HISTORY OF THE COMMUNE OF 1871 -TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF
LISSAGAE AT, TV.’ -ELEANOR MARX AVELING. NEW YORK:
Published by the INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING CO., 23 Duane St.
1898. INTRODUCTION, The folowing translation of Lissagaray’s “Histoire de la Commune” was made many years ago, at the express wish of the author, who, besides making many emendations in his work, wrote nearly a hundred pages especially for this English version. The translation, in fact, was made from the “Histoire de la Commune” as prepared for a second edition an edition which the French Government would not allow to be published. This explanation is necessary in view of the differences between the translation and the first edition of Lissagaray’s book.
Written in 1876, there are necessarily passages in this history out of date to-day; as, for example, the references to the prisoners in New Caledonia, the exiles, and the amnesty. But for two reasons I prefer leaving this translation as it was originally. To have it “written up to date” would only be making patchwork of it. Secondly, I am loth to alter the work in any way. It had been entirely revised and corrected by my father. I want it to remain as he knew it. Lissagaray’s “Histoire de la Commune” is the only authentic and reliable history as yet written of the most memorable movement of modern times. It is true Lissagaray was JL__a soldier ofthe Commune, but he has had the courage and” Honesty to speak the truth. He has not attempted to hide the errors of his party, or to gloss over the fatal weaknesses of the Revolution; and if he has erred, it has been on the side of moderation, in his anxiety not to make a single statement that could not be corroborated by. ov whelming proofs of its truth. Wherever it was possible, the statements of the Versaillese in their Parliamentary Inquiries, in their press, and in their books are used in preference to the statements of friends and partisans; and whenever the evidence pf . Communards is given, it is invariably sifted with scrupplous care. And it is this impartiality, this careful avoidance of any assertion that could be considered doubtful, which should recommend this work to English readers. In England especially most persons are still quite ignorant of the events which led up to, and forced the people of Paris into making that revolution which was to save France from the shame and disgrace of a fourth Empire.. To most English people the Commune still spells ^rtipine,^faar, and lust,”
and when they speak of its “atrocities,” they have some vague idea of hostages ruthlessly massacred by brutal revolutionists, of houses burnt down by furious petroleuses. Is it not time that English people at last learnt the truth?
Is it not time they were reminded that for the sixty-five hostages shot, not by the Commune, but by a few people made mad by the massacre of prisoners by the Versaillese, the troops of law and order shot down thirty thousand men, women, and children, for the most part long after all fighting had ceased? If any Englishman, after reading Lissagaray’s
“History of the Commune,” still has any doubt as to what the “atrocities” of the Commune really were, he should turn
to the Parisian correspondence for May and June, 1871, of the Times, Daily News, and Standard. 1 There he can learn
1 I need but refer readers to the Times’ account of the murders at Moulin Saquet and Clamart, long before the entry of the Versaillese into Paris, and to the accounts in the Englsh press of the wholesale what kind of “order reigned in Paris” after the glorious victory of Versailles. NOT is it enough that we should be clear as to the “atrocities” of the Commune. It is time people understood the true meaning of this Revolution; and this can be summed up in a few words. It meant the government of the people by the people. It was the first attempt of the proletariat to govern itself. The workers of Paris expressed this when in their first manifesto they declared they “understood it massacres after their entry. Here are a few extracts taken at random: ” The shambles have been established at the end of the Boulevard
Malesherbes, and it is a lugubrious spectacle to see men and women, of all ages and conditions of life, defile past at intervals in that fatal direction. A party of three hundred moved across the boulevard only a few moments ago. … At Satory, on Wednesday, a thousand of the captured insurgents revolted and got rid of their handcuffs. . . The soldiers fired into the crowd, and three hundred insurgents were shot. … In one of the convoys of prisoners … a woman was being driven on by a gendarme, who goaded her with the point of his sabre till the blood ran. . . .M. Gallifet halted the column, selected eighty-two [prisoners], and had them shot there and then. … As many as one thousand Communists
were shot after their capture (June 1st). . . . Human life has become so cheap, that a man is shot more readily than a dog. Summary executions are still [long after the fighting had ceased] going on wholesale. Times, May- June 1871. “Several hundred insurgents who took refuge in the Madeleine were, it is said, bayoneted in the church. . . . Eleven waggon-loads of dead bodies of insurgents have been buried in the common ditch of Issy. . . . No quarter was given to any man, woman, or child. . . . Batches of as many as fifty and one hundred at a time are shot.” Daily News, May- June 1871.
“The wholesale executions continue indiscriminately. Prisoners are taken down in batches to certain . . . places where firing-parties are stationed, and deep trenches dug beforehand. . . . At one of these, the Caserne Napoleon, since last night five hundred persons have been shot.. . . There are invariably women and boys among them. . . . Prisoners
are soon disposed of by a volley and tumbled into a trench, when, if not killed by the shots, death from suffocation must soon put an end to their pain. Two court-martials alone are shooting at the rate of five hundred a day. Two thousand dead bodies are collected round the Pan- theon.” Standard, June 1871.
VIII Was their imperious duty and their absolute right to render themselves masters of their own destinies by seizing upon governmental power.” The establishment of the Commune meant not the replacing of one form of class-rule by another, but the abolishing of all class-rule. It meant the substitution of true co-operative, i. e., communistic, for capitalistic production, and the participation in this Revolution of workers of all countries meant the internationalising, not only the nationalising, of the land and of private property. And the same men who now cry out against the use of
force used force and what force! to vanquish the people of Paris. Those who denounce Socialists as mere firebrands and dynamitards used fire and sword to crush the people into submission. And what has been the result of these massacres, of this slaying of thousands of men, women, and children? Is Socialism dead? Was it drowned in the blood of the people of Paris? Socialism to-day is a greater power than it has ever been. The bourgeois Republic of France may join hands with the Autocrat of Russia to blot it out; Bismarck may pass repressive laws, and democratic America may follow in his wake and still it moves! And because Socialism is today a power, because in England even it is “in the air,” the time has come for doing justice to the Commune of Paris. The time has come when even the opponents of Socialism will read, at least with patience if not with sympathy, an honest and truthful account of the greatest Socialist move- ment thus far of the century.
ELEAXOR MARX AVELING.
June (Whit -Week) 1886.
The history of the Third Estate was to have been the prologue to this history. But time bresses; the victims are gliding into their graves; the^_^^^eg2jjf the Eadicals threaten to surpass the worn-out calumnies of the Monarchists.
I limit myself for the present to the strictly necessary introduction. Who made the Eevolution of the 18th March? What part was taken by the Central Committee? What was the Commune? How comes it that 100,000 Frenchmen are lost to
their country? Who is responsible? Legions of witnesses will answer.
No doubt it is an exile who speaks, but an exile who has been neither member, nor officer, nor functionary of the
Commune; who for five years has sifted the evidence;who has not ventured upon a single assertion without accumulated proofs; who sees the victor on the look-out for the slightest inaccuracy to deny all the rest; who knows no better plea for the vanquished than the simple and sincere recital of their history. This history, besides, is due to their children, to all the workingmen of the earth. The child has the right to know the reason of the paternal defeats, the Socialist party the campaign of its flag in all countries. He who tells the people revolutionary legends, he who amuses them with sensational stories, is as criminal as the geographer who would draw up false charts for navigators.
LONDON, November 1877.
HOW THE PRUSSIANS GOT PARIS AND THE RURALS FRANCE . . 1
FIRST ATTACKS OF THE COALITION AGAINST PARIS THE BAT-
TALIONS OF THE NATIONAL GUARD FEDERALISE AND SEIZE
THEIR CANNON THE PRUSSIANS ENTER PARIS 58
THE COALITION OPENS FIRE ON PARIS THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
CONSTITUTES ITSELF M. THIERS ORDERS THE ASSAULT .
THE EIGHTEENTH OF MARCH 78
THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE CONVOKES THE ELECTORS THE MAYORS
OF PARIS AND DEPUTIES OF THE SEINE TURN AGAINST IT . 88
CHAPTEE V. /
THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE AFFIRMS ITSELF, REORGANISES THE PUB-
LIC SERVICES, AND HOLDS PARIS 101
THE MAYORS, THE DEPUTIES, THE JOURNALISTS, THE ASSEMBLY
COMBINE AGAINST PARIS THE REACTION MARCHES ON THE
PLACE VENDOME, AND IS PUNISHED 108
THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE TRIUMPHS OVER ALL OBSTACLES AND
CONSTRAINS THE MAYORS TO CAPITULATE …. 116
^ . CHAPTER VIII.
PROCLAMATION OF THE COMMUNE “j * 126
THE COMMUNE AT LYONS, ST. ETIENNE, AND CREUZOT . . .131
THE COMMUNE AT MARSEILLES, TOULOUSE, AND NARBONNE . . 142
THE COUNCIL OF THE COMMUNE WAVERS FROM ITS FIRST SITTINGS
THE MAYORS AND ADJUNCTS ELECTED DESERT EN MASSE . 153
SORTIE OF THE THIRD APRIL THE PARISIANS ARE REPULSED
EVERYWHERE FLOURENS AND DUVAL ARE KILLED THE VER-
SAILLESE MASSACRE SOME PRISONERS , 162
THE COMMUNE IS VANQUISHED AT MARSEILLES AND NARBONNE . 171
THE GREAT RESOURCES OF THE COMMUNE THE GREAT WEAKNESS ‘
OF THE COUNCIL NOMINATION OF CLUSERET DECREE CONCERN-
ING THE HOSTAGES THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE THE BANK . 182
THE FIRST COMBATS OF NEUILLY AND ANSNIERES ORGANISATION
AND DEFEAT OF THE CONCILIATORS 190
THE MANIFESTO OP THE COUNCIL THE COMPLIMENTARY ELEC- /
TIONS OP THE 16th APRIL SHOW A MINORITY WITHIN THE
COUNCIL FIRST DISPUTES THE GERMS OF DEFEAT . . . 199
OUR PARISIENNES SUSPENSION OF ARMS FOR THE EVACUATION OF
NEUILLY THE ARMY OF VERSAILLES AND THAT OF PARIS . 207
THE PUBLIC SERVICES FINANCE WAR POLICE EXTERIOR
JUSTICE EDUCATION LABOUR AND EXCHANGE . . . 217
THE FREEMASONS JOIN THE COMMUNE THE FIRST EVACUATION
OF THE FORT OF ISSY CREATION OF THE COMMITTEE OF
PUBLIC SAFETY , 236
ROSSEL REPLACES CLUSERET THE RIVALRIES THE DEFENCE OF
THE FORT OF ISSY 246
PARIS IS BOMBARDED THE FORT OF ISSY SUCCUMBS THE COUN-
CIL ELECTS A NEW COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC SAFETY ROSSEL
FLIES , 254
THE CONSPIRACIES AGAINST THE COMMUNE 265
M. THIERS’ POLICY WITH REGARD TO THE PROVINCES THE EX-
TREME LEFT BETRAYS PARIS . . 271
THK IMPOTENCE OF THE SECOND COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC SAFETY
EVACUATION OF THE FORT OF VANVES AND OF THE VILLAGE
OF ISSY THE MANIFESTO OF THE MINORITY THE EXPLO-
SION IN THE AVENUE RAPP FALL OF THE VENDOME COLUMN 288
CHAPTER XXV. /
PARIS ON THE EVE OF DEATH 293
THE VERSAILLESE ENTER PARIS ON SUNDAY, 21ST MAY, AT THREE
O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON THE COUNCIL OF THE COM-
MUNE DISSOLVES 304
MONDAY 22ND THE VERSAILLESE INVADE THE QUARTERS OF THE
EAST PARIS RISES 313
TUESDAY 23RD MONTMARTRE IS TAKEN THE WHOLESALE MAS-
SACRES WE LOSE GROUND PARIS ON FIRE THE LAST
NH3HT OF THE HOTEL-DE-VILLE …… 326
” WEDNESDAY 24TH THE MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL EVACUATE
THE HOTEL-DE-VILLE THE PANTHEON IS TAKEN THE VER-
SAILLESE SHOOT THE FEDERALS BY HUNDREDS THE FE-
DERALS SHOOT SIX HOSTAGES THE NIGHT OF THE CANNON . 339
THURSDAY 25TH THE WHOLE LEFT BANK FALLS INTO THE HANDS
OF THE TROOPS DELESCLUZE DIES THE BRASSARDIERS STI-
MULATE THE MASSACRE THE MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL
EVACUATE THE MAIRIE OF THE ELEVENTH ARRONDISSEMENT 353
THE RESISTANCE CENTRES IN BELLEVILLE FRIDAY, FORTY-EIGHT
HOSTAGES ARE SHOT IN THE RUE HAXO SATURDAY 27TH,
THE WHOLE TWENTIETH ARRONDISSEMENT IS INVADED THE
PERE LACHAISE IS TAKEN SUNDAY 28TH, THE BATTLE ENDS
AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING MONDAY 29TH, THE
FORT OF VINCENNES IS SURRENDERED ….. 365
THE VERSAILLESE FURY THE SLAUGHTER-HOUSES THE PRE-
VOTAL COURTS THE DEATH OF VARLIN THE BURIALS . . 382
THE CONVOYS OF PRISONERS THE ORANGERIE THE ARRESTS
SATORY THE DENUNCIATORS THE PRESS THE LEFT IN-
SULTS THE VANQUISHED DEMONSTRATIONS IN FOREIGN
THE PONTOONS THE FORTS THE PRISONS THE FIRST TRIALS . 40
THE COURTS-MARTIAL-^THE EXECUTIONS BALANCE-SHEET OF THE
CONDEMNATIONS ……. 424
NEW CALEDONIA EXILE BALANCE-SHEET OF BOURGEOIS VENGEANCE
THE LIBERAL CHAMBER AND THE AMNESTY . 445