Warning to the People (25 February 1851)

What obstacle threatens the revolution of tomorrow?1 It is the same obstacle that blocked the revolution of yesterday – the deplorable popularity of bourgeois disguised as tribunes.

Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, Crémieux, Marie, Lamartine, Garnier-Pagès, Dupont (de l’Eure), Flocon, Albert, Arago, Marrast! What a dismal list! Sinister names written in blood on all the paving stones of democratic Europe.

It is the provisional government that killed the Revolution! It is upon its head that the responsibility for all the disasters, for the blood of so many thousands of victims, must fall. Reaction simply followed its vocation when it slit democracy’s throat. The crime was committed by the traitors whom the trusting people had accepted as guides and who then delivered them into the hands of reaction.

Contemptible government! Despite clamour and entreaties, it imposed the forty-five centime tax that stirred up the desperate countryside; it maintained the royalist administrators, the royalist magistrates, the royalist laws. Treason! It attacked the workers of Paris on 16 April,2 and imprisoned those of Limoges; it gunned down those of Rouen on the 27th;3 it unleashed all their executioners; it deceived and hunted down all sincere republicans. Treason! Treason! It and it alone must bear the terrible burden of all of the calamities that have all but wiped out the revolution!

Oh! they are the real culprits, the most guilty of the guilty – those whom the people, deceived by the words of tribunes, saw as their sword and shield; those they enthusiastically proclaimed to be the arbiters of their future. Woe betide us if, on the eve of the next popular victory, the forgetful indulgence of the masses allows even a single one of these men who betrayed their mandate to take power! Were this to happen a second time, that would be the end of the revolution! Let the workers forever have this list of accursed names before their eyes, and if one of them should ever appear in a government that emerges from insurrection, let them all cry out with one voice: treason! Once again, speeches, sermons and programs would be nothing but lies and ploys; the same jugglers would return to perform the same act, with the same bag of tricks; they would form the same link in a new and more violent chain of reaction. Anathema and vengeance against them should they ever dare reappear! Shame and pity on the stupidity of the crowd, should they again fall into their trap!

It is not enough that the charlatans who cheated us of February be ejected for good from the Hôtel de Ville; we must guard ourselves against new traitors.

Any new government will be treasonous if, once established upon the proletarian bulwark, it does not instantly undertake the following measures: (1) the disarmament of the bourgeois guards, and (2) the armament and organisation of all workers into a national militia. There are doubtless many other essential measures, but they would emerge naturally from this first act, which is the prerequisite guarantee, the only solid basis of security for the people. Not one rifle must remain in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Without this, there can be no salvation!

The diverse doctrines which today contend for the sympathy of the masses may one day fulfil their promises of improvement and well-being, but only on condition that they do not abandon the prey for its shadow. They will lead only to lamentable failure if the people, obsessed exclusively with theory, neglect the only certain practical factor, force! Arms and organisation, these are the decisive elements of progress, the serious means of putting an end to destitution [misère]! He who has iron, has bread. People bow down before bayonets; a disarmed crowd is swept aside. But a France bristling with workers in arms means the advent of socialism. In the presence of armed proletarians, all obstacles, resistances and impossibilities will disappear.

But, for those proletarians who allow themselves to be distracted by ridiculous parades through the streets, by the planting of liberty trees, by the honeyed words of lawyers, there will first be holy water, then insults, and finally, grapeshot – and destitution forever!

Let the people make their choice.

Belle-Île-en-Mer prison, 10 February 1851.

  1. Source: MF, 165-167, based on the manuscript in MSS 9580, f. 19. In February 1851 Emmanuel Barthélemy, a member of the revolutionary exile community in London, sent a request to Blanqui for a speech or toast to be delivered in his absence at an émigré banquet celebrating the third anniversary of the February Revolution. Blanqui was incensed to learn that former members of the Provisional Government would be taking part in the event. He responded by sending this brief text to warn his followers against any form of rapprochement or alliance with those he deemed responsible for the revolution’s defeat. Although originally intended only for his supporters, Blanqui’s text was soon made public and its uncompromising critique of Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin and other members of the Provisional Government divided opinion among the exile community. Marx and Engels reproduced the text in a widely disseminated leaflet published later in February 1851.
  2.  A major demonstration organised by the radical republican clubs took place in Paris on 16 April to press the Provisional Government into adopting more left-wing policies.
  3.  Workers rose up in Limoges and Rouen in April 1848 in response to the election of the relatively conservative Assembly and the prospect of continued unemployment. The revolts were severely repressed by government troops.