Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung June 1848

The First Deed of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 109;
Written: on June 22, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 23, June 23, 1848.

Cologne. The German National Assembly has at last risen to its task! It has at last made a decision of immediate practical value, it has intervened in the Austro-Italian war.[82]

And how has it intervened? Has it proclaimed Italy’s independence? Has it sent a courier to Vienna with the order that Radetzky and Welden must at once withdraw behind the River Isonzo? Has it issued a congratulatory message to the Provisional Government of Milan?[83]

Not at all! It has declared that it would regard any attack upon Trieste as a casus belli.

This means: The German National Assembly, in cordial agreement with the Federal Diet, allows the Austrians to commit the greatest brutalities in Italy, to plunder, to murder, to pour incendiary rockets into every village and town (see under Italy) and then to retreat safely to neutral territory of the German Confederation! It allows the Austrians at any time to inundate Lombardy from German soil with Croats and Pandours [84] but it wants to prohibit the Italians from pursuing the beaten Austrians into their hiding-places! It permits the Austrians to use Trieste to blockade Venice and the mouths of the Piave, the Brenta, the Tagliamento; but it prohibits any hostile action of the Italians against Trieste!

The German National Assembly could not have acted with greater cowardice than it did by adopting this decision. It does not have the courage openly to sanction the Italian war. It has even less courage to prohibit the Austrian Government from conducting the war. Caught in this embarrassing situation, it passes the decision on Trieste (to top it all by acclamation, so as to still its secret fear by loud cries) which formally neither approves nor disapproves of the war against the Italian revolution but which, nevertheless, approves of it in fact.

This decision is an indirect declaration of war on Italy, and because it is an indirect declaration, doubly disgraceful for a nation of 40 million people like the German.

The decision of the Frankfurt Assembly will evoke a storm of protest in all Italy. If the Italians still have some pride and energy, they will answer by a bombardment of Trieste and a march on the Brenner.

But while the Frankfurt Assembly proposes, the French people disposes. Venice has appealed for French aid. After this, the French will probably soon cross the Alps and then it will not be long before we have them on the Rhine.

One deputy [Kohlparzer] has accused the Frankfurt Assembly of being idle. On the contrary! It has already worked so hard that we have one war in the north [the war with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein] and another one in the south and that wars in the west and east have become inevitable. We shall be in the fortunate position of having to fight simultaneously the Tsar and the French Republic, reaction and revolution. The Assembly has made sure that Russian and French, Danish and Italian soldiers will meet at St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt. [The meeting place of the German National Assembly] And it is said the Assembly has been idle!