Frederick Engels in Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung

The Réforme and The National [213]

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 406;
Written: at the end of December 1847;
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, December 30, 1847.

Following the Lille banquet a controversy developed between the Réforme and the National, which has now led to a decisive split between the two papers.

The facts are as follows:

From the inception of the reform banquets the National has attached itself even more openly than before to the dynastic opposition .[214] At the Lille banquet M. Degeorge of the National withdrew together with Odilon Barrot. The National expressed its opinion of the Lille banquet in terms that were more than equivocal. Challenged by the Réforme to explain itself in more detail, it refused, with the excuse that it did not wish to start polemics with this newspaper. This was no reason at all for failing to comment on facts. To be brief, the Réforme did not let the matter drop and eventually attacked M. Garnier-Pagès of the National for a speech in which he denied the existence of classes and deleted the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the general phrase of citoyens français. Now, at last, the National declared that it would defend its friends against a newspaper which cast suspicion on all worthy patriots, such as Carnot, Garnier-Pagès, etc.

The National, very soon defeated on every point, could finally hit upon no other expedient than to accuse the Réforme of communism.

“You speak of indefinite strivings, of theories and systems which arise among the people, you censure us for openly attacking these — to put it bluntly — communistic strivings. Very well then, declare yourselves directly, either for or against communism. We declare for all to hear that we have nothing in common with the Communists, with these people who deny property, family and country. When the day of battle comes we shall fight not with, but against these abominable strivings. We have no peace, no tolerance for these odious fantasies, for this absurd and barbarous (sauvage) system

which bestialises man and reduces him to the level of a brute (le réduit à l'état de brute). And you believe the people would be with you? The people would surrender what little property they have earned in the sweat of their brow, their family, their country? You believe that the people would ever allow themselves to be persuaded that it is a matter of indifference whether or not Austria brings us under the yoke of her despotism, whether or not the Powers dismember France?"
[from the leading article in La Réforme, December 21, 1847; the below is from the same source]

To such grounds against communism the National adds its plans for improving the condition of the workers — postal reform, financial reform, luxury taxes, state subsidies, the abolition of the octrois [215] and free competition.

Correcting the ridiculous ideas of communism held by the National is not worth the effort. It is ludicrous, however, that the National is still parading the terrifying fantasy of a constantly threatening invasion by the “Great Powers”, and that it still believes that beyond the Rhine and across the Channel there are millions of bayonets pointed against France, and hundreds of thousands of cannons aimed at Paris. The Réforme has quite correctly replied to this that in the event of an invasion by the Kings it will not be the fortifications which will serve as a rampart, but the peoples themselves.

With reference to the article from the National quoted above the Réforme declares:

“We are not communistic, and our reason is that communism disregards the laws of production, that it is not concerned with ensuring that enough is produced for the whole of society. But the economic proposals of the Communists stand closer to us than those of the National, which accepts the existing bourgeois economics without further ado. We shall defend the Communists against the police and the National also in the future, because we acknowledge at least their right of discussion, and because the doctrines that originate from the workers themselves always deserve consideration. “

We thank the Réforme for the energetic way in which it has stood for true democracy as against the National. We thank the Réforme for defending communism against it. We willingly acknowledge that the Réforme has always defended the Communists whenever they have been persecuted by the government. Alone of all the Paris newspapers, the Réforme defended the materialistic Communists when they were dragged to court by M. Delangle [216]; on this same occasion M. Cabet almost conceded that the government was right as against the materialists. We are glad that the Réforme, even in the more or less undeveloped forms in which communism has so far appeared, has discovered a kernel of truth to which it stands closer than it does to the representatives of bourgeois economics. On the other hand, we hope to be able to prove to the Réforme before long that communism as we defend it is still more closely related to the principles of the Réforme than to communism itself as it has hitherto been presented in France, and as it now is being spread, in part, abroad.

In its repudiation of the National, furthermore, the Réforme is only pronouncing the same judgment that the democratic movement in Germany, England and Belgium, indeed everywhere except in France, has long since passed on it.