Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

New Militant, 21 March 1936

The Great Marxist Leaders on the Commune

Karl Marx

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.


Workingmen’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators, history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priests will not avail to redeem them. (Civil War in France, 1871)

* * *

On the dawn of the 18th of March, Paris arose to the thunder-burstof “Vive la Commune!” What is the Commune, that sphinx so tantalizing to the bourgeois mind?

“The proletarians of Paris,” said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, “amidst the defeats and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the country by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs ... They have understood that it is their duty and their absolute right to become the masters of their own destinies, by seizing in their own hands state power.”

But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery and wield it for its own purposes. (Karl Marx: Civil War in France)

* * *

If you look over the last chapter of my Eighteenth Brumaire you will find that, in my opinion, the next attempt of the French revolution will be no longer, as before,to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it. This is the necessary premise for every real people’s revolution on the Continent. And this is what our heroic comrades in Paris are attempting. What flexibility, what historical initiative, what a capacity for sacrifice in these Parisians! After six months of hunger and ruin; caused rather by internal treachery than by the external enemy, they rise, beneath the Prussian bayonets, as if there had never been a war between France and Germany and the enemy were not at the gates of Paris. History has no like example of heroism. If they are defeated, only their “good-nature” will be to blame. They should, have marched at once on Versailles after first Vinoy and then the reactionary section of the Parisian National Guard had quit Paris. The right moment was missed because of conscientious scruples. They did not want to start the civil war, as if that monstrous abortion Thiers had not already began the civil war with his attempt to disarm Paris. Second mistake: the Central Committee surrendered its power too soon, to make way for the Commune. Again from a too “honorable” scrupulosity! Be that as it may, the present uprising in Paris – even if it be crushed by the wolves, swine and vile curs of the old society – is the most glorious deed of our party since the June insurrection in Paris. Compare these Parisians ready to storm Heaven with the slaves to heaven of the German-Prussian, Holy Roman Empire, with its antediluvian masquerades, reeking of the barracks, the Church, cabbage-Junkerdom and, above all,of philistinism. (Extract from Marx’s letter to Kugelman, April 12, 1871)

* * *

That after the most tremendous war of modern times, the conquering hosts should fraternize for the common massacre of the proletariat – this unparalleled event does indicate, not as Bismarck thinks, the final repression of a new society upheaving, but the crumbling into dust of bourgeois society. The highest heroic effort of which old society is still capable is national war: and this is now proved to be a mere government humbug, intended to defer the struggle of the classes, and to be thrown aside as soon as that class struggle bursts out in civil war. Class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are one as against the proletariat! (Civil War in France, 1871)

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 24 March 2015