Vienna and Frankfurt, March 12, 1849

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 12 March 1849

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 9, p. 42;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 244, March 13, 1849
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Cologne, March 12. It was on the 15th of this month that the Imperial Diet in Kremsier intended to begin its consideration of the draft Constitution completed by the commission. The royal imperial brutes of summary jurisdiction then considered that the moment had come to thrust on the Imperial Diet the Constitution "by the grace of God", which had been lying ready for a long time, and to put an end to the whole Kremsier comedy of popular representation that had until then been tolerated.[1]

The whole imposition manoeuvre had already been worked out in the summer of last year between the anointed and unanointed counter-revolutionaries in Schönbrunn-Vienna, Potsdam-Berlin, London (where Metternich, as the master-spider of the Holy Alliance, sits at the centre of the web slowly spun around the peoples rising in revolt for their freedom), and Paris. That it was first of all put into operation by the Potsdam King was due solely to the situation in Prussia which allowed such a step to be taken earlier than in Austria.[2]

In November, official Austria hurled the blood-stained head of Robert Plum at the feet of the deputies in St. Paul's Church. A few days before this, the fine twin-pair of Imperial Commissioners, Welcker-Mosle, had returned from Windischgrätz's antechamber and from gourmandising in Olmütz covered with such disgrace that anyone else but the worthy Welcker-Mosle would have put a bullet through his brain rather than have dared to look anyone on earth in the face. Instead of that, this diplomatic twin-pair even bragged about their roundabout travels.[3]

The majority of the National Assembly was "satisfait" just as the French Chamber under Louis Philippe declared itself "satisfait" even when faced with the vilest actions and the most striking proofs of corruption.

The blood of the murdered Robert Plum has indeed stained the faces of the deputies in St. Paul's Church. Their cheeks certainly reddened, not however because of shame or fury and an outburst of deepest indignation, but with the colour of pleasure and satisfaction. It is true, fresh Imperial Commissioners were sent to Austria. But the only result they achieved was to redouble the contempt with which the Austrian side had already treated the so-called National Assembly representatives and the Germany they had betrayed.

"Mocht nix, 's is olles Aans!"—this was and is the motto of these gentlemen.

It will be recalled that shortly before the arbitrary acts of the Prussian Government Bassermann, Simson and, of course, the "noble" Herr Gagern etc. were in Berlin as Imperial Commissioners.[4]

And once again there are Imperial Commissioners in Austria, in Olmütz, while there, just as in Berlin, the Imperial Diet is being dispersed and a Constitution "by the grace of God" imposed on the people by means of Croats, Serezhans, Huzuls[5] etc.

Wherever freedom of the people is to be destroyed, Commissioners of the so-called Central Authority make their appearance like expectant vultures. Their sense of smell has always proved correct.

Now at last the Frankfurt frog-pond should realise that its turn will soon come. It itself will be punished for all its sins. On the monument to be erected at the site of its wretched activity the wayfarer will read: "Perished through its own fault, through cowardice, professorial stupidity and chronic meanness, amid in part the revengeful derision, and in part the complete indifference of the people."

Yet even now some of these miserable wretches dare to boast of the "fundamental rights" emanating from the Frankfurt factory[6] and are proud of them as though they were a great achievement. With the garrulity of washerwomen, they chattered about "fundamental rights" like scholastics in the Middle Ages, while the "fundamental power" of the Holy Alliance and its accomplices became ever more strongly organised and scoffed louder and louder at the chatter of the professors and philistines about fundamental rights. The former affixed their "fundamental rights" to a scrap of paper, whereas the latter, the men of the counter-revolution, inscribed their "fundamental power" on keenly sharpened swords, guns and Slav redcoats.[7]

As soon as the German people in any part of the Germanic fatherlands made use or seemed to want to make use of their original fundamental right, that of revolt against feudal or philistine-constitutional tyranny, Frankfurt with the utmost haste sent "imperial troops" in order to punish the people and make them submissive by billeting troops, by plunder, massacres and military excesses of all kinds, and in order to maintain the tools of the counter-revolution in good condition, that is to say, to fatten them well at the expense of the people and its "fundamental rights" and to fortify them for further heroic deeds.

In such cases the Frankfurt gentlemen always had the necessary power, since they borrowed it from the ranks of the abovementioned "fundamental power" of our gracious sovereigns.

Consequently, it is not surprising that the Frankfurt frog-pond has to maintain an impotent silence and look on helplessly whenever the anointed gentlemen proclaim their "fundamental rights", even if the fundamental rights of the gentlemen "by the grace of God" are aimed directly against it.

Hence also it will and must calmly witness that the Austrian Tamerlane has now dictated 13 fundamental rights to his beloved "subjects" among whom is a considerable number of Germans by the grace of God and Sophia, and simultaneously with this coup he has once again dealt a rough slap in the face to the Frankfurt heroes. And that according to law and justice!

  1. The reference is to the dissolution of the Austrian Constituent Imperial Diet (Reichstag) by Emperor Francis Joseph on March 7, 1849. He was prompted to do this by his mother Archduchess Sophia and the Court camarilla. The Imperial Diet opened in Vienna on July 22, 1848. Prior to this, on May 15, as a result of the mass revolutionary actions, the Government was forced to recognise the constituent rights of the Imperial Diet to be convened. The majority of its deputies, however, representing the liberal bourgeoisie and landowners (including deputies from the Slav national districts), opposed any extension of the revolution. During the Vienna popular uprising in October 1848, the Imperial Diet transferred its seat to the Moravian town of Kremsier. There, on March 4, 1849 the consultative commission it had set up completed a Draft of Fundamental Rights providing for people's sovereignty, freedom of assembly and the press, equality of estates and nationalities, while retaining the monarchy. The draft, however, was not approved because the coup d'etat took place the same day and the new, anti-democratic Constitution was introduced by royal decree. Three days later the Diet itself was dissolved
  2. The reference is to the October-November 1848 counter-revolutionary coup d'etat in Prussia which resulted in the dissolution of the Prussian National Assembly and the introduction of the Constitution imposed by King Frederick William IV. The Holy Alliance—an association of European monarchs founded on September 26, 1815, on the initiative of the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, to suppress revolutionary movements and preserve feudal monarchies in European countries. During the 1848-49 revolution and subsequent years, counter-revolutionary circles in Austria, Prussia and Tsarist Russia attempted to revive the Holy Alliance's activities in a modified form.
  3. During the popular uprising in Vienna in October 1848, Welcker and Mosle, liberal deputies of the Frankfurt National Assembly, were sent to Vienna to negotiate with the insurgents and the Austrian Court and Government, which moved from the capital to Olmütz. Both of them acted as commissioners of the so-called Central Authority (Zentralgewalt) set up by the Frankfurt Assembly on June 28, 1848 and consisting of the Imperial Regent (Archduke Johann of Austria) and an Imperial Ministry. This provisional Central Authority had neither a budget nor an army of its own, possessed no real power, and was in fact an instrument of the counter-revolutionary German princes. However, Welcker and Mosle never turned up in revolutionary Vienna and confined themselves to fruitless talks with the Austrian Ministers and audiences granted by Emperor Ferdinand and Commander-in-Chief of the counter-revolutionary army Windischgrätz. The mediatory mission of the imperial commissioners was in fact a cover for the treacherous refusal by the liberal majority of the Frankfurt Assembly to support the Viennese insurgents Robert Blum, who represented the Left wing of the Frankfurt Assembly, sided with the insurgents and, despite his parliamentary immunity, was shot on November 9 by an Austrian firing-squad after the uprising was suppressed. The correspondence between Welcker and Mosle and the Austrian Ministers was published in the Appendices to the Report of the Committee of the Frankfurt Assembly for investigating Austrian affairs (see Verhandlungen der detschen verfassunggebenden Reichsversammlung zu Frankfurt am Main, Ed. 2, Frankfurt am Main, 1849, S. 602-19). The Neue Rheinische Zeitung responded to the Welcker-Mosle mission with a critical article "Report of the Frankfurt Committee on Austrian Affairs" (see MECW, Vol. 8, pp. 88-93).
  4. At the time when the coup d'etat was being hatched and implemented in Prussia, the Frankfurt National Assembly undertook to settle the conflict between the Prussian National Assembly and the Crown. To fulfil this mission, first Bassermann (a liberal leader) and later Simson and Hergenhahn arrived in Berlin as imperial commissioners. Gagern, Chairman of the Frankfurt Assembly, also went to the capital of Prussia to render assistance. The mediation of the imperial commissioners and Gagern proved to be helpful to the counter-revolutionaries, because it diverted the democratic forces in the German state from offering real support to the Prussian National Assembly in its struggle against the Brandenburg-Manteuffel Ministry
  5. SerezhansPeterwardein borderers as well as Serezhans and other South-Slav army formations mentioned below performed compulsory military service on the Austro-Turkish border (in the so-called Military Border area). They were named after their regimental or company districts or communities from which the soldiers came. In 1848-49 the Austrian authorities and the Right-wing bourgeois-landowning nationalist elements drew them into the war against revolutionary Hungary.
    Huzuls — Ukrainians living in the Carpathian mountains which formed part of Austrian Hungary. In the first half of the 19th century, up to 1918, they were subjects of the Habsburg Empire
  6. The reference is to the Grundrechte des deutschen Volkes a document passed by the Frankfurt National Assembly in December 1848 in the course of drawing up an all-German imperial Constitution (“Verfassung des deutschen Reiches vom 28. März 1849”). It was regarded by the Assembly as a component part of the Constitution and was included in it as Chapter Vi
  7. An allusion to the Austrian special border troops who wore red-coats and caps and were recruited mainly from among the inhabitants of the Empire’s Slav provinces (Croats, Serbs of the Voivodina etc.). In 1848 and 1849, they were used by the counter-revolution against the revolutionary movement