The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Germany's Foreign Policy

by Frederick Engels

Translated: by the Marx-Engels Institute;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 33, July 2, 1848;
Transcribed: by, 1994.

Cologne, July 2. All hitherto existing rulers and their diplomats have employed their skill and efforts to set one nation against another and use one nation to suppress another, and in this manner to perpetuate absolute rule. Germany has distinguished herself in this respect. During the last 70 years alone, she had furnished the British, in exchange for English gold, with mercenaries to be used against the North Americans fighting for their independence; when the first French revolution broke out it was the Germans again who, like a rabid pack, allowed themselves to be set upon the French; in a vicious manifesto issued by the Duke Of Brunswick they threatened to raze the whole of Paris to the ground; they conspired with the émigré aristocrats against the new order in France and were paid for this in the form of subsidies received from England. When the Dutch, for the first time in two hundred years, finally hit upon the sensible idea of putting an end to the mad rule of the House of Orange and establishing a republic, [26] it was the Germans again who acted as the hangmen of freedom. The Swiss, too, could tell a tale about their German neighbors, and it will be some time before the Hungarians recover from the harm which Austria, i.e., the German imperial court, inflicted upon them. German mercenary troops were even sent to Greece to prop up the little throne of dear Otto, [27] and German policemen were sent even to Portugal. Then there were the congresses after 1815, Austria's expeditions to Naples, Turin and the Romagna, the imprisonment of Ypsilanti, the German-imposed war of suppression which France waged against Spain, [28] Dom Miguel [29] and Don Carlos [3O] who were supported by Germany; the reaction in Britain had Hannoverian troops at its disposal; German influence led to the dismemberment of Belgium and the establishment of a Thermidorian rule there; in the very heart of Russia Germans are the mainstay of the one autocrat and of the smaller ones, all Europe is flooded with sprigs of the House of Coburg.

Poland was plundered and dismembered and Krakow throttled with the help of German soldiers. [31] German money and blood helped to enslave and impoverish Lombardy and Venice, and directly or indirectly to stifle any movement of liberation throughout Italy by means of bayonets, gallows, prisons and galleys. The list of sins is much longer, let us close it.

The blame for the infamies committed with the aid of Germany in other countries falls not only on the governments but to a large extent also on the German people. But for the delusions of the Germans, their slavish spirit, their flair for acting as mercenaries and "benign" jailers and tools of the masters "by divine right", the German name abroad would not be so detested, cursed and despised, and the nations oppressed by Germany would have long since been able to develop freely. Now that the Germans are throwing off their own yoke, their whole foreign policy must change too. Otherwise the fetters with which we have chained other nations will shackle our own new, barely prescient, freedom. Germany will liberate herself to the extent to which she sets free neighboring nations.

Things are indeed beginning to look up. The lies and misrepresentations which the old government organs have been so busy spreading about Poland and Italy, the attempts to artificially create enmity, the turgid phrases proclaiming that German honor or German power is at stake -- all these magic formulas are no longer effective. The official patriotism is effective only when these patriotic postures conceal material interests, i.e., only among a section of the big bourgeoisie whose business depends on this official patriotism. The reactionary party knows this and makes use of it. But the great mass of the German middle class and the working class understand or feel that the freedom of the neighboring nations is the guarantee of their own freedom. Is Austria's war against Italy's independence or Prussia's war against the restoration of Poland popular, or do these "Patriotic" crusades on the contrary destroy the last illusions? However, neither this understanding nor this feeling is sufficient. If Germany's blood and money is no longer to be squandered, to her own detriment, in suppressing other nations, then we must achieve a really popular government, and the old edifice must be razed to the ground. Only then can an international policy of democracy take the place of the sanguinary, cowardly policy of the old, revived system. How can a democratic foreign policy be carried through while democracy at home is stifled? Meanwhile, everything possible must be done to prepare the way for the democratic system on this side and the other side of the Alps. The Italians have issued a number of declarations which make their friendly attitude towards Germany perfectly clear. We would mention the Manifesto of the Provisional Government at Milan addressed to the German people [32] and the numerous articles written in the same vein, which are published in the Italian press. We have now received further evidence of this attitude -- a private letter from the administrative committee of the newspaper L'Alba, [33] published in Florence, to the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. It is dated June 20, and says among other things:

"We thank you sincerely for the esteem in which you hold our poor Italy. Meanwhile we wholeheartedly assure you that all Italians know who really violates and attacks their liberty; they know that their most deadly enemy is not the strong and magnanimous German people, but rather their unjust, despotic, and cruel government; we assure you that every true Italian longs for the moment when he will be free to shake hands with his German brother, who, once his inalienable rights are established, will be able to defend them, to respect them himself and to secure the respect of all his brothers for them. Placing our trust in the principles to whose careful elaboration you have dedicated yourselves, we remain your faithful friends and brothers

(signed) L. Alinari"

The Alba is one of the few papers in Italy which advocate thoroughly democratic principles.