Appeal of the Democratic Congress to the German People

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 2 November 1848


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Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7

Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 133
Translated by the Marx-Engels Institute
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung
Keywords : Germany, Democracy, Congress

Cologne, November 2 -- We reproduce below the Appeal of the "Democratic Congress" [the Second Democratic Congress met in Berlin from October 26 to 30, 1848, and passed a series of resolutions without preparing any means for their enforcement. -- ed.]:

"To the German Nation!

"For long disgraceful years the German nation sighed under the yoke of autocracy. The bloody deeds in Vienna and Berlin had given us reason to hope that the nation's freedom and unity would be realized in a single blow. The devilish artifices of a cursed reaction thwarted this development, cheating a heroic people of the fruits of its magnificent uprising. Vienna, a main bulwark of German freedom, stands momentarily in greatest peril. Sacrificed by the plots of a still powerful camarilla, it is to be delivered anew to the chains of despotism. But its noble population has risen as one man and confronts the armed hordes of its oppressors with deadly courage. The cause of Vienna is the cause of Germany, the cause of freedom. With the fall of Vienna, arbitrary government would raise its banner higher than ever- with Vienna's victory, it would be destroyed. It is up to us, German brothers, not to permit the destruction of Vienna's freedom or see it handed over to the armed barbaric hordes. It is the most sacred duty of all German governments to rush to the aid of the hard-pressed sister city with all their influence; but it is at the same time also the most sacred duty of the German people, in the interest of their own freedom, in the interest of self-preservation, to make every sacrifice to save Vienna. Never must they tolerate the disgrace of apathetic indifference where the utmost is at stake. Therefore we appeal to you, brothers, that each of you, according to his means, contribute to save Vienna from destruction. What we do for Vienna, we do for Germany. Help yourselves! The men you sent to Frankfurt to establish freedom have rejected, with mocking laughter, the appeal to save Vienna. Now it is up to you to act! Demand, with strong and inflexible will, that your governments submit to your majority and save the cause of Germany and the cause of freedom in Vienna. Hurry! You are the power, your will is law! Arise! Ye men of freedom, arise in all the lands and wherever the idea of liberty and humanity glows in noble hearts! Arise, before it is too late! Save Vienna's freedom, save Germany's freedom. The present will admire you, the future will reward you with immortal glory!

"October 29, 1848
"THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS IN BERLIN"

This Appeal replaces the lack of revolutionary energy with preacher-like blubbering pathos, behind which is hidden the utmost poverty of ideas and passion.

A few examples!

The Appeal expected from the March revolutions in Vienna and Berlin the realization of the "freedom and unity" of the German nation "in a single blow." In other words: the Appeal dreamed of "a single blow" that would make the German people's "development" toward "freedom and unity" superfluous.

Immediately after this, the fantastic "single blow," which replaces development becomes a "development" "thwarted" by the reactionaries. A phrase, a self-dissolving phrase!

We overlook the monotonous repetition of the main theme: Vienna is in peril, and with Vienna, Germany's freedom; help Vienna and thereby you help yourselves! These ideas are not endowed with flesh and blood. The one phrase is wound around itself so often that it becomes a piece of rhetoric. We only remark that artificial, untrue pathos always degenerates into this kind of dun rhetoric.

"It is up to us, German brothers, not to permit the destruction of Vienna's freedom or to see it handed over the armed barbaric hordes."

And how do we begin to do this?

Chiefly by an appeal to the sense of duty of the "German governments." C'est incroyable! [It is incredible! ]

"It is the most sacred duty of all German governments to rush to the aid of the hard-pressed sister city with all their influence."

Is the Prussian Government to send Wrangel or Colomb or the Prince of Prussia against Auersperg, Jellachich, and Windischgratz?

Did the "Democratic" Congress venture even for a moment, such a childish and conservative position toward the German governments? Did it, even for a moment, venture to separate the cause of the "most sacred interests" of the German governments from the cause and interests of "Croation order and freedom?" The governments will smile smugly at this maidenly reverie.

And the people?

The people in general are called upon "to make every sacrifice to save Vienna." Good! But the "people" expect specific demands from the Democratic Congress. He who demands everything demands nothing and receives nothing. The specific demand here is: "Demand, with strong and inflexible will, that your governments submit to your majority and save the cause of Germany and the cause of freedom in Vienna. Hurry! You are the power, your will is law! Arise!"

Assuming that magnificent people's demonstrations succeeded in moving the governments to take official steps to save Vienna, we would be blessed with a second edition of the Stein military order. To want to utilize the present "German governments" as "saviors of freedom"! As if in their "imperial buying and selling" they did not fulfill their true vocation, their "most sacred duties" as the Gabriels of "constitutional freedom"! The "Democratic Congress" should have kept silent about the German governments, or it should have unsparingly revealed their conspiracy with Olmutz and Petersburg.

Although the Appeal recommends "hurry" -- and in truth there is no time to be lost -- the humanistic phraseology pulls it beyond the frontiers of Germany, beyond all geographic frontiers, into the cosmopolitan never-never land of "noble hearts" in general!

"Hurry!" "Arise! Ye men of freedom, arise in all the lands and wherever the idea of liberty and humanity glows in noble hearts!"

We do not doubt that there are such "noble hearts" even in Lapland.

In Germany and where else? In wasting itself on this purely aimless phrase, the "Appeal" presented an authentic expression.

It is unforgivable that the "Democratic Congress" should have signed such a document. "The present" will not "admire" it for this, nor will "the future" reward it with "immortal glory."

Let us hope that despite the "Appeal of the Democratic Congress," the people will awake from their lethargy and bring to the Viennese the only kind of help that can still be brought at this moment -- defeating the counterrevolution in its own house.