Marx and Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung June 1848

The 25h of June

Source: MECW Volume 7, p. 139;
Written: by Engels on June 28, 1848;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 29, June 29, 1848.

Every day the intensity, violence and fury of the battle increased. The bourgeoisie became more and more ruthless towards the insurgents the more its brutality failed to lead to immediate success, the more it was itself becoming exhausted as a result of fighting, night-watches and bivouacking, and the closer it came to final victory.

The bourgeoisie declared the workers to be not ordinary enemies who have to be defeated but enemies of society who must be destroyed. The bourgeois spread the absurd assertion that the workers, whom they themselves had forcibly driven to revolt, were interested only in plunder, arson and murder and that they were a gang of robbers who had to be shot down like beasts in the forest. Yet, for 3 days the insurgents held a large part of the city and behaved with great restraint. Paris. would have been reduced to ruins but they would have triumphed had they used the same violent means as were employed by the bourgeoisie and its mercenaries led by Cavaignac.

AD the details show with what barbarism the bourgeois conducted themselves during the fighting. Disregarding for the moment the grape-shot, the shells, and the incendiary rockets which they used, it is an established fact that they gave no quarter at most of the captured barricades. The bourgeois massacred everyone they found there without exception. In the evening of the 24th over 50 captured insurgents were shot in the Allée de l'Observatoire without any trial. “It is a war of extermination,” writes a correspondent of the Indépendance belge. which itself is a bourgeois paper. On all the barricades it was understood that the insurgents would be killed without exception.

When Larochejaquelein said in the National Assembly that something should be done to counteract this belief, the bourgeois would not even let him finish speaking but made such a clamour that the President had to put on his hat and suspend the session. The same kind of clamour broke out again when M. Senard himself later (see below, session of the Assembly) wanted to say a few hypocritical words of mildness and reconciliation. The bourgeois did not want to hear of forbearance. Even at the risk of losing part of their property by a bombardment, they were determined to put an end once and for all to the enemies of order, to plunderers, robbers, incendiaries and communists.

Yet the bourgeois did not display any of that heroism which their journals attempted to attribute to them. From today’s session of the National Assembly it is clear that the national guard was paralysed with fear at the outbreak of the insurrection. In spite of all the pompous phrases, reports from all the newspapers of the most diverse trends reveal that on the first day the national guard was very weak, that on the second and third day Cavaignac had to get them out of bed and that he had a corporal and four soldiers lead them into battle. The fanatical hatred of the bourgeois for the revolutionary workers was not capable of overcoming their natural cowardice.

The workers on the other hand fought with unequalled bravery. Although they were less and less capable of replacing their casualties and more and more pushed back by superior strength, they did not tire for one moment. Already from the morning of the 25th they must have realised that the chance of victory had decisively turned against them. Masses upon masses of new troops arrived from all regions. Large contingents of the national guard came to Paris from the outskirts and more distant towns. The regular troops who fought on the 25th numbered 40,000 more men than the normal garrison. In addition, there was the mobile guard of 20,000 to 25,000 men as well as national guard units from Paris and other towns. Moreover, there were several thousand men from the republican guard. The entire armed force which took the field against the insurrection on the 25th certainly numbered some 150,000 to 200,000 men, whereas the workers had at most a quarter of that strength, had less ammunition, no military leadership and no serviceable cannon. Yet they fought silently and desperately against colossal superior strength. Masses upon masses of troops moved on the breaches in the barricades which the heavy guns had created; the workers met them without uttering a sound and fought everywhere down to the last man before they let a barricade fall into the hands of the bourgeois. On Montmartre the insurgents called out to the inhabitants: Either we shall be cut to pieces or we shall cut the others to pieces, but we will not budge. Pray God that we may win because otherwise we shall burn down all Montmartre. This threat, which was not even carried out, counts, of course, as a “despicable plan”, whereas Cavaignac’s shells and incendiary rockets “are skilful military measures which are admired by everyone"!

On the morning of the 25th, the insurgents occupied the following positions: the Clos Saint Lazare, the suburbs of St. Antoine and du Temple, the Marais and the Quartier Saint Antoine.

The Clos Saint Lazare (the former monastery precinct) is a large expanse of land which is partly built on and partly covered as yet only with houses in construction, streets merely laid out etc. The Northern Railway Station is situated exactly in its middle. In this quarter, which has many irregularly placed buildings and a lot of building material, the insurgents had established a mighty stronghold. Its centre was the Louis Philippe Hospital which was under construction. They had raised imposing barricades which were described by eyewitnesses as quite impregnable. Behind them was the city wall which was hemmed in and occupied by the insurgents. From there their fortifications ran to the rue Rochechouart, that is to the area of the barrières. The barrières of Montmartre were heavily defended and Montmartre itself was completely occupied by them. Forty cannon, which had been firing at them for two days, had not yet reduced them.

Once again the 40 cannon bombarded these fortifications during the entire day. At last, at 6 in the evening, the two barricades at the rue Rochechouart were taken and soon thereafter the Clos Saint Lazare also fell.

At 10 a.m. the mobile guard captured several houses on the boulevard du Temple from which the insurgents had directed their bullets into the ranks of the attackers. The “defenders of order” had advanced approximately to the boulevard des Filles du Calvaire. The insurgents, in the meantime, were driven further and further into the Faubourg du Temple. The Saint Martin Canal was seized in places and from here as well as from the boulevard, the broad and straight streets were taken under heavy artillery fire. The battle was unusually violent. The workers knew full well that here the core of their position was being attacked and they defended themselves

furiously. They even recaptured barricades which they had earlier been forced to abandon. After a long battle, however, they were crushed by the superiority of numbers and weapons. One barricade after another fell. At nightfall, not only the Faubourg du Temple, but, by way of the boulevard and the canal, the approaches to the Faubourg Saint Antoine and several barricades in the faubourg had also been captured.

At the Hôtel de Ville, General Duvivier made slow but steady progress. Moving from the direction of the quays, he made a flanking attack upon the barricades of the rue Saint Antoine and, at the same time, used heavy guns against the Île St. Louis and the former Île Louvier. [112] Here, too, a very bitter battle was fought, details of which are lacking, however. All that is known is that at four o'clock the Mairie of the ninth arrondissement and the adjacent streets were captured, that one after another the barricades of the rue Saint Antoine were stormed and that the Damiette Bridge, which gave access to the Île Saint Louis, was taken. At nightfall, the insurgents here had everywhere been driven off and all access routes to the Place de la Bastille had been freed.

Thus the insurgents had been driven out of all parts of the city with the exception of the Faubourg Saint Antoine. This was their strongest position. The many approaches to this faubourg, which had been the real focus of all Paris insurrections, were guarded with special skill. Slanting barricades covering each other, reinforced by cross-fire from the houses, represented a terrifying objective for an attack. Storming them would have cost an infinite number of lives.

The bourgeois, or rather their mercenaries, were encamped in front of these fortifications. The national guard had done little that day. The regular troops and the mobile guard had accomplished most of the work. The national guard occupied the quiet and conquered parts of the city.

The worst conduct was displayed by the republican guard and the mobile guard. The newly organised and purged republican guard fought the workers with great animosity and thereby won its spurs as the republican municipal guard.[113]

The mobile guard, which was mostly recruited from the Paris lumpenproletariat, has already during its brief period of existence, thanks to good pay, transformed itself into the praetorian guard of whoever was in power. The organised lumpenproletariat has given battle to the unorganised working proletariat. It has, as was to be expected, placed itself at the disposal of the bourgeoisie, just as the lazzaroni in Naples placed themselves at the disposal of Ferdinand. Only those detachments of the mobile guard that consisted of real workers changed sides.

But in what a contemptible light the entire present state of affairs in Paris appears when one observes how these former beggars, vagabonds, rogues, gutter-snipes and small-time thieves of the mobile guard are being pampered, praised, rewarded and decorated when only in March and April every bourgeois described them as a ruffianly gang of robbers capable of all sorts of reprehensible acts, no longer to be tolerated. These “young heroes”, these “children of Paris”, whose courage is unrivalled, who climb barricades with the most dashing bravery etc., are treated that way because these ignorant barricade fighters of February now fire just as ignorantly upon the working proletariat as they had formerly fired upon soldiers, because they let themselves he bribed to massacre their brothers for thirty sous a day! Honour to these corrupt vagabonds because they have shot down the best and most revolutionary part of the Parisian workers for thirty sous a day!

The courage with which the workers have fought is truly marvellous. For three full days, 30,000 to 40,000 workers were able to hold their own against more than 80,000 soldiers and 100,000 men of the national guard, against grape-shot, shells, incendiary rockets and the glorious war experiences of generals who did not shrink from using methods employed in Algeria! They have been crushed and in large part massacred. Their dead will not be accorded the honour that was bestowed upon the dead of July and February. History, however, will assign an entirely different place to them, the martyrs of the first decisive battle of the proletariat.