Marx-Engels Correspondence 1866

Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx in London, 25 July 1866

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

... The business in Germany seems to me fairly simple now. As soon as Bismarck by using the Prussian army carried out the Little Germany scheme [1] of the bourgeoisie with such colossal success, the development in Germany has so firmly taken this direction that we, like others, must acknowledge the fait accompli, may we like it or not. As to the national side of the affair, Bismarck will in any case establish the Little German Empire in the dimensions intended by the bourgeoisie, that is, including South-West Germany – for the phrases about the line of the Main and the optional separate South German Confederacy are no doubt meant for the French, and in the meantime the Prussians are marching on Stuttgart. Moreover, before very long the German provinces of Austria will also fall to this empire, since Austria is now bound to become Hungarian, [2] and the Germans will be the third nationality in the empire – even after the Slavs.

Politically Bismarck will be compelled to rely on the middle class, whom he needs against the imperial princes. Not at the moment, perhaps, because his prestige and the army are still sufficient. But he will have to give something to the middle class even if only to secure from Parliament the necessary conditions for the central power, and the natural course of the affairs will always force him or his successors to appeal to the middle class again; so that if at present, as is possible, Bismarck does not concede more to the middle class than he actually has to, he will still be driven more and more into their camp.

The good side of the affair is that it simplifies the situation; it makes a revolution easier by doing away with the brawls between the petty capital cities and will certainly accelerate developments. After all a German Parliament is something quite different from a Prussian Chamber. The petty states in their totality will be swept into the movement, the worst localising influences will disappear and parties will at last become really national parties instead of merely local ones.

The chief disadvantage – a very great one – is the unavoidable flooding of Germany with Prussianism. Also – the temporary separation of German Austria, which will result in an immediate advance of the Slav elements in Bohemia, Moravia and Carinthia. Unfortunately nothing can be done against either of these consequences.

In my opinion, therefore, we have to accept the fact, without approving of it, and to use, as far as we can, the greater facilities now bound at any rate to become available for the national organisation and unification of the German proletariat.

There was no need for Stumpf [3] to write to me that brother Liebknecht’s view on Austria was bound to become increasingly fanatical. It could not possibly be otherwise. He moreover published furious articles, undoubtedly sent from Leipzig, in the Neue Frankfurter Zeitung. Blind’s [4] prince-devouring Neue Frankfurter Zeitung went so far as to reproach the Prussians for their disgraceful treatment of the ‘venerable Elector of Hesse’, [5] and waxed enthusiastic over the poor blind Guelph! [6]

Nothing more has appeared in the Guardian. [7]



1. The Little Germany scheme – a plan to unite Germany, with the exception of Austria, under Prussian supremacy – Progress Publishers.

2. Engels alludes to the negotiations which were going on between the Austrian ruling circles and the moderate Hungarian opposition, consisting of the bourgeoisie and landowners, concerning a reform of the political structure of the Habsburg empire. The talks ended in the spring of 1867 with the Austro-Hungarian Agreement to transform the Austrian empire into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary – Progress Publishers.

3. Paul Stumpf (1827-1913) – member of Communist League, took part in German working-class movement and in 1848-49 revolution, member of First International and of Social-Democratic Party of Germany – Progress Publishers.

4. Karl Blind (1827-1907) – German journalist, petty-bourgeois democrat, took part in revolutionary movement in Baden in 1848-49, in 1850s and 1860s one of leaders of German petty-bourgeois émigrés in London, subsequently National Liberal – Progress Publishers.

5. Ludwig III – Progress Publishers.

6. George V of Hanover – Progress Publishers.

7. The Manchester Guardian – Progress Publishers.