Lucien Sanial 1902

Preface and Notes to the American Edition of Karl Marx’s The Paris Commune

Source: The Paris Commune by Karl Marx, published in America by the SLP;
Thanks to the SLP of America and Adam Buick.

Were it not for certain happenings of recent date in the international socialist movement, which give rise in the contents of this book an additional interest, there would be no occasion here for a lengthy preface. The three manifestoes of the International Workingmen’s Association, issued from the pen of Karl Marx in 1870-71, and supplemented by an introduction which his life-long friend and co-laborer Frederick Engels wrote twenty years later, speak for themselves. Insomuch as their perfect understanding by the present generation may require ampler and truer knowledge of certain important events therein briefly mentioned than can be obtained from the “historic” works of capitalist mouthpieces, a footnote has been appended wherever an explanation or comment seemed most needful. But, realizing the insufficiency of annotations for the purpose in view, as well as their interference with the concentration of the reader’s mind upon the text, the editor has sparingly resorted to this mode of information, preferring to refer the student to Lissagaray’s admirable History of the Commune for a methodical and reliable presentation of nearly all the facts which it is essential to know in order to grasp, in their fulness and verity, the historic, philosophic, and economic generalizations embodied by Marx in these stirring appeals to the class-consciousness and class-solidarity of the proletarian masses throughout the world.

This is, we believe, the first time that a complete edition of these imperishable documents, including also, unabridged and carefully translated, Frederick Engels’ introduction, have been published in the English language. They are in themselves historic facts; and while it is the unquestionable right of any one to comment upon them, or to produce, in the course of an argument, literal extracts from them, provided always that the sense of the quoted text is not modified by the context, it belongs to nobody to alter them in any way, even if the declared object or tacit purpose of the alteration is to correct a “mistake,” or to eliminate a “doubtful statement,” or to supply a “deficiency.”

We deem it here appropriate to insist upon the strict observance of this ethical rule in the treatment of historic papers, because in a French edition of these manifestoes which has lately appeared in Paris the “translator” has deliberately suppressed some important passages. For one of these suppressions he gives in an appendix the following reasons: “I have thought it my duty to expunge here a few lines from the English text. They contain imputations which then had currency, but several of which, concerning Jules Favre, Ernest and Arthur Picard, can no longer be justified. Another, against Jules Ferry, is the most inexact of all, but may be explained both by his violent ‘moderantism’ and his administrative incapacity as mayor of Paris.” The “few” lines thus omitted are in our edition the forty-nine in number, beginning on page 50 with the words, “Shortly after the conclusion of the armistice, etc.,” and ending on page 51 with this sentence. “The day on which he [Ferry] would have to give an account of his maladministration would be the day of his conviction.”

It falls under the sense that the only proper way for the scrupulous translator to act in this matter, was to give the full text of Marx’s specific charges against the men involved, and to produce in a footnote, or in his appendix, the evidence (or at least the references thereto) upon which he declared that “several” of these charges were unfounded, thus at the same thing leaving untouched and standing those that were “justified.” As we write, we understand that the forgeries of Favre on the birth registers of a mairie, and the interested care which Ernest Picard took of his blackleg brother, are “facts” which have never been successfully controverted; while in the light of the stupendous jobbery which in later years, when Jules Ferry was prime minister, attended his policy of colonial expansion, we dare say that “the integrity of his incapacity” on any previous occasion would have to be strongly demonstrated before Karl Marx himself, if he were still alive, would permit his own words to be retracted for him by any translator.

Another admission — entirely unexplained and even passed over without so much as a dotted line to indicate it — is to be noticed in the following sentence (page 67), the words here in brackets being those that were suppressed: “Galliffet, [the kept man of his wife, so notorious for her shameless exhibitions at the orgies of the Second Empire.] boasted in a proclamation of having commanded the murder of a small troop of National Guards,” etc. Is it not true, every word of it? And if all of it is terrible truth, was it Galliffet or his wife that the translator generously considered in suppressing that part of it? Surely the licentious marchioness neither deserved nor desired so much consideration; while her cruel husband showed little pity of any sort to the communards’ honest wives, whom he shot after insulting them. Both were equally brazen-faced in their respective fields. Should it be claimed that the translator’s intention was not to render Galliffet less odious to himself or to others than he should be, since the references to his cold-blooded murders were not suppressed, it might be observed that he, Galliffet, far from deeming himself odious for his diabolical brutalities, ever took pride in them; esteemed them, indeed, military achievements of the highest order. And he lived in a world that took the same view of such matters, in which, therefore, he was not a monster but a hero, and the opinion of which was for him the only opinion. But to be “the kept man of a shameless wife"! Fie, even for a general of the Second Empire.

We don’t know that much light may be cast upon the mental operations of the French translator in question by stating that he is none else than Charles Longuet, [l] ex-member of the Paris Commune and Karl Marx’s son-in-law, now a Millerandist, that is, a convert to the “new method” of “socialist union,” even with such as Galliffet. Autres temps, autres moeurs. At any rate, his sins of omission are mere peccadilloes by the side of his sins of commission; which we must also notice here, simply because they typify the “tactics” lately adopted by a motley crowd of so-called “intellectual socialists” and consisting sometimes, as in the present case, in ludicrous attempts to stand Marx upon his head and in that posture make him see as they do.

On the title page of Longuet’s French edition is given as epigraph the following quotation from the manifesto on the Paris Commune:

“The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce par decret du peuple. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its economic agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men.”

Upon this text Longuet, commenting in his preface and appendix, actually “transforms Karl Marx into a precursor of Millerand”; a feat, however, which he regrets that the Ministerialist majority of the Paris International Congress (held in 1900), by failing to avail itself of this quotation, did not give Jules Guesde an opportunity to perform. In his own words, “Marx combated by Guesde — that would, indeed, have been piquant!”

Of course, according to Longuet, had Marx lived long enough to attend that memorable congress, he would have, then and there, voted for the Kautsky resolution. He — who knew so well the irrepressible, merciless character of the class struggle, and to whom, therefore, any scheme of compromission with any fraction, or faction, of the bourgeoisie, at any time, anywhere, or for any purpose, was abhorrent as a crime against the proletariat — would have sanctioned, by his weighty approval, this great Act of Cowardice, unprecedented in the annals of international socialism! How could he have done otherwise? Would not Longuet have told him, as he now tells us, that the Kautsky resolution “corroborates Marx’s view [as expressed in the above quotation], which is as true to-day as it was in 1871, notwithstanding the advance made since then by the economic forces of society and the transforming idea?”

Perchance, however, Marx might have indignantly repudiated such “corroboration” of his views. He might have said, in substance : “Go to, scheming logomachists! Away with your Kautsky resolution! Even that — bad as it is and contemptible economically and politically can be no cloak at all for your treachery to the proletariat. For, while it displays extraordinary cowardice in not reprobating unconditionally and forbidding instantly, in the name of international solidarity, your ministerial “tactics” and so-called “new method,” it at least disapproves of them in language sufficiently suggestive, despite its incongruities, to cause their immediate abandonment by anyone of you that may still honestly claim to be a socialist; that is, by every man who, temporarily waylaid in your ministerialist ranks, is of other sort than the bourgeois politician, unscrupulous arriviste, speculating in socialism.”

For analytical purposes this document may be divided into three parts, which we shall briefly consider here seriatim, omitting criticisms which, ever so important in themselves, are relatively of a second order.

The first part. (literally translated, like the others, from the French text) reads as follows :

“In a modern democratic State, the conquest of the political power by the proletariat cannot be the result of a coup-de-main, but of a long and painful work of proletarian organization in the economic and the political fields, of the physical and moral regeneration of the laboring class, and of the gradual conquest of the municipalities and legislative assemblies.

“But, in those countries where the governmental power is centralized, it cannot be conquered fragmentarily.”

It is upon the opening paragraph of this first part that the French Ministerialists, through their mouthpiece Longuet, rest their claim of “corroboration.” It is, indeed, as we shall see, the only passage in the whole resolution that may be said to bear a certain relation to Marx’s words quoted by Longuet. But, to use a favorite expression of Marx, it is the relation of a “parody” to the original play.

Supposing it was Kautsky’s intention to thus “corroborate” his great master in economics, the latter might have turned from Longuet to him and asked: “Where did you see in any of my writings that I made the conquest of the political power by the proletariat — in other words, the Social Revolution — dependent upon ‘the physical and moral regeneration’ of the workers? Is not the proletariat to-day strong enough, physically, to drive from power the degenerates who exploit it? Is it not, indeed, by its own strong arms that all the battles of those degenerates are fought, even against its own flesh and blood? What proportion of the total amount of human muscle and endurance, wasted in war or spent in industry, comes from the other classes? Again, is not the proletariat moral enough for all the immediate purposes of the Social Revolution, through which alone it can enter an era of higher morality and physical improvement? As a body is it not, in fact, the most moral of the classes into which. the exploitation of the industrious by the idle — fundamental immorality, source of nearly all forms of private and public degradation — has divided the human race? Look at the proletarians of ‘71, or at those of ‘48; or at any of those who. in various countries and at different times before and since. suffered\martyrdom in the cause of social justice: did they fail because they were physical wrecks and moral deformities?”

To these questions the answer is obvious. Manifestly, it is neither physical strength nor moral sense that is now wanting in the proletariat. And precisely because the natural tendency of capitalism is to stunt and demoralize a constantly growing number of wage-workers; precisely because, with its development, a condition must ultimately prevail that will be the very reverse of that improvement which in the Kautsky savante consultation is absurdly considered as a not only possible but essential preliminary to the Social Revolution; it becomes more and more imperative to hasten the day when the proletariat can victoriously and securely proclaim itself forever the absolute master of its own destinies.

How to accomplish this is the very problem which Marx has solved. He solved it theoretically by his masterly analysis of the class struggle, and practically by the synthesis of it which he carried out as far as he could with the undeveloped elements then within his reach. In the Workingmen’s International Association, which he founded; in its principles, which he formulated; in its work, which he superintended; and in its ultimate result, which is the class-conscious, uncompromising and only bona fide socialism of the present-day, we have that synthesis so far as the revolutionary process has now gone, but with all the elements required for its completion, together with the plainest rules for the increase of their power and the elimination of retarding factors.

Those elements, already powerful, but as yet insufficiently so to bring about the Social Revolution [2], are: (1) a clear and widespread knowledge, among the proletarian masses, of the great historic facts and fundamental economic truths upon which socialism is established; (2) a consequent class-consciousness and class-solidarity, all pervading, ever wakeful, highly sensitive to every act of oppression committed by capitalists or their political agents, and manifesting itself by extensive organization in the economic [3] and the political fields; it being understood that the two branches of this proletarian organization, without intrenching on each other’s field, shall be closely allied, strictly conducted on parallel class lines, and strongly self-disciplined.

Aye, these are the elements upon the development of which, at a constantly increasing rate, depends the hastening of the day when the Social Revolution shall be not only achievable but achieved. In the course of their progress they must reach a point where they will make short work of retarding factors, such, for instance, as may produce Millerandisms and Kautsky resolutions; a point where the proletariat will remain deaf to the frantic appeals and deceitful promises of the small labor exploiters who now compose the moribund middle-class; a point, in short, where its accumulated experience will have crystallized into a logical, inexorable rule of conduct.

In the meantime the class-conscious fraction of the proletariat, ever growing in numbers and knowledge, will, indeed, “conquer municipalities.” It will also increase its representation in those legislative assemblies that are directly elected by the people, without as yet “conquering” them, however, since the “conquest” of such bodies implies that a majority of the people are ready for the Social Revolution, imperatively demand it, and would therefore proclaim it themselves if their representatives proved so recreant to their plain duty as to delay action.

But in what spirit and for what purpose will those municipalities be conquered and those legislative seats be carried? In a “Christian-Socialist” spirit? To slowly, “painfully,” one step at a time, accomplish the “physical and moral regeneration of the working class"? And with this far-away end in view — thoroughly utopian, after all, as we have previously seen — to lengthen the agony of the proletariat by compromises with the small middle class, calculated to retard the progress of capitalist concentration? May we here ask also, by the way, where is that “modern democratic State” in which the municipalities are not subject to the higher legislative and executive powers that are now and will remain till Revolution Day controlled by the capitalist class; or in which the legislative branch directly elected by the people cannot be checked at every step by a senate or suchlike contrivance for the perpetuation of class rule?

No, no! But in the social-revolutionary spirit of undying opposition and fearless defiance. To take strategic positions in view of the final battle, and from there ceaselessly bombard the citadel of oppression; to thus and otherwise, by constant agitation from every point of vantage that may be gained, educate the proletarian masses, enlighten their blind discontent and transform it into a clear-minded resolve; to so organize them that every conflict in which they may be engaged, every victory they may win, and every reverse they may suffer, shall alike serve as object lessons to intensify their class-consciousness and class-solidarity; to do, in short, all that can be done along the straight line of the class struggle and do it quickly, then challenge the enemy to undo it; such is the great work, and the sole mission, of a social-revolutionary party.

We now come to the second part of the Kautsky resolution. It reads as follows:

“The entrance of an isolated socialist in a bourgeois government cannot be considered as the normal beginning of the conquest of political power, but only as a necessary expedient (expédient forcé), transitory and exceptional.

“Whether, in a particular case, the political situation necessitates this dangerous experiment, is a question of tactics and not of principle; the International Congress has not to pronounce itself upon that point; but, in any case, the entrance of a socialist in a bourgeois government affords no hope of good results for the militant proletariat, unless the Socialist Party, in its great majority, approves of such an act, and the socialist minister remains the mandatory of his party.

“In the contrary case, of this minister becoming independent of this party, or representing only a portion of it, his intervention in a bourgeois government threatens the militant proletariat with disorganization and confusion; it threatens to weaken instead of fortifying it, and to hinder instead of promoting the conquest of the public powers.”

It is that second part, and especially in the second paragraph of it, that lies the “Act of Cowardice.”

There was before the International Congress an issue of fundamental importance, involving as it did the attitude of the militant proletariat towards the bourgeoisie throughout the world. It was a burning issue. Upon its immediate and definite settlement depended the harmonious working, nationally and internationally, of the socialist forces. The concrete form which it had already assumed in France was at that very moment “threatening disorganization and confusion” in the great movement of that country, while in other parts certain tendencies, ominous of similar evils, were boldly emerging from a long dormant state. Yet, precisely because of its obvious magnitude, of its far-reaching import, of its extreme urgency, and of the concrete forcefulness with which it presented itself in France, the Congress took fright, and instead of facing it squarely, ran away from it, circuitously, by the Kautsky diplomatic back-door.

Can a militant socialist accept office from a bourgeois government? Such was the plain question. A plain Yes or No was the direct answer, the only answer, which it called for.

But the reply of the Congress was neither of those two briefest yet plainest of words. By an artifice of language which a Metternich would not have disavowed, this simplest of questions was turned into a complex problem, a tangle, in fact an impossibility. Observe the process.

First of all, its general importance is dwarfed by localizing it. To be sure, we are told that “the entrance of an isolated socialist in a bourgeois government” can never and nowhere “be considered as the beginning of the conquest of political power,” but we are told also that in countries where such an event occurs it may be considered as an expédient forcé, of a temporary and exceptional character, like the circumstances which may necessitate it.

The back-door is now wide open. Circumstances are not the same at all times and in all countries. Manifestly, then, “whether in a particular case the political necessitates this dangerous experiment, is a question of (particular, local) tactics, and not of (general, universal) principle.” And thereupon the Congress declares itself incompetent, impotent. Non possumus. The question is dodged. The act of cowardice is consummated.

But the question will not down. It still faces the Congress, reproachfully : — “What are you here for, with all your past declarations of international solidarity? You have settled nothing. You have, in fact, done terribly worse than nothing; you have actually laid the foundation of universal strife between the clear-minded, class-conscious, bona fide socialists, and the honest but unwary fraction of the proletariat, which ambitious arrivistes may now, to their heart’s content, delude with false promises of improvement at the hands of bourgeois governments.” Whereupon the Congress — that same Congress which the previous instant declined to legislate on a fundamental question of so-called “tactics,” even though it involved a still more fundamental question of principle — undertakes to redeem itself by providing tactical checks and other tactical rules to be observed in the hazardous operation of making a “socialist” into a bourgeois minister.

As it always happens in cases of flagrant inconsistency, the Congress succeeded only in adding to the pile of its previous blunders. True, it subjected the “dangerous experiment” ( or expédient forcé) to conditions that apparently made it incumbent upon the “socialist” minister Millerand to instantly resign his portfolio if he had any respect for that international body, and upon his “socialist” supporters to immediately repudiate him if he failed to do so. But, in that circuitous phraseology which consists in substituting the conditional for the positive form of speech, it actually held out the hope that some “good” might result from such an experiment if “the Socialist Party, in its great majority, approved of it.” [4]

Of course, the Ministerialists were not slow in availing themselves of this declaration. They boldly claimed that they were “the great majority” of the Socialist Party of France; and in order to make their claim good before the world they immediately set to the task of “wiping the earth” with their mighty opponent, the Parti Ouvrier Français. This was for them a second expédient forcé, and, like the previous one, it was a “dangerous experiment.” They did their best, however, and failed miserably.

The third and last part of the document under consideration is an addition made to the original Kautsky motion by the eminent Russian delegate Plechanoff, who was otherwise opposed to that motion. It is as follows :

“At any rate, the Congress is of opinion, that, even in those extreme cases, the socialist minister must resign his office in the cabinet when the party organization recognizes that the latter gives evident proofs of partiality between labor and capital.”

This addition was obviously intended by its author as a summons served by International Socialism upon Millerand to withdraw from the bourgeois cabinet of France, in view of its infamous conduct towards the proletariat, as illustrated by the then recent massacres of unarmed strikers at Martinique and Châlon. But (probably because it was written in great haste) it was manifestly deficient, in that it left absolutely intact the spirit as well as the letter of the original motion, and unfortunately defective in that its last words, “partiality between capital and labor,” are highly objectionable from the scientific standpoint of socialism. There can be no more partiality or impartiality between capital and labor — that is, to be absolutely correct, between the capitalist class and the laboring class — than between the robber and the robbed.

In conclusion of this criticism of the Kautsky resolution, which has been here forced upon us by Longuet’s preface to Marx’s international manifesto on the Paris Commune, we may now briefly consider that resolution in its relation to another act of the Paris Congress.

We have already noted the inconsistency of that body in declaring itself incompetent to decide upon a fundamental question of so-called tactics and in the same breath providing rules for the prosecution of such tactics. But this was by no means its only or most flagrant act of self-contradiction. On its first working day, its very first act was to decree the formation of an International Bureau, by unanimously and enthusiastically adopting a resolution from which we quote the following preamble and article 4 :

“Whereas, it is incumbent upon the International Socialist Congresses, destined as they are to become the parliament of the proletarian class, to adopt resolutions for the guidance of that class in its struggle for emancipation; and whereas these resolutions constitute an international agreement, which must be carried out; the Congress decides ... Art. 4. — The International Socialist Committee [5] shall exact [sic, in the French text, exigera] from the national socialist parliamentary groups, that they organize an International Socialist Commission, composed of such of their own members as they may select, for the purpose of facilitating the common action of socialist representatives in the various parliaments on all the great political and international questions. This commission shall be adjoined to the International Socialist Committee.”

Here, then, was a Congress asserting itself as the world’s labor parliament, whose powers were such, in its own declared opinion, that it could not only institute an executive to carry out its decisions and those of its predecessors, but order the socialist representatives elected to the parliaments of various countries to come together under the supervision of that executive and in cooperation with it determine the policy — the tactics — which all must adopt concerning matters that may in any way affect the laboring class. Yet, two days later, this same Congress, by adopting the Kautsky resolution, declared itself impotent to take action upon a matter that was causing a deeper agitation in the world’s proletariat than had been produced by any other event since the Paris Commune.

Let us, indeed, thank Longuet for his suggestive audacity; by all means let us compare Marx’s manifesto on the fall of the Commune with the Kautsky resolution.

Each of these two documents is the characteristic product of a distinct epoch in the history of socialism, and in the spirit which they respectively display, as in the circumstances attending their respective appearance, they present a contrast that has no parallel in the socialist movement.

It was at the end of 1864 that the Workingmen’s International Association, projected by Marx in 1862, was finally constituted. At that time Louis Bonaparte, ever so distrusted by every government on the face of the earth, was still kindly looked upon and gratefully remembered by the mercantile classes of Europe as the “Society-Savior” who, in strangling the French Republic, had most contributed to the reestablishment of “order” on the Continent, and apparently brought to an end the irrepressible conflict between the bourgeoisie and the revolutionary proletariat of France. The events of 1848 had indeed made it quite plain that a revolution in France was apt to be quickly followed in other countries by similar upheavals, far more injurious to capitalist interests than any foreign war could be. Therefore, while the foreign schemes of Louis Bonaparte were watched in diplomatic circles and preparations were made to defeat them by the force of arms if necessary, his domestic rule was deemed everywhere by labor exploiters a general guarantee of “economic peace” between the classes. In the thirteen years that his exemplary despotism had already lasted, not a ripple of proletarian discontent had been permitted to ruffle the smooth surface of “business”; and while socialism had passed into Germany, where Marx’s writings and Lassalle’s agitation had begun its transformation from a sentimental utopia into a scientific certainty, its very name, practically expunged from the French language by the Bonapartist police, had become an almost foreign word in the land of its birth.

Manifestly, Louis Bonaparte was the chief obstacle to the revival of that proletarian movement which had already made itself felt as a powerful factor in the various uprisings of 1848. True, as above stated, socialism in its perfected form was effecting a lodgement in Germany. But Germany was still a conglomeration of States widely differing in economic and political conditions. The partial awakening, here and there, of some local bodies among the many that composed her working class could not yet be of such general import and widespread influence as must have attached to an equal display of vigor by the more compact proletariat of France; and so long as this recognized leader in the social-revolutionary process lay seemingly unconscious and helpless under the yoke of a vulgar despot, the German socialists, hampered at every step in their agitation by the repressive measures of their own petty tyrants, could only prepare their own ground and wait developments.

Necessarily, then, the first aim of the International Association must have been to gain a strong foothold in France, with a special view to the abolition of the Bonapartist régime. Marx realized that among the French militants that could be enlisted for this arduous task, there were but few, if any, whose economic knowledge was sound and safe. He was aware of the fact that most of them were incoherently imbued with Proudhonist notions of “gratuitous credit,” “banques du peuple,” and other middle-class reform quackery, which they innocently believed, upon the word of Proudhon himself, to be the essence of scientific and practical socialism. But he knew also that the class spirit, fomented from time immemorial by class persecution, and intensified by the stupendous acts of bourgeois treachery repeatedly committed from 1789 to 1848, was highly developed in the French proletariat. In this he rightly saw the basic element of proletarian organization. Straight into that organization, more and more class-conscious, the newly discovered economic truth would naturally, irresistibly, force its way, driving out of it the fogs of sophistry.[6]

The class struggle, to be sure, is not a principle, it is a fact; but in the clear perception of it at all times and under all circumstances, lies the fundamental requirement of correct tactics. Once the class struggle is fully seen in the broad light of history, once its inexorable and irrepressible character is fully comprehended, class compromise logically becomes an obvious impossibility, which it were utopian or criminal according to motive, and inevitably most harmful, to attempt or to commend as a proletarian policy. There can be no end to the class struggle, and no relief from its horrors, until the battle shall have been fought out to a finish; that is, until the working class, the only class fit to survive, the only class, in fact, that cannot die, shall have won it.

In that spirit and upon those lines the International gained in France the required foothold. We know the sequel. “Economic peace between the classes” came at last to an end. It was the only title of Louis Bonaparte to the fidelity of the bourgeoisie. For its sake this class had resigned in his hand the political power; it had repudiated or silenced its own political mouthpieces; its Orleanist and republican factions had jointly disowned in his favor their respective political idols; it had tamely submitted to the reckless extravagance of his corrupt court; it had patiently borne the steadily increasing burden of taxation, for which its scandalous enrichment could not be deemed a compensation, since the sources from which it was derived, even when they consisted in public franchises, were its “legitimate” property and could not be fructified but through its “enterprise, industry, abstinence”; it had countenanced foreign policies, dangerous ventures, costly expeditions, which it could not approve; it had, in short, sacrificed itself on the altar of patriotism. All to no purpose, as it now seemed. What would that decayed old bunco man ever be good for, anyhow? And while the proletariat attacks the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie attacks the Bonaparte, who vainly does his best to defend it. The Second Empire becomes a pandemonium; war to Germany is declared; ignominiously falls the imperial mountebank.

Then does the class battle reach its climax. The bourgeoisie rushes on to seize the power. The armed proletariat bars the way. The Commune is proclaimed.

The Commune is conquered; the Commune is murdered. Is its spirit dead? Read the manifesto.

The class war has only begun. Between the classes the chasm now is as wide and as deep as the infinite. Jump into it, ye compromisers!

Bleeding and prostrated, the French proletariat must be given time to recover its breath. It is the turn of Germany to struggle; Germany, no longer a dust of petty States, but a great nation, imperialized and united right in the face of that cowardly bourgeoisie that paid Bismarck five round milliards of labor-created wealth for the right to slaughter its own wage-slaves. Back to Berlin went Wilhelm the Great. He had seen the Commune expire; he found her ghost sitting on his imperial throne.

For nineteen years the merciless conflict raged night and day, extending gradually to all parts of the Empire, until the giant Bismarck himself fell by the wayside; a sore giant indeed, unhorsed by Socialism and kicked by his little master. And on that day of. famous victory, up again went the old cry of the dying Commune, the old cry of Marx, the old cry of all socialist veterans, a mighty cry now, hurled at the stupefied enemy by fourteen hundred thousand German proletaires, “No compromise!”

Nor had all been still in the proletarian world outside of Germany. As early as 1878, the now great Parti Ouvrier Français had been founded by Jules Guesde, with a programme approved by Marx. The Labor Party of Belgium had followed in 1884. Successively the other European countries had fallen into line, and in 1889 the Socialist Labor Party of the United States had reconstituted itself on its present platform and tactical lines. To this general movement the German victory gave a tremendous impetus, the birth of a new International far more powerful than the first, appeared certain, and everywhere ceaselessly the fight went on, in the same spirit, under the same banner, bearing the same motto, “No compromise!”

Moreover, economic developments in the Old World and the New, political affairs domestic and foreign — everything was apparently shaping itself for a decisive encounter. How, when and where it would begin, no one as yet presumed to tell. Nor did anyone desire to precipitate it: the socialists, because every day brought them new strength; the capitalists, because in three countries at least they trembled in their stolen boots. But every one felt that some unexpected incident might bring it about. In France especially. the bourgeoisie was utterly demoralized; “incapable,” according to Jaurès himse1f, “of action or reaction”; so that in this particular country even more than in any other, the “No Compromise” fundamental rule of socialist tactics seemed to have the force of a self-evident proposition.

Then came Millerand, with his portfolio and his bureaux de tabac.

His self-appointed mission was to save the bourgeois republic in the name of Socialism, with the sword of Galliffet.

To be sure, in the domain of the unexpected nothing could be more startling. A commonplace incident (the “Dreyfus affair”), an act of violent injustice committed by military members of the oppressing class upon one of their fellows, had been so worked up by “socialists,” so-called, of the eleventh hour, as to totally eclipse the multitude of acts not less infamous committed by the same class upon the proletariat. And the result was — not, of course, the Social Revolution, not the relaxing, for one moment, of class injustice and class oppression, not even the rehabilitation of Dreyfus and the punishment of his torturers, but the entrance of a “socialist,” hand in hand with the murderer Galliffet, in the bourgeois government, quickly followed by the participation of that “socialist minister “ in the massacres of strikers at Martinique and Châlon.

Did a cry of indignation arise, unanimous, from every “socialist” quarter throughout the world? No; a cry of horror arose, deep and significant, but it was not “unanimous.”

Why? What had happened to thus suddenly “transform circumstances and men"? And was this, indeed, the kind of transformation expected by Marx?

The answer to these questions is simple enough. A man is not “transformed” by merely changing his name. Circumstances even, will not “transform” him, if they are such only that, by deceitfully professing a change of views and sentiments, he can best subserve his selfish interest. No sooner had socialism given ample evidence of its enormous power of expansion, than it became a most attractive field of exploitation to intellectual schemers and profit-seekers. In the wake of those undesirable accessions came others still more dangerous and in greater number; men belonging, body and soul, to the doomed middle class, ignorantly seeking relief from the pressure of capitalist concentration in “reforms” of a so-called “socialist kind,” and “therefore” calling themselves “socialists,” From that moment the apparent growth of the socialist movement was abnormal, and its real spirit was correspondingly impaired. “It lost in depth what it gained in surface,” Or, to tell the full truth, a detached body of the bourgeoisie, finding the proletarian citadel closed to compromission, had treacherously stolen into it in socialist garb and under the socialist banner.

It may well be conceived that many of the veterans viewed with intense disgust this turn of affairs. But, even in Germany, where Bernstein’s recent somersault from Marxism into Middle-classism had raised their indignation to a very high pitch, courage was obviously wanting to take vigorous action against the unsound fraction of the party. Marx was dead; Engels was dead; Liebknecht was dying. The vague formulas, “Socialist Unity,” “ Freedom of Opinion,” etc., which the logomachists of the “new method” used with apparent magical effect upon the unwary rank and file, seemed to paralyze the surviving leaders of the Marxian epoch. Most of these could not contemplate with equanimity the possible decrease of the “socialist vote” that might result from a split of the “socialist forces.” Moreover, it must be admitted that some of them — as was glaringly shown by Auer’s speech at the Paris International Congress — had very actually been “transformed” — backward — by the Millerand circumstance. In Belgium — as shown not less plainly by the speeches of Anseele and Furnémont — the same kind of “transformation” had taken place to a still greater extent. Visions of portfolios presented to socialists on a golden salver; bearing the inscription, Expédient Forcé, would by no means be idle dreams in that country, where an alliance with the “Liberal” bourgeoisie, if contracted for the “temporary” purpose of substituting equal suffrage for the present plural system, might be indefinitely continued for other objects, not less “necessary,” and rendered every day more imperative by other circumstances; not less “exceptional” — as had already long been the case in France with the Waldeck-Millerand combination when the Congress met.

It falls under the sense that everywhere the wage-working, bona fide socialists were sorely perplexed. Unquestionably, the participation of a socialist in a bourgeois government was equally repugnant to their feelings and to their reason. But they were advised to keep cool, to be patient. This was only a French tempest that would soon blow over; a family quarrel that would terminate in a wonderful love-feast. From a German standpoint, for instance, Millerand might have acted too impulsively; but the matter was pressing. and while the divided organization of the French party afforded him no means of getting in time its collective permission “to save the republic,” no doubt could be entertained that a vast majority of it sustained him. The Guesdists were right enough in “principle” but too stalwart in “tactics” on this “exceptional” occasion. “They should not divide the party by opposing him.” He was an honest man, an able man also; and since he was “there” he should be given a chance to carry out “his” good intentions, to develop “his” plans, and to show to the world what a socialist minister could do, even when hampered by bourgeois colleagues. — And the international proletariat kept very cool, very patient, hoping that its delegates to the Paris Congress might succeed in restoring harmony “in France,” but in the meantime growing very watchful, and very thoughtful also, concerning harmony in other countries.

It is safe to say that the Kautsky resolution did not meet with its unanimous and unqualified approval; that the withdrawal of the Parti Ouvrier Français from the ministerially packed congress of the French organizations held immediately after the International body had adjourned, did not greatly surprise it; that the further withdrawal of the Blanquists and the Communists, besides important trade federations, from the similarly packed Lyons “Congress of Unity” a few months later, was viewed with satisfaction by a large portion of it; and that the news of the final union of the Social Revolutionary forces of France against the Ministerialists and all such bourgeois gentry, was greeted with intense delight by all true socialists, whose rallying cry is, and must remain till the glad evening of Revolution Day, “No Compromise!”

If there are still any abroad who, mistakenly calling this only possible union a “split,” fear its results, we can only deplore their intellectual blindness, despite which, however, they must soon perforce have to know better. Of Millerand’s acts and “participation” we cannot undertake here to write the history. Nor is it needful that we should do so. With the exception of the secret use he made of his immense patronage — extending directly over the Post Office, the Customs, the national monopoly of tobacco manufacture and retailing, and indirectly (as a “participant” ) over all the public services — his performances are known to the world. And we dare say that no bourgeois minister can show a blacker record of duplicity, pretense, cunning and heartlessness in his treatment of the wage-working class. As it was on the shoulders of the proletariat that he climbed to power, it is well, perhaps, that he proved himself the worst deceiver that could, by any possibility, have “accepted” or assumed to represent it in a bourgeois government. For it was a valuable experience, which Marx had certainly not in his prophetic mind when he wrote the “Longuet epigraph,” but which it now appears that the present generation of workingmen had still to pass through, notwithstanding the terrible lessons transmitted to it by its predecessor of thirty years ago.

It also goes without saying that the Non Possumus of the Paris Congress struck its International Bureau with impotency. The Second International is not a mere aspiration; it is an absolute necessity, more strongly imposed every day by the economic, social and political developments. It must and shall be organized; and it will then be a mighty power. But, first of all, the union of the social-revolutionary forces must be accomplished in all the leading countries, as it has been in France and in the United States.

In conclusion, it is in the light of all the facts above stated or referred to, that the International’s Manifesto on the Paris Commune and the Paris Congress’s Kautsky resolution must be read and compared. In that light is best seen what they truly are: one an act of sublime fortitude and unconquerable determination on the day of greatest darkness; the other an act of unpardonable cowardice, an abandonment of the highest position on the battlefield to a demoralized and disordered enemy at the turning-point of the conflict.

February, 1902.


1. La Commune de Paris. Karl Marx. Traduction, préface et notes de Charles Longuet. Paris, 1901.

2. By this expression, the Social Revolution, is here meant not a mere insurrection, ever so widespread or temporarily successful, yet liable to be drowned in blood and followed by a new lease of life for the old social order, but the abolition of the present economic system with its consequent political class rule, and the substitution therefor of the Socialist Commonwealth, leaving aside all consideration, purely speculative at the present time, of the circumstances under which the change may take place.

3. It may seem quite superfluous to observe that part of the proletarian organization which is here termed “economic,” and which has heretofore been generally limited, in its use by the workers of English-speaking nationalities, to the single purpose of mutual protection in their daily conflicts with employers, should not be confounded with the great economic organization which it is the object of the social-revolutionary movement to substitute for capitalism. Yet this confusion is sometimes resorted to by logomachists of the anarchistic and “pure-and-simple” trade unionist schools, who oppose independent proletarian action on the political field. By vigorous amputation and gross misrepresentations of Karl Marx’s words (in the Declaration of Principles of the International) concerning the necessary “subordination” of the “political” movement to its great end, the “economic” emancipation of the working class, they argue that the political movement is of secondary importance, that it is even demoralizing, and that the “economic movement” — by which they mean trade unionism pure and simple — not only is sufficient to bring about the emancipation of the proletariat, but can alone accomplish it. At the same time they are found in America supporting the corrupt and corrupting bourgeois parties, with all the zeal which their hatred of socialism and schemes of personal advantage can inspire, while in France they similarly make common cause with the Millerandists against the Parti Ouvrier Français.

4. Upon this point, the delegate of the Socialist Labor Party of the United States, speaking in the Ninth Commission of the Congress (where the Kautsky resolution was first considered), observed: “It was with intense disgust that the militant socialists of America heard of Millerand’s spontaneous acceptance of a portfolio in the Waldeck-Galliffet bourgeois combination; but it would have been with an inexpressible sentiment of horror that they would have heard of such an act having been committed by order of the organized socialists of France.”

5. A permanent representative body, created by Art. I, Sec. 2, of this resolution, and composed of two delegates from each nationality.

6. With such a spirit, economic education of the right sort is not only possible but fruitful. Without it — as in the case of the Longuets and the Bernsteins — the best education is of little avail; to those who, aware of the right, profess the wrong, knowledge is an intolerable burden.


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