The Danish-Prussian Armistice

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 9 September 1848


MIA-bannière.gif
Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 99, September 10, 1848

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung
Keywords : Denmark, Germany, Armistice, War

Cologne, September 9. Again we revert to the Danish armistice -- we are given time to do this owing to the thoroughness of the National Assembly, which, instead of taking prompt and energetic decisions and getting new ministers appointed, allows the committees to deliberate in the most leisurely manner and leaves the solution of the government crisis to God -- a thoroughness which barely conceals "our dear friends' lack of courage". [69]

The war in Italy was always unpopular with the democratic party, and has for a long time been unpopular even with the democrats of Vienna. The storm of public indignation over the war of extermination in Poznan could be staved off only for a few weeks by means of falsifications and lies on the part of the Prussian government. The streetfighting in Prague, despite all the efforts of the national press, excited sympathy among the people towards the defeated, but not towards the victors. The war in Schleswig-Holstein, however, from the outset was popular also among the people. What is the reason?

Whereas in Italy, Poznan and Prague the Germans were fighting the revolution, in Schleswig-Holstein they were supporting it. The Danish war is the first revolutionary war waged by Germany. We therefore advocated a resolute conduct of the Danish war, from the very beginning, but this does not in any way denote kinship with the sea-girt bourgeois beer-garden enthusiasm.

A sad thing for Germany that her first revolutionary war is the most ridiculous war ever waged.

But come to the point. The Danish nation is in commercial, industrial, political and literary matters completely dependent on Germany. It is well known that the real capital of Denmark is not Copenhagen but Hamburg; that for a whole year the Danish government copied all the United Provincial Diet experiments conducted by the Prussian government, which passed away on the barricades; that Denmark obtains all her literary as well as material fare via Germany, and that apart from Holberg, Danish literature is a poor imitation of that of Germany.

Impotent though Germany has been from time immemorial, she has the satisfaction of knowing that the Scandinavian nations, and especially Denmark, have fallen under her sway, and that compared with them she is even revolutionary and progressive.

Do you require proofs? Then read the polemics carried on by the Scandinavian nations against each other ever since the concept of Scandinavianism arose. Scandinavianism is enthusiasm for the brutal, sordid, piratical, Old Norse national traits, for that profound inner life which is unable to express its exuberant ideas and sentiments in words, but can express them only in deeds, namely, in rudeness towards women, perpetual drunkenness and the wild frenzy of the Berserker alternating with tearful sentimentality.

Scandinavianism and the theory of kinship with sea-girt Schleswig-Holstein appeared simultaneously in the states of the King of Denmark. The two concepts are correlated; they evoked each other and were in conflict with each other, thereby asserting their existence.

Scandinavianism was the pattern of the Danes' appeals for Swedish and Norwegian support. But as always happens with the Christian-Teutonic nation, a dispute immediately arose as to who was the genuine Christian-Teuton, the true Scandinavian. The Swede contended that the Dane had become "Germanized" and had degenerated, the Norwegian said the same of the Swede and the Dane, and the Icelander of all three. Obviously, the more primitive a nation is, the more closely its customs and way of life resemble those of the Old Norse people, the more "Scandinavian" it must be.

The Christiania Morgenbladet [70] for November 18, 1846, is lying in front of us. This charming sheet contains the following amusing passages in an article on Scandinavianism.

After stating that the whole concept of Scandinavianism is nothing but an attempt by the Danes to create a movement in their own interest, the paper says:

"What have these gay vivacious people in common with the ancient, gloomy and melancholy world of warriors (med den gamle, alvorlige og vemodsfulde Kjampeverden)? How can this nation, which -- as even a Danish writer admits -- has a docile and gentle disposition, believe itself to be spiritually related to the tough, lusty and vigorous men of a past age? And how can these people with their soft southern accent imagine that they speak a northern tongue? Although the main trait of our nation and the Swedes, like that of the ancient Northerners, is that our feelings are kept hidden in the innermost part of the soul, and not given outward expression, nevertheless these sentimental and affectionate people, who can so easily be astonished, moved and swayed and who wear their hearts upon their sleeves, nevertheless these people believe that they are of a northern cast and that they are related to the two other Scandinavian nations!"

The Morgenbladet attributes the degeneration of the Danes to their association with Germany and the spread of German traits in Denmark. The Germans have indeed

"lost their most sacred asset, their national character; but feeble and insipid though the German nation is, there is another nation still more feeble and insipid, namely, the Danes. While the German language is being ousted in Alsace, Vaud and on the Slav border" (!the services of the Netze brethren remained unnoticed at the time) "it has made enormous progress along the Danish border."

The Danes, we are told, now had to oppose their nationality to the Germans and for this purpose they invented Scandinavianism. The Danes were unable to resist,

"for the Danish nation, as we have said before, was essentially Germanized, although it did not adopt the German language. The writer of these lines has seen it admitted in a Danish paper that the Danish nation does not differ essentially from the German nation."

Thus the Morgenbladet.

Of course, it cannot be denied that the Danes are a more or less civilized nation. Poor Danes!

By the same right under which France took Flanders, Lorraine and Alsace, and will sooner or later take Belgium -- by that same right Germany takes over Schleswig; it is the right of civilization as against barbarism, of progress as against static stability. Even if the agreements were in Denmark's favor -- which is very doubtful-this right carries more weight than all the agreements, for it is the right of historical evolution.

So long as the Schleswig-Holstein movement remained a purely legal philistine agitation of a civic and peaceful nature it merely filled well-meaning petty bourgeois with enthusiasm. When, before the outbreak of the February revolution, the present King of Denmark at his accession promised a liberal constitution for all his states, envisaging the same number of deputies for the duchies as for Denmark, and the duchies were opposed to this, the petty-bourgeois parochial nature of the Schleswig-Holstein movement became distastefully conspicuous. The issue, at that time, was not so much union with Germany -- did a Germany exist at that time? -- as separation from Denmark and establishment of a small independent parochial state.

But then came the revolution, which imparted to the movement a different character. The Schleswig- Holstein party was forced either to attempt a revolution or to perish. It quite correctly chose the revolution. The Danish promises, which were very favorable before the revolution, were quite inadequate after the revolution; union with Germany -- formerly an empty phrase -- now acquired meaning. Germany made a revolution and as usual Denmark copied it on a small provincial scale.

The Schleswig-Holstein revolution and the Provisional Government to which it gave rise behaved at first still in a rather philistine way, but the war soon compelled them to adopt a democratic course. This government, whose members are all moderate liberal worthies, formerly kindred spirits of Welcker, Gagern and Camphausen, has given Schleswig-Holstein laws which are more democratic than those of any other German state. The Kiel Provincial Assembly is the only German assembly based on universal suffrage and direct elections. The draft constitution which the government submitted to it was the most democratic constitution ever drawn up in the German language. As a result of the revolutionary war, Schleswig-Holstein, which had always trailed behind Germany in political matters, suddenly acquired more progressive institutions than the rest of Germany.

The war we are waging in Schleswig-Holstein is therefore a truly revolutionary war.

And who, from the outset, supported Denmark? The three most counter-revolutionary powers in Europe -- Russia, England and the Prussian government. As long as it was possible the Prussian government merely pretended to be waging a war -- this is evidenced by Wildenbruch's Note, by the alacrity with which the Prussian government, on the representations of England and Russia, ordered the withdrawal from Jutland, and finally by the two armistice agreements. Prussia, England and Russia are the three powers which have greater reason than anyone else to fear the German revolution and its first result -- German unity: Prussia because she would thereby cease to exist, England because it would deprive her of the possibility of exploiting the German market, and Russia because, it would spell the advance of democracy not only to the Vistula but even as far as the Dvina and the Dnieper. Prussia, England and Russia have conspired against Schleswig-Holstein, against Germany and against the revolution.

The war that may now arise from the decisions taken at Frankfurt would be a war waged by Germany against Prussia, England and Russia. This is just the kind of war that the flagging German movement needs -- a war against the three great counter-revolutionary powers, a war which would really cause Prussia to merge into Germany, which would make an alliance with Poland an indispensable necessity and would lead to the immediate liberation of Italy; a war which would be directed against Germany's old counterrevolutionary allies of 1792-1815, a war which would "imperil the fatherland" and for that very reason save it by making the victory of Germany dependent on the victory of democracy.

The bourgeois and titled landowners at Frankfurt should not deceive themselves -- if they decide to reject the armistice they will be setting the seal to their own downfall, just as the Girondins did during the first revolution when they took part in the events of August 10 and voted for the death of the ex-King, thereby preparing their own downfall on May 31. If, on the other hand, they accept the armistice, they will still be sealing their own downfall: they will be placing themselves under the jurisdiction of Prussia and cease to have any say in things. It is up to them to choose.

The news of Hansemann's downfall probably reached Frankfurt before the vote was taken. This may influence the vote significantly, especially since it is expected that a government of Waldeck and Rodbertus will follow who, as we know, recognize the sovereignty of the National Assembly.

The future will show. But we repeat -- Germany's honor is in bad hands.