For the Red Flag (26 February 1848)

We are no longer in 1793!1  We are in 1848!

The tricolour flag is no longer the flag of the Republic. It is that of Louis-Philippe and the monarchy.

It is the tricolour flag that presided over the massacres of the rue Transnonain, of the faubourg de Vaise, of Saint-Etienne.2 It has been bathed twenty times in the blood of the workers.

The people raised the red banner on the barricades of ’48, just as they raised it on those of June 1832,3 April 1834 and May 1839.4 It has received the double consecration of defeat and victory. From this day forward, this banner is theirs. Only yesterday it flew, gloriously, from the fronts of our buildings. Today reaction ignominiously drags it through mud and dares besmirch it with its slanders.

It is said to be a flag of blood. It is red only with the blood of the martyrs who made it the standard of the Republic. Its fall is an insult to the people, a profanation of its dead. The flag of the Municipal Guard will now shade their graves.

Reaction has already been unleashed. It can be recognised by its violence. The men of the royalist faction roam the streets, casting insults and threats, tearing the red colours from citizens’ lapels.

Workers! Your flag is falling. Pay close attention! The republic will not be long in following it.

  1. Source: MF, 135, based on the manuscript in MSS 9590(2), f. 458. Blanqui wrote this short prophetic text in response to the Provisional Government’s decision to retain the tricolour (adopted by the Orléaniste monarchy in 1830 as a symbolic concession to republican sentiment) as the national flag; he later described it as ‘my first act of hostility against the Provisional Government’ (see MSS 9590(2), f. 457, May 1862).
  2.  In response to the bloody repression of the canuts (silk-workers) revolt in Lyon during the week of 9-14 April 1834, popular revolts against the government took place in cities across the country, including Saint-Etienne, Grenoble, and Marseille Paris also witnessed an uprising on 13 and 14 April 1834. As troops cleared a barricade along rue Transnonain on the morning of the 14th they came under sniper fire, and responded by indiscriminately killing a dozen inhabitants of a nearby house. The event, depicted in Honoré Daumier’s lithograph Le Massacre de la Rue Transnonain, became an enduring symbol of the revolt.
  3. A reference to the revolt of 5-6 June 1832 in Paris, later depicted in Victor’s Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862).
  4.  A reference to the Société des Saisons’ failed coup attempt of 12-13 May 1839.