The European Struggle (1855)

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This article is an altered version of part of the article "Germany and Pan-Slavism". The latter was written for the Neue Oder-Zeitung. Under the heading "Panslavism" the English version was printed in The Eastern Question.[1]

The all-absorbing facts in the news brought by the Atlantic, are t he breaking off of the Vienna Conferences[2], and the partial if not total separation of Austria from the Allies. For both of these events we were not unprepared. The rejection by Russia of any plan of settlement which should not substantially admit all she claimed before the war, was, in the present state of that war, a matter of course. The return of Austria to her old expectant, wavery policy was also the result of certain circumstances of great importance, which we proceed to explain.

The French Government discovered some time since, and the fact could not be denied by the British Cabinet, that Lord John Russell had committed a great blunder at Vienna[3] in allowing those of the points before the Conference in which Austria was directly interested to be first disposed of. These points were the freedom of the Danube and the question of the Principalities. From this moment Austria appeared satisfied. Expecting, as she does, to share sooner or later in the partition of Turkey—Servia, Bosnia, and Albania are provinces which she cannot allow to fall into any other hands than her own. It is her interest to keep the question respecting the Christians in Turkey an open one. And as she can never expect to cope with Russia's naval power in the Black Sea, she has but little interest in humiliating her in that quarter. From this point of view, then, Austria has every reason to be satisfied with what she has obtained, and to turn the weight of her seemingly impartial arbitration against England and France. But this diplomatic success has very little to do with her present wavering. The cause of this is of a far more overpowering nature.

Some six months ago we alluded to the private and confidential dispatch by which Nicholas informed both Austria and Prussia, that in case they allied themselves with the West against him he would reply to such a treaty of alliance by a proclamation of Hungarian independence and Polish restoration[4]. At that time, and whenever we have considered the chances of a war in Poland and Volhynia, we have always taken into consideration the great military advantage which such a proclamation might give to Russia, if put forth after the conquest of Galicia and from the heights of the Carpathians, with Hungary open to her victorious armies. On that account, especially, we have always pointed out the fact that Austria could not undertake a war against Russia unless she was in a state at once to take the offensive and to parry, by successful battles and an advance upon Russia, the effects of such a proclamation[5]. So long, therefore, as the Austrian army in Galicia and the Principalities was strong enough to march upon Warsaw or Kiev there was little immediate danger from such a step.

This dispatch of Nicholas has, however, as we now' learn, lately been followed up by another from his successor, which contains quite different and far more serious menaces. The moment Austria shall irrevocably ally herself to the West, it says, or commit any overt act of hostility against Russia, Alexander II will place himself at the head of the Panslavist movement, and change his title of Emperor of all the Russians into that of Emperor of all the Slavonians.

At last! Let Alexander take such a step, and the struggle concerning the Christians in Turkey, the independence of the Porte, Sevastopol, the Principalities, and other such local trifles, may now be considered at an end. This declaration of Alexander's is the first plain-spoken word since the war began; it is the first step toward placing the war upon the continental theater, and giving it, frankly and openly, that European character which has hitherto been lurking behind all sorts of pretexts and pretenses, protocols and treaties, Vattel phrases and Pufendorf quotations[6]. Turkey—her independence and existence—is thrown into the back-ground. Who is to rule in Constantinople? would then no longer be the question—but who is to command all Europe? The Slavonic race, long divided by internal contests; repelled toward the East by Germans; subjugated, in part, by Turks, Germans, Hungarians; quickly reuniting its branches, after 1815, by the gradual rise of Panslavism, would then for the first time assert its unity, and, in doing so, declare war to the knife against the Romano-Celtic and Germanic races which have hitherto ruled the Continent. Panslavism is not a movement which merely strives after national independence; it is a movement which, thus acting upon Europe, would tend to undo what a thousand years of history have created; which could not realize itself without sweeping from the map Hungary, Turkey and a large part of Germany. Moreover, it must subjugate Europe in order to secure the stability of these results, if they are ever obtained. Panslavism is now, from a creed, turned into a political programme, or rather a vast political menace, with 800,000 bayonets to support it.

Nor are these 800,000 soldiers all the forces it could command. A word from the Russian Emperor at the head of an army, marching upon the Carpathians, and nine or ten millions of Slavonians in Austria would be agitated as in 1848; a victory over the Austrians, and they would be in full insurrection; while Hungary and Italy would be hardly less plowed by revolutionary agitation. Here is a danger which might well make Francis Joseph pause; for unless he could at once defeat the great Slavonian army on his frontiers and carry the war into the enemy's country, he might as well give up the contest before entering the lists.

  1. This article was written by Engels at Marx's request for simultaneous publication in the Neue Oder-Zeitung and New York Daily Tribune. It was based on Engels' studies of the language, literature and history of many Slav peoples, which he began after moving to Manchester in 1850. He read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin and Bronze Horseman and Griboyedov's Wit Works Woe in the original. His notes on the vocabulary of these works are extant, together with the passages he copied from a reader in Russian literature, and his notes on the history of Russia and Serbia. These preparatory materials and the references in Engels' articles to the works of many noted Slavists— Dobrowsky, Kollár, Mikloszić, Palacký, Šafařík and others—bear witness to the intensity and fruitfulness of his studies, which enabled him to draw on numerous sources, including some in Slavic languages, in his analysis of the history, culture and national movements of the Slays.
    As can be seen from the closing sentence of the second instalment of this article, Engels intended to continue his discussion of the subject, laying special emphasis on exposing the reactionary character of the Pan-Slavist ideas. He regarded them as an instrument of the great-power policies of the Habsburgs (Austro-Slavism) and a means of vindicating the aggressive tendencies of Russian Tsarism. In sending Engels' article to Elsner, the editor of the Neue Oder-Zeitung, Marx wrote on April 17, 1855 that it was "the beginning of a polemic against Pan-Slavism". However, no further articles on this subject appeared in the newspaper.
    Marx attached particular importance to publishing a critique of Pan-Slavist ideas in the New York Daily Tribune because he considered it vital to counteract the influence of A. Gurowski, a propagandist of Pan-Slavism and apologist for Tsarist Russia, who contributed to the Tribune and had published several pamphlets on the subject, including the brochure Russia as It Is (1854). The two instalments of the present article were published in the New York Daily Tribune on May 5 and 7 as separate articles under the headings "The European Struggle" (this version differs considerably from that of the Neue Oder-Zeitung) and "Austria's Weakness". In the second English article several unwarranted changes were made by the Tribune editors who, among other things, inserted a whole paragraph extolling Gurowski's ideas.
    Between January and April 1856 Engels wrote fifteen articles on Pan-Slavism for the New York Daily Tribune, but the editorial board turned them down and in September sent them hack to Marx. The manuscripts have not been preserved. Engels' plan for a pamphlet on Pan-Slavism, to be published in Germany, was not realised.
  2. A reference to the adjournment of the Vienna Conference caused by disagreement between the participants on the Third Point of the terms presented to Russia (*). It was adjourned on April 26, 1855, following Russia's rejection of the Western Powers' demand that it should limit its naval forces in the Black Sea. It met for the last time on June 4, 1855.

    (*) The Vienna Conference was to work out the terms for peace between the participants in the Crimean War. It was attended by Russia, Britain, France, Austria and Turkey and lasted, with intervals, from March 15 to June 4, 1855. The negotiations centred on the Four Points (**). While agreeing, with certain reservations, to Points 1, 2 and 4, Russia emphatically rejected Point 3 which, as interpreted by the Western Powers, called for a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Britain and France insisted on its acceptance and turned down Austria's compromise proposal that Russia and Turkey should be allowed to agree between themselves on the size of their naval forces in the Black Sea. The Conference ended without adopting any decisions.

    (**) The Four Points—demands made by the Western Powers on Russia as preliminary conditions for peace talks in their Note of August 8, 1854. Russia was required to renounce her protectorate over Moldavia, Wallachia and Serbia, which was to be replaced by an all-European guarantee; to grant freedom of navigation on the Danube; to agree to a revision of the London Convention of 1841 on the closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles to the warships of all nations in peacetime, and to renounce its protection of Christians in Turkey. The Tsarist government at first rejected the Four Points but in November 1854 was forced to accept them as the basis for future peace talks. The Four Points were discussed at the Vienna conferences of Ambassadors (***) but the attempts of the Western Powers to link the question of the Straits with demands for 'a reduction of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea caused the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, A. M. Gorchakov, to walk out of the talks.

    (***) A reference to the talks between the British, French and Russian Ambassadors and Austrian Foreign Minister Buol sponsored by Emperor Francis Joseph, which opened in December 1854. Their official purpose was to work out a basis for peace negotiations between the belligerents in the Crimean War. They were a sequel to an earlier round of talks between diplomats of the Western Powers, the Prussian Ambassador and the Austrian Minister (the Russian Ambassador refused to participate) held in Vienna in 1853-54 by way of mediation in the Russo-Turkish conflict. The second round failed to resolve the differences between the belligerents in the Crimean War. In mid-March 1855 representatives of Austria, Britain, France, Turkey and Russia met at a higher level at the Vienna Conference (Britain was represented by Special Envoy Lord John Russell, France by Foreign Minister Drouyn de Lhuys). That conference also produced no results (see Note 88↑).
  3. On Russell's role at the Conference of Vienna see Prospect in France and England—Ed.
  4. The reference is presumably to the article "Progress of the War" by Marx and Engels.—Ed.
  5. See The War That Looms on Europe.—Ed.
  6. E. Vattel, Le Droit des gens... and S. Pufendorf, De jure naturae et gentium.—Ed.