Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung September 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Ratification of the Armistice

by Frederick Engels

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 107
Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org

Cologne, September 19. The German National Assembly has ratified the armistice. We were not mistaken: "Germany's honor has fallen into bad hands." 

The vote was taken amidst uproar and complete darkness, when the benches of the deputies were thronged with strangers, diplomats, etc. A majority of two forced the Assembly to vote simultaneously on two entirely different questions. The armistice was carried, Schleswig-Holstein sacrificed, "Germany's honor" trampled under foot and the merging of Germany in Prussia decided by a majority of 21 votes.

On no other issue has there been such a clear expression of public opinion. On no other issue have the gentlemen of the Right so openly admitted that they uphold a cause which is indefensible. In no other issue were Germany's interests so unequivocal and so obvious as in this. The National Assembly has made its decision-it has pronounced the death sentence upon itself and upon the so-called central authority created by it. If Germany had a Cromwell it would not be long before he would say: "You are no Parliament.... Depart, I say.... in the name of God, -- go!" [80]

There is talk of the impending withdrawal of the Left. If it had courage, this poor derided Left, which has been fisted by the majority and called to order on top of it by the noble Gagern. Never has a minority been so insolently and consistently maltreated as has been the Frankfurt Left by the noble Gagern and his 250 champions of the majority. If only it had courage!

Lack of courage is ruining the entire German movement.

The counter-revolution as well as the revolutionary party lack the courage for the decisive blows. All Germans, whether on the right or on the left, know now that the present movement must lead to terrible clashes, to bloody battles, fought either to suppress it or to carry it through. But instead of courageously facing these unavoidable battles and fighting them out with a few rapid and decisive blows, the two parties -- the party of the counter-revolution and that of movement -- have virtually come to an agreement to put them off as long as possible. It is due to this constant resort to petty expedients, to trivial concessions and palliatives, to these attempts at mediation, that the unbearable and uncertain political situation has led everywhere to numerous isolated uprisings, which can only be liquidated by way of bloodshed and the curtailment of rights already won. It is this fear of struggle that gives rise to thousands of minor clashes making the year 1848 exceptionally sanguinary and so complicating the position of the contending parties that in the end the struggle will be the more violent and destructive. But "our dear friends' lack of courage"!

The crucial struggle for Germany's centralization and democratic organization cannot possibly be avoided. Every day brings it nearer despite all attempts to play it down and compromise. The complex situation in Vienna, Berlin and Frankfurt demands a decision, and if everything should fail because of German timidity and indecision, we shall be saved by France. The consequences of the June victory are now taking shape in Paris -- the royalists are getting the better of Cavaignac and his "pure republicans" in the National Assembly, in the press and in the clubs; a general uprising is threatening to break out in the legitimist South; Cavaignac has to resort' to Ledru-Rollin's revolutionary remedies, i.e., to departmental commissioners invested with extraordinary powers; it was with the greatest difficulty that he managed to defend himself and his government in Parliament last Saturday. Another such division, and Thiers, Barrot and company, the men in whose interests the June victory was won, will possess a majority, Cavaignac will be thrown into the arms of the red republic, and the struggle for the republic's existence will start.

If Germany's irresoluteness should persist, the new phase of the French revolution will also be a signal for a fresh outbreak of open struggle in Germany, a struggle which we hope will take us a little further and will at least free Germany from the traditional fetters of her past.