Frederick Engels in Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung

A Word to The Riforma

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 553;
Written: about February 22, 1848;
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, February 24, 1848;
Signed: F. Engels.

The Riforma of Lucca has printed a reply to one of those well-known and vile articles which the Augsburger Zeitung is accustomed to publish on instructions from the Imperial Chancellery in Vienna .[311]

That trashy rag from the Lech had not only praised to the skies the loyalty of the 518,000 Austrian soldiers to their feeble-minded Ferdinand, but had also claimed that all these soldiers, Bohemians, Poles, Slovaks, Croats, Heyducks, Wallachians, Hungarians, Italians, etc., were burning with enthusiasm for German unity and would willingly part with their lives for it, as soon as it should be the will of the Emperor!

As though this were not precisely the misfortune — that so long as Austria exists Germany has to risk seeing its unity defended by Heyducks, Croats and Wallachians, as though the unity of Germany so long as Austria survives could be anything else but the unity of Germany with Croats, Wallachians, Magyars and Italians!

The Riforma replies very aptly to the lying claim of the All-Gemeine [pun on the name: Allgemeine Zeitung — “All-Gemeine” means thoroughly vile], that Austria is in fact defending the interests of the German nation in Lombardy, and concludes with an appeal to the Germans, drawing a parallel between the Italian movement of 1848 and the German wars of liberation in 1813 and 1815.

The Riforma evidently thought that by doing so it was paying a compliment to the Germans, otherwise it would never have equated, against its better judgment, today’s progressive Italian movement with precisely those reactionary wars to which Italy directly owes its subjugation to Austria, to which Germany owes the restoration of as much as possible of the old confusion, fragmentation and tyranny, and to which the whole of Europe owes the infamous treaties of 1815. [312]

The Riforma may take our word for it: Germany is fully enlightened as to the wars of liberation, both through the consequences of the wars themselves and through the ignominious end to which the heroes of that “glorious” age have come. Only the hired papers of the government still puff their cheeks and trumpet forth praise for that stupidity — intoxicated period, the public laughs and even the iron cross turns red with shame.

Precisely these newspapers, precisely these enthusiastic French-eaters of 1813, are now raising the same outcry against the Italians as they did before against the French, who sing paeons of praise to Austria, to Christian-Germanic Austria, and who preach crusades against Romance knavery and Romance frippery — for indeed Italians are just as much Romance as the French.

Would the Italians like an example of the sympathy they may expect from the worthy blusterers of the age of liberation, of the kind of ideas these red-headed visionaries entertain about the Italian nation? We shall merely quote the well-known song by A[ugustl A[dolf] L[udwig] Follen:

Yon land of marvels all may sing,
Where mandolins and soft guitars do ring
And, ‘neath darkling leaf, the golden orange gleams;
But the purple German plum esteem
And Borsdorf’s apple on its leafy beam,

and how these poetic ravings of an ever cool-headed philistine drivel on. Then come the most ludicrous pictures of bandits, daggers, fire-belching mountains, Romance knavery, the infidelity of Italian women, bugs, scorpions, poison, vipers, assassins, etc., seen by this virtuous lover of plums running around in dozens on all the highways of Italy, and finally the gushing philistine thanks his God that he is in the land of Love and Friendship, of shindies with chair-legs, of faithful, blue-eyed pastors’ daughters, of probity and cosiness, in short in the land of German Loyalty. Such are the superstitious and novelettish ideas entertained by the heroes of 1813 about Italy, which of course they have never seen.

The Riforma and the men of the Italian movement in general can rest assured: public opinion in Germany is definitely on the side of the Italians. The German people have just as great an interest in the fall of Austria as the Italian people. They greet with undivided applause every step forward by the Italian people, and, we hope, they will not be missing from the battlefield at the right moment to put an end to all the Austrian magnificence once and for all.