English-French Mediation in Italy

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 21 October 1848


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 480;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 123, October 22, 1848.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Cologne, October 21. The English-French mediation in Italy has been given up. The death’s head of diplomacy grins after every revolution and particularly after the reactions which follow every revolution. Diplomacy hides itself in its perfumed charnel-house as often as the thunder of a new revolution rumbles. The Viennese revolution has blown away French-English diplomacy.

Palmerston has admitted his impotence and so has Bastide. The Viennese revolution, as they explain, has put an end to the boring correspondence of these gentlemen. Bastide has officially notified of this fact Marquis Ricci, the Sardinian envoy.

When the latter asked “whether France would under certain circumstances take up arms in favour of Sardinia"’ the farouche republican Bastide (of the National) made a curtsy once, twice, thrice and sang:

Put trust in me and help yourselves
Then God will help you, brothers.
[Heine, Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen]

France, he said, abides by the principle of non-intervention, that same principle which was fought by Bastide and the other gentlemen of the National for years during Guizot’s times.

The “respectable” French Republic would have made a deadly fool of itself in regard to this Italian question were it not above all disgrace since the portentous June.

Rien pour la gloire! say the friends of business in all circumstances. Rien pour la gloire! [mere honour is worth nothing] is the motto of the virtuous, the moderate, the decent, the sedate, the respectable, in a word, the bourgeois republic. Rien pour la gloire!

Lamartine was the imaginary picture which the bourgeois republic had of itself, the exuberant, fantastic, visionary conception which it had formed of itself, the dream of its own splendour. It is quite remarkable what one can imagine! As Aeolus unleashed all the winds from his bag, so Lamartine set free all spirits of the air, all the phrases of the bourgeois republic, and he blew them towards the east and the west, empty words of the fraternity of all nations, of the impending emancipation of all the nations by France and of France’s sacrifice for all the nations.

He did — nothing.

It was Cavaignac who undertook to supply the deeds corresponding to Lamartine’s phrases and Bastide, his outward turned organ.

They calmly allowed the shocking scenes in Naples, the shocking scenes in Messina and the shocking scenes in the Milan region to take place before their very eyes.[1]

And so that not the least bit of doubt should remain as to the fact that the same class as well as the same foreign policy prevail in the “respectable” republic as under the constitutional monarchy, under Cavaignac as well as under Louis Philippe, in case of strife between nations, one has recourse to the old and eternally new means, the entente cordiale with England[2], with the England of Palmerston and with the England of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

History could not, however, omit the climax, the point. Bastide, an editor of the National, had to grasp England’s hand frantically. And the entente cordiale has been the main trump which the poor Anglophobe National played off against Guizot all life long.

On the gravestone of the “respectable” republic, will be inscribed: Bastide-Palmerston.

But even Guizot’s entente cordiale has been surpassed by the “respectable” republicans. The officers of the French fleet let themselves be treated to a banquet by the Neapolitan officers and cheered the health of the King of Naples, the idiotic tiger Ferdinand, on the still smoking ruins of Messina. Above their heads, however, the phrases of Lamartine were evaporating.

  1. On May 15, 1848, a popular uprising in Naples, caused by King Ferdinand II’s infringement of constitutional rights, was savagely crushed (see this volume, pp. 24-26), declassed elements (lazzaroni) being active in its suppression. Early in September 1848 Neapolitan troops sent by Ferdinand II to suppress the revolutionary movement in Sicily bombarded the town of Messina for four days and, having captured it, committed violent outrages. Ferdinand earned for himself the derisive nickname “Bomba”. The capture of Milan by Austrian troops on August 6, 1848, was accompanied by outrages against the population
  2. The reference is to the “cordial agreement” (entente cordiale) between France and England in the early period of the July monarchy (1830-35). The “agreement”, however, proved unstable and was soon followed by intensified contradictions.