The Communist League

Report by the Central Authority to the League [346]

Written: September 14 1847;
Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 602;
First published: Gründungsdokumente des Bundes der Kommunisten (Juni bis September 1847), Hamburg, 1969;

Brothers: Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

Three months have now passed since the Congress was held and its Circular was dispatched to you; we therefore now send you another report on our activity since then, and give you a summary of the present state of the League.

We regret that we are unable to send you very encouraging news, but we have resolved to tell you the plain truth, be it encouraging or disheartening. Some of you may well think that emphasis should always be placed on the bright side of the situation so that people should not lose heart; we on the contrary are of the opinion that all should know the enormous and diverse difficulties with which we have to contend. Real men will not he deterred by this, but on the contrary spurred on to new activity.

As long as our League is not strongly and firmly established, as long as it fails to intervene effectively in the course of events, our influence will be insignificant. Admittedly we now have a new basis, and in some places people seem to work with new enthusiasm but on the whole we are still far from the position we should have reached long ago. When the Congress Circular was dispatched we hoped we would receive favourable and definite replies to it from all quarters. The Central Authority had enclosed with it an accompanying letter calling attention once more to the points requiring a response and requesting prompt and definite replies.[347]

So far we have only received a definite reply from the Brussels [yesterday we received a letter from Leipzig, for details see below] circle, other places have only acknowledged receipt of the Circular, thanked us for our efforts, made some general comments, and no more.

What is the cause of this negligence and where is it going to lead us? Many German proletarians are anxious to liberate themselves, but, if they do not set about the task more energetically than they have done so far, they will indeed not make much progress. We can’t wait for things to fall into our lap. Many people are hindered in their activity by their mental sluggishness; others talk a great deal but when money contributions are requested they pull long faces, make all manner of excuses and give nothing; others again possess a large share of bourgeois cowardice, see policemen and gendarmes at every turn and never believe it is time to act. It gives one the gripes to see all the goings-on. The majority of the proletarians, and the most active at that — those in Silesia, Saxony, Rhenish Prussia, Westphalia and Hesse have poor or indeed no leadership, at least no communist one.

We therefore call upon all members of our League once more to rise up at last out of their sleep and set to work, and we demand that first of all definite replies to the Congress Circular be sent in so that we can at least know whom we can count upon.

After the Congress was over we sent the Congress Circular, the new Rules a the Communist . Credo’ and an accompanying letter from the Central Authority to ten towns in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden where we have communities. In addition we sent out from London two authorised emissaries to America, one to Norway, one to Germany and one to Holland. All promised the Central Authority to work to the best of their ability and to set up new communities in the places in which they settled and to put them in touch with us.

In accordance with the resolution adopted at the Congress the League’s new newspaper [Kommunistische Zeitschrift] should have begun to appear in August... and we had been promised articles and also financial support for it; all League members were moreover requested to give all the help they could. Unfortunately here again most promises have been confined to words alone. Apart from the Brussels circle, which for the time being made a monthly allocation of one pound sterling for printing expenses and five francs for propaganda and Brother Heide [Wilhelm Wolff] who sent us an article, we have received nothing so far. The editorial commission, which from one week to the next was being promised the necessary articles, was finally compelled to do everything itself, so as at least to be able to get the specimen issue out. If we do not receive better support in the future than we have received so far, we shall not make any progress here either. In order to set up our printing-press properly, so that besides the League newspaper we can also print leaflets and small pamphlets, we still need another 600 francs. We are not in a position to raise this sum in London alone.

Since the Congress Circular was sent out we have received news from the following places.

Sweden. We received a letter dated Upsala, May 23 from our emissary who travelled to Sweden via Helsingör, crossing the whole country on foot. Here in London, having nothing else, he had filled his kitbag with communist leaflets which he successfully took over the border into Sweden. He writes that in all towns where there are German workers, he called on them in their workshops, distributed our leaflets among them and found their response to our ideas most enthusiastic. Unfortunately, since he did not find any work he was unable to stay in any one place long enough to set up a community. In Stockholm he transmitted to the local community (our communist outpost in the North) the first two circulars from the Central Authority,[349] and his news lent the Brothers there new heart. From Stockholm he went to Upsala, from there on to Gävle, where he worked for a time, and is now on the way to Umei and Tornea. A communist emissary among the Lapps!

A member of the League who arrived in London from Karlskrona informed us: Brother C., who was previously working in Paris and London, has set up communities in W. and there are already over a hundred League members there now. The Brother from Karlskrona gave us C.’s address and we shall be sending him this Circular together with the New Rules and a special appeal for the League members there. From Stockholm we have received a letter dated July 8 saying that our Brothers there are most zealous supporters of our principles. A public attack on communism made by a local priest was countered by a League member, Brother Forsell, in a pamphlet written in Swedish in which he expounded our principles to the people as well a Sweden’s biggest newspaper, the Aftonbladet, also defends communism against the clerics. We were also told in the letter: “The educational society here in Stockholm, which we were formerly able to regard as a gateway to communism has now unfortunately landed in the clutches of the philistines. On the other hand the democratic element within the local Scandinavian society, [350] of which we are all members and which has one of us as President, is pure and unsullied and it is from this society that we recruit our members:” Immediately on receiving this letter we made handwritten copies of the Congress Circular, the Communist Credo and the Rules in Latin characters (since most Swedes cannot read German letters) and then sent them everything by post. We are now waiting for their reply to this dispatch.

Germany. Approximately six weeks ago an emissary from here went to Berlin taking with him letters from us for the Brothers there, and, in order to put new heart into them, exhorting them to be steadfast. He was to spend only about a week there and then travel to Leipzig, from where he was to send us a report. We are expecting news shortly.

The Brothers in Br. acknowledged receipt of our letters and promised to send us a detailed reply in the immediate future, which they have not yet done.

The Brothers in Hamburg acknowledge receipt of our letters and express their regret that the name League of the just has been changed and wish the former name restored: they also inform us that it is not at all to their liking when the supporters of W. Weitling and Grün are exposed to such hostile criticism, as was the case in the Congress Circular. They call for moderation and unity and write: “Whether someone stands one rung higher or lower as regards the main principle, that is no reason for us to persecute him and cause a split, for how do you think we can make an impact if we take such a one-sided approach. We attract all forces who wish for progress and then seek to win them over to our ideas gradually by persuasion.”

We must reply to the Brothers in Hamburg that the reasons for the change in the name notified in the Congress Circular are significant ones and that if no important counter-arguments are put forward, the Central Authority will defend the retention of the name Communist League at the next Congress. This latter name says clearly what we are and what we want, which the previous one did not. League of the just says everything and nothing, but we must be definite. The Hamburg Brothers would do well to read the reasons given in the Congress Circular once more — if they can refute those arguments then we shall agree with them — we have no right to take mere emotions into consideration.

As regards the second point we stress that we are in no way persecuting Weitling’s and Grün’s supporters, but purely and simply representing them in their true colours. It is time we came to our senses and therefore we can no longer waste time on dreamers and system-mongers who have no energy for action — we will drag no corpse along behind us. Grün’s supporters are people who chatter a great deal about equality without knowing what the word means, who criticise everything except themselves, in other words, opinionated men who talk a great deal, but do nothing. We are no elegant bourgeois and therefore do not beat about the bush but say what we think, i. e., call things by their names.

For over ten years moderation, forbearance and unity have been preached in the League and with all this preaching, with all this brotherly love we have accomplished virtually nothing, and last year the League almost collapsed entirely. We must put an end to this; it’ Is wrong to demand that we should spend our whole life on trifles and idle dreams. Our opinion is that 100 active members are better than 1,000 of whom half are indecisive and lukewarm. Instead of looking back and helping the lame to catch up, we march boldly forward, which will probably get others to their feet somewhat more nimbly as well. The Brothers in Hamburg incidentally do not seem to have got very far with their moderation, for they make no allusion to the dispatch of money for propaganda and printing, and as for the League’s newspaper they declare that they are only in a position to take a few copies in view of growing unemployment.

We must make it clear here that every member of the League is bound to take a copy of the newspaper; if he is not able to pay for it, then the community he belongs to must do so for him.

Once more, Brothers, let us not allow all our strength to be undermined through untimely moderation, through lumping together opposing forces and thus become a laughing-stock for the other parties. We can make a powerful impact, if we only have the will, and if we do have the will there is only one thing we need courage! courage! and once again courage! If people are unable or unwilling to go as far as we do — all well and good; if their intentions are honest, we shall not cease to respect them, but when we are called upon to step backwards in order to join up with such people, then we reply: Never!

Not long ago our Brothers in Leipzig wrote that several members who had been intimidated by the somewhat stark terms of the Central Authority’s circular had withdrawn their membership. The others promised to remain loyally united and work to the best of their ability. We can only congratulate the Brothers in Leipzig on having rid themselves of people who lacked the courage to behave as men. The letter which we received from Leipzig yesterday was already written in a quite different and more forceful style than previous letters, which shows that the community there is no longer dogged by indecisiveness.

First of all the community in Leipzig believes that it was necessary to phrase the Credo in terms more scientific and more suitable for all social classes. They suggest an almost complete recast and give their reasons for this. We shall put the suggested changes before the next Congress for discussion. The Central Authority agrees with the majority of the points listed in their letter. The community states further that apart from copies of our newspaper for all the members, they wish to take an extra 12 for distribution. If all communities were to follow the example provided in Leipzig, the League’s newspaper could appear weekly and at half the price. We request that all contributions for propaganda and printing that have been collected should be sent in as soon as possible. We hope that a second community can soon be set up in Leipzig; if this does not however take place this community could adhere to those in Berlin"'; we shall take the necessary steps for this.

From Mn we have received no news, nor do we know any address there, for our correspondent in that town is supposed to have left for Paris. We shall try to restore contact with the communities there as soon as possible.

We were unable to send the Congress Circular to Mainz by post. It was not until four weeks ago that a member from here left for that destination with whom we dispatched everything. Thus we could not have received an answer from there yet. In a letter which we received from the Mainz members some time back we were informed that a second community was about to be set up, which means a circle will be formed. Our Brothers in Mainz are being constantly subjected to police harassment, but this only serves to spur them on to work all the more energetically for our cause. Credit is due to the gallant proletarians in Mainz; if people were as active as that all over Germany, our prospects would be brilliant.

Holland. In Amsterdam an educational society has been set up which is in touch with us and has competent men. Three weeks ago we sent an authorised emissary there to set up a community.[352]

America. The emissary who this spring set out for New York from here paints us a sad picture of the state of the League in the New World. In New York the League had already made remarkable progress when Weitling arrived. and sowed discord there. The meetings were soon the scene of violent disputes and the result was that the whole set-up collapsed. The communities in New York had earlier always been urging us to be moderate and begging us most earnestly to be reconciled with Weitling. After they themselves, a fortnight after Weitling’s arrival, entered into a bitter conflict with him, our correspondents there lost heart to such an extent that they no longer wished to write to us any more so as not to have to reveal the sad state of the League there. This is what the emissary sent to New York writes; in this situation he himself was unable to do anything in New York and has now left for the state of Wisconsin, where he promises to promote our cause to the best of his ability.

In Philadelphia there are still several League members whom we have earnestly begged to set up communities there again. We have instructed the two emissaries who left from here for New York and Philadelphia to do their utmost so that the League may be restored in the above-mentioned places, in accordance with the improved Rules.

France. In Marseilles things are as before. A number of members from Lyons have gone there, promising to do their very best to inject new life into the League.

From Lyons we have received word that the League members are sparing no effort in our work and are discussing the Credo. The Lyons circle endorses the new Rules with the exception of Section VII, concerning conditions of memberships The Lyons members believe it to be unnecessary to demand that new members take an oath for there are countless cases of people taking all manner of oaths and not keeping any of them; attention should be paid mainly to conduct. We call the Lyons members’ attention to the fact that no oath is demanded, but only the new member’s, word of honour. The Lyons members also write:

“Since now in September we are again in a critical position, we beg you to ask the Parisians if they could not spare a few competent members, who would be ready to make a sacrifice for the common cause and settle in Lyons for a time. The old members all want to leave here and we are therefore short of people who can take over the leadership.

“So try to prevent the possibility of this community breaking up.

“As for the newspaper which you will be putting out, we cannot yet stipulate how many copies we can take, because everything will change.

Not a word about money for printing and propaganda.

We urgently request our Brothers in Paris to send a few competent members to Lyons as soon as possible.

From Paris we have been informed that the Rules have been unanimously endorsed there, that the Credo is being discussed in the various communities and that the membership has increased considerably. We have not yet heard anything about the results of their discussions or any news as to whether money is being collected for printing and propaganda. But it must be said to the credit of the Parisians that they recently made significant money contributions by sending a delegate to the Congress.’ and an emissary to Switzerland.’ It unfortunately emerges from a private letter written by a Parisian League member. and handed to the Central Authority, that there are still many people in the Paris communities who have not yet shaken themselves free of Grün’s nonsense and Proudhon’s most strange ideas. Oddly enough, these people, who are members of the Communist League, seem to reject communism; they want equality and nothing else. This inner split also seems to be the reason why we so seldom receive any news from Paris. Proudhon has become such a truly German philosopher that he no longer knows himself what he wants; Grün has made Proudhon’s ideas still more obscure, [353] so it is now clearly impossible to demand that the people who follow these two really know where they are going. We urge Proudhon’s and Grün’s supporters to read Marx’s Misère de la philosophie, which we have heard has already been translated into German.[354] Then they will see that their state where all are equal and which they demand with a great deal of talk and fuss is no different from that of today. This leads people round and round in circles, chasing false ideas, only to end up where they started.

We call upon the Communists in Paris to stand firm together and to work to rid their communities of these false ideas. If Grün’s and Proudhon’s supporters insist on their principles, then, if they wish to remain men of honour, they should leave the League and start working on their own. There is only room for Communists in our League. As long as there are followers of Grün in our communities, neither they nor we can conduct effective propaganda; our forces will be divided and our young people low in spirits; so separation is better than an internal split.[355]

Weitling’s expelled supporters have again sent us a long letter in which they inveigh against us and the Paris communities maintaining that it is they who are the real Communists. At the end of their letter they ask for a reliable address for they have further instructions for us. Yet they make no reference to the fact that they, although in the minority, appropriated the whole Paris League’s treasury which one of them had in his keeping. Such behaviour most certainly accords with their leader’s theory on theft.

We wrote to them in very polite terms saying that we had acted in accordance with our duty and convictions and would also insist on what we considered to be right. Their abuse could not therefore hurt us. We sent them the address they asked for but have not heard anything more from them since.

Switzerland. The Central Authority informed the Brothers in La Chaux-de-Fonds of the imminent arrival of an emissary’ and urged them to work with all their might towards a reorganisation of the League in Switzerland.

The Berne community has of late appeared in a somewhat dubious light. We were informed that they were planning to bring out a communist newspaper, Der Wanderer and our support was requested.

We sent off 25 francs and a remittance for 50 francs to Lausanne and La Chaux-de-Fonds. However, this money was used by the Berne members to print leaflets by Karl Heinzen, who even then had already shown himself to be the bitterest enemy of the Communists. On June 29 we received another letter from Berne which informed us that the Young Germany[356] group were making use of all possible means to work against the Communists in Switzerland and urged us to found a press organ as soon as possible. At the same time they sent us a small leaflet entitled Der deutsche Hunger und die debts Fürsten and asked for voluntary contributions so that the “Kriegsartikel”, “Vorbereitung”, etc., might be more widely distributed. It was stated: “Certain members of the republican party may well have noble intentions, our worthy Heinzen for example, but his hands are tied; he is not the soul of the German republican movement but its right hand for the moment, etc.”

Heinzen attacks the Communists most violently; yet, the Berne community is printing and circulating his pamphlets and seems to be in close touch with him. This appeared to us suspicious and indeed still does so. We do not want to let ourselves be led by the nose; every honest man must hold up his banner for all to see today. So we wrote a serious letter to the Berne community asking for a prompt explanation, but as yet have received no reply.

Our emissary writes from Geneva that our affairs are progressing in a most heartening way there. Two League members succeeded in setting up a community in Geneva this spring. While the emissary was there a second came into being and a third was planned. In addition there is a public society there which is being “ed to train efficient Communists. In Geneva our party seems once again to have found a firm footing, and if our Brothers there continue to work as hard as before, then the Communists in Switzerland will soon be stronger than ever. Weitling’s expelled supporters, our emissary writes, have already sent to La Chaux-de-Fonds several letters full of the most shameful personal insults to several League members and calling upon the local members to join them. However the communities in La Chaux-de-Fonds have not complied With those people’s solicitation and are waiting till our emissary arrives before giving them a final answer. From Geneva the emissary contacted Petersen in Lausanne who still enjoys quite significant influence among the Communists in Switzerland. We hope the former will succeed in winning him over for our movement’.

Weitling’s followers in Paris have sent a certain Hornschuh as their emissary to Switzerland with the money stolen from our League, in order to bring the communities there over to their side. This Hornschuh is at present in Lausanne. Before that he was in London; we therefore know precisely what he is and can assure you that he is quite incapable of any kind of propaganda work. He is a horribly tedious windbag and in other respects worth precious little as well. When he left London he asked his community for a small advance for the journey promising to pay the money back in the very near future. The community granted him 25 francs. Two years have passed since then and Hornschuh, despite frequent reminders, has not paid anything back yet. It is really sad that people like Hornschuh, whose sole purpose is to indulge their laziness and self-conceit, still find opportunities to squander away the proletarians’ hard earned money.

Our emissary is now touring the towns on Lake Geneva and will then visit La Chaux-de-Fonds, etc. He asked us for additional funds to be able to make this journey and we immediately sent him 50 francs, which we were obliged to borrow however, since our resources are exhausted.

Belgium. In Belgium our prospects are good. Since the Congress two circles have been set up in that country; we have not yet established direct contact with the one based in Liège but are expecting letters from them any day.

The Brussels circle is in touch with the Rhenish Prussia people [357] and working most energetically. It has already set up a singing and an educational society[358]; both are led by League members and serve as a preparatory school for the League.

The Rules were adopted in Brussels; however two alterations were proposed for discussion at the next Congress. The first concerns letter (e), Article 3, section 1 and the second — Article 21, Section V.

The Brussels members write: “We hold it for unpolitic to forbid League members to belong to any political or national organisation, since by doing so we deprive ourselves of all opportunities for influencing such organisations.” Further on in connection with Article 21, they add: “If the present period were a more revolutionary one, the whole activity of the Congress would be hindered by this restriction. We recall that in 1794 the aristocrats put the same demand before the Convention, in order to paralyse all action."[359]

We request the communities to consider these proposals more closely and to give their delegates to the next Congress appropriate instructions.

As regards the Communist Credo a good number of important alterations were suggested, which we shall put before the Congress for discussion.

As was mentioned above the Brussels circle allocated 25 francs for printing and has agreed to send 5 francs for propaganda work each month. We call upon the other circles to follow this example as soon as possible.

London. The new Rules were unanimously adopted in London and lively discussion of the Credo is in progress in all communities. The local circle authority will be sending us all suggestions for amendments and additions as soon as the discussions are over. During the last two months a large number of League members have left London but we shall have filled the resulting gaps soon. The educational societies provide us with preparatory schools, whose great benefit makes itself felt more and more with each passing day.

In the London circle a remarkable sense of unity reigns and members are keen to devote all their energies to our cause. In the last six months we have spent here over 1,000 francs for pamphlets, etc., for the journal a postage and printing costs, Congress expenses, emissaries, etc. In addition, each member has to pay threepence a week into the educational society[360] fund and, besides, hardly a meeting goes by without private collections being made for the needy. Over half our members are out of work and in dire straits, which means it is becoming impossible for us to bear all these expenses alone as we have done hitherto. We are therefore forced to request all circles and communities most earnestly to contribute as much as they can and as soon as possible to the complete installation of the League printing-press, continued publication of our paper and propaganda work: at the present moment our resources are completely . exhausted. In the past we always used to send out money as soon as it was requested and so we believe we can rely on you not to leave us in the lurch now.

The specimen number of our League newspaper sells well in London and arouses great interest among the foreigners living here. We have displayed it for sale in several bookshops and newsstands. We have sent copies to all our regular addresses and have another 1,000 still available, so that we shall be able to send off copies wherever they are required.

With this we come to the end of our report on the state of the League and our work; you can judge now for yourselves how things stand and whether the Central Authority has done its duty as the executive body of the League over the last three months.

You will appreciate that although active work is being carried on here and there, as we noted at the beginning of this letter, in general we are still far from the point we should have reached long since. We therefore hope, Brothers, that you will now muster all your strength so that we shall make rapid steps forward and that in the next report we shall be able to give you more encouraging news than has been the case so far.

However, before closing this letter we must ask you to pay particular attention to the following points. We earnestly request that:

1) All circles and independent communities, if it is at all possible, must elect a delegate to the next congress and see to it that he will be able to come to London on November 29 of this year. You know that we were unable to adopt any definitive decisions at the First Congress[361] and that it was thus considered necessary to hold a second one this year. The Second Congress will be most important because it has not only to formulate the Communist Credo but also to determine the final organisation of the League and its press organ and the future pattern of our propaganda work. It is therefore absolutely essential that as many delegates as possible attend this Congress. Brothers! — We hope that you will not shrink from any sacrifices which the fulfilment of your duty may require;

2) All circles and communities, which have not yet made any collections for printing and propaganda work must do so without delay. If everyone contributes something, then we shall be in a position to engage in forceful action. Without money we cannot carry on any propaganda work. Those circles and communities which have already made collections should dispatch the same to us as soon as possible;

3) All circles and communities, which have not yet sent in definite replies to the Congress Circular should do so without delay;

4) All circles and communities, which have not yet informed us how many copies of our newspaper they wish to take should do so at once. In addition they should inform us of the best and most reliable ways of dispatching the paper to their respective localities;

5) All circles and communities should inform us whether communist propaganda is being carried on in their particular region and if so what form it takes;

6) All members of the League should send to the editorial office essays and poems. Several members promised essays for the first issue, as observed earlier, but these promises have not been kept: we can only attribute this to negligence, which definitely ought not to be prevalent in our organisation.

Hoping to receive favourable and definite news from you soon, we greet you in the name and on behalf of the Central Authority.

Karl Schapper, Henry Bauer, Joseph Moll

London, September 14, 1847

P.S. just as this letter was to be printed, letters arrived from our the case so far. emissaries in Germany and Switzerland.

From Germany it was reported that the enthusiasm of our Brothers in Berlin is extraordinary, particularly since the important events there.[362] The government has indeed played straight into our hands. Our principles were made public through the uproar about the Communists, and the people, instead of being scared away by these principles, became enthusiastic for them. The emissary concludes his letter with the words: “Brothers, we can look to the future with confidence-there are efficient men on every side who are championing the just cause.”

The news from Switzerland also sounds highly favourable. The League is organised there and now established in more than ten different localities. Petersen has been won over. The emissary writes: “In La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle I believe we have the best and most devoted members of our League. Their courage is unshakeable.” Bravo, Brothers-forward! Weitling’s expelled followers have been turned away wherever they went. The misunderstanding with the Berne community has been clarified. We now declare that we were unjust towards the Brothers there. They adhere firmly to our principles. We are extremely happy to be able to announce this.

More details will be supplied in the next report.

The Central Authority
Karl Schapper, Henry Bauer, Joseph Moll

London, September 14, 1847