Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

The Slovaks. — The So-Called Dembinski Bulletin

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 299;
Written: by Engels about April 19, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 277, April 20, 1849.

Owing to the non-arrival of the Berlin train we are without any recent news from the theatre of war. The Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, which now carries all the news from Vienna and Hungary one day late, has nothing new either, of course. The report of its “reliable” Vienna correspondent on the latest military events contains nothing but nonsense and most glaringly contradicts geography. For example, he says that the insurgents want to erect a bridge “at Szent Endré”, though two arms of the Danube and an island four miles long and a half mile wide lie between Szent Endré and the Magyars etc.

The Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen yesterday carried a long article “from Slovakia”, which in the last analysis amounts to a doleful lamentation about the Austrian Government doing nothing to foster pan-Slavist separatist aspirations against Hungary among the Slovaks. Every line indicates how much they deplore that it is quite impossible to arouse pan-Slavist Magyar hatred in the Slovaks, that the Slovak peasants give their allegiance above all to the party which definitely assures them of liberation from their feudal burdens, that the Magyar nobility is naturally pro-Magyar and the German middle class of the towns is also favourably inclined towards the Magyars. The notorious boasting at the Olmütz Court about the “Slovak trusted representatives"[241] is disowned even here:

“The common people naturally know little or nothing of the election of ‘Slovak trusted representatives'; educated Slovaks shrug their shoulders at a blunder that could hardly have been worse. Kollár, the only poet among them, is a name everywhere popular and respected; the rest are lawyers whom not a soul knows in Slovakia, who have never wielded a pen in favour of the Slovaks, never taken a step, never spoken a word which could have given them a claim to the honourable title of ‘trusted representatives’ of a nation, even if in other respects their honourable private character is in no way disputed. In Slovakia they are, Kollár excepted, ‘mistrusted representatives’. To put a Hungarian lawyer in charge of Slovak affairs is an unfortunate idea. Perhaps this was why the Slovenshi pozornik (Slovak Observer), mentioning the trusted representatives in its first issue, did not even bother to give their names, Kollár again excepted, to whom due respect is paid.”

Since last night, an alleged “27th Battle Report of General Dembinski to Kossuth”, dated Gödöllö, April 7, is being circulated here in Cologne. This report is printed in Frankfurt, whence false news on Austria has already come more than once. But even if it is not genuine, it is a good imitation made from the available material. Dates and military positions are everywhere sufficiently in accord with those of the Austrian Bulletins; the Bulletin only contains something new on the fighting which took place before April 2. The main content is as follows:

Dembinski, acting here as commander of the centre and General-in-Chief (Vetter has the right wing, Görgey the left), has first totally defeated an enemy corps at Erlau and then beaten the rearguard again at Gyöngyös. In this second battle the Hungarians are said to have captured 16 cannon and made 1,200 prisoners, which, however, is somewhat exaggerated.

On the 5th the Austrians were driven from Hatvan to Gödöllö, where a major battle took place on the 6th. Here the Hungarians were completely victorious, took 26 cannon, 7 flags, 38 ammunition carts and 3,200 prisoners, and drove the Austrians back to the walls of Pest. The imperial troops are said to have lost 6,000 dead and wounded, the Hungarians 2,000.

As can be seen, the Bulletin contains nothing new except that it gives figures; these, even if it were genuine, are probably not too correct. In the first flush of victory enemy losses always tend to be exaggerated.

So it is really immaterial whether the Bulletin is genuine or simply a fake, since it only gives known results.

What makes its authenticity very suspect, however, is the date. A Bulletin from Gödöllö dated the 7th could not have been received again on the 10th printed in Debreczin. Had it been printed by the army and distributed in Pest or Ofen, we would have heard the news already in other ways. Moreover, the leaflet gives its source only in the words “translated from the Hungarian”. It neither says where the original was printed nor whence it comes. Even if the content can be accepted as authentic, its form is certainly very suspect. But, as we have said, it is immaterial whether this leaflet is authentic or fabricated, since it reports nothing new at all.