Letters of Marx and Engels 1842

Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge

in Dresden

Written: Trier, March 20 [1842];
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 383-386;
Publisher: International Publishers (1975);
First Published: Documente des Socialismus, Bd I, 1902;
Translated: Clemens Dutt;
Transcribed: S. Ryan.

Dear Friend,

Novices are the most pious people, as Saxony proves ad oculos. Bauer once had the same sort of scene with Eichhorn in Berlin as you had with the Minister of the Interior. As orators, these gentlemen are as alike as two peas. On the other hand, what is exceptional is that philosophy speaks intelligibly with the state wisdom of these over-assured scoundrels, and even a little fanaticism does no harm. There is nothing more difficult than to make these earthly Providences believe that belief in truth and spiritual convictions exist. They are such sceptical state dandies, such experienced fops, that they no longer believe in true, disinterested love. How, then, is one to get at these roués except with the aid of what, in the highest circles, is called fanaticism! A guards lieutenant regards a lover whose intentions are honourable as a fanatic. Should people no longer marry because of that? It is a remarkable thing that the degradation of people to the level of animals has become for the government an article of faith and a principle. But this does not contradict religiosity, for the deification of animals is probably the most consistent form of religion, and perhaps it will soon be necessary to speak of religious zoology instead of religious anthropology.

When I was still young and good, I already knew at least that the eggs laid in Berlin were not the eggs of the swan Leda, but goose eggs. A little later I realised that they were crocodile eggs, like, for example, the very latest egg by which, allegedly, on the proposal of the Rhine Province Assembly, the illegal restrictions of French legislation concerning high treason, etc., and crimes of officials, have been abolished. But this time, because it is a question of objective legal provisions, the hocus-pocus is so stupid that even the stupidest Rhenish lawyers have immediately seen through it. At the same time, Prussia has declared with complete naivety that publicity of court proceedings would jeopardise the prestige and credit of Prussian officials. That is an extremely frank admission. All our Rhenish scribblings about publicity and publicising suffer from a basic defect. Honest folk continually point out that these are by no means political, but merely legal, institutions, that they are a right, and not a wrong. As though that were the question! As though all the evil of these institutions did not consist precisely in the fact that they are a right! I should very much like to prove the opposite, namely, that Prussia cannot introduce publicity and publicising, for free courts and an unfree state are incompatible. Similarly, Prussia should be highly praised for its piety, for a transcendental state and a positive religion go together, just as a pocket icon does with a Russian swindler.

Bülow-Cummerow, as you will have seen from the Chinese newspapers, makes his pen flirt with his plough. Oh, this rustic coquette, who adorns herself with artificial flowers! I think that writers with this earthly position--for, after all, a position on ploughland is surely earthly--would be desirable, and even more so if in the future the plough were to think and write instead of the pen, while the pen, on the other hand, were to perform serf labour in return. Perhaps, in view of the present uniformity of the German governments, this will come to pass, but the more uniform the governments, the more multiform nowadays are the philosophers, and it is to be hoped that the multiform army will conquer the uniform one.

Ad rem, since among us, loyal, moral Germans, politica is included in formalia, whence Voltaire deduced that we have the profoundest textbooks on public law.

Therefore, as regards the matter, I found that the article "On Christian Art" which has now been transformed into "On Religion and Art, with Special Reference to Christian Art", must be entirely redone because of the tone of the Posaune, which I conscientiously followed:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path."
"Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies, For they are ever with me," and
"The Lord shall roar from Zion"

— this tone of the Posaune and the irksome constraint of the Hegelian exposition should now be replaced by a freer, and therefore more thorough exposition. In a few days, I have to go to Cologne, where I set up my new residence, for I find the proximity of the Bonn professors intolerable. Who would want to have to talk always with intellectual skunks, with people who study only for the purpose of finding new dead ends in every corner of the world!

Owing to these circumstances, therefore, I was not able, of course, to send herewith the criticism of the Hegelian philosophy of law for the next Anekdota (as it was also written for the Posaune); I promise to send the article on religious art by mid-April, if you are prepared to wait so long. This would be the more preferable for me, since I am examining the subject from a new point de vue and am giving also an epilogue de romanticis as a supplement. Meanwhile I shall most actively, to use Goethe's language, continue to work on the subject and await your decision. Be so kind as to write to me on this to Cologne, where I shall be by the beginning of next month. As I have not yet any definite domicile there, please send me the letter to Jung's address.

In the article itself I necessarily had to speak about the general essence of religion; in doing so I come into conflict with Feuerbach to a certain extent, a conflict concerning not the principle, but the conception of it. In any case religion does not gain from it.

I have heard nothing about Köppen for a long time. Have you not yet approached Christiansen in Kiel? I know him only from his history of Roman law, which, however, contains also something about religion and philosophy in general. He seems to have an excellent mind, although when he comes to actual philosophising, his writing is horribly incomprehensible and formal. Perhaps, he has now begun to write plain German. Otherwise he seems to be à la hauteur des principes.

I shall be very pleased to see you here on the Rhine.



I have just had a letter from Bauer in which he writes that he wants to travel northwards again, owing to the silly idea that there he will be better able to conduct his proceedings against the Prussian Government. Berlin is too close to Spandau. At all events, it is good that Bauer is not allowing the matter to take its own course. As I have learned here from my future brother-in-law, aristocrat comme il faut, people in Berlin are particularly vexed at Bauer's bonne foi.