Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1852


Heroes of the Exile



This brings to a close the first Act of the drama of Kinkel's life and nothing worthy of mention then occurs before the outbreak of the February Revolution. The publishing house of Cotta accepted his poems but without offering him a royalty and most of the copies remained unsold until the celebrated stray bullet in Baden gave a poetic nimbus to the author and created a market for his products.

Incidentally, our biographer omits mention of one momentous fact. The self-confessed goal of Kinkel's desires was that he should die as an old theatre director: his ideal was a certain old Eisenhut who together with his troupe used to roam up and down the Rhine as a travelling Pickelhäring [clown] and who afterwards went mad.

Alongside his lectures with their rhetoric of the pulpit Gottfried also gave a number of theological and aesthetic performances in Cologne from time to time. When the February Revolution broke out, he concluded them with this prophetic utterance:

"The thunder of battle reverberates over to us from Paris and opens a new and glorious era for Germany and the whole continent of Europe. The raging storm will be followed by Zephyr's breezes with their message of freedom. On this day is born the great, bountiful epoch of — constitutional monarchy!"

The constitutional monarchy expressed its thanks to Kinkel for this compliment by appointing him to a professorial chair. Such recognition could however not suffice for our grand homme en herbe. The constitutional monarchy showed no eagerness to cause his "fame to encircle the globe". Moreover, the laurels Freiligrath had collected for his recent political poems prevented our crowned Maybug poet from sleeping. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, therefore, resolved upon a swing to the left and became first a constitutional democrat and then a republican democrat (honnête et modéré). He set out to become a deputy but the May elections took him neither to Berlin nor to Frankfurt. Despite this initial setback he pursued his objective undismayed and it can truthfully be said that he did not spare himself. He wisely limited himself at first to his immediate environment. He founded the Bonner Zeitung [Bonn News], a modest local product distinguished only by the peculiar feebleness of its democratic rhetoric and the naivete with which it aspired to save the nation. He elevated the Maybug Club to the rank of a democratic Students' Club and from this there duly flowed a host of disciples that bore the Master's renown into every corner of the district of Bonn, importuning every assembly with the fame of Professor Kinkel. He himself politicked with the grocers in their club, he extended a brotherly hand to the worthy manufacturers and even hawked the warm breath of freedom among the peasantry of Kindenich and Seelscheid. Above all he reserved his sympathy for the honourable caste of master craftsmen. He wept together with them over the decay of handicrafts, the monstrous effects of free competition, the modern dominance of capital and of machines. Together with them he devised plans to restore the guilds and to prevent the violation of guild regulations by the journeymen. So as to do everything of which he was capable he set down the results of his pub deliberations with the petty guild masters in the pamphlet entitled Handicraft, save yourself!

Lest there be any doubt as to Mr. Kinkel's position and to the significance of his little tract for Frankfurt and the nation he dedicated it to the "thirty members of the economic committee of the Frankfurt National Assembly".

Heinrich von Ofterdingen's researches into the "beauty" of the artisan class led him immediately to the discovery that "the whole artisan class is at present divided by a yawning chasm" (p. 5). This chasm consists in the fact that some artisans "frequent the clubs of the grocers and officials" (what progress!) and that others do not do this and also in the fact that some artisans are educated and others are not. Despite this chasm the author regards the artisans' clubs, the assemblies springing up everywhere in the beloved fatherland and the agitation for improving the state of handicrafts (reminiscent of the congresses à la Winkelblech [24] of 1848) as the portent of a happy future. To ensure that his own good advice should not be missing from this beneficent movement he devises his own programme of salvation.

He begins by asking how to eradicate the evil effects of free competition by restricting it but without eliminating it altogether. The solutions he proposes are these:

"A youth who lacks the requisite ability and maturity should be debarred by law from becoming a master" (p. 20).

"No master shall be permitted to have more than one apprentice (p. 29)

"The course of instruction in a craft shall be concluded by an examination" (p. 30).

"The master of an apprentice must unfailingly attend the examination" (p. 31).

"On the question of maturity it should become mandatory that henceforth no apprentice may become a master before completion of his twenty-fifth year" (p. 42).

"As evidence of ability every candidate for the title of master should be required to pass a public examination" (p. 43).

"In this context it is of vital importance that the examination should be free" (p. 44). "All provincial masters of the same guild must likewise submit themselves to the same examination" (p. 55).

Friend Gottfried who is himself a political hawker desires to abolish the "travelling tradesman or hawker" in other, profane wares on the grounds of the dishonesty of such work. (p. 60.)

"A manufacturer of craft goods desires to withdraw his assets from the business to his own advantage and, dishonestly, to the disadvantage of his creditors. Like all ambivalent things this phenomenon too is described by a foreign word: it is called bankruptcy. He then quickly takes his finished products to a neighbouring town and sells them there to the highest bidder" (p. 64). These auctions — "in actual fact like a sort of garbage that our dear neighbour, Commerce, disposes of in the garden of Handicraft" — must be abolished. (Would it not be much simpler, Friend Gottfried, to go to the root of the matter and abolish bankruptcy itself?).

"Of course, the annual fairs are in a special position" (p. 65). "The law will have to be flexible so as to allow the various places to call an assembly of all the citizens to decide by majority vote (!) whether permanent annual fairs should be retained or abolished" (p. 68).

Gottfried now comes to the "vexed" question of the relationship between manufacture and machine industry and produces the following:

"Let everyone sell only those goods that he himself produces with his own hands." (p. 80.) "Because machines and manufacture have gone their own ways they have strayed from their true paths and now both are in a sorry plight." (p. 84).

He wishes to unite them by getting artisans such as the bookbinders, to band together and maintain a machine.

"As they only use the machine for themselves and when it is required they will be able to produce more cheaply than the factory owner" (p. 85). "Capital will be broken by association" (p. 84). (And associations will be broken by capital.)

He then generalises his ideas about the "purchase of a machine to rule lines, and to cut paper and cardboard" (p. 85) for the united certificated bookbinders of Bonn and conceives the notion of a "Machine-Chamber".

"Confederations of the various guild masters must set up businesses everywhere, similar to the factories of individual businessmen though on a smaller scale. These will work to order, exclusively for the benefit of local masters. They will not accept commissions from other employers" (p. 86).

What distinguishes these Machine Chambers is the fact that "a commercial management" will only "be needed initially" (ibid). "Every idea as novel as this one", Gottfried exclaims "ecstatically", "can only be put into practice when all the details have been thought out in the most sober, matter of fact way". He urges "each and every branch of manufacture to perform this analysis for itself"! (pp. 87, 88).

There follows a polemic against competition from the state in the shape of the labour performed by the inmates of prisons, reminiscences about a colony of criminals ("The creation of a human Siberia" (p. 102)), and finally an attack on the "so-called handicraft companies and handicraft commissions" in the armed forces. The aim here is to ease the burdens imposed by the army on the artisan classes by inducing the state to commission goods from the guild masters that it could itself produce more cheaply.

"This deals satisfactorily with the problems of competition" (p. 109).

Gottfried's second important point touches on the material aid due to the manufacturing classes from the state. Gottfried regards the state solely from the point of view of an official and hence arrives at the opinion that the easiest and surest way to help the artisan is by direct subsidy from the Treasury to erect trade halls and set up loan-funds. How the funds reach the Treasury in the first place is the "ugly" side of the problem and naturally enough, cannot be investigated here.

Lastly, our theologian inevitably lapses into the role of moral preacher. He reads the artisan class a moral lecture on self-help. He firstly condemns the "complaints about long-term borrowing and about discounts" (p. 136), and invites the artisan to inspect his own conscience: "Do you always fix the same, unchanging price, my friend, for every job of work that you undertake?" (p. 132). On this occasion he also warns the artisan against making extortionate demands on "wealthy Englishmen". "The whole root of the evil", according to the fantasies that inhabit Gottfried's mind, "is the system of annual accounts" (p. 139). This is followed by Jeremiads about the way in which the artisans carry on in the taverns and their wives indulge their love of finery (p. 140 ff.).

The means by which the artisan class is to better itself are "the corporation, the sickness fund and the artisans' court" (p. 146); and lastly, the workers' educational clubs (p. 153). Here is his closing statement about these educational clubs.

"And finally the union of song and oratory will create a bridge to dramatic performances and the artisan theatre which must constantly be kept in view as the ultimate objective of these aesthetic strivings. Only when the labouring classes learn once more how to move on the stage will their artistic education be complete (pp. 174-175).

Gottfried has thus succeeded in changing the artisan into a comedian and has arrived back at his own situation.

This whole flirtation with the guild aspirations of the master craftsmen in Bonn did not fail to achieve a practical result. In return for the solemn promises to promote the cause of the guilds Gottfried's election as Member for Bonn in the Lower Chamber under the dictated constitution [25] was contrived. "From this moment on Gottfried felt happy."

He set off at once for Berlin and as he believed that it was the intention of the government to establish a permanent "corporation" of approved masters in the craft of legislation in the Lower Chamber, he acted as if he were to stay there for ever and even decided to send for his wife and child. But then the Chamber was dissolved and Friend Gottfried, bitterly disappointed, had to leave his parliamentary bliss and go back to Mockel.

Soon afterwards conflicts broke out between the Frankfurt Assembly and the German governments and this led to the upheavals in South Germany and on the Rhine. The Fatherland called and Gottfried obeyed. Siegburg was the site of the arsenal for the province and next to Bonn Siegburg was the place where Gottfried had sown the seed of freedom most frequently. He joined forces with his friend, Anneke, a former lieutenant and summoned all his loyal vassals to a march on Siegburg. They were to assemble at the rope ferry. More than a hundred were supposed to come but when after waiting a long time Gottfried counted the heads of the faithful there were barely thirty — and of these only three were students, to the undying shame of the Maybug Club! Undaunted, Gottfried and his band crossed the Rhine and marched towards Siegburg. The night was dark and it was drizzling. Suddenly the sound of horses' hooves could be heard behind our valiant heroes. They took cover at the side of the road, a patrol of lancers galloped by: miserable knaves had talked too freely and the authorities had got wind of it. The march was now futile and had to be abandoned. The pain that Gottfried felt in his breast that night can only be compared with the torments he experienced when both Knapp and Chamisso declined to print the first flowering of his poetic talent in their magazines.

After this he could remain no longer in Bonn but surely the Palatinate would provide great scope for his activities? He went to Kaiserslautern and as he had to have a job he obtained a sinecure in the War Office (it is said that he was put in charge of naval affairs). But he continued to earn his living by hawking around his ideas about freedom and the people's paradise among the peasants of the region and it is said that his reception in a number of reactionary districts was anything but cordial. Despite these minor misfortunes Kinkel could be seen on every highroad, striding along purposefully, his rucksack on his back and from this point on he appears in all the newspapers accompanied by his rucksack.

But the upheavals in the Palatinate were quickly terminated and we discover Kinkel again in Karlsruhe where instead of the rucksack he carries a musket which now becomes his permanent emblem. This musket is said to have had a very beautiful aspect, i.e. a butt and stock made of mahogany and it was certainly an artistic, aesthetic musket; there was also an ugly side to it and this was the fact that Gottfried could neither load, nor see, nor shoot nor march. So much so that a friend asked him why he was going into battle at all. Whereupon Gottfried replied: Well, the fact is that I can't return to Bonn, I have to live!

In this way Gottfried joined the ranks of the warriors in the corps of the chivalrous Willich. As a number of his comrades in arms have reliably reported. Gottfried served as a common partisan, sharing all the vicissitudes of this company with humility. He was as merry and friendly in bad times as in good, but he was mostly engaged in marauding. In Rastatt, [26] however, this unsullied witness to truth and justice was to undergo the test from which he would emerge unblemished and as a martyr to the plaudits of the whole German nation. The exact details of this exploit have never been established with any accuracy. All that is known is that a troop of partisans got lost in a skirmish and a few shots were fired on their flank. A bullet grazed Gottfried's head and he fell to the ground with the cry "I am dead". He was not in fact dead but his wound was serious enough to prevent him from retreating with the others. He was taken to a farm house where he turned to the worthy Black Forest peasants with the words "Save me — I am Kinkel!" Here he was discovered by the Prussians, who dragged him off into Babylonian captivity.