Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung July 1848

German Foreign Policy and the Latest Events in Prague

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 212;
Written: on July 11, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 42, July 12, 1848.

Cologne, July 11. Despite the patriotic shouting and beating of the drums of almost the entire German press, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung from the very first moment has sided with the Poles in Posen, the Italians in Italy, and the Czechs in Bohemia. From the very first moment we saw through the Machiavellian policy which, shaking in its foundations in the interior of Germany, sought to paralyse democratic energies, to deflect attention from itself, to dig conduits for the fiery lava of the revolution and forge the weapon of suppression within the country by calling forth a narrow-minded national hatred which runs counter to the cosmopolitan character of the Germans, and in national wars of unheard-of atrocity and indescribable barbarity trained a brutal soldiery such as could hardly be found even in the Thirty Years’ War.[155]

What deep plot it is to let the Germans under the command of their governments undertake a crusade against the freedom of Poland, Bohemia and Italy at the same moment that they are struggling with these same governments to obtain freedom at home! What an historical paradox! Gripped by revolutionary ferment, Germany seeks relief in a war of restoration, in a campaign for the consolidation of the old authority against which she has just revolted. Only a war against Russia would be a war of revolutionary Germany, a war by which she could cleanse herself of her past sins, could take courage, defeat her own autocrats, spread civilisation by the sacrifice of her own sons as becomes a people that is shaking off the chains of long, indolent slavery and make herself free within her borders by bringing liberation to those outside.

The more the light of publicity reveals in sharp outlines the most recent events, the more facts confirm our view of the national wars by which Germany has dishonoured her new era. As a contribution to this enlightenment we publish the following report by a German in Prague even though it reached us belatedly:

Prague, June 24, 1848 (delayed)

The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of the 22nd [of this month] contains an article about the assembly of Germans held in Aussig on the 18th [of this month] in which speeches were made which show such ignorance of our recent events and, in part, to put it mildly, such a willingness to heap abusive accusations upon our independent press that [this] writer considers it his duty to correct these errors as far as this is now possible and to confront these thoughtless and malicious persons with the firmness of truth. It comes as a surprise when a man like “the founder of the League to Preserve German Interests in the East” [Johann Wuttke] exclaims before an entire assembly: “There can be no talk of forgiveness so long as the battle in Prague continues and, should the victory be ours, we must make full use of it in future.” What victory then have the Germans achieved and what conspiracy then has been crushed? Whoever, of course, lends credence to the correspondent of the Deutsche Allgemeine, who, it seems, is always only superficially informed, and whoever trusts the pathetic catchwords of “a small-time Polonophobe and Francophobe” or the articles of the perfidious Frankfurter Journal which seeks to incite Germans against Bohemians just as it stirred up Germans against Germans during the events in Baden, such a person will never obtain a clear view of the situation here. Everywhere in Germany the opinion seems to prevail that the battle in the streets of Prague was aimed solely at the suppression of the German element and the founding of a Slav republic. We will not even discuss the latter suspicion, for it is too naive; in regard to the former, however, not the smallest trace of a rivalry between nationalities could be observed during the fighting on the barricades. Germans and Czechs stood side by side ready for defence, and I myself frequently requested a Czech-speaking person to repeat what he had said in German, which was always done without the slightest remark. One hears it said that the outbreak of the revolution came two days too early; this would imply that there must already have been a certain degree of organisation and at least provisions made for the supply of ammunition; however, there was no trace of this either. The barricades grew out of the ground in a haphazard way wherever ten to twelve people happened to he together; incidentally, it would have been impossible to raise any more barricades, for even the smallest alleys contained three or four of them. The ammunition was mutually exchanged in the streets and was exceedingly sparse. There was no question Whatsoever of a supreme command or of any other kind of command. The defenders stayed where they were being attacked and fired without direction and without command from houses and barricades. No thought of a conspiracy could have had any foundation in such an unguided and unorganised resistance, unless this is suggested by some official declaration and publication of the results of an investigation. The Government, however, does not seem to find this appropriate, for nothing has transpired from the castle that might enlighten Prague about its blood June days. With the exception of a few, the imprisoned members of the Svornost’s [156] have all been released again. Other prisoners are also being released, only Count Buquoy, Villiny and a few others are still under arrest, and one fine morning we will perhaps read a poster on the walls of Prague according to which it was all based on a misunderstanding. The operations of the commanding general do not suggest protection of Germans against Czechs either; for in that case, instead of winning the German population to his side by explaining the situation to them, storming the barricades and protecting the life and property of the “loyal” inhabitants of the city, he evacuates the Old City, moves to the left bank of the Moldau and shoots down Czechs and Germans alike; for the bombs and bullets that flew into the Old City could not possibly seek out only Czechs, they mowed people down without looking at the cockade. How can one rationally deduce a Slav conspiracy when the Government up to now has been unable or unwilling to give any clarification?

Dr. Göschen, a citizen of Leipzig, has drawn up a letter of thanks to Prince von Windischgrätz, to which the general should not ascribe too much importance as an expression of the popular voice. Citizen Göschen is one of those circumspect liberals who suddenly turned liberal after the February days; he was the initiator of a letter of confidence to the Saxon Government concerning the electoral law while the whole of Saxony cried out in indignation, for one-sixth of her inhabitants, especially some of her more able citizens, thereby lost their first civil right, the right to vote; he is one of those who spoke out emphatically in the German League against the admission of German non-Saxons to the election in Saxony and — listen to the double-dealing — who shortly afterwards in the name of his club promised to the League of the non-Saxon German citizens who reside in Saxony complete co-operation in the election of a deputy of its own for Frankfurt. In short, to characterise him in a word: he is the founder of the German League. This man has addressed a letter of thanks to the Austrian general and thanked him for the protection which he allegedly bestowed upon the entire German fatherland. I believe that I have shown that the events do not as yet prove at all to what extent, if any, Prince von Windischgrätz has deserved well of the German fatherland. Only the result of the investigation will determine that. We will, therefore, leave the “high courage, the bold enterprise and firm endurance” of the general to the judgment of history. As for the expression “cowardly assassinations in regard to the death of the Princess [Maria Eleonora Windischgrätz] we will only mention that it has by no means been proved that that bullet was intended for the Princess who had enjoyed the undivided respect of all Prague. If it should be the case, however, the murderer will not escape his punishment, and the grief of the Prince was surely no greater than that of the mother who saw her nineteen-year-old daughter, also an innocent victim, carried off with a shattered skull. I am in complete agreement with Citizen Göschen concerning the passage in the address which speaks of “brave bands that fought so gallantly under your leadership”, for if he had been able to observe, as I did, the warlike vehemence with which these “brave bands” rushed upon the defenceless crowd in the Zeltner Lane on Monday at noon, he would have found his expressions much too weak. Much as it hurts my military vanity, I have to admit that I myself, peacefully strolling among a group of women and children near the temple, allowed thirty to forty royal and imperial grenadiers to put myself to flight together with these people and so effectively that I had to leave my entire baggage, i.e. my hat, in the hands of the victors, for I considered it unnecessary to wait for the beatings, which were being administered to the crowd behind me, to reach me as well. I had the opportunity, nevertheless, to observe that six hours later at the Zeltner Lane barricade these same royal and imperial grenadiers thought it proper to fire for half an hour with canister-shot and six-pounders at this barricade which was defended by at most twenty men, and then not to take it, however, until it was abandoned by its defenders around midnight. There was no hand-to-hand fighting except in a few instances where the superior strength was on the side of the grenadiers. To judge by the devastation of the houses, the Graben and the Neue Allee were largely cleared by artillery, and I leave it open whether or not it takes great defiance of death to clear a broad avenue of a hundred barely armed defenders with canister-shot.

Concerning the most recent speech by Dr. Stradal from Teplitz according to which “the Prague newspapers are acting for foreign interests”, that is presumably Russian, I declare in the name of the independent press of Prague that this comment is either an abundance of ignorance or an infamous calumny whose absurdity has been and will be sufficiently proved by the attitude of our newspapers. Prague’s free press has never defended any other goal than the preservation of Bohemia’s independence and the equal rights of both nationalities. It knows, however, very well that German reaction is seeking to rouse a narrow-minded nationalism just as in Posen and in Italy, partly in order to suppress the revolution in the interior of Germany and partly to train the soldiery for civil war.