Frederick Engels in Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung

Revolution in Paris

Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 356;
Written: on February, 25-26, 1848;
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, February 27, 1848.

The year 1848 is turning out well. The Sicilian revolution with its long train of constitutions is hardly over before Paris experiences a victorious insurrection.

The opposition deputies had publicly pledged themselves to defend the right of assembly against Guizot, Duchâtel and Hébert by means of a courageous demonstration.

All the preparations had been made. The hall was ready and awaited the banquet guests. Then suddenly, when the time had come to act, the poltroons of the Left, M. Odilon Barrot at their head, beat, as always, a cowardly retreat.

The banquet was called off. But the people of Paris, stirred up by the loud-mouths in the Chamber, raging at the cowardice of these épiciers. and made discontented at the same time by protracted general unemployment, the people of Paris refused to be called off.

At midday on Tuesday, all Paris was on the streets. The masses were shouting: “Down with Guizot, long live the Reform!” They proceeded to Guizot’s residence, which was protected by the troops with difficulty; but the windows were nevertheless broken.

The masses proceeded to Odilon Barrot’s house as well, shouted “Down with Barrot!” and broke his windows, too. M. Barrot, the cowardly originator of the whole outbreak, sent to the government and asked for a security guard!

The troops stood by and quietly looked on. Only the Municipal Guard struck out, and that with the greatest brutality. The Municipal Guard is a corps consisting in the main of natives of Alsace and Lorraine, that is, men who are half German; they receive three and a half fr a day and look very plump and well-nourished. The Municipal Guard is the basest body of soldiers in existence, worse than the Gendarmerie, worse than the old Swiss Guard; if the people win, things will go badly for it.

Towards evening the people began to resist. Barricades were set up, guard posts stormed and set on fire. A police spy was cut down in the Place de la Bastille. Arms shops were looted.

At five o'clock marching orders were sounded for the National Guard. But only a very few turned up, and those who did shouted “Down with Guizot!”

During the night calm was restored. The last barricades were taken and the outbreak appeared to be over.

On Wednesday morning, however, the revolt began again with renewed vigour. A large part of the centre of Paris lying to the east of the Rue Montmartre was strongly barricaded; after eleven o'clock the troops no longer dared venture in there. The National Guard gathered in large numbers, but only to hold the troops back from any attacks on the people and to shout “Down with Guizot, long live the Reform!”

There were 50,000 soldiers in Paris, disposed according to Marshal Gérard’s defence plan[313] and holding all strategic points. But these points were so numerous that all of the troops were kept busy with them and were thus already forced into inaction. Apart from the Municipal Guard there were almost no soldiers free for an offensive. Gérard’s excellent plan was of infinite help to the outbreak; it paralysed the troops and made it easier for them to maintain the passivity to which they were in any case inclined. The detached forts also proved to be anything but beneficial to the government. They had to be kept manned and thus also withdrew a considerable section of the troops from the battle area. No one thought of a bombardment. In general not a single person gave a thought to the fact that these bastilles even existed. One more proof how fruitless are all defence plans against a mass revolt in a great city!

Towards noon the outcry against the Ministry in the ranks of the National Guard was so strong that several colonels sent word to the Tuileries that they would not hold themselves responsible for their regiments if the Ministry were to remain.

At two o'clock the aged Louis Philippe was forced to drop Guizot and form a new Ministry. Hardly had this been made public when the National Guard went home in jubilation and illuminated their houses.

But the people, the workers, the only ones who had erected the barricades, battled with the Municipal Guard and thrown themselves against the bullets, the bayonets and the horses’ hoofs, these workers had no desire to fight merely for M. Molé and M. Billault.[314] They continued the struggle. While the Boulevard des Italiens was full of joy and jubilation, there was heavy shooting in the Rue Sainte-Avoie and Rambuteau. The battle lasted long into the night and was continued on Thursday morning. Evidence of the general participation of the workers in the battle was the tearing up of the rails on all the railways around Paris.

The bourgeoisie has made its revolution, it has toppled Guizot and with him the exclusive rule of the Stock Exchange grandees. Now, however, in the second act of the struggle, it is no longer one section of the bourgeoisie confronting another, now the proletariat confronts the bourgeoisie.

News has just arrived that the people have won and proclaimed the Republic. We confess that we had not dared hope for this brilliant success by the Paris proletariat.

Three members of the provisional government belong to the definitely democratic party, whose organ is the Réforme. The fourth is a worker — for the first time in any country in the world. The others are Lamartine, Dupont de l'Eure and two men from the National.[315] By this glorious revolution the French proletariat has again placed itself at the head of the European movement. All honour to the workers of Paris! They have given the world an impulse which will be felt by every country in turn; for the victory of the Republic in France means the victory of democracy in the whole of Europe.

Our age, the age of democracy, is breaking. The flames of the Tuileries and the Palais Royal are the dawn of the proletariat. Everywhere the rule of the bourgeoisie will now, come crashing down, or be dashed to pieces.

Germany, we hope, will follow. Now or never will it raise itself from its degradation. If the Germans have any energy, any pride or any courage, then in a month’s time we too shall be able to shout:

Long live the German Republic!”