Record of Engels' Speech on the Paris Commune, April 11, 1871

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Published in English for the first time in The General Council of the First International. 1870-1871. Minutes, Moscow, 1967, pp. 170-71.


OF APRIL 11, 1871]

Cit. Engels said he had another fact to communicate. The press had lately been full of the wonders done by the Association, but the last stated in a Paris paper was that Marx had been private secretary to Bismarck in 1857.[1] He further said it would not be well to allow the Paris affair to go on without saying something about it. As long as the Central Committee of the National Guards had managed the affair it had gone on well but after the election[2] there had been talk and no action. The time for action against Versailles had been when it was weak but that opportunity had been lost and now it seemed that Versailles was getting the upper hand and driving the Parisians back. People would not put up long with being led into defeat. They lost ground, their ammunition was spent to little purpose and they were eating up their provisions. They could not be starved into submission as long as one side of Paris was open. Favre declined to take Prussian help.[3] In June 1848 the fight had been over in four days but then the workpeople had had no cannon. It would not be over so quick now. Louis Napoleon had made the streets wide that they might be swept with cannon against the workpeople but now it was in their favor; they would sweep the streets with cannon against the other party. The workpeople 200,000 men far better organised than at any former insurrection. Their case was a bad one but the chances were not so good as a fortnight ago.

  1. See "Nouvelles d'hier. Paris, 2 avril", La Province, No. 428, April 5, 1871. See also Marx's letter to Karl Liebknecht, about April 10, 1871, present edition, Vol. 44.— Ed.
  2. The elections to the Commune took place on March 26, 1871. After the victorious uprising of the Paris people, on March 18-28, 1871, power was held by the Central Committee of the National Guard, which then handed it over to the Commune.
  3. This laconic remark by Engels refers to Favre's speech in the National Assembly on April 10, 1871. Favre tried to justify the Versailles Government, which had actually concluded an alliance with Bismarck in order to suppress the Paris Commune, and hypocritically stated that the government had rejected the help offered by Bismarck. In a number of articles and speeches, particularly in Marx's The Civil War in France (see this volume, pp. 346-55), Marx and Engels exposed the treacherous agreement between the French counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie and the country's enemies for the purpose of suppressing the working-class movement.