Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

A New Ally of the Counter-Revolution

Source: MECW Volume 8. p. 179;
Written: on December 11, 1848;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 166, December 12, 1848.

Cologne, December 11. The counter-revolution has acquired a new ally: the Swiss Federal Government.

Already five days ago we learned from a thoroughly trustworthy source that the recent rumours of an intended incursion of the German refugees into Baden, of arming at the frontier, and of a mythical battle near Lörrach between volunteer insurgents and imperial troops — that all these peculiar rumours were “agreed upon” between the ruling party of Furrer-Ochsenbein-Munzinger in the Swiss Federal Council and the German imperial authority in order to give the said party an excuse for taking measures against the refugees and thereby helping to establish a good agreement with the imperial power.

We did not immediately communicate this news to our readers, because we could not unreservedly believe in such an intrigue. We waited for confirmation, and confirmation was not long in coming.

It was already noticeable that these rumours were not published by Baden newspapers which, being on the spot, should be the best and earliest informed, but by Frankfurt newspapers.

It was furthermore noticeable that the Frankfurter Journal was already informed from Berne on December 1 that the Federal Council had issued a circular on the question of the refugees and sent a commissioner, whereas the Berne newspapers, several of which (Verfassungs-Freund and Suisse) are in direct contact with members of the Federal Council, did not publish the news until December 3.

Now at last we have the circular to the cantonal authorities before us in the Suisse, and if previously we could still doubt the adhesion of Switzerland to the new Holy Alliance,[170]all doubts have been removed.

The circular begins with rumours of new armings of the political refugees and of an intended new incursion into the Baden area. These rumours, which all Switzerland and all Baden know to be false, serve as the grounds for the new extraordinary measures against the refugees. The decisions of the Federal Assembly about Tessin are mentioned only to justify the competence of the Federal Council to adopt these measures but not its obligation to do so; on the contrary the essential difference between the situation in Tessin and in the northern cantons is expressly recognised.

Then come the following instructions:

1) All refugees who took part in Struve’s expedition,[171] or who otherwise offer no personal guarantees of tranquil behaviour, are to be removed from the frontier cantons;

2) all refugees without distinction are to be kept under close supervision;

3) a list of all refugees coming under 1) is to be sent to the Federal Council and to all frontier cantons, and

4) possible exceptions to internment are to be left to the decision of the representative of the Confederation, Dr. Steiger, whose instructions in general are to be followed.

Then follows the demand for the “strict” fulfilment of these instructions, since otherwise, if it becomes necessary to call out troops, the costs will have to be borne by the frontier canton concerned.

The whole circular is drafted in harsh language, highly insulting to the refugees, and concludes with the words:

“Switzerland must not become an assembly area for foreign parties which so greatly misconceive their situation on neutral soil and so often trample under foot the interests of the country that hospitably receives them.”

Now compare this bitter language with that of the Note of November 4 [of the Vorort Berne to the Imperial Government] bear in mind that the rumours on which the circular is based are notoriously false; that, as we have been informed from the frontier today, the representative of the Confederation, Dr. Steiger, has already completed his inspection in the Aargau canton, against which the imperial authority put forward most complaints, and has found that the refugees concerned were interned long ago and that he has no more to do there (he is already in Liestal); that the Note of November 4 already asserts and the Swiss press (e.g. Schweizer Bote, Basellandschaftliches Volksblatt, National-Zeitung etc.) long ago proved that all the frontier cantons fulfilled their duties long ago; bear in mind, finally, that after long uncertainty, after the most contradictory reports about the closing of the frontier, now for the last two or three days all our Swiss newspapers and letters have been unanimous in saying that absolutely no measures of coercion are being applied against Switzerland, and indeed that the order given to certain frontier posts for stricter supervision of the movement of people was revoked already 24 hours later; bear all this in mind and say whether the circumstances do not confirm in the minutest detail the report given by us above.

At any rate, it is well known that Herren Furrer, Ochsenbein, Munzinger etc. have long cherished a burning desire to put an end once for all to the “excesses of the refugees”.

We congratulate Herr Schmerling on his new friends. We only wish that, if he too were to enter Switzerland as a refugee — which could very well happen before the three years’ official duration of the present Federal Council expires — these friends of his will not consider him as one of those refugees who “offer no personal guarantees”.