Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung June 1848

The War Comedy

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 42;
Written: by Engels on June 4, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 5, June 5, 1848.

Schleswig-Holstein. Indeed, the annals of all history know of no such campaign, no such striking alternation between the force of arms and diplomacy as our current unitedly-German-national war against little Denmark! All the great deeds of the old imperial army with its six hundred commanders, general staffs and military councils, the mutual chicaneries of the leaders of the 1792 coalition, the orders and counter-orders of the blessed Royal and Imperial War Council, are serious and touchingly tragic events compared to the warlike comedy which the new German federal army [33] is performing in Schleswig-Holstein to the resounding laughter of all Europe.

Let us briefly trace the plot of this comedy.

The Danes advance from Jutland and land troops in North Schleswig. The Prussians and Hanoverians occupy Rendsburg and the Eider line. The Danes, who, in spite of all the German bragging, are an alert and brave people, quickly attack and in a single battle drive the army of Schleswig-Holstein back towards the Prussians. The latter calmly look on.

At last, Berlin gives the order to advance. The united German troops attack the Danes and at Schleswig overwhelm them by their numerical superiority. The victory was brought about primarily by the Pomeranian guardsmen who handled their rifle-butts as skilfully as they had done previously at Grossbeeren and Dennewitz. [34] Schleswig is conquered once more and Germany is jubilant at the heroic deed of her army.

In the meantime, the Danish fleet which numbers less than twenty ships of any size, seizes the German merchant vessels, blockades all German ports, and covers the crossings to the islands to which the army withdraws. Jutland is abandoned and partially occupied by Prussian troops who demand an indemnity of 2 million speciestaler.

Before a single taler of the indemnity has been received, however, England sends proposals for mediation on the basis of a withdrawal and the neutrality of Schleswig, and Russia sends threatening Notes. Herr Camphausen falls right into this trap and, on his orders, the Prussians, drunk with victory, withdraw from Veile to Königsau, to Hadersleben, Apenrade and Flensburg. The Danes, who till then had vanished, reappear at once. They pursue the Prussians day and .night, throw their withdrawal into confusion, make landings everywhere, defeat the troops of the 10th Federal Corps at Sundewitt and retreat only before superior numbers. In the engagement of May 30, rifle-butts, swung this time by the solid arms of Mecklenburgers, again proved decisive. The German inhabitants flee with the Prussians, all North Schleswig is . abandoned to devastation and plunder, and the Danebrog [Danish flag] flies once more over Hadersleben and Apenrade. It is obvious that Prussian soldiers of all ranks obey orders in Schleswig just as they do in Berlin.

Suddenly there comes an order from Berlin: the Prussians are to advance again. Now they. merrily advance northward once more, but the comedy still, has long to run. We want to wait and see where the Prussians will this time receive orders to retreat.

In short, it is a genuine quadrille, a military ballet which the Camphausen Ministry is having performed for its own amusement and for the glory of the German nation.

We must not forget, however, that it is the burning villages of Schleswig which supply the illumination for the stage and that it is the cries for vengeance from Danish marauders and partisans which provide the chorus for this performance.

The Camphausen Ministry has on this occasion demonstrated its high calling to represent Germany abroad. Schleswig, twice abandoned to Danish invasions through the fault of this Ministry, will gratefully remember the first diplomatic experiment of our “responsible” Ministers.

Let us have confidence in the wisdom and energy of the Camphausen Ministry!