effected, or was effected only to a very limited extent. But a national revolution of the nobility could have been accomplished only by means of an alliance with the towns and the peasants, particularly the latter. Precisely herein lies, in my opinion, the whole tragedy of the thing, that this fundamental condition, the alliance with the peasants, was impossible, that the policy of the nobility had therefore to be a petty one, that at the very moment when it wanted to take the lead of the national movement, the mass of the nation, the peasants, protested against its leadership and it thus necessarily had to collapse. I am unable to judge to what extent your assumption that Sickingen really did have some connection with the peasants has any basis in history, and it does not really matter. Incidentally, as far as I remember, wherever Hutten in his writings addresses the peasants, he just lightly touches on this ticklish question concerning the nobility and seeks to focus the wrath of the peasants on the priests. But I do not in the least dispute your right to depict Sickingen and Hutten as having intended to emancipate the peasants..
Page 107However, this put you at once up against the tragic contradiction that both of them were placed between the nobles, who were decidedly against this, and the peasants. Here, I dare say, lay the tragic collision between the historically necessary postulate and the practical impossibility of putting it into effect. By ignoring this aspect you reduce the tragic conflict to smaller dimensions, namely, that Sickingen, instead of at once tackling emperor and empire, tackled only a prince (although here too your correct intuition makes you bring in the peasants) and you simply let him perish as a result of the indifference and cowardice of the nobility. But the motivation of this would have been quite different if you had previously brought out more emphatically the rumbling peasant movement and the mood of the nobility, which became undoubtedly more conservative on account of the earlier peasant conspiracies of the Bundschuh and the Arme Konrad.[Original Footnotes: These were secret peasant associations, the actions of which paved the way for the Peasant War of 1524-5 in Germany] This is of course only one way in which the peasant and plebeian movement could have been incorporated in the drama. At least ten other ways of doing this just as well or better are conceivable.
You see that I make very high, that is to say, the very highest demands on your work both from the aesthetic and historical points of view, and the fact that I must do this to be able to make an objection here and there will be for you the best proof of my approval. Among us, criticism, in the interests of the Part itself, has for years been of necessity as open as possible; in; general, however, I and all of us are always pleased when there is new proof that our Party, in whatever area, always performs with superiority. And that you done in this case too.
Marx/Engels, Werkes, Bd. 29, 1967, S.600-05
(3) ENGELS TO MARGARET HARKNESS, APRIL 1888; Transcribed From "Marx Engels: Selected Correspondence"; Moscow; 1982. pp.379-381.
[Draft] [London, beginning of April 1888]
Dear Miss Harkness,
I thank you very much for sending me your City Girl [Original Footnote: A Novel By Margaret Harkness] through Messrs. Vizetelly. I have read it with the greatest pleasure and avidity. It is indeed, as my friend Eichhoff your translator calls it, ein k1eines Kunstwerk [Original Footnote A small work of art]; to which he adds, what will be satisfactory to you, that consequently his translation must be all but literal, as any omission or attempted manipulation could only destroy part of the original's value.
What strikes me most in your tale besides its realistic truth is that it exhibits the courage of the true artist. Not only in the way you treat the Salvation Army, in the teeth of supercilious respectability, which respectability will perhaps learn from your tale, for the first time, why the Salvation Army has such a hold on the popular masses. But chiefly in the plain unvarnished manner in which you make the old, old story, the proletarian girl seduced by a middle-class man, the pivot of the whole book. Mediocrity would have felt bound to hide the, to it, commonplace character of the plot under heaps of artificial complications and adornments, and yet would not have got rid of the fate of being found out. You felt you could afford to tell an old story, because you could make it a new one by simply telling it truly.
Your Mr. Arthur Grant is a masterpiece.
If I have anything to criticise, it would be that perhaps, after all, the tale is not quite realistic enough. Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truth in reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances. Now your characters are typical enough, as far as they go; but the circumstances which surround them and make them act, are not perhaps equally so. In the City Girl the working class figures as a passive mass, unable to help itself and not even showing (making) any attempt at striving to help itself. All attempts to drag it out of its torpid
misery come from without, from above. Now if this was a correct description about 1800 or 1810, in the days of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen, it cannot appear so in 1887 to a man who for nearly fifty years has had the honour of sharing in most of the fights of the militant proletariat. The rebellious reaction of the working class against the oppressive medium which surrounds them, their attempts - convulsive, half conscious or conscious-at recovering their status as human beings, belong to history and must therefore lay claim to a place in the domain of realism.
I am far from finding fault with your not having written a point blank socialist novel, a "Tendenzroman" [Original Footnote: Problem novel] , as we Germans call it, to glorify the social and political views of the authors. That is not at all what I mean. The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better for the work of art. The realism I allude to, may crop out even in spite of the author's opinions. Let me refer to an example. Balzac whom I consider a far greater master of realism than all the Zolas passes, presents et a venir [Original Footnote: Past present, and yet to come] , in La Comedie humaine gives us a most wonderfully realistic history of French "society", describing, chronicle-fashion, almost year by year from 1816 to 1848 the progressive inroads of the rising bourgeoisie upon the society of nobles, that reconstituted itself after 1815 and that set up again, as far as it could, the standard of la vieille politesse francaise [Original Footnote: old French refinement]. He describes how the last remnants of this, to him, model society gradually succumbed before the intrusion of the vulgar moneyed upstart, or were corrupted by him; how the grande dame whose conjugal infidelities were but a mode of asserting herself in perfect accordance with the way she had been disposed of in marriage, gave way to the bourgeoisie, who corned her husband for cash or cashmere; and around this central picture he groups a complete history of French society from which, even in economic details (for instance the re-arrangement of real and personal property after the Revolution) I have learned more than from all the professed historians, economists and statisticians of the period together. Well, Balzac was politically a Legitimist; his great work is a constant elegy on the irretrievable decay of good society, his sympathies are all with the class doomed to extinction. But for all that his satire is never keener, his irony never bitterer, than when he sets in motion the very men and women with whom he sympathises most deeply the nobles. And the only men of whom he always speaks with undisguised admiration, are his bitterest political antagonists, the republican heroes of the Cloitre Saint-Mery, [Original footnote: Engels refers to the rising started by the Society of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, the left wing of the Republican Party, which took place in Paris June 5 and 6, 1832] the men, who
at that time (1830-36) were indeed the representatives of the popular masses. That Balzac thus was compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the necessity of the downfall of his favourite nobles, and described them as people deserving no better fate; and that he saw the real men of the future where, for the time being, they alone were to be found - that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of realism, and one of the grandest features in old Balzac.
I must own, in your defence, that nowhere in the civilised world ire the working people less actively resistant, more passively submitting to fate, more hebetes [Original Footnote: Bewildered] than in the East End of London. And how do I know whether you have not had very good reasons for contenting yourself, for once, with a picture of the passive side of working class life, reserving the active side for another work?
(3) ENGELS TO ENGELS TO MINNA KAUTSKY, NOVEMBER 2th 1885; From "Marx & Engels: On Literature & Art"; Moscow; 1976; pp.87-89.
London, November 26, 1885
I have now also read Die Alten und die Neuen [The Old Ones and the New], [Original Footnote: A novel by Minna Kautsky] for which I sincerely thank you. The life of the salt-mine workers is described with as masterly a pen as were the portraits of the peasants in Stefan.[Original Footnote: Stefan von Grillenhof was the first novel written by Minna Kautsky] The descriptions of the life of Vienna society are for the most part likewise very fine. Vienna is indeed the only German city which has a society; Berlin possesses merely "certain circles", and still more uncertain ones, that is why its soil produces only novels about men of letters, officials or actors. You are in a better position to judge whether the plot in this part of your work develops sometimes too rapidly. Many things that may give us this impression, perhaps look quite natural in Vienna considering the city's peculiar international character and its intermixture with Southern and East-European elements. In both spheres the characters exhibit the sharp individualisation. so customary in your work. Each of them is a type but at the same time also a definite individual, a "Dieser",[Original Footnote "This one"] as old Hegel would say, and that is how it should be. And now, to be impartial, I have to find fault with something, which brings me to Arnold. He is really much too worthy a man and when he is finally killed in a landslide one can reconcile this with poetic justice only by assuming that he was too
good for this world. But it is always bad if an author adores his own hero and this is the error which to some extent you seem to me to have fallen into here. In Elsa there is still a certain individualisation, though she is also idealised, but in Arnold the personality merges still more in the principle.
The novel itself reveals the origins of this shortcoming. You obviously felt a desire to take a public stand in your book, to testify to your convictions before the entire world. This has now been done; it is a stage you have passed through and need not repeat in this form. I am by no means opposed to partisan poetry as such. Both Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, and Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were highly partisan poets, Dante and Cervantes were so no less, and the best thing that can be said about Schiller's Kabale und Liebe is that it represents the first German political problem drama. The modern Russians and Norwegians, who produce excellent novels, all write with a purpose. I think however that the purpose must become manifest from the situation and the action themselves, without being expressly pointed out and that the author does not have to serve the reader on a platter the future historical resolution of the social conflicts which he describes. To this must be added that under our conditions novels are mostly addressed to readers from bourgeois circles, i.e., circles which are not directly ours. Thus the socialist problem novel in my opinion fully carries out its mission if by a faithful portrayal of the real conditions it dispels the dominant conventional illusions concerning them, shakes .the optimism of the bourgeois world, and inevitably instils doubt as to the eternal validity of that which exists, without itself offering a direct solution of the problem involved, even without at times ostensibly taking sides. Here your exact knowledge and admirably fresh and lifelike presentation of both the Austrian peasants and Vienna "society" find ample material, and in Stefan you have demonstrated that you are capable of treating your characters with the
fine irony which attests to the author's dominion over the beings he has created.
But now I must finish, or I shall bore you to tears. Everything here is as before. Karl and his wife [Original Footnote: Karl and Louis Kautsky] are studying physiology in Aveling's evening classes, and are also working diligently; I am likewise engrossed in work; Lenchen, Pumps and her husband are going to the theatre this evening to see a sensational play, and meanwhile old Europe is preparing to set itself in motion again-and not before time, perhaps. I simply hope that it gives me time to finish the third volume of Capital, then it can begin!
In cordial friendship and with sincere respect I am Yours, F. Engels;
Also In: Marx/Engels, Werke, Bd- 36, 1967, S. 393-94
(6) FREDERICK ENGELS: RAPID PROGRESS OF COMMUNISM IN GERMANY 1844; Transcribed from Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; pp. 229-233.
[Note: This was Engels last of three letters to the Owenite paper The New Moral World]
[The New Moral World No. 25, December 13, 1844]
Hoping, as I do, that your countrymen will be glad to hear something on the progress of our common cause on this side of the channel, I send you a few lines for your paper.[Original Footnote: The New Moral World] At the same time, I rejoice in being able to show that the German people, though, as usual, rather late in mooting the question of Social Reform, are now exerting themselves to make up for lost time. Indeed, the rapidity with which Socialism has progressed in this country is quite miraculous. Two years ago, there were but two solitary individuals who cared at all about Social questions; a year ago, the first Socialist publication was printed [Original Footnote: Deutsch-Franzoische Jahrbucher]. It is true, there were some hundreds of German Communists in foreign countries; but being working men, they had little influence, and could not get their publications circulated among the "upper classes". Besides, the obstacles in the way of Socialism were enormous; the censorship of the press, no right of public meeting, no right of association, and despotic laws and secret courts of law, with paid judges to punish every one who in any way dared to set the people about thinking. And notwithstanding all this, what is the state of things in Germany now? Instead of the two poor devils who wrote about Socialism to a public no ways acquainted with, or interested in the question, we have dozens of clever writers preaching the new gospel to thousands who are anxious to hear everything connected with the subject; we have several papers as radically Socialist as the censorship will allow, principally the Trier'sche Zeitung (Gazette of Trier), and the Sprecher (Speaker) of
page 230 Wesel; we have a paper published under the free press of Paris [Vorwarts!], and there is no periodical, save those under the immediate influence of the governments, but comments every day, and in very creditable terms, upon Socialism and the Socialists. Our very opponents want the moral courage to speak their full minds against us. Even the governments are obliged to favour all legal movements in the direction towards Socialism. Societies are forming everywhere for ameliorating the condition of the working people, as well as for giving them the means to cultivate their minds, and some of the highest officers of the Prussian Government have taken an active part in those associations. In short, Socialism is the question of the day in Germany, and in the space of a year, a strong Socialist party has grown up, which already now commands the respect of all political parties, and is principally courted by the liberals of this country. Up to the present time our stronghold is the middle class, a fact which will perhaps astonish the English reader, if he do not know that this class in Germany is far more disinterested, impartial, and intelligent, than in England, and for the very simple reason, because it is poorer. We, however, hope to be in a short time supported by the working classes, who always, and everywhere, must form the strength and body of the Socialist party, and who have been aroused from their lethargy by misery, oppression, and want of employment, as well as by the manufacturing riots in Silesia and Bohemia.[Original Footnote: The riot of the Silesian weavers of June 2-4th, 1844; described by Marx in "Critical Marginal Notes on the Article "the King of Prussia and Social Reform by a Prussian"; & by Engels in "News from Prussia"; & "Further Particulars of the Silesian Riots". Soon after in second half of June 1844, there was a rising of textile workers in Prague, which led to workers uprisings in a number of other industrial areas including Rechenberg (or Liberac) and Bohmisch Leipa (or Ceska Lipa). The workers’ movement which was accompanied by wrecking of machinery and factories, was suppressed by government troops.] Let me on this occasion mention a painting by one of the best German painters, Hubner, which has made a more effectual Socialist agitation than a hundred pamphlets might have done. It represents some Silesian weavers bringing linen cloth to the manufacturer, and contrasts very strikingly cold-hearted wealth on one side, and despairing poverty on the other. The well-fed manufacturer is represented with a face as red and unfeeling as brass, rejecting a piece of cloth which belongs to a woman; the woman, seeing no chance of selling the cloth, is sinking down and fainting, surrounded by her two little children, and hardly kept up by an old Man; a clerk is looking over a piece, the owners of which are with painful anxiety waiting for the result; a young man shows to his desponding mother the scanty wages he has received for his labour; an old man, a girl, and a boy, are sifting on a stone bench, and waiting for their turn; and two men, each with a piece of rejected cloth on his back, are just leaving the room, one of whom is clenching his fist in rage, whilst the other, putting his hand on
his neighbour's arm, points up towards heaven, as if saying: be quiet, there is a judge to punish him. This whole scene is going on in a cold and un-homely-looking lobby, with a stone floor: only the manufacturer stands upon a piece of carpeting; whilst on the other side of the painting, behind a bar, a view is opened into a luxuriously furnished counting-house, with splendid curtains and looking-glasses, where some clerks are writing, undisturbed by what is passing behind them; and where the manufacturer's son, a young, dandy-like gentleman, is leaning over the bar, with a horsewhip in his hand, smoking a cigar, and coolly looking at the distressed weavers. The painting has been exhibited in several towns of Germany, and, of course, prepared a good many minds for Social ideas. At the same time, we have had the triumph of seeing the first historical painter of this country, Charles Lessing, become a convert to Socialism. In fact, Socialism occupies at this moment already a ten times prouder position in Germany than it does in England. This very morning, I read an article in a liberal paper, the Cologne Journal [Kolnische Zeitung] the author of which had for some reasons been attacked by the Socialists, and in which article he gives his defence; and to what amounts it? He professes himself a Socialist, with the only difference that he wants political reforms to begin with, whilst we want to get all at once. And this Cologne journal is the second newspaper of Germany in influence and circulation. It is curious, but, at least in the north of Germany, you cannot go on board a steamer, or into a railway-carriage, or mail-coach, without meeting somebody who has imbibed at least some Social idea, and who agrees with you, that something must be done to re-organise society. I am just returning from a trip to some neighbouring towns, and there was not a single place where I did not find at least half-a-dozen or a dozen of out-and-out Socialists. Among my own family - and it is a very pious and loyal one - I count six or more, each of which has been converted without being influenced by the remainder. We have partisans among all sorts of men-commercial men, manufacturers, lawyers, officers of the government and of the army, physicians, editors of newspapers, farmers, etc., a great many of our publications are in the press, though hardly three or four have as yet appeared; and if we make as much progress during the next four or five years as we have done in the past twelve months, we shall be able to erect forthwith a Community. You see, we German theorists are getting practical men of business. In fact, one of our
number has been invited to draw up a plan of organisation and regulations for a practical Community, with reference to the plans of Owen, Fourier, etc., and profiting of the experience gained by the American Communities and your own experiment at Harmony, which I hope goes on prosperously. This plan will be discussed by the various localities and printed with the amendments. The most active literary characters among the German Socialists are:- Dr. Charles Marx, at Paris; Dr. M. Hess, at present at Cologne; Dr. Ch. Griin, at Paris; Frederick Engels, at Barmen (Rhenan Prussia); Dr. 0. Luning, Rheda, Westphalia; Dr. H. Puttmann, Cologne; and several others. Besides those, Henry Heine, the most eminent of all living German poets, has joined our ranks, and published a volume of political poetry, which contains also some pieces preaching Socialism. He is the author of the celebrated Song of the Silesian Weavers, of which I give you a prosaic translation, but which, I am afraid, will be considered blasphemy in England. At any rate, I will give it you, and only remark, that it refers to the battle-cry of the Prussians in 1813: -"With God for King and fatherland!" which has been ever since a favourite saying of the loyal party. But for the song, here it is:
Without a tear in their grim eyes,
They sit at the loom,
the rage of despair in their faces;
"We have suffered and hunger'd long enough;
Old Germany, we are weaving a shroud for thee And weaving it with a triple curse. .
"We are weaving, weaving!
"The first curse to the God,
the blind and deaf god Upon whom we relied,
as children on their father; In whom we hoped and trusted withal, He has mocked us,
he has cheated us nevertheless.
"We are weaving, weavingl
"The second curse for the King of the rich,
Whom our distress could not soften nor touch;
The King, who extorts the last penny from us,
And sends his soldiers, to shoot us like dogs,
"We are weaving, weaving!
"A curse to the false fatherland,
That has nothing for us but distress and shame,
Where we suffered hunger and misery,
We are weaving thy shroud, Old Germany!
"We are weaving, weaving!"
With this song, which in its German original is one of the most powerful poems I know of, I take leave from you for this time, hoping soon to be able to report on our further progress and social literature.
An old friend of yours in Germany
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