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New Militant, 21 March 1936

The Great Marxist Leaders on the Commune

Frederich Engels

On the Paris Commune

From New Militant, Vol. II No. 11, 21 March 1936, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The renunciation of the belief in a hereditary monarchy and the programmatic adoption of a democratic republic are often deemed an extraordinarily audacious step. In reality, however, the state is nothing other than an instrument of oppression of one class by another; this applies equally to a democratic republic and to a monarchy. In the best case, the State is an evil to which the proletariat will fall heir after emerging victorious from the struggle for class domination. Just as in the case of the Paris Commune, the proletariat will inevitably be compelled to lop off immediately, in so far as that is possible, the worst aspects of this evil, until a new generation, growing up in a new and a free social system, will have sufficient strength to do away with all this rubbish of all State institutions whatsoever.

The German philistine has recently been struck with wholesome fear again at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well, then, gentlemen, do you want to know how this dictatorship looks? Then look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Engels’ Introduction to Marx’s Civil War in France)

* * *

Revolution is undoubtedly the most authoritarian thing in the world. Revolution is an act in which one section of the population imposes its will upon the other by means of rifles, bayonets and guns, all of which are exceedingly authoritarian implements. The victorious party is necessarily compelled to maintain its rule by means of that fear which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. If the Paris Commune had not employed the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie, would it have maintained itself more than twenty-four hours? And are we not, on the contrary, justified in reproaching the Commune for having employed this authority too little? (Frederich Engels: Über das Autoritätsprinzip)

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