The Paris Workmen and the Commune

From The Libertarian Labyrinth
Jump to: navigation, search

THE PARIS WORKMEN AND THE COMMUNE.

"Si quelque brume obscurcit votre aurore,
Leur disait-on, attendez le soleil.
Ils repondaient:—Qu'importe que la seve
Monte enrichir les champs ou nous passona!
If ous n'avons rien, arbres, fleurs, ni moissons.
Est-ce pour nous que le soleil se leve?"
Beranger. Le Suicide.

The author of the following study wrote in October, 1869: "We have to render ourselves an account of those proletarian souls, suffering in the midst of our society, and dreaming of a paradise of equality, to be won by them at a blow at the close of some exploit of audacity and despair. We have above all to busy ourselves in satisfying, and that as swiftly as may be, their legitimate thirst for justice, if we would not expose the whole of human society to some disastrous commotion, by the side of which our political revolutions and our international wars would seem mere child's play."<ref>De la participation industrielle, Revue Moderne, 25 Octobre, 1869, p. 694.</ref>

We now know the consequences of the neglect in which the proletarian souls have been left. We have now seen whither we have been led by that scornful and hostile refusal with which their ' legitimate thirst for justice' has been so constantly rebuffed. The commotion that we foresaw has come to pass. It arose after a political revolution, after one of the bloodiest of international wars, and it has effaced both one and the other.

Now that the social revolution has burst forth, every one starts in search of its causes. M. Jules Favre even has tried to explain the events that have arisen since the 18th of March. He accuses the Imperial regime of having been the cause of what he styles the insurrection of Paris, by erecting in the capital an excessive agglomeration of workmen, and thus making of the great city ' a National Workshop in permanence.' He points out, moreover, to all other states the existence of the International Society as a universal danger, and he tries as well as he can to paint the entire working class as conspiring more or less directly, by means of this powerful society, against order and civilisation, wherever they are established. Here, as on so many other occasions, M. Jules Favre, under a large assumption of profundity, shows himself to be in fact extremely superficial; he supposes himself a statesman, while he is in reality only the awkward advocate of a small class of privileged and isolated persons, whose impotence he reveals, when confronted with an association already considerable, to which, with peculiar impolicy, he attributes vastly exaggerated proportions.

We explain nothing by generalities so commonplace as these. To say that the Imperial regime has been mischievous by raising beyond all measure the figure of the working population of Paris, is not to give any account of this very phenomenon of excessive agglomeration. To lead us to suppose that this surplus of population is unworthy of any interest, and is made up of the most dangerous criminals from all countries, is to calumniate France, which, the assertions of M. Favre notwithstanding, furnishes the immense majority of the workmen of Paris. We may be pretty sure that it is not without motives that the labourers of the fields quit the calm life of the peasant to mingle in the agitation of the capital, at the risk of exposing themselves to cruel privations and to a want of work, which means ruin. We should have to seek these motives, to show that ignorance is the curse of the rural districts; that administrative centralisation attracts to Paris not only the political life of the country, but nearly the whole social movement; that the province, the department, the commune, stripped of all initiative, are dead centres, from which every intelligent and energetic man is naturally led to remove himself; that, in short, the military system still in operation, annually carries off from those centres the most active part of their male population, and that too for a period of seven years, at the end of which the soldier, having lost the habits of field-life, and indeed of all labour, strives to become a clerk, either in the public service or in some place of business, so that there are a thousand chances that he never returns to the country, but fixes himself for good in the capital.

Add to these causes the concentration of capital in Paris, the great railroads which meet there from all parts of France, the immense attraction centred there, by the information that is gained if you only keep open eyes, by the variety of pleasures, by the infinite multiplicity of objects and persons, by the freedom one enjoys there, by the superabundance of life, movement, emotion, which form so striking a contrast with the complete atony of the provinces, and we shall have indicated at least the principal causes of that disproportionate increase of the population of Paris, of which if. Jules Favre complains.

Thus approached, the problem is seen to possess quite a new interest. If we point out the evil in excessive centralisation, we indicate at the same moment the political remedy, which can lie in nothing else than an awakening of provincial life. But then we must he just, and recognise that centralisation, developed, it is true, by the First and Second Empires, is still not peculiarly the work of either one or the other; that our Bonapartes have found this machine ready wound up; that they received it from the hands of the Revolution, personified in the Convention, and that they only perfected it. It may be painful to a republican and bourgeois, like M. Favre, to admit that the vice which he holds up is in its origin republican and bourgeois, but true statesmanship should have no such reserves. It is bound to pursue truth before all things, and not to stop short for any consideration of class, or sect, or party. We will try here to conform to these conditions. We shall aim at exhibiting the Paris workman as he is, how he lives, how he amuses himself, where he learns his politics, what it is that makes him socialist. We shall thus learn the programme of the Parisian Red, and shall perceive that far from being out of the pale of human nature, he is only a spontaneous product of what is pompously styled modern civilisation, a civilisation that, resting to this hour on war between nation and nation, town and town, farm and farm, man and man, is still in so many respects sheer barbarism. Homo homini lupus, Hobbes said; and this formula, true in his time, too true in our own epoch, will only cease to hold good after a new step has been taken in political science and social economy.

I.

Before describing how the workman of Paris lives, let us see whence he comes, and what sort of home he has. We have already seen how the conscription carries off the labourer from his province, le depaysant, as they say, and throwing him into a current that draws him sooner or later to the capital. We have also pointed out the other causes which combine to increase the population of Paris. It has been calculated that on an average a family of workmen fixed in this city at a given epoch, disappears in the third generation. At that rate the population of the capital would rapidly fall away, but for the constant influx from the departments. We may say then that there is only an inconsiderable number of the inhabitants of Paris who are born there, and who really deserve the name of Parisians. It is to this circumstance that M. Haussmann referred, when he said that the population of the capital was composed in a great proportion of nomads, to whom they had a perfect right to refuse all municipal franchises, inasmuch as they had no title to control the administration of a city in which they were not born, and which they were only visiting. Here, however, the clever prefect was either himself deceived, or he wished to deceive others ; for if it is proved that a comparatively small number of the inhabitants of Paris first saw the light there, it is not less certain that a much greater number of provincials come to live and die there. The various quarters of Paris would even furnish by their special population and by their peculiar character a striking testimony in support of this assertion. Thus the Faubourg St. Antoine, the principal centre of joinery and cabinet work, offers in ordinary times an almost German physiognomy, in consequence of the great number of Alsatians and Germans who live there. There are alleys and courts, which are the home of genuine tribes. The court St. Joseph, for instance, not far off from the Bastille, is exclusively inhabited by people from Auvergne. In the same way, the Savoyards and Nizzards have quarters of their own. Indeed, these, notwithstanding their life of privation, hardly deserve to be counted among workmen. Production is not their first object. They are employed in small huckstering and odd jobs. The retailers of fuel, the water-carriers, the itinerant tinkers, usually belong to these provinces. A small number of them fix themselves in Paris. They only come there to make money, in which they nearly always succeed.

Another part of the population which really deserved the name of nomad is the Marchois. Being nearly all masons, the inhabitants of La Creuse come to the capital to earn enough to pay for a bit of land somewhere near their native spot, and on which they have had their eye for a long time. They nearly always succeed, by force of hard work and incredible privations, in acquiring the desired ownership.

Apart from such categories as these, the majority of the workmen from the country end by settling in "Paris. Let us see how the working population of the great city divides itself. In old days each craft had its own quarter. Many street-names still recall this custom. In the neighbourhood of the Halles, were the streets or quays, de la Ferronnerie, de 1'Aiguillerie, de la Poterie, de la Verrerie, de la Parcheminerie, de la Corderie, de la Megisserie, de la Lingerie, and so forth. Certain names, in the same way, recalled the provincial or even foreign origin of the inhabitants. There were the streets Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, d'Augustine, de Perche, des Anglais, des Irlandais, &c. The city thus presented a tolerably complete organisation, with the double character of being the home of active corporations, and a sort of compendium of that France of which it is the capital. We will leave to the reader the task of finding in old London the home of the different trades. We will content ourselves with calling his attention to a rather curious fact, namely that the east of a city is usually poor, while the rich moves to the west, just as in our times civilisation has advanced from east to west. The administration of the later prefects of the Seine seems to have favoured this movement. What MM. Delessert and Rambreteau began, was continued by M. Haussmann on a colossal scale. Notwithstanding the annexation of the towns of the banlieue, which seemed as if it should produce an equal increase in all directions, the capital extended itself much more on the side of the Champs Elysees than in the direction of Charonne. A story is told, how in the spring of '53, the new Emperor got down from his carriage one day under the Arc de Triomphe, and striking the ground with his stick, said, 'Here, gentlemen, is the centre of new Paris.' But the new city, built for a people of millionaires, rose at the western extremity of old Paris, while the buildings that were raised at the same time on the east are a long way, alike in point of number and importance, from balancing this excessive development of the luxurious habitations of the west. Here we touch one of the principal causes of the profound uneasiness which existed under Louis Philippe, which the empire considerably augmented, and which the war rendered intolerable. This cause is the more and more markedly visible . separation of classes.

The specialite of Parisian production, the articles de Paris, is before all things an affair of taste. Ornaments, trinkets, bronzes, furniture, demand in all who assist in producing them, not only certain exquisite qualities, such as manual dexterity, cultivation of eye, nicety of touch, but also and above all a constant intercourse among one another, a daily exchange of discoveries and results. The exchange even goes further; it establishes itself between producer and consumer, between the lady who gives the order and the workwoman who executes it, between the amateur who seeks and the artisan who produces. Now this constant exchange, possible and even easy, so long as classes and industries were mixed in a city of moderate proportions, how could it last in an enormous city, constructed for the rich alone? A dressmaker in the Chaussee d'Antin had only to descend into the street, to see how the fine lady wore her dresses; she modified her fashions in consequence, her taste formed itself by daily contact with more cultivated classes. But to-day when this workwoman is forced, by the monstrous rise in rents, to go and shut herself up in some obscure and filthy alley of Belleville or Menilmontant, she has to make really long journeys to see the fine world.

On the other hand, high society, as people name rich society, feels the effect of this isolation. More and more separated every day from the working class, they are recalled by nothing to simplicity and good sense. They surrender themselves to the most disgusting vagaries of taste. Gold in their eyes hides all. A wise man once said to a statuary, who had covered with gilding a statue of Venus : 'Not able to make it beautiful, thou hast made it rich.' "Where did this happen ? At Byzantium, under the lower Empire. Did the Parisians of M. Haussmann or of Napoleon know any better than the statuary? Did they understand beauty in any other sense? Evidently not. They took old Paris, the democratic city, where all classes were mixed, the modern Athens, where all classes touched; they disembowelled the living creature, threw far away the heart and the head, and pretended to refashion a new being without one or the other. We know what happened. The new creature could not live. Its production was at an end. Made only to digest, it thought no more. Recent exhibitions have proved only too clearly that diminution of what used to be called French intelligence and Parisian taste. Neither in science, nor in industry, nor even in the arts, has France known how to keep, during these later years, the high place she had once won.

The Parisian workman is often obliged to visit the handsome quarters of the town, while new buildings are ever thrusting him further away beyond the old barriers into vile habitations. In this condition, which is made for him, anything helps to irritate him. How can he find content in a home that is narrow, ill-lighted, foul, nearly without air, when he compares this wretched hole, for which he pays so dear, with the sumptuous chambers that he has either built or decorated in the rich quarters ? 'Tis easy to denounce in eloquent homilies the spirit of envy that devours the lower classes. We should recognise that a true notion of justice mixes with the feeling.

The desire to enjoy the fruits of his labour is especially likely to spring up in the mind of the French workman, who does not believe, any more than his diaster, in the reparations of a future life ; who does not perceive for the right of this master, any other sanction than the material fact of possession; and whom, besides, universal suffrage invests with a share of sovereignty equal to that of the capitalist. Whatever may be said by those who have been justly called llammonite writers, we can easily understand that the proletary who has just given his vote, finds it hard to resign himself to social serfage at the very moment when he feels himself politically sovereign. This striking contrast between his rights as citizen, and his condition of pariah in society, accompanies him everywhere, reproduces itself in every act of his life, and adds a perpetual gloom to exhausting labour and never abating privations.

The partie de Paris, as those trades are called that supply luxury to the capital, has its season of feverish activity ; but it has, too, its fixed and foreseen returns of stoppage of work. Nothing more mournful for the workman, for the workwoman above all, than the sight of an unoccupied bench, and unused tools. The Quarter has nothing pleasant in itself. The windows look out mostly on to a narrow and gloomy court, in which the children of the house cry and fight. The school is not far off, 'tis true; but shoes are wanting, the clothes of the little ones are in holes and rags, and the school that day is neglected. The unhappy children wallow in filth, and suffering themselves from the general discord and dirt, they make the others suffer also; and already pass for wicked, until the days when they are grown up, when the journals of order, which have never uttered a word of protest against this revolting and inhuman neglect, denounce them as criminal.

Grave censors intervene at this point to blame the workman's want of providence. 'Here are people who in the season earn whatever they please, for never were wages so high. Instead of saving for the dead season, which they know well enough will come round on a given day, they spend every farthing. How can one interest oneself in their misery? If they only knew how to manage, a very few years would see them as much at their ease as their employers.' But, we may answer, you are overlooking a particularly important detail, and this is that nothing is so dear as being poor; that the workwoman, urged to bring in her work, has no attention to spare for her housekeeping; that at mealtime she has brought in whatever is ready from the cookshop or bakehouse; that these dealers, counting on the want of order, retail to the child who is sent for the meal, poor and unwholesome dishes at three times their proper value. Just the same happens with furniture, dress, and every other necessary. The workman generally takes them on credit, and pays at the week end, so that his savings are all taken from him in advance. Besides, how can you expect the workman to be a careful administrator? His upbringing, which was the upbringing of the street, has never prepared him for being this. And we cannot be surprised at want of foresight and minute thrift in a man whose surroundings are so miserable from the beginning, and whom everything conspires to keep in a state that is so profitable to the crowd of parasites who live on his poor skin.

The season of work is also that of pleasure. It is not uncommon to see husband and wife work, apart or at home, for whole days and nights without relaxation; and then, the work done, the goods delivered, the wages drawn, they go for rest to the play. Whither do they go? What are the pieces that amuse them ? In former times the Ambigu and Porte St. Martin were particularly attractive, with their long and terrible melodramas. This class of play, which was not without merit, for it produced artists like Frederick Lemaitre and Madame Dorval, and pieces like the Tour de Ncsle, Robert Macaire, and Jeanne, has fallen, ever since M. Haussmann's demolitions scattered to the four winds the play-houses that had grouped themselves on the 'Boulevard of Crime.' The people had then a passion for good music. It is well known that the Theatre Lyrique made it its mission to make the great foreign or national masterpieces known. It had an amphitheatre to which the price was 15 sous. This amphitheatre was invariably crowded, and Mdme. Pauline Viardot was never more warmly applauded in Orfco than by the public that thronged it nightly. It is not irrelevant to notice that this new success of Gluck was the origin of the first triumphs of Offenbach. The coxcombs of quality thought that by applauding Orphic aux Enfers they avenged themselves for the simple enthusiasm with which the common people every night greeted the sublime music of Orfeo. One incident completed the contrast between the two publics. Another of Gluck's pieces, Alceste, was soon after performed at the Grand Opera, but there were no places at 15 sous, and Alceste had a very medium success, while Offenbach marched from triumph to triumph with the Belle Helenc, and the Grande Duchesse. The taste for music had already begun to show itself in the populace in the time of Louis Philippe, when Wilhem founded the Orpheon, which soon in its turn gave birth to numbers of singing associations. It was then that BeVanger wrote to Wilhem, his old friend, a letter in which are these lines—

"Des classes qua peine on eclairo Relevant les mccurs et les gouts, Par toi, devenu populaire, L'art va lour faire un ciel plus doux. » *

Lo concert, puisses-tu I'eiendre

A tout un monde diviae !

Les coeurs sont bien prAs de s'entcudro

Quand les voix ont fraterniseV'

Unfortunately, the Orpheon did little more than bring together the voices of the proletaries. If the education of the colleges had included music in its programmes, instead of being restricted to a dry and mechanical instruction for the children of a single class, the bourgeoisie, the idea of Beranger and Wilhem would have been nearer realisation. The spirit of caste decided otherwise. Victorious in its contest with the nobility, the French bourgeoisie found nothing more urgent than to reconstitute for its own benefit an aristocratic society, and it provided a foundation in those official establishments that it adorns with the title of centres of public instruction, but to which the public is only admitted on payment. After a revolution that was made by all classes, by bourgeois, workmen, peasants, the legislators of 1791 declared that the State ought to create as speedily as possible ' a public education common to all citizens, and gratuitous in respect of those parts of instruction that are indispensable to all.' (Constit. of 1791.) Now here are eighty years gone, since this promise has been inscribed in the Law ; what has been done to fulfil it, by the clamorous defenders of order and equality ? We may count the establishments they have founded to keep in their own hands power and wealth, by substituting for the old privilege of noble birth, the assured preponderance of fortune. We know the design of the Ecole Polytechnique, meant to assure to the children of the bourgeoisie the high grades in the army, and the official positions in the administration. We know, too, that Saint Cyr is a nursery for officers, who bring into their relations with the soldiers an equal amount of insolence and incapacity. The different branches of industry are invaded by pupils from the special schools. So that the workman, the soldier, the labourer, though invested as they are with a derisory political sovereignty, are everywhere kept in a condition of real inferiority, shut up in a circle of servitude that is all but impassable, from the fact of this absence of ' an instruction common to all citizens,' an education ' gratuitous in respect of those parts of instruction that are indispensable for all men.'

The inexorable law of progress opposes itself sturdily to all immobility. Whatever will not advance falls fatally back. This law applies in all its rigour to the French bourgeoisie. Deprived of that democratic character which would have made a genuine national education, its official instruction has been nothing more than a deplorable machine for specialties. God keep every friendly nation from specialists! The pretended principle of division of labour, doubtful as it is even in industry, is absolutely condemned in the matter of public instruction by the experience of France since the First Empire If the intellectual average has fallen in so perceptible a manner in this country, we have to seek the cause only in that exaggerated cultivation of specialties which is in such direct opposition to the tendencies of an age that by the immense variety of its discoveries, makes of each branch of science, of art, and of industry itself, a true encyclopaedia. If this were the place, it would be curious to show the majority of modern discoveries defiling before the Institute, from the steam engine and electric telegraph downwards, and being all condemned as chimerical by that great reunion of official specialties. Let us add that the special commissions have never shown themselves any more clear-sighted, and that on two distinct occasions the French artillery commissions betrayed the interests of France, by rejecting in a spirit of routine, first the Dreyse musket, and then the Krupp gun.

We see that the instruction given in the colleges, lyceums, and special schools, is incomplete as it is, because it is marked with the spirit of class. In these establishments everything is done with a view to opening to young men careers called liberal, that is bourgeois, absolutely distinct from the life of the workmen, who are looked upon as permanently destined for servile occupation. Thus understood, instruction may well be called public, but it is in no sense national. Nor has it anything in common with education properly so called, which is left to the family and the priest. But the bourgeois family is profoundly divided; it is only too truly represented by Sardou in that Famille Benoiton, where the mother absorbed in luxury and pleasure is always absent, and where the father supposes himself to have done every duty when he has provided for material interests. As for the priests, they are too much absorbed by political ambition to think of forming men; they prefer to snare weak minds, and to gain means of influence by crafty conciliation of those interests in whose extreme division their power lies. In general, the priests, too, belong to some International society, which turns them aside from their duty as Frenchmen: the majority turn towards Rome, some think of Geneva, while others look to Jerusalem. How do you suppose that there is any room left in these sacerdotal hearts for love of native land ? Assuredly it is not from that side that aid will come to those who would fain try to regenerate this great country, by laying the foundations of a broad national education. And yet, unless an institution of this kind comes to put a stop to the revolution, by fulfilling its most sacred engagement, who can tell where there is to be a stay to that manifest decadence into which the isolation of classes is dragging France. In Switzerland and in Prussia, in each group of five there is one scholar; in France there is only one scholar for each group of twelve.

Can we not understand how, with such a load of scorn upon his heart, the workman, thus profoundly separated from the bourgeois, becomes more and more indifferently disposed to gaiety. This increasing loss of gaiety is another proof of the evil which ravages France. Read all that is written for the stage in France, it will seem evident that frank, natural, spontaneous laughter, only comes to the Parisians in fits ever more and more rare. What replaces it is a spasmodic effort, against nature. It would be curious to compare two pieces constructed from the same matter. Take the Salt- imbanquts and the Princesse de Trebizonde : they are the same farces personated by actors of equal talent; but in the first the gaiety flowed from the spring; there was a communion of joy between actor, author, and public. This communion has ceased to exist, and the actor has to resort to painful contortions, to provoke in the audience the unwholesome emotions which have nothing in common with true joy.

in.

The wine-sellers and cafe-keepers provide the workmen with a place of meeting that is always open—a sort of permanent club. It is there that he learns politics in reading newspapers, written much more to please than to instruct him. If he is still so ignorant, so destitute of good sense and judgment, if he is an idolater of certain names, whether to cherish them one moment and trample on them the next, the responsibility is not with him, but rests entirely on those who flatter his passions, on those unscrupulous writers who, eager for notoriety and still more for easy gain, are not ashamed of speculating on his ignorance, to win his vote and his pence. Let us say this, however, in exculpation of the workmen; they were not the first to encourage in journalists brutality of style, licence of thought, violence in personal attack. It was not for them that people set up the Figaro, the Gaulois, or the Paris Journal. Before publishing the Lanterne Rochefort was on the Figaro; the Lanterne itself was sold for 8 sous, and the common people read it very little. It was the bourgeois who made the success of these publications, and when by-and-by the public began to read the Marseillaise, the Mot d'Ordre, the Cri du Peuple, and the Pbre Duchene, they only copied a fashion which had been already set them by the class called superior.

Besides the newspapers, the political instructors of the workmen are the orators of the public reunions. Another centre of political teaching is the workshop. In France, where the Government has a hand in all that is done, there is no industrial question which is not also a political question. The workmen pass quickly from the point which regards them immediately, to the wider political and social interests. We hold that of all the schools where he learns politics, the best for the workman is the shop. True, the Parisian artisan does not shine in positive and practical solutions. He usually knows much bettor what he would like to see disappear, than what should be established in its stead.

Iv.

Social interests touch the workmen much more closely than political privileges. Hence he is generally a socialist long before he is a republican. It requires extremely grave circumstances to draw a man like Tolain and his friends into the political field. After what has been said of the life of the Paris workman, of its constant gloom, its scanty pleasures, its want of instruction, is it hard to understand how he turns socialist ? Who would venture to demonstrate to him that all is perfect in a social state where all the privations are on the side of those who produce, and all the delights of life for those who do nothing ? Nor is this all, for we might even forgive the idle their inactive existence, if they would only be content to do nothing, but the great reproach that we have a right to address to them is not that they do nothing, but that they do ill. Most of the pleasures of a certain class of the rich are for the whole of society a permanent cause of ruin and immorality. Who transforms the Bourse into a vile gambling-house, and thus levies on the general production of the country enormous imposts for the benefit of his own degrading pleasures ? And who ventures to decorate with the fine names of religion, family, property, public order, this exploitation of the producer by the do-nothing, of ignorance by cunning, of poverty by vice; and then to place at the service of this pretended order whole legions of priests, judges, administrators, and hired soldiers ?

The Paris workman cannot take a step in the streets without meeting a thousand objects to suggest such reflections to him. Clearly, the conclusions to which he will come in this way will either be false, or at any rate marked with grave errors. His socialism will rapidly lean towards the overthrow of the whole present, and will be much embarrassed to formulate a programme of the future. Eager for an activity which he believes must deliver him, he will give little heed to ideas of progressive amelioration, and pacific association. But whose fault is this ? Who has left him alone, a prey to his ignorance, his bitterness, his grief? For years have we, the pacific socialists, raised aloft the standard of the conciliation of classes. We have gathered round this standard a certain number of enlightened and well-meaning workmen; but with a few noble exceptions, the whole bourgeois class has remained deaf to our appeal. Thus the workmen, for a moment encouraged in the pacific path by the newspaper, La Co-operation, have not been slow in quitting this path, when they saw that they were the only people inclined to conciliation, and when the bourgeois, invited by us, remained indifferent to all our solicitations, content to rest in a lively feeling for their own interests.

What was to come into the head of the workman on the day when it seemed proved to him that the conciliation of interests is impossible, and that emancipation through pacific association is a mere chimera? Evidently on that day the desire would begin to grow hot within him of violently claiming his rights. The general state of the world carried him in the same direction. Does not violence nearly everywhere gain the day over virtue and justice ? Does not success seem to absolve every man with daring and without scruple, from the bankrupt millionaire, to the pitiless practitioners of the policy of craft and fire and sword ?

This remark throws into relief a very striking fact, which is this: —the Paris Red, animated with such furious rage against the bourgeois, is himself of the nature of a bourgeois. As soon as he thinks of resorting to force, when he organizes these enormous associations destined to put numbers on his side, when he seeks to turn to his advantage all the resources that the science of destruction had hitherto placed at the service of crowned tyrants alone, he only does what for more than a thousand years the bourgeoisie has done in its incessant contest with nobles and clergy. The very name of Commune is a reminiscence and an imitation of the bourgeois communes. What, after all, was the Commune which sprang from the events of the eighteenth of March ? It was the Commune of Paris, an urban commune. And against whom did it defend itself? Against the rurals; that is against the peasants represented more or less by chosen representatives. The National Guard, therefore, of the different quarters were federated to defend a privilege, the right of the enlightened towns to force upon the ignorant country the form of government that pleased them. The workmen of these old faubourgs, which have become cities, and even great cities, the National Guards of Belleville, Menilmontant, Montrouge, received muskets in September, 1870, with the same joy with which in March, 1848, they received the title of elector. The objects of undeserved contempt to the bourgeoisie, they resolved to show that they were brave, and they have shown this completely, down to that last week from the 22nd to the 29th of May, when they heroically defended, one after another, all the quarters of the great city, to come and die, heroic and unconquered, at the cemetery of Pere Lachaise on the tombs of their fathers.

We cannot pretend in these pages to have developed many ideas, but there is one which has been incessantly present in our minds, and that we would fain leave in that of the reader. The workman of Paris assuredly has his faults. He is vain, as well as ignorant; he is a little boastful; inclined like all ardent and imperfectly enlightened minds towards absolute systems; disputatious, a railer, extremely undisciplined. But he has admirable qualities He is active, generous, unwearied in work as in pleasure, ardent, courageous, naturally inclined to all that is grand and lofty, with a passion for justice, sober (in spite of all that his caluminators may have said on the progress of drunkenness, we keep this word, which is justified by the Paris workman's faculty of living on next to nothing), generally obliging, cordial, and gay,—and gaiety is a noble gift in a being who has everything to suffer. But it will be said here, that in spite of all we can say in favour of the Paris workman, nothing could explain how so many violences were wrought, so many murders committed, so many works of destruction accomplished. Our answer is simple. The example of all these acts of revolt is unhappily not new. What class has given the common people a pattern? The bourgeoisie itself. The Parisian is a man whose mind has been warped by the divers Terrors that Catholicism has made to reign, one after another, over France, and by the traditions of the various bourgeois revolutions, from that of the twelfth century down to the Thermidorian reaction of 1794. Is not the Commune of Paris exactly like the bourgeois communes of Laon, Flanders, Italy, Germany? They all massacre, pillage, and burn, and all proclaim with heroism an idea of justice, of resistance to odious oppression and iniquitous claims. The communeux is to the bourgeois what the communier is to the noble and the priest. How have things come to this pass? How have the bourgeoisie, emerging triumphantly from a succession of contests incessantly renewed for a thousand years, and triumphant by the aid of the workmen themselves, drawn themselves apart from the workmen? How have they claimed to succeed to the nobles, and to substitute the supremacy of cash for all the privileges of birth? What infatuation induces them to wish to resuscitate for the profit of capitalist feudality, all the privileges that were found so hateful when the military barons invoked such privileges against them?

Auguste Desmoulins.

<references/>