Articles by Marx & Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The Military Reports of the Kölnische Zeitung

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 13;
Written: Written by Engels on March 7, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 240, March 8, 1849

The Kölnische Zeitung celebrated yesterday a day of rejoicing, unfortunately subdued by a measure of moral indignation. The cause of its rejoicing was the telegraphic dispatch from Olmütz reporting the alleged victory of Windischgrätz; the moral indignation had naturally been caused by nobody else but us, with our observations about the greater or lesser credibility of the Magyar reports. What! This deplorable paper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, presumes to maintain that the Kölnische Zeitung "has not yet proved the Magyar reports guilty of a single case of exaggeration", but that the Neue Rheinische Zeitung itself has "critically ascertained the credibility of these reports"! And then three exclamation marks, each more wrathful and indignant than the last.

Let us leave unruffled the holy zeal with which our neighbouring journalist fights for Truth, Justice and Windischgrätz. Let us be content for today — as the news from Hungary is very meagre—with "critically ascertaining" the "credibility" of yesterday's report in the Kölnische Zeitung.

The Kölnische Zeitung commences with an important mien:

"Today we are in a position to give more definite news from the two theatres of war. Namely this: "Today we undergo the same experience with regard to the long Magyar victory-report in the Breslauer Zeitung as we so frequently had with regard to these reports: once again we must confirm that it has been nothing but a ridiculous exaggeration. The alleged defeat of Windischgräz turns out to be a victory for the same; and there is not a word of truth in the reported capture of Hennannstadt by Bem.

That sounds grand enough. At a single stroke two fat "exaggerations" in the Magyar report have thus been supposedly discovered—we beg your pardon, communicated by our neighbouring journalist to his readers at second hand from Austrian newspapers. But let us now look at the matter in detail.

Firstly, the famous Olmütz telegraphic dispatch is reproduced and set up as an authority beyond all doubt. But why, we ask, does the triumphant Cologne newspaper not find it fitting to carry a news item that places this dispatch in a very strange light? On the same day that the Vienna Government distributed in Vienna the news of Windischgrätz's alleged victory, it stopped all letters and newspapers from Pest at the post-office. Probably in joy at the mighty victory of the armed forces of the fatherland. The Kölnische Zeitung must have read this news, as we did, in at least half a dozen East-German newspapers. But in order not to disturb the joy of its readers at the victory of "German arms", it does the same as the Austrian Government and withholds this piece of news. That is a sample of the way the Kölnische Zeitung "critically ascertains" the "credibility" of the Austrian victory dispatches.

But there is more to come. The Magyars are supposed to have been defeated at Kapolna. This is "significant".

"Kapolna is after all to the east of Gyöngyös; the Hungarians were thus in full backward movement."

When one is in "backward movement", reasons the worthy Cologne paper, one cannot but be defeated! Our neighbouring journalist has at last cast a glance at the map and discovered that the Magyars must have been defeated at Kapolna because "Kapolna is after all to the east of Gyöngyös"! Yes, very "significant" indeed!


"The Schlesische Zeitung, whose reporter incidentally knows nothing about the recent battle, has in this connection (!) been informed from Vienna: 'The Hungarians have withdrawn again on all sides, Prince Windischgrätz will cross the Theiss and march on Debreczin. The big battle must be fought shortly, or (!) Debreczin will be lost, the Rump Parliament [14] dissolved and consequently the whole insurrection at an end.' "

"Prince Windischgrätz will cross the Theiss and march on Debreczin." Prince Windischgätz says so, and it is the duty of every respectable citizen to believe him implicitly. "Prince Windischgrätz will"! It is now, thank heavens, nearly six weeks since "Prince Windischgräz will cross the Theiss" and "march on Debreczin", and he is still in the same place. If, however, like our neighbouring journalist, one knows how to distinguish between "more definite news" and "ridiculous exaggerations", the entire Hungarian war has come to an end with the assurance of "Prince Windischgrätz" that he "will cross the Theiss" and "march on Debreczin". "Debreczin is lost, the Rump Parliament dissolved and consequently the whole insurrection at an end." The matter is settled in the twinkling of an eye. Our neighbouring journalist, who has "crossed" the Theiss and conquered Debreczin so many times already, according to whom more Magyars have already been killed than all Hungary has inhabitants, and who was already rejoicing four weeks ago: "The war in Hungary is coming to an end"—this same journalist has suddenly been re-electrified after a lengthy period of dejection, and is again shouting, "The war is coming to an end, parturiunt montes" etc., and these are no "ridiculous exaggerations" but "more definite news"!

In this manner of making the Austrians win victories, the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen is a dangerous rival to the Kölnische Zeitung. For instance it reports today from Pest:

"A reverse inflicted on the royal imperial troops in Transylvania through infamous treachery is, on the other hand, compensated for by the fact that Komorn is at present being heavily attacked [15] and a bombardment has already taken place."

"So much for the main theatre of war. With this renewed Austrian offensive the Hungarian war has entered its second stage here."

How many "stages" our neighbour cares to make the Hungarian war enter is of little consequence. More interesting would be an answer to the question: how many "stages" has the reporting of the Kölnische Zeitung on the Hungarian war entered?

We pointed out right at the beginning of the war, even before the Austrians were in Pest, that the real battle-ground only begins beyond Pest, between the Theiss and the Danube, and that the scene of the final decision will be on the Theiss itself, or perhaps even on the far side of it. Even then we stated that the special proficiency of the Magyars in war, that the particular shortcomings of the Austrians, the difficulty of ensuring supplies and the whole nature of the terrain refer the Magyars to this area. On various occasions, and as recently as a few days ago, we have pointed out that all the "backward movements" of the Hungarians towards the Theiss do not determine anything whatsoever, because it is the Theiss that is their natural line of defence, behind which, for the present, they are fairly unassailable. We repeat: the further Prince Windischgrätz advances, the more difficult will his position become, the weaker his army, and the greater the Magyars' chances of victory. Moreover, the longer the decisive moment is postponed, the more time the Magyars have to arm, organise and reinforce their recently created army, while the position of the imperial forces is deteriorating rather than improving.

Supposing, then, that the Magyar report of the defeat of the Austrians were really false, their "victory" would anyway be restricted to insignificant skirmishes with the Magyar rearguard, whose job it was to cover the retreat of the main army in the direction of the Theiss and Hernad. A commanding officer like Dembinski will not accept a decisive battle before a river when he can fight much better beyond the river, unless he is perfectly sure of the outcome.

But as stated: hitherto there is no news, and neither the Magyar report nor the telegraphic dispatch have been confirmed in any way. The Vienna letters and newspapers have not reached us, the Breslau papers have likewise failed to arrive because there is no Monday issue, the Berlin papers have nothing new to tell, the Leipzig and Prague papers, which present the news one day later, only contain letters from Pest of the 27th which are still in ignorance of the battle which began on the 26th, and—a remarkable thing indeed—they do not print the Olmütz victory dispatch either.

Now to continue:

"We lack further news from Transylvania."

This news, that there is no news, is certainly very "definite"! An excellent fashion in which to repudiate the "ridiculous exaggerations" of the Magyars!

"The Breslauer Zeitung, which is by no means impartial" (a naive remark from the mouth of our Magyarophobe neighbour!), "is surely depicting the position of the Austrians too gloomily, for though it was certainly very precarious earlier on, it has after all improved recently."

"Surely, after all"! "It has after all improved!" "Surely depicting too gloomily"! Remarkably "more definite" news, in which nothing is "definite" except the tearful admission that the position of the Austrians was "certainly very precarious earlier on"!

"The story of the storming of Hermannstadt is a Magyar invention; for this is supposed to have occurred on February 15, and yet the Vienna Lloyd contains in its columns a letter from Hermannstadt of February 16 whose writer knows nothing of the alleged storming, but on the contrary etc.

And this letter from Hermannstadt, which is said to be dated the 16th, contains nothing whatsoever about the fate of the defeated Puchner, who rallied his troops again on the 12th outside Hermannstadt, contains nothing of the position of Bem advancing via Mühlbach, but merely drivels on about the raids of the Szeklers, about the few days left to hold out until "the victorious royal imperial troops, approaching ever nearer and nearer and closing in from all sides" (from whence!) eliminate the danger and so on. In short, this letter actually says nothing but what has long been known, and bears all the signs of a document fabricated in Vienna itself. Why are there then no official or semi-official reports available, if private newspapers have news from Hermannstadt of the 16th! And in a fictitious document like this the Kölnische Zeitung places its implicit trust! By means of information like this it "critically ascertains" the "ridiculous exaggerations" of the Magyar reports!

In addition, the Kölnische Zeitung contains some ludicrous snatches of gossip about the amateur theatres of the officers in Komorn, about the alleged dismissal of Görgey, about the "intentions" of Nugent etc., concluding, as usual, with "a series of noteworthy judgments from the Austrian press on the intervention of the Russians". When the gentlemen themselves lose their powers of judgment, this series of noteworthy judgments presents itself at the right moment for reproduction by anyone who cares to do so.

Such are the gentlemen of the Kölnische Zeitung. Too cowardly to indulge in any sort of polemic, which would be bound utterly to expose their hollowness, ignorance and empty-headedness, this literary lumpenproletariat seeks to vent its anger at all the blows it receives on the small Magyar people fighting against a force vastly superior to it. What does it matter to the Kölnische Zeitung that this heroic people of five million led, moreover, by officers who were nothing but traitors, is forced to defend itself against the entire might of Austria and Russia, against whole fanaticised nations, that it has taken on an unequal struggle compared with which the French revolutionary war was child's play. First it abused them as "cowards", "braggarts" etc., and when these cowards eventually put the whole of mighty Austria to flight, when they forced it humbly to beseech the Russians for aid, like a tiny sixth-rate country, against the few million Magyars, when 20,000 Russians then placed their weight in the scales in favour of Austria, this honourable little paper was unable to restrain its jubilation. And even now, as soon as there comes the slightest piece of news favourable to the imperial murderers, joy reigns in the columns of the Kölnische Zeitung and it exults at the victory of the side enjoying the most crushing superiority, gloats over the desperate struggle of a small nation of heroic courage against two of the biggest powers of Europe!

When censorship still existed, in 1831, no German newspaper dared to cheer the Russians as they drew ever tighter circles around Warsaw. [16] Then all was sympathy for Poland, and those who did not agree at least kept quiet. But today we have freedom of the press, and the Kölnische Zeitung may unimpeded throw all its despicable drivel in the face of the Magyars in the most brutal fashion.