Beer Riots in Bavaria
This article was first published in the 18 May 1844 issue of the Chartist weekly The Northern Star, to which Engels was a regular contributor. We publish it to show that Engels did not reject "rioting" when it took the form of collective class action around a specific objective. We are grateful to John Plant for drawing this piece to our attention, by posting it on the Revolutionary History website (www.revolutionary-history.co.uk).
The military was called in, but a regiment of horse-guards, when commanded to mount on horseback, refused to do so. The police, being, as everywhere, obnoxious to the people, were severely beaten and ill-treated by the rioters, and every station formerly occupied by police-officers had to be occupied by soldiers, who, being upon good terms with the people, were considered less hostile and showed an evident reluctance to interfere. They only did interfere when the palace of the King was attacked, and then merely took up such a position as was sufficient to keep the rioters back.
On the second evening (the 2nd of May) the King, in whose family a marriage had just been celebrated, and who for this reason had many illustrious visitors at his court, visited the theatre; but when, after the first act, a crowd assembled before the theatre and threatened to attack it, every one left the house to see what the matter was, and His Majesty, with his illustrious visitors, was obliged to follow them, or else he would have been left alone in his palace. The French papers assert that the King on this occasion ordered the military stationed before the theatre to fire upon the people, and that the soldiers refused.
The German papers do not mention this, as may be expected from their being published under censorship; but as the French papers are sometimes rather ill-informed about foreign matters, we cannot vouch for the truth of their assertion.
From all this, however, it appears that the Poet King (Ludwig, King of Bavaria, is the author of three volumes of unreadable Poems, of a Traveller’s Guide to one of his public buildings, etc etc) has been in a very awkward position during these outbreaks. In Munich, a town full of soldiers and police, the seat of a royal court, a riot lasts four days, notwithstanding all the array of the military – and at last the rioters force their object.
The King restored tranquillity by an ordinance, reducing the price of the quart of beer from ten kreutzers (3¼d) to nine kreutzers (3d). If the people once know they can frighten the government out of their taxing system, they will soon learn that it will be as easy to frighten them as far as regards more serious matters.