The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Prague uprising litho

The Prague Uprising

by Frederick Engels

Translated: by the Marx-Engels Institute;
Transcribed: by, 1994;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 18, June 18, 1848.

Cologne, June 17. Another massacre similar to that of Poznan [13] is being prepared in Bohemia. The possibility of a peaceful association of Bohemia and Germany has been drowned in the blood of the Czech people shed by the Austrian army.

Prince Windischgratz had cannons mounted on the Wyshehrad and Hradschin [14] and trained on Prague. Troops were massed and a sudden attack on the Slavic Congress [15] and the Czechs was being prepared.

The people discovered these preparations; they went in a body to the residence of the prince and demanded arms. The demand was rejected. Feeling began to run high and the crowds of people with and without arms were growing. Then a shot was fired from an inn opposite the commandant's palace and Princess Windischgratz dropped, mortally wounded. The order to attack followed immediately; the Grenadiers advanced, the people were driven back. But barricades were thrown up everywhere, checking the advance of the military. Cannons were brought into position and the barricades raked with grape-shot. Torrents of blood were shed. The fighting went on throughout the night of the 12th and continued on the 13th. Eventually the troops succeeded in occupying the wide streets and pressing the people back into the narrower quarters of the city where artillery could not be used.

That is as far as our latest news goes. But in addition it is stated that many members of the Slavic Congress were sent out of the city under a strong escort. It would appear that the military won at least a partial victory.

However the uprising may end, a war of attrition between the Germans and Czechs is now the only possible outcome.

In their revolution the Germans have to suffer for the sins of their whole past. They suffered for them in Italy. In Poznan they have brought down upon themselves once more the curse of the whole of Poland, and to that is now added Bohemia.

The French were able to win the recognition and sympathy even of the countries to which they came as enemies. The Germans win recognition nowhere and find sympathy nowhere. Even where they adopt the role of magnanimous apostles of liberty, they are spurned with bitter scorn.

And so they deserve to be. A nation which throughout its history allowed itself to be used as a tool of oppression against all other nations must first of all prove that it has been really revolutionized. It must prove this not merely by a few indecisive revolutions, as a result of which the old irresolution, impotence and discord are allowed to continue in a modified form; revolutions which allow a Radetzky to remain in Milan, a Colomb and Steinacker in Poznan, a Windischgratz in Prague, a Hueser in Mainz, as if nothing had changed.

A revolutionized Germany ought to have renounced her entire past, especially as far as the neighboring nations are concerned. Together with her own freedom, she should have proclaimed the freedom of the nations hitherto suppressed by her.

And what has revolutionized Germany done? She has fully endorsed the old oppression of Italy, Poland, and now of Bohemia too, by German troops. Kaunitz and Metternich have been completely vindicated.

And the Germans, after this, demand that the Czechs should trust them?

Are the Czechs to be blamed for not wanting to join a nation that oppresses and maltreats other nations, while liberating itself?

Are they to be blamed for not wanting to send their representatives to the despondent and faint-hearted National Assembly at Frankfurt, which is afraid of its own sovereignty?

Are they to be blamed for dissociating themselves from the impotent Austrian government, which is in such a perplexed and helpless state that it seems to exist only in order to register the disintegration of Austria, which it is unable to prevent, or at least to give it an orderly course? A government which is even too weak to save Prague from the guns and soldiers of a Windischgratz?

But it is the gallant Czechs themselves who are most of all to be pitied. Whether they win or are defeated, their doom is sealed. They have been driven into the arms of the Russians by 400 years of German oppression, which is being continued now in the street-fighting waged in Prague. In the great struggle between Western and Eastern Europe, which may begin very soon, perhaps in a few weeks, the Czechs are placed by an unhappy fate on the side of the Russians, the side of despotism opposed to the revolution. The revolution will triumph and the Czechs will be the first to be crushed by it.

The Germans once again bear the responsibility for the ruin of the Czech people, for the Germans have betrayed them to the Russians.