visionary and racist
on the origin of communist violence

Often it is being maintained that the difference between the two totalitarian and tyrant systems that have destroyed the lives of so many in our century, fascism and communism, lies in the original intention that they were born of. Whereas fascism has its cradle in an absolute hatred and disrespect of any democratic or liberal institution, communism is said to be originated from a basically good and philanthropic pursuit of a "paradise on earth". All variations of Marx' "pure" doctrine that have shaken our times, that have inflicted pain, injustice and death on millions of human beings in communist states all over the world, were but misperceptions, "socialism with a humane face" was to be only around the corner, we are blamed for never having it given a chance to show us its benefits. Stalinism and all other forms of dictatorships justified with the course of history as interpreted by Marx, allegedly have no right to name him as their ideological father.

So, let's see what Marx and Engels have to tell us !

The emerging world market and "globalization" were already evident in 1848. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels describe this phenomenon in their "Communist Manifesto":
"The Bourgeoisie is chased over the globe by its need for a constantly expanding consumption of its goods. (...) The ages old national industries are being pushed aside by new industries, the development of which becomes a question of live and death for all civilized nations, pushed aside
by industries, which no longer refine domestic raw materials but raw materials belonging to the most remote areas and the products of which are not only consumed in the country itself but in all parts of the world simultaneously."

"The Bourgeoisie is pulling (...) even the most barbaric nations to civilization through the indefinitely facilitated communication."

So much for Marx and Engels. And yet, we know that this accurate analysis became a component of one of the most repressive systems of world history. So, where is there the Wrong in the Right? What ammunition is hidden in their texts that was prone to be abused later-on by radical, left-wing, totalitarian ideologues?
What is striking, is the military touch of Marx' and Engel's vocabulary. The market's forces are weapons to them, with which overdue circumstances are being destroyed like a fortress' walls. The creation of new terms of production are like a mobilization of armies for the two theoreticians of Communism.
This has absolutely nothing in common with the "Bourgeoisie's self-image: Their ultimate objective was banning violence from public life, enjoying peace between nations, reducing and containing the military and bureaucracy, freedom from authoritarian intrusion on the free expression of thoughts and ideas. That was what they were lobbying for. These were their interests. The basis of a functioning market is a peaceful and free environment.
Marx and Engels to the contrary drew a picture of a military supreme command, who used the different sectors of the economy and industry as their armies. "Masses of workers, huddled in the factories are organized like soldiers. As industrial soldiers they are being submitted to an entire hierarchy of sergeants and lieutenants."
This has nothing to do with the actual course of the Industrial Revolution - instead, one is inclined to think of the construction of the soviet industry.

Marx and Engels were at their best when denouncing all moderates. To them, the revolution had to follow the pace the French Revolution had taken and finally bring the most radical party -their own party- to power. A means to achieve this goal was an all-out destructive war against "counter-revolutionary" classes and peoples.
The new quality, the basic renewal a society had brought that substituted the right of force by a culture of exchange and public discussion, remained incomprehensible to them. The discussion that endured throughout the 19th century on how best to tame violence and create a civil order seemed to be only a great lie for Marx and Engels.
This state of mind is characteristic for the policy of the NeueRheinischenZeitung (NRZ), the "organ of democracy" in the years 1848 and 1849. For Marx and Engels, the newspaper's two editors, it seems all clear: their idea of "democracy" will only be implemented in "world wars".
Their leitmotiv is a passionate propaganda of a revolutionary war against Russia, whose czar and ultra- authoritarian systems they deemed to be the cradle of "counter-revolution". Some have interpreted the NRZ's constant polemic against Russia and slavic peoples as a hidden nationalism, but the source of Communism's irreconcilable hatred lies somewhere else.
The NRZ's favorite enemies were Czechs, Slovaks and Ruthens (Ukrainians) whose rural population trusted their landlords more than their democrats.
Whereas they were still labeled "social revolutionary" in June 1848, the paper's verdict about the Czechs changes in the course of that summer. When Croat, Ruthenian and Czech battalions march against the Hungarian and Austrian rioters, the NRZ's editors turn hostile.
Engels can see nothing but "villains and dreamers" even among the democratic Czech forces. When the insurrection in Vienna is put down in October, all countenance vanishes. The paper's reporters in Vienna, namely the racist Müller-Tellering, call the small slavic peoples only "dumb-beasty Slavs", "foolish Slav- donkeys", "mean dogs of Slavs and Ruthenians", "Czech hounds" and "Croatian scum".
In February 1849 Müller-Tellering turns anti-Semitic: "In Austria it is being felt in the entire population that the Jewish people represent the meanest and lowest form of bourgeoisie and loan sharking, that is what the antipathy against the Jewish scum consists of."
The editors in Cologne published all that. Marx himself wrote in an editorial in late 1848: "In Vienna Croats, Pandurs, Czechs, Serechans (a troop formed of Southern Slavs) and similar scum suffocated the germanic freedom."

Those who downplay this as being typical for the contemporary style of political publishing, understates the spirit of the fathers of Marxism that longed for a generalized view of things. They came up with a theory of "rubbish peoples", that were doomed. Engels writes:

"The next world war will make not only reactionary classes and dynasties disappear from the face of the earth, but entire reactionary peoples as well. And this is also to be considered progress."
Thus he demanded an
"inexorable struggle for life and death with the Slaves who betrayed the Revolution; destructive fight and ruthless terrorism. (...) To the sentimental phrases about brotherhood (...) our answer is that the hatred of Russians had been and still is the first revolutionary passion of Germans; that since the Revolution the hatred of Czechs and Croats has been added to it."
Engels disrespected the anarchist Bakunin and his arguing on behalf of the Southern Slavs that were being oppressed by the Hungarian revolutionary government. To the contrary, the Hungarians were much too gentle towards the Croats, Engels argued, that is counter-revolutionary.
For the two philosophers of revolution the slavish peoples -with the exception of the Poles- is a single huge "Vendée" (during the French Revolution, peasants from the Vendée region revolted against the jacobinian regime). Following the example the Jacobinians set, one would have to eradicate the Slavs violently and thoroughly.
Marx and Engels did not necessarily mean physical eradication but "only" terroristical suppression of the Eastern European nationalist movements and Panslawism. They distinguished between advanced nations who possessed a right to exist and "peoples without a history" who merit nothing but the yoke.

To what extent this can be considered a prelude to justifying the elimination of entire ethnic groups and nationalities, is an interesting question. Stalin, Mao Ze-Dong, Pol Pot and Mengistu eradicated "counter- revolutionary" classes and peoples without expressively invoking Marx.
Their notion of society's development in military terms prevented them from correctly understanding the civil society. They failed to recognize that the free-trade interests of British Manchester capitalists did have a common ground with liberal left-wing principles , the international peace movement and the urge for social and political reform. To them it was at most a mere sentimental wrapping of pure profit interests. (today American policy faces a similar ideological accusation of European left-wing "intellectuals".)
In nearly all of his writings on the 19th century's forces only little remains of Marx' evaluation of the global economy. Instead, violent fantasies reign, disguised by parts of Hegel's doctrine of a national spirit (Volksgeistlehre), according to which each higher level of civilization is represented by one concrete nation. This Hegelianism shows up even more evidently in Engel's later writings against Bakunin whose insisting on a right of existence for the Slav peasants who have to face efforts to "germanize" them is being ridiculed:

One must consider it a crime, "that at a time when the big monarchies became a 'historical necessity' in Europe, the Germans and Magyars (Hungarians) forced all these small, crippled nations into a great empire, thus enabling them to take part in an historical development, to which they would have remained totally foreign, if left to themselves. Certainly, these things cannot be implemented without stomping down some little fragile national flower. But without violence and iron ruthlessness nothing gets done in history."
At another point in his writings, Engels confirms his verdict: 
" All history of Austria up to our times proves, and the year 1848 has emphasized the fact: Among all those tiny nations of Austria only three have actively influenced the course of history and are still capable of existing - the Germans, the Poles, the Magyars. That is why they are now revolutionary. All other small tribes and peoples have first and foremost 
the mission to drown in the revolutionary storm that hits the world."
In 1851 Engels takes the last Slavic nation out of his Pantheon: "The Poles have done nothing in their history but playing brave, annoying stupidity. One cannot even mention a single moment when Poland (...) successfully represented progress or did anything of historical importance."

In all this the old absolutist system -as opposed to the civil system of checks and balances, of sharing and limiting power- becomes evident, a systems that condemns any opposition to the ruler (or ruling group!) as a crime deserving the death penalty.
In the center of the capitalist world, in Great Britain, a new political culture and a liberal state based on laws that applied to all citizens, had already come into existence. The beneficiaries of this system were among ot her the continent's defeated revolutionaries from Mazzini to Kossuth, from Marx to Engels. They appreciated their safe asylum.

In the c ore of the world's burgeoisie the outbreak of revolution had been averted by clever and constant reforms. Free competition in the marketplace was secured by a legitimate competition in the ballots, in the political life. Later Tory Prime Minister Disraeli lauded the "healthy and sanitary control by a constitutional opposition." The ballot reforms, the abolition of protective tariffs, the laws on working conditions, outlawing slavery were not achieved "on the battlefield" but by changing coalitions, progressive aristocrats, clergymen, moderate unionists and realistic industry leaders.
And: English "Bourgeois", together with Americans and Swiss, became the ones to ignite the motor of the world peace movement. When the 3rd World Peace Congress was held at Frankfurt's Paul's church in 1850, revolutionaries were still moving imaginary armies over a world battle field in their minds.

This article was published in "Die Zeit" in the issue of May 28, 1998. The author is Albert C. Sellner.
Translated by Benedikt Wahler Please notify me about faults!

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