A Decree of Eichmann’s

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 18 November 1848


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, p. 37;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 147, November 19, 1848.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Cologne, November 18.

“The calls which are to be heard for a refusal to pay taxes make it my duty to utter a serious warning against them to the province entrusted to my care.
"After the King has publicly set out the weighty reasons for the removal of the National Assembly from Berlin, after a large part of the deputies has acknowledged the right of the Crown, and the German National Assembly equally with the Central Authority in Frankfurt has concurred with this acknowledgment, it cannot be my intention to add my voice to the verdict on this act of the Government which is being arrived at by the inhabitants of the Rhine Province.
"My official position alone obliges me to oppose with all the means at my disposal every attack against the laws and their implementation, without which no state can exist. Such an attack is to be seen in the calls to stop paying taxes, which are the indispensable means for maintaining law and order, taxes which have been legally imposed and can only be altered through a law.
"After my experience of the respect which the inhabitants of the province have for the law, I cannot envisage its violation by them, which would have serious consequences. On the contrary, I am confident that they will unshakeably resist such temptations directed against their honour and the common weal. As regards those unexpected cases where this confidence should nevertheless prove mistaken, I expect from all provincial and local authorities that they will ensure the payment of taxes by employing all the powers conferred on them by the laws and that they will do their duty without hesitation.
Cologne, November 17, 1848

Oberpräsident of the Rhine Province
(signed) Eichmann”

Such is the text of the reply of ex-Minister and Oberpräsident Eichmann to the appeal of the Rhenish Committee of Democrats.

When Herr Eichmann wrote this, his Epistle to the Thessalonians, did he already know of the decision of the National Assembly on the refusal to pay taxes?

Eichmann previously represented the Brandenburg-Manteuffel elements within the Pfuel Ministry. He represents them now at the head of the Rhine Province. Eichmann embodies the counter-revolution of the Government in the Rhine Province.

Herr Eichmann’s decrees, therefore, have the same value as those of Herr Brandenburg. Arraignment for high treason will sooner or later be the most fitting termination of the career of Herr Eichmann, this worthy man who in his youthful years with indefatigable zeal dispatched “traitors to the state” to imprisonment in fortresses.

In the above decree, Herr Oberpräsident Eichmann declares himself an open enemy of the National Assembly, in complete contrast to Herr Oberpräsident Pinder in Silesia, who is known to be a royalist. Herr Eichmann has therefore ceased to be Oberpräsident, just as his master, Brandenburg, has ceased to be a Minister. Herr Eichmann has dismissed himself. Officials who carry out his counter-revolutionary orders do so at their risk.

If the inhabitants of the Rhine Province wish to support the National Assembly in a more effective way than by mere addresses, if they are not prepared to kneel stupidly and unresistingly before the knout, they must compel all authorities, in particular the Regierungspräsidenten, Landräten, burgomasters and urban authorities, to make a public declaration as to whether they recognise the National Assembly and are willing to carry out its decisions, oui ou non? In case of refusal, and especially of direct contravention of these decisions, such officials are to be declared 1. dismissed from office, 2. guilty of high treason, and provisional committees of public safety appointed in their place, whose orders are alone to be regarded as valid. Where counter-revolutionary authorities seek forcibly to frustrate the formation and official activity of these committees of public safety, force must be opposed by every kind of force. Passive resistance must have active resistance as its basis.[1] Otherwise it will resemble the vain struggle of a calf against its slaughterer.

  1. The majority of the National Assembly adhered to the tactics of passive resistance in their struggle against the counter-revolutionary actions of the Brandenhurg Government when it began the coup d'état. These tactics amounted to not obeying the Government’s orders, including the one on the transfer of the Assembly from Berlin to Brandenburg. The Assembly refrained from more effective forms of resistance to the counter-revolutionary forces, and only after much procrastination did it adopt the decision on the refusal to pay taxes, interpreting it, moreover, in the spirit of passive disobedience to the authorities. Even the Left-wing deputies did not dare call on the people to arm and deal an open blow against reaction, which the Neue Rheinische Zeitung saw as the real means of struggle against the coup d'état. As a result of the tactics of passive resistance the Government — which on November 10 brought the troops of General Wrangel into Berlin and declared a state of siege there — managed, by force, arrests and intimidation, to make the Assembly cease its work in Berlin. Then, on December 5, after the resumption of its sittings in Brandenburg in early December 1848, the Government issued orders dissolving it altogether and introducing a Constitution imposed by the King