Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher

M. to R.
Marx to Ruge

On the canal-boat going to D.,
March 1843

I am now travelling in Holland. As far as I can judge from the Dutch and French newspapers, Germany is sunk deep in the mire and will sink still deeper. I assure you, even if one has no feeling of national pride at all, nevertheless one has a feeling of national shame, even in Holland. The most insignificant Dutchman is still a citizen compared with the greatest German. And the verdict of the foreigners on the Prussian Government! A horrifying unanimity prevails; no one is any longer deceived about the Prussian system and its simple nature. After all, therefore, the new school has been of some use. The mantle of liberalism has been discarded and the most disgusting despotism in all its nakedness is disclosed to the eyes of the whole world.

That, too, is a revelation, although one of the opposite kind. It is a truth which, at least, teaches us to recognise the emptiness of our patriotism and the abnormity of our state system, and makes us hide our faces in shame. You look at me with a smile and ask: What is gained by that? No revolution is ‘made out of shame. I reply: Shame is already revolution of a kind; shame is actually the victory of the French Revolution over the German patriotism that defeated it in 1813. Shame is a kind of anger which is turned inward. And if a whole nation really experienced a sense of shame, it would be like a lion, crouching ready to spring. I admit that in Germany even shame is not yet felt; on the contrary, these miserable people are still patriots. But what system is capable of knocking the patriotism out of them if not this ridiculous system of the new cavalier [Frederick William IV]? The comedy of despotism that is being played out with us is just as dangerous for him, as the tragedy once was for the Stuarts and Bourbons. And even if for a long time this comedy were not to be looked upon as the thing it actually is, it would still amount to a revolution. The state is too serious a thing to be turned into a kind of harlequinade. A ship full of fools[19] could perhaps he allowed to drift for quite a time at the mercy of the wind, but it would be driven to meet its fate precisely because the fools would not believe this. This fate is the impending revolution.