Concerning the Clamour Against the ‘Warning to the People’ (April 1851)

Yes, the newspapers are right:1 the language from before 15 May [1848] is back, it is the return of the Blanqui club,2 of snippets of its speeches, and the unanimous outcry aroused by the mere reappearance of ideas from that time demonstrates just how far the revolution has retreated. It is these ideas that stirred up reactionaries of all shades, from Henri V to Louis Blanc; these are the ideas that were pursued and attacked through slander, through violence, through calls for death; the ideas that incited the anger of the Provisional Government, its police intrigues, its arrest warrants. Under the pressure of numerous attacks these ideas – and with them, democracy – succumbed. Their defeat opened the floodgates to the tide of reaction that continues to rise. In the popular ranks, how many times have people cried out: ‘Blanqui was right!’ How many men, converted by what they soon learned from experience, have recalled that accuracy of prediction, that gift of second sight which, in a way, illuminated him amidst the universal blindness! ‘It is just as he said!’, it has so often been repeated, and this belated realisation, this expression of regret and repentance was a rehabilitation, an honourable making of amends.

But now the prophet is speaking once again. Is it to point out an unknown horizon, to reveal a new world? No, it is to brood over the old preachings of his club. All the newspapers are republishing them. On the eve of what might prove to be similar disappointments, he comes to repeat his warnings. Confronted with dangers that may return in identical form, he raises the alarm: ‘Proletarians, be on your guard!’ And immediately, from within the same factions, rises the old chorus of anathemas that call for his head to be sacrificed to the Furies.

These factions thus want to go back to 1848 and start again! As if nothing has changed, neither in intentions nor in acts!

We are presented today with nothing but programmes, that is, an additional set of lies, a new mystification, prelude to a new apostasy. Those who repeat their imprecations of 1848 against the popular sentinel are preparing a new version of their original deceptions, and at this very moment they are rediscovering their old accomplices from among the self-interested of all stripes, as well as their usual dupes amidst the people, the people who are forever treated with scorn but who remain forever credulous because they are forever ignorant and wretched [malheureux]. The coalition [of all these parties] is re-forming and arising as a single man.

‘Are we going to see the scenes of February once again?’ ‘No! No!’, respond both the rogues and the dupes in chorus. The lesson has borne fruit: the people see clearly. They now have slogans, programmes, lighthouses for the imminent storms, false saviours who guide them into port.

Or as it would be more accurate to say: will-o’-the-wisps of perdition who shall steer them onto the rocks.

Let us consider these things a little, these recipes, these panaceas that are spreading through the newspapers columns, both large and small! Let us consider government by the people, for the people and all the other balderdash, all the fantasies paraded in front of the poor worker, who takes them seriously while the actors burst out laughing in the wings.

Given the indifference and disdain with which our lords and masters greet these beautiful masterpieces – masters who are so jealous of their privileges, so touchy when it comes to their domination – how can the proletarians fail to see that these self-styled gospels are nothing but hollow announcements written by charlatans? Programmes? Have we so quickly forgotten the harangues of messieurs Ledru-Rollin and Louis Blanc before February [1848]? Did not the newspapers formulate through the mouths of these tribunes, at the banquets of Lille, Dijon, and Chalôns, the magnificent code of Equality that was to be inaugurated immediately after the revolution? What has become of these solemn commitments?

The comedy of programmes is not properly understood, so allow me to explain how it is performed. Upon ascending to the Hôtel de Ville you toss them aside. Then the day royalism kicks you back down the stairs, with the royalist boot in your behind, you gather their soiled tatters up out of the gutter. You wipe them off, smooth them down, repair them, refresh them, and parade them around to much fanfare before a wonderstruck crowd. Why should the Reaction care? It knows the true worth of these scraps of paper too well to be concerned about them. It knows where they came from and to where they will return, when the time comes. It calmly leaves the entertainers to display them on their fairgrounds, the better to mystify the passers-by.

But suppose that a man who is sincere, who puts aside this fantastic mirage of programmes, these fogs of the kingdom of Utopia, who leaves the domain of fiction so as to return to reality – suppose such a man makes a serious and practical statement: ‘Disarm the bourgeoisie, arm the people, this is the primary requirement, the sole guarantee of the salvation of the revolution.’ Oh! Then indifference vanishes; a long howl of fury echoes from one end of France to the other. There are cries of sacrilege, of parricide, of hydrophobia. Anger is stirred up, unleashed against this man; he is damned to the infernal gods for having modestly spelled out the most basic words of common sense.

What! Have we forgotten the tragedy of June? Have we forgotten [the way that every inch of Paris was searched from top to bottom],3 the way Paris was disarmed, garrotted, gagged, trembling, writhing beneath outrages that even foreign armies spared it when they were the masters of its walls! What! An ounce of gunpowder, the handle of a sword, the butt of a pistol found in the miserable attic of a worker was enough to condemn this unfortunate soul to rot in the depths of the dungeons! And, in your own moment of victory, you yourselves hesitate! You retreat before the disarmament of an implacable caste whose only way of relating to the people is to exterminate them!

The prestige of its time-honoured power impresses you, and the memory of its acts of violence ensures its inviolability. Well then, you race of slaves who do not dare raise your eyes or hands against your tyrants! Rebels one day, repentant and prostrated the next, continue to cower in your poverty and servitude! Do not attempt to break your chains! You would only have to re-solder them with your own hands. Do not make any more revolutions, so as to save yourselves at least the shame of apologising for them on your knees.

  1. Source: TC, 103-5 and MF, 168-71. Blanqui wrote this text as a response to criticisms in the press of his ‘Warning to the People’, which had been published in La Patrie on 27 February 1851.
  2.  Blanqui is referring here to the Société Républicaine Centrale of 1848, popularly known at the time as ‘le club Blanqui’.
  3.  This clause is an editorial insertion in the French text of MF.