The Platform


Some Germans took lessons from the Second French Revolution in 1830 that they hoped to apply to their own country.

Germany’s lack of generosity is deeply ingrained, particularly among its people. During the 1920s, the struggle for Greek freedom against the Turks became a substitute for the bourgeoisies hopeless fight against oppression within their own country. The bourgeoisie justified their support for the Greeks by citing the defense of Christianity against Muslims.

At the Wartburg festival in 1817, the German fraternity burned the Code Napoleon, the most advanced body of law at the time, along with what they deemed shameful writings of their homeland.

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a German gymnastics educator, and nationalist, exhibited contradictory views by fiercely criticizing the convoluted small-state system while fervently supporting the monarchy, promoting German nationalism, and harboring disdain for foreigners. He even suggested creating artificial deserts with wild animals to protect Germany from foreign influences, driven by his irrational hatred of the French.

Another contradictory figure was Karl Ludwig Sand, a theology student who murdered writer August von Kotzebue in 1819. While Kotzebue represented reactionary forces, Sand, his killer, paradoxically embodied a reactionary aspect of the rebellion. Sand dressed in “old German clothes” and carried a torn-out page from the New Testament along with his daggers. After committing the act, he thanked God on his knees and plunged the blade into his own chest. This gruesome act evoked a mixture of horror and approval among Germans, providing the ruling powers with a pretext to pass the Carlsbad Decrees.

The Second French Revolution in 1830 brought a new wave of liberalism to Germany. However, the Hambach Festival of 1832 lacked German nationalism, as participants cheered for France numerous times, with some even hoping for liberation through direct French intervention. Yet, the belief that the French Revolution could be replicated in Germany remained a tragic misunderstanding among the democratic-revolutionary faction until the late 1840s.

The social landscape changed significantly, with the emergence of the capitalist bourgeoisie and the industrial proletariat alongside the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry. As the leading social class in the liberal movement, the bourgeoisie sought limited conflict with the old powers, having learned from events in France that the lower classes could only serve as temporary instruments in the hands of a more cunning party. This observation, made by liberal politician David Hansemann in a memorandum to the Prussian king, highlighted the bourgeoisies strategic approach.

Pre-March liberalism thus encompassed socially diverse and politically distinct forces. There were differing opinions on whether a republic or a constitutional monarchy was the desired goal, as well as on whether national unification should be achieved under Prussian or Austrian leadership. In its vagueness as a general “tendency,” pre-March liberalism appeared as a united opposition against feudalism, with a common thread of being national, anti-feudal, and anti-clerical.

These circumstances laid the groundwork for the attempted German revolutions of the late 1840s. The concept of a proletarian revolution already existed in the form of the Communist Manifesto even before the revolution took place.

In 1842, Heinrich Heine observed an “instinctive fear of Communism” among the French bourgeoisie, suspecting that the republic no longer represented the principles of the 1790s but would instead pave the way for a new and unprecedented proletarian rule based on communal ownership.

Eva Kneifel is studying Politics and History at FernUniversität Campus Hagen.