August Willich

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Sun Mar 18 05:02:10 MST 2001

Philip Ferguson wrote:

>  I was giving a lecture
> on the Marx Women, and came across a referendce to him in a chapter on
> Jenny (Westphalen) Marx, written by Edna Healy in her book on  Mrses
> Livingstone, Darwin and Marx.  Healy mentioned that Willich pursued Jenny
> Marx for a while.  This was when the Marxes had been marrried for a number
> of years and were living in London.  I think he may have come a-calling
> when Karl was over in Europe.

This may be something of an exaggeration.
After the defeat of 1849, the german left went into exile. August Willich, a
military by training, had commanded the republican troops in Baden. Friedrich
Engels, who fought there under his orders, was left with a good impression of
his courage and skills.
However, when Willich came to London he definitely fell on the wrong side of
Marx. He was one of those revolutionaries who wanted nothing but action, action
and more action. He had the most profound scorn for Marx's theoretical work. He
was also vain and presumptuous. He made a bad impression on the Marxes by
visiting them early in the morning with colorful clothes and excessive
cordiality. Jenny was left with the impression that he tried to seduce her and,
in her memoirs, mentions the fact that he wanted to visit her and "pursue the
worm that lives in any marriage".

> Anyway, Willich challenged Marx to a duel.
> Marx, wisely, didn't pick up the glove that was thrown down.  However, one
> of Marx's young supporters took up the challenge on Marx's behalf, and he
> and Willich went to france to fight the duel.  Marx's rather
> over-enthusaistic young supporter was shot in the head.  Thankfully,
> however, he survived the ordeal.

However, this duel proposal had nothing to do with Jenny. It happened, in the
Spring of 1950, during a meeting of the central committee of the Communist
League after a violent clash of ideas and strategies. Marx's caution on this
occasion was, quite fortunately, in marked contrast with his habit of throwing
veiled duel proposals to many other opponents. The young Marx supporter that
took the challenge was Konrad Schramm.

Marx's relations with Willich were always bad and gave cause to many more
unfortunate and burlesque episodes. One of them was the writing by Marx and
Engels of a farce called 'Heroes of the Exile', caricaturing the actions and
personalities of August Willich, Arnold Ruge and Gottfried Kinkel, who were the
public darlings of german democracy in London (associated with the circle of
Mazzini). This work was commended by an hungarian named Bangya supposedly to be
published abroad. In turned out that Bangya was an international spy and the
work was handed to the prussian police.

Many years later, when Willich fought in the american civil war (on the
northern side), Marx has found kind words to say about his valor in battle. It
appears that Willich has also given a favorable review of 'Capital' in his
american paper.

João Paulo Monteiro

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