Works of Frederick Engels 1850

Letters From France

The Elections.-Glorious Victory of the Reds.-Proletarian Ascendancy.-Dismay of the Ordermongers.-New Schemes of Repression and Provocations to Revolution[44]

Source: MECW Volume 10, p. 27-29;
Written: Paris, March 22th, 1850;
First published: in The Democratic Review in April 1850.

Victory! Victory! The people have spoken, and they have spoken so loud that the artificial fabric of bourgeois rule and bourgeois plotting has been shaken to its very foundation. Carnot, Vidal, Deflotte, representatives of the people for Paris, elected by from 127,000 to 132,000 votes, that is the answer of the people to the odious provocations of the government and parliamentary majority. Carnot, the only man of the "National" fraction who, under the provisional government, instead of flattering the bourgeoisie, brought down on his head a handsome share of its hatred; Vidal, an openly pronounced communist of longstanding; Deflotte, vice-president of Blanqui's club, one of the foremost, active invaders of the Assembly on the 15th of May, 1848,[45] in June following, one of the leading combatants on the barricades, sentenced to transportation, and now stepping directly from the hulks into the legislative palace--really, this composition is significant! It shows, that if the triumph of the Red party is owing to the union of the small trading class with the proletarians, this union is based upon totally different terms to that momentary alliance which brought about the overthrow of monarchy. Then, it was the small trading class, the petty bourgeoisie, who, in the provisional government, and still more so in the Constituent Assembly, took the lead, and very soon set aside the influence of the proletarians. Now, on the contrary, the working men are the leaders of the movement, and the petty bourgeoisie, equally pressed down and ruined by capital, and rewarded with bankruptcy for their services rendered in June, 1848, are reduced to follow the revolutionary march of the proletarians. The country farmers are in the same position, and thus the whole mass of those classes that now are opposed to the government--and they form the vast majority of Frenchmen--are headed and led on by the proletarian class, and find themselves obliged to rely, for their own emancipation from the pressure of capital, upon the total and entire emancipation of the working men.

The elections in the departments, too, have been very favourable to the Red party. They having carried two-thirds, the Ordermongers one-third of their candidates.

This party, or aggregation of parties, has admirably understood the broad hint given by the people. They now see certain ruin before their eyes if they allow the general election of 1852 both for the Assembly and the new President to come off with the present system of suffrage. They know, that the people are so fast rallying round the red flag, that it will be impossible for them to carry on the government even until that term. On one side the President and the Assembly; on the other, the vast mass of the people every day organising themselves stronger and stronger into an invincible phalanx. Thus the conflict is inevitable; and the longer the Ordermongers wait, the greater hope there will be for the victory of the people. They know it, and therefore they must strike the decisive blow as soon as possible. To provoke an insurrection as soon as possible, and to fight it to the utmost, is the only chance left for them. The "Holy Alliance", besides, after the elections of the 10th of March, can have no more doubts as to the course they must pursue. Switzerland, now, is out of the question. Revolutionary France is again standing up before them in all her terrible grandeur. France, then, must be attacked, and as soon as possible. The "Holy Alliance" are getting low in cash, and there is now very little chance of getting fresh supplies of that desirable commodity. The different armies cannot be maintained at home much longer, they must either be disbanded or they must be made to maintain themselves by quartering upon the enemy. Thus, you see that, if in my last I told you that the revolution and war were fast approaching, events are fully bearing out my prediction.

The Ordermongers have for the moment again set aside their party squabbles. They have re-united to attack the people. They change the garrison of Paris, of which three-fourths voted for the red list; and, yesterday, a law re-establishing the newspaper stamp, another law doubling the caution money to be deposited by all newspapers, and a third, suspending the liberty of electoral meetings, were laid on the table of the Assembly by the government. Other laws will follow: one to grant powers to the police to expel from Paris any working man not born there; another, to empower the government to transport, without judgment, to Algiers, any citizen who shall have been convicted of being a member of a secret society, and many more, the whole to be crowned by a more or less direct attack upon universal suffrage. Thus, you see, they provoke revolt, by battering down all the rights and privileges of the working classes. Revolt will follow, and the people, united with the mass of the national guard, will very soon hurl down that infamous class government which, in its utter impotency to do anything but odiously oppress, has, nevertheless, the impudence to call itself the "Saviour of Society"!!!


44 The issue of The Democratic Review containing Engels' fourth letter also carried the beginning of his Two Years of a Revolution. This was a synopsis of the first chapter of Marx's The Class Struggles in France.
Part of the first paragraph of the letter beginning with the words: "really, this composition is significant", up to the words: "the total and entire emancipation of the working men", was printed under the title "Election of Carnot, Vidal and de Flotte" in The Northern Star No. 650, April 6, 1850, in the review of The Democratic Review's April issue.

45 On May 15, 1848, Paris workers led by Blanqui, Barbes and others took revolutionary action against the anti-labour and anti-democratic policy pursued by the bourgeois Constituent Assembly which opened on May 4. The participants in the mass demonstration forced their way into the Assembly premises, demanded the formation of a Ministry of Labour and presented a number of other demands. An attempt was made to form a revolutionary government. National Guards from the bourgeois quarters and regular troops succeeded, however, in restoring the power of the Constituent Assembly. The leaders of the movement were arrested and put on trial.