REVOLUTION: Five Centuries of Europe in Conflict, edited, with a preface, by Charles H. George, 1962


Revolution in the Nineteenth Century


In late February of 1848 a quarrel within the French upper bourgeoisie -- a reform movement against the ministry of Guizot -- once again put the torch to the revolutionary tinderbox of Paris. Parisian crowds poured out to insurrectionary demonstrations, and, in rapid sequence, the initial rallying cry of a bas Guizot was replaced by the demand for la republique, Louis Philippe -- once hailed as the most progressive of constitutional monarchs -- abdicated in a panic, a provisional government was hastily formed, and the Republic proclaimed to the nation -- and to an intensely watchful European public. The continental response was not long in coming: news of the Parisian events reverberated in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Milan; from Prussia and the lesser German states, through the multi-national sections of the Austrian Empire, from. North Italy to Rome, middle-class liberals rose to the latest French example; in Central and Southern Europe exhilarated bourgeois revolutionists -- stiffened by the muscle support of the working classes -- presented to frightened rulers programs for written constitutions, representative government, freedom of speech and of the press. Everywhere the pattern was the same -- indeed, by the spring of 1848 bourgeois liberalism seemed on the way to a clean sweep of the crowned heads of Europe, to the obliteration of the age and the aims of Metternich.

It was a glorious, an intoxicating victory in that "peoples' spring" of '48: "The strongholds of reaction had fallen, rubble had to be carted away, new structures were to arise; there was a great void, filled by sun and air; and over it brooded a singularly enlightened Zeitgeist. Men dreamed dreams and saw visions, and anything the spirit could conceive seemed attainable in that year of unlimited possibilities." The co-operation of all classes in the ordered freedom of the Republic, universal suffrage, women's rights, mitigation of the social frightfulness of the factory system, an end to aristocratic privilege, exploitation and class inequality -- such soaring hopes as these enthused the revolutionists of the West; in Germany, in Austria, Hungary or Italy the ideologues planned beyond the disappearance of foreign and despotic princes, to the dream-construction of modern nation-states, stripped of feudal vestiges, pacific, forward-looking states, responsive to the needs and desires of all their citizens. Truly, this was, as Namier called it, the revolution of the intellectuals, with its poets in Paris and professors in Frankfurt, its passionate nationalists, flamboyant orators and political theorists. And theoretically perfect it seemed, with the magnificent successes of the early months, an almost bloodless insurrection in which the progressive majority of Europeans had simply brushed aside the anachronism of an autocratic political order.

But -- for reasons mysterious to most bourgeois contemporaries -- both the idea and the practical construct of the liberal state proved to be merely a stage, rather than a final solution, in the course of revolution. Once again Parisians led the way to a second point of revolutionary development: on June 23rd workers in Paris rose in rebellion against middle-class leadership, and for three days the French capital rocked with the violence of the proletarian attempt to push beyond the political revolution, be-yond the achievement of bourgeois republicanism. Inevitably, the French example was contagious; in even the barely industrialized center of Europe the working classes, aroused and fully engaged, pressed on toward the goal -- however vaguely defined -- of social revolution, an inchoate, swelling demand for social justice and reconstruction.

Here was the critical hour: the horrified bourgeoisie, and attendant intellectuals, hesitated, debated, divided -- but finally ran from revolution, scuttling for protection to the traditional wardens of peace and order in their respective lands. Middle-class liberals, who had gone so proudly to battle against aristocratic monopoly and arbitrary rule, who had fought in the name of mystically united national citizenries, were brought perforce to reality in the face of radical revolution -- civil war -- from below. After the June uprisings ruler and bourgeois joined, in familiar partnership, in defense of property, privilege and social peace. After the rapprochement the liberal bourgeoisie seceded from revolution -- -and predictably enough lost not only momentum but the constitutional gains already won: by 1851 Europe was restored its monarchical cast, rigidly controlled by the old ruling houses of Austria, Prussia and Russia, and by an interesting new adventure-in-dictatorship with the second Bonaparte in France.

As an attempt to change the political and social facts of European life the revolutions of 1848 accomplished nothing -- except to expose insurrectionary groups to more efficient methods of police repression, and to provide a springboard for the quasi-modern rule of Louis Napoleon. Yet as a chapter in the revolutionary history of Europe -- and especially of France -- the events of 1848 have a large measure of meaning and fascination. It is the obvious things that are important: the ignominious failure of liberal nationalism and the shattering disillusion of bourgeois intellectuals; and the worker rebellions that are less and less the actions of desperate mobs, more and more those of disciplined, self-conscious minority movements.

The heart of the action in 1848 was in France, France the most advanced of continental nations, with her cultural brilliance, her revolutionary traditions, her writers, poets and historians who embodied all the enlightened ideals of this confident age. Into the '48 revolution French intellectuals poured a fund of hopes -- and convictions -- that had been building for a quarter century. This was the uprising that would not only complete the task of the Great Revolution and consummate the political transformation of ancient monarchical France. In the revolutionized liberal state all things modern would flourish, and its body of citizens, held together by the common bond of celebration of the glory of the nation, freed for invention and experimentation, for pursuit of social and scientific knowledge, would explore the countless new paths that had opened for the benefit of man. The liberals' dream -- how hollow it seemed in the June Days in Paris, during the savage action that checked the working-class rebellion, and how empty and hopeless it was after 1851, measured against the tawdry reality of the Second Empire.

The point is that bourgeois intellectuals of the mid-nineteenth century lived in a dream-image of their society. Like so much in the French scene, their concern for the unreal can be traced to the Revolution of 1789: heirs of the Revolution they most certainly were, trained to the expectation of progress and social change; but reaction to the course and the outcome of the eighteenth-century movement had marked the post revolutionary generation. Somehow, sometime, as the later intellectuals saw it, the Revolution would be redone, but without violence, without class hatred and "Jacobin excesses"; they convinced themselves that in the enlightenment of the new century a reproduction of the class struggles of 1793-1795 was impossible, and that the French Revolution would proceed through voluntary and harmonious social action, a monument of hope to the entire world. Nor was it only liberals and republicans who were essentially antirevolutionary; Utopian socialists like Saint Simon and Fourier, and practical men of the Left like Louis Blanc -- such voices, too, contributed to an intellectual climate of belief in persuasion, in peaceful transition to reform of society misshapen by capitalist exploitation, bourgeois hypocrisy and industrial abuses. Men of the nineteenth century refused to see the inevitable divisiveness of class interests -- that the age of Voltaire had recognized clearly -- and it was this social myopia that exposed them to swift and bitter disillusion after June of 1848.

The strange phenomenon of nonrevolutionary revolutionists is documented in much of the social literature of the first half of the nineteenth century. To the Romantic historian Jules Michelet the Revolution was France, or rather France was revolutionary Idea, and thus true to herself only in movement toward the revolutionary future. The Great Revolution is with Michelet a glorious moment of history but it is a truncated memory that he treasures, a national regeneration proceeding without internal and external strife. The passage that follows is from Michelet's Historical View of the Revolution.

Every year, when I descend from my chair, at the close of my academic labors, when 1 see the crowd disperse -- another generation that 1 shall behold no more -- my mind is lost in inward contemplation....

1 commune with my own mind. I interrogate myself as to my teaching, my history, and its all-powerful interpreter -- the spirit of the Revolution.

It possesses a knowledge of which others are ignorant. It contains the secret of all bygone times. In it alone France was conscious of herself. When, in a moment of weakness, we may appear forgetful of our own worth, it is to this point we should recur in order to seek and recover ourselves again. Here, the inextinguishable spark, the profound mystery of life, is ever glowing within us.

The Revolution lives in ourselves -- in our souls; it has no outward monument. Living spirit of France, where shall I seize thee, but within myself? -- The governments that have succeeded each other, hostile in all other respects, appear at least agreed in this, to resuscitate, to awaken remote and departed ages. But thee they would have wished to bury. Yet why? Thou, thou alone dost live.

Thou livest! I feel this truth perpetually impressed upon me at the present period of the year, when my teaching is suspended -- when labor grows fatiguing, and the season becomes oppressive. Then I wander to the Champ de Mars, I sit me down on the parched grass, and inhale the strong breeze that is wafted across the arid plain.

The Champ de Mars! This is the only monument that the Revolution has left.... Her monument is this sandy plain, flat as Arabia. . . .

And though the plain be arid, and the grass be withered, it will, one day, renew its verdure.

For in that soil is profoundly mingled the fruitful sweat of their brows who, on a sacred day, piled up those hills -- that day when, aroused by the cannon of the Bastille, France from the North and France from the South came forward and embraced; that day when three millions of heroes in arms rose with the unanimity of one man, and decreed eternal peace.

Alas! poor Revolution. How confidingly on thy first day didst thou invite the world to love and peace. "O my enemies," didst thou exclaim, "there are no longer any enemies!" Thou didst stretch forth thy hand to all, and offer them thy cup to drink to the peace of nations -- But they would not.

And even when they advanced to inflict a treacherous wound, the sword drawn by France was the sword of peace. It was to deliver the nations, and give them true peace -- liberty -- that she struck the tyrants. Dante asserts Eternal Love to be the founder of the gates of hell. And thus the Revolution wrote Peace upon her flag of war....

France had so completely identified herself with this thought, that she did her utmost to restrain herself from achieving conquests. Every nation needing the same blessing -- liberty -- and pursuing the same right, whence could war possibly arise? Could the Revolution, which, in its principle, was but the triumph of right, the resurrection of justice, the tardy reaction of thought against brute force -- could it, without provocation, have recourse to violence?

This utterly pacific, benevolent, loving character of the Revolution seems today a paradox: -- so unknown is its origin, so misunderstood its nature, and so obscured its tradition, in so short a time!

The violent, terrible efforts which it was obliged to make, in order not to perish in a struggle with the conspiring world, has been mistaken for the Revolution itself by a blind, forgetful generation....

Thus, two evils, the greatest that can afflict a people, fell upon France at once. Her own tradition slipped away from her, she forgot herself. And, every day more uncertain, paler, and more fleeting, the doubtful image of Right flitted before her eyes. . . .

Weak and unarmed, and ready for temptation, it [the nation] had lost sight of the idea by which alone it had been sustained; like a wretched man deprived of sight, it groped its way in a miry road: it no longer saw its star. What! the star of victory? No, the sun of Justice and of the Revolution....

By 1848 idealization of the revolutionary nation-state is the common currency of expression, whether the speaker is liberal, democrat, democratic-socialist. The selection following is by Alphonse de Lamartine, liberal-republican leader, and minister in the Provisional Government:

France is a Republic. The French Republic does not need to be recognized in order to exist; it is by natural right and by national might. It is the will of a great nation authorized by itself alone. However, since the French Republic wishes to enter into the family of established nations as a regular power and not as a force disruptive of European order, it is fitting that you should promptly make known to the governments to which you are accredited the principles and policies which hereafter will govern the foreign policies of the French government.

The proclamation of the French Republic is not an act of aggression against any form of government anywhere in the world. The diversity of forms of government is just as legitimate as is the diversity of character, geographical situation and intellectual, moral and material development among peoples. Nations, like individuals, are not all the same age; the principles which govern them pass through successive phases. Monarchic, aristocratic, constitutional and republican forms of government express the varying degrees of maturity of the mind of the people. They demand more liberty in proportion to their readiness for it; they demand more equality and democracy as they become more animated by justice and love toward fellow man. It is a question of time. A people is as much lost by setting ahead the clock of this maturity as it would be dishonored by failing to profit by it. Monarchies and the republics do not, in the eyes of true statesmen, represent absolute principles locked in a death struggle; rather they are contrasting facts which can coexist providing they have mutual respect and understanding.

War, then, is not now one of the principles of the French Republic as it was its fatal and glorious necessity in 1792. Between 1792 and 1848 lies half a century. To go back, after this half century, to the principles of 1792, to the period of Empire and conquest, would not be advancing but regressing. Yesterday's revolution [February, 1848] was a step forward, not backward. We and the world alike wish to go forward in brotherhood and peace....

In 1792, the nation was not united, two peoples existed on the same soil. .. . Today there are no longer any distinct and unequal classes, all are enfranchised by liberty, all are leveled by equality before the law.... There is not a single French citizen, whatever his political belief, who does not put his fatherland first and who, by this very unity, makes her impregnable in the face of attempted invasion. .. .

In 1792 neither France nor Europe was ready to understand and accept a harmonious interrelation of nations with its resultant of benefits to mankind. .. . Fifty years freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of the press have had their effect; books, newspapers and speeches have propagated European enlightenment. Reason, shining over all, passing over national boundaries, has given men's minds a fatherland of the spirit which will be the crowning achievement of the French Revolution and the establishment of international brotherhood throughout the world.

In 1792, liberty was a novelty, equality a scandal, the Republic a problem.. . . [Thrones and peoples] will realize that there is such a thing as conservative liberty; that there may exist in a Republic not only a better system but also that there is more true order in government by all for all than in government by and for a few.

Make no mistake, however. These ideas which the Government charges you to present to the European powers as a pledge of European security are not to be taken as suing for forgiveness by the Republic for daring to be born, still less as a humble petition for the right to exist as a great state. . . .

The French people will declare war on no one; needless to say, she would accept the challenge were she to be attacked. The thoughts of those now governing France run as follows: France would be fortunate, in case war should be imposed upon her, thus forcing her to grow in strength and glory despite her moderation. France would be guilty were she to declare war without being forced to do so.. ..

Although the French Republic proclaims that the treaties of 1815 no longer exist except as facts to be modified by mutual consent, and that it is her right and her duty to bring about this modification, legally and peacefully, nevertheless, the good sense, moderation, conscientiousness and prudence of the Republic exist and these are, for Europe, a better and more honorable guarantee than the letter of those treaties which have been frequently violated or modified.

Endeavor, Sir, to achieve comprehension and acceptance of the Republic's emancipation from the treaties of 1815 and, at the same time, show that this freedom is not irreconcilable with the peace of Europe. Thus, we proclaim it aloud, were Providence to decree that the hour of reconstruction of certain oppressed European nations had struck -- were Switzerland, our faithful ally since the days of Francis I, either hindered or threatened in her political progress . . . . were Italy's independent states to be invaded, their internal transformation to be limited or thwarted, or were these states to be forcibly prevented from joining in the formation of an Italian nation, then the French Republic would believe she had the right to take arms herself in order to protect these legitimate movements of state growth and nationality.

The Republic, you see, in one bound has passed by' the age of proscription and dictatorships. She is equally resolved never to let liberty be veiled at home nor her democratic principles be obscured abroad. Let no man place his hand between the peaceful radiance of her liberty and the eyes of mankind. She declares herself to be allied by heart and mind to all rights, progress and legitimate development of the institutions of all nations who wish to live by the same principles as her own. Never will she carry on hidden and inflammatory propaganda among her neighbors. Well she knows that the only liberties which endure are those which spring from their native soil. Nonetheless, she will strive, by the example of order and peace she sets to the world, to indulge in the only real and honest propagandizing, that of winning admiration and sympathy. This is no war, it is nature; this is no agitation of Europe, it is life; this is no torch to set the world aflame, it is a beacon light to summon and guide the peoples of the world! ...

These three words [Liberty, Equality and Fraternity] in their application to our foreign affairs mean this: setting France free from the chains which outrage her principles and her dignity; restoration of the position she should hold among the great European powers; finally, the proclamation of her alliance and amity with all peoples. If France is aware of her role in the liberal, civilizing mission of this century, no one of these words means war. If Europe is wise and just, there is not one which does not say peace.

But if the revolution of '48 possessed a surplus of participants bred to and immersed in a process of self-delusion, there was one observer who cut through the maze of rhetoric to the core-meaning of the revolution and its aftermath. For coincidental with the '48 revolutions were the first published works of Karl Marx -- of a mind which combined the analytic brilliance of the philosophes with the idealistic humanism of the Romantics. The mystic vagaries of bourgeois intellectualism fade beside the incisiveness of Marx's interpretation and the clarity of his narration. Marx's writings had no effect on the revolutionary events at mid-century -- their impact would be felt later -- but the essays that appeared between 1848 and 1852 described and summarized the period with an insight into French political behavior wholly lacking in other contemporary products. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, excerpts of which are reproduced below, was the last of these essays, the monograph in which Marx, explaining the final stages of the bourgeois class struggles, rounded off his analysis of the revolution in France.

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Mountain of 1848 to 1851 for the Mountain of 1793 to 1795, the Nephew for the Uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances in which the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire is taking place.

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like an incubus on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something entirely new, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle slogans and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language. Thus Luther donned the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately as the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew of nothing better to do than to parody in turn 1789, and the revolutionary tradition of 1793 to 1795. In like manner the beginner, who has learned a new language, always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he has assimilated the spirit of the new language and can produce freely in it only when he moves in it without calling to mind his ancestral tongue.

But closer consideration of this historical conjuring with the dead reveals at once a salient difference. Camille Desmoulins, Danton, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Napoleon, the heroes, as well as the parties and the masses of the old French Revolution, performed the task of their time in Roman costume and with Roman phrases, the task of releasing and establishing modern bourgeois society. The first mentioned knocked the feudal basis to pieces and cut off the feudal heads which had grown from it. The other created inside France the conditions under which free competition could first be developed, the parceled landed property exploited, the unfettered productive power of the nation employed, and outside the French borders he everywhere swept the feudal form away, so far as it was necessary to furnish bourgeois society in France with a suitable up-to-date environment on the European Continent. The new social formation once established, the antediluvian Colossuses disappeared and with them the resurrected Romans -- the Brutuses, Gracchi, Publicolas, the Tribunes, the Senators and Caesar himself. Bourgeois society in its sober reality had begotten its true interpreters and mouthpieces in the Says, Cousins, Roler-Collards, Benjamin Constants and Guizots; its real military leaders sat behind the office desks, and the hog-headed Louis XV11I was its political chief. Wholly absorbed in the production of wealth and in the peaceful struggle of competition, it no longer comprehended that ghosts from the days of Rome had watched over its cradle. But unheroic as bourgeois society is, yet in its birth it had need of heroism and sacrifice in the classically austere traditions of the Roman Republic; its gladiators found the ideals and the art forms, the self-deceptions that they needed, in order to conceal from themselves the bourgeois limitations of the content of their struggles and to keep their passion at the height of the great historical tragedy. Similarly, at another stage of development, a century earlier, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed speech, passions and illusions from the Old Testament for their bourgeois revolution. When the real aim had been achieved, when the bourgeois transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke supplanted Habakkuk.

The awakening of the dead in those revolutions therefore served the purpose of glorifying the new struggles, not of parodying the old; of magnifying the given tasks in imagination, not of fleeing back from their solution in reality; of finding once more the spirit of revolution, not of making its ghost walk again.

From 1848 to 1851 only the ghost of the old Revolution walked, from Marrast, the Republicain en gants jaunes, who disguised himself as the old Bailly, to the adventurer who hides his trivially repulsive features under the iron death mask of Napoleon. An entire people, which had imagined that by a revolution it had increased its power of action, suddenly finds itself set back into a dead epoch and, so that no doubt as to the relapse may be possible, the old calendar again appears, the old chronology, the old names, the old edicts, which have long become a subject of antiquarian erudition, and the old henchmen, who had long seemed dead and rotting. The nation appears to itself like that mad Englishman in Bedlam, who fancies that he lives in the times of the ancient Pharaohs and daily bemoans the hard labor that he must perform in the Ethiopian mines as a gold digger, immured in this subterranean prison, a dimly burning lamp fastened to his head, the slaves' overseer behind him with a long whip, and at the exits a confused mass of barbarian mercenaries, who understand neither the forced laborers in the mines nor one another, since they have no common speech. "And all this is expected of me," groans the mad Englishman, "of me, a free-born Briton, in order to make gold for the old Pharaohs." "In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family," sighs the French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was in his right mind, could not get rid of the fixed idea of making gold. The French, so long as they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the memory of Napoleon, as the election of December 10, 1848, proved. From the perils of revolution their longings went back to the flesh-pots of Egypt, and December 2, 1851, was the answer. They have not only the caricature of the old Napoleon, they have caricatured the old Napoleon himself as he would inevitably appear in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The, social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future. It cannot make a beginning until it has stripped off all superstition of the past. Earlier revolutions required world-historical recollections in order to drug themselves concerning their own content. In order to arrive at its own content, the revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead. There the phrase went beyond the content; here the content goes beyond the phrase.

The February Revolution was a sudden attack, a taking of the old society by surprise, and the people proclaimed this unexpected stroke as a world-historical deed, opening the new epoch. On December 2 the February Revolution is conjured away by a cardsharper's trick, and what seems overthrown is no longer the monarchy; it is the liberal concessions that were wrung from it by century-long struggles. Instead of society having conquered a new content for itself, the state only appears to have returned to its oldest form, to the shamelessly open domination of the sword and the club. This is the answer to the coup de main of February 1848, given by the coup de tete of December, 1851. Easy come, easy go. Meanwhile the interval has not passed by unused. During the years 1848-1851 French society has made up, and that by an abbreviated, because revolutionary, method for the studies and experiences which, in a regular, so to speaks text-book development would have had to precede the February Revolution if it was to be more than a disturbance of the surface. Society now seems to have fallen back behind its point of departure; it has in truth first to create for itself the revolutionary point of departure, the situation, the relationships, the conditions, under which modern revolution alone becomes serious.

Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm more swiftly from success to success; their dramatic effects outdo each other; men and things seem set in sparkling brilliants; ecstasy is the everyday spirit; but they are short lived; soon they have attained their zenith, and a long depression lays hold of society before it learns to assimilate soberly the results of its storm and stress period. Proletarian revolutions, on the other hand, like those of the nineteenth century, criticize themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to recommence it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses and paltrinesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again more gigantic before them, recoil ever and anon from the infinite immensity of their own aims, until the situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

The first period from February 24, or the overthrow of Louis Philippe, to May 4, 1848, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, the February period proper, may be described as the prologue of the Revolution. The character was officially expressed in the fact that the government improvised by it declared itself to be provisional and, like the government, everything that was instigated, attempted, or enunciated during this period, proclaimed itself to be provisional. Nothing and nobody ventured to claim for themselves the right of~e& existence and of real action. All the elements that had prepared or determined the Revolution, the dynastic opposition, the republican bourgeoisie, the democratic-republican petty bourgeoisie and the social democratic workers, provisionally found their place in the February government.

It could not be otherwise. The February days originally intended an electoral reform, by which the circle of the politically privileged among the possessing class itself was to be widened and the exclusive domination of the aristocracy of finance overthrown. When it came to the actual conflict, however, when the people mounted the barricades, the National Guard maintained a passive attitude, the army offered no serious resistance and the monarchy ran away, the republic appeared to be a matter of course. Every party construed it in its own sense. Having been won by the proletariat by force of arms, the proletariat impressed its stamp on it and proclaimed it to be a social republic. There was thus indicated the general content of modern revolution, which stood in most singular contradiction to everything that, with the material at hand, with the degree of education attained by the masses, under the given circumstances and relationships, could be immediately realized in practice. On the other hand, the claims of all the remaining elements that had participated in the February Revolution were recognized by the lion's share that they obtained in the government. In no period do we therefore find a more confused mixture of high-flown phrases and actual uncertainty and clumsiness, of more enthusiastic striving for innovation and more deeply rooted domination of the old routine, of more apparent harmony of the whole society and more profound estrangement of its elements. While the Paris proletariat still revelled in the vision of the wide prospects that had opened before it and indulged in seriously meant discussions on social problems, the old powers of society had grouped themselves, assembled, deliberated and found an unexpected support in the mass of the nation, the peasants and petty bourgeois, who all at once stormed on to the political stage, after the barriers of the July monarchy had fallen.

The second period, from May 4, 1848, to the end of May 1849, is the period of the Constitution, the foundation of the bourgeois republic. Directly after the February days the dynastic opposition had not only been surprised by the republicans, the republicans by the socialists, but all France had been surprised by Paris. The National Assembly, which had met on May 4, 1848, having emerged from the national elections, represented the nation. It was a living protest against the presumptuous aspirations of the February days and was to reduce the results of the Revolution to the bourgeois scale. In vain the Paris proletariat, which immediately grasped the character of this National Assembly, attempted on May 15, a few days after it met, forcibly to deny its existence, to dissolve it, to disintegrate once more into its constituent parts the organic form in which the proletariat was threatened by the reactionary spirit of the nation. As is known, May 15 had no other result save that of removing Blanqui and his comrades, that is, the real leaders of the proletarian party, the revolutionary communists, from the public stage for the entire duration of the cycle we are considering.

The bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe can only be followed by the bourgeois republic, that is, if a limited section of the bourgeoisie formerly ruled in the name of the king, the whole of the bourgeoisie will now rule in the name of the people. The demands of the Paris proletariat are Utopian nonsense of which an end must be made. To this declaration of the Constituent National Assembly the Paris proletariat replied with the June Insurrection, the most colossal event in the history of European civil wars. The bourgeois republic triumphed. On its side stood the aristocracy of finance, the industrial bourgeoisie, the middle class, the petty bourgeois, the army, the lumpenproletariat organized as the Mobile Guard, the intellectual lights, the clergy, and the rural population. On the side of the Paris proletariat stood none but itself. More than three thousand insurgents were butchered after the victory, and fifteen thousand were transported without trial. With this defeat the proletariat passes into the background of the revolutionary stage. It attempts to press forward again on every occasion, as soon as the movement appears to make a fresh start, but with ever decreased expenditure of strength and always more insignificant results. As soon as one of the social strata situated above it gets into revolutionary ferment, it enters into an alliance with it and so shares all the defeats that the different parties suffer one after another. But these subsequent blows become steadily weaker the more they are distributed over the entire surface of society. Its more important leaders in the Assembly and the Press successively fall victims to the courts, and ever more equivocal figures come to the fore. In part it throws itself into doctrinaire experiments, exchange banks and workers' associations, hence into a movement in which it renounces the revolutionizing of the old world by means of its own great, combined resources, and seeks, rather, to achieve its salvation behind society's back, in private fashion, within its limited conditions of existence, and hence inevitably suffers shipwreck. It seems to be unable either to rediscover revolutionary greatness in itself or to win new energy from the alliances newly entered into, until all classes with which it contended in June themselves lie prostrate beside it. But at least it succumbs with the honors of the great, world-historical struggle; not only France, but all Europe trembles at the June earthquake, while the ensuing defeats of the upper classes are so cheaply bought that they require bare-faced exaggeration by the victorious party to be able to pass for events at all and become the more ignominious the further the defeated party is removed from the proletariat.

The defeat of the June insurgents, to be sure, had now prepared and leveled the ground on which the bourgeois republic could be founded and built up, but it had shown at the same time that in Europe there are other questions involved than that of "republic or monarchy." It had revealed that here bourgeois republic signifies the unlimited despotism of one class over other classes. It had proved that in lands with an old civilization, with a developed formation of classes, with modern conditions of production and with an intellectual consciousness into which all traditional ideas had been dissolved by centuries of effort, the republic signifies in general only the political form of the revolution of bourgeois society and not its conservative form of life, as, for example, in the United States of North America, where, though classes, indeed, already exist, they have not yet become fixed, but continually change and interchange their elements in a constant state of flux, where the modern means of production, instead of coinciding with a stagnant surplus population, rather supply the relative deficiency of heads and hands and where, finally, the feverishly youthful movement of material production, that has a new world to make its own, has allowed neither time nor opportunity to abolish the old spirit world.

During the June days all classes and parties had united in the party of order against the proletarian class, as the party of anarchy, of socialism, of communism. They had "saved" society from "the enemies of society." They had given out the watchwords of the old society, "property, family, religion, order," to their army as passwords and proclaimed to the counterrevolutionary crusaders: "In this sign you will conquer.'" From that moment as soon as one of the numerous parties which had gathered under this sign against the June insurgents seeks to hold the revolutionary battlefield in its own class interests, it goes down before the cry: "Property, family, religion, order." Society is saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts, as a more exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most insipid democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an "attempt on society" and stigmatized as "socialism." And, finally, the high priests of "religion and order" themselves are driven with kicks from their Pythian tripods, hauled out of their beds in the darkness of night, stuck in prison-vans, thrown into dungeons or sent into exile; their temple is razed to the ground, their mouths are sealed, their pens broken, their law torn to pieces in the name of religion, of property, of family, of order. Bourgeois fanatics for order are shot down on their balconies by mobs of drunken soldiers, their domestic sanctuaries profaned, their houses bombarded for amusement -- in the name of property, of family, of religion and of order. Finally the scum of bourgeois society forms the holy phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinsky installs himself in the Tuileries as the "savior of society." ...

Legitimists and Orleanists, as we have said, formed the two great sections of the Party of Order. Was that which held these sections fast to their pretenders and kept them apart from one another, nothing but lily and tricolor, house of Bourbon and house of Orleans, different shades of royalty, was it the confession of faith in royalty at all? Under the Bourbons, large landed property had governed with its priests and lackeys; under the Orleans, high finance, large-scale industry, wholesale trade, that is, capital, governed with its retinue of advocates, professors and orators. The Legitimate Monarchy was merely the political expression of the hereditary rule of the lords of the soil, as the July Monarchy was only the political expression of the usurping rule of the bourgeois parvenus. What kept the two sections apart, therefore, was not any so-called principles, it was their material conditions of existence, two different kinds of property, it was the old antagonism of town and country, the rivalry between capital and landed property. That at the same time old memories, personal enmities, fears and hopes, prejudices and illusions, sympathies and antipathies, convictions, articles of faith and principles bound them to one or the other royal house, who is there that denies this? Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence rises an entire superstructure of distinct and characteristically formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life. The entire class creates and forms them out of its material foundations and out of the corresponding social relations. The single individual who derives them through tradition and education may imagine that they form the real motives and the starting-point of his action. If Orleanists and Legitimists, if each section sought to make itself and the other believe that loyalty to their two royal houses separated them, it later proved to be the case that it was rather their divided interests which forbade the uniting of the two royal houses. And as in private life one distinguishes between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, still more in historical struggles must one distinguish the phrases and fancies of the parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality. Orleanists and Legitimists found themselves side by side in the republic with equal claims. If each side wished to effect the restoration of its own royal house against the other, that merely signifies that the two great interests into which the bourgeoisie is split -- landed property and capital -- sought each to restore its own supremacy and the subordination of the other. We speak of two interests of the bourgeoisie, for large landed property, despite its feudal coquetry and pride of race, has been rendered thoroughly bourgeois by the development of modern society. Thus the Tories in England long imagined that they were enthusiastic about the monarchy, the church and the beauties of the old English Constitution, until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are only enthusiastic about ground rent. ...

Against this coalition of the bourgeoisie, a coalition between petty bourgeois and workers had been formed, the so-called Social-Democratic Party. The petty bourgeoisie saw that they were badly rewarded after the June days of 1848, their material interests imperiled and the democratic guarantees which were to secure the assertion of these interests endangered by the counterrevolution. Accordingly, they came closer to the workers. On the other hand, their parliamentary representation, the Mountain, thrust aside during the dictatorship of the bourgeois republicans, had, in the last half of the life of the Constituent Assembly, reconquered its lost popularity through the struggle with Bonaparte and the royalist ministers. It had concluded an alliance with the socialist leaders. In February 1849, banquets celebrated the reconciliation. A joint program was drafted, joint election committees were set up and joint candidates put forward. From the social demands of the proletariat the revolutionary point was broken off and a democratic turn given to them; from the democratic claims of the petty bourgeoisie the purely political form was stripped off and their socialist point thrust forward. Thus arose Social-Democracy. The new Mountain, the result of this combination, apart from some supernumeraries from the working class and some socialist sectarians, contained the same elements as the old Mountain, only numerically stronger. But in the course of development it had changed with the class that it represented. The peculiar character of Social-Democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded not as a means of doing away with both the extremes, capital and wage-labor, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only, one must not form the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions under which modern society can alone be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be separated from them as widely as heaven from earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not go beyond the limits which the latter do not go beyond in life, that they are consequently driven theoretically to the same tasks and solutions to which material interest and social position practically drive the latter. This is, in general, the relationship of the political and literary representatives of a class to the class that they represent....

But the revolutionary threats of the petty bourgeois and their democratic representatives are mere attempts to intimidate the antagonist. And when they have run into a blind alley, when they have sufficiently compromised themselves to make it necessary to give effect to their threats, then this happens in an ambiguous fashion that avoids nothing so much as the means to the end and tries to find an excuse for defeat. The blaring overture that announced the struggle dies away in a dejected snarl; as soon as it is to begin, the actors cease to take themselves au serieux, and the action collapses completely, like a pricked balloon.

No party exaggerates its powers more than the democrats, none deludes itself more irresponsibly over the situation. When a section of the army had voted for it, the Mountain was now convinced that the army would revolt for it. And on what grounds? On grounds which, from the standpoint of the troops, had no other meaning than that the revolutionaries took the side of the Roman soldiers against the French soldiers. On the other hand, the recollections of June, 1848, were still too fresh to allow of anything but a profound aversion on the part of the proletariat against the National Guard and a thorough-going mistrust of the democratic chiefs on the part of the leaders of the secret societies. To adjust these differences, it was necessary for great common interests to be at stake. The violation of an abstract paragraph of the Constitution could not provide these interests. Had not the Constitution been repeatedly violated, according to the assurance of the democrats themselves? Had not the most popular journals branded it as counterrevolutionary botch-work? But the democrat, because he represents the petty bourgeoisie, therefore a transition class, in which interests of two classes simultaneously lose their point, imagines himself elevated above class antagonism generally. The democrats concede that a privileged class confronts them, but they, along with all the rest of the surrounding nation, form the people. What they represent are the people's rights; what interests them are the people's interests. Accordingly, when a struggle is impending, they do not need to examine the interests and positions of the different classes. They do not need to consider their own resources too critically. They have merely to give the signal and the people, with all its inexhaustible resources, will fall upon the oppressors. If in the performance their interests now prove to be uninteresting and their power to be impotence, then the fault lies either with pernicious sophists, who split the indivisible people into different hostile camps, or the army was too brutalized and blinded to apprehend the pure aims of democracy as best for itself, or the whole thing has been wrecked by a detail in its execution, or else an unforeseen accident has for this time spoiled the game. In any case, the democrat comes out of the most disgraceful defeat just as immaculate as he went into it innocent, with the new-won conviction that he is bound to conquer, not that he himself and his party have to give up the old standpoint, but, on the contrary, that conditions have to ripen in his direction. . ..

But the revolution is thoroughgoing. It is still in process of passing through purgatory. It does its work methodically. By December 2, 1851, it had completed one half of its preparatory work; it is now completing the other half. First it perfected the parliamentary power, in order to be able to overthrow it. Now that it has attained this, it perfects the executive power, reduces it to its purest expression, isolates it, sets it up against itself as the sole object, in order to concentrate all its forces of destruction against it. And when it has done its second half of its preliminary work, Europe will leap from her seat and exultantly exclaim: "Well grubbed, old mole!"

This executive power with its monstrous bureaucratic and military organization, with its artificial state machinery embracing wide strata, with a host of officials numbering half a million, besides an army of another half million, this appalling parasitic growth, which enmeshes the body of French society like a net and chokes all its pores, sprang up in the days of the absolute monarchy, with the decay of the feudal system, which it helped to hasten. The seignorial privileges of the landowners and towns became transformed into so many attributes of the state power, the feudal dignitaries into paid officials and the motley pattern of conflicting medieval plenary powers into the regulated plan of a state authority, whose work is divided and centralized as in a factory. The first French Revolution, with its task of breaking all local, territorial, urban and provincial independent powers in order to create the bourgeois unity of the nation, was bound to develop what the absolute monarchy had begun -- centralization, but at the same time the extent, the attributes and the agents of governmental authority. Napoleon perfected this state machinery. The Legitimist monarchy and the July monarchy added nothing but a greater division of labor, growing in the same measure that the division of labor within bourgeois society created new groups of interests, and, therefore, new material for state administration. Every common interest was straightway severed from society, counterposed to it as a higher, general interest, snatched from the self-activity of society's members and made an object of governmental activity from the bridge, the schoolhouse and the communal property of a village community to the railways, the national wealth and the national university of France. The parliamentary republic, finally, in its struggle against the revolution, found itself compelled to strengthen, along with the repressive measures, the resources and centralization of governmental power. All the revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it up. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded the possession of this huge state edifice as the principal spoils of the victor.

But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, and under Napoleon, bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe and under the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class, however much it strove for power of its own....


For twenty years the second Bonaparte emperor, Louis Napoleon, ruled France as front man for the upper bourgeoisie. The Second Empire imposed a kind of unity on the fractious classes of France, and tried hard to achieve the gloire of the ideal nation -- though the results were a sordid version of the liberal dream of 1848. Yet, significantly, when the imperial grip loosened only a little, revolution exploded again: not, this time, the work of Romantic nationalists and liberals, but the independent drive of Parisian workers. The actors were familiar -- the same sans-culottes who had so many times before taken advantage of the quarrels of the bourgeoisie -- yet the revolutionary situation was terribly unique; this was Social Revolution, the working classes with unquestioned political power, sweeping away the sacred forms of the state machine, and shaking the property foundations of society.

The Paris Commune survived only two months, before it was savagely, bloodily, crushed by the troops of Adolphe Thiers' Versailles government. One cannot, however, measure its impact on a miniscule scale. Well into the twentieth century the ghost-memory of the Commune persisted, among the French, indeed the European, ruling classes the portent of an ominous future -- and ironically enough making Marxists of them all: to succeeding generations of European bourgeoisie the Armageddon of the coming proletarian revolution was as much the article of faith that it was to convinced disciples of the Marxist prophet. And on the other side of the class chasm, French workingmen, as well as the international socialist movement, enshrined the Commune as a glorious monument of revolt and hope -- and martyrdom. How could it have been otherwise? At the end, during la semaine sanglante of vengeance upon the defeated Commune, the troops of the bourgeoisie massacred thousands of Communards, the figures ranging between twenty and thirty thousand, and in the following weeks arrested perhaps forty-five thousand more, masses of whom were deported to a living death in New Caledonia.

Yet an objective examination reveals that during its brief existence the Paris Commune created neither a Red Terror nor a Marxist paradise. Nor was it a product preconceived and preplanned by Jacobin and socialist theorists deliberately exploiting a national crisis to effect the proletarian revolution. The Commune was an ad hoc affair, a desperate response to a desperate situation; it was the Parisian solution to the collapse of legally constituted authority in the vacuum of defeat that followed the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.

In 1870 the armies of the second Bonaparte had broken before the Prussian invasion. Louis Napoleon -- and his imperial structure of mud and straw -- had slipped into oblivion, leaving the details of formal surrender and national management to a hastily elected, conservative-dominated Assembly, its chief minister the ubiquitous spokesman of the Liberal interest, Adolphe Thiers. The new government yielded -- it had no alternative -- to the harsh terms imposed by Bismarck, including the demand that Paris be subject to Prussian occupation. But, after the Prussians had made only a token entrance into the capital, it was Thiers' deliberate decision to withdraw governmental authority, as it were to exclude Paris -- unruly, radical, patriotic Paris -- from the re-forming national polity. Dutifully, government troops and government officials evacuated the city, followed by a stream of upper- and middle-class Parisians; the "decapitalization" was complete when the Assembly itself chose Versailles as the new national headquarters. Thus Paris was left to itself, and to whatever kind of authority the remaining citizens could muster. The Central Committee of the Paris National Guard provided -- reluctantly -- a temporary directing force, but as a guide to a more representative government Parisians turned quite naturally to the idea of the Commune, the ancient form, the traditional unit, of French local administration. The "Commune of Paris," its leaders -- Radicals, Jacobins, Blanquists, National Guard members, trade-union officials -- elected by manhood suffrage, became fact on March 28, 1871. Its immediate purposes -- far from creating a revolutionary state -- were centered on the administrative essentials of Parisian life.

To the leaders of the international socialist movement watching from abroad, the Communards, whatever their lack of explicit goals, had begun the long-awaited revolution. From London. Karl Marx poured out a steady stream of comment to his European correspondents, his letters revealing his own pounding excitement, interpreting, applauding, exulting -- and criticizing -- the activities of the Commune:

April 12, 1871

If you look at the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire you will find that I say that the next attempt of the French revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it, and this is essential for every real people's revolution on the Continent. And this is what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting. What elasticity, what historical initiative, what a capacity for sacrifice in these Parisians! After six months of hunger and-ruin, caused rather by internal treachery than by the external enemy, they rise, beneath Prussian bayonets, as if there had never been a war between France and Germany and the enemy were not at the gates of Paris. History has no like example of a like greatness. If they are defeated only their "good nature" will be to blame. They should have marched at once on Versailles, after first Vinoy and then the reactionary section of the Paris National Guard had themselves retreated. The right moment was missed because of conscientious scruples. They did not want to start the civil war, as if that mischievous abortion Thiers had not already started the civil war with his attempt to disarm Paris. Second mistake: The Central Committee surrendered its power too soon, to make way for the Commune. Again from a too "honorable" scrupulosity! However that may be, the present rising in Paris -- even if it be crushed by the wolves, swine and vile curs of the old society- -- is the most glorious deed of our Party since the June insurrection in Paris. Compare these Parisians, storming heaven, with the slaves to heaven of the German-Prussian Holy Roman Empire, with its posthumous masquerades reeking of the barracks, the Church, cabbage-junkerdom and above all, of the philistine.

On May 30, 1871, two days after the fall of the Paris I Commune, Karl Marx addressed the General Council of the First International. His speech was both a tribute to the Parisians who had "stormed heaven" to achieve a society of equals and an analysis of the Commune explicitly formed as a lesson for Marxist socialists. The Commune, drowned in blood though it had been, had provided its successors, Marx said, with the concrete method of revolution; hereafter, the proletariat rising to revolt had to smash rather than use the organs of the bourgeois state. This address -- printed in part below -- became what Marx, no doubt, in-\ tended it, a guide to action for a new generation of revolutionists. _ _____ **

On the dawn of the 18th of March, Paris arose to the thunderburst of "Vive la Commune!" What is the Commune, that sphinx so tantalizing to the bourgeois mind?

"The proletarians of Paris," said the Central Committee in its manifesto of the 18th March, "amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs. . . . They have understood that it is their imperious duty and their absolute right to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power." But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.

The centralized state power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature -- organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and hierarchic division of labor -- originates from the days of absolute monarchy, serving nascent middle class society as a mighty weapon in its struggles against feudalism. Still, its development remained clogged by all manner of medieval rubbish, seignorial rights, local privileges, municipal and guild monopolies and provincial constitutions. The gigantic broom of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century swept away all these relics of bygone times, thus clearing simultaneously the social soil of its last hindrances to the superstructure of the modern state edifice raised under the First Empire, itself the offspring of the coalition wars of old semi-feudal Europe against modern France. During the subsequent regimes the government, placed under parliamentary control -- that is, under the direct control of the propertied classes -- became not only a hotbed of huge national debts and crushing taxes; with its irresistible allurements of place, pelf, and patronage, it became not only the bone of contention between the rival factions and adventurers of the ruling classes; but its political character changed simultaneously with the economic changes of society. At the same pace at which the progress of modern industry developed, widened, intensified the class antagonism between capital and labor, the state power assumed more and more the character of the national power of capital over labor, of a public force organized for social enslavement, of an engine of class despotism. After every revolution marking a progressive phase in the class struggle, the purely repressive character of the state power stands out in bolder and bolder relief. The Revolution of 1830, resulting in the transfer of government from the landlords to the capitalists, transferred it from the more remote to the more direct antagonists of the working men. The bourgeois republicans, who, in the name of the Revolution of February, took the state power, used it for the June massacres, in order to convince the working class that "social" republic meant the republic ensuring their social subjection, and in order to convince the royalist bulk of the bourgeois and landlord class that they might safely leave the cares and emoluments of government to the bourgeois "republicans." However, after their one heroic exploit of June, the bourgeois republicans had, from the front, to fall back to the rear of the "Party of Order" -- a combination formed by all the rival fractions and factions of the appropriating class in their now openly declared antagonism to the producing classes. The proper form of their joint-stock government was the parliamentary republic, with Louis Bonaparte for its president. Theirs was a regime of avowed class terrorism and deliberate insult toward the "vile multitude." If the parliamentary republic, as M. Thiers said, "divided them [the different fractions of the ruling class] least," it opened an abyss between that class and the whole body of society outside their spare ranks. The restraints by which their own divisions had under former regimes still checked the state power, were removed by their union; and in view of the threatening upheaval of the proletariat, they now used that state power mercilessly and ostentatiously as the national war engine of capital against labor. In their uninterrupted crusade against the producing masses they were, however, bound not only to invest the executive with continually increased powers of repression, but at the same time to divest their own parliamentary stronghold -- the National Assembly -- one by one, of all its own means of defense against the Executive. The Executive, in the person of Louis Bonaparte, turned them out. The natural offspring of the "Party of Order" republic was the Second Empire.

The empire, with the coup d'etat for its certificate of birth, universal suffrage for its sanction, and the sword for its scepter, professed to rest upon the peasantry, the large mass of producers not directly involved in the struggle of capital and labor. It professed to save the working class by breaking down parliamentarism, and, with it, the undisguised subserviency of government to the propertied classes. It professed to save the propertied classes by upholding their economic supremacy over the working class; and, finally, it professed to unite all classes by reviving for all the chimera of national glory. In reality, it was the only form of government possible at a time when the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired, the faculty of ruling the nation. It was acclaimed throughout the world as the savior of society. Under its sway, bourgeois society, freed from political cares, attained a development unexpected even by itself. Its industry and commerce expanded to colossal dimensions; financial swindling celebrated cosmopolitan orgies; the misery of the masses was set off by a shameless display of gorgeous, meretricious and debased luxury. The state power, apparently soaring high above society, was at the same time itself the greatest scandal of that society and the very hotbed of all its corruptions. Its own rottenness, and the rottenness of the society it had saved, were laid bare by the bayonet of Prussia, herself eagerly bent upon transferring the supreme seat of that regime from Paris to Berlin. Imperialism is, at the same time, the most prostitute and the ultimate form of the state power which nascent middle class society had commenced to elaborate as a means of its own emancipation from feudalism, and which full-grown bourgeois society had finally transformed into a means for the enslavement of labor by capital.

The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune. The cry of "social republic" with which the Revolution of February was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic.

Paris, the central seat of the old governmental power, and, at the same time, the social stronghold of the French working class, had risen in arms against the attempt of Thiers and the Rurals to restore and perpetuate that old governmental power bequeathed to them by the empire. Paris could resist only because, in consequence of the siege, it had got rid of the army, and replaced it by a National Guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men. This fact was now to be transformed into an institution. The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.

The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible and at all times revocable agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downward, the public service had to be done at workmen's wages. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.

Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the physical force elements of the old government, the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the "parson-power," by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles. The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it.

The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible and revocable.

The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centers of France. The Communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centers, the old centralized government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers. In a rough sketch of national organization which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with, an extremely short term of service. The rural Communes of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents. The few but important functions which still would remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal and therefore strictly responsible agents. The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by the Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence. While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping preeminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society. Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workmen and managers in his business. And it is well known that companies, like individuals, in matters of real business generally know how to put the right man in the right place, and, if they for once make a mistake, to redress it promptly. On the other hand, nothing could be more foreign to the spirit of the Commune than to supersede universal suffrage by hierarchic investiture.

It is generally the fate of completely new historical creations to be mistaken for the counterpart of older and even defunct forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. Thus, this new Commune, which breaks the modern state power, has been mistaken for a reproduction of the medieval Communes, which first preceded, and afterward became the substratum of, that very state power. -- The Communal Constitution has been mistaken for an attempt to break up into a federation of small states, as dreamed of by Montesquieu and the Girondins, that unity of great nations which, if originally brought about by political force, has now become a powerful coefficient of social production. -- The antagonism of the Commune against the state power has been mistaken for an exaggerated form of the ancient struggle against overcentralization. Peculiar historical circumstances may have prevented the classical development, as in France, of the bourgeois form of government, and may have allowed, as in England, to complete the great central state organs by corrupt vestries, jobbing councilors, and ferocious poor-law guardians in the towns, and virtually hereditary magistrates in the counties. The Communal Constitution would have restored to the social body all the forces hitherto absorbed by the state parasite feeding upon, and clogging the free movement of, society. By this one act it would have initiated the regeneration of France. The provincial French middle class saw in the Commune an attempt to restore the sway their order had held over the country under Louis Philippe, and which, under Louis Napoleon, was supplanted by the pretended rule of the country over the towns. In reality, the Communal Constitution brought the rural producers under the intellectual lead of the central towns of their districts, and there secured to them, in the working men, the natural trustees of their interests. The very existence of the Commune involved, as a matter of course, local municipal liberty, but no longer as a check upon the now superseded state power. It could only enter into the head of a Bismarck, who, when not engaged on his intrigues of blood and iron, always likes to resume his old trade, so befitting his mental caliber, of contributor to Kladderadatsch (the Berlin Punch), it could only enter into such a head to ascribe to the Paris Commune aspirations after that caricature of the old French municipal organization of 1791, the Prussian municipal constitution which degrades the town governments to mere secondary wheels in the police machinery of the Prussian state. The Commune made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure -- the standing army and state functionarism. Its very existence presupposed the nonexistence of monarchy, which, in Europe at least, is the normal incumbrance and indispensable cloak of class rule. It supplied the republic with the basis of really democratic institutions. But neither cheap government nor the "true republic" was its ultimate aim; they were its mere concomitants.

The multiplicity of interpretations to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which construed it in their favor, show that it was a thoroughly expansive political form, while all previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive. Its true secret was this. It was essentially a working class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor.

Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, ad therefore of class rule. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute.

It is a strange fact. In spite of all the tall talk and all the immense literature, for the last sixty years, about emancipation of labor, no sooner do the working men anywhere take the subject into their own hands with a will, than uprises at once all the apologetic phraseology of the mouthpieces of present society with its two poles of capital and wages-slavery (the landlord now is but the sleeping partner of the capitalist), as if capitalist society was still in its purest state of virgin innocence, with its antagonisms still undeveloped, with its delusions still unexploded, with its prostitute realities not yet laid bare. The Commune, they exclaim, intends to abolish property, the basis of all civilization! Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. lt aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor. But this is communism, "impossible" communism! Why? those members of the ruling classes who are intelligent enough to perceive the impossibility of continuing the present system -- and they are many -- have become the obtrusive and full-mouthed apostles of co-operative production. If co-operative production is not to remain a sham and a snare; if it is to supersede the capitalist system; if united co-operative societies are to regulate national production upon a common .plan, thus taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of capitalist production -- what else, gentlemen, would it be but communism, "possible" communism?

The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce par decret du peuple. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen's gentlemen with the pen and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility.

When the Paris Commune took the management of the revolution in its own hands; when plain working men for the first time dared to infringe upon the governmental privilege of their "natural superiors," and, under circumstances of unexampled difficulty, performed their work modestly, conscientiously, and efficiently -- performed it at salaries the highest of which barely amounted to one-fifth of what, according to high scientific authority is the minimum required for a secretary to a certain metropolitan school-board -- the old world writhed in convulsions of rage at the sight of the Red Flag, the symbol of the Republic of Labor, floating over the Hotel de Ville. . . .

And thus the Commune was wiped out -- inevitably so, 'in a revolution which ranged Paris against the rest of France. This was the last of the long-drawn-out steps of the French Revolution. We would not imply that eighteenth-century problems had been solved, nor that revolutionary ideals had become reality; well into the twentieth century workers were a sullen minority, the second of Disraeli's "Two Nations," within France. But from this point the radical revolution moves beyond France, becomes explicitly, formidably, the socialist revolution. The Commune, for all its imaginative answers to the organization of a democratic polity, was a part of a specifically French tradition. The revolutions of the new century will carry a different label, the indelible imprint of the Marxist ideology.