Farsi    Arabic    English   

Public Feeling in Berlin

Karl Marx

Berlin, April 10, 1860

If an intelligent foreigner who had visited Berlin but two months ago and then left it were now to return to the "metropolis of intelligence," the thorough change in the physiognomy, tone and temper "meiner lieben Berliner" (of my beloved Berliners)[a] could not fail to strike his mental eye. Still, some months ago small talk obtained in all the ranks of the metropolitan society. People congratulated each other, in subdued accents, on the nightmare of a decennial reaction having at last ceased to crush their brains—that the worst was over. This silly theme was sounded to all keys, and the unavoidable afterthought that the change had been brought about not by any vigorous and healthy effort on the part of the Prussian subjects, but rather by the sickly affection of the Prussian King's head; that the change was therefore the work of nature, not the deed of man. This uncomfortable afterthought falsified even the first joys of the new era[280] triumphantly announced by the dully-deadly pens of the Berlin daily press. Such was the pusillanimity prevailing that, not to frighten the Prince Regent[b] out of his new-fangled liberalism, all the candidates in the general election to the Second Chamber were put to this simple test: Did they profess confidence in the Hohenzollern Cabinet[c] installed by the Prince Regent? Were their names in no way obnoxious to the mild liberalism of the new Government? Instead of men to take up the grievances of the country, there were wanted bottle-holders with ready-cut votes for the Cabinet. That the new Cabinet actually did not touch the bureaucratic and police shackles forged by its predecessors, while its very professions of faith were characterized by weak duplicity, shy reserve, and equivocal reticence—these facts were hoodwinked; and it was furthermore proclaimed a patriotic duty to hoodwink them. All the opposition papers, whether styling themselves Constitutional or Democratic, turned downright Ministerial.

After the peace of Villafranca, when Herr von Schleinitz, the Prussian Minister of Foreign Affairs, published a sort of Blue Book on the Italian war[281]—when his dispatches, true patterns of weak-minded verbosity, showed him up the worthy successor of the man[d] who, in the last century, had concluded the peace of Basle, and, in this century, had prepared the catastrophe of Jena[282]—when we saw him humbly receiving lessons of constitutionalism on the part of Little Johnny[e], the British Jack-of-all-Trades, crouching in the dust before Prince Gorchakoff, exchanging billets-doux with the Man of December[f], superciliously frowning upon his Austrian colleague[g], to be finally kicked by all his correspondents—even then the Prussian press and our Berlin Liberals worked themselves into real fits of enthusiasm with respect to the superhuman wisdom evinced by the Prussian Government, which, not content with doing nothing itself, had contrived to preclude Germany from all action.

Soon after there took place at Breslau[h] a meeting between the Russian Czar and Gorchakoff on the one side, and the Prince Regent with his Ministerial satellites on the other[283]. A new deed of enfeoffment of Prussia to her Muscovite neighbor was duly signed—the first, but necessary result, this, of the peace of Villafranca. Even in 1844 such an event would have aroused a storm of opposition throughout the country. Now it was extolled as an earnest of far-seeing statecraft. The nihilism of the Prince Regent's foreign policy coupled with the continuance of the old reactionary system of mingled feudalism and bureaucratism, which was forsaken in name only, seemed to our friends, the Berlin Liberals, and the Prussian press of all colors, save the special organs of the old Camarilla, sufficient reasons to claim the Imperial crown of little Germany (that is to say, Germany minus German Austria) for the representative of the Prussian dynasty. It is difficult to find in the records of history a similar piece of judicial blindness, but we remember that after the battle of Austerlitz[284], Prussia also crowed for some days on her own dunghill, quasi re bene gesta.[i]

After the termination of the Italian war, it was a spectacle as pitiful as it was disgusting to hear the Prussian press, with the Berlin papers at its head, instead of venturing upon the faintest criticism of the stupid diplomacy of her[j] native rulers; instead of boldly challenging the "liberal" Ministry to bridge at last, in internal affairs, the broad chasm between the nominal and the real; instead of denouncing the silent but obstinate encroachments on civil liberty dared upon by the host of Manteuffel's officials, still snugly ensconced in their old strongholds; instead of all that, to hear them sing panegyrics on the splendor of renovated Prussia; to see them dart their pointless shafts at humbled Austria; to see them stretch their unnerved hands at the German Imperial crown, and, to the utter astonishment of all Europe, demean themselves like maniacs in a fool's paradise. Altogether, it seemed as if the great international drama now enacted on the European stage, did only concern our Berlin friends as spectators who, from the gallery or pit, have to applaud or hoot, but not to act.

All this has been changed now as by a magician's wand. Berlin is at this moment, with the exception perhaps of Palermo and Vienna; the most revolutionary town in Europe. The fermentation pervades all ranks, and seems more intense than in the days of - March, 1848. How has this phenomenon been brought about, and so suddenly, too? By a combination of events at the top of which range Louis Bonaparte's last exploits on the one hand, and the new army reforms[k] proposed by the liberal Government on the other. Then, of course, the state of confidence and of willful self-delusion could not last forever. The incidents, furthermore, by which the Ministry has been forced to dismiss Stieber[285], the Police Director, the low criminal, who, together with his master, the late Hinckeldey, had swayed supreme power in Prussia ever since 1852; and last, not least, the publication of Humboldt's correspondence with Varnhagen von Ense[l] have done the rest. The fool's paradise has vanished before the breath from beyond the grave.

Written on April 10, 1860
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5932, April 28, 1860


[a] An allusion to Frederick William IV's address to the Berlin population on March 19, 1848 (see the Allgemeine Preussische Zeitung, No. 80, March 20, 1848).—Ed.

[b] William, Prince of Prussia.—Ed.

[c] The Cabinet headed by Karl Anton Hohenzollern.—Ed.

[d] Karl August Hardenberg.—Ed.

[e] John Russell.—Ed.

[f] Napoleon III.—Ed.

[g] Johann Bernhard Rechberg.—Ed.

[h] Wroclaw.—Ed.

[i] As if everything were well.—Ed.

[j] i.e. Prussia's.—Ed.

[k] See this volume, pp. 345-49.—Ed.

[l] Briefe von Alexander von Humboldt an Varnhagen von Ense aus den Jahren 1827 bis 1858, Leipzig, 1860. Humboldt's letters contain sharp criticism of the Prussian Government.—Ed.

[280] A reference to the "liberal course" proclaimed by Prince William of Prussia (King of Prussia from 1861) in October 1858, when he took up the regency. In the bourgeois press this course was described as a "new era". Actually he did not carry out any of the reforms expected by the bourgeoisie; but in 1860 a previously prepared military reform was effected which abolished the remnants of democratism still surviving in the Prussian army after the national liberation war against Napoleon I in 1813-15. This reform stipulated that henceforth the Landwehr would be used only for garrison duties, and it considerably increased the strength of the army in peacetime.

[281] See notes 13↓ and 126↓.
A reference to the diplomatic documents of the Austro-Italo-French War of 1859, published by the Prussian Government in the Neue Preussische Zeitung, Nos. 170, 171, 173 and 174 (July 24, 26, 28 and 29, 1859) and in the Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 211 (July 30, 1859). For details see Marx's article "Quid pro Quo" in Volume 16 of the present edition.

[282] The Treaty of Basle was concluded separately by the French Republic and Prussia, a member of the European Coalition, on April 5, 1795. Prussia was forced to sign it in view of the successes of the French army and the growing differences between the coalition members, above all between Prussia and Austria. Its conclusion marked the beginning of the coalition's disintegration. On July 22, 1795 Spain also signed a separate peace treaty with France in Basle.

The reference is to the London Convention of July 15, 1840 between Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia on supporting the Turkish Sultan against the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali. France, which supported Mehemet Ali, did not participate. The threat of an anti-French coalition made France withdraw her support for the Egyptian ruler.

[283] The meeting between Alexander II and William, Prince Regent of Prussia, took place in October 1859 in Breslau (Wroclaw). Although no political objects of the meeting were officially mentioned either in Prussia or in Russia, the press of both countries stressed its great political importance for consolidating the alliance of the two sovereigns.

[284] The battle of Austerlitz between the Russo-Austrian and the French armies on December 2, 1805, ended in victory for the French commanded by Napoleon I. At the battle of Jena on October 14, 1806, the Prussian troops were defeated by Napoleon's army. This resulted in Prussia's capitulation.

At the battle of Wagram on July 5-6, 1809, Napoleon defeated the Austrian army commanded by Archduke Charles.

[285] The German socialist Eichhoff was Berlin correspondent of the weekly Hermann. In September and October 1859 he anonymously published in it a series of articles headed "Stieber" in which he exposed the part played by Wilhelm Stieber, chief of the Prussian political police, in organising the government-inspired trial of members of the Communist League in Cologne in 1852. Stieber sued Eichhoff for libel. In May 1860 a Berlin court sentenced Eichhoff to 14 months imprisonment (see Marx's letters to Engels of January 31, 1860 and to Freiligrath of February 29, 1860, present edition, Vol. 41).

In September 1851 arrests were made in France among members of local communities belonging to the Willich-Schapper group, which was responsible for the split in the Communist League in September 1850. The petty-bourgeois conspiratorial tactics of the group, ignoring realities and aiming at an immediate uprising, enabled the French and Prussian police, with the help of the agent-provocateur Cherval, who headed one of the group's local communities in Paris, to fabricate the case of the so-called Franco-German plot. Cherval was both an agent of the Prussian envoy in Paris and a French spy. In February 1852 the accused were sentenced on a charge of plotting a coup d'état. With the connivance of the French and Prussian police Cherval was allowed to escape from prison. The attempts of the Prussian police to incriminate the Communist League led by Marx and Engels failed. Konrad Schramm, a League, member, arrested in Paris in September 1851, was soon released owing to lack of evidence. Nevertheless, the Prussian Police Superintendent Stieber, one of the organisers of the Cologne Communist trial in 1852, repeated the false police accusations. Marx exposed Stieber's perjury in his Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne (see the chapter "The Cherval Plot", present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 407-19).

On his arrival in London in May 1852 Cherval was admitted to the German Workers' Educational Society led by Schapper but was soon expelled because of his role of provocateur in the so-called Franco-German plot.

[13] This refers to the war between the Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont) and France, on the one hand, and Austria, on the other (April 29 to July 8, 1859). It was launched by Napoleon III, who, under the banner of the "liberation of Italy", strove for aggrandizement and sought to strengthen the Bonapartist regime in France with the help of a successful military campaign. The Piedmont ruling circles hoped that French support would enable them to unite Italy, without the participation of the masses, under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty ruling in Piedmont. The war caused an upsurge of the national liberation movement in Italy. The Austrian army suffered a series of defeats. However, Napoleon III, frightened by the scale of the national liberation movement in Italy, abruptly ceased hostilities. On July 11, the French and Austrian emperors concluded a separate preliminary peace in Villafranca.

[126] On July 8, 1859 the emperors of France and Austria held a separate meeting—without the King of Piedmont, France's ally in the war against Austria (see Note 13)—in Villafranca, at which they reached an agreement on an armistice. The meeting was held on the initiative of Napoleon III, who feared that the protracted war might give a fresh impulse to the revolutionary and national liberation movement in Italy and other European states. On July 11 France and Austria signed a preliminary peace treaty under which Austria was to cede to France its rights to Lombardy and France was to transfer this territory to Piedmont. Venetia was to remain under Austrian supremacy (despite the terms of the Plombières agreement, see Note 159) and the princes of the Central Italian states were to be restored to their thrones. A confederation of Italian states was to be formed under the honorary chairmanship of the Pope.

The Villafranca agreements formed the basis of the peace treaty France, Austria and Piedmont concluded in Zurich on November 10, 1859 (see Marx's articles "What Has Italy Gained?", "The Peace" and "The Treaty of Villafranca" in Vol. 16 of the present edition and Engels' letter to Marx of July 14, 1859, present edition, Vol. 40).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 17 (pp.367-369), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME1198en.html