The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history, but within a year, reactionary forces had regained control, and the revolutions collapsed.The revolutionary wave began in France in February, and immediately spread to most of Europe and parts of Latin America. Over 50 countries were affected, but with no coordination or cooperation among the revolutionaries in different countries. Five factors were involved: widespread dissatisfaction with political leadership; demands for more participation in government and democracy; the demands of the working classes; the upsurge of nationalism; and finally, the regrouping of the reactionary forces based on the royalty, the aristocracy, the army, and the peasants.
The groundwork of the 1848 uprising in Germany was laid long beforehand. The Hambacher Fest of 1832, for instance, reflected growing unrest in the face of heavy taxation and political censorship. The Hambacher Fest is particularly noteworthy for the fact that it resulted in the origination of the black-red-gold colours (which form today's flag of Germany) as a symbol of the republican movement and of a unity among the German-speaking people.
The Revolution of 1848 failed in its attempt to unify the German-speaking states into a single nation because the Frankfurt Assembly (officially the All-German National Assembly) as an elected body, reflected the many different interests of the German ruling classes and it was difficult, if not impossible to form coalitions in order to push for specific goals. The first conflict arose over the aim of the assembly. The moderate liberals wanted to draw up a document that would be presented to the monarchs as a constitution, whereas the small radical group of members wanted the assembly to declare itself a law-giving parliament. With such a fundamental division within the assembly it was not possible to take any definitive action toward unification or the introduction of democratic rules, and so the assembly became little more than a debating society. While the French revolution could draw on a nation state, the democratic and liberal forces in Germany of 1848 were confronted with the need to build a nation state and a constitutional state at once, which overstrained them. When the Frankfurt Assembly first opened on May 18, 1848, the deputies elected Heinrich von Gagern as the first President of the Assembly. Gagern had strong support from the Center-Right Unionist party and had some influence with some of the moderates of the left, such that he could control perhaps 250 of the deputies of the Frankfurt Assembly. Gagern was a strong supporter of unification of all the German states into a single nation. He insisted however that progress towards unity could only be achieved with the agreement of the monarchs, all of whom were dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries. Only the Kingdom of Prussia had the military force necessary to effect this unification. Many in the Frankfurt National Assembly, including Gagern, were distrustful of the motives of the Prussian state and their absolutist government. The moderate liberals, fearful of losing their positions as servants of the monarchs whom they wished to convince of the need for reforms, quickly came to the conclusion that only negotiations would lead to some form of political progress. Their caution later turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy when the Prussian army ignored the demands for reforms of any kind and chased the rump assembly out of Frankfurt in 1849.
The Frankfurt Assembly had no powers to raise taxes and relied completely on the goodwill of the monarchs. As many of the members held influential positions in provincial governments, their reluctance to call for radical reforms or annoy their employers in any way meant that it was never possible for the assembly to raise the funds necessary for raising an army or even to enforce any laws that were passed. Dominated by the moderate liberals, there was no chance that a more militant mood would take over and the hundred or so radicals, who believed that an armed uprising was necessary if the old powers were to be defeated, lost interest and left the assembly to try and raise forces at a local level to bring about a 'real' revolution. Without a bureaucracy they could not raise any money and without any money they could not raise a bureaucracy. The assembly started strongly with a great deal of motivation to get things done. This impetus was soon dissipated, however, as the various major divides between the various factions of the Frankfurt Assembly came to the fore—advocates of Grossdeutschland versus advocates ofKleindeutschland, Catholics versus Protestants, supporters of Austria versus supporters of Prussia. As various issues arose before the Frankfurt Assembly, the splits between the various factions became evident. The major conflict that later caused the collapse of the whole assembly was the demands from the left that the assembly declare its sovereign rights and write a democratic constitution, while the cautious liberals believed until the end that negotiations with the reactionary monarchs could lead to some small reforms. The various interest groups began to gather in local meeting places in order to decide on tactics in the assembly, ranging from royalist conservatives to radicals, these were not in a position to formulate coherent policies and membership was at best tenuous.
Meanwhile, outside the Frankfurt Assembly, the rulers of the German states gradually realised that their positions were no longer under threat. The King of Bavaria had stepped down, it was true, but that was only partly the result of pressure from below. As the threat of an armed uprising receded it was clear that German unification was a dead letter. The princes were unwilling to give up any power in the pursuit of unification of the whole country. Some princes were so firmly opposed to the Frankfurt Assembly that they had only tolerated its existence while they quelled rebellions in their respective territories. As soon as they had crushed the rebels, they followed the example of Prussia, recalling their deputies from the Assembly. Only Prussia, with its overwhelming military might, was able to overcome the objections of local princes to the unification of Germany and protect the Frankfurt Assembly from military attack by the princes. But Prussia's motives with regard to the very existence of the Frankfurt National Assembly were always questionable at best.
There were few things on which the deputies of the Frankfurt National Assembly could agree to act. One measure of the Assembly that was significant for the future of Germany was the founding of the Reichsflotte, the German Navy, on June 14, 1848.
The powerlessness of the Frankfurt Assembly, however, was reflected in the debate over the Danish Conflict of 1848. Like many other events of 1848, the Danish conflict was sparked by a street demonstration. On March 21, 1848, the people of Copenhagen poured out into the streets to demand a liberal Constitution. The majority in the Danish province of Holstein and in the southern part of the province of Schleswig was German-speaking. The citizens of the city of Kiel located in the Danish province of Holstein, where a majority of the population spoke German, were unsure of what was occurring in Copenhagen and revolted themselves to establish a separate and autonomous province with closer relations with the German states. On March 24, 1848, they set up a new provisional, autonomous government in Holstein and raised a Schleswig-Holstein army of 7,000 soldiers. The broad range of national/unification opinion in the German states supported joining both provinces of Schleswig and Holstein to a new unified state of Germany. Prussia sent an army in support of the independence movement in Schleswig and Holstein. Prussia ignored the Frankfurt National assembly altogether when Great Britain and Russia applied international pressure to end the war. The Prussians signed a peace reached at Malmö which required the removal of all Prussian troops from the two duchies and agreed to all other Danish demands.The Treaty of Malmo was greeted with extreme public consternation in Germany, as reflected in the debate over the treaty in Frankfurt National Assembly. Because the Frankfurt National Assembly had no army of its own, it could do nothing about the unilateral actions on the part of Prussia. On September 16, 1848, the Frankfurt National Assembly approved of the Malmo Treaty by a majority vote. Public support for the National Assembly declined sharply following the vote on the Malmo Treaty. Indeed, the Radical Republicans came out in opposition to the Assembly itself as a result of the vote on the Malmo Treaty.
After many diversions, the Frankfurt National Assembly was finally able to take up the issue of a German constitution. In October 1848, King Frederick William IV of Prussia unilaterally issued a monarchist constitution. Under this new monarchist Constitution a Prussian Assembly was established. The Assembly was a bicameral legislature, consisting of a Herrenhaus (House of Lords) or upper house, whose members were selected by the provincial governments, and aLandtag (Country Diet) whose members were elected by male suffrage but were seated only through a complicated system of electoral committees. Otto von Bismarck was elected to this first Landtag. The Landtag was an attempt to directly undercut the authority of the Frankfurt National Assembly. In an attempt to regain some authority, the Frankfurt Assembly dispatched a delegation to offer King Frederick William IV the crown of German emperor in April 1849. King Frederick William, however, turned down the offer, because he would accept a crown only by the grace of God, not "from the gutter".
The Frankfurt National Assembly came into existence partly because of events that had begun in Vienna, Austria, which resulted in the fall of Prince Metternich from power. The support for the Assembly came mainly from the southern provinces, where there was a tradition of opposition to the local tyrants. After Austria had crushed the Italian revolts of 1848/1849, the Habsburgs were ready to turn their attention back to Germany. Unable to muster an army and lacking support from the German states, the Assembly could not resist Austrian power. The Frankfurt National Assembly was dissolved on May 31, 1849.
By 1845 Marx had a drinking companion, Frederick Engels, who agreed with Marx's ideas. Engels was the son of a wealthy German cotton manufacturer with a plant in Manchester, England, that made sewing threads, and when Engles could he would help Marx financially.
Marx had been writing political tracts. In 1845 he wrote that philosophers had been interpreting the world in various ways but that the point was to change the world. He wrote a refutation to a book by an acquaintance who was better known than he: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon's book was The Philosophy of Poverty. Marx titled his The Poverty of Philosophy and pushed his view that the way to change the world was to side with the proletariat rather than to philosophize about ideals. Marx foresaw a span of time in which the proletariat held power and deprived the bouregoisie of its power. Proudhon was advocating an immediate freedom for all and expressed opposition to what would become known as the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Proudhon wanted no state, and he wanted freedom from indoctrination. Proudhom believed in an order in which no one had power over others – an order without power – while Marx saw him as utopian..