Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Zeitungs-Halle on the Rhine Province

by Frederick Engels

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 87
 Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org

Cologne, August 26. The Berliner Zeitungs-Halle [65] carries the following paragraph:

"We recently had occasion to mention that the time has come when the spirit which for so long has held together the old political entities is gradually vanishing. As regards Austria hardly anyone will call this in question, but in Prussia, too, the signs of the times confirming our observation are becoming daily more manifest, and we cannot turn a blind eye to them. There is at present only one interest capable of tying the various provinces to the Prussian state, namely, that of developing liberal political institutions and jointly establishing and promoting a new and free mode of social relations. Silesia, which is making vigorous advances on the road to political and social progress, will hardly be happy in Prussia unless Prussia as a state is entirely adequate to these aspirations. As regards the Province of Saxony we know only too well that ever since its incorporation into the Prussian state it has resented it at heart. And as to the Rhineland, surely everybody will still remember the threats made by the Rhenish deputies prior to March 18, which helped to precipitate the turn of events. There is a growing spirit of alienation in this province. New evidence of this is provided in a now rather widely distributed leaflet which contains no mention of the publisher or place of publication."

The leaflet referred to by the Zeitungs-Halle is presumably known to all our readers.

What must please us is the view -- which is at last advanced by at least one Berliner -- that Berlin does not play the role of Paris as far as either Germany or the Rhineland in particular is concerned. Berlin is beginning to realize that it cannot govern us, cannot acquire the authority befitting a capital city. Berlin has amply proved its incompetence during the indecisive March revolution, during the storming of the armory and during the recent disturbances. [66] To the irresolution displayed by the people of Berlin is added a complete lack of talent in all parties. Since February the whole movement has not produced a single man capable of leading his party. The spirit in this "capital of the spirit" is indeed very willing but just as weak as the flesh. The Berliners even had to import their Hansemann, their Camphausen and their Milde from the Rhine or Silesia. Far from being a German Paris, Berlin is not even a Prussian Vienna. It is not a metropolis, it is a "seat of the court".

It is, however, noteworthy, that even in Berlin people are coming to the conclusion, long widespread in the Rhineland, that German unity can come about only as a result of the disintegration of the German so-called great powers. We have never concealed our views on this point. We are not enraptured with either the past or present glory of Germany, with either the wars of - independence or the "glorious victories of German arms" in Lombardy and Schleswig. But if Germany is ever to achieve anything she must unite, she must become one state in deed as well as in word. And to bring this about it is necessary above all that there should be "neither an Austria nor a Prussia". [67] Incidentally, "the spirit" which "for so long held together" us and the old Prussian provinces was a palpable, crude spirit; it was the spirit of 15,000 bayonets and a number of cannon. It was not for nothing that military units of Silesian Poles and Kasubians were stationed here on the Rhine, and that our young men had to serve in guards regiments in Berlin. This was done not in order to reconcile us with the other provinces, but to stir up hatred between the provinces and to exploit the national enmity between the Germans and Slavs, and the regional hatred of every petty German province against all the neighboring provinces, in the interests of patriarchal feudal despotism. Divide et impera!

It is indeed time to put an end to the fictitious role assigned to the Berliners by "the provinces", i.e., by the junkerdom of the Uckermark and Further Pomerania, in their panic-stricken declarations, a role which the Berliners promptly accepted. Berlin is not and will never become the seat of the revolution, the capital of democracy. Only the imagination of the knights of Brandenburg, terrified at the prospect of bankruptcy, the debtor's prison and the lamppost, could ascribe to Berlin such a role, and only the coquettish vanity of the Berliners could believe that it represented the provinces. We acknowledge the March revolution, but only for what it really was. Its greatest shortcoming is that it has not revolutionized the Berliners.

The Zeitungs-Halle believes that the disintegrating Prussian state can be cemented by means of liberal institutions. On the contrary. The more liberal the institutions are, the freer will it be for the heterogeneous elements to separate, and the clearer will become the necessity of dissociation and the incompetence of the politicians of all parties in Berlin.

We repeat, the Rhineland by no means objects to remaining together with the old Prussian provinces within Germany, but trying to compel it to remain for ever within Prussia, whether it be an absolutist, a constitutional or a democratic Prussia, is tantamount to making Germany's unity impossible, tantamount even to losing for Germany -- we express the general attitude of the people -- a large and beautiful territory by attempting to keep it for Prussia.