Neue Rheinische Zeitung

A short history of the newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung edited by Karl Marx in the 1840s and the role it played in the events of the day.

Submitted by Reddebrek on November 22, 2018

Neue Rheinische Zeitung (N.R.Z.) The political daily newspaper of the extreme left dominated by Marx and Engels, the Communist wing of the universally democratic movement and one of the great regional dailies during the period of the German Revolution of 1848/49. Edited by Karl Marx, the N.R.Z. was published in Cologne from June 1, 1848 (intermittently from September 28 up to October 11, 1848) through May 19, 1849, with a circulation of initially 3,000 and finally 6,000 copies, in altogether 301 editions. Apart from Marx as the redacteur en chef," the editorial staff included Friedrich Engels, Ferdinand and Wilhelm Wolff, Ernst Dronke, Heinrich Bürgers and the revolutionary poets Georg Weerth and (beginning in October 1848) Ferdinand Freiligrath, all of them leading members of the League of Communists, with the operation of the central authority being virtually exercised by the paper's editorial staff due to the declining structure of the League during the revolution.

The N.R.Z. called itself in its subtitle Organ der Demokratie (Organ of Democracy) which indicated that it wanted to reassert the interests and claims of workers in their struggle for a firm and uncompromising democratic state for citizens. Its major domestic aim, in conformity with the basic line (Demands of the Communist Party of Germany) was, by mounting an escalating revolutionary mass campaign, to build a rigorously democratic, united and indivisible German Republic in a struggle against the internal and external enemies of German unity. In grave political situations, e.g. in the September crisis of 1848, during the 'tax refusal campaign' in November 1848 and during the January elections of 1849, the N.R.Z. organized political mass campaigns against the background of the Rhenish democracy.

The N.R.Z. launched an uncompromising assault on Prussia and Austria as centers of the emerging monarchic-aristocratic counter-revolution and called for their destruction. It attacked the liberal bourgeoisie for its policies of compromis e vis-à-vis the aristocracy, in an effort to press it for more consistent anti-feudal actions. Its struggle was aimed at establishing a democratic bloc with the democratic lower middle classes, which was capable of launching actions, and, additionally, criticism was voiced against the weak and the illusions of the partners of the alliance.

In foreign politics the N.R.Z. pursued a policy of backing for the national-revolutionary aspirations of Germany's neighboring peoples, notably Poland, and came out for a revolutionary war against Russia which, because still completely untouched by the revolution, was thought by the editors to be the refuge and supporting place for the entire European reaction. The paper expected from such a war a reduction of the, in part, considerable divergent views held in the different European national movement and, similar to the Great French Revolution of 1793/94, had hoped for an at least temporary victory of the most radical democratic forces in that country which was thought to be crucial for the success of the revolution.

The N.R.Z. took up also special proletarian interests in that it tried at any time to arouse and promote the self-consciousness of workers in the common struggles of socially heterogeneous forces in the interest of the victory of democracy. Based on the knowledge that the participation of workers in political conflicts leads instantly to the awareness of the need for their political emancipation, the paper pleaded day after day for an active intervention of workers in revolutionary processes.

At the same time the emancipation of workers served to explain the economic and social background of political processes, to convey systematically the rich experiences gained by the essentially more progressive English and French workers' movements and to enter into polemics against petty-bourgeoisie attempts to hush up the real class contradictions. A first highlight reached in the representation of marked proletarian interest was that the paper passionately advocated the insurrection in Paris i June with international solidarity. In spring 1849, in publishing the Marx's lecture on "Wage labor and capital," which tried to elucidate the economic foundations of bourgeoisie society and class struggles between the working class and the bourgeoisie, the newspaper provided massive support for the preparation of the foundations for a political workers' party, which was finally thwarted by the victory of the counter-revolution.
Walter Schmidt

The Marx-Engels articles in N.R.Z.were reprinted in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Moscow 1977. vols. VII-IX.
Franz Mehring (ed.) Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lasalle Stuttgart 1902, III. 3-86.
S. Gurevic Novaja Rejnskaja Gazeta K. Marksa i F. Engel'sa. Moscow 1968.
S. Z. Leviova. Marks v germanskoj revoljucii 1848-1849 godov Moscow 1970.



5 years 7 months ago

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Submitted by Anarcho on November 24, 2018

Why are we getting Marxist hagiography on libcom? In reality, Marx subordinated the German workers movement to the bourgeoisie and the paper reflected it. It also published Engels racist nonsense on "non-Historic peoples" and its call for ethnic cleansing (wiping out peoples down to their very name can only be done in one way), not to mention the anti-Semitic reports and reports of the stock-exchange (for its bourgeois readership).


5 years 7 months ago

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Submitted by Reddebrek on November 30, 2018

Pro Karl Marx stuff has been on this site from the very beginning. This is here because it provides information on the 1840s and the 1848 revolutions, an important period that has largely been overlooked.

If you have a better history of the NRZ then why don't you provide it?