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8 THE WORKER AND THE REVOLUTION "THE world has probably never seen a political assembly composed of a greater number of noble, learned, conscientious, and patriotic men," was Carl Schurz's judgment of the Frankfurt Parliament. "But it lacked the genius for recognizing opportunity and swiftly taking time by the forelock. It forgot that in a wildly excited age history does not wait for the thinker, and so it was doomed to fail in everything.m In the ripe wisdom of his long years of achievement the democratic hero of two continents was looking back somewhat patronizingly to that ill-starred first national assembly of his native land. He had been one of the many who in 1 848 had turned in eager anticipation to the sages gathered in St. Paul's Church. He could remember how the hopes which had flowed so freely in the springtime of the Revolution began to run dry during the autumn. And he was still pondering the great enigma of a triumphant parliamentarianism completing its constitutional labors and inaugurating the reign of freedom, only to find itself defenseless in the face of a revived conservatism. Why had all the grand plans of representative government and economic progress turned into mere museum exhibits for the edification of the scholar? For most liberals as for most conservatives the Frankfurt Parliament had frittered away its great opportunity, because it was too busy making speeches and preparing reports to deal with the vital problems of state. The insurrectionary ardor of the masses which had achieved the miracle of the March days cooled, while the members of the national assembly talked and wrote and voted. They accomplished their task with the pedantic thoroughness of the academician, but in the meantime history marched past them to bestow its favor on a helmeted and spurred reaction. The [ 137 ] PART TWO: REVOLUTION moral of the story found classic expression in Bismarck's speech of September 30, I 862, before the budget committee of the Prussian legislature: "The great questions of the time are decided not by speeches and majority resolutions. That was the great mistake of I 848 and I 849. They are decided by iron and blood.112 Yet the thesis that the Revolution was talked to death by petty lawyers and absent-minded professors raises more questions than it purports to answer. The debate in St. Paul's Church was certainly crucial, but as deliberations of parliamentary conventions go, it was not excessive. As far as Germany is concerned, the national assembly of I 848 could not match the accomplishments of the national assembly of I9I9 which drafted a constitution in six months, but it acted with greater dispatch than the Italian national assembly of I946 which was in session eighteen months, or the French national assembly of I 789 which continued to meet for two years. It was not the passage of time which destroyed revolutionary fervor , but the failure to satisfy the needs which had inspired it. The Frankfurt Parliament, far from being the do-nothing gathering of garrulous politicians portrayed by a fraudulent tradition, displayed considerable ingenuity in dealing with the political and economic problems of Central Europe. It asserted its views clearly and boldly, and it acted with decision and promptness. The causes of its defeat are not to be found in vapid mentality or ineffectual artlessness. They must rather be sought in the policies followed by liberalism which disrupted the united front of bourgeois and proletarian forged during the March days. Once the common foe fell, the common purpose vanished, and the victorious alliance disintegrated into its component elements. During the spring uprising of I 848 the middle class was able to enlist the aid of the worker and the peasant; during the spring uprising of I 849 it could command only its own slender resources . In the course of one year it had squandered its popu- [ IJ8 ] THE WORKER AND THE REVOLUTION lar following, and by ignoring the wishes of the lower classes it destroyed the one force which might have perpetuated its domination of the state. Only with the masses of declassed masters and unemployed journeymen behind it could a political party achieve power during the Revolution. The first to discover this truth were the radical socialists of the Rhineland. In vain did Kar1 Marx, Friedrich Engels, Andreas Gottschalk, Karl Schapper, and Fritz Anneke seek to awaken the spirit of insurrection among factory workers, the bearers of the revolutionary tradition in France and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400882755
Related ISBN
9780691007557
MARC Record
OCLC
966782625
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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