Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung August 1848

The Frankfurt Assembly Debates the Polish Question
By Friedrich Engels

Written: 7, 11 & 19 August 1848;
First Published: Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Nos. 70, 73, 81, 82, 86, 90, 91, 93 and 96, August 9, 12, 20, 22, 26 and 31, September 1, 3 and 7, 1848;
Source: Marx and Engels: Articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Moscow 1972, pp. 83 – 102;
Transcribed: Einde O'Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet archive (May 2014).

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 70, August 9, 1848


Cologne, August 7. The Frankfurt Assembly, whose debates even during the most exciting moments were conducted in a truly German spirit of geniality, at last pulled itself together when the Poznan question came up. On this question, the ground for which had been prepared by Prussian shrapnel and the docile resolutions of the Federal Diet, the Assembly had to pass a clear-cut resolution. No mediation was possible: it had either to save Germany’s honour or to blot it once again. The Assembly acted as we had expected; it sanctioned the seven partitions of Poland, and shifted the disgrace of 1772, 1794 and 1815 from the shoulders of the German princes to its own shoulders.

The Frankfurt Assembly, moreover, declared that the seven partitions of Poland were benefactions wasted on the Poles. Had not the forcible intrusion of the Jewish-German race lifted Poland to a level of culture and a stage of science which that country could never have dreamed of! Deluded, ungrateful Poles! If your country had not been partitioned you would have had to ask this favour yourselves of the Frankfurt Assembly.

Pastor Bonavita Blank of the Paradise monastery near Schaffhausen trained magpies and starlings to fly in and out. He had cut away the lower part of their bill so that they were unable to get their own food and could only receive it from his hands. The philistines who from a distance saw the birds alight on the Reverend’s shoulders and seem to be friendly with him, admired his great culture and learning. His biographer says that the birds loved their benefactor.

Yet the fettered, maimed, branded Poles refuse to love their Prussian benefactors.

We could not give a better description of the benefactions which Prussia bestowed on the Poles than that provided by the report which the learned historiographer Herr Stenzel submitted on behalf of the Committee for International Law, a report which forms the basis of the debate.

The report, entirely in the style of the conventional diplomatic documents, first recounts how the Grand Duchy of Poznan was set up in 1815 by “incorporation” and “merging.” Then follow the promises which at the same time Frederick William III made to the inhabitants of Poznan, i.e., the safeguarding of their nationality, language and religion, the appointment of a native governor, and participation in the famous Prussian constitution. [1]

The extent to which these promises were kept is well known. The freedom of communication between the three sections of Poland, to which the Congress of Vienna could the more easily agree the less feasible it was, was of course never put into effect.

The make-up of the population is then examined. Herr Stenzel calculates that 790,000 Poles, 420,000 Germans and about 80,000 Jews lived in the Grand Duchy in 1843, making a total of 1,300,000.

Herr Stenzel’s statement is challenged by the Poles, notably by Archbishop Przyluski, according to whom there are considerably more than 800,000 Poles, and, if one deducts the Jews, officials and soldiers, hardly 250,000 Germans, living in Poznan.

Let us, however, accept Herr Stenzel’s figures. For our purposes it is quite sufficient. To avoid all further discussion, let us concede that there are 420,000 Germans living in Poznan. Who are these Germans, who by the inclusion of the Jews have been brought up to half a million?

The Slavs are a predominantly agricultural people with little aptitude for urban trades in the form in which they were hitherto carried on in the Slav countries. The first crude stage of commerce, when it was still mere hawking, was left to Jewish pedlars. With the growth of culture and population the need for urban trades and urban concentration made itself felt, and Germans moved into the Slav countries. The Germans, who after all had their heyday in the petty-bourgeois life of the imperial cities of the Middle Ages, in the sluggish inland trade conducted in caravan style, in a restricted maritime trade, and in the handicraft workshops of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries organized on guild lines – the Germans demonstrated their vocation as the philistines of world history by the very fact that they still to this day form the core of the petty bourgeoisie throughout Eastern and Northern Europe and even in America. Many, often most of the craftsmen, shopkeepers and small middlemen in Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw and Krakow, in Stockholm and Copenhagen, in Pest, Odessa and Jassy, in New York and Philadelphia are Germans or of German extraction. All these cities have districts where only German is spoken, and some of them, for example Pest, are almost entirely German.

This German immigration, particularly into the Slav countries, went on almost uninterruptedly since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Moreover, from time to time since the Reformation, as a result of the persecution of various sects large groups of Germans were forced to migrate to Poland, where they received a friendly welcome. In other Slav countries, such as Bohemia, Moravia, the Slav population was decimated by German wars of conquest, whereas the German population increased as a result of invasion.

The position is clearest in Poland. The German philistines living there for centuries never regarded themselves as politically belonging to Germany any more than did the Germans in North America; just as the “French colony” in Berlin and the 15,000 Frenchmen in Montevideo do not regard themselves as belonging to France. As far as that was possible during the days of decentralization in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they became Poles, German-speaking Poles, who had long since renounced all ties with the mother country.

But the Germans brought to Poland culture, education and science, commerce and trades. – True, they brought retail trade and guild crafts; by their consumption and the limited intercourse which they established they stimulated production to some extent. Up to 1772 Poland as a whole was not particularly well known for her high standard of education and science, and the same applies to Austrian and Russian Poland since then; of the Prussian part we shall speak later. On the other hand, the Germans prevented the formation of Polish towns with a Polish bourgeoisie. By their distinct language, their separateness from the Polish population, their numerous different privileges and urban codes, they impeded centralization, that most potent of political means by which a country achieves rapid development. Almost every town had its own law; indeed towns with a mixed population had, and often still have, a different law for Germans, Poles and Jews. The German Poles remained at the lowest stage of industrial development; they did not accumulate large capitals; they were neither able to set up large-scale industry nor control any extensive commercial networks. The Englishman Cockerill had to come to Warsaw for industry to strike root in Poland. The entire activity of the German Poles was restricted to retail trade, the handicrafts and at most the corn trade and manufacture (weaving, etc.) on the smallest scale. In considering the merits of the German Poles it should not be forgotten that -they imported German philistinism and German petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness into Poland, and that they combined the worst qualities of both nations without acquiring their good ones.

Herr Stenzel seeks to enlist the sympathy of the Germans for the German Poles:

“When the kings ... especially in the seventeenth century, became increasingly powerless and were no longer able to protect the native Polish peasants against the severest oppression by the nobles, the German villages and towns, too, declined, and many of them became the property of the nobility. Only the larger royal cities kept some of their old liberties” (read: privileges).

Does Herr Stenzel perhaps demand that the Poles should have protected the “Germans” (i.e., German Poles, who are moreover also “natives”) better than themselves? Surely it is obvious that foreigners who immigrate into any country must expect to share the good and bad with the indigenous inhabitants.

Now passing to the blessings for which the Poles are indebted to the Prussian government in particular.

Frederick II seized the Netze district in 1772, and in the following year the Bromberg canal was built, which made inland navigation between the Oder and Vistula possible.

“The region, which for centuries was an object of dispute between Poland and Pomerania, and which was largely desolate as a result of countless devastations and because of vast swamps, was now brought under cultivation and populated by numerous colonists.”

Thus, the first partition of Poland was no robbery. Frederick II merely seized an area which “for centuries was an object of dispute.” But since when has there no longer existed an independent Pomerania which could have disputed this region? For how many centuries were in fact the rights of Poland to this region no longer challenged? And in general, what meaning has this rusted and rotten theory of “disputes” and “claims,” which, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, served the purpose of covering up the naked commercial interests and the policy of rounding off one’s lands? What meaning can it have in 1848 when the bottom has been knocked out of all historical justice and injustice?

Incidentally, Herr Stenzel ought to bear in mind that according to this junk-heap doctrine the Rhine borders between France and Germany have been “an object of dispute for millennia,” and that Poland could assert her claims to suzerainty over the province of Prussia and even over Pomerania.

In short, the Netze district became part of Prussia and hence ceased to be “an object of dispute.” Frederick 11 had it colonized by Germans, and so the “Netze brethren,” who received such praise in connection with the Poznan affair, came into being. The state-promoted Germanization began in 1773.

According to reliable information, the Jews in the Grand Duchy are all Germans and want to be Germans ... The religious toleration which used to prevail in Poland and the possession of certain qualities which were lacking in the Poles, enabled the Jews in the course of centuries to develop activities which penetrated deep into Polish life,” namely, into Polish purses. “As a rule they have a thorough command of both languages, although they, and their children from the earliest years, speak German at home.”

The unexpected sympathy and recognition which Polish Jews have lately received in Germany has found official expression in this passage. Maligned wherever the influence of the Leipzig fair extends as the very incarnation of haggling, avarice and sordidness, they have suddenly become German brethren; with tears of joy honest Michael presses them to his bosom, and Herr Stenzel lays claim to them on behalf of the German nation as Germans who want to remain Germans.

Indeed, why should not Polish Jews be genuine Germans? Do not “they, and their children from the earliest years, speak German at home"? And what German at that!

Incidentally, we would point out to Herr Stenzel that he might just as well lay claim to the whole of Europe and half America, and even part of Asia. German, as everyone knows, is the universal language of the Jews. In New York and Constantinople, in St. Petersburg and Paris “the Jews, and their children from the earliest years, speak German at home,” and some of them even a more classical German than the Poznan Jews, the “kindred” allies of the Netze brethren.

The report goes on to present the national relations in terms that are as vague as possible and as favourable as possible to the alleged half a million Germans consisting of German Poles, Netze brethren, and Jews. It says that German peasants own more land than the Polish peasants (we shall see how this has come to pass), and that since the first partition of Poland enmity between Poles and Germans, especially Prussians, reached its highest degree.

“By the introduction of its exceptionally rigidly regulated political and administrative orders” (what excellent style!) “and their strict enforcement, Prussia in particular seriously disturbed the old customs and traditional institutions of the Poles.”

Not only the Poles but also the other Prussians, and especially we from the Rhine, can tell a tale about the “rigidly regulated” and “strictly enforced” measures of the worthy Prussian bureaucracy, measures which “disturbed” not only the old customs and traditional institutions, but also the entire social life, industrial and agricultural production, commerce, mining, in short all social relations without exception. But Herr Stenzel refers here not to the bureaucracy of 1807 – 48, but to that of 1772 – 1806, to the officials of genuine, dyed in the wool, Prussianism, whose baseness, corruptibility, cupidity and brutality were clearly evident in the treacherous acts of 1806. These officials are supposed to have protected the Polish peasants against the nobles and received in return nothing but ingratitude; of course the officials ought to have understood “that nothing, not even the good things granted or imposed, can compensate for the loss of national sovereignty.”

We too know the way in which quite recently the Prussian officials used “to grant and impose everything.” What Rhinelander, who had dealings with newly arrived officials from the old Prussian lands, did not have an opportunity to admire their inimitable, obtrusive priggishness, their impudent meddlesomeness, their overriding insolence and that combination of narrow-mindedness and infallibility. True, with us, in most cases, these old Prussian gentry soon lost some of their roughness for they had no Netze brethren, no secret inquisition, no Prussian law and no floggings – deficiency which even brought many of them to an early grave. We do not have to be told what havoc they wrought in Poland, where they could indulge in floggings and secret inquisitions to their heart’s content.

In short, the arbitrary Prussian rule won such popularity that “already after the battle of Jena, the hatred of the Poles found vent in a general uprising and the ejection of the Prussian officials.” This, for the time being, put an end to the bureaucratic rule.

But in 1815 it returned in a somewhat modified form. The “best,” “reformed,” “educated,” “incorruptible” officialdom tried their hand at dealing with these refractory Poles.

“The founding of the Grand Duchy of Poznan was not conducive to the establishment of cordial relations, since ... at that time the King of Prussia could not possibly agree to have any single province set up as an entirely independent unit, thus turning his state, as it were, into a federal state.”

Thus according to Herr Stenzel, the King of Prussia could “not possibly agree” to keep his own promises and the treaties of Vienna. [2]

“In 1830, when the sympathies which the Polish nobility showed for the Warsaw uprising caused anxiety, and systematic efforts were made ever since by means of various arrangements” (!) – “notably by buying up the Polish landed estates, dividing them and handing them over to the Germans-gradually to eliminate the Polish nobility altogether, the latter’s resentment against Prussia increased.”

“By means of various arrangements"! By prohibiting Poles from buying land brought under the hammer, and similar measures, which Herr Stenzel covers with the cloak of charity.

What would Rhinelanders say if with us, too, the Prussian government were to prohibit Rhinelanders from buying land put up for sale by order of the court. Sufficient pretexts could easily be found, namely: in order to amalgamate the population of the old and new provinces; in order that the natives of the old provinces could share in the blessings of parcellation and of the Rhenish laws; in order that Rhinelanders be induced to emigrate to the old provinces and implant their industries there as well, and so on. There are enough reasons to bestow Prussian “colonists” on us too. How would we look upon people who bought our land for next to nothing while competition was excluded, and who did it moreover with the support of the government; people who were thrust upon us for the express purpose of accustoming us to the intoxicating motto “With God for King and Country"?

After all we are Germans, we speak the same language as the people in the old provinces. Yet in Poznan those colonists were sent methodically, with unabated persistence, to the demesnes, the forests and the divided estates of the Polish nobility in order to oust the native Poles and their language from their own country and to set up a truly Prussian province, which was to surpass even Pomerania in black and white fanaticism. [3]

In order that the Prussian peasants in Poland should not be left without their natural masters, they were sent the flower of Prussian knighthood, men like Tresckow and Lüttichau, who also bought landed estates for a song, and with the aid of government loans. In fact, after the Polish uprising of 1846 [4], a joint-stock company was formed in Berlin, which enjoyed the gracious protection of the highest personages in the land, and whose purpose was to buy up Polish estates for German knights. The poor starvelings from among the Brandenburg and Pomeranian aristocracy foresaw that trials instituted against the Poles would ruin numerous Polish squires, whose estates would shortly be sold off dirt-cheap. This was a real godsend for many a debt-ridden Don Ranudo [5] from the Uckermark. A fine estate for next to nothing, Polish peasants who could be thrashed, and what is more, a good service rendered to King and Country – what brilliant prospects!

Thus arose the third German immigration into Poland. Prussian peasants and Prussian noblemen settled throughout Poznan with the declared intention, supported by the government, not of Germanizing, but of Pomeranizing Poznan. The German Poles had the excuse of having contributed in some measure to the promotion of commerce, the Netze brethren could boast that they had reclaimed a few bogs, but this last Prussian invasion has no excuse whatever. Even parcellation was not consistently carried through, the Prussian aristocrats following hard on the heels of the Prussian peasants.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 73, August 12, 1848


Cologne, August 11. In the first article we have examined the “historical foundation” of Stenzel’s report insofar as he deals with the situation in Poznan before the revolution. Today we proceed to Herr Stenzel’s history of the revolution and counter-revolution in Poznan.

“The German people, who at all times is filled with compassion for all the unfortunate” (so long as this compassion costs nothing), “always deeply felt how greatly its princes wronged the Poles.”

Indeed, “deeply felt” within the calm German heart, where the feelings are so “deeply” embedded that they never manifest themselves in action there was “compassion,” expressed by a few alms in 1831 and by dinners and balls in aid of the Poles, so long as it was a matter of dancing and drinking champagne for the benefit of the Poles, and of singing “Poland is not yet lost.” [6] But when were the Germans prone to do something really decisive, to make a real sacrifice!

“The Germans honestly and fraternally proffered their hand to expiate the wrongs their princes had perpetrated.”

Indeed, if it were possible to “expiate” anything with sentimental phrases and dull tub-thumping, then the Germans would emerge as. the purest people in the annals of history.

“Just at the moment, however, when the Poles shook hands” (that is, took the fraternally proffered hand) “the interests and aims of the two nations already diverged. The Poles’ only thought was for the restoration of their old state at least within the boundaries that existed before the first partition of 1772.”

Surely, only the unreasoning, confused, haphazard enthusiasm, which from time immemorial has been a principal adornment of the German national character, could have caused the Germans to be surprised by the Polish demands. The Germans wanted to “expiate” the injustice the Poles had suffered. What started this injustice? To say nothing of earlier treacheries, it certainly started with the first partition of Poland in 1772. How could this be “expiated"? Of course, only by restoration of the status quo existing before 1772, or at least by the Germans returning to the Poles what they had robbed them of since 1772. But this was against the interests of the Germans? Well, if we speak of interests, then it can no longer be a question of sentimentalities like “expiation” etc.; here the language of cold, unfeeling practice should be used, and we should be spared rhetorical flourishes and expressions of magnanimity.

Moreover, firstly, the Poles did not at all “only think” of the restoration of the Poland of 1772. In any case what the Poles did “think” is hardly our concern. For the time being they demanded only the reorganisation of the whole of Posznan and mentioned other eventualities only in case of a German-Polish war against Russia.

Secondly, “the interests and aims of the two nations diverged” only insofar as the “interests and aims” of revolutionary Germany in the field of international relations remained exactly the same as those of the old, absolutist Germany. If Germany’s “interest and aim” is an alliance with Russia, or at least peace with Russia at any price, then of course everything in Poland must remain as it was hitherto. We shall see later, however, to what extent the real interests of Germany are identical with those of Poland.

Then follows a lengthy, confused and muddled passage, in which Herr Stenzel expatiates on the fact that the German Poles were right when they wanted to do justice to Poland, but at the same time to remain Prussians and Germans. Of course it is of no concern to Herr Stenzel that the “when” excludes the “but” and the “but” the “when.”

Next comes an equally lengthy and confused historical account, in which Herr Stenzel goes into detail in an attempt to prove that, owing to the “diverging interests and aims of the two nations” and the ensuing mutual enmity which was steadily growing, a bloody clash was unavoidable. The Germans adhered to the “national” interests, the Poles merely to the “territorial” interests. In other words, the Germans demanded that the Grand Duchy should be divided according to nationalities, the Poles wanted the whole of their old territory.

This is again not true. The Poles asked for reorganisation but at the same time stated that they were quite willing to relinquish the frontier districts with a mixed population where the majority are Germans and want to join Germany. The inhabitants, however, should not be declared German or Polish by the Prussian officials at will, but according to their own wishes.

Herr Stenzel goes on to assert that Willisen’s mission was of course bound to fail because of the (alleged, but nowhere existing) resistance of the Poles to the cession of the predominantly German districts. Herr Stenzel was able to examine the statements of Willisen about the Poles and those of the Poles about Willisen. These published statements prove the opposite. But this happens if “one is a man who,” as Herr Stenzel says, “has studied history for many years and deems it his duty never to utter an untruth and never to conceal anything.”

With the same truthfulness which never conceals what is true, Herr Stenzel easily passes over the cannibalism perpetrated in Poznan, the base and perfidious violation of the Convention of Jaroslawiec [7], the massacres of Trzemeszno, Miloslaw and Wreschen, the destructive fury of a brutal soldiery worthy of the Thirty Years’ War, and does not say a word about it.

Now Herr Stenzel comes to the four partitions of Poland recently effected by the Prussian Government. First the Netze district and four other districts were torn away (April 14); to this were added certain parts of other districts. This territory with a total population of 593,390 was incorporated in the German Confederation on April 22. Then the city and fortress of Poznan together with the remainder of the left bank of the Warta were also included, making an additional 273,500 persons and bringing the combined population of these lands to double the number of Germans living in the whole of Poznan even according to Prussian estimates. This was effected by an Order in Council on April 26 and already on May 2 they were admitted to the German Confederation. Now Herr Stenzel pleads with the Assembly that it is absolutely essential for Poznan to remain in German hands, that Poznan is an important, powerful fortress, with a population of over 20,000 Germans (most of them Polish Jews) who own two-thirds of all the landed property etc. That Poznan is situated in the midst of a purely Polish territory, that it was forcibly Germanised, and that Polish Jews are not Germans, does not make the slightest difference to men who “never utter an untruth and never suppress a truth,” to historians of Herr Stenzel’s calibre.

In short, Poznan, for military reasons, should not be relinquished. As though it were not possible to raze the fortress, which, according to Willisen, is one of the greatest strategic blunders, and to fortify Breslau instead. But ten million (incidentally this is again not true – barely five million) have been invested, and it is of course more advantageous to retain this precious work of art and 20 to 30 square miles of Polish land into the bargain.

With the “city and fortress” of Poznan in one’s hands, it will be all the easier to seize still more.

“But to keep the fortress it will be necessary to secure its approaches from Glogau, Küstrin and Thorn as well as a fortified area facing the east” (it need be only 1,000 to 2,000 paces wide, like that of Maestricht facing Belgium and Limburg). “This,” continues Herr Stenzel with a smile of satisfaction, “will at the same time ensure undisturbed possession of the Bromberg canal; but numerous areas with a predominantly Polish population will have to be incorporated into the German Confederation.”

It was for all these reasons that Pfuel von Höllenstein [8], the well-known philanthropist, carried through two new partitions of Poland, thus meeting all the desires of Herr Stenzel and incorporating three-fourths of the Grand Duchy into Germany. Herr Stenzel is the more grateful for this procedure, since the revival of Louis XIV’s chambers of reunion [9] with augmented powers must evidently have demonstrated to this historian that the Germans have learned to apply the lessons of history.

According to Herr Stenzel, the Poles ought to find consolation in the fact that their share of the land is more fertile than the incorporated territory, that there is considerably less landed property in their part than in that of the Germans and that “no unbiased person will deny that the lot of the Polish peasant under a German Government will be far more tolerable than that of the German peasant under a Polish Government"! History provides some curious examples of this.

Finally, Herr Stenzel tells the Poles that even the small part left to them will enable them, by practising all the civic virtues,

“to befittingly prepare themselves for the moment, which at present is still shrouded in the mists of the future, and which, quite pardonably, they are trying – perhaps too impatiently – to precipitate. One of their most judicious fellow citizens exclaimed, very pertinently. ‘There is a crown which is also worthy of your ambition, it is the civic crown!’ A German would perhaps add: It does not shine, but it is solid!”

“It is solid!” But even more “solid” are the real reasons for the last four partitions of Poland by the Prussian Government.

You worthy German – do you believe that the partitions were undertaken in order to deliver your German brothers from Polish rule; to ensure that the fortress of Poznan serves as a bulwark protecting you from any attack; to safeguard the roads of Küstrin, Glogau and Bromberg,’ and the Netze canal? What a delusion!

You have been shamefully deceived. The sole reason for the recent partitions of Poland was to replenish the Prussian Treasury.

The earlier partitions of Poland up to 1815 were annexations of territory by force of arms; the partitions of 1848 are robbery.

And now, worthy German, see how you have been deceived!

After the third partition of Poland the estates of the big Polish feudal lords and those of the Catholic clergy were confiscated by Frederick William II in favour of the state. As the Declaration of Appropriation issued on July 28, 1796, says, the estates of the church in particular constituted “a very considerable part of landed property as a whole.” The new demesnes were either managed on the King’s account or leased, and they were so extensive that 34 crown-land offices and 21 forestry divisions had to be set up for their administration. Each of these crown-land offices was responsible for a large number of villages; for example, altogether 636 villages came under the ten offices of the Bromberg district, and 127 were administered by the Mogilno crown-land office.

In 1796, moreover, Frederick William II confiscated the estates and woodlands of the convent at Owinsk and sold them to the merchant von Tresckow (forefather of the brave Prussian troop leader in the last heroic war [10]). These estates comprised 24 villages with flour mills and 20,000 morgen [an old German land measure, varying in different localities between 0.25 and 1.23 hectares – Trans.] of forest land, worth at least 1,000,000 talers.

Furthermore, the crown-land offices of Krotoschin, Rozdrazewo, Orpiszewo and Adelnau, worth at least two million thaler, were in 1819 made over to the Prince of Thurn und Taxis to compensate him for the post-office privileges in several provinces which had become part of Prussia.

Frederick William II took over all these estates on the pretext that he could administer them better. Nevertheless, these estates, the property of the Polish nation, were given away, ceded or sold, and the proceeds flowed into the Prussian treasury.

The crown lands in Gnesen, Skorzencin and Trzemeszno were broken up and sold.

Thus 27 crown-land offices and forestry divisions, to a value of twenty million thaler at the very least, still remain in the hands of the Prussian Government. We are prepared to prove, map in hand, that all these demesnes and forests – with very few exceptions, if any at all – are located in the incorporated part of Poznan. To prevent this rich treasure from reverting to the Polish nation it had to be absorbed into the German Confederation, and since it could not go to the German Confederation, the German Confederation had to come to it, and three-fourths of Poznan were incorporated.

That is the true reason for the four famous partitions of Poland within two months. Neither the protests of this or that nationality nor alleged strategic reasons were decisive – the frontier was determined solely by the position of the demesnes, and the rapacity of the Prussian Government.

While German citizens were shedding bitter tears over the invented sufferings of their poor brothers in Poznan, while they were waxing enthusiastic about the safety of the Eastern Marches of Germany, and while they allowed themselves to be infuriated against the Poles by false reports about Polish barbarities, the Prussian Government acted on the quiet, and feathered its nest. This German enthusiasm without rhyme or reason merely served to disguise the dirtiest deed in modern history.

That, worthy German, is how you are treated by your responsible Ministers!

Actually however you ought to have known this beforehand. Whenever Herr Hansemann has a hand in something, it is never a matter of German nationality, military necessity or suchlike empty phrases, but always a matter of cash payment and of net profit.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 81, August 20, 1848


Cologne, August 19. We have examined in detail Herr Stenzel’s report, which forms the basis of the debate. We have shown that he falsifies both the earlier and the more recent history of Poland and of the Germans in Poland, that he confuses the whole issue, and that Stenzel the historian is not only guilty of deliberate falsification but also of gross ignorance.

Before dealing with the debate itself we must take another look at the Polish question.

The problem of Poznan taken by itself is quite meaningless and insoluble. It is a fragment of the Polish problem and can only be solved in connection with and as a part of it. Only when Poland exists again will it be possible to determine the borders between Germany and Poland.

But can and will Poland exist again? This was denied during the debate.

A French historian has said: Il y a des peuples nécessaires – there are necessary nations. The Polish nation is undoubtedly one of the necessary nations of the nineteenth century.

But for no one is Poland’s national existence more necessary than for us Germans.

What is the main support of the reactionary forces in Europe since 1815, and to some extent even since the first French revolution? It is the Russian-Prussian-Austrian Holy Alliance. [11] And what holds the Holy Alliance together? The partition of Poland, from which all the three allies have profited.

The tearing asunder of Poland by the three powers is the tie which links them together; the robbery they jointly committed makes them support one another.

From the moment the first robbery of Polish territory was committed Germany became dependent on Russia. Russia ordered Prussia and Austria to remain absolute monarchies, and Prussia and Austria had to obey. The efforts to gain control – efforts which were in any case feeble and timid, especially on the part of the Prussian bourgeoisie – failed entirely because of the impossibility of breaking away from Russia, and because of the support which Russia offered the feudalist-absolutist class in Prussia.

Moreover, as soon as the allies attempted to introduce the first oppressive measures the Poles not only rose to fight for their independence, but simultaneously came out in revolutionary action against their own internal social conditions.

The partition of Poland was effected through a pact between the big feudal aristocracy of Poland and the three partitioning powers. It was not an advance, as the ex-poet Herr Jordan maintains, it was the last means the big aristocracy had to protect itself against a revolution, it was thoroughly reactionary.

Already the first partition led quite naturally to an alliance of the other classes, i.e. the nobles, the townspeople and to some extent the peasants, both against the oppressors of Poland and against the big Polish aristocracy. The Constitution of 1791 [12] shows that already then the Poles clearly understood that their independence in foreign affairs was inseparable from the overthrow of the aristocracy and from the agrarian reform within the country.

The big agrarian countries between the Baltic and the Black seas can free themselves from patriarchal feudal barbarism only by an agrarian revolution, which turns the peasants who are serfs or liable to compulsory labour into free landowners, a revolution which would be similar to the French Revolution of 1789 in the countryside. It is to the credit of the Polish nation that it was the first of all its agricultural neighbours to proclaim this. The first attempted reform was the Constitution of 1791; during the uprising of 1830 Lelewel declared an agrarian revolution to be the only means of saving the country, but the parliament recognised this too late; during the insurrections of 1846 and 1848 the agrarian revolution was openly proclaimed.

From the day of their subjugation the Poles came out with revolutionary demands, thereby committing their oppressors still more strongly to a counter-revolutionary course. They compelled their oppressors to maintain the patriarchal feudal structure not only in Poland but in all their other countries as well. The struggle for the independence of Poland, particularly since the Cracow uprising of 1846, is at the same time a struggle of agrarian democracy – the only form of democracy possible in Eastern Europe – against patriarchal feudal absolutism.

So long, therefore, as we help to subjugate Poland, so long as we keep part of Poland fettered to Germany, we shall remain fettered to Russia and to the Russian policy, and shall be unable to eradicate patriarchal feudal absolutism in Germany. The creation of a democratic Poland is a primary condition for the creation of a democratic Germany.

But the restoration of Poland and the settlement of her frontiers with Germany is not only necessary, it is the most easily solvable of all the political problems which have arisen in Eastern Europe since the revolution. The struggle for independence of the diverse nationalities jumbled together south of the Carpathians is much more complicated and will lead to far more bloodshed, confusion and civil wars than the Polish struggle for independence and the establishment of the border line between Germany and Poland.

Needless to say, it is not a question of restoring a bogus Poland, but of restoring the state upon a viable foundation. Poland must have at least the dimensions of 1772, she must comprise not only the territories but also the estuaries of her big rivers and a large seaboard at least on the Baltic.

The Germans could have secured all this for Poland and at the same time protected their own interests and their honour, if after the revolution they had had the courage, for their own sake, arms in hand, to demand that Russia relinquish Poland. Owing to the commingling of Germans and Poles in the border regions and especially along the coast, it goes without saying – and this would create no difficulties – that both parties would have had to make some concessions to one another, some Germans becoming Polish and some Poles German.

After the indecisive German revolution, however, the courage for so resolute an action was lacking. It is all very well to make florid speeches about the liberation of Poland and to welcome passing Poles at railway stations, offering them the most ardent sympathies of the German people (to whom had these sympathies not been offered?); but to start a war with Russia, to endanger the European balance of power and, to cap all, hand over some scraps of the annexed territory – only one who does not know the Germans could expect that.

And what would a war with Russia have meant? A war with Russia would have meant a complete, open and effective break with the whole of our disgraceful past, the real liberation and unification of Germany, and the establishment of democracy on the ruins of feudalism and on the wreckage of the short-lived bourgeois dream of power. War with Russia would have been the only possible way of vindicating our honour and our interests with regard to our Slav neighbours, notably the Poles.

But we were philistines and have remained philistines. We made several dozen small and big revolutions, at which we ourselves took fright even before they were accomplished. We talked big, but carried nothing through. The revolution narrowed our mental horizon instead of broadening it. All problems were approached from the standpoint of the most timid, most narrow-minded, most illiberal philistinism, to the detriment, of course, of our real interests. From the standpoint of this petty philistinism, the great question of Poland’s liberation was therefore reduced to the piddling slogan calling for reorganisation of a part of the Province of Poznan, while our enthusiasm for the Poles turned into shrapnel and lunar caustic.

War with Russia, we repeat, was the only possible means of upholding Germany’s honour and Germany’s interests. We shrank from it and the inevitable happened – the reactionary soldiery, beaten in Berlin, raised their head again in Poznan; under the pretext of saving Germany’s honour and national integrity they raised the banner of counter-revolution and crushed our allies, the revolutionary Poles – and for a moment the hoodwinked Germans exultantly cheered their victorious enemies. The new partition of Poland was accomplished, and only the sanction of the German National Assembly was still missing.

The Frankfurt Assembly still had a chance to mend matters: it should have excluded the whole of Poznan from the German Confederation and left the border question open until it could be discussed with a restored Poland d'égal à égal.

But that would be asking too much of our professors, lawyers and pastors who sit in the Frankfurt National Assembly. The temptation was too great. These peaceful burghers, who had never fired a rifle, were, by simply rising or remaining seated, to conquer for Germany a country of 500 square miles and to incorporate 800,000 Netze brethren, German Poles, Jews and Poles, even though this was to be done at the expense of the honour and of the real, lasting interests of Germany – what a temptation! They succumbed to it, they endorsed the partition of Poland.

What the motives were, we shall see tomorrow.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 82, August 22, 1848


Cologne, August 21. We shall leave aside the preliminary question as to whether the deputies from Posen should take part in the discussion and voting and proceed at once to the debate on the main question.

Herr Stenzel, the reporter, opened the debate with an appallingly confused and verbose speech. He poses as a historian and a conscientious man, he speaks of fortresses and field-works, of heaven and hell, of sympathies and German hearts. He goes back to the eleventh century to prove that the Polish nobility has always oppressed the peasants. He uses a few meagre facts from Polish history as an excuse for an unending stream of the most insipid commonplaces about nobility, peasants, towns, benefactions of the absolute monarchy etc. He defends the partition of Poland in a clumsy and self-conscious manner; he explains the provisions of the Constitution of May 3, 179 1, in such a completely I muddled way that those members not already familiar with it now know even less about it. He is just about to turn to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw when he is interrupted by the exclamation: “This is too much!” and by the President.

Thrown into complete confusion, the great historian continues with the following touching words:

“I shall be brief. The question is — what are we to do? This question is quite natural” (!literally). “The nobility wants to restore the Empire. It asserts that it is democratic. I do not doubt that this is meant in honesty. However, gentlemen, it is quite natural (!) for certain estates to cherish great illusions. I believe completely in their sincerity, but when princes and counts must join the people, I do not know how the merging is to come about” (why should that concern Herr Stenzel!). “In Poland it is impossible” etc.

Herr Stenzel speaks as if in Poland there were no difference at all between nobility and aristocracy. Lelewel’s Histoire de Pologne, which he himself quotes, Mieroslawski’s Débat entire la révolution et la contrerévolution en Pologne and a great many other recent publications could disabuse the “man who has studied history for many years”. Most of the “princes and counts” mentioned by Herr Stenzel are precisely those against whom Polish democracy is fighting.

Therefore, Herr Stenzel thinks, the nobility with its illusions should be dropped and a Poland for the peasants set up (by incorporating one Polish district after another into Germany).

“You should, on the contrary, hold out your hands to the poor peasants so that these can rise up and perhaps (!) succeed in establishing a free Poland, and not only in establishing it but also in maintaining it. That, gentlemen, is the main thing!”

Elated with victory, the historian leaves the rostrum accompanied by exultant shouts of “Bravo!”, “Excellent!” from the national twaddlers of the Centre groups.[229] To describe the new partition’ of Poland as a blessing for the Polish peasants, this astonishingly absurd turn of events was of course bound to bring tears of emotion to the eyes of the genial and philanthropic mass in the Centre of the Assembly!

Next comes Herr Coeden from Krotoszyn, a German Pole of the first water. He is followed by Herr Senff from Inowroclaw, a fine example of a “Netze brother”, devoid of guile. He put his name down as a speaker against the motion tabled by the committee but spoke for the motion and, as a result of this trick, a speaker against the motion lost his turn.

The way the “Netze brethren” behave here is the most ludicrous comedy one can imagine and shows once again what a genuine Prussian is capable of. We all know that the profit-hungry Jewish-Prussian small fry from Posen, who fought against the Poles, acted in close unity with the bureaucracy, the royal Prussian officers and the Brandenburg and Pomeranian squirearchy, in short with all who were reactionary and old-Prussian. The betrayal of Poland was the first insurrection of the counter-revolution, and no one was more counter-revolutionary than the “Netze brethren”.

Now let us here in Frankfurt take a look at these rabidly Prussophile schoolmasters and officials with their “God for King and Fatherland”, [from the decree on the establishment of an army reserve issued by Frederick William III on March 17, 1813] who call their counter-revolutionary betrayal of Polish democracy a revolution, a real and genuine revolution in the name of the sovereign “Netze brotherhood”, who trample historical rights under foot and over the allegedly dead Poland exclaim: “Right is on the side of the living!” [from Schiller’s An die Freunde]

But that’s how the Prussian behaves: on the Spree by “the grace of God”, on the Warta the sovereign people; on the Spree mob riots, on the Warta the revolution; on the Spree “historical right which does not have no date”, [ungrammatical phrase from speech of the Right-wing Deputy Lichnowski] on the Warta the right of the living facts which date from yesterday — but for all that his faithful Prussian heart is devoid of guile, is honest and upright!

Let us hear Herr Goeden.

“This is the second time that we are having to defend a cause which is so important and so momentous for our country that, had it not of itself turned out (!) to be entirely right as far as we are concerned, it would have been necessary to make it so (!!). Our right is rooted not so much in the past as in the fast beating pulse” (and especially in beatings with the butt-end) “of the present

“As a result of the” (Prussian) “occupation, the Polish peasants and townspeople found themselves in a state of security and well-being which they had never known previously.” (Especially not since the time of the Polish-Prussian wars and the partitions of Poland.)

“The infringement of justice implied in the partition of Poland is completely expiated by the humane attitude of your” (the German) “people” (and in particular by the floggings ordered by Prussian officials), “by its diligent work” (on Polish land which has been stolen and given away), “and in April of this year also by its blood!

The blood of Herr Goeden from Krotoszyn!

“The revolution is our right and we are here on the strength of it!”

“The proof that we have been legally incorporated into Germany does not consist of parchment documents, turned yellow with age; we have not been acquired through marriage, inheritance, purchase or exchange; we are Germans, and belong to our fatherland because a sovereign will which is rational and just impels us, a will which is based on our geographical position, our language and customs, our numbers.(!), our property, but above all on our German way of thinking and our love of our fatherland.”

“Our rights are so secure and rest so firmly in the modern concept of the world, that one does not even need a German heart to be compelled to recognise this!”

Long live the “sovereign will” of the Prussian-Jewish “Netze brotherhood”, a will which rests in the “modern concept of the world”, relies on the shrapnel “revolution” and is rooted in the “fast beating pulse” of the present, with its martial law! Long live the German nationalism of the bureaucrats’ salaries in Posen, of the plunder of church and state property and of loans à la Flottwell!

The oratorical knight of superior rights is followed by the impertinent “Netze brother”. Even Stenzel’s motion is still too polite towards the Poles for Herr Senff of Inowroclaw; he therefore proposes a somewhat ruder wording. With the same impudence with which he used this pretext to put his name down as a speaker against the motion, he now declares that to debar the Posen deputies from voting was a disgraceful injustice.

“I believe that the deputies from Posen are especially competent to take part in the .Voting, for it is the most important rights of those who have sent us here which are at issue.”

Herr Senff then talks about Poland’s history since the first partition, elaborating it with a series of deliberate falsifications and gross lies so that, in comparison, Herr Stenzel is a pitiable dabbler. Everything that is tolerable in Posen owes its inception to the Prussian Government and the “Netze brethren”.

“The Grand Duchy of Warsaw was set up. The Prussian officials were replaced by Polish officials and, in 1814, hardly a trace remained of the benefits these provinces derived from Prussian rule.”

Herr Senff is quite right. “No trace remained” of serfdom or of the cash contributions that Polish districts had to pay to Prussian educational institutions, e.g. the University of Halle, or of the extortions and brutalities perpetrated by Prussian officials who did not speak Polish. But Poland was not yet lost [words are from the Polish national anthem] for, thanks to Russia, Prussia began to thrive once more and Posen was again incorporated into Prussia.

“From that time on, the Prussian Government renewed its efforts to improve conditions in the Province of Posen.”

Those who want to know more about this should read Flottwell’s memorandum of 1841. Up to 1830, the Government did nothing at all. Flottwell found only four miles of highway in the whole Grand Duchy! Shall we enumerate Flottwell’s benefactions? Herr Flottwell, a cunning bureaucrat, sought to bribe the Poles by building roads, opening up rivers, draining marshes etc.; but he bribed them not with the money of the Prussian Government, but with their own money. All those improvements were, in the main, carried through with the aid of private and district resources and, though the Government occasionally contributed some money, this was only a small fraction of the amount it extracted from the province as taxes and revenues from the Polish state and church domains. The Poles, moreover, are indebted to Herr Flottwell not only for the continuing suspension (since 1826) of district council elections, but especially for the gradual expropriation of Polish landowners as a result of the Government buying up the auctioned estates of noblemen and reselling them only to loyal Germans (Order in Council of 1833). The last benefaction of Flottwell’s administration was the improvement of the educational system. But this too was a measure designed to further Prussianisation. Prussian teachers were to Prussianise the young noblemen and future Catholic priests in the secondary schools, and the peasants in the primary schools. In an unguarded outburst, Herr Wallach, the Regierungspräsident of the Bromberg administrative district, has divulged the purpose of these educational establishments. He writes to Herr Beurmann, the Oberpräsident that the Polish language is one of the chief obstacles to the dissemination of education and well-being among the rural population. This is indeed quite true if the teacher does not speak Polish.

Incidentally, it was again the Poles themselves who paid for these schools. For, first of all, the majority, including the most important institutes, which did not, however, directly serve the goal of Prussianisation, were founded and endowed by private contributions or by the Provincial Estates and, secondly, even the schools designed to Prussianise the population were maintained out of the revenues of monasteries secularised on March 31, 1833, and only 21,000 talers a year, for ten years, were granted by the treasury.

Herr Flottwell admits, moreover, that all reforms were initiated by the Poles. The fact that the greatest benefactions of the Prussian Government consisted in the collection of large revenues and taxes and in enlisting young men into the Prussian military service, is passed over in silence by Herr Flottwell, just as it is by Herr Senff.

In short, all the benefactions of the Prussian Government simply amount to the provision of posts for Prussian non-commissioned officers in Posen, be it as drill-master, schoolmaster, policeman or tax-collector.

We cannot discuss in detail the other unfounded accusations which Herr Senff levels against the Poles, nor his false statistical data. It is sufficient to say that the purpose of Herr Senff’s speeches is simply to make the Assembly detest the Poles.

Herr Robert Blum follows. As usual, he delivers what is called a profound oration, i.e. an oration which contains more opinion than reason and more rhetoric than opinion, and which, incidentally, as a piece of rhetoric — as we have to admit — produces no greater effect than the “modern concept of the world” of Herr Goeden from Krotoszyn. Poland is the rampart against Nordic barbarism ... if the Poles have vices it is the fault of their oppressors ... old Gagern declares that the partition of Poland is the nightmare that weighs on our time ... the Poles warmly love their fatherland and, in this respect, we might take a leaf out of their book ... danger is imminent from Russia ... if the red republic were victorious in Paris and desired to liberate the Poles by force of arms, what then, gentlemen?... Let us not be prejudiced etc., etc.

We are sorry for Herr Blum, but when all these fine observations are divested of their rhetorical flourishes, nothing remains but the most vapid political hot air, be it political hot air on a grand scale and in high style — as we gladly admit. Even when Herr Blum asserts that, to be consistent, the National Assembly must act in Schleswig Bohemia, the Italian Tyrol, the Russian Baltic provinces and Alsace according to the same principle as in Posen, the argument is justified only with regard to the stupid lies about nationality and the convenient inconsistency of the majority. When, again, he asserts that, if Germany wants to behave decently, she can conduct negotiations on Posen only with an already existing Poland, we shall not deny this, but merely observe that this argument — the only weighty one of his speech — had been advanced hundreds of times before by the Poles themselves and in a much more convincing way, whereas Herr Blum, with great “restraint and indulgent moderation”, shoots it quite ineffectively, like a blunt rhetorical arrow, at the callous breast of the majority.

Herr Blum is right when he says that shrapnel is no argument, but he is wrong — and he knows it — when he tries impartially to take a “moderate” superior standpoint. Herr Blum may not clearly understand the Polish question, but that is his own fault. He is in a sorry plight however, first, when he hopes to prevail upon the majority to demand even a report from the Central Authority, and secondly, when he imagines he will gain anything by virtue of a report furnished by the Ministers of this Central Authority, who, on August 6, submitted so disgracefully to the Prussian desire for sovereignty.[250] To sit with the “extreme Left” one must first of all entirely discard indulgent moderation and refrain from attempts to secure anything, however small, from the majority.

Whenever the Polish question is debated, almost the entire Left indulges, as usual, in declamation or even in extravagant rhapsody, without discussing the facts and the actual content of the question. Yet, with regard to this question in particular, there is ample material available and the facts are extremely convincing. But this requires that one really studies the problem, and one can of course save oneself the trouble, since, having passed through the purgatory of the election, one is no longer accountable to anybody.

We shall return to the few exceptions to this rule in the course of the debate. Tomorrow we shall say a few words to Herr Wilhelm Jordan, who is no exception, but who this time, in the literal sense and for definite reasons, follows the multitude.

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 86, August 26, 1848


Cologne, August 25. At last, thank God, we leave the low sandy plain of vapid political hot air and enter the more elevated Alpine regions of great debate. At last we mount the cloud-covered peak where eagles -nest, where man finds himself face to face with the gods and looks down disdainfully on the diminutive rabble that far, far below grapples with the few arguments at the disposal of the ordinary human intellect. At last, after the skirmishes of a Blum with a Stenzel, a Goeden, a Senff of Inowroclaw, the great battle begins, during which Ariostian heroes scatter the splintered arrows of their mind all over the battlefield.

The ranks of the combatants open reverentially and Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin advances with drawn sword.

Who is Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin?

In the heyday of German men of letters, Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin was one such in Königsberg. Semi-legal meetings were held in the Böttchershöfchen. Herr Wilhelm Jordan went to one, read a poem of his — “Der Schiffer und sein Gott” [The Skipper and His God] — and was expelled.

Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin went to Berlin. Certain student meetings were held there. Herr Wilhelm Jordan recited a poem — “Der Schiffer und sein Gott” — and was expelled.

Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin went to Leipzig. There, too, some innocuous meetings were held. Herr Wilhelm Jordan recited a poem — “Der Schiffer und sein Gott” — and was expelled.

Herr Wilhelm Jordan, moreover, published several of his writings: a poem “Glocke und Kanone” [Bell and Cannon]; a collection of Lithuanian folk-songs, including some of his own manufacture, in particular songs of Poland written by himself; translations of George Sand’s works; a periodical, the incomprehensible “comprehended world” etc. — all this in the service of the renowned Herr Otto Wigand, who has not yet got on so far as his French original, M. Pagnerre; furthermore, he published a translation of Lelewel’s Histoire de Pologne, with an introduction full of enthusiasm for Poland etc.

The revolution came. En un lugar de la Mancha, cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme ["At a certain village of La Mancha, which I shall not name” — the words with which Cervantes’ Don Quixote begins] — in a locality in the German Mancha, in Brandenburg, where Don Quixotes still thrive, a locality the name of which I do not like to remember, Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin proposed himself as candidate for the German National Assembly. The peasants of the district were amiably constitutional men. Herr Wilhelm Jordan delivered several impressive speeches, full of the most constitutional amiability. The delighted peasants elected the great man as their deputy. As soon as he arrived in Frankfurt, the noble “irresponsible” man took his scat on the “extreme” Left and voted with the republicans. The peasants who, as electors, have produced this parliamentary Don Quixote, send him a vote of no confidence, reminding him of his promises and recalling him. But Herr Wilhelm Jordan considers that his word is as little binding as that of a king and at every opportunity continues to sound his “bell and cannon” in the Assembly.

Each time Herr Wilhelm Jordan mounted the pulpit of St. Paul’s Church, [meeting place of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt] he in fact recited only a poem — “Der Schiffer und sein Gott” — but this does not mean that he therefore deserves to be expelled.

Let us listen to the great Wilhelm Jordan’s latest ringing of the bell and the most recent roar of his cannon about Poland.

“On the contrary I believe that we must raise ourselves to the world-historical standpoint, from which the Posen affair has to be examined in terms of its significance as an episode in the great Polish drama.”

The powerful Herr Wilhelm Jordan has, with one move, raised us high above the clouds to the lofty, snow-capped Chimborazo of the “world-historical standpoint” and unfolds an infinite prospect before us.

But, to begin with, he remains for a moment in the commonplace sphere of “special” deliberation, and with much success at that. Here are a few examples:

“It” (the Netze district) “later, as a result of the Treaty of Warsaw” (i.e. the first partition), “came under Prussian rule and has since remained in Prussia, if one leaves out of account the short interlude of the Duchy of Warsaw.”

Herr Jordan speaks here of the Netze district as distinct from the rest of Posen. What source does he use here, this knight of the world-historical standpoint, the expert in Polish history, the translator of Lelewel? None other than the speech of Herr Senff of Inowroclaw! He sticks so closely to this source, that he quite forgets that, in 1794, the other, Polish part of Posen “came under Prussian rule and, if one leaves out of account the short interlude of the Duchy of Warsaw, has since remained in Prussia”. But the “Netze brother” Senff never mentioned this, and the “world-historical standpoint” consequently knows merely that the administrative district of Posen “came under Prussian rule” only in 1815.

“Furthermore, from time immemorial, the western districts of Birnbaum, Meseritz, Bomst and Fraustadt have been German as regards the overwhelming majority of their inhabitants — you can see this even from the names of these towns.”

And the district of Miedzychód, Herr Jordan, was “from time immemorial Polish”, as regards the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants — you can see this even from the name, can’t you, Herr Jordan?

The district of Miedzychód is nothing but the district of Birnbaum. Miedzychód is the Polish name of the town.

What backing will these etymological chambers of reunion of the world-historical standpoint” of the “comprehended world” obtain from the Christian-German Herr Leo! Not to mention the fact that Mailand, Lüttich, Genf, Kopenhagen have been “German from time immemorial, as you can see even from their names”. Does not the “world-historical standpoint” also deduce the immemorial Germanity of Haimons-Eichicht, Welsch-Leyden, Jenau and Kaltenfelde “even from their names"? True, he will have trouble finding these primevally German names on the map and when he learns that they denote Le Quesnoi, Lyons, Genoa and Campo Freddo, he will only have Herr Leo, who manufactured them, to thank for his embarrassment.

What will the world-historical standpoint say, if presently the French claim Cologne, Coblence, Mayence and Francfort as primevally French territory? Woe then to the world-historical standpoint!

But let us dwell no longer on these petites misères de la vie humaine, [small mishaps of life] they also befall greater men. Let us follow Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin, as he soars to higher spheres. He says of the Poles that one

“likes them more the further away one is from them and the less one knows about them, and one likes them less the closer one gets to them”. Hence the reason for “this affection is not some superior quality of the Polish character but rather a certain cosmopolitan idealism”.

But how does the world-historical standpoint explain that the peoples of the world do not “like” a certain nation, either when they are “at a great distance from it” or when they “get closer” to it, and that, with rare concurrence, they despise, exploit, deride and spurn this nation? This is the German nation.

The world-historical standpoint will say, this is due to “cosmopolitan materialism”, thus extricating himself.

Quite untroubled by such petty objections, however, the world-historical eagle on his mighty pinions soars higher and higher, until he reaches the pure ether of the idea that exists in itself and for itself, and gives vent to the following heroic world-historical Hegelian hymn:

“Even if one vindicates history, which in the course of its necessary progress inexorably crushes with its iron heel a nation that is no longer strong enough to maintain its position among equal nations, it would nevertheless be inhuman and barbaric to feel no sympathy when one observes the long suffering of such a people, and I am far from harbouring such callous thoughts.” (God will not fail to reward you for this, noble Jordan!) “But it is one thing to be moved by a tragedy, and quite another to attempt to undo this tragedy. It is precisely the fact that the hero succumbs to iron necessity that turns his fate into true tragedy and, trying to interfere with the course of destiny and out of human considerations attempting to stay the revolving wheels of history and turn them back once more, is to expose oneself to the danger of being crushed by them. The desire to restore Poland simply because her ruin justly fills us with sorrow, is, to my mind, imbecile sentimentality!”

What an abundance of ideas! What profound wisdom! What stirring language! Thus speaks the world-historical standpoint, once he has corrected the shorthand reports of his speeches.

The Poles have the choice; if they want to stage a “true tragedy” they have to submit humbly to being destroyed by the iron heel and the revolving wheels of history and say to Nicholas: Thy will be done! if, however, they want to rebel and, for a change, try to use the “iron heel of history” to crush their oppressors, then there is no “true tragedy”, and Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin can no longer take any interest in them. Thus speaks the world-historical standpoint whose aesthetic knowledge stems from Professor Rosenkranz.

What was the inexorable, the iron necessity which has temporarily destroyed Poland? It was the decline of the noblemen’s democracy based on serfdom, that is the development of a big aristocracy within the nobility. This was a step forward, as it was the only way out of the antiquated noblemen’s democracy. What was the result? The iron heel of history, i.e. the three Eastern autocrats, crushed Poland. The aristocracy was compelled to enter into an alliance with foreign states, in order to cope with the noblemen’s democracy. The Polish aristocracy until recently, and partially even up to the present, remained the faithful ally of Poland’s oppressors.

What is the reason for the inexorable, the iron necessity for Poland’s liberation? It is the fact that the rule of the aristocracy in Poland, which has continued, since 1815, at least in Posen and Galicia, and to some extent even in Russian Poland, is today just as antiquated and hollow as was the democracy of the lower nobility in 1772. It is the fact that the establishment of a form of agrarian democracy has become vital to Poland, not only politically but also socially; the fact that agriculture, the source of existence of the Polish people, will be ruined, if the peasants who are serfs or liable to labour services, do not become free landowners, and the fact that an agrarian revolution cannot possibly be carried through without simultaneously winning a national existence and taking possession of the Baltic coast and the estuaries of the Polish rivers.

And Herr Jordan of Berlin calls this attempting to stay the revolving wheels of history and trying to turn them back once more!

It is true that the old Poland of the noblemen’s democracy died and was buried long since, and only Herr Jordan can expect that anyone wants to nullify the “true tragedy” of this Poland, but the “hero” of this tragedy has produced a strapping son, and many a foppish Berlin literary man may indeed shudder at the thought of making his closer acquaintance. This son, who is still only preparing to act out his drama and to put his shoulder to the “revolving wheels of history”, but who is bound to achieve success, this son is the Poland. of the peasant democracy.

Some stale literary flourishes, a little imitated contempt of the world — which in Hegel was a sign of audacity, but becomes a cheap and nonsensical platitude in Herr Jordan — in short a sample of the bell and cannon, “sound and fury” [Goethe, Faust] expressed in inadequate sentences and, in addition, incredible confusion and ignorance of quite ordinary historical circumstances — this is what the world-historical standpoint amounts to.

Long live the world-historical standpoint and its comprehended world!

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 90, August 31, 1848


Cologne, August 26. The second day of battle provides an even grander picture than the first. True, we miss Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin, whose lips captivated the hearts of all who heard him, but let us be modest, a Radowitz, Wartensleben, Kerst and Rodomont-Lichnowski are not to be despised.

Herr Radowitz mounts the rostrum first. The speech of the leader of the Right is short, firm and calculated. No more declamation than necessary. Wrong premises, but concise rapid conclusions based on these premises. An appeal to the fear of the Right. Cold-blooded certainty of success which banks on the cowardice of the majority. Profound contempt for the entire Assembly, for the Right as well as the Left. These are the outlines of the short speech delivered by Herr Radowitz, and we understand very well the effect these few icy and unostentatious words were bound to produce in an assembly used to hearing the most pompous and shallow rhetorical exercises. Herr Wilhelm Jordan of Berlin would have been delighted, if with his entire “comprehended” and not comprehended world of images he had produced a tenth of the effect Herr Radowitz produced with his short and, basically, also quite superficial speech.

Herr Radowitz is not a man of “character”, not a steadfast worthy, but he is a person with clear-cut, distinct traits; one needs only to read one of his speeches to know him thoroughly.

We have. never coveted the honour of being an organ of any particular group of the parliamentary Left. On the contrary, because of the various different elements from which the democratic party has been formed in Germany, we have considered it essential to keep an especially close watch on the democrats. In view of the lack of energy, of decision, of talent and of knowledge we have encountered among the leaders, with a few exceptions, of all parties, we are pleased that Herr Radowitz is at least a worthy opponent.

Herr Radowitz is followed by Herr Schuselka. In spite of all previous warnings, he nevertheless makes a touching appeal to the heart. An immensely long-winded discourse, interspersed with a few historical arguments and occasionally some Austrian common sense. On the whole, it has a wearisome effect.

Herr Schuselka has gone to Vienna, having been elected a member of the Imperial Diet which meets in that city. This is the right place for him. If in Frankfurt he sat on the Left, there he will find himself in the Centre. If in Frankfurt he had some influence, his first speech in Vienna will prove a failure. This is the fate of all literary and philosophical great pot-house politicians, who use the revolution only to improve their own position — if for a moment they are placed on really revolutionary ground, they disappear at once.

The ci-devant Count von Wartensleben follows. Herr Wartensleben steps forth as a portly, honest man overflowing with benevolence, who tells anecdotes about his march as a member of the army reserve to the Polish frontier in 1830, he then turns into Sancho Panza and speaks in proverbs to the Poles, e.g. a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and, at the same time, he quite innocently manages to slip in the following perfidious remark:

“What is the reason that even Polish officials were not prepared to take over the reorganisation of the part that was to be ceded? I fear they are themselves afraid, they feel that they are not yet advanced enough to be able to organise the population in an orderly manner, and consequently merely pretend that it is Polish patriotism which prevents them from making even the initial preparations for a happy resurrection!”

in other words, the Poles have, for eighty years, been continuously fighting and sacrificing their lives and property for a cause which they themselves regard as impossible and absurd.

In conclusion Herr Wartensleben is in agreement with Herr Radowitz.

Mr. Janiszewski from Posen, a member of the Posen National Committee, mounts the rostrum.

Mr. Janiszewski’s speech is the first piece of truly parliamentary eloquence to be delivered from the rostrum of St. Paul’s Church. At last we hear a speaker who does not simply try to win the approval of the hall, but whose language is marked by true dynamic passion, and who, for this reason, produces an effect quite different from that produced by any of the preceding speakers. Blum’s appeal to the conscience of the Assembly, Jordan’s cheap bombast, Radowitz’s cold logic, Schuselka’s genial prolixity, all, without exception, sink into insignificance by the side of this Pole who fights for the existence of his nation and demands the restoration of his legitimate rights. Janiszewski speaks in an impassioned and forceful way, but without declamation. He merely reports facts with the justified indignation, without which a correct description of such facts is impossible and which is doubly justified after the shameless misrepresentations made earlier in the debate. His speech, which in fact constitutes the core of the debate, refutes all earlier attacks against the Poles, makes amends for the mistakes of the supporters of the Poles, leads the debate back to the only real and just basis, and deprives speakers of the Right who are to follow of the most high-sounding arguments in advance.

“You have swallowed the Poles, but, by God, you shall not digest them!”

This striking summary of Janiszewski’s speech will endure, as will also the pride with which he replies to the begging speeches of the supporters of the Poles:

“I do not come to you as a beggar, I come relying on my legitimate right; I do not ask for sympathy but only for justice.”

Mr. Janiszewski is followed by Herr Kerst, a head-master from Posen. The Pole fighting for the existence and the social and political freedom of his people is followed by a Prussian schoolmaster who has immigrated to Posen and is fighting for his salary. The fine passionate indignation of the oppressed is followed by the trite impudence of the bureaucrat who lives on oppression.

The partition of Poland “which today is called a disgrace” was at the time “a quite ordinary event”.

“The right of peoples to separate according to nationality is a brand-new right recognised nowhere.... It is only actual possession which matters in politics.”

These are a few of the pithy expressions on which Herr Kerst bases his arguments. They are followed by the most clumsy contradictions:

“As a result of the acquisition of Posen, a piece of land has been incorporated into Germany which is indeed predominantly Polish”, and a little later: “As far as the Polish part of Posen is concerned, it has not asked to be joined to Germany and, as far as I know, you, gentlemen, do not intend to admit this part against its will!”

In this connection he gives statistical data about the population ratio, data which correspond to the famous survey of the “Netze brethren”, according to which only those are regarded as Poles who do not speak any German, and all those are deemed Germans who speak a little broken German. Finally comes a most artificial calculation, by which he proves that the minority that voted for joining Germany, when the vote was taken in the Posen Provincial Diet — a minority of 17 to 26 — was really a majority...

“It is true that under the Provincial Law there must be a majority of 213 to pass resolutions. Now, it is true that 17 is not quite 213 of 26, but the missing fraction is so small that over such a serious question it cannot really he taken into consideration."!!

Thus, if the minority is 2/3 of the majority, then it is “under the Provincial Law” a majority! The old Prussians will greatly honour Herr Kerst for this discovery. — But in fact the position is this — in order to make an application, 2/3 must vote for it. Admission into the German Confederation was such an application. Application for admission was therefore only legal if 2 /3 of the Assembly, i.e . 2 /3 of the 43 who took part in the division, voted for it. But, instead, almost 2 1/2 voted against it. But what does it matter? For l7 is almost “2/3 of 43"!

It is not surprising that the Poles are not so well “educated” as are the citizens of the “Staat der Intelligenz, [Hegel] if this intelligent state sends them teachers who are such expert arithmeticians.

Herr Clemens from Bonn makes the correct observation that the Prussian Government was not interested in the Germanisation of Posen but in its Prussianisation, and compares the attempts to Prussianise Posen with similar attempts in the Rhineland.

Herr Ostendorf of Soest, the son of red soil, [Westphalia] reads from a compendium of political platitudes and twaddle, he indulges in possibilities, probabilities and conjectures, jumping from one subject to another, from Herr Jordan to the French, from the red republic to the redskins of North America, and puts the Poles on a par with them, and the “Netze brethren” on a par with the Yankees. An audacious comparison worthy of the red soil! Imagine Herr Kerst, Herr Senff and Herr Goeden as backwoodsmen in a log hut with shotgun and spade — what a priceless comedy!

Herr Franz Schmidt from Löwenberg mounts the rostrum. He speaks calmly and unostentatiously. This is all the more commendable since Herr Schmidt belongs to a profession which is usually excessively fond of declamation, i.e. the German Catholic priesthood. Herr Schmidt’s speech, after that of Janiszewski, is certainly the best of the whole debate, because it is the most convincing and best informed. Herr Schmidt demonstrates that the committee’s display of learning (the content of which we have already examined) hides abysmal ignorance of actual conditions. Herr Schmidt, who has lived for many years in the Grand Duchy of Posen, shows that even with regard to this small district, which he knows in great detail, the committee has made the crudest blunders. He shows that the committee has failed to give the Assembly adequate information about any of the decisive questions and has even called upon the Assembly to make decisions at random without any factual data or any knowledge of the matter. He demands in the first place information about the actual state of affairs. He proves that the proposals of the committee are incompatible with their premises. He quotes Flottwell’s memorandum and calls upon Flottwell, who is also present as a deputy, to make a statement should the document not be genuine. He finally makes public the fact that the “Netze brethren” came to Gagern and, by false news about an alleged uprising in Posen, tried to persuade him to bring the debate to a rapid close. True, Gagern denied this, but Herr Kerst has loudly boasted of it.

The majority has taken revenge on Herr Schmidt for his bold speech by seeing to it that the speech was falsified in the stenographic reports. Herr Schmidt himself three times rectified the nonsense inserted in one passage, but it was nevertheless printed. Table-banging against Schlöffel, crude violence against Brentano and falsification against Schmidt — the gentlemen of the Right are indeed subtle critics!

Herr Lichnowski concludes the sitting, but we shall save this friend of ours for the next article; one should not act precipitately when dealing with a speaker of Herr Lichnowski’s calibre!

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 91, September 1, 1848


Cologne, August 31. The bel-homme of the Assembly, the German Bayard, the knight without fear and without reproach, the ex-Prince (Paragraph 6 of the Fundamental Rights) von Lichnowski mounts the rostrum with chivalrously courteous propriety and a self-satisfied smile. With the pure accents of a Prussian lieutenant and with disdainful nonchalance, he divests himself of the few disconnected thoughts he has to communicate to the Assembly.

The handsome knight is definitely a necessary element in this debate. If there is anyone to whom Herr Goeden, Herr Senff and Herr Kerst have still not demonstrated the worth of the German Poles sufficiently clearly, the example of the knight Lichnowski will show him what a disgusting phenomenon — despite the comely figure — is the Prussianised Slav. Herr Lichnowski and the German Poles are kindred spirits; by his mere appearance on the rostrum, Herr Lichnowski makes the dossier more complete. The slachcic [Polish nobleman] from Upper Silesia who has been transformed into a Prussian squire from the backwoods provides a living example of what the loving Prussian Government intends to do with the nobility of Posen. Herr Lichnowski, despite all his protestations, is not a German, he is a “reorganised” Pole; he does not speak German, he speaks Prussian.

Herr Lichnowski begins with the assertion that he fee the most chivalrous sympathy for the Poles, he pays compliments to Mr. Janiszewski, he upholds the Poles’ claim to “the great poetry of martyrdom”, and then he suddenly makes an about turn and asks: Why has this sympathy waned? Because “the Poles fought in the first line at the barricades” in all insurrections and revolutions! This is indeed a crime that will no longer be committed once the Poles are .reorganised”. Incidentally, we can give Herr Lichnowski the reassuring information that even among the “Polish emigrants” and even among the Polish nobility in exile who, according to Herr Lichnowski, have sunk so low, there are people who have remained entirely uncontaminated by any contact with the barricades.

Now follows an amusing scene.

Lichnowski: “The gentlemen of the Left, who trample under foot documents that have turned yellow with age, have, in a conspicuous way, evoked historical rights. There is no justification for stressing one date as against another in the interest of the Polish cause. With regard to historical right there dc>es not exist no dare (Loud laughter on the Left.)
"With regard to historical right there does not exist no date.” (Loud laughter on the Left.)
President: “Gentlemen, allow the speaker to finish the sentence, do not interrupt him."
Lichnowski: “Historical right does not have no date.” (Laughter on the Left.)
President: “Please do not interrupt the speaker, silence, please!” (Agitation.)
Lichnowski: “As regards historical right, no date exists” (cheers and hilarity on the Left) “which could vindicate a greater degree of right than any earlier date!”

Were we not justified in saying that the noble knight speaks not German, but Prussian?

The historical right which “does not have no date” encounters a formidable adversary in our noble paladin.

“If we go further back into history, we find” (in Posen) “many districts which were Silesian and German; if we go back still further, we reach the time when Leipzig and Dresden were built by Slavs, and we then arrive at Tacitus, and God only knows, where the gentlemen would lead us if we were to broach this subject.”

The world must be in a bad way. The estates of the Prussian knights must be mortgaged beyond redemption, the pressure of their Jewish creditors must have become formidable, their promissory notes must be coming due for payment in rapid succession, public auction, imprisonment, dismissal from service owing to thoughtlessly incurred debts — all these horrors of extreme pecuniary distress must threaten the Prussian knights with inevitable ruin, for things to have come to such a pass that a Lichnowski attacks the same historical right in whose defence he won his spurs at Don Carlos’ round table.

True, only God knows whither the bailiffs would convey the lean knights if we were to broach the subject of the historical right governing debts! Yet, are these debts not their best quality and the only one that can serve the Prussian paladins as an excuse?

The bel-homme then comes to his subject and observes that, when speaking to the German Poles, one should not “paint a vague picture of a remote and obscure future Poland” (!); he thinks the Poles would not be satisfied with Posen:

“If I had the honour to be a Pole, I would every morning and every evening ponder on the re-establishment of the old Polish kingdom.”

But since Herr Lichnowski does not “have the honour”, since he is merely a reorganised Pole of Upper Silesia [Wasserpolack], he ponders on quite different and less patriotic matters “every morning and every evening.”

“To be frank, I must say that a few hundred thousand Poles must become Germans, which, to tell the truth, would not, under the present conditions, he a misfortune for them either.”

On ‘ the contrary, how nice it would be if the Prussian Government laid out a new plantation to grow still more of the wood from which the Lichnowskis are made.

The moustache-twirling knight continues to talk for some time in the same pleasantly nonchalant manner, which is in the main intended for the ladies in the gallery, but is still good enough for the Assembly as well, and then concludes:

“I have nothing more to say. It is now up to you to decide whether to absorb five hundred thousand Germans or to turn them away... but in that case, you will cross out the poem of our old national bard: ‘As far as the German language rings, and God in Heaven his poem sings.” Strike out this poem!”

It is indeed bad that, when old Arndt wrote his poem, he did not think of the Polish Jews and their German. But fortunately, we have our Upper Silesian paladin. Who is not aware of the nobility’s old obligations to the Jews, obligations that have become respectable in the course of centuries? What the old plebeian omitted, Lichnowski, the knight, remembers.

As far as a Polish Jew jabbers of German a spate,
Lends at high interest, falsifies money and weight

— that is the extent of Herr Lichnowski’s fatherland!

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 93, September 3, 1848


Cologne, September 2. The third day of the debate revealed a general weariness. The same arguments are repeated without any improvement and the stenographic report would have been dull enough to send one to sleep if the first honourable speaker, Citizen Arnold Ruge, had not produced his rich stock of new reasons.

Citizen Ruge moreover [knows] his merits better than anyone else. He promises:

“I will apply all the passion I possess and all my knowledge.”

He tables a motion; this is, however, not an ordinary motion, not a motion in general, but the only correct motion, the true motion, the absolute motion:

There is nothing else that can be proposed and that is admissible. One can choose to do something else, gentlemen, for man is able to deviate from the correct path. By deviating from what is right, man shows that he has free will ... but what is right does not thereby cease to be right. In our case, my motion represents the only right thing that can be done.”

(In this case therefore, Citizen Ruge sacrifices his “free will” to what is “right”.)

Let us closer examine the passion, the knowledge and the only right thing of Citizen Ruge.

“The destruction of Poland is a shameful injustice because it has stifled the remarkable development of a nation that had rendered great services to the European family of nations and in a resplendent way had developed chivalry, one of the aspects of medieval life. The republic of nobles was prevented by despotism from bringing about its own internal (!) abolition, which would have been possible by means of the Constitution that had been prepared during the revolutionary period.

The people in Southern France were, in the Middle Ages, no closer to the people in Northern France than the Poles are now to the Russians. In the Middle Ages, the Southern French, commonly called Provençals, achieved not only a “remarkable development”, they even led European development. They were the first modern nation to have a literary language. Their poetry was regarded by all Romance peoples, and even by the Germans and the English, as a model unequalled at the time. They vied with the Castilians, the Northern Frenchmen and the English Normans in the perfection of feudal chivalry and were equal to the Italians in industry and commerce. They did not only develop “one aspect of medieval life” “in a resplendent way”, they even produced a flash of the ancient Hellenic culture in the darkest Middle Ages. The people from Southern France have, therefore, rendered not only great, but immeasurable “services to the European family of nations”. Nevertheless, like the Poles, they were first partitioned between Northern France and England and later completely subjugated by the Northern French. From the wars against the Albigenses to Louis XI, the Northern French — who were culturally just as inferior to their Southern neighbours as the Russians to the Poles — waged continuous wars of conquest against the Southern French and, finally, conquered the whole country. The Southern French “republic of nobles” (this designation is quite correct for its heyday) “was prevented by despotism” (Louis XI) “from bringing about its own internal abolition”, which would have been certainly no less possible there, owing to the rise of the middle class in the towns, than it would have been in the Polish case by means of the Constitution of 1791.

The Southern French fought against their oppressors for centuries — but historical development was inexorable. After a struggle lasting three centuries, their beautiful language was reduced to a patois and they themselves were turned into Frenchmen. Northern French despotism ruled over Southern France for three hundred years and, only then, did the Northern French make amends for their oppressive rule — by destroying the last vestiges of Southern French independence. The Constituent Assembly divided up the independent provinces, and it was the iron fist of the Convention that first turned the inhabitants of Southern France into Frenchmen and, in reparation for their nationality, gave them democracy. What Citizen Ruge says about the Poles is, however, quite literally a fitting description of the three hundred years of oppression:

“Russia’s despotism has not liberated the Poles; the annihilation of the Polish nobility and the exile of so many noble families from Poland has not established democracy or humane conditions of life in Russia.”

But the subjugation of Southern France by the Northern French has never been called “shameful injustice”. What is the reason, Citizen Ruge? Either the subjugation of Southern France is a shameful injustice, or the subjugation of Poland is not a shameful injustice. It is up to Citizen Ruge to decide.

What is the difference between the Poles and the people of Southern France? Why was Southern France like inert ballast taken in tow by the Frenchmen from the North, even as far as the total obliteration of its nationality, whereas the Poles have every prospect of finding themselves very soon in the van of all Slav nationalities?

As a result of social conditions which we cannot explain in detail here, Southern France became the reactionary section of France. Its opposition to Northern France very soon became opposition to the progressive classes in the whole of France. It became the principal support of feudalism and has remained the backbone of the French counter-revolution up to now.

Poland, on the other hand, became a revolutionary part of Russia, Austria and Prussia, as a result of social conditions which we examined earlier (No. 81). Its opposition to its oppressors was, at the same time, opposition to the big aristocracy in Poland itself. Even the nobility, which was in part still feudal, supported the democratic-agrarian revolution with quite unprecedented selflessness. Poland had already become the focus of East-European democracy, when Germany was still floundering in the ideology of the most insipid constitutionalism and high-flown philosophy.

This, and not the resplendent development of chivalry which belongs to the past, guarantees the restoration of Poland and makes it inevitable.

But Herr Ruge has also a second reason for the necessity of an independent Poland within the “European family of nations”.

“The violence which has been done to the Poles has scattered them throughout Europe and they are everywhere giving vent to their anger over the injustice they suffered ... the Polish spirit has been humanised and purified in France and in Germany (!?): the Polish emigration constitutes propagation of freedom” (No. 1). “The Slavs have become capable of entering the great European family of nations” (the “family” is unavoidable!) “for ... their emigration has become the true apostolate of freedom” (No. 2). “The entire Russian army (!!) has been infected with modern ideas by the Poles, these apostles of freedom” (No. 3.). “I respect the forthright conviction of the Poles, which they have demonstrated throughout Europe, to make propaganda for freedom with all their might” (No. 4). “Throughout the annals of history they will be honoured for being pioneers” (No. 5), “wherever they have acted as pioneers (!!!).... The Poles are the element of freedom” (No. 6), “which has been tossed into Slavdom; they have led the Slav Congress in Prague 2 towards freedom” (No. 7), “they have been active in France, Russia and Germany. The Poles consequently constitute an effective element in present-day culture as well, they are effective, and because they are effective, because they are necessary, they are by no means dead.”

Citizen Ruge has to prove that the Poles are, first, necessary, and second, not dead. He does this by saying: “Because they are necessary, they are by no means dead.”

If one removes a few words — Poles, element, freedom, propaganda, culture, apostolate — from the above lengthy passage, in which one and the same idea is repeated seven times, one can see what remains of the whole bombastic statement.

Citizen Ruge has to prove that the restoration of Poland is necessary. He proves this in the following way: The Poles are not dead, on the contrary they are very much alive, they are effective, they are the apostles of freedom in the whole of Europe. What is the reason for this? The violence, the shameful injustice perpetrated on them, has scattered them all over Europe, where they gave vent to their anger over the injustice they suffered, to their just revolutionary anger. This anger has been “purified” during their exile, and this purified anger has enabled them to become apostles of freedom and has placed them “first at the barricades”. What follows from this? Wipe out the shameful injustice, the violence done, restore Poland, and the “anger” ceases, in can no longer be purified, the Poles go home and cease to be “apostles of freedom”. If it was only the “anger over the injustice they suffered” that turned the Poles into revolutionaries, then the removal of the injustice will turn them into reactionaries. If the only thing that keeps the Poles alive is reaction to oppression, then remove oppression and they will be dead.

Citizen Ruge therefore proves the exact opposite of what he wants to Prove. His arguments show that, in the interest of freedom and of the European family of nations, Poland must not be re-established.

Incidentally, the fact that, when discussing Poland, Citizen Ruge mentions only the emigrants and sees only emigrants at the barricades, throws a strange light on his “knowledge”. We certainly do not want to hurt the feelings of the Polish emigrants, who have their energy and courage on the battlefield and during proved eighteen years of conspiratorial activity in the interests of Poland. But we cannot deny that those who are well acquainted with the Polish emigrants know that they are far from being as apostolically freedom-loving and as keen on barricade fighting as they are depicted by Citizen Ruge who, in good faith, repeats ex-Prince Lichnowski’s assertions. The Polish emigrants have steadfastly persevered, have endured much and have worked hard for the restoration of Poland. But have the Poles within Poland done less, have they not braved greater dangers, have they not risked incarceration in Moabit and Spielberg, the knout and Siberian mines, Galician butcheries and Prussian shrapnel? But all this does not exist for Herr Ruge. He has not noticed either that the Poles who did not emigrate, have absorbed much more of the general European culture and have understood the needs of Poland, where they have lived all the time, much better than almost all the emigrants apart from Lelewel and Mieroslawski. All intelligent thinking which exists in Poland, or to use Ruge’s expression, which “has come to the Poles and upon the Poles”, is attributed by Citizen Ruge to their stay abroad. In No. [81] we have shown that the Poles did not have to go either to the French political dreamers — who failed in February, thanks to their own phrases — or to the profound German ideologists — who have not yet been able to find an opportunity to fail — in the quest for an understanding of their country’s needs; and what Poland needs. It is the great merit of the Poles that they were that Poland itself was the best school to gain an understanding of the first to realise and to propagate the fact that, for all Slav nations, the only possible form of liberation is agrarian democracy and not, as Citizen Ruge imagines, that the Poles “introduced into Poland and Russia” general phrases, such as “the great idea of political freedom, which matured in France, and even (!) the philosophy which emerged in Germany” (and in which Herr Ruge was submerged).

After this speech by Citizen Ruge, the Poles can exclaim: God protect us from our friends and we will protect ourselves from our enemies! But it has always been the greatest misfortune of the Poles that their non-Polish friends defend them with the worst possible arguments.

It certainly speaks in favour of the Left in Frankfurt that, apart from a few exceptions, the deputies of the Left were perfectly delighted with Citizen Ruge’s speech on Poland, a speech which contained the following passage:

“Whether we have in mind democratic monarchy, democratised monarchy (!) or pure democracy, let us not quarrel about this; on the whole we want the same thing — freedom, national freedom, and rule of the people!”

Are we expected to be enthusiastic about a Left that allows itself to be carried away when someone says that it wants “on the whole the same thing” as the Right, as Herr Radowitz, Herr Lichnowski, Herr Vincke and all the other fat or lean knights? A Left whose head has been turned with rapture and which forgets everything as soon as it hears a few empty slogans, such as “national freedom” and “rule of the people"?

But let us leave the Left and return to Citizen Ruge.

“So far, no revolution that swept the world was greater than the revolution of 1848.”

“As regards its principles, it is the most humane revolution” for these principles have arisen as a result of the glossing over of the most contradictory interests.

“It is the most humane revolution as regards its decrees and proclamations”, for they represent a compendium of philanthropical fantasies and sentimental phrases about fraternity produced by all the feather-heads of Europe.

“It is the most humane revolution as regards its actuality”, that is the massacres and barbarities in Posen, the murderous incendiarism of Radetzky, the ferocious cruelties committed in Paris by the victors of June, the butcheries in Cracow and Prague, the rule of brutal soldiery everywhere — in short, all the outrages which constitute the “actuality” of this revolution today, September 1, 1848, and which have spilled more blood in four months than was spilled in 1793 and 1794 taken together.

The “humane” Citizen Ruge!

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 96, September 7, 1848


Cologne, September 6. We have followed the historical investigations about the necessity of the existence of Poland undertaken by the “humane” Citizen Ruge. Citizen Ruge has spoken so far about the bad past, the period of despotism, he has edited the events of irrationalism; he comes now to the present, to the glorious year 1848, to the revolution, he is now on his home ground, he now edits the “rationale of events”.

“How can the emancipation of Poland be brought about? It can be brought about by agreements in which the two great civilised nations of Europe participate; they, together with Germany, a liberated Germany, are therefore bound to form a new Triple Alliance, for they think the same way and, on the whole, want the same thing.”

Here, in one bold passage, we have the whole rationale of evenly in foreign policy-alliance between Germany, France and Britain, all three of whom “think the same way and, on the whole, want the same thing”, a new Rütli Federation concluded by the three modern Swiss-Cavaignac, Leiningen and John Russell! It is true that France and Germany, with Cod’s help, have meanwhile again retrogressed so far that as regards general political principles their governments “think” more or less “the same way” as official circles in Britain, that stable counter-revolutionary rock surrounded by the sea.

But the countries do not only “think” the same way, they “also, on the whole, want the same thing”. Germany wants Schleswig, and Britain does not want to cede it to her; Germany wants protective tariffs, and Britain wants free trade; Germany wants unity, and Britain wants to see her disunited; Germany wants to be independent, and Britain seeks to subjugate her industrially — but what does that matter? “On the whole” they nevertheless want “the same thing"! And as to France, France issues tariff laws directed against Germany and France’s Minister Bastide sneers at schoolmaster Raumer, who represents Germany there — hence it is obvious that France “on the whole” wants “the same thing” as Germany! Indeed, Britain and France prove in the most striking manner that they want the same thing as Germany, by threatening her with war, Britain on account of Schleswig and France on account of Lombardy!

Citizen Ruge is ideologically naive enough to believe that nations which have certain political ideas in common, would, just for that reason, conclude an alliance. Altogether, Citizen Ruge’s political palette has only two colours — black and white, slavery and freedom. The world for him is divided into two great camps — into civilised nations and barbarians, freemen and serfs. The boundary line of freedom, which six months ago was situated on the other side of the Rhine, now coincides with the Russian frontier, and this advance is called the revolution of 1848. It is in this confused manner that the present movement is reflected in Citizen Ruge’s head. That is how he translates the battle-cry of those who fought at the barricades in February and March into Pomeranian. [from Heine who spoke about Ruge as a man who knew “how to translate Hegel into Pomeranian"]

If we translate it from the Pomeranian back into German, we find that the three civilised nations, the three free peoples, are those where bourgeois rule exists in various forms and at various stages of development, whereas the “slaves and serfs” are peoples ruled by patriarchal and feudal absolutism. For Arnold Ruge, the farouche [fierce] republican and democrat, freedom denotes the most ordinary “insipid” liberalism, the rule of the bourgeoisie, with perhaps some quasi-democratic forms — so that is the poodle’s core! [Goethe, Faust]

Citizen Ruge argues that France, Britain and Germany must of course be allies, because the bourgeoisie rules in these countries. And if the objective interests of the three countries are diametrically opposed to one another, if free trade with Germany and France is an indispensable condition for the existence of the British bourgeoisie, if protective tariffs against Britain are an indispensable condition for the existence of the French and German bourgeoisie, if, in many respects, similar relations obtain between Germany and France, and if this Triple Alliance amounted, in practice, to the industrial subjugation of France and Germany? — “Narrow-minded egoism mean mercenary minds,” mutters Ruge, the Pomeranian thinker: into his blond beard.

Herr Jordan spoke of the tragic irony of universal history. Citizen Ruge is a striking example of this. He, like the rest of the more or less ideological Left, sees his most cherished pet fantasies, his greatest mental efforts, wrecked by the class whom he represents. His philanthropically cosmopolitan project is wrecked by mean mercenary minds and he himself must, unknowingly and unintentionally, represent precisely these mercenary minds in a more or less ideologically distorted fashion. The ideologist proposes, the shopkeeper disposes. Tragic irony of universal history!

Citizen Ruge then says that France “has declared that, though the treaties of 1815 have been torn up, she is nevertheless willing to recognise the territorial division as it exists at present”. “This is quite right” for Citizen Ruge has found something in Lamartine’s manifesto, which so far nobody tried to find there — that is the basis of a new international right. He explains this in the following way:

“The new historical (!) right” (No. 1) “must proceed from this relationship with France. Historical right is the right of nations” (! No. 2). “In the case we are discussing (?), it is the new international right” (! No. 3). “This is the only correct interpretation of historical right” (!No. 4). “Any other interpretation of historical right” (! No. 5) “is absurd. There is no other international right” (!No. 6). “Historical right” (No. 7) “is the right” (at last!) “which is brought about by history and sanctioned by time, since it” (which?) “annuls and tears up hitherto existing treaties and replaces them by new ones.”

In short, historical right — edits the rationale of events!

Thus it is written, word for word, in the acts of the apostles of German unity, i.e. the stenographic reports of Frankfurt, page 1186, column one — and people complain that the Neue Rheinische Zeitung criticises Herr Ruge by means of exclamation marks! But this dizzy gyrating dance of historical right and international right was, of course, bound to stun the worthy members of the Left, as they were bound to be filled with admiration when the philosopher from Pomerania called out to them with unshakeable certainty: “Historical right is the right which is brought about by history and. sanctioned by time” etc.

“History” has indeed always “brought about” the exact opposite of what had been “sanctioned by time”, and the sanction of “time” has always consisted in overturning that which had been “brought about by history”

Citizen Ruge then tables the “only correct and admissible” motion:

“To instruct the Central Authority, in concert with Britain and France, to prepare a congress for the restoration of a free and independent Poland; all powers concerned are to be invited to send their envoys to this congress.”

What upright, honest views! Lord John Russell and Eugène Cavaignac are to restore Poland. The English and French bourgeoisie are to threaten Russia with war so as to bring about the liberation of Poland, which at present is a matter of complete indifference to them! At this time of general confusion and disarray, when the effect of every piece of reassuring news causing shares to rise by 1/8 per cent is nullified by six disturbing blows, when industry is struggling against creeping bankruptcy, when commerce is stagnant, when the unemployed proletariat has to be supported by enormous sums of money to prevent it from taking a last desperate stand — at this moment, can the bourgeoisie of the three civilised nations be expected to create an additional difficulty? And what a difficulty! A war with Russia, which has been the closest ally of Britain since February! War with Russia, a war which, as everybody knows, would spell the downfall of the German and French bourgeoisie! To what advantage? None at all. This is indeed more than Pomeranian ingenuousness!

But Citizen Ruge is absolutely confident that a “peaceful solution” of the Polish question is possible. This is getting better and better! And why? Because the point now is:

“What the treaties of Vienna want must now be put into practice and really carried out.... The treaties of Vienna wanted to maintain the right of all nations against the great French nation ... they wanted the restoration of the German nation.”

Now it becomes clear why Herr Ruge “on the whole wants the same thing” as the Right. The Right also wants the treaties of Vienna carried out.

The treaties of Vienna are the epitome of the great victory of reactionary Europe over revolutionary France. They are the classic form in which European reaction ruled for fifteen years during the Restoration period. They restore legitimacy, monarchy by divine right, feudal aristocracy, clerical rule, and patriarchal jurisdiction and administration. But since victory was won with the help of the English, German, Italian, Spanish and especially the French bourgeoisie, concessions had also to be made to the bourgeoisie. While the sovereigns, aristocrats, priests and bureaucrats divided the rich spoils among themselves, the bourgeoisie was put off with promissory notes drawn on the future, which were not honoured and which nobody had any intention of honouring. Instead of examining the real practical content of the treaties of Vienna, Herr Ruge assumes that these empty promises are their true content, and that reactionary practice is merely an improper misinterpretation!

One must indeed be an astonishingly good-natured person to believe, after 33 years, after the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, that these promissory notes will still be paid and to imagine that the sentimental phrases in which the illusory promises of Vienna are wrapped up have still any meaning in the year 1848.

Citizen Ruge appears as the Don Quixote of the treaties of Vienna.

Finally, Citizen Ruge reveals a great secret to the Assembly — it is only the fact that the treaties of 1815 were broken in Cracow in 1846 which caused the revolutions of 1848. Let this be a warning to all despots!

To sum up, Citizen Ruge has not changed in any way since we last met him in the field of literature. He still uses the same phrases which he had learned by heart and repeated ever since he worked as the door-keeper of German philosophy at the Hallischen and Deutschen Jahrbücher; there is still the same confusion, the same jumble of views, the same lack of ideas, the same gift of presenting the most banal and nonsensical ideas in a pompous manner, the same lack of “knowledge”, and, in particular, the same pretensions to the approbation of the German philistine, who has never heard the like in his life.

Here we conclude our summary of the debate on Poland. To expect us to deal with Herr Löw from Posen and the other great intellects that follow, is asking too much.

The debate as a whole leaves a sad impression. So many long speeches and so little content, so little knowledge of the subject and so little talent! The worst debate in the previous or the present French Chamber or in the British H’ use of Commons contains more intelligence, more expert knowledge and more real content than this discussion, which lasted for three days and dealt with one of the most interesting subjects of modern politics. Everything could have been made of it, and the National Assembly simply turned it into political twaddle.

There has indeed never and nowhere been an assembly like this!

The results are well known. Three-quarters of Posen has been conquered but it has been conquered not by force, or “German industry” or the “plough”, but by political twaddle, false statistics and timorous decisions.

“You have swallowed the Poles, but, by God, you shall not digest them!”


1. A reference to the King’s repeated promises to introduce a constitution in Prussia based on the estate principle.

2. The treaties signed by Russia, Prussia and Austria in Vienna on May 3, 1815, and the final act of the Congress of Vienna signed on June 9, 1815, pledged that representative bodies and national political institutions would be set up in all Polish lands. An assembly representing the social estates and endowed only with advisory functions was convoked in Poznan.

3. Black and white were the Prussian colours.

4. In February 1846 preparations were being made for an uprising whose aim was the liberation of Poland. Polish revolutionary democrats (Dembowski and others) took the initiative in organising it. But as a result of treachery on the part of the nobility and the arrest of the leaders by the Prussian police a general uprising was prevented and only local outbreaks occurred. That at Cracow was the only successful one; on February 22 the insurgents there set up a national government which issued a manifesto abolishing feudal obligations. The Cracow uprising was crushed in the beginning of March 1846 by Austrian, Prussian and Russian troops. The three powers signed an agreement the following November incorporating Cracow in the Austrian empire.

5. A character in the comedy Don Ranudo de Colibrados by Ludwig Holberg, the Danish writer, depicted as a stupid, arrogant, impoverished nobleman.

6. Words from the Polish national anthem.

7. The Poznan Committee and the Prussian representative General Willisen concluded the Convention of Jaroslawiec on April 11, 1848. Under this agreement the Polish insurgents were to lay down their arms and disband. In return the Poles were promised the “national reorganisation” of Poznan, i.e., the formation of a Polish army, appointment of Poles to administrative and other posts and recognition of Polish as an official language. But the Convention was treacherously broken by the Prussian administration, and the national liberation movement in Poznan was brutally suppressed by the Prussian troops.

8. On the orders of the Prussian General Pfuel the participants of the Poznan uprising who had been taken prisoner had their heads shaved and their hands and ears branded with lunar caustic (in German called Höllenstein, i.e., stone of hell), hence Pfuel’s nickname.

9. The chambers of reunion (chambres de réunion) were set up by Louis XIV in 1679 – 80 in order to justify and provide legal and historical reasons for France’s claims to certain lands of neighbouring states. These lands were subsequently occupied by French troops.

10. An ironic allusion to the war against Denmark waged in 1848 (for particulars of this war see Engels, “The Danish-Prussian Armistice,” NRZ, No. 99, 10 September.

11. Engels is alluding to the reactionary policy of the Holy Alliance in which Austria, Prussia and Russia played a leading role. At a congress of the Holy Alliance, which began in Troppau in October 1820 and ended in Laibach [today Ljubljana – MIA] in May 1821, the principle of intervention in the internal affairs of other states was officially proclaimed, and the decision taken to send Austrian troops into Italy in order to crush the revolutionary and national liberation movements there. French intervention in Spain with similar aims was decided upon at the Congress of Verona in 1822.

12. The Polish constitution of 1791 reflected the aspirations of the progressive sections of the nobility and urban bourgeoisie. It abolished the liberum veto (the principle that resolutions of the parliament can be passed only unanimously) and the elective monarchy, provided for a government responsible to the parliament and granted the urban bourgeoisie various political and economic rights. The constitution was directed against feudal anarchy, it strengthened the central authority and restricted the rights of the feudal aristocracy. It recognised the legal force of commutation agreements between landowners and peasants, thus alleviating the position of peasant serfs to some extent.