Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung September 1848

The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Uprising in Frankfurt

by Frederick Engels

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

Cologne, September 19, 7 p.m. The German-Danish armistice has raised a storm. A sanguinary revolt has begun in Frankfurt. The workers of Frankfurt, Offenbach and Hanau, and the peasants of the surrounding districts, have staked their life to defend Germany's honor betrayed by the National Assembly to a Prussian government which has ignominiously resigned.

The outcome of the struggle is still uncertain. Until yesterday evening the soldiers apparently made little progress. In Frankfurt, apart from the Zeil and perhaps a few other streets and squares, artillery is of little use, and cavalry of hardly any use. In this respect the people are in 'an advantageous position. Citizens of Hanau, armed with weapons from the arsenal they had stormed, have come to their assistance, as have also peasants from numerous villages in the vicinity. Yesterday evening the military probably numbered about 10,000 men and very little artillery. Large reinforcements of peasants must have arrived during the night, and considerably smaller ones of soldiers, the immediate vicinity being denuded of troops. The revolutionary temper of the peasants in the Odenwald, Nassau and the Electorate of Hesse precluded further withdrawals; it is likely that communications have been interrupted. If today the insurgents are still holding out, then the whole of the Odenwald, Nassau, the Electorate of Hesse and Rhenish Hesse will take up arms, the entire population between Fulda, Koblenz, Mannheim and Aschaffenburg will be in arms, and there are insufficient troops available to crush the uprising. And who will answer for Mainz, Mannheim, Marburg, Cassel and Wiesbaden -- towns in which hatred of the army has reached its highest pitch as a result of the bloody excesses of the so-called Federal troops? Who will answer for the peasants on the Rhine, who can easily prevent troop movements along the river?

We admit, nevertheless, that we have little hope of the courageous insurgents being able to win the day. Frankfurt is too small a town, the number of troops is disproportionately large, and the well-known counter-revolutionary sentiments of the local petty bourgeoisie are too great to allow us to be very hopeful.

But even if the insurgents are defeated, this will settle nothing. The counter-revolution will become arrogant, it will enslave us for a time by introducing martial law, by suppressing freedom of the press, and banning the clubs and public meetings; but before long the crowing of the Gaelic cock [81] will announce the hour of liberation, the hour of revenge.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 108
Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org

Cologne, September 20. The news from Frankfurt is beginning to confirm our fears of yesterday. It seems certain that the insurgents have been ejected from Frankfurt, and that now they are holding only Sachsenhausen, where they are said to be strongly entrenched. A state of siege has been declared in Frankfurt; anyone caught carrying weapons or resisting the "Federal Authority" is to be court-martialed.

Thus the gentlemen in the Paulskirche are now on an equal footing with their colleagues in Paris. They can now at their leisure and under the rule of martial law reduce the fundamental rights of the German people to a "minimum

The railway line to Mainz is torn up in many places, and the post arrives either late or not at all.

It appears that artillery decided the outcome of the fight in the wide streets and enabled the army to attack the fighters on the barricades from the rear. Additional factors were the zeal with which the petty bourgeois of Frankfurt opened their houses to the soldiers, thus giving them every advantage in the street-fighting, and the superior strength of the troops, swiftly brought up by rail, over the peasant contingents, who arrived slowlyon foot.

But even if the fight has not been renewed in Frankfurt itself, it certainly does not mean that the rising has been crushed. The angry peasants are not likely to put their weapons down forthwith. Though they may not be able to break up the National Assembly, they still have enough at home that has to be cleared away. The storm that was repelled outside the Paulskirche can spread to six or eight petty residences and to hundreds of manor-houses. The peasant war begun this spring will not come to an end until its goal, the liberation of the peasants from feudalism, has been achieved.

What is the reason for the persistent victory of "order" throughout Europe and for the series of recurrent defeats of the revolutionary party from Naples, Prague and Paris to Milan, Vienna and Frankfurt?

All parties know that the struggle impending in all civilized countries is quite different from, infinitely more significant than, all previous revolutions; in Vienna and Paris, in Berlin and Frankfurt, in London and Milan the point at issue is the overthrow of the political rule of the bourgeoisie, an upheaval whose immediate consequences horrify all portly, stockjobbing bourgeois.

Is there a revolutionary centre anywhere in the world where the red flag, the emblem of the militant, united proletariat of Europe, has not been found flying on the barricades during the last five months?

The fight in Frankfurt against the Parliament of the combined landowners and the bourgeoisie was likewise waged under the red flag.

The reason for all these defeats is that every uprising that now takes place is a direct threat to the political existence of the bourgeoisie, and an indirect threat to its social existence. The people, largely unarmed, have to fight not only the well-armed bourgeoisie but also the organized power of the bureaucratic and military state which the bourgeoisie has taken over. The people, who are unorganized and poorly armed, are confronted by all the other social classes, who are well organized and fully armed. That is the reason why up to now the people have been defeated and will continue to be defeated until their opponents are weakened either through dissension, or because the army is engaged in war-or until some important event impels the people to begin a desperate fight and demoralizes their opponents.

Such an event is impending in France.

Hence we need not give up hope, even though during the last four months the barricades everywhere have been defeated by grape-shot. On the contrary, every victory of our opponents was at the same time a defeat for them, for it divided them and, ultimately, gave control not to the conservative party that was victorious in February and March, but in each case to the party that had been overthrown in February and March. Only for a short time did the victory won in Paris in June establish the rule of the petty bourgeoisie, the pure republicans; hardly three months have passed and the big bourgeoisie, the constitutional party, is threatening to overthrow Cavaignac and drive the "pure ones" into the arms of the "reds". This will happen in Frankfurt too -- the victory will benefit, not the respectable gentlemen from the centre parties, but those of the Right. The bourgeoisie will have to give pride of place to the gentlemen representing the military, bureaucratic and aristocratic state and will very soon taste the bitter fruit of victory.

May it do them good! Meanwhile we shall await the moment when the hour of liberation for Europe will have struck in Paris.