Response to the Request for a Toast for a Workers’ Banquet (November 1848)


Fond memories of you have warmed my heart in the depths of this dungeon, where the winter winds blow so mournfully. You can see that ten years of relentless struggle, and fourteen years of captivity, are worth more than a moment’s fleeting imposture. Alas! Citizens, over the past nine months, how many republicans have been slaughtered, and immolated on the altar of calumny! Is it not finally time to overturn both the altar and its priests?

Let us re-form our columns that have been scattered by the storm, but let us not restore at their head those captains who defected to the enemy and fired on us in battle. These authors of our disasters again ask for a place in our ranks because reaction drove them from its own during its victory. Are we to hand ourselves over to the discretion of these renegades for a second time? They led us into the abyss and they will lead us there again. Will we, dazed and half-broken by our fall, return to following behind these sinister guides?

The popular cause would bring ridicule and opprobrium upon itself if it were to give the world the example of such stupidity. Let us not amuse Europe with the spectacle of a party whose brutish obstinacy, persisting along the road to perdition, leads it to stumble constantly on the stones along its way, and to tumble into the same ditch as before. The contempt for or the absence of ideas, the substitution of the politics of expedients for the politics of principles – this was what led to our downfall. In order to avoid this calamity in the future let us create, with clearly defined doctrines, a compass whose directions will alone serve to regulate the path of the ship. And first of all, let us dismiss the pilots whose blundering and perfidy have run it aground. In order to regain and then once again betray the confidence of the shipwrecked, you can be sure that they will now try to raise the socialist banner, as high as they can.

Enough! Let the harsh lessons of defeat enlighten our decimated party! We must not allow ourselves to be betrayed twice. Ideas can only find sincere spokesmen among people whose acts offer a resounding declaration. The political adventurers who pursue power across the various fluctuations of systems and of the masses, who present themselves as the born executors of all programmes, never serve as the instruments of principles. It is rather the principles that serve as their instruments.

And so let us rally in homogenous and compact phalanxes under the socialist banner, borne aloft by faithful hands. Let us make sure, however, that suffering and indignation do not drive the people under the enemy’s artillery. No to armed conflict! It would be lost and, moreover, it is useless. Time will grant us victory without combat. As the sun of ideas rises ever higher, we will see the black curtain lined by the glint of bayonets gradually retreat and then disappear on the horizon, like a phantom. To victory won by words!

  1.  Source: MF, 149-150, based on the manuscript in MSS 9580, ff. 143-145.