On freedom of the press - Karl Marx

Karl Marx on censorship.

Submitted by pogo on April 11, 2015

On Freedom of the Press

Marx/Engels Internet Archive

On Freedom of the Press

Proceedings of the Sixth Rhine
Province Assembly [43]
Debates on Freedom of the Press
and Publication of the Proceedings
of the Assembly of the Estates [45]

Written: May 1842;
First Published: May, 1842, in the Rheinische Zeitung;
Source: MECW, Volume 1, pp. 132-181;
Translated: from the German;
Transcription/Markup: Zodiac, Brian Baggins and Sally Ryan;
Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org)





May 5: [Prussian Censorship]

May 8: [Opponents of a Free Press]

May 10: [On the Assembly of the Estates]

May 12: [As a privilege of particular individuals or a privilege of the human mind?]

May 15: [Censorship]

May 19: [Freedom in General]

General Introduction

Post-Napoleonic Germany had been promised a constitutionally-established
string of provincial parliaments.

In 1823, Prussia formed eight such parliaments (Assemblies of
the estates). They
embraced the heads of princely families, representatives of the knightly
estate, i.e., the nobility, of towns and rural communities. The election
system based on the principle of landownership provided for a majority of
the nobility in the assemblies. The competency of the assemblies was
restricted to questions of local economy and administration. They also had
the right to express their desires on government bills submitted for
discussion. They were largely powerless ("advisory") however, could only summoned
by the Prussian government, and then they were held in secret. Furthermore,
a two-thirds majority was required to pass resolutions. Since the knightly
(aristocratic) estate held 278 of the 584 parliamentary votes (the towns
estate had 182 and the rural estate 124), nothing could be done against
its wishes.

In the 17 years of Frederick William III's rule, parliaments met
five times. In 1841, Frederick William IV came to power and decreed parliaments
would meet every two years and the secrecy surrounding them would be lifted.
And so the first parliament under his reign (and Sixth since the Assemblies
were created) was held in Düsseldorf between May 23 and July 25 1841.

That same year, a Konigsberg doctor named Johann Jacoby issued
the pamphlet "Four Questions Answered by an East Prussian," calling for
the constitution promised after Napoleon's final defeat in 1815. For this,
Jacoby was charged with treason. Among other things it opened a debate on censorship.

In March 1842, in the official government paper Preussische
Allgemeine Staats-Zeitung
(Prussian General State Gazette) ran
a series of articles supporting censorship "in order to enlighten
the public concerning the true intentions of the Government."

The Sixth Rhine Province Assembly held debates, dealt with by Marx which took place
during the discussion on publication of the proceedings of the assemblies
(this right had been granted by the Royal edict of April 30, 1841) and in
connection with petitions of a number of towns on freedom of the press.

Citations in the text are given according to the
Sitzungs-Provinzial-Landtags des sechsten Rheinischen
Koblenz, 1841.

Publishing Notes:
Marx devoted three articles to the debates of the Sixth Rhine Province
Assembly, only two of which, the first and the third, were published. In
the first series of articles Marx
proceeded with his criticism of the Prussian censorship which he had begun
in his as yet unpublished article Comments on the Latest Prussian Censorship Instruction. The second series of articles, devoted to the conflict
between the Prussian Government and the Catholic Church, was banned by the
censors. The manuscript of this article has not survived, but the general
outline of it is given by Marx in his letter to Ruge of July 9, 1842. The
third series of articles is devoted to the debates of the Rhine Province Assembly on the law on wood thefts.

These articles constitute Marx's first contribution to the
Rheinsche Zeitung für Politik. Handel und Gewerbe. Marx began
his work as a contributor and in October 1842 became one of the editors of
the newspaper. By its content and approach to vital political problems, the
article helped the newspaper, founded by the oppositional Rhenish
bourgeoisie as a liberal organ, to begin a transition to the
revolutionary-democratic positions.

The appearance of Marx's article in the press raised a favourable
response in progressive circles. Georg Jung, manager of the Rheinische
wrote to Marx: "Your articles on freedom of the press are
extremely good.... Meyen wrote that the Rheinsche Zeitung had
eclipsed the Deutsche Jahrbücher ... that in Berlin everybody
was overjoyed with it" (MEGA, Abt. 1, Ed. 1, Hb. 2, S. 275). In his
comments on the article published in the Rheinische Zeitung Arnold
Ruge wrote: "Nothing more profound and more substantial has been said or
could have been said on freedom of the press and in defence of it"
(Deutsche Jahrbücher, 1842, S. 535-36).

In the early 1850s Marx included this article in his collected works
then being prepared for publication by Hermann Becker. However only the
beginning of the article was included in the first issue. The major part of
the text which had been published in the Rheinische Zeitung No.
139 was left unprinted. The end of the article was intended for the
following issue, which was never published.

A copy of the Rheinische Zeitung which Marx sent from London to
Becker in Cologne in February 1851 with the author's notes on the text of
articles (mostly in the form of abbreviations) intended for the edition
Becker was preparing has recently been found in the archives of Cologne
University library. This copy of the newspaper proves that Marx thought of
publishing--partly in an abridged form-- many of his articles written for
the Rheinische Zeitung. However, his plan was not realised.
Marginal notes show that the articles "Communal Reform and the
Kölnische Zeitung" and "A Correspondent of the
Kölnische Zeitung vs, the Rheinische Zeitung" belong
to Marx. These articles have never been published in any collection of
Marx's works.

In English an excerpt from the Proceedings was published
in Karl Marx, Early Texts, Oxford, 1971, pp. 35-36.

This online publication: Chapter titles have been introduced in brackets.



9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by pogo on April 11, 2015

Links under "Contents" are relative to the location of volume 1. For instance source for "May 5: [Prussian Censorship]" is linked to:


This will need to be edited to read


or appropriate relative addressing to reach that page in Volume 1. And likewise the other links to external pages in the file.

This is how I understand the easiest route to making the links work. Please advise if another method is preferred