Karl Marx journalist



A tribune in the battle of ideas: press, political criticism and revolution

Karl Marx's journalistic trajectory reflects the commitment of a revolutionary intellectual who sought to build, even in complex and unfavorable circumstances (such as the times when, persecuted by authoritarian governments and as a stateless person, he was forced to work in the narrow limits of exile) , a press resistant to the commodification of information and oriented to be an instrument of enlightenment, training and political action against capitalist domination, at the same time aligned with democratic, popular and socialist causes.

Marx was part of a trend that emerged in Europe from the mid-XNUMXth century to the opening decades of the XNUMXth century: left-wing intellectuals acted in the public scene as journalists and activists, using newspapers and magazines to disseminate their ideas. and proposals. Among countless examples, we can cite those of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir I. Lenin, Antonio Gramsci, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin, Máximo Gorki, Jean Jaurès, Guiorgui Plekhanov, Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai. Several of them not only practiced journalism, but also theorized about the press as a conducive environment for activities of information, awareness, agitation, propaganda and counter-hegemonic dissemination. In particular, Marx, Lenin and Gramsci, with their own styles and in specific circumstances, fit this profile, seeking to combine professional practice, militancy and reflections on the practices, methods and social scope of journalism.

Marx's journalistic work is strongly intertwined with his theoretical production. For him, in the exercise of journalism it is feasible to bring philosophical convictions closer to concrete political intervention. Mario Espinoza Pino (2014, p. 118) maintains that it is only possible to understand the construction and evolution of the German philosopher's thought if we take into account his career as a journalist, since it was through his profession that he collected data, questioned himself about what he was behind the events and expounded his views. “It is the space where his ideas are forged, where his political positions emerge most vividly”, Pino points out, adding that the richness of the articles lies in Marx’s ability to portray “each and every aspect of the 30th century” (ibid. ., p. XNUMX).

Journalism emerged as a professional outlet after Marx completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Jena, on April 15, 1841, and saw the dream of academic life sink six months later with the resignation, for political reasons, of Bruno Bauer from the University of Bonn. Bauer was one of the leaders of the Left Young Hegelian philosophers who formed the Doktorklub (Clube dos Doutores) and met in a café on Rua dos Franceses, where he had met and become friends with Marx, during the period when he was studying at the same university. The Hegelian group was hit by the reactionary wave following the accession of Frederick William IV to the Prussian throne in 1840. Further complicating Marx's situation, his family's funds were running out after the death of his father, Heinrich, in 1838. .

In that context, journalism was far from offering a stable and promising career. It was a poorly paid activity and a refuge for beginners with a literary inclination or restless young intellectuals who, unable or not having the chance to define themselves by another profession, ended up gravitating to newsrooms to earn whatever was possible, or simply to publish their work. written. Financial difficulties did not give the young Marx much choice, who, until then, had only published poems in a magazine sympathetic to Romanticism.

Marx first wrote in the magazine German Annals of Science and Art (Deutsche Jahrbücher für Wissenschaft and Kunst), directed by Arnold Ruge and Theodor Echtermeyer. His first article was against censorship, underlining its incompatibility with a dignified and free press. It was never published due to a veto by the regime's censors. In May 1842, aged 24, he began to collaborate with the Rhine Gazette (Rheinische Zeitung), founded on January 1, 1842, in Cologne, by his friend Moses Hess. The Rhineland was the most developed region of Prussia, where demands for reforms were growing, and Cologne, the center of economic activity and cultural effervescence. At Hess' call, Marx participated in discussions about the newspaper project.

In his analysis of the political evolution of the young Marx, Michael Löwy (2012, p. 53-55) observes that the Rhine Gazette It turned out to be a “short-lived marriage” between the liberal bourgeoisie, which was getting stronger with the expansion of industry, wanted to ascend to political power and demanded a unitary State capable of favoring its economic interests, and left Hegelianism. The common grounds were the opposition to the bureaucratic-feudal Prussian State, the end of the privileges of monarchical absolutism and the validity of a constitutional regime that ensured freedom of the press, assembly and trade, as well as the separation between religion and State. After being expelled from the University of Bonn, the Left Hegelians lost their spaces of expression (philosophical journals, chairs) and tactically allied themselves in opposition to the bourgeois liberals, who were disappointed with the interventionist character of the monarchy, which prevented them from participating from the spheres of power, although economically they were becoming the most prominent class. According to Löwy, by closing the doors of the university to the Hegelians, the government “forced philosophy to 'install itself in newspapers', to 'become profane' and to deal with concrete political and social problems”. The determining factor for Marx to launch himself into journalism and political life was the end of the illusion regarding the university career encouraged by Bauer.

The press became, for progressive intellectuals, one of the rare tribunes of philosophical, political and literary debate. Contributing to this was the emergence of periodicals that, contrary to the servile press of the empire, addressed social problems, somehow supporting articulations against monarchical absolutism, as well as the pressure for a liberal Constitution with a parliamentary regime and freedom of the press and assembly. . The project of Rhine Gazette he fit into this scenario, and Marx joined him, perhaps without assuming that it would be a relevant step in the maturation of his political thought and in the confrontation with reality.

When writing, in 1859, the preface to one of his classic works, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx (2008a, p. 46) qualified the experience in Rhine Gazette as a motivator for his economic studies: “My area of ​​study was jurisprudence, to which, however, I only dedicated myself in an accessory way, as a subordinate discipline in relation to Philosophy and History. In 1842-1843, as editor of the Rheinische Zeitung (Rhine Gazette), I found myself, for the first time, in the embarrassing obligation to opine about so-called material interests. The debates of Parliament [Regional Parliament] of the Rhineland on forestry offenses and the subdivision of land ownership, the official polemic that Mr. Von Schaper, then governor of the Rhenish province, got stuck with the Rhine Gazette on the conditions of existence of the peasants of the Moselle, the discussions, lastly, on free trade and protectionism, provided me with the first motives for me to begin to occupy myself with economic questions”.

In the opening texts in Rhine Gazette, Marx denounced the reactionary nature of the new instructions issued in December 1841 by the imperial government on the pretext of mitigating censorship and allowing greater freedom of expression. By addressing social inequalities, he took up the defense of poor peasants south of the Rhine against exploitation by large landowners. He was not yet a communist, since, as is known, he would only join in the second half of 1843, “after a more complex and prolonged reckoning with liberalism and Hegelian philosophy” (Hobsbawm, 1979, p. 33).

As the articles were published, it became clear, according to his biographer Francis Wheen (2007), that Marx combined qualities indispensable to every great journalist: “the determination to speak the truth to power and an absolute fearlessness, even when writing about people whose friendship or support he might need.” It should be noted, in line with Francisco Fernández Buey (2009, p. 63), that Marx's journalistic style was not confused with traditional chronicles or investigative stories; he approached an essayistic variant whose “starting point is the socio-political chronicle immediately unfolded in political-philosophical reflection: in it, the affirmation of points of view constantly overlaps with the analysis of the situation or of certain political-cultural events”.

I make a brief chronological jump to attest to Buey's accuracy in highlighting that the journalist Marx's committed analyzes went beyond the commonplace dimension of the facts. I refer to the magisterial article “The bourgeoisie and the counterrevolution” (New Rhenish Gazette, no. 165, 10/12/1848). He establishes a game of parallels and distinctions between the English (1648), French (1789) and German (1848) revolutions to characterize how the treacherous bourgeoisie of his country and his time (and, with impressive relevance, of our dark and disillusioned) slithered like a cunning serpent through the political fabrics, to, at the crucial moment, strike and make its interests and ambitions prevail: “The German bourgeoisie had developed with such indolence, cowardice and slowness that, at the moment it stood threatening in the face of feudalism and absolutism, it perceived before it the menacing proletariat, as well as all fractions of the bourgeoisie whose ideas and interests are akin to those of the proletariat. (...) She had sunk to the level of a kind of caste, both hostile to the Crown and the people (...); she was willing from the start to betray the people and compromise with the crowned representative of the old society; representing not the interests of a new society against an old society, but renewed interests within an aging society (...); at the end, not because it represented the initiative of a new social era, but the resentment of an old social era (...); without faith in itself, without faith in the people, snarling at those above, trembling at those below, selfish towards both sides and aware of its own selfishness, revolutionary against conservatives, conservative against revolutionaries, suspicious of its own words of order, phrases instead of ideas, intimidated by the world storm but enjoying it – without energy in any sense, plagiarized in every way, vulgar because it was unoriginal and original in vulgarity – and trading with its own desires, without initiative, without faith in itself, without faith in the people, without world-historical mission – an accursed old man who saw himself condemned to direct and divert, in his own decrepit interest, the first manifestations of youth of a robust people – without eyes! no ears! no teeth! with nothing! (…).” (Marx, 2010b, p. 324-325).

After five months as a contributor, Marx was appointed editor-in-chief of the Rhine Gazette on October 15, 1842. It printed a more incisive editorial style, from daily coverage of the Rhenish Diet and the government in Berlin to the meticulous presentation of events, with in-depth analysis and a critical tone that sometimes surprised by the audacity of ironies. It didn't take long for him to distance himself from the left-wing Hegelian group, considering that its philosophical radicalism hindered a broader strategy for transforming German society.

Among Marx's critics, there are those who see certain ambiguities in the editor-in-chief's assessments. The dissociation with the Hegelians would have occurred due to the dissatisfaction of the leadership of the Renan Gazettea with the group's criticisms of Rhenish liberalism. The fact that, being a defender of freedom of the press, the editor-in-chief has stopped publishing articles by some left-wing collaborators, as he considers them extreme, is questioned. But, in his biography of Marx, Leandro Konder (1999, p. 26) indicates elements that probably guided him in making decisions: “Encouraged by the liberal and progressive positions of the Rhine Gazette, some young people in Berlin sent articles dotted with vibrant communist tirades to the newspaper. Marx, however, considered the articles superficial and demagogic. One day, he called the leader of the Berlin youths – a certain Meyen – and told him frankly that he considered it “inappropriate, and even immoral, to foist in passing, as contraband, in theater reviews, etc., communist dogmas and socialists, that is, new ideologies”. I also told him that, in his view, “it was necessary to deal with communism in another way, in a more substantiated way”. Meyen didn't like it and the socialist boys in Berlin broke off relations with the young director of the Rhine Gazette. Marx, however, had that idea in his head: he had to look deeper into the doctrine of communism.”

The troubled political scenario shortened Marx's stay at the head of the Rhine Gazette. If, on the one hand, he gained recognition in intellectual circles for his work (he even met Friedrich Engels, his brilliant intellectual partner, faithful friend and columnist for the newspaper), on the other hand, internal conflicts became constant. And this despite the fact that the print run jumped from 400 to 3.500 copies. The critical bias introduced by Marx boldly surpassed the other liberal newspapers and constituted a watershed in the clash with monarchical absolutism.

But he faced animosity on three fronts. The conservative press systematically fought him. Capitalist shareholders accused him of radicalizing opposition to the prevailing order and putting the newspaper's survival at risk. As for the Prussian authorities, Marx was a “subversive agitator” who needed to be stopped and silenced. the direction of Rhine Gazette he demanded that conflict be avoided with the local political power, which had just asked the central government in Berlin to indict him for “impudent and disrespectful criticism”. Marx refused to make concessions. The answer came in the government decree that placed the paper under censorship, effective January 19, 1843. He held office from October 1842 to February 1843.

To make matters worse, Tsar Nicholas II, claiming to be offended by “diatribes” and “slanders” against the Russian Empire, asked the King of Prussia to punish the Rhine Gazette. Judicial proceedings, including those against Marx, led to the removal of the newspaper's registration by the Ministry of the Interior on 1ºApril 1843. In a letter to Arnold Ruge, Marx (1987, p. 69) said that he was not surprised by the outcome, since, since the new censorship instructions came into effect, there was a permanent threat to publications that dared to challenge imperial power. And he vented about his resignation: “The atmosphere here has become unbreathable for me. Even in the service of freedom, it is hard to carry out a menial task, and to have to fight with pinpricks instead of striking with a hammer. I had had enough of so much hypocrisy, so much foolishness, so much brutal authoritarianism, so much kneeling, adapting and bending, so much having to take care of the choice of words. It is as if the government has given me my freedom back.”

“Undermining all the foundations of the existing political system”

Experience in Rhine Gazette it was significant for Marx on several levels. José Paulo Netto (2012, p. 10) stresses that he “was forced to face the immediate reality of political life and found that his academic training was insufficient to deal with the conflicts that moved society – a finding that encouraged him to carry out studies historical and political”. Marx also proved the limitations of German liberalism in defense of its own principles (so much so that the liberal leaders of Cologne timidly reacted to the censorship imposed on the newspaper), which contributed to sediment his convictions and, later, to distance himself from the philosophers of the Doktorklub, centered, in his view, on an abstract idealism that no longer corresponded to his analysis of concrete issues. The “discovery of politics” as a necessary dimension of social life was thus one of the consequences of passing through Rhine Gazette.

The vicissitudes faced by Marx ended up equating his journalistic career to a kind of seesaw: sometimes he experienced the enthusiasm of intervening in reality with articles without halftones; sometimes he was faced with internal raids, censorship and persecution that displaced him from the newsrooms and forced him to find ways to survive, with the resumption of work abroad.

The first of his exiles took place after the suspension of Rhine Gazette. In October 1843, convinced that he had no future in Prussia, he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with the French labor movement, followed the ideological debate of revolutionary socialist tendencies and expanded his knowledge of economics and political philosophy. He read political thinkers like Rousseau and Montesquieu and studies on the French Revolution. He began to evolve from Hegelian idealism to dialectical materialism. You Economic-philosophical manuscripts, written between April and August 1844, are a reflection of this change in perspective. He makes explicit a vigorous ethical-political critique of capitalism, denouncing the alienation and exploitation of workers and preaching an “effective communist action” against the yoke of private property (Marx, 2010a).

In the French capital, at the invitation of Arnold Ruge, Marx became editor-in-chief of the newly created magazine Franco-German Annals (Deutsche-Französische Jahrbücher), a project that emerged in an exchange of letters between Marx, Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, Mikhail Bakunin and Ruge. The magazine, which brought together other exiles, wanted to contribute to the renewal of philosophical thought in interaction with the social world, through a synthesis of classical philosophy and French materialism, capable of intensifying political action (Frederico, 2009, p. 93- 95).

Although a single double edition circulated in early 1844, it was in the Franco-German Annalss that he published, for the first time, the introduction of Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843) and the jewish question(1844). These texts mark his transition from democratic radicalism to a revolutionary stage, based on historical materialism. With the end of the magazine still in 1844, part of the newsroom joined another newspaper formed by exiles, Onwards (Forward), frankly opposed to the Prussian monarchy, and which gathered among its collaborators intellectuals such as Engels, Bakunin, Heinrich Heine, Georg Herwegh, Georg Weerth, Georg Weber and Heinrich Bürgers. The group held weekly conferences for editorial discussions and analysis of the situation. One of Marx's three articles published in the Forward!, with harsh criticism of the excesses of Emperor Frederick William IV, contributed to his expulsion from the country. Pressured by the Prussian government, the King of France, Louis Philippe, ordered his deportation, which was consummated on February 3, 1845.

Marx went into exile in Brussels, where he spent one of the most productive periods of his life. There he wrote Theses on Feuerbach (1845) the german ideology (together with Engels, 1845-46), The misery of philosophy (1847) and the seminal Communist Party Manifesto (1848), in addition to giving lectures on economic topics. At the same time that he wrote for radical socialist periodicals, Marx deepened his philosophical and economic studies and historical research that would later lead him to overcome German idealism, Hegelianism, Feuerbachian anthropology and bourgeois political economy, evolving towards the foundations of scientific socialism, as opposed to the utopian socialism of other European trends.

Arrested at the end of February 1848 under the false accusation of having received resources to buy weapons destined for the insurrection, Marx was expelled from Belgium with his family. With financial help from French friends, he traveled to Paris, where he met Engels. For a month they could feel and participate in the rebellion that had taken hold of the city since the dawn of February 24th, and whose flame of protest would spread throughout Europe until the second half of 1849. The mass movements reached England, Scotland, France, Germany , Italy and Hungary, each trying to respond to the problems of each country and tending to unite them by rejecting the current order.

Willing to boost the German revolutionary movement, Marx and Engels returned to Cologne in mid-April, alongside exiles who were part of the Communist League, founded by the two in 1847. The immediate plan was to launch a newspaper that would support social struggles and publicize the what happened in other countries. Marx believed that the journal could draw the attention of segments of public opinion to the gaps existing in the German Confederation (where semi-feudal economic conditions and monarchical absolutism persisted, with the bourgeoisie out of power) in relation to the countries in which democracy had progressed.

Marx and Engels had supporters linked to workers' associations and socialist groups in Cologne. Freedom of the press in Prussia had been restored, although there were legal provisions that could be invoked at any time to supposedly protect the constituted authorities and the security of the State, with the harmful collateral effect of curtailing civil rights and freedom of expression. . The new newspaper's program preached a bourgeois-democratic revolution that would result in the creation of the German Republic, one and indivisible, which would not be an end in itself, but a means and a preparatory stage for the communist revolution. The financing of the publication through the sale of shares was partially achieved through the adhesion of admirers of Marx among small businessmen and liberal professionals, in addition to a portion of the advance on the inheritance he had received from his mother and an amount arising from Engels' personal estate.

Marx conceived a newspaper capable of “fusing rigorously scientific ideas and a concrete doctrine”, accrediting itself to influence the revolutionary struggle with the “weapons of criticism”. The newspaper did not set out to make an apology for a party. Its task was to “clarify, whether the situation that that party should be aware of, whether its principles, point out its weaknesses and mistakes, as well as indicate paths”. A similar understanding applied to relations with the population. Although sympathetic to popular aspirations, the newspaper would not treat them as having all the virtues. In other words, points out Lívia Cotrim (2010b, p. 39), “he is not willing to accept his illusions or compromise with them; on the contrary, it makes explicit the weaknesses, hesitations and mistakes of the revolutionary movement, highlighting its social determinations and particular responsibilities”.

In 1º June 1848, with Marx as editor-in-chief, the first issue of the New Rhenish Gazette (Neue Rheinische Zeitung), “organ of democracy”. Even geographically distant from the conflagrated streets of Paris, the newspaper covered the events surrounding the insurrection thanks to “stunning reports by Engels, written as if the bullets were whizzing past him” (Hunt, 2010, p. 184). A network of correspondents and abstracts from foreign newspapers obtained through informal exchanges allowed the New Rhenish Gazette publish more news about European revolutions than any other newspaper in Germany. The efforts paid off and the print run exceeded five thousand copies, with above-average repercussions among activist groups and associations in Cologne. Despite some partial and localized achievements, the revolutionary wave resulted in setbacks for democratic forces in the face of generalized repression. Forcibly the coverage of New Rhenish Gazette had to show more setbacks than advances.

Marx signed articles on the revolutionary days in Paris, starting in February 1848. The initial fervor led him to say that “the victory of the people is more indubitable than ever” (n. 27, 27/6/48). Then, with the defeat of the rebellion at the end of June, he referred to the superiority of “brute force” and the betrayal of the bourgeoisie, which was “on the side of the oppressor” (n. 29, 29/6/48). However, he made the caveat that the ideals of the proletariat and workers were not defeated or defeated, as the struggles would not cease: “The deep precipice that opened up before us can deceive the democrats, can make us presume that the struggles for the of the State are empty of content, illusory, vain? Only weak, cowardly spirits can raise the question. The collisions that result from the conditions of bourgeois society itself must be faced, not fantastically eliminated. The best form of State is one in which social antagonisms are not weakened, they are not fettered by force, that is, artificially, that is, only apparently. The best form of State is the one that leads them to open struggle, and only with it to resolution” (Marx, 2010b, p. 129).

There would be no other way than to structure the workers' movement until transforming it into an organized and sufficiently strengthened class movement to oppose the bourgeois order and derogate capitalism. These formulations by Marx and Engels, inspired by the Communist Party Manifesto, link communism to the real historical framework of the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat for the dissolution of private property, the basis of the power of the bourgeois class that holds it (Netto, 2012, p. 463). The left-wing press was to be the radiating center of the ideological orientations that aimed to give cohesion to the movement.

During 1848, Marx was already recognized as a revolutionary, not only for his militancy and for his writings on emancipation, based on the perception of the proletariat's protagonism as a historical subject, but also for his performance at the head of the New Rhenish Gazette. Financial difficulties were offset by the newspaper's growing influence with progressive sectors.

Another of his biographers, Jonathan Sperber (2014, p. 255) observes that Marx “aimed to become a prominent figure on the national political scene and the reading public of the New Rhenish Gazette grew progressively within the country, as can be seen from the letters that did not stop arriving at the editorial office (...).” And he goes further: “Although unable to directly define the course of events at the national level, the dynamics of the revolution provided Marx with ample opportunity to realize his deep desire to promote an insurrection (…). In this place [New Rhenish Gazette], he devoted himself to the policy of attacking the same enemies and pursuing most of the same objectives that had guided his career in the period between 1842 and 1843, with the difference that he did so in a more open, vehement and radical way”.

In his writing, Marx blended literary flair with blunt interpretations, philosophical musings, and ironic or mocking asides. As in the article “The Cologne Revolution” (n. 115, 13/10/1848), in which he attacked the pushiness of the capital press in endorsing the repression of the popular uprising in the city: “The “Cologne revolution”, of September 25 , it was a carnival party, tell us Cologne Gazette, Ea Cologne Gazette you're right. On September 26, the “Cologne Military Command” represented Cavaignac [the general who, invested with dictatorial powers, led the violent repression that quelled the Parisian workers' insurrection in June 1848]. And the Cologne Gazette admires the wisdom and moderation of the “Cologne Military Command. But who is more ridiculous - the workers, who on the 25th of September were exercising on the barricades, or Cavaignac, who on the 26th of September, with the most solemn gravity, declared a state of siege, suspended the newspapers, disarmed the Civil Guard, banned associations? Poor Cologne Gazette! The Cavaignac of the “Cologne Revolution”. Poor Cologne Gazette! He must take the “revolution” as a joke, and he must take the “Cavaignac” of this joking revolution seriously. Painful, ungrateful, paradoxical topic!”

Not to mention a feature that would have full resonance throughout his work: the rigor with writing, which led him to rewrite the texts several times, until he managed to calm the merciless self-demand. Years later, Engels would stress that Marx's editorial exploits amounted to his most auspicious moment as a journalist: "No German newspaper, before or since, has ever had the same power and influence, nor managed to electrify the proletarian masses as effectively as the New Rhenish Gazette. And we owe this above all to Marx” (Engels apoud Hunt, 2010, p. 193).

A New Rhenish Gazette It did not circulate between September 27th and October 11th, 1848, during the state of siege decreed by the Prussian government. Since July, Marx and Engels had been indicted in judicial inquiries, under the allegation of instigating revolt and subversion against the constituted order. The newspaper was published again on October 12th and, from then on, it suffered from hardship. The few investors deserted after the publication of a sarcastic text by Engels about the newly elected National Assembly in Frankfurt, which earned him an arrest warrant, which he escaped by temporarily fleeing to Bern, Switzerland.

Censorship and press freedom

The situation was further complicated by the new press law, which included censorship in the list of punitive measures. In the edition of March 15, 1849, Marx denounced that periodicals in several provinces of the country, including Berlin, had been or were being censored. He highlighted the omission and collusion of newspaper companies: “The German daily press is the most irresolute, sleepy and cowardly institution under the sun! The greatest infamies can occur right under her nose, against herself, and she is silent, hiding everything; If we didn't find out by chance, the press would certainly never find out that divine grace has brought to light magnificent March violets in some places. (…) The reintroduction of censorship and the improvement of common censorship by the military are certainly themes that are of close interest to the press. And the press from nearby towns. The press in Breslau, Berlin, Leipzig treat them as if all this were obvious! In fact, the German press remains the old “good press”. (Marx, 2010b, p. 506-507)

The energetic defense of freedom of the press marked Marx's journalistic trajectory. Without the guarantee of reporting transparently and criticizing independently, he insisted, the press becomes hostage to commercial and industrial interests that affect its credibility. In this sense, he claimed that the pseudo-bourgeois defenders of freedom of the press only wanted petty “three-eighths of freedom”, in order to selfishly protect their conveniences.

Having suffered firsthand the consequences of hatred of pluralism and the siege of freedom of expression, typical of authoritarian governments, Marx vehemently repudiated censorship. In a series of six articles published in May 1842 in Rhine Gazette, praised freedom of the press as one of the universal rights of humanity (Marx, 2000, p. 9-99). For him, the censored press has a demoralizing effect: “The vice of hypocrisy is inseparable from it and, moreover, it is from this vice that all its other defects arise, since even its capacity for basic virtue is lost through the revolting vice of passivity, even if seen aesthetically”.

Such vices, in his view, divert and isolate the people from political life and critical awareness. In contrast, “the free press is the omnipotent gaze of the people, the personalized confidence of the people in itself, the articulate bond that unites the individual to the State and the world, the embodied culture that transforms material struggles into intellectual struggles, and idealizes their forms. gross”. He confronted the ethical essence of the free press with the intolerance and obscurantism of censorship, "which is a constant attack against the rights of private persons and against ideas". And he added: “The character of a censored press is the lack of character of non-freedom; it is a civilized monster, a perfumed abortion. Do we need further proof that freedom of the press corresponds to the essence of the press and that censorship is a contradiction of it? Is it not evident that external restrictions on intellectual life are not part of this inner character, since they deny such a life instead of affirming it? (ibid., p. 70).

On February 7, 1849, defending himself before the Cologne Court in the proceedings for insults to the Attorney General in New Rhenish Gazette, Marx declared that the press must stand against the oppressive power and in favor of those whose rights are being vilified: “But, once and for all, it is the duty of the press to speak out on behalf of the oppressed around it. And also, gentlemen, the house of servitude has its own foundations in subordinate political and social authorities, which directly confront the private life of the person, the living individual. It is not enough to fight general conditions and high authorities. The press needs to decide to join the fray against this particular police officer, this attorney, this municipal administrator. Where did the March Revolution break up? It only reformed the highest political summit, it did not touch the foundations of this summit – the old bureaucracy, the old army, the old courts, the old judges who were born, trained and grayed out in the service of absolutism.” He concluded with a sentence that silenced the courtroom: “The first duty of the press is now to undermine all the foundations of the existing political system” (Marx, 2000, p. 117-118).

Faced with the jury's refusal to convict him, the government acted to silence the newspaper once and for all. He forged a report accusing Marx of slandering state officials and being involved in the preparations for a new insurrection. He countered the accusation in his defense speech delivered on February 14, 1949: “One need only glance at the incriminated article to persuade oneself that the New Rhenish Gazette, far from any intention of offense or slander, he only fulfilled his duty to denounce when he attacked the current Parquet and the gendarmes. The questioning of the witnesses proved to them that, as far as the gendarmes are concerned, we only report the real facts.” (Marx, 2010b, p. 467). It was no use. The invoked pretext served to expel him from the country and interdict the New Rhenish Gazette. The newspaper ended its activities with a famous edition on May 19, 1849. As a form of protest, Marx had all pages printed in red. A success. Reprinted several times, it achieved an impressive sale of 20 copies.

In the 1850s, already exiled in London, Marx fulfilled another relevant period of his journalistic production. From 1851 to 1852 he collaborated with the American newspaper die revolution, publishing in snippets The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in which he analyzes the transition from the Revolution of 1848, in France, to the coup d'état led three years later, on December 2, 1851, by Louis Napoleon, starting the second Empire in the country as Napoleon III.

From 1852 to 1862, Marx worked as a European correspondent for the New york tribune, at the time one of the first copies on the planet and the most popular in the United States. He wrote 362 articles and chronicles, to which were added 125 columns signed by the philosopher Trier (name of the Rhineland city in which Marx was born on May 5, 1818) and for which he was paid, although they were actually written by Friedrich Engels . It was an additional way that Engels found to help his friend in his persistent financial problems, as he periodically sent money to him. Marx's passage through New york tribunewas remarkable, starting with the fact that his name appeared frequently in headlines on the front page.

“Often editors used texts by Marx as their opening editorials, which set the tone of the text. Tribune on any day of the week. Marx stirred up controversy with some of his accounts – especially when he cynically attacked independence heroes like Kossuth or Mazzini – and from time to time complained that his articles were edited and came out with a lower tone.” (Gabriel, 2013, p. 185)

Among the topics of his articles were the world market, economic crises, political disputes, civil war in the United States and the situation of the working classes. From October 1857 to May 1858, Marx alternated his work as a journalist with writing texts critical of political economy that resulted in the floorplans (1858), later reworked to give rise to the three volumes of The capital. In Pino's assessment (2014, p. 118), “without the thematic expansion of his studies, without the enormous accumulation of empirical material obtained during this period thanks to his work as a correspondent, Marx would not have been able to take his theory to the global dimension present in the floorplans".

“The public watchdog”

Over time, Marx expanded the reach of his positions through journalism, assuming a radically critical stance and associating political philosophy with the formation of the class consciousness of the proletariat. In his speech before the Cologne Court, Marx demarcated the mission of the press in the service of the social revolution: “It is the public watchdog, the tireless denouncer of the leaders, the omnipresent eye, the omnipresent mouth of the people’s spirit that jealously guards the their freedom” (Marx, 2000, p. 113-114).

In Marx's assessment, most traditional newspapers legitimize bourgeois values, since the bourgeoisie is the one who has the determining means of economic and cultural production. Journalists in tune with or subservient to the elites and hegemonic institutions play, in his view, two roles: they are part of the brigade of ideologues of the ruling class and epigones of the interests of the bourgeoisie and the tyranny of finance that underlies the tragic accumulation of wealth and income. It is “mercenary journalism”, as he defined it in the article “Governmental Provocations” in New Rhenish Gazette (n. 245, 14/3/1849).

Hence the conviction of incompatibilities between freedom of the press and journalistic production for the market, which subjects free expression to the designs of companies in the sector, which implies, as a rule, its degradation by ideological prohibition and frequent distortions in the news. “Indeed, what remains of freedom of the press when one cannot expose to public contempt what one deserves public contempt?”, he asked in an article in New Rhenish Gazette (n. 50, 20/7/1848).

Based on Marx's conceptions, there are no obstacles to the understanding that the media linked to economic groups always have a class character and take sides in the political-ideological struggle, not only when we embrace market assumptions and disseminate the logic of profit and consumption , as well as when they suffocate the contradictory, neutralize dissonances, weaken resistance and disqualify voices of opposition to the system of power and the capitalist mode of production. He himself, after eight years at the head of the International Workers' Association since 1864, became the target of the fury of the great European reactionary press, which stigmatized him with the epithet of "doctor of the red terror", for defending the Paris Commune in The Civil War in FranceOf 1871.

In perspective, the meaning observed by the theoretical Marx and experienced by the journalist Marx points towards a counter-hegemonic press, which fulfills a strategic role in the arduous battle of ideas and capable of helping workers to critically apprehend the contingencies and contradictions of the historical reality, in the continued effort to try to organize them to overcome, within the limits of possibilities of confrontation, the burden of a reified and hostile world.

Journalism therefore becomes an essential weapon for intervention in reality and in the course of socio-political clashes. In Marx's view, it is up to journalists committed to the anti-capitalist struggle to report facts truthfully, contemplate social claims and tune in to the language and processes of real life (Marx and Engels, 2007, p. 93-94). Journalism that identifies, contextualizes and clarifies the reasons for the antagonisms and conflicts that crossed societies divided into classes and subjected to the most infamous inequalities and exclusions. in society.

* Denis de Moraes, journalist and writer, is the author, among other books, of Media power and ideological disputes (Consequence, 2019);

This article is a revised and amended version of text included in the book. Media criticism and hegemony cultural (Mauad, 2016).


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