To the Mountain of 1793! To the Pure Socialists, its True Heirs! (3 December 1848)


The Mountain had sublime inspirations, offspring of the Gospel and Philosophy. But it never devised the kind of positive theories that emerge only slowly from a ruthless analysis of the social body, just as the art of healing is born of the revelations of anatomy.

Nevertheless, if it lacked science and organisation, its good-hearted enthusiasm sufficed to inspire the immortal formula of the future: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and that admirable symbol, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which, broadly interpreted, contains the seeds of all the developments of future society.

Unfortunately, works of genius that shake the world are destined to perish, asphyxiated beneath the clouds of incense in which superstitious admirers drown them. The vivifying spirit of the Master is killed, suffocated by narrow observance of the text.

The Law of Moses succumbed to the desperate embrace of the Pharisees; the Koran will die out, petrified by the immobility of its thoughtless sectarians. And the Gospel itself would have been almost buried in its tomb by the idolatrous hands of its disciples-turned-gravediggers, if its immortal ideas, escaping from the icy remains around which they remained kneeling, had not reappeared, shining still more brightly in the new incarnation that is sure to perpetuate it for humanity.

The Declaration of Rights, a formula that was born only yesterday, is already suffering the same fate as the old dogmas which, during their period of decay, almost always become instruments of reaction against the redeeming labours of the initial revealers. The Judaic cult of the letter killed the revolutionary spirit of the symbol.

The militant life of the Mountain was brief and, like that of Christ, it ended on Golgotha. But its acts are a resounding commentary on its words, and provide the true meaning of the teachings it spread across the world.

Like Jesus – consoler of the poor, enemy of the powerful – the Mountain loved those who suffer and hated those who cause suffering. The salient trait of its existence was its close alliance with the Parisian proletariat – not because it had a sense of profound affection for only one city, but because, among so many populations equally laid low by suffering, it found at hand and ready to fight this energetic group, impassioned by consciousness of its sufferings. The Mountain therefore made it the liberating army of humankind.

From 10 August [1792], when the monarchy fell, until the final convulsion of the faubourgs on 4 Prairial [1795], the people and the Mountain marched as one through the course of the Revolution, inseparable both in victory and defeat.

This is certainly a magnificent role to reprise, and to do so today would be all the easier, since the struggle of 1793 has just begun to start up again in this year of 1848, on the same battlefield, between the same combatants and, strange as it might seem, with almost the same daily episodes.

What do we see?

As in 1793, privilege battling with equality and, as their respective champions, a reactionary legislative majority clashing with the masses of Parisian democracy.

Will we therefore see, once again, the Mountain and its faithful solidarity with the people in arms? This great name has indeed reappeared! All the soldiers of the young phalanx bear it with pride and swear to follow bravely in the footsteps of their predecessors.

Silence! The gates swing open and the action begins.

What do I hear? Under the pretext of fraternity, Monsieur Ledru-Rollin, the new leader of the Holy Mount, imperiously demands, contrary to the people’s wishes, the return of troops to the capital. Is this, I wonder, faithful to the tradition of the Mountain? Opening my history book I read that the Gironde, trembling in anger and fright under the pressure of the faubourgs, demanded the formation of a camp of twenty thousand men at the city gates to protect the national representatives – and the Mountain rose up against this liberticidal project, threatened the majority, and after a brave fight finally prevailed on this life or death question. Paris remained free.

We have been less fortunate! And yet, to keep the soldiers at a distance from this bloody arena of civil war, where they would be met with only hatred or death, was indeed, I believe, to treat them as brothers! Our Montagnards preferred fraternization in the streets…; and long may this come easily to them!

What do we see now? The people march in columns from the Champ de Mars to the Hôtel de Ville, and Monsieur Ledru-Rollin, leader of the Mountain, makes sure they are squeezed between two ranks of bayonets; and then he sets the raging counter-revolution on the anarchists! I never saw such a manoeuvre carried out in the campaigns of either Marat or Danton. Did the hero of the Rappel2 read his Montagnard theory incorrectly that day?

But now there is yet another adventure! Who is that on horseback at the head of the National Guard? Why, it is Monsieur Ledru-Rollin, leader of the Mountain, leading the victorious reaction to the Hôtel de Ville – and patriotic prisoners to the dungeons of Vincennes.

What a marvel! And is it not Monsieur Ledru-Rollin who puts forward, and the Mountain that passes, the draconian law against public gatherings? Indeed it is.

Ah! Good heavens! Are these Montagnards nothing but Girondins? And yet I read the name of Robespierre on their banners.

Be patient! In keeping with our historical parallel, no scene from the past drama will be missing from that of today. As before, the rising tide of hostilities between a reactionary majority and the Parisian workers inevitably had to lead to a May 31.3 And such an insurrection did indeed break out! Not on May 15 – a grotesque day! – but on June 23.

On that day the great army of the Mountain was ready! And what did we see? Our Mountain impostors threw off their carmagnoles and their bonnets rouges,4 and roused from all sides the stored up anger of the federalists, unleashing the provincial counter-revolutionary masses on Paris like an avalanche!

The affront of 31 May was avenged; the rebellious Babylon was punished! And by whom? By the Mountain! Woe to the vanquished! The combatants of June have drunk the chalice right down to the dregs. Crimes are eagerly being imputed to them. Had they emerged victorious then everyone would have sought to take pride of place beneath their flag. But they are dead, and everyone spits anathema on them. The reactionaries depict them as escapees from penal colonies; the Mountain says they are in the pay of monarchism. What was the purpose of the latter insult? What was the aim of this fable of Russian gold, and the ridiculous search for dynastic recruiters [of the insurrectionary workers]? As if royalty could today inspire anyone to lift a single paving stone!

Why have you stooped to this pathetic tactic which makes both your friends and enemies laugh with pity? No doubt to prevent any solidarity with the vanquished! But everyone knows there is nothing in common between you and them. Your artillery offers sufficient proof of your innocence.

Perhaps you have had to justify your use of artillery, at least a little, to allow other people to see things properly; and so you go seeking imaginary ringleaders at the expense of the honour of the dead.

What! The people of Paris, the precursors of the future, the pioneers of humanity – this prophetic and martyred people are supposed to be nothing but a herd of animals that Pitt and Cobourg might coax to the slaughterhouse with a handful of salt! And all this because it pleased Monsieur Ledru-Rollin to harangue them with cannon fire. Shoot, gentlemen, but do not slander! 26 June is one of those ill-fated days that the revolution can only claim in tears, like a mother claiming the body of her son!

So all of you, you great anonymous men who sank by the thousands into mass graves, you poor Lazaruses struck down by bullets in the great hunt for those in rags – you were nothing but the tools and mercenaries of royalism!

You too, Colfavru, Thuillier,5 monuments to the justice and clemency of our masters, unfortunate victims of prison barges, writers struck from behind, noble martyrs of the press for whom the press itself offered not one word of support or farewell! And you, Jarasse, Herbulet, Petremann, my old companions at Mont Saint-Michel, brave soldiers of May [1839] and February, thrice guilty of the crime of scorning the military – confined now to your lion’s pit, know that the Kabylian razzia swept you away as enemies of the republic!

As for the saviours of the republic, the Brutuses, the Scaevolas, they are the generals and aides-de-camp of Louis-Philippe, the marquis of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the saintly militias of the church congregations. But they are also the gloriously decorated men of June, all them furious royalists only yesterday, princes and dukes, intrepid leaders of the rural National Guard. And finally… they are the Chouans6 who, upon the call of the priests, rose up en masse to attack Paris! Well! Did they perhaps do this to take revenge on 1793, to avenge the old insults of the impious city? Not at all! It was to defend the republic, we are told, against the Parisian royalist brigands!

Oh the old formulas! Ignes fatui, that cause mountains to sink into swamps.7 This is the result of your blows! You have turned our senators into vicars and marabouts murmuring prayers they no longer understand. But this is not your fault. You have always been frank, but the Mountain’s senses have been weakened! During the past fifty years the world has changed, and yet they have remained immobile. Science has forged more certain weapons for the people; it has cleared for us a wider and more direct way. But the Mountain stubbornly holds to the old beaten tracks, in old worn out attire, and they condemn as sacrilegious any novelty unknown to our fathers.

These Epimenides8 fell asleep during a session of the Convention and upon awakening inadvertently took their places on the benches of the right. And then out they came, performing the year 1793 before their audience, with its words, costumes and decors – everything, in short, except for the meaning of the play, like those Elleviou and Malibran of Quimper-Corentin9 who think they will find the voice of their lead performer in a well-furnished costume room.

The first act opened with a command to wear vests à la Robespierre. The performance goes on, and we will be spared not a couplet nor line. The slightest alteration to the script will result in its criminal author being sent before the revolutionary tribunal.

Our Epimenides recognise no other living beings than the dead of 1793, and, whether they like it or not, they assign everyone a role in their play. Currently it is the second Cordelier Club that is on stage. A deputy (who used to cut a more striking figure in the Salle Taitbout theatre than he does today in political gatherings at rue Taitbout)10 was the first to detect and denounce an Hébertist conspiracy; then the men of the Mountain immediately picked up the scent.

They claim that, in order to fool the bloodhounds who are chasing them, the guilty parties have changed their names; Hébert is now called Proudhon and Chaumette, Raspail. They are searching all over for disguised versions of Ronsin, Momoro, Vincent, Anacharsis Cloots, Bishop Gobel.11 A warning to the priest of Saint Eustache, who is a socialist: if he falls into their hands I would advise him that in order to be freed he should protest that he is not Father Gobel but rather Abbé Grégoire, and then he would be smothered in excuses and caresses. Our Jacobins asked monsieur Buchez12 to illuminate their searches with the lantern of his Histoire parlementaire de la Révolution Française. Imagine their surprise when he answered them, angrily: ‘There is no need to keep looking! You are the Hébertists, for you do not admire the Saint Bartholomew’s massacre.’

It appears that at the moment of the abrupt awakening of 24 February [1848] all of our sleepers somehow managed to confuse each others’ faces, to such an extent that in the midst of this chaos of unmatched physiognomies the disoriented monsieur Buchez mistook Girondins for Hébertists, while the former considered themselves to be Montagnards. Some then rushed for clarification from Pierre Leroux, author of the Renaissance dans l’humanité. But the patriarch told his questioners, in his gentle voice, that they were missing the point; no doubt individuals are indefinitely reborn from generation to generation, but perfected and improved – and that as a result there were no more, and could no longer be, any Girondins, Montagnards or Hébertists.

This response convinced no-one, and active searching continues. We already have proof that Le Peuple – the newspaper of the new Hébert, Proudhon – is in fact nothing but the former Père Duchêne, in a different style. These buffooneries would be very amusing if their consequences had not become so tragic. Unfortunately, in this play every scene that provokes uncontrollable laughter immediately engenders another of tears and blood. The unexpected dénouement of their first performance was partly concealed from the actors themselves.

They imagined in good faith that they were acting for the benefit and not at the expense of the workers. They will perhaps console themselves for the misadventure with the thought that they were performing in a play with two endings, in the Ducis style, one happy and the other sad, and that everything that has gone wrong stemmed from a misleading variant in the script. Nevertheless, this mass of unexpected incidents, of situations improvised outside and against the libretto, seriously demoralises them and leads them to ponder the fickleness of their audience. Political romanticism has decidedly perverted people’s spirits. In no condition to resist the torrent and to maintain the classical tradition in its integrity, the academicians of the Mountain resign themselves, albeit with pain, to make some sacrifices to the follies of the moment and to dress up the old repertoire in the new style of today.

Rags cut from Proudhon, Leroux, Cabet and Fourier have been sewed into Robespierre’s worn-out coat, and from this patchwork they have put together a most eclectic and picturesque costume – a vulgar harlequin’s suit, now hung up as a sign at the doors of the theatre and occasionally carried around the streets with great pomp for the edification of the crowd.

Shining on the breast of this mannequin, flaunting their trompe l’oeil, are all the socialist labels, to the great chagrin of their legitimate owners, the innovators who see their slogans turned into advertisements for the Hôtel des Invalides. These fraudulent appropriations force us to clarify and lengthen our own motto with endless epithets. Is it not disastrous to call oneself by a name more interminable than that of a Spanish grandee, and to need half an hour to issue one’s rallying cry?

We have been the victims of the most abominable of ambushes. It is we socialists, the alleged despoilers, whom everyone shamelessly despoils at will. Everything has been taken from us, right up to our name; soon even our shadows will be stolen. What is more, in pillaging us the men of the Mountain, these youngest converts to reaction, have done nothing but follow the example of their elders. Just as today they steal our title of socialist, yesterday their forebears snatched our title of republican.

Yes, this fine name ‘republican’, once outlawed and scorned by the counter-revolution, was impudently stolen by it so that it could crown itself with the laurels of our victory.13 It also stole from us, with the same audacity, our sublime motto of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’, which for so long it had insulted and covered with mud as the symbol of blood and death.

Fortunately it rejected our [red] flag. This was a mistake… it remains ours.

Citizens, the Mountain is dead!

Long live socialism, its sole heir!

  1.  Source: MF, 150-159, based on the text in MSS 9580, f. 30; more legible manuscript versions can be found at MSS 9581, ff. 1-10, and MSS 9584(2), ff. 1-15. This text was written as a toast to be delivered at a workers’ banquet on 3 December 1848, which had chosen Blanqui as its honorary president; it was published by Le Peuple the same day. The ‘Mountain’ refers to the most radical group of deputies to the National Convention 1792-94, including Robespierre and Marat, who sat on raised benches to the far left of the hall.
  2.  This may be a reference to proposals to recall troops to preserve order in Paris, in the immediate wake of the demonstration of 17 March 1848, which Blanqui had helped to organise; as Geoffroy notes, ‘le lendemain, le rappel des troupes est réclamé’ (Geoffroy, L’Enfermé, 222). We are grateful to Dominique Le Nuz for this suggestion.
  3. A reference to the popular insurrection of 31 May 1793 that brought about the fall of the Girondin.
  4.  Short jackets and liberty caps worn during the French Revolution.
  5.  Jean-Claude Colfavru (1820-91), secretary of the Club des Hommes Libres, edited the neo-Hébertiste newspaper Le Père Duchêne (in print from 10 April to 22 August 1848), together with Émile Thuillier; both were imprisoned for their alleged involvement in the June Days.
  6.  A reference to royalist uprisings in the west of France during the French Revolution.
  7.  In the French revolutionary Convention of 1792-94, the swamp or plain (marais) was made up of the moderate delegates, who sat to the right of the Mountain.
  8.  A reference to the mythical Epimenides of Knossos, a Cretan sage, who fell asleep in a cave for fifty-seven years when out searching for a sheep.
  9.  Jean Elleviou and Maria Malibran were celebrated French opera singers. The hermit Corentin (d. 460 AD), first bishop of Quimper, was venerated as a saint in Brittany, land of the chouans and of entrenched Catholic tradition; reference to Quimper-Corentin evokes a place that is, for Blanqui, both distant and backward.
  10.  In 1848, Ledru-Rollin and the other leaders of the self-styled Mountain met at an address on Rue Taitbout.
  11.  A reference to leading figures in the Hébertiste or ‘ultra’ wing of the Cordelier and Jacobin clubs, who were eliminated by the Committee of Public Safety in the spring of 1794; cf. Blanqui’s introduction to Gustave Tridon, Les Hébertistes (1864).
  12.  Philippe Buchez (1796-1865), once a member of the Carbonari and an admirer of Saint-Simon, published the multi-volume Histoire parlementaire de la Révolution française in the 1830s; he was briefly elected president of the Constituent Assembly in the spring of 1848.
  13.  This phrase is omitted from the version of the text published in MF, but appears in MSS 9584(2), f. 15.