Details about the 23rd of June

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 25 June 1848


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 124;
First published: in the special supplement to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 26, June 26, 1848.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The insurrection is purely a workers’ uprising. The workers’ anger has burst forth against the Government and the Assembly which had disappointed their hopes, taken daily recourse to new measures which served the interests of the bourgeoisie against the workers, dissolved the Labour Commission at the Luxembourg, limited the national workshops and issued the law against gatherings.[1] The decidedly proletarian nature of the insurrection emerges from all the details.

The boulevards, the great arteries of Parisian life, became the scenes of the first gatherings. All the way from the Porte St. Denis down to the old rue du Temple was thronged with people. Workers from the national workshops declared that they would not go to Sologne to the national workshops there. Others related that they had left for that place yesterday but had waited in vain at the Barrière Fontainebleau for the travel papers and orders to start the journey which had been promised them the evening before.

Around ten o'clock the call went out for the erection of barricades. The eastern and south-eastern parts of Paris, starting with the Quartier and Faubourg Poissonnière, were quickly barricaded but, it seems, in somewhat unsystematic and desultory fashion. The rues St. Denis, St. Martin, Rambuteau, Faubourg Poissonnière and on the left bank of the Seine the approaches to the faubourgs St. Jacques and St. Marceau — the rues St. Jacques, La Harpe and La Huchette and the adjacent bridges — were more or less strongly fortified. Flags were raised on the barricades which bore the inscription: “Bread or Death!” or “Work or Death!”

Thus the insurrection was definitely based on the eastern part of the city which is predominantly inhabited by workers, first of all on the “aimables faubourgs” [as Louis Philippe called these suburbs], those of Saint Jacques, Saint Marceau, Saint Antoine, du Temple, Saint Martin and Saint Denis, then on the districts between them (quartiers Saint Antoine, du Marais, Saint Martin and Saint Denis).

The erection of the barricades was followed by attacks. The guard post of the boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, which in almost every revolution is first to be seized, had been occupied by the mobile guard.[2] The post was disarmed by the people.

Soon afterwards, however, the bourgeois guard from the western parts of the city came to the rescue. It reoccupied the post. A second unit occupied the high pavement in front of the Théâtre du Gymnase which commands a large section of the boulevards. The people attempted to disarm the advanced posts, but, for the time being, neither side made use of arms.

At last the order came to capture the barricade across the boulevard at the Porte Saint Denis. The national guard, led by the Police Inspector, advanced; there were negotiations; a few shots were fired — it is not clear from which side — and the firing quickly became general.

Immediately, the guard post of Bonne Nouvelle also opened fire. A battalion of the second legion, which had occupied the boulevard Poissonnière, also advanced with loaded rifles. The people were surrounded on all sides. The national guard, firing from their advantageous and partially secure positions, caught the workers in an intense cross-fire. The workers defended themselves for half an hour. Finally, the boulevard Bonne Nouvelle and the barricades up to the Porte Saint Martin were seized. Here, too, the national guard, attacking around eleven o'clock from the direction of the Temple, had taken the. barricades and occupied the approaches to the boulevard.

The heroes who stormed these barricades belonged to the bourgeoisie of the second arrondissement, which extends from the Palais Ex-Royal[3] over the entire Faubourg Montmartre. The wealthy boutiquiers of the rues Vivienne and Richelieu and the boulevard des Italiens live here. Here, tool dwell the great bankers of the rues Laffitte and Bergère and also the merry gentlemen of private means of the chaussée d'Antin. Rothschild and Fould, Rougemont de Lowemberg and Ganneron live here. In a word, here lies the Stock Exchange, Tortoni[4] and all that is connected with or dependent on them.

These heroes, who were threatened first and foremost by the red republic, were also the first on the scene. It is significant that the first barricade of June 23 was captured by those who were conquered on February 24. They advanced three thousand men strong. Four companies, marching at the double, captured an overturned omnibus. The insurgents, meanwhile, seemed to have entrenched themselves once again at the Porte Saint Denis, for towards noon General Lamoricière had to move up with strong detachments of the mobile guard, regular troops, cavalry and two cannon in order to seize a strong barricade in conjunction with the second legion (the national guard of the 2nd arrondissement). The insurgents forced a platoon of the mobile guard to retreat.

The battle on the boulevard Saint Denis was the signal for engagements in all eastern districts of Paris. The fighting was bloody. Over 30 insurgents were killed or wounded. The enraged workers vowed to attack from all sides during the following night and to fight the “municipal guard of the republic” [5] to the death.

At eleven o'clock fighting also took place in the rue Planche-Mibray (the continuation of the rue Saint Martin towards the Seine) and one man was killed.

There were also bloody clashes in the region of the Halles, the rue Rambuteau etc. Four or five dead were left lying.

At one o'clock a fight took place in the rue du Paradis Poissonnière. The national guard fired but the result is unknown. After a bloody clash in the Faubourg Poissonnière, two non-commissioned officers of the national guard were disarmed.

The rue Saint Denis was cleared by cavalry charges.

During the afternoon heavy fighting took place in the Faubourg Saint Jacques. Barricades in the rues Saint Jacques and La Harpe and in the Place Maubert were assaulted with varying degrees of success and much use of grape-shot. In the Faubourg Montmartre troops were also using cannon.

The insurgents were on the whole pushed back. The Hôtel de Ville remained free. By three o'clock, the insurrection was confined to the faubourgs and the [Quartier du] Marais.

By the way, few non-uniformed national guardsmen (i.e. workers who do not have the money for the purchase of uniforms) were seen under arms. On the other hand, there were people among them who carried luxury weapons, hunting rifles etc. Men of the mounted national guards (traditionally the scions of the wealthiest families), too, had entered the ranks of the infantry on foot. On the boulevard Poissonnière, national guardsmen calmly let themselves be disarmed by the people and then took to their heels.

At five o'clock the battle was still going on when it was all of a sudden suspended by a downpour.

In some places, however., the fighting lasted until late in the evening. At nine o'clock, there was still rifle-fire in the Faubourg St. Antoine, the centre of the working-class population.

Up to then the battle had not yet been fought with the full intensity of a decisive revolution. The national guard, with the exception of the second legion, seems for the most part to have hesitated to attack the barricades. The workers, angry though they were, understandably limited themselves to the defence of their barricades.

Thus, the two parties separated in the evening after making a date for the following morning. The first day of battle resulted in no advantages for the Government. The insurgents, who had been pushed back, could reoccupy the lost positions during the night, as indeed they did. The Government, on the other hand, had two important points against it: it had fired with grape-shot and it had been unable to crush the rebellion during its first day. With grape-shot, however, and one night, not of victory but of mere truce, rebellion ceases and revolution begins.

  1. The reference is to the Labour Commission that met at the Luxembourg Palace under the chairmanship of Louis Blanc. This was set up on February 28, 1848, by the Provisional Government under pressure from the workers, who demanded a Ministry of Labour. The Commission, in which both workers and employers were represented, acted as mediator in labour conflicts, often taking the side of the employers. The revolutionary action of Paris workers on May 15, 1848, led to the end of the Luxembourg Commission, since the Government disbanded it next day. National workshops were instituted by a government decree immediately after Louis the February revolution of 1849. The Government thus sought to discredit Blanc’s ideas on the organisation of labour in the eyes of the workers and, at the same time, to utilise the workers of the national workshops organised on military lines in the struggle against the revolutionary proletariat. Revolutionary ideas, however, continued to gain ground among workers employed in the national workshops, and the Government took steps accordingly to limit the number of workers employed in them to send some off to public works in the provinces etc. This caused great indignation among the Paris proletariat and was one of the reasons for the June uprising. After its suppression, the Cavaignac Government issued a decree disbanding the national workshops (July 3, 1848). On June 7, 1848, the Constituent Assembly passed a law against gatherings. Any violation of this law was punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years
  2. The mobile guard was set up by a decree of the Provisional Government on February 25, 1848, to fight against the revolutionary masses. These armed units consisted mainly of lumpen-proletarians and were used to crush the June uprising in Paris
  3. The Palais Royal was the residence of Louis XIV from 1643; in 1692 it became property of the Orléans branch of the Bourbons. Following the February revolution of 1848 it was proclaimed state property and its name was changed to Palais National
  4. The reference is to the Café Toftoni on the boulevard des Italiens; when the Stock Exchange was closed, business transactions were carried on in this café and its vicinity As distinct from the official Stock Exchange, the Café Tortoni and the adjacent district became known as the ‘,small Stock Exchange
  5. The municipal guard of the republic (also known as the republican guard) — a detachment of 2,600 men subordinated to the prefect of Police — was formed on May 16, 1848, by decree of the French Government, frightened by the revolutionary action of the Paris workers on May 15. The republican guard fulfilled police functions in Paris