Record of Marx's Speech Against the Calumny Invented by the Bourgeois Press to Slander the International and the Paris Commune

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Citizen Marx said the Council must disclaim all connection with the so-called International Democratic Association[1] as it was started in opposition to the International Workingmen’s Association which had to bear the responsibilities of acts absurd as they sometimes were.[2] Another thing to which he wished to call the attention of the Council was the infamous lies circulated about the Commune by the English Press. They were lies fabricated by the French and Prussian police. They were afraid lest the truth should be known. It was asseited that Millière was one of the most furious members of the Commune. Now it was a fact that he never was a member of the Commune, but as he had been a deputy for Paris it was necessary to have an excuse for shooting him. The English press acted as police and bloodhounds for Thiers. Slanders against the Commune and against the International were invented to serve his bloody policy. The press knew full well the objects and principles of the International. It had given reports of the prosecutions against it in Paris under the Empire. It had had representatives at the various Congresses held by the Association, and had reported their proceedings, and yet it circulated reports to the effect that the Association included the Fenian Brotherhood, the Carbonari, ceased to exist 1830, the Marianne, Ditto 1854[3] and other secret Societies, and asked if Colonel Henderson knew of the whereabouts of the General Council which was said to sit in London. These things were simply invented to justify any action taken against the International. The upper classes were afraid of the principles of the International.

He wished also to call attention to the fact that Mazzini had written in The Contemporary Review denouncing the Commune.[4] It was not so well known as it ought to be, but Mazzini had always been opposed to the Workmen’s movements. He denounced the insurgents of June 1848 when Louis Blanc, who then had more courage than he has now—answered him.[5]

When Pierre Leroux—who had a large family—obtained employment in London Mazzini was the man to denounce him. The fact was, Mazzini, with his old-fashioned Republicanism knew nothing and accomplished nothing. In Italy he had created a military despotism by his cry for Nationality. With him the State—which was an imaginary thing, was everything, and Society—which was a reality—was nothing. The sooner the People repudiated such men the better.

  1. The International Democratic Association consisted of petty-bourgeois French and German immigrants in London and also included English Republicans. In April 1871, members of the Association founded the Universal Republican League. Its leaders attempted to involve the General Council of the International in it, but their proposition was rejected unanimously at the General Council meeting on April 25, 1871 (see Engels’ letter to Wilhelm Liebknecht of April 20, 1871, present edition, Vol. 44.)
  2. The first sentence is omitted in the report published in The Eastern Post.—Ed.
  3. Fenian Brotherhood, or Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood—a secret organisation founded in the late 1850s among Irish immigrants in America and later in Ireland. Its members fought for the establishment of an independent Irish Republic through an armed uprising. Objectively, the Fenians voiced the interests of the Irish peasants, although they mainly belonged to the urban petty bourgeoisie and democratic intellectuals. Marx and Engels more than once pointed to the shortcomings of the Fenian movement and criticised the Fenians for their conspiratorial tactics and their sectarian and bourgeoisnationalistic views. At the same time they highly appreciated its revolutionary character. Carbonari were members of a secret society active in Italy in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, and in France in the 1820s. Marianne was the name of a secret republican society founded in France in 1850; during the Second Empire it opposed Napoleon III.
  4. G. Mazzini, "The Commune in Paris", The Contemporary Review, June 1871.— Ed.
  5. L. Blanc, Des socialistes français à M. Mazzini, Brussels, 1852.— Ed.