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Works of Karl Marx 1853

Hirsch’s Confessions

Source: MECW Volume 12, p. 40;
Signed: Karl Marx;
First published: in the Belletristisches Journal und New-Yorker Criminal-Zeitung, May 5, 1853, commenting on a series of articles in the same paper by Wilhelm Hirsch entitled Die Opfer der Moucharderie. Hirsch had been an agent of the Prussian police in London in the early 1850s.

Hirsch’s “Confessions”, as I see it, are valid only insofar as they are confirmed by other facts. If only because they contradict themselves. On returning from his mission to Cologne he declared at a workers’ public meeting that Willich was his accomplice. Naturally, this ostensible confession was thought too contemptible to record in the minutes. Various people let me know – whether with or without Hirsch’s instructions I cannot tell – that Hirsch was willing to make a full confession to me. I turned the offer down. Later, I learned that he was living in the utmost penury. I have no doubt, therefore, that his “very latest” confessions have been written in the interest of the party that is paying him at the moment. Strangely, there are people who find it necessary to seek the protection of a person like Hirsch.

For the present, I shall confine myself to a few marginal comments. We have had other spy confessions, those from Vidocq, Chenu, de la Hodde, and so on. There is one point on which they tally. None of them are ordinary spies, but are spies in a higher sense, all of them successors of “Cooper’s spy.” Their confessions are inevitably just so many apologies.

Hirsch, too, tries to make out, for example, that it was not he but Colonel Bangya who informed Greif, and Fleury through Greif, of the day my party comrades held their meetings. These took place on Thursdays on the few occasions when Hirsch attended, but on Wednesdays after Hirsch was excluded from them. The false minutes of before and after Hirsch’s attendances are dated Thursday. Who but Hirsch could have committed this “misstatement”!

Hirsch is luckier on another point. He claims Bangya has repeatedly disclosed information bearing on my correspondence with Germany. And since all the relevant data in the Cologne court records are false, it is certainly impossible to determine who invented them. Now to Bangya.

Spy or no spy, Bangya could never become dangerous either to me or to my party comrades, because I never spoke to him about my party affairs, and Bangya himself – as he reminds me in one of his exculpatory letters – had always avoided broaching any of these matters. Hence, spy or no spy, he could betray nothing, because he knew nothing. The Cologne records bear this out. They show that apart from confessions made in Germany itself and documents seized there, the Prussian police knew nothing of the party to which I belong and were therefore compelled to serve up the silliest cock-and-bull.

But Bangya sold a pamphlet by Marx “about the refugees” to the police, did he not?

Bangya learned from me in the presence of other persons that Ernst Dronke, Frederick Engels and I were contemplating a publication about the German refugees in London which was to appear in several instalments. He assured me that he could find a publisher in Berlin. I asked him to see about it at once. Eight or ten days later he announced that a Berlin publisher named Eisermann was prepared to put out the first instalment on condition that its authors remain anonymous, since otherwise he feared confiscation. I agreed, but stipulated for my part that the fee should be payable at once on delivery of the manuscript, because I did not wish to repeat the experience I had with the Revue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, and that the manuscript should he printed on delivery. I then went to see Engels in Manchester where the pamphlet was written. In the meantime, Bangya brought my wife a letter from Berlin in which Eisermann agreed to my conditions with the reservation that the publication of the second instalment would depend on the sales of the first. On my return, Bangya received the manuscript, and my fee.

But the printing was delayed on various plausible pretexts. I became suspicious. Not of the manuscript having been given to the police in order that the police should print it. I am now ready to surrender my manuscripts even to the Russian Emperor, so long as he, for his part, should be willing to print them the following day. No, what I feared was suppression of the manuscript.

It attacked the pulpiteers of the day – not, of course, as revolutionaries dangerous to the state, but as windbags of counter-revolution.

My suspicions were confirmed. Georg Weerth, whom I had asked to inquire about Eisermann in Berlin, wrote that no Eisermann could be discovered. Dronke and I went to see Bangya. Eisermann had now become merely Jacob Collmann’s manager. Anxious to obtain Bangya’s statements in writing, I insisted that he should repeat them in my presence in a letter to Engels in Manchester, giving Collmann’s address. I also wrote a few lines to Bruno Bauer, asking him to inquire about who lived in the house that Bangya said belonged to Collmann, but received no answer. The alleged publisher replied to my reminders that no printing date had been contractually stipulated. He claimed to be the best judge of the most suitable time. In a subsequent letter he feigned offence. Finally, Bangya informed me that the publisher was refusing to print the manuscript and would return it. He himself disappeared to Paris.

The Berlin letters and Bangya’s letters containing the whole negotiations, along with Bangya’s exculpatory efforts, are in my possession.

But why was I not put off by the suspicions of Bangya cast about by the refugees? Simply because I knew their “pre-history”. And for the time being I propose to leave this pre-history in the obscurity it merits.

Because I knew that Bangya had done laudable things as an officer of the revolution in the Hungarian war. Because he corresponded with Szemere, whom I respect, and was on friendly terms with General Perczel. Because I had myself seen a diploma in which Kossuth appointed him police chief in partibus, countersigned by Count Szirmay, Kossuth’s confidant, who lived in the same house as Bangya. This post with Kossuth also explained his inevitable relationship with policemen. If I am not mistaken, Bangya is at present still Kossuth’s agent in Paris.

The Hungarian leaders must have known their man. And what was I risking compared to them? Nothing worse than suppression of a copy to which I had retained the original.

Later, I asked Lizius, a publisher in Frankfurt am Main, and other publishers in Germany whether they would publish the manuscript. They said this was not possible in the present circumstances. Lately, an opportunity has arisen to have it printed outside Germany.

Following these explanations, which I am certainly not addressing to Herr Hirsch, but to my countrymen in America, does not there remain the “open question”: what interest did the Prussian police have in suppressing a pamphlet against Kinkel, Willich and the other “great men of the exile”?

Solve for me, O Ocrindur,
This riddle of Naturcla

London, April 9, 1853