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Silesia, Rustical Alliance

The "rustical alliance" in Silesia was credited with being the most important association of the rural population in the German revolution of 1848/49. A major share of the farmers and, in part, also of agricultural workers was covered by the numerous district and local unions set up within the setting of the Prussian province of Silesia. In October 1848, two months after its foundation, there were about 200,000 members registered in the alliance. This "rustical alliance" represented the interests of the peasantry vis-à-vis the landowners. It operated under the influence of the democratic party and shored up its political aspirations. The "rustical alliance was established in Mürschelwitz on August 27, 1848 (it is situated along the road from Breslau to Schweidnitz). The inaugural meeting attended by 400 persons from 18 Silesian districts, was chaired by the Schweidnitz democrat J.M. Petery. The most important demands put forward by the meeting were the rescission of the feudal loads without compensation, the immediate legal fixation of this demand and the refusal of all related services together with, ultimately, the elimination of the tax privileges for the landowners. At a congress on September 22 and 23 in Breslau, with almost all districts of the province being represented, the Silesian "Central Rustical Alliance" was formally constituted with the adoption of the statute and the election of a central committee. As chairman of the central committee was elected L. Schlinke, a former lieutenant of the territorial army and owner of a farmstead who had emerged from the democratic movement in Breslau; J.M. Petery was elected as his deputy. The congress demanded that the Berlin constituent assembly should decide that feudal services of any kind were no longer allowed to be collected. In the event of a rejection of this demand the congress announced the refusal to pay any taxes to the state. During the November crisis the "rustical alliance" supported the Prussian parliament in its resistance to the preparation for and carrying-out of the counter-revolution in Prussia by its participation in the tax refusal campaign and the call for the arming of the people. As the successor of L. Schlinke, who was forced to leave Prussia due to the threat of imprisonment, the congress of deputies convened in Breslau on December 20 and 21, 1848 elected the farmer Beck, the owner of a farmstead in Ernsdorf near Reichenbach.

Compared with the isolated efforts to confine the activities of the alliance to the purely material interests of the peasantry, the alliance held on to the political orientation in the sense of a democratic movement. During the elections to the first and second chamber in February 1849 the "rustical alliance" supported the democratic candidates. The paper Schlesische Dorfzeitung published by the alliance since February 1849 re-printed the series of articles "The Silesian Billion" from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung written by Wilhelm Wolff in March and April, which criticized the enforcement of the Prussian agrarian reforms from a revolutionary and democratic perspective. In conformity with Wolff's articles the congress of deputies, on March 28, 1849, called for the revision of the entire redemption processes carried out under the old redemption laws. The last known provincial congress of the `alliance' was held in Neumarkt on June 2, 1849. Several district and local alliances continued to operate for some time. and, like the alliance in the county Glatz, played an important role in organizing the peasantry in the defensive battles against the farm owners once more insisting on the fulfillment of their demands.

Helmut Bleiber


Bleiber, Helmut. "Rustikalverein in Schlesien 1848-1849." in Lexikon zur Parteiengeschichte. Die bürgerlichen und kleinbürgerlichen Parteien und Verbände in Deutschland (1789-1945). vol. 4, Leipzig 1986.

Michalkiewicz, Stanisaw. "Pierwsza organizacja chopska na Slasku (1848 rok)" in Sobotka, 21 (1966).

Schmidt, Walter. "Die schlesischen Rustikalvereine als Ausdruck revolutionär-demokratischer bäuerlicher Organisationsbestrebungen in der Revolution von 1848/49. in: Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Friedrich Schiller-Universität Jena, 14 (1965) vol II.

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