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[War Inevitable][249]

Frederick Engels

London, Friday, April 15, 1859

Though diplomacy still continues to toil in the effort to bring about a Congress, and by its means a peaceful settlement of the Italian question, nobody any longer believes in the possibility of avoiding war. The English Cabinet and Prussia are certainly sincere in their wish for peace; but Russia and France have entered into the present negotiations exclusively with the view of gaining time. Deep snow still lies on the Mont Cenis, by which the French army will have to pass on the way to Italy. Some additional French and Arab regiments are still to be levied in France and Algeria, and the preparations for the transport of troops between Marseilles, Toulon and Genoa are not yet completed, while the Russians must have time to organize the Wallachian militia and the irregular Servian army. In the mean while, the war party is in the ascendant at Vienna, and Francis Joseph desires nothing more ardently than the first roar of the cannon. Why, then, does he countenance the propositions for a Congress, when he knows that diplomatic delay will exhaust his financial resources and add to the force of his enemies? The answer lies in the attitude of the Prince of Prussia, who, unmoved by the German enthusiasm, tries to find an honorable pretext for maintaining an honest neutrality, and for evading the ruinous cost of an armed neutrality, which, sooner or later, will lead to war. Should Austria, in her eagerness to crush the Piedmontese army, begin the war, the Cabinet of Berlin would be justified in such a policy, even in' the eyes of Germany; while an attack of the French on Austria in Lombardy would necessarily lead to an official appeal of Francis Joseph to the German Confederation to put the federal armies on the footing of preparation for war. Such being the real intentions of Austria, it is ludicrous to see how the diplomatists of the different parties overreach one another by cunning devices, in order to force the adversary to strike the first blow. France finds fault with Austria's despotism; the man who peopled Lambessa and Cayenne with French Republicans is shocked that Francis Joseph should fill his prisons with Italian Republicans. Austria, on the other hand, which has confiscated Cracow, canceled the Constitution of Hungary[250], appeals seriously to the sacredness of treaties. Russia, which is now suddenly reminded that a paper currency is a great evil, and, therefore, is making an enormous loan, has, of course, no warlike desires, but proposes four points as basis of a Congress. These are the exact counterpart of the far-famed four points proposed to Russia by Austria during the Crimean war[251]. They include the abandonment of the Protectorate over the Italian Duchies, a Congress to regulate the administration of Italy, and settle the reforms necessary in that country, and a revision of the minor points of the great Treaties, such as the right of garrisoning Ferrara, Comacchio and Piacenza[252], which will become superfluous by a declaration of Italian neutrality. England takes up these propositions in good faith, softens them in form, and brings them to the notice of Austria. Count Buol, of course, hastens to accept them, but in such ambiguous language as not to leave any doubt as to his desire to discard them altogether. But he adds a new point, a previous general disarmament. Lord Malmesbury thinks this proposition very reasonable, and invites Count Cavour to dismiss a portion of the Sardinian army and to relieve the country from a great burden. Count Cavour has no exception to so excellent a suggestion, but pointing to the immense Austrian armaments in Lombardy, he turns to Count Buol and says, "After you". Count Buol answers that he cannot begin to disband his costly battalions unless Napoleon will do the same. Napoleon coolly replies: "I have not armed, therefore I cannot disarm. Neither Rothschild nor Péreire have I asked for a loan; I have no war budget. I keep up my army by the regular resources of the country; how can I then disarm?"[a] Lord Malmesbury dumb-founded by the impudence of this answer, but still anxious to try his diplomatic luck, next proposes that the Congress should begin with and first of all decide the question of disarming; but the Stock Exchange, with every sensible man in Europe, laughs at his gullibility, and is preparing for the worst. The German nation are fairly roused; but in Hanover, the agitation against France, encouraged by the Court, has suddenly taken a different turn. Awakened from their apathy, people think the time has come to settle their accounts at home as well as abroad, and if the present state of suspense should last for a couple of months longer, Germany will certainly stand in arms against France, but will insist upon liberty and unity at home as conditions of her acting. The Prince of Prussia knows his countrymen in this respect better than Francis Joseph, or the King of Bavaria[b], and, therefore, tries to prevent the spread of the excitement, which cannot fail to become dangerous to his semi-despotic tendencies.

Russia now has a good chance either to destroy the Turkish Empire by revolutions in Bosnia, Bulgaria and Albania, or to wreak vengeance on the Emperor of Austria. Of course she would not go to war against Francis Joseph, but she might encourage and abet a Moldo-Wallachian invasion of Transylvania and a Serbian one of Hungary. It is, of course, through the Wallachian and Slavonian elements that the Czar will try to disturb Hungary, or else an independent free Hungarian- State might become a more efficient barrier to his aggressive policy than the effete centralizing despotism of Austria.

The King of Naples[c] is on the point of death. Great agitation prevails in the Kingdom; some speak of a Constitution; some of a Muratist rising. The greatest probability is a Ministry formed by Filangieri, Duke of Satriano, representing enlightened absolutism, according to the original Prussian fashion[253]. Such a system, however, cannot last in the face of an Italian crisis, and would soon have to make room, first for a Constitution, then for a Sicilian rebellion, while Murat would fish in the troubled waters.

Written about April 11, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5624, April 30, 1859


[a] The content of the article from La Patrie of April 12 is in L'Indépendance belge, No. 104, April 14, 1859.—Ed.

[b] Maximilian II.—Ed.

[c] Ferdinand II.—Ed.

[249] Marx dated this article "April 15", the day when it was sent from London to New York.

[250] Cracow was annexed to the Austrian Empire after the suppression of the 1846 uprising (see Note 215↓).

After the suppression of the 1848-49 revolution in Hungary the Austrian authorities established a regime of severe terror there: they abrogated all the laws adopted during the revolution and, moreover, liquidated the partial autonomy enjoyed by Hungary even before the revolution.

[251] The reference is to the demands presented by the Western powers to Russia in a Note of August 8, 1854 as preliminary conditions for peace negotiations.

Russia was to give up its protectorate of Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia, which was to be replaced by a European guarantee, to allow free passage of ships on the Danube, to consent to the revision of the 1841 London Convention on the Straits, and to renounce its protection of the Christian subjects of Turkey. At first the Tsarist government rejected these Four Points but in November 1854 it was compelled to accept them as the basis of future peace negotiations.

[252] This right was granted to Austria by the Vienna Treaty of 1815.

[253] An allusion to the policy of King Frederick II of Prussia (1712-1786) whose enlightened absolutism was, to use Marx's words, a "hodge-podge rule of despotism, bureaucracy and feudalism" (Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1977, p. 684).

[215] The reference is to the national liberation and anti-feudal uprising in the city of Cracow, which had been under the joint control of Austria, Russia and Prussia since 1815. The insurgents seized power on February 22, 1846 and set up a National Government, which issued a manifesto abolishing feudal services. The uprising was put down in early March 1846. In November 1846, Austria, Prussia and Russia signed a treaty incorporating Cracow in the Austrian Empire.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.287-289), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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