Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue 1850
Source: MECW Volume 10, p. 247-250;
Written: January and February 1850;
First published: Neue Rheinische Zeitung Politisch-ökonomische Revue No. 2.
"We had voted against the inheritability of the office of Supreme Head of the Empire; on the next day we abstained from voting. When the whole result lay before us, however, as it had emerged from the will of the majority of an assembly elected on the basis of universal franchise, we declared that we should submit. Had we not done so we should have proved that we did not fit into civil society in general." (p. 43.)
According to Herr L. Simon "of Trier", therefore, the most extreme members of the Frankfurt Assembly no longer "fitted into civil society in general". Herr L, Simon "of Trier" thus appears to conceive the bounds of civil society in general as being even narrower than the bounds of St. Paul's Church.
Incidentally, in his confession of April 1l, 1849, Herr Simon had the tact to reveal the secret of both his former opposition and his later conversion.
"Cold mists have arisen from the gloomy waters of pre-March diplomacy. These mists will gather into clouds and we shall have a thunderstorm pregnant with ruin, threatening to strike first of all the tower of the church in which we are sitting. Take heed and arrange for a lightning-conductor to conduct the lightning away from yourselves!"
That is, gentlemen, it is now our skins that are at stake!
The beggarly proposals, the wretched compromises offered to the majority by the Frankfurt Left on the question of the Emperor and after the humiliated return of the deputation to the Emperor, merely in order to retain them in the Assembly, the dirty attempts at
agreement which they were at that time making in all directions, all receive their higher consecration in the following words of Herr Simon :
"The events of the past year have made the word agreement the butt of a very disquieting scorn. It is hardly possible to speak of it any longer without being derided. Yet of two possibilities only one can be realised: either people agree with one another, or they fall upon one another like wild animals." (p. 43.)
That is, either the parties concerned fight their battle to the finish, or they postpone it by means of any compromise they choose. The latter is at all events "more educated" and "more humane". With his theory set forth above, incidentally, Herr Simon opens up an endless series of agreements by means of which he will remain acceptable in any and every "civil society".
The late Imperial Constitution is justified in the following philosophical deduction:
"The Imperial Constitution was thus in fact properly the expression of what was possible without new erections of violence.... It was the living (!) expression of democratic monarchy, and hence of a contradiction in principle. But much has already existed in actual fact which was self contradictory in principle, and it is precisely from the actual existence of contradictions in principle that further life develops." (p. 44.)
It can be seen that to apply Hegelian dialectics is still rather more difficult than to quote snippets of verse by Schiller. The Imperial Constitution, if it was "actually" to endure in spite of its "contradiction in principle", ought at least to have expressed in a "principled" fashion that contradiction which "actually" existed. "Actually", there stood on the one hand Prussia and Austria, military absolutism, and on the other the German people, cheated of the fruits of their March rising, cheated to a great extent by their foolish belief in the wretched Frankfurt Assembly, and on the point of daring at last to embark on a new fight against military absolutism. This actual contradiction could only be resolved by an actual conflict. Did the Imperial Constitution express this contradiction! Not in the least. It expressed the contradiction as it existed in March 1848, before Prussia and Austria had recovered their strength, before the opposition had been split, weakened and disarmed by partial defeats. It expressed nothing more than the childish self-deception of the gentlemen of St. Paul's Church, who, in March 1849, still imagined themselves able to prescribe laws to the Prussian and Austrian governments, and to ensure for themselves for all posterity the position of imperial German Barrots, a position as profitable as it would be secure.
Then Herr Simon congratulates himself and his colleagues for being totally unshakable in their self-interested infatuation with the Imperial Constitution:
"Admit in shame, ye renegades of Gotha, that in the midst of pressing passions we have resisted every temptation, have faithfully kept our word and have not altered our common achievement by even one iota!" (p. 67.)
He then refers to their heroic deeds in connection with Wurttemberg and the Palatinate, and to their Stuttgart decision of June 8, in which they placed Baden under the protection of the Empire, although by that time the Empire was already essentially under the protection of Baden, and their decisions only proved that they were determined not to shift "by even one iota" from their cowardice, and to maintain by force an illusion in which they themselves no longer believed.
The accusation that "the Imperial Constitution was only a mask for the republic" is ingeniously rejected by Herr Simon as follows:
"Only if the struggle against all governments without exception had to be pursued to the end ... and who tells you then that the struggle against all governments without exception ought to have been pursued to the end? Who can calculate them all, the possible permutations of battle and of the fortunes of war, and if the hostile brothers" (governments and people) "had stood face to face after a bloody struggle, exhausted and undecided as to the outcome, and if the spirit of peace and reconciliation had come upon them, would we then have harmed even in the slightest the banner of the Imperial Constitution, under which the brothers could have stretched out their hands to each other in conciliation? Look about you! Place your hands on your hearts! Delve sincerely into your innermost conscience, and you will, you must answer: no, no, and again no!" (p. 70.)
This is the true quiver of oratory from which Herr Simon drew those arrows which he fired to such astonishing effect in St. Paul's Church!--In spite of its flatness, however, this touching pathos has its interest. It shows how the gentlemen of Frankfurt sat calmly in Stuttgart and waited for the hostile parties to fight to a standstill so that they could step between the exhausted combatants at the right moment and offer them the panacea of conciliation, the Imperial Constitution. And the extent to which Herr Simon is expressing the innermost thoughts of his colleagues can be seen from the way in which these gentlemen are even now in session in Berne at innkeeper Bent's in Kesslergasse, waiting only for a new conflict to break out so that they may step in when the sides "are standing face to face, exhausted and undecided as to the outcome", and offer them as a basis for agreement the Imperial Constitution, this perfect expression of exhaustion and indecision.
"But I say to you in spite of all that and however painful it may be to roam far from one's fatherland, far from one's home and far from aged parents, on the lonely path of exile, I will not exchange my pure conscience for the remorse of the renegades and the sleepless nights of the rulers, not even if I should be offered a surfeit of all worldly goods!" (p. 71.)
If it were only possible to send these gentlemen into exile! But do they not drag the fatherland along behind them in their suitcases in the form of the stenographic reports from Frankfurt? And do these not waft towards them currents of the purest air of the homeland and the fullness of the fairest self-complacency?
Incidentally, when Herr Simon maintains that he is putting in a good word for those who fought for the Imperial Constitution he is indulging in a pious deceit. Those who fought for the Imperial Constitution had no need of his "Word of Justice". They defended themselves better and more energetically. But Herr Simon has to push them forward in order to conceal the fact that, in the interest of the Frankfurters who have compromised themselves in every respect, in the interest of those who framed the Imperial Constitution, in his own interest, he considers it indispensable to deliver an oratio pro domo.