Part I. The Defeat of June, 1848
After the July Revolution [of 1830], when the liberal banker Laffitte led his compère, the Duke of Orléans, in triumph to the Hôtel de Ville, he let fall the words: “From now on the bankers will rule”. Laffitte had betrayed the secret of the revolution.
It was not the French bourgeoisie that ruled under Louis Philippe, but one faction of it: bankers, stock-exchange kings, railway kings, owners of coal and iron mines and forests, a part of the landed proprietors associated with them – the so-called financial aristocracy. It sat on the throne, it dictated laws in the Chambers, it distributed public offices, from cabinet portfolios to tobacco bureau posts.
The industrial bourgeoisie proper formed part of the official opposition, that is, it was represented only as a minority in the Chambers. Its opposition was expressed all the more resolutely the more unalloyed the autocracy of the finance aristocracy became, and the more it imagined that its domination over the working class was insured after the revolts of 1832, 1834, and 1839, which had been drowned in blood. Grandin, a Rouen manufacturer and the most fanatical instrument of bourgeois reaction in the Constituent as well as in the Legislative National Assembly, was the most violent opponent of Guizot in the Chamber of Deputies. Léon Faucher, later known for his impotent efforts to climb into prominence as the Guizot of the French counterrevolution, in the last days of Louis Philippe waged a war of the pen for industry against speculation and its train bearer, the government. Bastiat agitated in the name of Bordeaux and the whole of wine-producing France against the ruling system.
The petty bourgeoisie of all gradations, and the peasantry also, were completely excluded from political power. Finally, in the official opposition or entirely outside the pays légal [electorate], there were the ideological representatives and spokesmen of the above classes, their savants, lawyers, doctors, etc., in a word, their so-called men of talent.
Owing to its financial straits, the July Monarchy was dependent from the beginning on the big bourgeoisie, and its dependence on the big bourgeoisie was the inexhaustible source of increasing financial straits. It was impossible to subordinate the administration of the state to the interests of national production without balancing the budget, without establishing a balance between state expenditures and revenues. And how was this balance to be established without limiting state expenditures – that is, without encroaching on interests which were so many props of the ruling system – and without redistributing taxes – that is, without shifting a considerable share of the burden of taxation onto the shoulders of the big bourgeoisie itself?
On the contrary, the faction of the bourgeoisie that ruled and legislated through the Chambers had a direct interest in the indebtedness of the state. The state deficit was really the main object of its speculation and the chief source of its enrichment. At the end of each year a new deficit. After the lapse of four or five years a new loan. And every new loan offered new opportunities to the finance aristocracy for defrauding the state, which was kept artificially on the verge of bankruptcy – it had to negotiate with the bankers under the most unfavorable conditions. Each new loan gave a further opportunity, that of plundering the public which invested its capital in state bonds by means of stock-exchange manipulations, the secrets of which the government and the majority in the Chambers were privy to. In general, the instability of state credit and the possession of state secrets gave the bankers and their associates in the Chambers and on the throne the possibility of evoking sudden, extraordinary fluctuations in the quotations of government securities, the result of which was always bound to be the ruin of a mass of smaller capitalists and the fabulously rapid enrichment of the big gamblers. As the state deficit was in the direct interest of the ruling faction of the bourgeoisie, it is clear why the extraordinary state expenditure in the last years of Louis Philippe's reign was far more than double the extraordinary state expenditure under Napoleon, indeed reached a yearly sum of nearly 400,000,000 francs, whereas the whole average annual export of France seldom attained a volume amounting to 750,000,000 francs. The enormous sums which in this way flowed through the hands of the state facilitated, moreover, swindling contracts for deliveries, bribery, defalcations, and all kinds of roguery.
The defrauding of the state, practiced wholesale in connection with loans, was repeated retail in public works. What occurred in the relations between Chamber and government became multiplied in the relations between individual departments and individual entrepreneurs.
The ruling class exploited the building of railways in the same way it exploited state expenditures in general and state loans. The Chambers piled the main burdens on the state, and secured the golden fruits to the speculating finance aristocracy. One recalls the scandals in the Chamber of Deputies when by chance it leaked out that all the members of the majority, including a number of ministers, had been interested as shareholders in the very railway constructions which as legislators they had carried out afterward at the cost of the state.
On the other hand, the smallest financial reform was wrecked through the influence of the bankers. For example, the postal reform. Rothschild protested. Was it permissible for the state to curtail sources of revenue out of which interest was to be paid on its ever increasing debt?
The July Monarchy was nothing other than a joint stock company for the exploitation of France's national wealth, whose dividends were divided among ministers, Chambers, 240,000 voters, and their adherents. Louis Philippe was the director of this company – Robert Macaire on the throne. Trade, industry, agriculture, shipping, the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie, were bound to be continually endangered and prejudiced under this system. Cheap government, governement à bon marché, was what it had inscribed on its banner in the July days.
Since the finance aristocracy made the laws, was at the head of the administration of the state, had command of all the organized public authorities, dominated public opinion through the actual state of affairs and through the press, the same prostitution, the same shameless cheating, the same mania to get rich was repeated in every sphere, from the court to the Café Borgne to get rich not by production, but by pocketing the already available wealth of others, Clashing every moment with the bourgeois laws themselves, an unbridled assertion of unhealthy and dissolute appetites manifested itself, particularly at the top of bourgeois society – lusts wherein wealth derived from gambling naturally seeks its satisfaction, where pleasure becomes crapuleux [debauched], where money, filth, and blood commingle. The finance aristocracy, in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society.
And the nonruling factions of the French bourgeoisie cried: Corruption! The people cried: À bas les grands voleurs! À bas les assassins! [Down with the big thieves! Down with the assassins!] when in 1847, on the most prominent stages of bourgeois society, the same scenes were publicly enacted that regularly lead the lumpenproletariat to brothels, to workhouses and lunatic asylums, to the bar of justice, to the dungeon, and to the scaffold. The industrial bourgeoisie saw its interests endangered, the petty bourgeoisie was filled with moral indignation, the imagination of the people was offended, Paris was flooded with pamphlets – “The Rothschild Dynasty,” “Usurers Kings of the Epoch,” etc. – in which the rule of the finance aristocracy was denounced and stigmatized with greater or less wit.
Rien pour la gloire! [Nothing for glory!] Glory brings no profit! La paix partout et toujours! [Peace everywhere and always!] War depresses the quotations of the 3 and 4 percents which the France of the Bourse jobbers had inscribed on her banner. Her foreign policy was therefore lost in a series of mortifications to French national sentiment, which reacted all the more vigorously when the rape of Poland was brought to its conclusion with the incorporation of Cracow by Austria, and when Guizot came out actively on the side of the Holy Alliance in the Swiss separatist war. The victory of the Swiss liberals in this mimic war raised the self-respect of the bourgeois opposition in France; the bloody uprising of the people in Palermo worked like an electric shock on the paralyzed masses of the people and awoke their great revolutionary memories and passions. [Annexation of Cracow by Austria in agreement with Russia and Prussia on November 11, 1846. – Swiss Sonderbund war: November 4 to 28, 1847. – Rising in Palermo: January 12, 1848; at the end of January, nine days’ bombardment of the town by the Neapolitans. Note by Engels to the edition of 1895.]
The eruption of the general discontent was finally accelerated and the mood for revolt ripened by two economic world events.
The potato blight and the crop failures of 1845 and 1846 increased the general ferment among the people. The famine of 1847 called forth bloody conflicts in France as well as on the rest of the Continent. As against the shameless orgies of the finance aristocracy, the struggle of the people for the prime necessities of life! At Buzançais, hunger rioters executed; in Paris, oversatiated escrocs [swindlers] snatched from the courts by the royal family!
The second great economic event that hastened the outbreak of the revolution was a general commercial and industrial crisis in England. Already heralded in the autumn of 1845 by the wholesale reverses of the speculators in railway shares, staved off during 1846 by a number of incidents such as the impending abolition of the Corn Laws, the crisis finally burst in the autumn of 1847 with the bankruptcy of the London wholesale grocers, on the heels of which followed the insolvencies of the land banks and the closing of the factories in the English industrial districts. The after-effect of this crisis on the Continent had not yet spent itself when the February Revolution broke out.
The devastation of trade and industry caused by the economic epidemic made the autocracy of the finance aristocracy still more unbearable. Throughout the whole of France the bourgeois opposition agitated at banquets for an electoral reform which should win for it the majority in the Chambers and overthrow the Ministry of the Bourse. In Paris the industrial crisis had, moreover, the particular result of throwing a multitude of manufacturers and big traders, who under the existing circumstances could no longer do any business in the foreign market, onto the home market. They set up large establishments, the competition of which ruined the small épiciers [grocers] and boutiquiers [shopkeepers] en masse. Hence the innumerable bankruptcies among this section of the Paris bourgeoisie, and hence their revolutionary action in February. It is well known how Guizot and the Chambers answered the reform proposals with an unambiguous challenge, how Louis Philippe too late resolved on a ministry led by Barrot, how things went as far as hand-to-hand fighting between the people and the army, how the army was disarmed by the passive conduct of the National Guard, how the July Monarchy had to give way to a provisional government.
The Provisional Government which emerged from the February barricades necessarily mirrored in its composition the different parties which shared in the victory. It could not be anything but a compromise between the different classes which together had overturned the July throne, but whose interests were mutually antagonistic. The great majority of its members consisted of representatives of the bourgeoisie. The republican petty bourgeoisie was represented by Ledru-Rollin and Flocon, the republican bourgeoisie by the people from the National, the dynastic opposition by Crémieux, Dupont de l'Eure, etc. The working class had only two representatives, Louis Blanc and Albert. Finally, Lamartine in the Provisional Government; this was at first no real interest, no definite class; this was the February Revolution itself, the common uprising with its illusions, its poetry, its visionary content, and its phrases. For the rest, the spokesman of the February Revolution, by his position and his views, belonged to the bourgeoisie.
If Paris, as a result of political centralization, rules France, the workers, in moments of revolutionary earthquakes, rule Paris. The first act in the life of the Provisional Government was an attempt to escape from this overpowering influence by an appeal from intoxicated Paris to sober France. Lamartine disputed the right of the barricade fighters to proclaim a republic on the ground that only the majority of Frenchmen had that right; they must await their votes, the Paris proletariat must not besmirch its victory by a usurpation. [From Lamartine's speech of 24 February] The bourgeoisie allows the proletariat only one usurpation – that of fighting.
Up to noon of February 25 the republic had not yet been proclaimed; on the other hand, all the ministries had already been divided among the bourgeois elements of the Provisional Government and among the generals, bankers, and lawyers of the National. But the workers were determined this time not to put up with any bamboozlement like that of July, 1830. They were ready to take up the fight anew and to get a republic by force of arms. With this message, Raspail betook himself to the Hôtel de Ville. In the name of the Paris proletariat he commanded the Provisional Government to proclaim a republic; if this order of the people were not fulfilled within two hours, he would return at the head of 200,000 men. The bodies of the fallen were scarcely cold, the barricades were not yet disarmed, and the only force that could be opposed to them was the National Guard. Under these circumstances the doubts born of considerations of state policy and the juristic scruples of conscience entertained by the Provisional Government suddenly vanished. The time limit of two hours had not yet expired when all the walls of Paris were resplendent with the gigantic historical words:
République français! Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!
Even the memory of the limited alms and motives which drove the bourgeoisie into the February Revolution was extinguished by the proclamation of the republic on the basis of universal suffrage. Instead of only a few factions of the bourgeoisie, all classes of French society were suddenly hurled into the orbit of political power, forced to leave the boxes, the stalls, and the gallery and to act in person upon the revolutionary stage! With the constitutional monarchy vanished also the semblance of a state power independently confronting bourgeois society, as well as the whole series of subordinate struggles which this semblance of power called forth!
By dictating the republic to the Provisional Government, and through the Provisional Government to the whole of France, the proletariat immediately stepped into the foreground as an independent party, but at the same time challenged the whole of bourgeois France to enter the lists against it. What it won was the terrain for the fight for its revolutionary emancipation, but by no means this emancipation itself.
The first thing the February Republic had to do was, rather, to complete the rule of the bourgeoisie by allowing, besides the finance aristocracy, all the propertied classes to enter the orbit of political power. The majority of the great landowners, the Legitimists, were emancipated from the political nullity to which they had been condemned by the July Monarchy. Not for nothing had the Gazette de France agitated in common with the opposition papers; not for nothing had La Roche-Jaquelein taken the side of the revolution in the session of the Chamber of Deputies on February 24. The nominal proprietors, the peasants, who form the great majority of the French people, were put by universal suffrage in the position of arbiters of the fate of France. The February Republic finally brought the rule of the bourgeoisie clearly into view, since it struck off the crown behind which capital had kept itself concealed.
Just as the workers in the July days had fought for and won the bourgeois monarchy, so in the February days they fought for and won the bourgeois republic. Just as the July Monarchy had to proclaim itself a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions, so the February Republic was forced to proclaim itself a republic surrounded by social institutions. The Paris proletariat compelled this concession, too.
Marche, a worker, dictated the decree [decree on the right to work, 25 February 1848] by which the newly formed Provisional Government pledged itself to guarantee the workers a livelihood by means of labor, to provide work for all citizens, etc. And when a few days later it forgot its promises and seemed to have lost sight of the proletariat, a mass of 20,000 workers marched on the Hôtel de Ville with the cry: Organize labor! Form a special Ministry of labor! Reluctantly and after long debate, the Provisional Government nominated a permanent special commission charged with lending means of improving the lot of the working classes! This commission consisted of delegates from the corporations [guilds] of Paris artisans and was presided over by Louis Blanc and Albert. The Luxembourg Palace was assigned to it as its meeting place. In this way the representatives of the working class were banished from the seat of the Provisional Government, the bourgeois part of which retained the real state power and the reins of administration exclusively in its hands; and side by side with the ministries of finance, trade, and public works, side by side with the Bank and the Bourse, there arose a socialist synagogue whose high priests, Louis Blanc and Albert, had the task of discovering the promised land, of preaching the new gospel, and of providing work for the Paris proletariat. Unlike any profane state power, they had no budget, no executive authority at their disposal. They were supposed to break the pillars of bourgeois society by dashing their heads against them. While the Luxembourg sought the philosopher's stone, in the Hôtel de Ville they minted the current coinage.
And yet the claims of the Paris proletariat, so far as they went beyond the bourgeois republic, could win no other existence than the nebulous one of the Luxembourg.
In common with the bourgeoisie the workers had made the February Revolution, and alongside the bourgeoisie they sought to secure the advancement of their interests, just as they had installed a worker in the Provisional Government itself alongside the bourgeois majority. Organize labor! But wage labor, that is the existing, the bourgeois organization of labor. Without it there is no capital, no bourgeoisie, no bourgeois society. A special Ministry of Labor! But the ministries of finance, of trade, of public works – are not these the bourgeois ministries of labor? And alongside these a proletariat Ministry of Labor had to be a ministry of impotence, a ministry of pious wishes, a Luxembourg Commission. Just as the workers thought they would be able to emancipate themselves side by side with the bourgeoisie, so they thought they would be able to consummate a proletarian revolution within the national walls of France, side by side with the remaining bourgeois nations. But French relations of production are conditioned by the foreign trade of France, by her position on the world market and the laws thereof; how was France to break them without a European revolutionary war, which would strike back at the despot of the world market, England?
As soon as it has risen up, a class in which the revolutionary interests of society are concentrated finds the content and the material for its revolutionary activity directly in its own situation: foes to be laid low, measures dictated by the needs of the struggle to be taken; the consequences of its own deeds drive it on. It makes no theoretical inquiries into its own task. The French working class had not attained this level; it was still incapable of accomplishing its own revolution.
The development of the industrial proletariat is, in general, conditioned by the development of the industrial bourgeoisie. Only under its rule does the proletariat gain that extensive national existence which can raise its revolution to a national one, and only thus does the proletariat itself create the modern means of production, which become just so many means of its revolutionary emancipation. Only bourgeois rule tears up the material roots of feudal society and levels the ground on which alone a proletarian revolution is possible. French industry is more developed and the French bourgeoisie more revolutionary than that of the rest of the Continent. But was not the February Revolution aimed directly against the finance aristocracy? This fact proved that the industrial bourgeoisie did not rule France. The industrial bourgeoisie can rule only where modern industry shapes all property relations to suit itself, and industry can win this power only where it has conquered the world market, for national bounds are inadequate for its development. But French industry, to a great extent, maintains its command even of the national market only through a more or less modified system of prohibitive duties. While, therefore, the French proletariat, at the moment of a revolution, possesses in Paris actual power and influence which spur it on to a drive beyond its means, in the rest of France it is crowded into separate, scattered industrial centers, almost lost in the superior number of peasants and petty bourgeois. The struggle against capital in its developed, modern form – in its decisive aspect, the struggle of the industrial wage worker against the industrial bourgeois – is in France a partial phenomenon, which after the February days could so much the less supply the national content of the revolution, since the struggle against capital's secondary modes of exploitation, that of the peasant against usury and mortgages or of the petty bourgeois against the wholesale dealer, banker, and manufacturer – in a word, against bankruptcy – was still hidden in the general uprising against the finance aristocracy. Nothing is more understandable, then, than that the Paris proletariat sought to secure the advancement of its own interests side by side with those of the bourgeoisie, instead of enforcing them as the revolutionary interests of society itself, that it let the red flag be lowered to the tricolor. The French workers could not take a step forward, could not touch a hair of the bourgeois order, until the course of the revolution had aroused the mass of the nation, peasants and petite bourgeois, standing between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, against this order, against the rule of capital, and had forced it to attach itself to the proletarians as its protagonists. The workers could buy this victory only through the tremendous defeat in June.
The Luxembourg Commission, this creation of the Paris workers, must be given the credit of having disclosed, from a Europe-wide tribune, the secret of the revolution of the nineteenth century: the emancipation of the proletariat. The Moniteur blushed when it had to propagate officially the “wild ravings" which up to that time had lain buried in the apocryphal writings of the socialists and reached the ear of the bourgeoisie only from time to time as remote, half-terrifying, half-ludicrous legends. Europe awoke astonished from its bourgeois doze. Therefore, in the minds of the proletarians, who confused the finance aristocracy with the bourgeoisie in general; in the imagination of the good old republicans who denied the very existence of classes or, at most, admitted them as a result of the constitutional monarchy; in the hypocritical phrases of the factions of the bourgeoisie which up to now had been excluded from power, the rule of the bourgeoisie was abolished with the introduction of the republic. At that time all the royalists were transformed into republicans and all the millionaires of Paris into workers. The phrase which corresponded to this imaginary abolition of class relations was fraternité, universal fraternization and brotherhood. This pleasant abstraction from class antagonisms, this sentimental reconciliation of contradictory class interests, this visionary elevation above the class struggle, this fraternite, was the real catchword of the February Revolution. The classes were divided by a mere misunderstanding, and on February 24 Lamartine christened the Provisional Government “une gouvernement qui suspends ce malentendu terrible qui existe entre les différentes classes” [a government that removes this terrible misunderstanding which exists between the different classes, from Lamartine's speech, 24 February 1848]. The Paris proletariat reveled in this magnanimous intoxication of fraternity.
The Provisional Government, for its part, once it was compelled to proclaim the republic, did everything to make it acceptable to the bourgeoisie and to the provinces. The bloody terror of the first French republic was disavowed by the abolition of the death penalty for political offenses; the press was opened to all opinions – the army, the courts, the administration remained with a few exceptions in the hands of their old dignitaries; none of the July Monarchy's great offenders was brought to book. The bourgeois republicans of the National amused themselves by exchanging monarchist names and costumes for old republican ones. To them the republic was only a new ball dress for the old bourgeois society. The young republic sought its chief merit not in frightening, but rather in constantly taking fright itself, and in winning existence and disarming resistance by soft compliance and nonresistance. At home to the privileged classes, abroad to the despotic powers, it was loudly announced that the republic was of a peaceful nature. Live and let live was its professed motto. In addition to that, shortly after the February Revolution the Germans, Poles, Austrians, Hungarians, and Italians revolted, each people in accordance with its immediate situation. Russia and England – the latter itself agitated, the former cowed – were not prepared. The republic, therefore, had no national enemy to face. Consequently there were no great foreign complications which could fire the energies, hasten the revolutionary process, drive the Provisional Government forward or throw it overboard. The Paris proletariat, which looked upon the republic as its own creation, naturally acclaimed each act of the Provisional Government which facilitated the firm emplacement of the latter in bourgeois society. It willingly allowed itself to be employed on police service by Caussidière in order to protect property in Paris, just as it allowed Louis Blanc to arbitrate wage disputes between workers and masters. It made it a point d'honneur [point of honor] to preserve the bourgeois honor of the republic unblemished in the eyes of Europe.
The republic encountered no resistance either abroad or at home. This disarmed it. Its task was no longer the revolutionary transformation of the world, but consisted only in adapting itself to the relations of bourgeois society. As to the fanaticism with which the Provisional Government undertook this task there is no more eloquent testimony than its financial measures.
Public credit and private credit were naturally shaken. Public credit rests on confidence that the state will allow itself to be exploited by the wolves of finance. But the old state had vanished and the revolution was directed above all against the finance aristocracy. The vibrations of the last European commercial crisis had not yet ceased. Bankruptcy still followed bankruptcy.
Private credit was therefore paralyzed, circulation restricted, production at a standstill before the February Revolution broke out. The revolutionary crisis increased the commercial crisis. And if private credit rests on confidence that bourgeois production in the entire scope of its relations – the bourgeois order – will not be touched, will remain inviolate, what effect must a revolution have had which questioned the basis of bourgeois production, the economic slavery of the proletariat, which set up against the Bourse the sphinx of the Luxembourg? The uprising of the proletariat is the abolition of bourgeois credit, for it is the abolition of bourgeois production and its order. Public credit and private credit are the economic thermometer by which the intensity of a revolution can be measured. The more they fall, the more the fervor and generative power of the revolution rises.
The Provisional Government wanted to strip the republic of its antibourgeois appearance. And so it had, above all, to try to peg the exchange value of this new form of state, its quotation on the Bourse. Private credit necessarily rose again, together with the current Bourse quotation of the republic.
In order to allay the very suspicion that it would not or could not honor the obligations assumed by the monarchy, in order to build up confidence in the republic's bourgeois morality and capacity to pay, the Provisional Government took refuge in braggadocio as undignified as it was childish. In advance of the legal date of payment it paid out the interest on the 5-percent, 4 ½-percent and 4-percent bonds to the state creditors. The bourgeois aplomb, the self-assurance of the capitalists, suddenly awoke when they saw the anxious haste with which this government sought to buy their confidence.
The financial embarrassment of the Provisional Government was naturally not lessened by a theatrical stroke which robbed it of its stock of ready cash. The financial pinch could no longer be concealed and petty bourgeois, domestic servants, and workers had to pay for the pleasant surprise which had been prepared for the state creditors.
It was announced that no more money could be drawn on savings bank books for an amount of over a hundred francs. The sums deposited in the savings banks were confiscated and by decree transformed into an irredeemable state debt. This embittered the already hard-pressed petty bourgeois against the republic. Since he received state debt certificates in place of his savings bank books, he was forced to go to the Bourse in order to sell them and thus deliver himself directly into the hands of the Bourse jobbers against whom he had made the February Revolution.
The finance aristocracy, which ruled under the July Monarchy, had its high church in the Bank. Just as the Bourse governs state credit, the Bank governs commercial credit.
Directly threatened not only in its rule but in its very existence by the February Revolution, the Bank tried from the outset to discredit the republic by making the lack of credit general. It suddenly stopped the credits of the bankers, the manufacturers, and the merchants. As it did not immediately call forth a counterrevolution, this maneuver necessarily reacted on the Bank itself. The capitalists drew out the money they had deposited in the vaults of the Bank. The possessors of bank notes rushed to the pay office in order to exchange them for gold and silver.
The Provisional Government could have forced the Bank into bankruptcy without forcible interference, in a legal manner; it would have had only to remain passive and leave the Bank to its fate. The bankruptcy of the Bank would have been the deluge which in an instant would have swept from French soil the finance aristocracy, the most powerful and dangerous enemy of the republic, the golden pedestal of the July Monarchy. And once the Bank was bankrupt, the bourgeoisie itself would have had to regard it as a last desperate attempt at rescue, if the government had formed a national bank and subjected national credit to the control of the nation.
The Provisional Government, on the contrary, fixed a compulsory quotation for the notes of the Bank. It did more. It transformed all provincial banks into branches of the Banque de France and allowed it to cast its net over the whole of France. Later it pledged the state forests to the Bank as a guarantee for a loan contracted from it. In this way the February Revolution directly strengthened and enlarged the bankocracy which it should have overthrown.
Meanwhile the Provisional Government was writhing under the incubus of a growing deficit. In vain it begged for patriotic sacrifices. Only the workers threw it their alms. Recourse had to be had to a heroic measure, to the imposition of a new tax. But who was to be taxed? The Bourse wolves, the bank kings, the state creditors, the rentiers, the industrialists? That was not the way to ingratiate the republic with the bourgeoisie. That would have meant, on the one hand, to endanger state credit and commercial credit, while on the other, attempts were made to purchase them with such great sacrifices and humiliations. But someone had to fork over the cash. Who was sacrificed to bourgeois credit? Jacques le bonhomme, the peasant.
The Provisional Government imposed an additional tax of 45 centimes to the franc on the four direct taxes. The government press cajoled the Paris proletariat into believing that this tax would fall chiefly on the big landed proprietors, on the possessors of the milliard granted by the Restoration. But in truth it hit the peasant class above all, that is, the large majority of the French people. They had to pay the costs of the February Revolution; in them the counterrevolution gained its main material. The 45-centime tax was a question of life and death for the French peasant. He made it a life and death question for the republic. From that moment the republic meant to the French peasant the 45 centime tax, and he saw in the Paris proletariat the spendthrift who did himself well at his expense.
Whereas the Revolution of 1789 began by shaking the feudal burdens off the peasants, the Revolution of 1848 announced itself to the rural population by the imposition of a new tax, in order not to endanger capital and to keep its state machine going.
There was only one means by which the Provisional Government could set aside all these inconveniences and jerk the state out of its old rut – a declaration of state bankruptcy. Everyone recalls how Ledru-Rollin in the National Assembly subsequently described the virtuous indignation with which he repudiated this presumptuous proposal of the Bourse Jew, Fould [from Ledru-Rollin's speech 21 April 1849], now French Finance Minister. Fould had handed him the apple from the tree of knowledge.
By honoring the bills drawn on the state by the old bourgeois society, the Provisional Government succumbed to the latter. It had become the hard-pressed debtor of bourgeois society instead of confronting it as the pressing creditor that had to collect the revolutionary debts of many years. It had to consolidate the shaky bourgeois relationships in order to fulfill obligations which are only to be fulfilled within these relationships. Credit became a condition of life for it, and the concessions to the proletariat, the promises made to it, became so many fetters which had to be struck off. The emancipation of the workers – even as a phrase – became an unbearable danger to the new republic, for it was a standing protest against the restoration of credit, which rests on undisturbed and untroubled recognition of the existing economic class relations. Therefore, it was necessary to have done with the workers.
The February Revolution had cast the army out of Paris. The National Guard, that is, the bourgeoisie in its different gradations, constituted the sole power. Alone, however, it did not feel itself a match for the proletariat. Moreover, it was forced gradually and piecemeal to open its ranks and admit armed proletarians, albeit after the most tenacious resistance and after setting up a hundred different obstacles. There consequently remained but one way out: to play off part of the proletariat against the other.
For this purpose the Provisional Government formed twenty–four battalions of Mobile Guards, each a thousand strong, composed of young men from fifteen to twenty years old. They belonged for the most part to the lumpen proletariat, which in all big towns forms a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial proletariat, a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds, gens sans feu et sans aveu [men without hearth or home], varying according to the degree of civilization of the nation to which they belong, but never renouncing their lazzaroni character – at the youthful age at which the Provisional Government recruited them, thoroughly malleable, as capable of the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices as of the basest banditry and the foulest corruption. The Provisional Government paid them 1 franc 50 centimes a day; that is, it bought them. It gave them their own uniform; that is, it made them outwardly distinct from the blouse-wearing workers. In part it assigned officers from the standing army as their leaders; in part they themselves elected young sons of the bourgeoisie whose rodomontades about death for the fatherland and devotion to the republic captivated them.
And so the Paris proletariat was confronted with an army, drawn from its own midst, of 24,000 young, strong, foolhardy men. it gave cheers for the Mobile Guard on its marches through Paris. It acknowledged it to be its foremost fighters on the barricades. It regarded it as the proletarian guard in contradistinction to the bourgeois National Guard. Its error was pardonable.
Besides the Mobile Guard, the government decided to rally around itself an army of industrial workers. A hundred thousand workers, thrown on the streets by the crisis and the revolution, were enrolled by the Minister Marie in so-called national ateliers [workshops]. Under this grandiose name was hidden nothing else than the employment of the workers on tedious, monotonous, unproductive earthworks at a wage of 23 sous. English workhouses in the open – that is what these national ateliers were. The Provisional Government believed that it had formed, in them, a second proletarian army against the workers themselves. This time the bourgeoisie was mistaken in the national ateliers, just as the workers were mistaken in the Mobile Guard. It had created an army for mutiny.
But one purpose was achieved.
National ateliers was the name of the people's workshops which Louis Blanc preached in the Luxembourg Palace. Marie's ateliers [workshops], devised in direct antagonism to the Luxembourg, offered occasion, thanks to the common label, for a comedy of errors worthy of the Spanish servant farce. The Provisional Government itself surreptitiously spread the report that these national ateliers were the discovery of Louis Blanc, and this seemed the more plausible because Louis Blanc, the prophet of the national ateliers, was a member of the Provisional Government. And in the half-naive, half-intentional confusion of the Paris bourgeoisie, in the artificially molded opinion of France, of Europe, these workhouses were the first realization of socialism, which was put in the pillory, with them.
In their appellation, though not in their content, the national ateliers were the embodied protest of the proletariat against bourgeois industry, bourgeois credit, and the bourgeois republic. The whole hate of the bourgeoisie was therefore turned upon them. It had found in them, simultaneously, the point against which it could direct the attack, as soon as it was strong enough to break openly with the February illusions. All the discontent, all the ill humor of the petty bourgeois too was directed against these national ateliers, the common target. With real fury they totted up the money the proletarian loafers swallowed up while their own situation was becoming daily more unbearable. A state pension for sham labor, so that's socialism! they grumbled to themselves. They sought the reason for their misery in the national ateliers, the declamations of the Luxembourg, the processions of the workers through Paris. And no one was more fanatic about the alleged machinations of the communists than the petty bourgeoisie, who hovered hopelessly on the brink of bankruptcy.
Thus in the approaching melee between bourgeoisie and proletariat, all the advantages, all the decisive posts, all the middle strata of society were in the hands of the bourgeoisie, at the same time as the waves of the February Revolution rose high over the whole Continent, and each new post brought a new bulletin of revolution, now from Italy, now from Germany, now from the remotest parts of southeastern Europe, and maintained the general ecstasy of the people, giving it constant testimony of a victory that it had already forfeited.
March 17 and April 16 were the first skirmishes in the big class struggle which the bourgeois republic hid under its wing.
March 17 revealed the proletariat's ambiguous situation, which permitted no decisive act. Its demonstration originally pursued the purpose of pushing the Provisional Government back onto the path of revolution, of effecting the exclusion of its bourgeois members, according to circumstances, and of compelling the postponement of the elections for the National Assembly and the National Guard. But on March 16 the bourgeoisie represented in the National Guard staged a hostile demonstration against the Provisional Government. With the cry À bas Ledru-Rollin [Down with Ledru-Rollin]! it surged to the Hôtel de Ville. And the people were forced, on March 17, to shout: Long live Ledru-Rollin! Long live the Provisional Government! They were forced to take sides against the bourgeoisie in support of the bourgeois republic, which seemed to them to be in danger. They strengthened the Provisional Government, instead of subordinating it to themselves. March 17 went off in a melodramatic scene, and whereas the Paris proletariat on this day once more displayed its giant body, the bourgeoisie both inside and outside the Provisional Government was all the more determined to smash it.
April 16 was a misunderstanding engineered by the Provisional Government in alliance with the bourgeoisie. The workers had gathered in great numbers in the Champ de Mars and in the Hippodrome to choose their nominees to the general staff of the National Guard. Suddenly throughout Paris, from one end to the other, a rumor spread as quick as lightning, to the effect that the workers had met armed in the Champ de Mars, under the leadership of Louis Blanc, Blanqui, Cabet, and Raspail, in order to march thence on the Hôtel de Ville, overthrow the Provisional Government, and proclaim a communist government. The general alarm is sounded – Ledru-Rollin, Marrast, and Lamartine later contended for the honor of having initiated this – and in an hour 100,000 men are under arms; the Hôtel de Ville is occupied at all points by the National Guard; the cry Down with the Communists! Down with Louis Blanc, with Blanqui, with Raspail, with Cabet! thunders throughout Paris. Innumerable deputations pay homage to the Provisional Government, all ready to save the fatherland and society. When the workers finally appear before the Hôtel de Ville, in order to hand over to the Provisional Government a patriotic collection they had made in the Champ de Mars, they learn to their amazement that bourgeois Paris has defeated their shadow in a very carefully calculated sham battle. The terrible attempt of April 16 furnished the excuse for recalling the army to Paris – the real purpose of the clumsily staged comedy and for the reactionary federalist demonstrations in the provinces.
On May 4 the National Assembly met the result of the direct general elections, convened. Universal suffrage did not possess the magic power which republicans of the old school had ascribed to it. They saw in the whole of France, at least in the majority of Frenchmen, citoyens [citizens] with the same interests, the same understanding, etc. This was their cult of the people. Instead of their imaginary people, the elections brought the real people to the light of day; that is, representatives of the different classes into which it falls. We have seen why peasants and petty bourgeois had to vote under the leadership of a bourgeoisie spoiling for a fight and of big landowners frantic for restoration. But if universal suffrage was not the miracle – working magic wand the republican worthies had taken it for, it possessed the incomparable higher merit of unchaining the class struggle, of letting the various middle strata of bourgeois society rapidly get over their illusions and disappointments, of tossing all the sections of the exploiting class at one throw to the apex of the state, and thus tearing from them their deceptive mask, whereas the monarchy with its property qualifications had let only certain factions of the bourgeoisie compromise themselves, allowing the others to lie hidden behind the scenes and surrounding them with the halo of a common opposition.
In the Constituent National Assembly, which met on May 4, the bourgeois republicans, the republicans of the National, had the upper hand. Even Legitimists and Orléanists at first dared to show themselves only under the mask of bourgeois republicanism. The fight against the proletariat could be undertaken only in the name of the republic.
The republic dates from May 4, not from February 25 – that is, the republic recognized by the French people; it is not the republic which the Paris proletariat thrust upon the Provisional Government, not the republic with social institutions, not the vision that hovered before the fighters on the barricades. The republic proclaimed by the National Assembly, the sole legitimate republic, is a republic which is no revolutionary weapon against the bourgeois order, but rather its political reconstitution, the political reconsolidation of bourgeois society; in a word, a bourgeois republic. This contention resounded from the tribune of the National Assembly, and in the entire republican and anti-republican bourgeois press it found its echo.
And we have seen how the February Republic in reality was not and could not be other than a bourgeois republic; how the Provisional Government, nevertheless, was forced by the immediate pressure of the proletariat to announce it as a republic with social institutions; how the Paris proletariat was still incapable of going beyond the bourgeois republic otherwise than in its fancy, in imagination; how even where the republic acted in the service of the bourgeoisie when it really came to action; how the promises made to it became an unbearable danger for the new republic; how the whole life process of the Provisional Government was comprised in a continuous fight against the demands of the proletariat.
In the National Assembly all France sat in judgment upon the Paris proletariat. The Assembly broke immediately with the social illusions of the February Revolution; it roundly proclaimed the bourgeois republic, nothing but the bourgeois republic. It at once excluded the representatives of the proletariat, Louis Blanc and Albert, from the Executive Commission it had appointed; it threw out the proposal of a special Labor Ministry and received with acclamation the statement of Minister Trélat: “The question now is merely one of bringing labor back to its old conditions.” [from Trélat's speech of 20 June 1848]
But all this was not enough. The February Republic was won by the workers with the passive support of the bourgeoisie. The proletarians rightly regarded themselves as the victors of February, and they made the arrogant claims of victors. They had to be vanquished in the streets, they had to be shown that they were worsted as soon as they did not fight with the bourgeoisie, but against the bourgeoisie. Just as the February Republic, with its socialist concessions, required a battle of the proletariat, united with the bourgeoisie, against the monarchy, so a second battle was necessary to sever the republic from socialist concessions, to officially work out the bourgeois republic as dominant. The bourgeoisie had to refute, arms in hand, the demands of the proletariat. And the real birthplace of the bourgeois republic is not the February victory; it is the June defeat.
The proletariat hastened the decision when, on the fifteenth of May, it pushed its way into the National Assembly sought in vain to recapture its revolutionary influence, and only delivered its energetic leaders to the jailers of the bourgeoisie. Il faut en finir! This situation must end! With this cry the National Assembly gave vent to its determination to force the proletariat into a decisive struggle. The Executive Commission issued a series of provocative decrees, such as that prohibiting congregations of people, etc. The workers were directly provoked, insulted, and derided from the tribune of the Constituent National Assembly. But the real point of the attack was, as we have seen, the national ateliers. The Constituent Assembly imperiously pointed these out to the Executive Commission, which waited only to hear its own plan proclaimed the command of the National Assembly.
The Executive Commission began by making admission to the national ateliers more difficult, by turning the day wage into a piece wage, by banishing workers not born in Paris to the Sologne, ostensibly for the construction of earthworks. These earthworks were only a rhetorical formula with which to embellish their exile, as the workers, returning disillusioned, announced to their comrades. Finally, on June 21, a decree appeared in the Moniteur which ordered the forcible expulsion of all unmarried workers from the national ateliers or their enrollment in the army.
The workers were left no choice; they had to starve or let fly. They answered on June 22 with the tremendous insurrection in which the first great battle was fought between the two classes that split modern society. It was a fight for the preservation or annihilation of the bourgeois order. The veil that shrouded the republic was torn asunder.
It is well known how the workers, with unexampled bravery and ingenuity, without leaders, without a common plan, without means and, for the most part, lacking weapons, held in check for five days the army, the Mobile Guard, the Paris National Guard, and the National Guard that streamed in from the provinces. It is well known how the bourgeoisie compensated itself for the mortal anguish it suffered by unheard–of brutality, massacring over 3000 prisoners. The official representatives of French democracy were steeped in republican ideology to such an extent that it was only some weeks later that they began to have an inkling of the significance of the June fight. They were stupefied by the gunpowder smoke in which their fantastic republic dissolved.
The immediate impression which the news of the June defeat made on us, the reader will allow us to describe in the words of the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung.”
“The Executive Committee, that last official vestige of the February revolution, vanished like a ghost in the face of these grave events. Lamartine's fireworks have turned into the incendiary shells of Cavaignac.
“Fraternité, the brotherhood of antagonistic classes, one of which exploits the other, this fraternity which in February was proclaimed and inscribed in large letters on the facades of Paris, on every prison and every barracks – this fraternity found its true, unadulterated and prosaic expression in civil war, civil war in its most terrible aspect, the war of labor against capital. This brotherhood blazed in front of the windows of Paris on the evening of June 25, when the Paris of the bourgeoisie held illuminations while the Paris of the proletariat was burning, bleeding, groaning in the throes of death.
“This fraternité lasted only as long as there was a consanguinity of interests between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Pedants sticking to the old revolutionary tradition of 1793; socialist doctrinaires who begged alms for the people from the bourgeoisie and who were allowed to deliver lengthy sermons and compromise themselves so long as the proletarian lion had to be lulled to sleep; republicans who wanted to keep the old bourgeois order in toto, but without the crowned head; members of the Dynastic Opposition on whom chance imposed the task of bringing about the downfall of a dynasty instead of a change of government; legitimists, who did not want to cast off their livery but merely to change its style – these were the allies with whom the people had fought their February revolution. What the people instinctively hated in Louis Philip was not Louis Philip himself, but the crowned rule of a class, the capital on the throne. But magnanimous as always, the people thought they had destroyed their enemy when they had overthrown the enemy of their enemies, their common enemy.
“The February revolution was the nice revolution, the revolution of universal sympathies, because the contradictions which erupted in it against the monarchy were still undeveloped and peacefully dormant, because the social struggle which formed their background had only achieved an ephemeral existence, an existence in phrases, in words. The June revolution is the ugly revolution, the nasty revolution, because the phrases have given place to the real thing, because the republic has bared the head of the monster by knocking off the crown which shielded and concealed it.
“Order! was Guizot's war-cry. Order! shouted Sebastiani, the Guizotist, when Warsaw became Russian. Order! shouts Cavaignac, the brutal echo of the French National Assembly and of the republican bourgeoisie. Order! thundered his grape-shot as it tore into the body of the proletariat.
“None of the numerous revolutions of the French bourgeoisie since 1789 assailed the existing order, for they retained the class rule, the slavery of the workers, the bourgeois system, even though the political form of this rule and this slavery changed frequently. The June uprising did assail this system. Woe to the June uprising!”
Woe to that June! Re-echoes Europe.
The Paris proletariat was forced into the June insurrection by the bourgeoisie. This sufficed to mark its doom. Its immediate, avowed needs did not drive it to engage in a fight for the forcible overthrow of the bourgeoisie, nor was it equal to this task. The Moniteur had to inform it officially that the time was past when the republic saw any occasion to bow and scrape to its illusions, and only its defeat convinced it of the truth that the slightest improvement in its position remains a utopia within the bourgeois republic, a utopia that becomes a crime as soon as it wants to become a reality. In place of the demands, exuberant in form but still limited and even bourgeois in content, whose concession the proletariat wanted to wring from the February Republic, there appeared the bold slogan of revolutionary struggle: Overthrow of the bourgeoisie! Dictatorship of the Working class!
By making its burial place the birthplace of the bourgeois republic, the proletariat compelled the latter to come out forthwith in its pure form as the state whose admitted object it is to perpetuate the rule of capital, the slavery of labor. Having constantly before its eyes the scarred, irreconcilable, invincible enemy – invincible because its existence is the condition of its own life – bourgeois rule, freed from all fetters, was bound to turn immediately into bourgeois terrorism. With the proletariat removed for the time being from the stage and bourgeois dictatorship recognized officially, the middle strata of bourgeois society, the petty bourgeoisie and the peasant class, had to adhere more and more closely to the proletariat as their position became more unbearable and their antagonism to the bourgeoisie more acute. Just as earlier they had to find the cause of their distress in its upsurge, so now in its defeat.
If the June insurrection raised the self-assurance of the bourgeoisie all over the Continent, and caused it to league itself openly with the feudal monarchy against the people, who was the first victim of this alliances The continental bourgeoisie itself. The June defeat prevented it from consolidating its rule and from bringing the people, half satisfied and half out of humor, to a standstill at the lowest stage of the bourgeois revolution.
Finally, the defeat of June divulged to the despotic powers of Europe the secret that France must maintain peace abroad at any price in order to be able to wage civil war at home. Thus the people's who had begun the fight for their national independence were abandoned to the superior power of Russia, Austria, and Prussian, but at the same time the fate of these national revolutions was made subject to the fate of the proletarian revolution, and they were robbed of their apparent autonomy, their independence of the great social revolution. The Hungarian shall not be free, nor the Pole, nor the Italian, as long as the worker remains a slave!
Finally, with the victories of the Holy Alliance, Europe has taken on a form that makes every fresh proletarian upheaval in France directly coincide with a world war. The new French revolution is forced to leave its national soil forthwith and conquer the European terrain, on which alone the social revolution of the nineteenth century can be accomplished.
Thus only the June defeat has created all the conditions under which France can seize the initiative of the European revolution. Only after being dipped in the blood of the June insurgents did the tricolor become the flag of the European revolution – the red flag!
And we exclaim: The revolution is dead! Long live the revolution!
Part III. Consequences of June 13, 1849
On December 20 the Janus head of the constitutional republic had still shown only one face, the executive face with the indistinct, plain features of L. Bonaparte; on May 28, 1849, it showed its second face, the legislative, pitted with the scars that the orgies of the Restoration and the July Monarchy had left behind. With the Legislative National Assembly the phenomenon of the constitutional republic was completed, that is, the republican form of government in which the rule of the bourgeois class is constituted, the common rule, therefore, of the two great royalist factions that form the French bourgeoisie, the coalesced Legitimists and Orléanists, the party of Order. While the French republic thus became the property of the coalition of the royalist parties, the European coalition of the counterrevolutionary powers embarked simultaneously upon a general crusade against the last places of refuge of the March revolutions. Russia invaded Hungary, Prussia marched against the army defending the Reich constitution and Oudinot bombarded Rome. The European crisis was evidently approaching a decisive turning point; the eyes of all Europe were turned on Paris, and the eyes of all Paris on the Legislative Assembly.
On June 11 Ledru-Rollin mounted its tribune. He made no speech; he formulated an indictment of the ministers, naked, unadorned, factual, concentrated, forceful.
The attack on Rome is an attack on the constitution; the attack on the Roman republic is an attack on the French republic. Article 5 of the constitution reads: “The French republic never employs its forces against the liberty of any people whatsoever” – and the President employs the French army against Roman liberty. Article 54 Of the constitution forbids the executive power to declare any war whatsoever without the consent of the National Assembly. The Constituent Assembly's resolution of May 8 expressly commands the ministers to make the Rome expedition conform with the utmost speed to its original mission; it therefore just as expressly prohibits war on Rome – and Oudinot bombards Rome. Thus Ledru-Rollin called the constitution itself as a witness for the prosecution against Bonaparte and his ministers. At the royalist majority of the National Assembly, he, the tribune of the constitution, hurled the threatening declaration: “The republicans will know how to command respect for the constitution by every means, be it even by force of arms!” “By force of arms!” came the hundredfold echo of the Montagne. The majority answered with a terrible tumult; the President of the National Assembly called Ledru-Rollin to order – Ledru-Rollin repeated the challenge, and finally laid on the President's table a motion for the impeachment of Bonaparte and his ministers. By 361 votes to 203, the National Assembly resolved to pass on from the bombardment of Rome to the next item on the agenda.
Did Ledru-Rollin believe he could beat the National Assembly by means of the constitution, and the President by means of the National Assembly?
To be sure, the constitution forbade any attack on the liberty of foreign peoples, but what the French army attacked in Rome was, according to the ministry, not “liberty” but the “despotism of anarchy.” Had the Montagne still not comprehended, all experiences in the Constituent Assembly notwithstanding, that the interpretation of the constitution did not belong to those who had made it, but only to those who had accepted it? That its wording must be construed in its viable meaning and that the bourgeois meaning was its only viable meaning That Bonaparte and the royalist majority of the National Assembly were the authentic interpreters of the constitution, as the priest is the authentic interpreter of the Bible, and the judge the authentic interpreter of the laws Should the National Assembly, freshly emerged from the general elections, feel itself bound by the testamentary provisions of the dead Constituent Assembly, whose will an Odilon Barrot had broken while it was alive? When Ledru-Rollin cited the Constituent Assembly's resolution of May 8, had he forgotten that the same Constituent Assembly on May 11 had rejected his first motion for the impeachment of Bonaparte and the ministers; that it had acquitted the President and the ministers; that it had thus sanctioned the attack on Rome as “constitutional”; that he only lodged an appeal against a judgment already delivered – that he, lastly, appealed from the republican Constituent Assembly to the royalist Legislative Assembly? The constitution itself calls insurrection to its aid by summoning, in a special article, every citizen to protect it. Ledru-Rollin based himself on this article. But at the same time, are not the public authorities organized for the defense of the constitution, and does not the violation of the constitution begin only from the moment when one of the constitutional public authorities rebels against the other? And the President of the republic, the ministers of the republic, and the National Assembly of the republic were in the most harmonious agreement.
What the Montagne attempted on June 11 was “an insurrection within the limits of pure reason,” that is, a purely parliamentary insurrection. The majority of the Assembly, intimidated by the prospect of an armed rising of the popular masses, was, in Bonaparte and the ministers, to destroy its own power and the significance of its own election. Had not the Constituent Assembly similarly attempted to annul the election of Bonaparte, when it insisted so obstinately on the dismissal of the Barrot-Falloux Ministry?
Neither were there lacking from the time of the Convention models for parliamentary insurrections which had suddenly transformed completely the relation between the majority and the minority – and should the young Montagne not succeed where the old had succeeded? – nor did relations at the moment seem unfavorable for such an undertaking. Popular unrest in Paris had reached an alarmingly high point – the army, according to its vote at the election, did not seem favorably inclined toward the government; the legislative majority itself was still too young to have become consolidated, and in addition it consisted of old gentlemen. If the Montagne were successful in a parliamentary insurrection, the helm of state would fall directly into its hands. The democratic petty bourgeoisie, for its part, wished, as always, for nothing more fervently than to see the battle fought out in the clouds over its head between the departed spirits of parliament. Finally, both of them, the democratic petty bourgeoisie and its representatives, the Montagne, would, through a parliamentary insurrection, achieve their great purpose, that of breaking the power of the bourgeoisie without unleashing the proletariat or letting it appear otherwise than in perspective; the proletariat would have been used without becoming dangerous.
After the vote of the National Assembly on June 11, a conference took place between some members of the Montagne and delegates of the secret workers' societies. The latter urged that the attack be started the same evening. The Montagne decisively rejected this plan. On no account did it want to let the leadership slip out of its hands; its allies were as suspect to it as its antagonists, and rightly so. The memory of June, 1848, surged through the ranks of the Paris proletariat more vigorously than ever. Nevertheless it was chained to the alliance with the Montagne. The latter represented the largest part of the departments – it had increased its influence in the army; it had at its disposal the democratic section of the National Guard; it had the moral power of the shopkeepers behind it. To begin the revolution at this moment against the will of the Montagne would have meant for the proletariat, decimated moreover by cholera and driven out of Paris in considerable numbers by unemployment, to repeat uselessly the June days of 1848, without the situation which had forced this desperate struggle. The proletarian delegates did the only rational thing. They obligated the Montagne to compromise itself, that is, to come out beyond the confines of the parliamentary struggle, in the event that its bill of impeachment was rejected. During the whole of June 13 the proletariat maintained this same skeptically watchful attitude, and awaited a seriously engaged irrevocable melee between the democratic National Guard and the army, in order then to plunge into the fight and push the revolution forward beyond the petty bourgeois aim set for it. In the event of victory a proletarian commune was already formed which would take its place beside the official government. The Parisian workers had learned in the bloody school of June, 1848.
On June 12 Minister Lacrosse himself brought forward in the Legislative Assembly the motion to proceed at once to the discussion of the bill of impeachment. During the night the government had made every provision for defense and attack; the majority of the National Assembly was determined to drive the rebellious minority out into the streets; the minority itself could no longer retreat; the die was cast; the bill of impeachment was rejected by 377 votes to 8. The “Mountain,” which had abstained from voting, rushed resentfully into the propaganda halls of the “pacific democracy,” the newspaper offices of the Démocratie Pacifique.
Its withdrawal from the parliament building broke its strength as withdrawal from the earth broke the strength of Antaeus, her giant son. Samsons in the precincts of the Legislative Assembly, the Montagnards were only Philistines in the precincts of the “pacific democracy.” A long, noisy, rambling debate ensued. The Montagne was determined to compel respect for the constitution by every means, “only not by force of arms.” In this decision it was supported by a manifesto and by a deputation of “Friends of the Constitution.” “Friends of the Constitution” was what the wreckage of the coterie of the National, the bourgeois-republican party, called itself. While six of its remaining parliamentary representatives had voted against, the others in a body voting for, the rejection of the bill of impeachment, while Cavaignac placed his saber at the disposal of the party of Order, the larger, extra-parliamentary part of the coterie greedily seized the opportunity to emerge from its position of a political pariah and to press into the ranks of the democratic party. Did they not appear as the natural shield bearers of this party, which hid itself behind their shield, behind their principles, behind the constitution?
Till break of day the “Mountain” was in labor. It gave birth to “a proclamation to the people,” which on the morning of June occupied a more or less shamefaced place in two socialist journals. It declared the President, the ministers, and the majority of the Legislative Assembly “outside the constitution” and summoned the National Guard, the army, and finally also the people “to arise.” “Long live the Constitution!” was the slogan it put forward, a slogan that signified nothing other than “Down with the revolution!”
In conformity with the constitutional proclamation of the Mountain, there was a so-called peaceful demonstration of the petty bourgeois on June 13, that is, a street procession from the Chateau d'Eau through the Boulevards, 30,000 strong, mainly National Guardsmen, unarmed, with an admixture of members of the secret workers' sections, moving along with the cry: “Long live the Constitution!” which was uttered mechanically, icily, and with a bad conscience by the members of the procession itself, and thrown back ironically by the echo of the people that surged along the sidewalks, instead of swelling up like thunder. From the many-voiced song the chest notes were missing. And when the procession swung by the meeting hall of the “Friends of the Constitution” and a hired herald of the constitution appeared on the housetop, violently cleaving the air with his claquer hat and from tremendous lungs letting the catch – cry “Long live the Constitution!” fall like hail on the heads of the pilgrims, they themselves seemed overcome for a moment by the comedy of the situation. It is known how the procession, having arrived at the termination of the Rue de la Paix, was received in the Boulevards by the dragoons and chasseurs of Changarnier in an altogether unparliamentary way, how in a trice it scattered in all directions, and how it threw behind it a few shouts of “To arms” only in order that the parliamentary call to arms of June 11 might be fulfilled.
The majority of the Montagne assembled in the Rue du Hasard scattered when this violent dispersion of the peaceful procession, the muffled rumors of murder of unarmed citizens on the Boulevards, and the growing tumult in the streets seemed to herald the approach of a rising.Ledru-Rollin at the head of a small band of deputies saved the honor of the Mountain. Under the protection of the Paris Artillery, which had assembled in the Palais National, they betook themselves to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers [Museum of arts and trades, an educational institution in Paris], where the fifth and sixth legions of the National Guard were to arrive. But the Montagnards waited in vain for the fifth and sixth legions; these discreet National Guards left their representatives in the lurch; the Paris Artillery itself prevented the people from throwing up barricades; chaotic disorder made any decision impossible; the troops of the line advanced with fixed bayonets; some of the representatives were taken prisoner, while others escaped. Thus ended June 13.
If June 23, 1848, was the insurrection of the revolutionary proletariat, June 13, I849, was the insurrection of the democratic petty bourgeois, each of these two insurrections being the classically pure expression of the class which had been its vehicle.
Only in Lyons did it come to an obstinate, bloody conflict. Here, where the industrial bourgeoisie and the industrial proletariat stand directly opposed to one another, where the workers' movement is not, as in Paris, included in and determined by the general movement, June 13, in its repercussion, lost its original character. Wherever else it broke out in the provinces it did not kindle fire – acold lightning flash.
June 13 closes the first period in the life of the constitutional republic, which had attained its normal existence on May 28, 1849, with the meeting of the Legislative Assembly. The whole period of this prologue is filled with vociferous struggle between the party of Order and the Montagne, between the big bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, which strove in vain against the consolidation of the bourgeois republic, for which it had itself continuously conspired in the Provisional Government and in the Executive Commission, and for which, during the June days, it had fought fanatically against the proletariat. The thirteenth of June breaks its resistance and makes thelegislative dictatorship of the united royalists a fait accompli. From this moment the National Assembly is only a Committee of Public Safety of the party of Order.
Paris had put the President, the ministers, and the majority of the National Assembly in a “state of impeachment”; they put Paris in a “state of siege.” The Mountain had declared the majority of the Legislative Assembly “outside the constitution”; for violation of the constitution the majority handed over the Mountain to the haute cour and proscribed everything in it that still had vital force. It was decimated to a rump without head or heart. The minority had gone so far as to attempt aparliamentary insurrection – the majority elevated its parliamentary despotism to law. It decreed new “standing orders,” which annihilate the freedom of the tribune and authorize the president of the National Assembly to punish representatives for violation of the standing orders with censure, with fines, with stoppage of their salaries, with suspension of membership, with incarceration. Over the rump of the Montagne it hung the rod instead of the sword. The remainder of the deputies of the Montagne owed it to their honor to make a mass exit. By such an act the dissolution of the party of Order would have been hastened. It would have had to break up into its original component parts the moment not even the semblance of an opposition would hold it together any longer.
Simultaneously with their parliamentary power, the democratic petty bourgeois were robbed of their armed power through the dissolution of the Paris Artillery and the eighth, ninth, and twelfth legions of the National Guard. On the other hand, the legion of high finance, which on June 13 had raided the print shops of Boule and Roux, demolished the presses, played havoc with the offices of the republican journals, and arbitrarily arrested editors, compositors, printers, shipping clerks, and errand boys, received encouraging approval from the tribune of the National Assembly. All over France the disbanding of National Guards suspected of republicanism was repeated.
A new press law, a new law of association, a new law on the state of siege, the prisons of Paris overflowing, the political refugees driven out, all the journals that go beyond the limits of the National suspended, Lyons and the five departments surrounding it abandoned to the brutal persecution of military despotism, the courts ubiquitous, and the army of officials, so often purged, purged once more – these were the inevitable, the constantly recurring commonplaces of victorious reaction, worth mentioning after the massacres and the deportations of June only because this time they were directed not only against Paris but also against the departments, not only against the proletariat but, above all, against the middle classes.
The repressive laws by which the declaration of a state of siege was left to the discretion of the government, the press still more firmly muzzled, and the right of association annihilated, absorbed the whole of the legislative activity of the National Assembly during the months of June, July, and August.
However, this epoch is characterized not by the exploitation of victory in fact, but in principle; not by the resolutions of the National Assembly, but by the grounds advanced for these resolutions; not by the thing but by the phrase; not by the phrase but by the accent and the gesture which enliven the phrase. The brazen, unreserved expression of royalist sentiments, the contemptuously aristocratic insults to the republic, the coquettishly frivolous babbling of restoration aims in a word, the boastful violation of republican decorum – give its peculiar tone and color to this period. Long live the Constitution! was the battle cry of the vanquished of June 13. The victors were therefore absolved from the hypocrisy of constitutional, that is, republican, speech. The counterrevolution subjugated Hungary, Italy, and Germany, and they believed that the restoration was already at the gates of France. Among the masters of ceremonies of the factions of Order there ensued a real competition to document their royalism in the Moniteur, and to confess, repent, and crave pardon before God and man for liberal sins perchance committed by them under the monarchy. No day passed without the February Revolution being declared a national calamity from the tribune of the National Assembly, without some Legitimist provincial cabbage-junker solemnly stating that he had never recognized the republic, without one of the cowardly deserters of and traitors to the July Monarchy relating the belated deeds of heroism in the performance of which only the philanthropy of Louis Philippe or other misunderstandings had hindered him. What was admirable in the February days was not the magnanimity of the victorious people, but the self-sacrifice and moderation of the royalists, who had allowed it to be victorious. One Representative of the People proposed to divert part of the money destined for the relief of those wounded in February to the Municipal Guards, who alone in those days had deserved well of the fatherland. Another wanted to have an equestrian statue decreed to the Duke of Orléans in the Place du Carrousel. Thiers called the constitution a dirty piece of paper. There appeared in succession on the tribune Orléanists, to repent of their conspiracy against the legitimate monarchy by Legitimists, who reproached themselves with having hastened the overthrow of monarchy in general by resisting the illegitimate monarchy; Thiers, who repented of having intrigued against Molé; Molé, who repented of having intrigued against Guizot; Barrot, who repented of having intrigued against all three. The cry “Long live the Social-Democratic Republic!” was declared unconstitutional; the cry “Long live the Republic!” was prosecuted as social-democratic. On the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a representative declared: “I fear an invasion of the Prussians less than the entry of the revolutionary refugees into France.” To the complaints about the terrorism organized in Lyons and the neighboring departments, Baraguay d'Hilliers answered: “I prefer the white terror to the red terror.” And the Assembly applauded frantically every time an epigram against the republic, against the revolution, against the constitution, for the monarchy, or for the Holy Alliance fell from the lips of its orators. Every infringement of the minutest republican formality – for example, that of addressing the representatives as citoyens – filled the knights of order with enthusiasm.
The by-elections in Paris on July 8, held under the influence of the state of siege and of the abstention of a great part of the proletariat from the ballot box, the taking of Rome by the French army, the entry into Rome of the red eminences and, in their train, of inquisition and monkish terrorism, added fresh victories to the victory of June and increased the intoxication of the party of Order.
Finally, in the middle of August, half with the intention of attending the Department Councils just assembled, half through exhaustion from the tendentious orgy of many months, the royalists decreed a two – month recess of the National Assembly. With transparent irony they left behind a commission of twenty-five representatives, the cream of the Legitimists and the Orléanists, a Molé and a Changarnier, as proxies for the National Assembly and as guardians of the republic. The irony was more profound than they suspected. They, condemned by history to help to overthrow the monarchy they loved, were destined by it to conserve the republic they hated.
The second period in the life of the constitutional republic, its royalist period of sowing wild oats, closes with the recess of the Legislative Assembly.
The state of siege in Paris had again been raised, the activities of the press had again begun. During the suspension of the Social-Democratic papers, during the period of repressive legislation and royalist bluster, the Siècle, the old literary representative of the monarchist-constitutional petty bourgeois, republicanized itself; the Presse, the old literary exponent of the bourgeois reformers, democratized itself; while the National, the old classic organ of the republican bourgeois, socialized itself.
The secret societies grew in extent and intensity in the same degree that the public clubs became impossible. The workers' industrial cooperatives, tolerated as purely commercial societies, while of no account economically, became politically so many means of cementing the proletariat. June 13 had struck off the official heads of the various semirevolutionary parties; the masses that remained won a head of their own. The knights of order had practiced intimidation by prophecies of the terror of the red republic; the base excesses, the hyperborean atrocities of the victorious counterrevolution in Hungary, in Baden, and in Rome washed the “red republic” white. And the malcontent intermediate classes of French society began to prefer the promises of the red republic with its problematic terrors to the terrors of the red monarchy with its actual hopelessness. No socialist in France spread more revolutionary propaganda than Haynau. A chaque capacité selon ses oeuvres! [To each man of talent according to his work!]
In the meantime Louis Bonaparte exploited the recess of the National Assembly to make princely tours of the provinces, the most hot-blooded Legitimists made pilgrimages to Ems, to the grandchild of the saintly Louis, and the mass of the popular representatives on the side of order intrigued in the Department Councils, which had just met. It was necessary to make them pronounce what the majority of the National Assembly did not yet dare pronounce, an urgent motion for immediate revision of the constitution. According to the constitution, it could not be revised before 1852, and then only by a National Assembly called together expressly for this purpose. If, however, the majority of the Department Councils expressed themselves to this effect, was not the National Assembly bound to sacrifice the virginity of the constitution to the voice of France? The National Assembly entertained the same hopes in regard to these provincial assemblies as the nuns in Voltaire's Henriade entertained in regard to the pandours. But, some exceptions apart, the Potiphars of the National Assembly had to deal with just so many Josephs of the provinces. The vast majority did not want to understand the importunate insinuation. The revision of the constitution was frustrated by the very instruments which were to have called it into being, by the votes of the Department Councils. The voice of France, and indeed of bourgeois France, had spoken and had spoken against revision.
At the beginning of October the Legislative National Assembly met once more – tantum mutatus ab illo. Its physiognomy was completely changed. The unexpected rejection of revision on the part of the Department Councils had put it back within the limits of the constitution and indicated the limits of its term of life. The Orléanists had become mistrustful because of the pilgrimages of the Legitimists to Ems; the Legitimists had grown suspicious because of the Orléanists' negotiations with London; the journals of the two factions had fanned the fire and weighed the reciprocal claims of their pretenders. Orléanists and Legitimists grumbled in unison at the machinations of the Bonapartists, which showed themselves in the princely tours, in the more or less transparent emancipatory attempts of the President, in the presumptuous language of the Bonapartist newspapers; Louis Bonaparte grumbled at a National Assembly which found only the Legitimist-Orléanist conspiracy legitimate, at a ministry which betrayed him continually to this National Assembly. Finally the ministry was itself divided on the Roman policy and on the income tax proposed by Minister Passy, decried as socialistic by the conservatives.
One of the first bills of the Barrot Ministry in the reassembled Legislative Assembly was a demand for a credit of 300,000 francs for the payment of a widow's pension to the Duchess of Orléans! The National Assembly granted it and added to the list of debts of the French nation a sum of seven million francs. Thus while Louis Philippe continued to play successfully the role of the pauvre honteux, the shamefaced beggar, the ministry dared not move an increase of salary for Bonaparte nor did the Assembly appear inclined to grant it. And Louis Bonaparte, as ever, vacillated in the dilemma: Aut Caesar aut Clichy!
The minister's second demand for a credit, one of nine million francs for the costs of the Rome expedition, increased the tension between Bonaparte on the one hand and the ministers and the National Assembly on the other. Louis Bonaparte had inserted a letter to his military aide, Edgar Ney, in the Moniteur, in which he bound the papal government to constitutional guarantees. The Pope, on his part, had published an address, motu proprio, in which he rejected any limitation of his restored rule. Bonaparte's letter, with studied indiscretion, raised the curtain on his cabinet in order to expose himself to the eyes of the gallery as a benevolent genius who was, however, misunderstood and shackled in his own house. It was not the first time that he had coquetted with the “furtive flights of a free soul."Thiers, the reporter of the commission, completely ignored Bonaparte's flight and contented himself with translating the papal allocution into French. It was not the ministry but Victor Hugo who sought to save the President through an order of the day in which the National Assembly was to express its agreement with Napoleon's letter. Allons donc! Allons donc! [Let's go then!] With this disrespectful, frivolous interjection the majority buried Hugo's motion. The policy of the President? The letter of the President? The President himself? Allons donc! Allons donc! Who the devil takes Monsieur Bonaparte seriously? Do you believe, Monsieur Victor Hugo, that we believe you that you believe in the president?Allons donc! Allons donc!
Finally, the breach between Bonaparte and the National Assembly was hastened by the discussion on the recall of the Orléans and the Bourbons. In default of the ministry, the President's cousin [Joseph Bonaparte], son of the ex-king of Westphalia, had put forward this motion, which had no other purpose than to push the Legitimist and the Orléanist pretenders down to the same level, or rather a lower level than the Bonapartist pretender, who at least stood in fact at the pinnacle of the state.
Napoleon Bonaparte was disrespectful enough to make the recall of the expelled royal families and the amnesty of the June insurgents parts of one and the same motion. The indignation of the majority compelled him to apologize immediately for this sacrilegious concatenation of the holy and the impious, of the royal races and the proletarian brood, of the fixed stars of society and of its swamp lights, and to assign each of the two motions to its proper place. The majority energetically rejected the recall of the royal family, and Berryer, the Demosthenes of the Legitimists, left no doubt about the meaning of the vote. The civic degradation of the pretenders, that is what is intended! It is desired to rob them of their halo, of the last majesty that is left to them, the majesty of exile! What, cried Berryer, would the pretenders think of the President, who, forgetting his august origin, came here to live as a simple private individual? It could not have been more clearly intimated to Louis Bonaparte that he had not gained the day by his presence, that whereas the royalists in coalition needed him here in France as a “neutral man” in the presidential chair, the serious pretenders to the throne had to be kept out of profane sight by the fog of exile.
On November 1, Louis Bonaparte answered the Legislative Assembly with a message which in quite brusque words announced the dismissal of the Barrot Ministry and the formation of a new ministry. The Barrot-Falloux Ministry was the ministry of the royalist coalition, the Hautpoul Ministry was the ministry of Bonaparte, the organ of the President as against the Legislative Assembly, the ministry of the clerks.
Bonaparte was no longer the merely neutral man of December 10, 1848. His possession of the executive power had grouped a number of interests around him, the struggle with anarchy forced the party of Order itself to increase his influence, and if he was no longer popular, the party of Order was unpopular. Could he not hope to compel the Orléanists and the Legitimists, through their rivalry as well as through the necessity of some sort of monarchist restoration, to recognize the neutral pretender?
From November 1, 1849, dates the third period in the life of the constitutional republic, a period which closes with March 10, I850. The regular game, so much admired by Guizot, of the constitutional institutions, the wrangling between executive and legislative power, now begins. More, as against the hankering for restoration on the part of the united Orléanists and Legitimists, Bonaparte defends his title to his actual power, the republic; as against the hankering for restoration on the part of Bonaparte, the party of Order defends its title to its common rule, the republic; as against the Orléanists, the Legitimists, and as against the Legitimists, the Orléanists, defend the status quo, the republic. All these factions of the party of Order, each of which has its own king and its own restoration in petto [secretly], mutually enforce, as against their rivals' hankering for usurpation and revolt, the common rule of the bourgeoisie, the form in which the special claims remain neutralized and reserved the republic.
Just as Kant makes the republic, so these royalists make the monarchy the only rational form of state, a postulate of practical reason whose realization is never attained, but whose attainment must always be striven for and mentally adhered to as the goal.
Thus the constitutional republic had gone forth from the hands of the bourgeois republicans as a hollow ideological formula to become a form full of content and life in the hands of the royalists in coalition. And Thiers spoke more truly than he suspects when he said: “We, the royalists, are the true pillars of the constitutional republic.”
The overthrow of the ministry of the coalition and the appearance of the ministry of the clerks has a second significance. Its Finance Minister was Fould. Fould as Finance Minister signifies the official surrender of France's national wealth to the Bourse, the management of the state's property by the Bourse and in the interests of the Bourse. With the nomination of Fould, the finance aristocracy announced its restoration in the Moniteur. This restoration necessarily supplemented the other restorations, which form just so many links in the chain of the constitutional republic.
Louis Philippe had never dared to make a genuine loup-cervier [stock-exchange wolf] finance minister. Just as his monarchy was the ideal name for the rule of the big bourgeoisie, so in his ministries the privileged interests had to bear ideologically disinterested names. The bourgeois republic every where pushed into the forefront what the different monarchies, Legitimist as well as Orléanist, had kept concealed in the background. It made earthly what they had made heavenly. In place of the names of the saints it put the bourgeois proper names of the dominant class interests.
Our whole exposition has shown how the republic, from the first day of its existence, did not overthrow but consolidated the finance aristocracy. But the concessions made to it were a fate to which submission was made without the desire to bring it about. With Fould, the initiative in the government returned to the finance aristocracy.
The question will be asked how the coalesced bourgeoisie could bear and suffer the rule of finance, which under Louis Philippe depended on the exclusion or subordination of the remaining bourgeois factions.
The answer is simple.
First of all, the finance aristocracy itself forms a weighty, authoritative part of the royalist coalition, whose common governmental power is denominated republic. Are not the spokesmen and leading lights among the Orléanists the old confederates and accomplices of the finance aristocracy? Is it not itself the golden phalanx of Orleanism? As far as the Legitimists are concerned, under Louis Philippe they had already participated in practice in all the orgies of the Bourse, mine, and railway speculations. In general, the combination of large landed property with high finance is a normal fact. Proof: England; proof: even Austria.
In a country like France, where the volume of national production stands at a disproportionately lower level than the amount of the national debt, where government bonds form the most important subject of speculation and the Bourse the chief market for the investment of capital that wants to turn itself to account in an unproductive way – in such a country a countless number of people from all bourgeois or semi-bourgeois classes must have an interest in the state debt, in the Bourse gamblings, in finance. Do not all these interested subalterns find their natural mainstays and commanders in the faction which represents this interest in its vastest outlines, which represents it as a whole?
What conditions the accrual of state property to high finance? The constantly growing indebtedness of the state. And the indebtedness of the state? The constant excess of its expenditure over its income, a disproportion which is simultaneously the cause and effect of the system of state loans.
In order to escape from this indebtedness, the state must either restrict its expenditure, that is, simplify and curtail the government organism, govern as little as possible, employ as few personnel as possible, enter as little as possible into relations with bourgeois society. This path was impossible for the party of Order, whose means of repression, official interference in the name of the state, and ubiquity through organs of state were bound to increase in the same measure as the number of quarters increased from which its rule and the conditions for the existence of its class were threatened. The gendarmerie cannot be reduced in the same measure as attacks on persons and property increase.
Or the state must seek to evade the debts and produce an immediate but transitory balance in its budget by putting extraordinary taxes on the shoulders of the wealthiest classes. But was the party of Order to sacrifice its own wealth on the altar of the fatherland to stop the national wealth from being exploited by the Bourse? Pas si bête! [Not so stupid!]
Therefore, without a complete revolution in the French state, no revolution in the French state budget. Along with this state budget necessarily goes the lordship of the trade in state debts, of the state creditors, the bankers, the money dealers, and the wolves of the Bourse. Only one faction of the party of Order was directly concerned in the overthrow of the finance aristocracy – the manufacturers. We are not speaking of the middle, of the smaller people engaged in industry; we are speaking of the reigning princes of the manufacturing interests, who had formed the broad basis of the dynastic opposition under Louis Philippe. Their interest is indubitably reduction of the costs of production and hence reduction of the taxes, which enter into production, and hence reduction of the state debts, the interest on which enters into the taxes, hence the overthrow of the finance aristocracy.
In England – and the largest French manufacturers are petty bourgeois compared with their English rivals actually find the manufacturers, a Cobden, a Bright, at the head of the crusade against the bank and the stock-exchange aristocracy. Why not in France? In England industry predominates – in France, agriculture. In England industry requires free trade; in France, protective tariffs, national monopoly alongside the other monopolies. French industry does not dominate French production; the French industrialists, therefore, do not dominate the French bourgeoisie. In order to secure the advancement of their interests as against the remaining factions of the bourgeoisie, they cannot, like the English, take the lead of the movement and simultaneously push their class interests to the fore; they must follow in the train of the revolution, and serve interests which are opposed to the collective interests of their class. In February they had misunderstood their position; February sharpened their wits. And who is more directly threatened by the workers than the employer, the industrial capitalists? The manufacturer, therefore, of necessity became in France the most fanatical member of the party of Order. The reduction of his profit by finance, what is that compared with the abolition of profit by the proletariat?
In France, the petty bourgeois does what normally the industrial bourgeois would have to do; the worker does what normally would be the task of the petty bourgeois; and the task of the worker, who accomplishes that? No one. In France it is not accomplished; in France it is proclaimed. It is not accomplished anywhere within the national boundaries. The class war within French society turns into a world war, in which the nations confront one another. Accomplishment begins only at the moment when, through the world war, the proletariat is pushed to the fore of the people that dominates the world market, to the forefront in England. The revolution, which finds here not its end, but its organizational beginning, is no short-lived revolution. The present generation is like the Jews whom Moses led through the wilderness. It not only has a new world to conquer, it must go under in order to make room for the men who are able to cope with a new world.
Let us return to Fould.
On November 14, 1849, Fould mounted the tribune of the National Assembly and expounded his system of finance: an apology for the old system of taxes! Retention of the wine tax! Abandonment of Passy's income tax!
Passy, too, was no revolutionist; he was an old minister of Louis Philippe's. He belonged to the Puritans of the Dufaure brand and to the most intimate confidants of Teste, the scapegoat of the July Monarchy. Passy, too, had praised the old tax system and recommended the retention of the wine tax, but he had at the same time torn the veil from the state deficit. He had declared the necessity for a new tax, the income tax, if the bankruptcy of the state was to be avoided. Fould, who had recommended state bankruptcy to Ledru-Rollin, recommended the state deficit to the Legislative Assembly. He promised economies, the secret of which later revealed itself in that, for example, expenditures diminished by sixty millions while the floating debt increased by two hundred millions – conjurers' tricks in the grouping of figures, in the drawing up of accounts, which all finally amounted to new loans.
Alongside the other jealous bourgeois factions, the finance aristocracy naturally did not act in so shamelessly corrupt a manner under Fould as under Louis Philippe. But once it existed, the system remained the same: constant increase in the debts, masking of the deficit. And in time the old Bourse swindling came out more openly. Proof: the law concerning the Avignon Railway; the mysterious fluctuations in government securities, for a brief time the topic of the day throughout Paris; finally, the ill-starred speculations of Fould and Bonaparte on the elections of March 10.
With the official restoration of the finance aristocracy, the French people soon had to stand again before a February 24.
The Constituent Assembly, in an attack of misanthropy against its heir, had abolished the wine tax for the year of our Lord 1850. New debts could not be paid with the abolition of old taxes. Creton, a cretin of the party of Order, had moved the retention of the wine tax even before the Legislative Assembly recessed. Fould took up this motion in the name of the Bonapartist ministry and on December 20, 1849, the anniversary of the day Bonaparte was proclaimed President, the National Assembly decreed the restoration of the wine tax.
The sponsor of this restoration was not a financier; it was the Jesuit chief Montalembert. His argument was strikingly simple: Taxation is the maternal breast on which the government is suckled. The government is the instruments of repression; it is the organs of authority; it is the army; it is the police; it is the officials, the judges, the ministers; it is the priests. An attack on taxation is an attack by the anarchists on the sentinels of order, who safeguard the material and spiritual production of bourgeois society from the inroads of the proletarian vandals. Taxation is the fifth god, side by side with property, the family, order, and religion. And the wine tax is incontestably taxation and, moreover, not ordinary, but traditional, monarchically disposed, respectable taxation. Vive l'impôt des boissons! [Long live the tax on drinks!] Three cheers and one cheer more!
When the French peasant paints the devil he paints him in the guise of a tax collector. From the moment when Montalembert elevated taxation to a god, the peasant became godless, atheist, and threw himself into the arms of the devil, of socialism. The religion of order had forfeited him; the Jesuits had forfeited him; Bonaparte had forfeited him. December 20, 1849, had irrevocably compromised December 20, 1848. The “nephew of his uncle” was not the first of his family whom the wine tax defeated, this tax which, in Montalembert's phrase, heralds the revolutionary storm. The real, the great Napoleon declared on St. Helena that the reintroduction of the wine tax had contributed more to his downfall than all else, since it had alienated from him the peasants of Southern France. As far back as under Louis XIV the favorite object of the hatred of the people (see the writings of Boisguillebert and Vauban), abolished by the first revolution, it was reintroduced by Napoleon in a modified form in 1808. When the Restoration entered France, there trotted before it not only the Cossacks,, but also the promises to abolish the wine tax. The gentilhommerie [gentry] naturally did not need to keep its word to the gens taillables à merci et miséricorde [people taxed pitilessly]. The year I830 promised the abolition of the wine tax. It was not its way to do what it said or say what it did. The year 1848 promised the abolition of the wine tax, just as it promised everything. Finally, the Constituent Assembly, which promised nothing, made, as already mentioned, a testamentary provision whereby the wine tax was to disappear on January 1, 1850. And just ten days before January 1, 1850, the Legislative Assembly introduced it once more, so that the French people perpetually pursued it, and when they had thrown it out the door saw it come in again through the window.
The popular hatred of the wine tax is explained by the fact that it unites in itself all the odiousness of the French system of taxation. The mode of its collection is odious, the mode of its distribution aristocratic, for the rates of taxation are the same for the commonest as for the costliest wines; it increases, therefore, in geometrical progression as the wealth of the consumers decreases, an inverted progressive tax. It accordingly directly provokes the poisoning of the laboring classes by putting a premium on adulterated and imitation wines. It lessens consumption, since it sets up octrois [toll houses] before the gates of all towns of over four thousand inhabitants and transforms each such town into a foreign country with a protective tariff against French wine. The big wine merchants, but still more the small ones, the marchands de vins, whose livelihood directly depends on the consumption of wine, are so many avowed enemies of the wine tax. And finally, by lessening consumption the wine tax curtails the producers' market. While it renders the urban workers incapable of paying for wine, it renders the wine growers incapable of selling it. And France has a wine-growing population of about twelve million. One can therefore understand the hatred of the people in general; one can in particular understand the fanaticism of the peasants against the wine tax. And in addition they saw in its restoration no isolated, more or less accidental event. The peasants have a kind of historical tradition of their own, which is handed down from father to son, and in this historical school it is muttered that whenever any government wants to dupe the peasants, it promises the abolition of the wine tax, and as soon as it has duped the peasants, it retains or reintroduces the wine tax. In the wine tax the peasant tests the bouquet of the government, its tendency. The restoration of the wine tax on December 20 meant: Louis Bonaparte is like the rest. But he was not like the rest; he was a peasant discovery, and in the petitions carrying millions of signatures against the wine tax they took back the votes that they had given a year before to the “nephew of his uncle.”
The country folk – over two-thirds of the total French population – consist for the most part of so-called free landowners. The first generation, gratuitously freed by the Revolution of 1789 from its feudal burdens, had paid no price for the soil. But the following generations paid, under the form of the price of land, what their semi-serf forefathers had paid in the form of rent, tithes, corvee, etc. The more, on the one hand, the population grew and the more, on the other hand, the partition of the soil increased, the higher became the price of the parcels, for the demand for them increased with their smallness. But in proportion as the price the peasant paid for his parcel rose, whether he bought it directly or whether he had it accounted as capital by his co-heirs, necessarily the indebtedness of the peasant, that is, the mortgage, also rose. The claim to a debt encumbering the land is termed a mortgage, a pawn ticket in respect of the land. Just as privileges accumulated on the medieval estate, mortgages accumulate on the modern small allotment. On the other hand, under the system of parcelisation the soil is purely an instrument of production for its proprietor. Now the fruitfulness of land diminishes in the same measure as land is divided. The application of machinery to the land, the division of labor, major soil – improvement measures, such as cutting drainage and irrigation canals and the like, become more and more impossible, while the unproductive costs of cultivation increase in the same proportion as the division of the instrument of production itself. All this, regardless of whether the possessor of the small allotment possesses capital or not. But the more the division increases, the more does the parcel of land with its utterly wretched inventory form the entire capital of the small allotment peasant, the more does investment of capital in the land diminish, the more does the peasant lack land, money, and education for making use of the progress in agronomy, and the more does the cultivation of the soil retrogress. Finally, the net proceeds diminish in the same proportion as the gross consumption increases, as the whole family of the peasant is kept back from other occupations through its holding and yet is not enabled to live by it.
In the measure, therefore, that the population and, with it, the division of the land increases, does the instrument of production, the soil, become more expensive and its fertility decrease, does agriculture decline and the peasant become loaded with debt. And what was the effect becomes, in its turn, the cause. Each generation leaves behind another more deeply in debt – each new generation begins under more unfavorable and more aggravating conditions; mortgaging begets mortgaging, and when it becomes impossible for the peasant to offer his small holding as security for new debts, that is, to encumber it with new mortgages, he falls a direct victim to usury, and usurious interest rates become so much the more exorbitant.
Thus it came about that the French peasant cedes to the capitalist, in the form of interest on the mortgages encumbering the soil and in the form of interest on the advances made by the usurer without mortgages, not only ground rent, not only the industrial profit – in a word, not only the whole net profit – but even a part of the wages, and that therefore he has sunk to the level of the Irish tenant farmer – all under the pretense of being a private proprietor.
This process was accelerated in France by the ever growing burden of taxes, by court costs called forth in part directly by the formalities with which French legislation encumbers the ownership of land, in part by the innumerable conflicts over parcels everywhere bounding and crossing each other, and in part by the litigiousness of the peasants, whose enjoyment of property is limited to the fanatical assertion of their title to their fancied property, their property rights.
According to a statistical statement of 1840, the gross production of French agriculture amounted to 5,237,178,000 francs. Of this the costs of cultivation came to 3,552,000,000 francs, including consumption by the persons working. There remained a net product of 1,685,178,000 francs, from which 550,000,000 had to be deducted for interest on mortgages, 100,000,000 for law officials, 350,000,000 for taxes, and 107,000,000 for registration money, stamp duty, mortgage fees, etc. There was left one-third of the net product or 538,000,000; when distributed over the population, not 25 francs per head net product. Naturally, neither usury outside of mortgage nor lawyers' fees, etc., are included in this calculation.
The condition of the French peasants, when the republic had added new burdens to their old ones, is comprehensible. It can be seen that their exploitation differs only in form from the exploitation of the industrial proletariat. The exploiter is the same: capital. The individual capitalists exploit the individual peasants through mortgages and usury, the capitalist class exploits the peasant class through the state taxes. The peasant's title to property is the talisman by which capital held him hitherto under its spell, the pretext under which it set him against the industrial proletariat. Only the fall of capital can raise the peasant; only an anti-capitalist, a proletarian government can break his economic misery, his social degradation. The constitutional republic is the dictatorship of his united exploiters; the social-democratic, the red republic, is the dictatorship of his allies. And the scale rises or falls according to the votes the peasant casts into the ballot box. He himself has to decide his fate. So spoke the socialists in pamphlets, almanacs, calendars, and leaflets of all kinds. This language became more understandable to him through the counter-writings of the party of Order, which for its part turned to him, and which by gross exaggeration, by its brutal conception and representation of the intentions and ideas of the socialists, struck the true peasant note and overstimulated his lust after forbidden fruit. But most understandable was the language of the actual experience that the peasant class had gained from the use of the suffrage, were the disillusionments overwhelming him, blow upon blow, with revolutionary speed. Revolutions are the locomotives of history.
The gradual revolutionizing of the peasants was manifested by various symptoms. It early revealed itself in the elections to the Legislative Assembly – it was revealed in the state of siege in the five departments bordering Lyons; it was revealed a few months after June 13 in the election of a Montagnard in place of the former president of the Chambre introuvable by the Department of the Gironde; it was revealed on December 20, 1849, in the election of a red in place of a deceased Legitimist deputy in the Department du Gard, that promised land of the Legitimists, the scene of the most frightful infamies committed against the republicans in 1794 and 1795 and the center of the white terror in 1815, when liberals and Protestants were publicly murdered. This revolutionizing of the most stationary class is most clearly evident since the reintroduction of the wine tax. The governmental measures and the laws of January and February, 1850, are directed almost exclusively against the departments and the peasants. The most striking proof of their progress.
The Hautpoul circular, by which the gendarme was appointed inquisitor of the prefect, of the subprefect, and, above all, of the mayor, and by which espionage was organized even in the hidden corners of the remotest village community; the law against the schoolteachers, by which they (the men of talent, the spokesmen, the educators and interpreters of the peasant class) were subjected to the arbitrary power of the prefect – they, the proletarians of the learned class, were chased like hunted beasts from one community to another; the bill against the mayors, by which the Damocles sword of dismissal was hung over their heads, and they, the presidents of the peasant communities, were every moment set in opposition to the President of the Republic and the party of Order; the ordinance which transformed the seventeen military districts of France into four pashaliks and forced the barracks and the bivouac on the French as their national salon; the education law, by which the party of Order proclaimed unconsciousness and the forcible stupefaction of France as the condition of its life under the regime of universal suffrage what were all these laws and measures? Desperate attempts to reconquer the departments and the peasants of the departments for the party of Order.
Regarded as repression, they were wretched methods that wrung the neck of their own purpose. The big measures, like the retention of the wine tax, of the 45-centime tax, the scornful rejection of peasant petitions for the repayment of the milliard, etc., all these legislative thunderbolts struck the peasant class all at once, wholesale, from the center; the laws and measures cited made attack and resistance general, the topic of the day in every hut; they inoculated every village with revolution; they localized and peasantized the revolution.
On the other hand, do not these proposals of Bonaparte and their acceptance by the National Assembly prove the unity of the two powers of the constitutional republic, so far as it is a question of repression of anarchy – that is, of all the classes that rise against the bourgeois dictatorship? Did not Soulouque [Louis Bonaparte], directly after his brusque message, assure the Legislative Assembly of his dévouement [devotion] to order, through the immediately following message of Carlier, that dirty, mean caricature of Fouché, as Louis Bonaparte himself was the shallow caricature of Napoleon?
The education law shows us the alliance of the young Catholics with the old Voltaireans. Could the rule of the united bourgeois be anything else but the coalesced despotism of the pro-Jesuit Restoration and the make–believe free–thinking July Monarchy? Had not the weapons that the one bourgeois faction had distributed among the people against the other faction, in their mutual struggle for supremacy, again been torn from it, the people, since the latter was confronting their united dictatorship? Nothing has aroused the Paris shopkeeper more than this coquettish étalage [display] of Jesuitism, not even the rejection of the concordats à l'amiable [friendly agreements].
Meanwhile the collisions between the different factions of the party of Order, as well as between the National Assembly and Bonaparte, continued. The National Assembly was far from pleased that Bonaparte, immediately after his coup d'état, after appointing his own, Bonapartist ministry, summoned before him the invalids of the monarchy, newly appointed prefects, and made their unconstitutional agitation for his reelection as President the condition of their appointment; that Carlier celebrated his inauguration with the closing of a Legitimist club, or that Bonaparte founded a journal of his own, Le Napoleon, which betrayed the secret longings of the President to the public, while his ministers had to deny them from the tribune of the Legislative Assembly. The latter was far from pleased by the defiant retention of the ministry, notwithstanding its various votes of no confidence; far from pleased by the attempt to win the favor of the noncommissioned officers by an extra pay of four sous a day and the favor of the proletariat by a plagiarisation of Eugène Sue's Mysteries by an honor loan bank; far from pleased, finally, by the effrontery with which the ministers were made to move the deportation of the remaining June insurgents to Algiers, in order to heap unpopularity on the Legislative Assembly en gros, while the President reserved popularity for himself en detail, by individual grants of pardon.Thiers let fall threatening words about coups d'état and coups de tête [rash acts], and the Legislative Assembly revenged itself on Bonaparte by rejecting every proposed law that he put forward for his own benefit, and by inquiring with noisy mistrust, in every instance when he made a proposal in the common interest, whether he did not aspire, through increase of the executive power, to augment the personal power of Bonaparte. In a word, it revenged itself by a conspiracy of contempt.
The Legitimist party, on its part, saw with vexation the more capable Orléanists once more occupying almost all posts and centralization increasing, while it sought its salvation principally in decentralization. And so it was. The counterrevolution centralized forcibly, that is, it prepared the mechanism of the revolution. It even centralized the gold and silver of France in the Paris Bank through the compulsory quotation of bank notes, and so created the ready war chest of the revolution.
Lastly, the Orléanists saw with vexation the emergent principle of legitimacy contrasted with their bastard principle, and themselves every moment snubbed and maltreated as the bourgeois misalliance of a noble spouse.
Little by little we have seen peasants, petty bourgeois, the middle classes in general, stepping alongside the proletariat, driven into open antagonism to the official republic and treated by it as antagonists. Revolt against bourgeois dictatorship, need of a change of society, adherence to democratic-republican institutions as organs of their movement, grouping around the proletariat as the decisive revolutionary power – these are the common characteristics of the so-called party of social democracy, the party of the red republic. This party of anarchy, as its opponents christened it, is no less a coalition of different interests than the party of Order. From the smallest reform of the old social disorder to the overthrow of the old social order, from bourgeois liberalism to revolutionary terrorism – as far apart as this lie the extremes that form the starting point and the finishing point of the party of “anarchy.”
Abolition of the protective tariff – socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the industrial faction of the party of Order. Regulation of the state budget – socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the financial faction of the party of Order. Free admission of foreign meat and corn – socialism! For it strikes at the monopoly of the third faction of the party of Order, large landed property. The demands of the free–trade party, that is, of the most advanced English bourgeois party, appear in France as so many socialist demands. Voltaireanism socialism! For it strikes at a fourth faction of the party of Order, the Catholic. Freedom of the press, right of association, universal public education – socialism, socialism! They strike at the general monopoly of the party of Order.
So swiftly had the march of the revolution ripened conditions that the friends of reform of all shades, the most moderate claims of the middle classes, were compelled to group themselves around the banner of the most extreme party of revolution, around the red flag.
Yet manifold as the socialism of the different large sections of the party of anarchy was, according to the economic conditions and the total revolutionary requirements of the class or fraction of a class arising out of these, in one point it is in harmony: in proclaiming itself the means of emancipating the proletariat and the emancipation of the latter as its object. Deliberate deception on the part of some; self-deception on the part of the others, who promote the world transformed according to their own needs as the best world for all, as the realization of all revolutionary claims and the elimination of all revolutionary collisions.
Behind the general socialist phrases of the “party of anarchy,” which sound rather alike, there is concealed the socialism of the National, of the Presse, and of the Siécle, which more or less consistently wants to overthrow the rule of the finance aristocracy and to free industry and trade from their hitherto existing fetters. This is the socialism of industry, of trade, and of agriculture, whose bosses in the party of Order deny these interests, insofar as they no longer coincide with their private monopolies. Petty bourgeois socialism, socialism par excellence, is distinct from this bourgeois socialism, to which, as to every variety of socialism, sections of the workers and petty bourgeois naturally rally. Capital hounds this class chiefly as its creditor, so it demands credit institutions; capital crushes it by competition, so it demands associations supported by the state; capital overwhelms it by concentration, so it demands progressive taxes, limitations on inheritance, taking over of large construction projects by the state, and other measures that forcibly stem the growth of capital. Since it dreams of the peaceful achievement of its socialism – allowing, perhaps, for a second February Revolution lasting a brief day or so the coming historical process naturally appears to it as an application of systems which the thinkers of society, whether in companies or as individual inventors, devise or have devised. Thus they become the eclectics or adepts of the existing socialist systems, of doctrinaire socialism, which was the theoretical expression of the proletariat only as long as it had not yet developed further into a free historical movement of its own.
While this utopian doctrinaire socialism, which subordinates the total movement to one of its stages, which puts in place of common social production the brainwork of individual pedants and, above all, in fantasy does away with the revolutionary struggle of the classes and its requirements by small conjurers' tricks or great sentimentality, while this doctrinaire socialism, which at bottom only idealizes present society, takes a picture of it without shadows, and wants to achieve its ideal athwart the realities of present society; while the proletariat surrenders this socialism to the petty bourgeoisie; while the struggle of the different socialist leaders among themselves sets forth each of the so-called systems as a pretentious adherence to one of the transit points of the social revolution as against another – the proletariat rallies more and more around revolutionary socialism, around communism, for which the bourgeoisie has itself invented the name of Blanqui. This socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.
The scope of this exposition does not permit of developing the subject further.
We have seen that just as in the party of Order the finance aristocracy necessarily took the lead, so in the party of “anarchy” the proletariat. While the different classes, united in a revolutionary league, grouped themselves around the proletariat, while the departments became ever more unsafe and the Legislative Assembly itself ever more morose toward the pretensions of the French Soulouque, the long deferred and delayed by–election of substitutes for the Montagnards, proscribed after June 13, drew near.
The government, scorned by its foes, maltreated and daily humiliated by its alleged friends, saw only one mean of emerging from this repugnant and untenable position – revolt. A revolt in Paris would have permitted the proclamation of a state of siege in Paris and the departments and thus the control of the elections. On the other hand, the friends of order, in face of a government that had gained victory over anarchy, were constrained to make concessions, if they did not want to appear as anarchists themselves.
The government set to work. At the beginning of February, 1850, provocation of the people by chopping down the trees of liberty. In vain. If the trees of liberty lost their place, the government itself lost its head and fell back, frightened by its own provocation. The National Assembly, however, received this clumsy attempt at emancipation on the part of Bonaparte with ice-cold mistrust. The removal of the wreaths of immortelles from the July column was no more successful. It gave part of the army an opportunity for revolutionary demonstrations and the National Assembly the occasion for a more or less veiled vote of no confidence in the ministry. In vain the government press threatened the abolition of universal suffrage and the invasion of the Cossacks. In vain was Hautpoul's direct challenge, issued to the Left in the Legislative Assembly itself, to betake itself to the streets, and his declaration that the government was ready to receive it. Hautpoul received nothing but a call to order from the President, and the party of Order, with silent, malicious joy, allowed a deputy of the Left to mock Bonaparte's usurpatory longings. In vain, finally, was the prophecy of a revolution on February 24. The government caused February 24 to be ignored by the people.
The proletariat did not allow itself to be provoked to revolt, because it was on the point of making a revolution.
Unhindered by the provocations of the government, which only heightened the general exasperation at the existing situation, the election committee, wholly under the influence of the workers, put forward three candidates for Paris: Deflotte, Vidal, and Carnot. Deflotte was a June deportee, amnestied through one of Bonaparte's popularity-seeking ideas; he was a friend of Blanqui and had taken part in the attempt of May 15. Vidal, known as a communist writer through his book Concerning the Distribution of Wealth, was formerly secretary to Louis Blanc in the Luxembourg Commission. Carnot, son of the man of the Convention who had organized the victory, the least compromised member of the National party, Minister of Education in the Provisional Government and the Executive Commission, was through his democratic public education bill a living protest against the education law of the Jesuits. These three candidates represented the three allied classes: at the head, the June insurgent, the representative of the revolutionary proletariat; next to him the doctrinaire socialist, the representative of the socialist petty bourgeoisie; finally, the third, the representative of the republican bourgeois party whose democratic formulas had gained a socialist significance vis-a-vis the party of Order and had long lost their own significance. This was a general coalition against the bourgeoisie and the government, as in February. But this time the proletariat was at the head of the revolutionary league.
In spite of all efforts the socialist candidates won. The army itself voted for the June insurgent against its own War Minister La Hitte. The party of Order was thunderstruck. The elections in the departments did not solace them; the departments gave a majority to the Montagnards.
The election of March 10, 1850! It was the revocation of June, 1848: the butchers and deportees of the June insurgents returned to the National Assembly but returned, bowed down, in the train of the deported, and with their principles on their lips. It was the revocation of June 13, 1849: the Montagne, proscribed by the National Assembly, returned to the National Assembly, but as advance trumpeters of the revolution, no longer as its commanders. It was the revocation of December 10: Napoleon had lost out with his Minister La Hitte. The parliamentary history of France knows only one analogy: the rejection of d'Haussez, minister of Charles X, in 1830. Finally, the election of March 10, 1850, was the cancellation of the election of May 13, which had given the party of Order a majority. The election of March 10 protested against the majority of May 13. March 10 was a revolution. Behind the ballots lie the paving stones.
“The vote of March 10 means war,” shouted Ségur d'Aguesseau, one of the most advanced members of the party of Order.
With March 10, 1850, the constitutional republic entered a new phase, the phase of its dissolution. The different factions of the majority are again united among themselves and with Bonaparte; they are again the saviors of order – he is again their neutral man. If they remember that they are royalists, it happens only from despair of the possibility of a bourgeois republic; if he remembers that he is a pretender, it happens only because he despairs of remaining President.
At the command of the party of Order, Bonaparte answers the election of Deflotte, the June insurgent, by appointing Baroche Minister of Internal Affairs, Baroche, the accuser of Blanqui and Barbès, of Ledru-Rollin and Guinard. The Legislative Assembly answers the election of Carnot by adopting the education law, the election of Vidal by suppressing the socialist press. The party of Order seeks to blare away its own fears by the trumpet blasts of its press. “The sword is holy,” cries one of its organs; “the defenders of order must take the offensive against the Red party,” cries another; “between socialism and society there is a duel to the death, a war without surcease or mercy; in this duel of desperation one or the other must go under; if society does not annihilate socialism, socialism will annihilate society,” crows a third cock of Order. Throw up the barricades of order, the barricades of religion, the barricades of the family! An end must be made of the 127,000 voters of Paris! A Bartholomew's Night for the socialists! And the party of Order believes for a moment in its own certainty of victory.
Their organs hold forth most fanatically of all against the “boutiquiers [tradesmen] of Paris.” The June insurgent of Paris elected by the shopkeepers of Paris as their representative! This means that a second June, 1848, is impossible; this means that a second June 13, 1849, is impossible; this means that the moral influence of capital is broken; this means that the bourgeois assembly now represents only the bourgeoisie; this means that big property is lost, because its vassal, small property, seeks its salvation in the camp of the propertyless.
The party of Order naturally returns to its inevitable commonplace. “More repression,” it cries, “tenfold repression!” But its power of repression has diminished tenfold, while resistance has increased a hundredfold. Must not the chief instrument of repression, the army, itself be repressed? And the party of Order speaks its last word: “The iron ring of suffocating legality must be broken. The constitutional republic is impossible. We must fight with our true weapons; since February, 1848, we have fought the revolution with its weapons and on its terrain – , we have accepted its institutions; the constitution is a fortress which safeguards only the besiegers, not the besieged! By smuggling ourselves into holy Ilion in the belly of the Trojan horse, we have, unlike our forefathers, the Grecs, not conquered the hostile town, but made prisoners of ourselves.
The foundation of the constitution, however, is universal suffrage. Annihilation of universal suffrage – such is the last word of the party of Order, of the bourgeois dictatorship.
On May 4, 1848, on December 20, 1848, on May 13, 1849, and on July 8, 1849, universal suffrage admitted that they were right. On March 10, 1850, universal suffrage admitted that it had itself been wrong. Bourgeois rule as the outcome and result of universal suffrage, as the express act of the sovereign will of the people – that is the meaning of the bourgeois constitution. But has the constitution any further meaning from the moment that the content of this suffrage, of this sovereign will, is no longer bourgeois rule? Is it not the duty of the bourgeoisie so to regulate the suffrage that it wills the reasonable, its rule? By ever and anon putting an end to the existing state power and creating it anew out of itself, does not universal suffrage put an end to all stability, does it not every moment question all the powers that be, does it not annihilate authority, does it not threaten to elevate anarchy itself to the position of authority? After March 10, 1850, who would still doubt it?
By repudiating universal suffrage, with which it hitherto draped itself and from which it sucked its omnipotence, the bourgeoisie openly confesses, “Our dictatorship has hitherto existed by the will of the people; it must now be consolidated against the will of the people.” And, consistently, it seeks its props no longer within France, but without, in foreign countries, in invasion.
With the invasion, this second Coblenz, its seat established in France itself, rouses all the national passions against itself. With the attack on universal suffrage it provides a general pretext for the new revolution, and the revolution requires such a pretext. Every special pretext would divide the factions of the revolutionary league, and give prominence to their differences. The general pretext stuns the semi-revolutionary classes; it permits them to deceive themselves concerning the definite character of the coming revolution, concerning the consequences of their own act. Every revolution requires a question for discussion at banquets. Universal suffrage is the banquet question of the new revolution.
The bourgeois factions in coalition, however, are already condemned, since they take flight from the only possible form of their united power, from the most potent and complete form of their class rule, the constitutional republic, back to the subordinate, incomplete, weaker form of monarchy. They resemble the old man who in order to regain his youthful strength fetched out his boyhood garments and suffered torment trying to get his withered limbs into them. Their republic had the sole merit of being the hothouse of the revolution.
March 10, 1850, bears the inscription:
Après moi le déluge! After me the deluge!