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of state which was expressly devised for this specific purpose – the Bonapartist monarchy.
This  change  of  Prussia  towards  Bonapartism  I  have  discussed  in  another  place
(Woknungsfrage).  What  I  did  not  stress  there,  and  what  is  very  important  in  this
connection, is that this change was the greatest progress made by Prussia after 1848, which
only shows how backward Prussia was in point of modern development. It is a fact that the
Prussian  State  still  was  a  semi-feudal  State,  whereas  Bonapartism  is,  at  all  events,  a
modern  form  of  state  which  presupposes  the  abolition  of  feudalism.  Thus  Prussia  must
decide to do away with its numerous remnants of feudalism, to sacrifice its junkerdom as
such. This, naturally, is being done in the mildest possible form, and under the tune of the
favourite  melody,  “Always  slowly  forward.”  An  example  of  such  “reform”  work  is  the
notorious organisation of districts, which, removing the feudal privileges of the individual
junker in relation to his estate, restores them as special privileges of the big landowners in
relation  to  the  entire  district.  The  substance  remains,  it  being  only  translated  from  the
feudal into the bourgeois dialect. The old Prussian junker is forcibly being transformed into
something  akin  to  the  English  squire.  He  need  not  have  offered  so  much  resistance,
because the one is just as foolish as the other.
Thus  it  was  the  peculiar  feat  of  Prussia  not  only  to  culminate,  by  the  end  of  this
century,  her  bourgeois  revolution  begun  in  1808–13  and  continued  in  1848,  but  to
culminate  it  in  the  present  form  of  Bonapartism.  If  everything  goes  well,  and  the  world
remains nice and quiet, and we all become old enough, we can still perhaps live to see –
about  1900  –  the  government  of  Prussia  actually  relinquishing  all  feudal  institutions,  and
Prussia finally reaching a point where France stood in 1792.
Speaking  positively,  the  abolition  of  feudalism  means  the  introduction  of  bourgeois
conditions. In the measure as the privileges of the nobility fall, legislation becomes more
and more bourgeois. Here, again, we meet with the chief point at issue, the attitude of the
German  bourgeoisie  towards  the  government.  We  have  seen  that  the  government  is
compelled to introduce these slow and petty reforms, but in its relation to the bourgeoisie,
the government portrays these small concessions as sacrifices in favour of the bourgeoisie,
as concessions yielded by the crown with difficulty and pain, and for which the bourgeoisie
must,  in  return,  yield  something  to  he  government.  The  bourgeoisie,  on  the  other  hand,
though quite aware of this state of affairs, allows itself to be fooled. This is the source of
the  tacit  agreement  which  is  the  basis  of  all  Reichstag  and  Chamber  debates.  On  the  one
hand,  the  government  reforms  the  laws  at  a  snail  pace  tempo  in  the  interests  of  the
bourgeoisie;  it  removes  the  impediments  to  industry  emanating  from  the  multiplicity  of
small states; it creates unity of coinage, of measures and weights; it gives freedom of trade,
etc.;  it  grants  the  freedom  of  movement;  it  puts  the  working  power  of  Germany  at  the
The Peasant War in Germany
– 12 –

unlimited disposal of capital; it creates favourable conditions for trade and speculation. On
the  other  hand,  the  bourgeoisie  leaves  in  the  hands  of  the  government  all  actual  political
power; it votes taxes, loans and recruits; it helps to frame all new reform laws in a way that
the  old  police  power  over  undesirable  individuals  shall  remain  in  full  force.  The
bourgeoisie buys its gradual social emancipation for the price of immediate renunciation of
its own political power. Naturally, the motive which makes such agreement acceptable to
the bourgeoisie is not the fear of the government but the fear of the proletariat.
Miserable as the bourgeoisie appears in the political realm, it cannot be denied that as
far  as  industry  and  commerce  are  concerned,  the  bourgeoisie  fulfils  its  historic  duty.  The
growth  of  industry  and  commerce  mentioned  already  in  the  introduction  to  the  second
edition has been going on with even greater vigour. What has taken place in the Rhenish-
Westphalian  industrial  region  since  1869,  is  unprecedented  for  Germany,  and  it  reminds
one  of  the  rapid  growth  in  the  English  manufacturing  districts  at  the  beginning  of  this
century. The same thing will happen in Saxony and Upper Silesia, in Berlin, Hanover, and
the southern States. At last we have world trade, a really big industry, and a really modern
bourgeoisie. But we have also had a real crisis, and we have a truly mighty proletariat. For
the future historian of Germany, the battle roar of 1859–64 on the field of Spicheren, Mars
la Tour, Sedan, and the rest, will be of much less importance than the unpretentious, quiet,
and constantly forward-moving development of the German proletariat. Immediately after
1870, the German workers stood before a grave trial – the Bonapartist war provocation and
its natural sequence, the general national enthusiasm in Germany. The German workers did
not  allow  themselves  to  be  illusioned  for  a  moment.  Not  a  trace  of  national  chauvinism
made itself manifest among them. In the midst of a mania for victory, they remained cool,
demanding “equitable peace with the French Republic and no annexations,” and not even
the state of siege was in a position to silence them. No glory of battle, no phraseology of
German “imperial magnificence” attracted them. Their sole aim remained the liberation of
the entire European proletariat. We may say with full assurance that in no country have the
workers stood such a difficult test with such splendid results.
The  state  of  siege  of  wartime  was  followed  by  trials  for  treason,  lèse  majesté,  and
contempt  of  officers  and  by  ever  increasing  police  atrocities  practised  in  peace  time.  The
Volksstaat had three or four editors in prison simultaneously; the other papers, in the same
ratio.  Every  known  party  speaker  had  to  face  court  at  least  once  a  year,  and  was  usually
convicted.  Deportations,  confiscations,  suppressions  of  meetings  rapidly  followed  one
another, but all to no avail. The place of every prisoner or deportee was immediately filled
by  another.  For  one  suppressed  gathering,  two  others  were  substituted,  wearing  out
arbitrary police power in one locality after the other by endurance and strict conformity to
The Peasant War in Germany
– 13 –

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