The ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung

Ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung by Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The Ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung [115]


Source: MECW Volume 1, p. 311;
Written: on December 31, 1842, January 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 15, 1843;
First published: in Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13 & 16, January 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13 & 16, 1843;
Transcribed: in 2000 for marxists.org by Andy Blunden.


The Ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung
Within the Prussian State

Rheinische Zeitung No. 1, January 1, 1843

Cologne, December 31. The German press begins the New Year with apparently gloomy prospects. The ban that has just been imposed on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung in the states of Prussia is surely a sufficiently convincing refutation of all the complacent dreams of gullible people about big concessions in the future. Since the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, which is published under Saxon censorship, is being banned for its discussion of Prussian affairs, this at the’ same time puts an end to the hope of an uncensored discussion of our own internal affairs. This is a factual consequence which no one will deny.

The main accusations levelled against the Leipziger Allemeine Zeitung were approximately the following:

“It continually reports rumours, at least half of which subsequently prove to he false. Moreover, it does not keep to the facts, but pries for hidden motives. And no matter how false its conclusions in this respect often are, it invariably voices them with all the ardour of infallibility and often with the most malicious passion. Its whole activity is unsteady, ‘indiscreet’ and ‘immature'; in a word, it is bad activity”.

Supposing all these accusations were well founded, are they accusations against the arbitrary character of the Leipziger Allemeine Zeitung, or are they not rather accusations against the necessary character of the young popular press that is only just coming into being? Is it a question only of the existence of a certain kind of press or is it a question of the non-existence of a real press, i.e., a popular press?

The French, English and every kind of press began in the same way as the German press, and the same reproaches have been deserved by and made against each of them. The press is, and should be, nothing but the public, admittedly often “passionate, exaggerated and mistaken, expression of the daily thoughts and feelings of a people that really thinks as a people”. Like life itself, therefore, it is always in a state of becoming, and never of maturity. It is rooted in the people and honestly sympathises with all the latter’s hopes and fears, love and hatred, joys and sorrows. What it has learned by listening in hope and fear, it proclaims loudly, and it delivers its own judgment on it, vigorously, passionately, one-sidedly, as prompted by its feelings and thoughts at the given moment. What is erroneous in the facts or judgments it puts forward today, it will itself refute tomorrow. It represents the real “naturally arising” policy, which its opponents love so much in other cases.

The reproaches which in recent days have been continuously levelled against the young “press” cancel each other out. See, it is said, what a firm, steady, definite policy the English and French newspapers pursue. They are based on real life, their views are the views of an existing, quite mature force. They impose no doctrines on the people, but are themselves the real doctrines of the people and its parties. You, however, do not voice the thoughts and interests of the people, you only manufacture them or, rather, you foist them on the people. You create the party spirit, you are not created by it. Thus, on one occasion, the press is blamed because there are no political parties, on another occasion it is accused of wanting to remedy this defect and create political parties. But it is self-evident that where the press is young, the popular spirit also is young, and the daily public political thinking of an only just awakening popular spirit will be less mature, more shapeless and hasty than that of the popular spirit which has become great, strong and self-confident in the course of political struggles. Above all, a people which is only just awakening to political consciousness is less concerned about the factual correctness of an occurrence than about its moral soul, through which it has its effect. Whether fact or fiction, it remains an embodiment of the thoughts, fears and hopes of the people, a truthful fairy-tale. The people see this, their own nature, reflected in the nature of their press, and if they did not see this, they would regard the press as something unessential and not worthy of sympathy, for the people do not allow themselves to be deceived. Hence, although the young press may daily compromise itself, may allow evil passions to penetrate it, the people see in it their own condition and they know that, despite all the poison which malice or lack of understanding introduces, its essence always remains true and pure, and in its ever flowing, ever swelling stream, the poison becomes truth and a healing medicine. The people know that their press has shouldered their sins, that it is prepared to suffer humiliation for the sake of the people and that for their glory, renouncing distinction, self-satisfaction and irrefutability, it represents the rose of the moral spirit amid the thorns of the present.

We must, therefore, regard all the reproaches levelled against the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung as reproaches against the young popular press, hence against the real press, for it stands to reason that the press cannot become real without passing through the necessary stages of its development which arise from its inherent nature. We must, however, declare that to condemn the popular press is to condemn the political spirit of the people. Nevertheless, at the beginning of this article we described the prospects for the German press as apparently gloomy. And that is so, for the struggle against something that exists is the first form of its recognition, its reality and its power. And only struggle can convince both the government and the people, as well as the press itself, that the press has a real and necessary right to existence. Only struggle can show whether this right to existence is a concession or a necessity, an illusion or a truth.

The Kölnische Zeitung and the Ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung

Rheinische Zeitung No. 4, January 4, 1843

Cologne, January 3. In its issue of December 31, the Kölnische Zeitung printed an article dated “Leipzig, 27th” by its correspondent, which reported the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung almost exultantly. Yet the Cabinet Order on the ban, contained in the issue of the Staats-Zeitung received here yesterday, is dated December 28. The riddle is solved by simply noting the fact that the news of the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung was received with the post here on December 31 and the Kölnische Zeitung considered it proper to fabricate not only the correspondence, but also the correspondent, and present its own voice as coming from the good city of Leipzig. The “mercantile” fantasy of the Kölnische Zeitung was so “adroit” as to confuse concepts. It transferred the residence of the Kölnische Zeitung to Leipzig, because it had become impossible for the residence of the Leipziger Zeitung to be in Cologne. If the editors of the Kölnische Zeitung, even after cooler reflection, had wanted to defend the exercise of their fantasy as sober, factual truth, we should be compelled to report, in connection with the mysterious correspondence from Leipzig, yet another fact, which

“goes beyond all bounds of decency and even in our country” would seem “to every moderate and reasonable person to be an incomprehensible indiscretion”.

As for the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung itself, we have already expressed our view. We have not disputed, as if they were sheer inventions, the shortcomings for which the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung has been condemned. But we have maintained that they are shortcomings which arise from the very nature of the popular press itself and therefore must he tolerated as arising in the course of its development, if people are at all willing to tolerate its course of development.

The Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung is not the entire German popular press, but it is a necessary component part of it. In the natural development of the popular press, each of the different elements which determine the nature of this press must first of all discover for itself its specific form of development. Hence the whole body of the popular press will be divided into different newspapers with different complementary characteristics, and if, for example, the predominant interest of one is in political science, that of another will be in political practice, or if the predominant interest of one is in new ideas, that of another will be in new facts. Only if the elements of the popular press are given the opportunity of unhampered, independent and one-sided development and of achieving independent existence in separate organs, can a “good” popular press be formed, i.e., one which harmoniously combines all the true elements of the popular spirit, so that the true moral spirit will be entirely present in each newspaper, just as the fragrance and soul of the rose is present in each of its petals. But for the press to achieve its purpose it is above all necessary that it should not have any kind of purpose prescribed for it from outside, and that it should be accorded the recognition that is given even to a plant, namely, that it has its own inherent laws, which it cannot and should not arbitrarily evade.

The Good and the Bad Press

Rheinische Zeitung No. 6, January 6, 1843

Cologne, January 5. We have already had to hear in abstracto a great deal about the difference between the “good” and the “bad” press. Let us illustrate this difference now with an example.

The Elberfelder Zeitung of January 5, in an article dated from Elberfeld, describes itself as a “good press”. The Elberfelder Zeitung of January 5 carries the following report:

“Berlin, December 30. The ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung has on the whole made only a slight impression here."

On the other hand, the Düsseldorfer Zeitung, agreeing with the Rheinische Zeitung, reports:

“Berlin, January 1. The unconditional ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung is causing a ve” great sensation here, since it was very eagerly read by the Berliners”, etc.

Which press then, the “good” or the “bad”, is the “true” press? Which expresses actual reality, and which expresses it as it would like it to be? Which expresses public opinion, and which distorts it? Which, therefore, deserves the confidence of the state?

The explanation given by the Kölnische Zeitung does little to satisfy us. In its reply to our remark about its reporting “almost exultantly” the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, it confines itself not only to the part concerning dates, but to a misprint. The Kölnische Zeitung itself must know very well that the sentence: “The riddle is solved by simply noting the fact that the news of the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung was received with the post here on December 31”, should have read “on December 30” and did not read so only because of a misprint. On December 30 at noon, as we can prove if necessary, the Rheinische Zeitung, and therefore probably also the Kölnische Zeitung, received this news through the local post-office.

Reply to the Attack of a “Moderate” Newspaper

Rheinische Zeitung No. 8, January 8, 1843

Cologne, January 7. A moderate Rhenish newspaper, as the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung in its diplomatic language calls it, i.e., a newspaper of moderate forces, of very moderate character and of the most moderate understanding, has distorted our assertion that “the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung is a necessary component part of the German popular press, into the assertion that lying is a necessary part of the press. We will not take undue offence at this moderate newspaper extracting a single sentence from our argument and not considering that the ideas put forward in the article in question as well as in an earlier one are worthy of its lofty and honourable attention. just as we cannot demand of someone that he should jump out of his own skin, so we must not demand that an individual or party should jump out of its spiritual skin, and venture on a salto mortale beyond the limits of its mental horizon; least of all can we demand this of a party which takes its narrow-mindedness for holiness. Therefore, we will not discuss what that inhabitant of the intellectual realm of mediocrity should have done in order to refute us, but will only discuss its actual deeds.

First of all, the old sins of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung are enumerated: its attitude to the Hanover events,"’ its party polemic against Catholicism (hinc illae lacrimae! [Hence those tears!] Would our lady friend regard the same behaviour, only in the opposite direction, as one of the mortal sins of the Münchener politische Blätter?), its bits of gossip, etc., etc. We recall, in this connection, some lines from Alphonse Karr’s magazine Les Guipes. M. Guizot, the story goes, calls M. Thiers a traitor, and M. Thiers calls M. Guizot a traitor, and, unfortunately, both are right. If all German newspapers of the old style wanted to reproach one another for their past, the examination of the case would be reduced to the formal question whether they sinned through what they did or through what they did not do. We are prepared to grant our lady friend the innocent advantage over the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung that she has not only not led a bad life, but that she has shown no signs of life at all.

Meanwhile, the article of ours which is incriminated spoke not of the past, but of the present character of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, although it stands to reason that we would have no less serious objections against a ban on the Elberfelder Zeitung, the Hamburger Correspondent, or the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung published in Koblenz, since the legal position is not altered by the moral character or even the political and religious opinions of individuals. On the contrary, the lack of rights of the press is beyond all doubt once its existence is made dependent on its frame of mind. Up to now, indeed, there has been no legal code or court of law for a frame of mind.

The “moderate” newspaper accuses the last phase of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung of false information, distortions and lies, and accuses us with righteous indignation of regarding lying as a necessary element of the popular press. Suppose we actually admitted this frightful conclusion, suppose we actually maintained that lying is a necessary element of the popular press, in particular of the German popular press? We do not mean a lying frame of mind, lying in the spiritual sense, but lying in regard to facts, lying in the material sense. Stone him! Stone him! our Christian-minded newspaper would cry. Stone him! Stone him! the whole chorus would join in. But let us not be too hasty, let us take the world as it is, let us not be ideologists — and we can certify that our lady friend is no ideologist. Let our “moderate” newspaper cast a critical eye over its own columns. Does it not, like the Preussische Staats-Zeitung, like all the German newspapers and all the world’s newspapers, daily report false information from Paris, gossip about imminent ministerial changes in France, fables that some Paris newspaper has concocted, which the following day, or even an hour later, will be refuted? Or perhaps the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung presumes that lying in regard to facts is a necessary element of columns headed England, France, Spain or Turkey, but a damnable crime, meriting the death penalty, in columns headed Germany or Prussia? Whence this double set of weights and measures? Whence this dual view of truth? Why should one and the same newspaper be allowed the frivolous light-heartedness of a gossip-monger in one column, and have to display the sober irrefutability of an official organ in another column? It is obviously because for German newspapers there should exist only a French, English, Turkish, Spanish time, but no German time, only a German timelessness. But should not rather those newspapers be praised, and praised from the state point of view, which wrest from foreign countries and win for the Fatherland the attention, the feverish interest and the dramatic tension which accompany every coming into being, and above all the coming into being of contemporary history! Suppose even that these newspapers have aroused dissatisfaction, W humour! It is, after all, German dissatisfaction, German ill humour that they arouse; after all, they have given back to the state minds that had turned away from it, even though at first these minds are excited and ill-humoured! And they have aroused not only dissatisfaction and ill humour, they have also aroused fears and hopes, joy and sorrow, they have aroused, above all, real sympathy for the state, they have made the state close to the heart, a domestic affair of its members. Instead of St. Petersburg, London or Paris, they have made Berlin, Dresden, Hanover, etc., the capital cities on the map of the German political mind, a feat more glorious than the transfer of the world capital from Rome to Byzantium.

And if the German and Prussian newspapers which have set themselves the task of making Germany and Prussia the main interest of the Germans and Prussians, the task of transforming the mysterious, priestly nature of the state into a clear-cut, secular nature accessible to all and belonging to all, and of making the state part of the flesh and blood of its citizens; if these newspapers are inferior to the French and English newspapers as regards factual truth, if their behaviour is often unskilful and fanciful, bear in mind that the German knows his state only from hearsay, that closed doors are not at all transparent to the eye, that a secret state organisation is not at all a public state organisation, and do not ascribe to the newspapers what is the defect of the state alone, a defect which precisely these newspapers are seeking to remedy.

Therefore, we repeat once more: “The ‘Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung’ is a necessary component part of the German popular press.” It has primarily satisfied immediate interest in political fact, we have primarily satisfied interest in political thought. In this connection, it stands to reason that fact does not preclude thought any more than thought precludes fact; but it is a matter here of the predominant character, the distinguishing feature.

Reply to the Denunciation by a “Neighbour” Newspaper

Rheinische Zeitung No. 10, January 10, 1843

Cologne, January 9. It would be quite contrary to the nature of things if the “good” press everywhere did not try now to win its knightly spurs by attacking us, headed by the Augsburg prophetess Hulda, whom, in response to her repeated challenge, we shall presently take to task. Today we shall deal with our invalid neighbour, the most worthy Kölnische Zeitung! Toujours perdrix! [always the same!]

First of all “something preliminary” or a “preliminary something”, a reminder with which we wish to preface today’s denunciation by this newspaper to make it intelligible, a most delightful little story of the way in which the Kölnische Zeitung tries to gain the “respect” of the government, how it asserts “true freedom” in contrast to “arbitrariness” and knows how to set itself “bounds” from within. The kind reader will recall that No. 4 of the Rheinische Zeitung directly accused the Kölnische Zeitung of having fabricated its correspondence from Leipzig, which announced almost exultantly the much discussed ban. The reader will recall that at the same time the Kölnische Zeitung was given the friendly advice to refrain from any serious attempt to defend the genuineness of that document, with the definite warning that otherwise we should be compelled “in connection with the mysterious correspondence from Leipzig” to make public yet another unpleasant fact. The kind reader will also recall the timid, evasive reply of the Kölnische Zeitung of January 5, our corrective rejoinder in No. 6, and the “patient silence” which the Kölnische Zeitung thought best to observe in regard to this. The fact referred to is the following: the Kölnische Zeitung found that the ban on the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung was justified because that newspaper published a report which

“goes beyond all bounds of decency and even in our country must seem to every moderate and reasonable person to he an incomprehensible indiscretion”.

It is obvious that what was meant was the publication of Herwegh’s letter. It might perhaps have been possible to agree with this opinion of the Kölnische Zeitung if only the Kölnische Zeitung a few days earlier had not itself wanted to publish Herzvegh’s letter, and only failed to do so because it came up against “bounds” imposed from “outside”, which thwarted its good intention.

In saying this we by no means want to accuse the Kölnische Zeitung of a disloyal yearning, but we must leave it to the public to judge whether it is a comprehensible discretion or whether it is not, on the contrary, a violation of all the bounds of decency and public morals, when one accuses one’s neighbour, as if it were a crime deserving the death penalty, of the very action that one was oneself about to perform, and which only failed to be one’s own action because of an external obstacle. After this explanation, it will be understandable why the had conscience of the Kölnische Zeitung has led it to reply to us today with a denunciation. It says:

“It is asserted there” (in the Rheinische Zeitung) “that the exceptionally sharp, almost insulting, at any rate unpleasant, tone which the press adopts towards Prussia has no other basis than the desire to draw to oneself the attention of the government and to awaken it. For, according to the Rheinische Zeitung, the people has already far outgrown the existing state forms, which suffer from a peculiar hollowness; the people, like the press, has no faith in these institutions and still less in the possibility of their development from within."

The Kölnische Zeitung accompanies these words with the following exclamation:

“Is it not astounding that side by side with such statements complaints are still heard about inadequate freedom of the press? Can one demand more than the freedom to tell the government to its face that ‘all state institutions are old rubbish, unsuitable even as a transition to something better’."

First of all we should come to an agreement about how to quote. The author of the article in the Rheinische Zeitung raises the question: what is the explanation for this sharp tone of the press precisely in relation to Prussia? He replies: “I think that the reason is to be found chiefly in the following.” He does not assert, as the Kölnische Zeitung falsely attributes to him, that there is no other reason; on the contrary, he gives his view merely as his own belief, as his personal opinion. The author further admits, about which the Kölnische Zeitung says nothing, that

“the upsurge in 1840 partially penetrated state forms, endeavouring to imbue them with a full content and life”.

Nevertheless, it is felt

“that the popular spirit passes them by, hardly grazing them, and that it is almost unable as yet to recognise them or take them into account even as a transition to further development”.

The author continues:

“We leave open the question whether these forms have a right to exist or not; it is enough that the people, like the press, has no complete faith in the state institutions, still less in the possibility of their development from within and from below”.

The Kölnische Zeitung changes the words “has no complete faith” into “has no faith”, and in the last part of the sentence quoted above it leaves out the words “and from below”, thus substantially altering the meaning.

The press, our author continues, therefore constantly addressed itself to the government, because

“it seemed to he still a matter of the forms themselves, within which the government could be told freely, openly and weightily of the justified moral will of the people, its ardent desires, and its needs”.

Summing up these quotations, does the article in question assert, as the Kölnische Zeitung alleges it tells “the government to its face”, “that all state institutions are old rubbish, unsuitable even as a transition to something better” ?

Is it a question here of all state institutions? It is a question only of the state forms in which “the will of the people” could be “freely, openly and weightily” expressed. And what until recently were these state forms? Obviously, only the provincial estates. Has the people had special faith in these provincial estates? Has the people expected a great popular development out of them? Did loyal Billow-Cummerow consider them a true expression of the people’s will? But not only the people and the press, the government as well has admitted that we still lack state forms themselves, or would it, without such an admission, have had any reason for setting up a new state form in the shape of the “commissions"? — That, however, the commissions, too, have not been satisfactory in their present form, is a thing that we have not been alone in asserting; the same opinion h been expressed in the Kölnische Zeitung by a member of a commission.

The further assertion that the state forms, precisely as forms, are still in contrast to their content, and that the spirit of the people does not feel “at home” in them as in its own forms, does not recognise them as the forms of its own life, this assertion only repeats what has been said by many Prussian and foreign newspapers, but chiefly by conservative writers, namely, that the bureaucracy is still too powerful, that not the whole state, but only part of it, the “government”, leads a state life in the proper sense of the term. As to how far present state forms are suitable, partly for themselves becoming imbued with living content, partly for incorporating the supplementary state forms, the Kölnische Zeitung should have sought the answer to this question in the articles in which we examine the provincial estates and the provincial commissions in relation to the whole system of our state organisation. There it would have found information which even its wisdom could grasp.

“We do not demand that in the representation of the: people actually existing differences should be left out of account. On the contrary, we demand that one should proceed from the actual differences created and conditioned by the internal structure of the state.” “We demand only the consistent and comprehensive development of the fundamental institutions of Prussia, we demand that the real organic life of the state should not he suddenly abandoned in order to sink back into unreal, mechanical, subordinated, non-state spheres of fife” (Rheinische Zeitung, 1842, No. 345).

But what does the worthy Kölnische Zeitung put into our mouths? — “that all state institutions are old rubbish, unsuitable even as a transition to something better"! It almost seems as if the Kölnische Zeitung thinks it can make up for the deficiency of its own courage by ascribing to others the impudent creations of its cowardly but malicious fantasy.

The Denunciation of the Kölnische Zeitung and the Polemic of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung

Rheinische Zeitung No. 13, January 13, 1843

Cologne, January 11
"Votre front à mes yeux montre peu d'allégresse!
Serait-ce ma présence, Eraste, qui vous blesse?
Qu'est-ce donc? qu'avez-vous? et sur quels dé6plaisirs,
Lorsque vous me voyez, poussez-vous des soupirs?” [Moliére]

These words apply in the first place to our “lady neighbour of Cologne"! The Kölnische Zeitung prefers not to expand on the theme of its “alleged denunciation”; it drops this main point and complains only that on this occasion the “editorial board” has been involved in the polemic not in the most pleasant manner. But, dear lady neighbour, if the Kölnische Zeitung correspondent identifies one of our Berlin reports with the Rheinische Zeitung, why should not the Rheinische Zeitung be allowed to identify with the Kölnische Zeitung the Rhine report published in reply by the Kölnische Zeitung? Now, ad vocem the fact:

“It” (the Rheinische Zeitung) “accuses us not of any fact, but of an intention!”.

We accuse the Kölnische Zeitung not merely of an intention, but of a fact of that intention. Owing to accidental external circumstances, a fact, the acceptance of Herwegh’s letter for publication, was transformed for the Kölnische Zeitung into an intention, although. its intention had already been transformed into a fact. Every fact which has been thwarted is reduced to a mere intention, but does this make it any less a fact in the eyes of the court? At any rate it would be a very peculiar virtue that found justification for its actions in accidental circumstances which prevented their realisation and made them not a deed, but the mere intention of a deed. But our loyal lady neighbour puts a question not, it is true, to the Rheinische Zeitung, which, it has an awkward suspicion, will not be so easily “at a loss” for a reply because of its “decency and conscientiousness”, but to

“that small section of the public which perhaps is not yet qu ite clear how far the suspicions (it ought to say: defence against suspicions) “of this newspaper deserve to be believed”.

The question the Kölnische Zeitung puts is: how does the Rheinische Zeitung know

“that we did not combine with this intention” (i.e., the intention to publish Herwegh’s letter) “the other intention as well” (signo haud probato [in no way proved]), “namely, to add the rebuke which the childish petulance of the author deserved?"

But how does the Kölnische Zeitung know what was the intention of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung in publishing Herwegh’s letter? Why, for example, could it not have had the harmless intention of being the first to publish an item of news? Or why not, perhaps, the loyal intention of simply submitting the letter to the judgment of public opinion? We should like to relate an anecdote to our lady neighbour. In Rome, the publication of the Koran is prohibited. But a cunning Italian found a way out of the situation. He published a refutation of the Koran, i.e., a book, the title page of which bore the heading “Refutation of the Koran”, but after the title page it contained a simple reprint of the Koran. Have not all.heretics employed such a ruse? Was not Vanini burned at the stake in spite of the fact that in his Theatrum mundi, while propagating atheism, he carefully and ostentatiously brought out all the arguments against it? Did not even Voltaire in his book La Bible enfin expliquie preach unbelief in the text and belief in the notes, and did anyone believe in the purifying power of these notes? But, our worthy lady neighbour concludes,

“if we had this intention, could our acceptance for publication of an already well-known document be put on a par with the original publication?”.

But, dearest lady neighbour, the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, too, only published a letter that had already been circulated in many copies. “In faith, my lord, you are too wilful-blame.” [Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part One, Act Ill, Scene 1]

The papal encyclical ex cathedra [as incontestable truth] of August 15, 1832, the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, states:

“It is madness (deliramentum) to assert that every man is entitled to freedom of conscience; freedom of the press cannot be sufficiently abhorred”.

This pronouncement transfers us from Cologne to Koblenz, to the “moderate” newspaper, the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung. After the quotation given above, that newspaper’s woeful outcry against our defence of press freedom becomes understandable and justified, however strange it is after that to hear also that she would like to be included “among the very zealous friends of the press”. From the paper’s “moderate” columns today have sprung forth not, it is true. two lions but a lion’s skin and a lion’s cowl, to which we shall pay due attention from the point of view of natural history. No. 1 expresses its feelings, inter alia, as follows:

“On its part” (i.e., of the Rheinische Zeitung) “the struggle is conducted in such a loyal way that from the outset it assures us that, for the sake of the ‘legal position’ which is so dear to its,heart, it would protest even against a ban on the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung. This assurance would be in an equal degree flattering and soothing for us but for the fact that in the same breath there happened to escape from the mouth of the knight who champions every freedom of the press that has been violated a vilification of the Münchener historisch-politische Blätter, which is well known to have been long ago actually banned here."

It is strange that at the very moment when the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung pronounces sentence on newspapers for lying in regard to facts, it itself lies in regard to facts. The passage referred to reads literally as follows:

“First of all, the old sins of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung are enumerated: its attitude to the Hanover events, its party polemic against Catholicism (hinc illae lacrim"!). Would our lady friend regard the same behaviour, only in the opposite direction, as one of the mortal sins of the Münchener politische Blätter?”.

In these lines the Münchener politische Blätter declares a “party polemic” against Protestantism. Did we thereby justify the ban? Could we have wanted to justify it by finding again in the Münchener politische Blätter — “only in the opposite direction” — “the same behaviour” that in the case of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung we said gave no grounds for a ban? On the contrary! We appealed to the conscience of the Rhein- und Mosei-Zeitung, asking whether one and the same behaviour justified a ban when coming from one side, but did not justify a ban when coming from the other side! We asked it, therefore, whether it pronounced its sentence on the behaviour itself or rather only on the trend of the behaviour. And the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung has replied to our question, saying in effect that it does not, as we do, condemn religious party polemics, but only the kind of party polemic which has the temerity to be Protestant. If, at the very time when we were defending the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung against the ban “that had just been imposed” on it, we, together with the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, mentioned the party polemic of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung against Catholicism, had we not the right without the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung to mention the party polemic of the Münchener politische Blätter, which had been “banned long ago"? To the “small degree of publicness oi the state”, the “immaturity” of a “daily”, public and inexperienced “political thinking”, the nature of “contemporary history that is coming into being”, all grounds on which we excused the newspapers lying in respect of facts, No. 1 kindly added a new one, namely, the factual intellectual weakness of a large part of the German press. The Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung has proved by its own example that incorrect thinking inevitably and unintentionally produces incorrect facts, and therefore distortions and lies.

We come now to No. 2, to the lion’s cowl, for the additional grounds of No. 1 undergo here a more extensive process of confusion. The lion’s cowl first of all informs the public about the state of its feelings, which is of no great interest. It says that it had expected “an outburst of fury”, but that we gave only “a genteel rejoinder, apparently lightly tossed off”. Its thanks for this “unexpected leniency” are, however, alloyed with a vexatious doubt

“whether this unexpected leniency is in fact a sign of generosity or, on the contrary, the result of spiritual discomfort and exhaustion”.

We do not intend to explain to our pious gentleman how clerical comfort could, indeed, be a reason for spiritual discomfort, we will pass on at once to the “content of the rejoinder in question”. The pious gentleman admits he “unfortunately cannot conceal” that, according to his “extremely moderate understanding”, the Rheinische Zeitung “merely seeks to conceal its embarrassment behind empty wrangling over words”. And so as not, for a moment, to allow any semblance of “hypocritical meekness or modesty”, the pious gentleman demonstrates his “extremely moderate” understanding with the most convincing, most irrefutable proofs. He begins as follows:

“’the old sins of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung: its attitude to the Hanover events, its party polemic against Catholicism, its bits of gossip’, etc., cannot, of course, be denied; but — our excellent pupil of the great philosopher Hegel supposes — these offences are fully excused by the fact that other newspapers also are guilty of similar transgressions (which is tantamount to saying that a scoundrel brought before the court could not justify himself better than by referring to the base tricks of his numerous comrades still at liberty)”.

Where have we asserted that “the old sins of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung are fully excused by the fact that other newspapers also are guilty of similar transgressions"? Where have we even merely tried to “excuse” these old sins? Our actual argument, which is easily distinguished from its reflection in the mirror of the “extremely moderate understanding”, was as follows: First of all the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung enumerates the “old sins” of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung. We specify these sins, and then we continue:

“If all German newspapers of the old style wanted to reproach one another for their past, the examination of the case would be reduced to the formal question whether they sinned through what they did or through what they did not do. We are prepared to grant our lady friend, the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, the innocent advantage over the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung that she has not only not led a bad life, but that she has shown no signs of life at all”.

Thus, we do not say “other newspapers also”, we say “all German newspapers of the older style”, among which we expressly include the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, cannot excuse themselves entirely by references to one another but that they can rightly address the same reproaches to themselves. The Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung could lay claim only to the doubtful advantage of having sinned by what it did not do, thus contrasting its sins of omission to the sins of commission of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung. We can explain to the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung its passive badness by a fresh example. It now vents its fanatic spleen on the defunct Leipziger Allgenwine Zeitung, whereas during the lifetime of the latter it published extracts from it instead of refuting it. The comparison by which the “extremely moderate understanding” tries to clarify our argument requires a small, but essential correction. It should have spoken not about one scoundrel who excuses himself before the court by referring to the other scoundrels still at liberty, but about two scoundrels, of whom the one who has not reformed and has not been imprisoned, triumphs over the other, who has been put in prison, although he has reformed.

“In addition,” the “extremely moderate understanding” continues, “in addition, ‘the legal position is not altered by the moral character or even the political and religious opinions of individuals'; consequently, even a totally bad newspaper, precisely because it is merely bad, has a right to that bad existence Gust as everything else which is bad in the world, precisely because of its bad existence, cannot be disputed its right to exist)”.

It seems that the pious gentleman wants to convince us not only that he never studied any of the “great” philosophers, but that he did not even study any of the “lesser” ones.

The passage, which in the fantastic exposition of our friend acquired such wonderfully distorted and confused features, read — before it was refracted through the prism of the “extremely moderate understanding” — as follows:

“Meanwhile, the article of ours which is incriminated spoke not of the past, but of the present character of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung, although it stands to reason that we would have no less serious objections against a ban, etc., etc., on the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung published in Koblenz, since the legal position is not altered by the moral character or even the political and religious opinions of individuals. On the contrary, the lack of rights of the press is beyond all doubt once its existence is made dependent on its frame of mind. Up to now, indeed, there has been no legal code or court of law for a frame of mind”.

We merely assert, therefore, that a person cannot be imprisoned, or deprived of his property or any other legal right because of his moral character or because of his political or religious opinions. The latter assertion seems particularly to excite our religious-minded friend. We demand that the legal position of a bad being should be unassailable, not because it is bad, but insofar as its badness remains within a frame of mind, for which there is no court of law and no legal code. Thus we contrast a bad frame of mind, for which no court of law exists, to bad deeds, which, if they are illegal, come within the scope of the court and the laws punishing such deeds. We assert, therefore, that a bad being, despite its badness, has the right to exist, as long as it is not illegal. We do not assert, as our pseudo-echo reports, that a bad being, precisely “because it is merely bad”, “cannot be disputed its right to exist”. On the contrary, our worthy well-wisher must have realised that we dispute that he and the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung have the right to be bad, and therefore we are trying as far as possible to make them good, without considering we are entitled on that account to attack the “legal position” of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung and its shield-bearer. Here is yet another example of the “measure of understanding” of our pious zealot:

“If, however, the organ ‘of political thought’ goes so far as to assert that newspapers such as the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung (and especially, it stands to reason, such as itself, the Rheinische Zeitung) ‘should rather be praised, and praised from the state point of view’, since even supposing they have aroused dissatisfaction and ill humour, it is, after all, German dissatisfaction and German ill humour that they have aroused, then we cannot fail to express our doubts about this strange ‘service to the German Fatherland’."

In the original, the passage quoted reads:

“But should not rather those newspapers be praised, and praised from the state point of view, which wrest from foreign countries and win for the Fatherland the attention, the feverish interest and the dramatic tension which accompany every coming into being, and above all the coming into being of contemporary history! Suppose even that these newspapers have aroused dissatisfaction, ill humourl It is, after all, German dissatisfaction, German ill humour that they arouse; after all, they have given back to the state minds that had turned away fropi it, even though at first these minds are excited and ill-humouredl And they have aroused not only dissatisfaction and ill humour, etc., they have aroused, above all, real sympathy for the state, they have made the state close to the heart, a domestic affair, etc.”

Our worthy man, therefore, omits the connecting intermediate links. It is as if we said to him, “My dear fellow, be grateful to us: we are enlightening your understanding, and even if you are a little annoyed, nevertheless it is your understanding that gains by it”, and as if our friend replied, “Whatl I have to be grateful to you because you annoy mel” After these samples of “extremely moderate understanding”, no particularly deep psychological investigations are required to understand the immoderate fantasy of our author, which makes it appear to him that we are already “marching with fire and sword through the German regions” in cohorts. Finally our friend throws off the mask. “Ulrich von Hutten and his companions”, who, as is well known, include Luther, will forgive the lion’s cowl of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung its impotent anger. We can only blush at an exaggeration which ranks us with such great men and, since one good turn deserves another, we wish to rank our friend with chief pastor Goeze. Therefore, with Lessing, we cry out to him:

“And here is my brief knightly challenge. Write, Herr Pastor, and inspire others to write as much as they possibly can. I, too, shall write. If I allow that you are right in regard to the slightest matter in which you are wrong, then I can never touch a pen aon.”

The Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung

Rheinische Zeitung No. 16, January 16, 1843

Cologne, January 15. No. 1 of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, dated January 11, which we touched upon a few days ago as an outrider of the lion’s article, today tries to prove, by an example, how little

“the one which overbalances in its dialectics” (the Rheinische Zeitung) is capable “of clearly grasping a simple, clearly formulated proposition”.

No. 1 claims that in fact it did not at all say that the Rheinische Zeitung had tried to justify the ban on the Münchener politische Blätter,

“but that, at the very moment when it puts itself forward as the champion of unconditional freedom of the press, it does not hesitate to vilify a newspaper which was actually banned, and therefore the chivalry with which it gave assurance of readiness to enter the lists against a ban on the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung is not worth much”.

Outrider No. 1 overlooks that there could he two reasons for his disquiet about our chivalrous behaviour in the event of a ban on the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung and that both of them have already been answered. The worthy outrider, we must suppose, does not trust our assurance because in the alleged vilification of the Münchener politische Blätter he sees a hidden justification for banning it. We had the more right to presuppose such a train of thought in our worthy outrider because that mean man has the peculiar cunning to wish to detect the true opinion behind statements that seem to him to have unconsciously “slipped out”. In that case we can calm the worthy outrider by proving to him how impossible it is for there to be any connection between our statement about the Münchener politische Blätter and a justification for banning it.

The second possibility is that No. 1 finds it altogether regrettable and unchivalrous of us to accuse a newspaper which has actually been banned, such as the Münchener politische Blätter, of a party polemic against Protestantism. He regards this as a vilification. In that case we asked the worthy outrider:

“If, at the very time when we were defending the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung against the ban ‘that had just been imposed’ on it, we, together with the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, mentioned the party polemic of the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung against Catholicism, had we not the right without the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung to mention the party polemic of the Münchener politische Blätter, which had been banned long ago?”.

That is to say: we do not vilify the Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung by mentioning with the consent of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung its party polemic against Catholicism. Will our assertion about the pro-Catholic party polemic of the Münchener politische Blätter become vilification because it is so unfortunate as not to have the consent of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung?

No. 1 has done nothing beyond calling our assertion a vilification, and since when have we been obliged to take No. 1’s word for anything? We said: The Münchener politische Blätter is a Catholic party newspaper, and in this respect it is a Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung in reverse. The outrider in the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung says: The Münchener politische Blätter is not a party newspaper and is not a Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung in reverse. It is not, the outrider says,

“such a repository of untruths, stupid bits of gossip and mocking at non-Catholic creeds”.

We are not theological polemicists for one side or the other, but it is enough to read the Münchener politische Blätter’s psychological description of Luther based on vulgar tittle-tattle, it is enough to read what the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung says about “Hutten and his companions”, to decide whether the “moderate” newspaper adopts a standpoint from which it could objectively judge what is religious party polemic and what is not.

Finally, the worthy outrider promises us a “more detailed characterisation of the Rheinische Zeitung”. Nous verrons. The small party between Munich and Koblenz has already once given its opinion that the “political” sense of the Rhinelanders should either be exploited for certain non-state pursuits or suppressed as an dt annoyance”. Can this party fail to be annoyed when it sees the proof of its own complete unimportance in the rapid spread of the Rheinische Zeitung throughout the Rhine Province? Perhaps the present moment is unfavourable for showing annoyance? We think that all this is not badly conceived and only regret that this party, not having a more important organ, has to be satisfied with the worthy outrider and his insignificant “moderate” newspaper. One can judge the strength of the party from this organ.

 


Posted By

pogo
Apr 12 2015 03:09

Tags

Share

Marx and Engels collected works

Attached files