Works of Frederick Engels 1850

Letters From France

Source: MECW Volume 10, p. 33;
Written: End of May, 1850;
First published: in The Democratic Review in June 1850.

"If the proletarians suffer the suffrage to be taken from them, they submit to the undoing of the Revolution of February, as far as they are concerned. For them the republic will no longer exist. They will be shut out from it. Will they allow this?

"The law certainly will pass. Not a tittle of it will be weakened. The will of the majority, upon this point, has already shown itself clearly.[48] And as matters stand to-day, no one can tell what will follow, whether the people will rise and hurl down the government and Assembly, or whether they will wait until another occasion. Paris seems quiet; there is no direct sign of an approaching revolution; but a spark will suffice to call forth a tremendous explosion.

"That explosion would have taken place before now but for the treacherous conduct of the popular chiefs, who have been doing nothing but preaching 'peace', 'tranquillity', and 'majestic calm'. This, however, cannot last long. The situation of France is eminently revolutionary. The Ordermongers cannot stand where they are. They must advance a step every day in order to maintain themselves. If this law should pass without provoking a revolution, they will come outwith fresh, more violent, and more direct attacks on the constitution and the Republic. They want an emeute, and they will have a revolution, and have it soon, too. For it must be borne in mind that this is a question of weeks, perhaps days, not of years.


47 Letter Six was apparently not completed in time or left unfinished by Engels. An excerpt from it was published by the editor of The Democratic Review in the June number in his own article "Tactics and Programme of the Counter Revolutionists" with the comment (to make the readers think the Letters came directly from Paris): "We had begun to fear the arrest of our Paris correspondent, his Letter not having reached us until several days after the usual time. It was received only as we were going to press. It is impossible for us to give more than the following brief extracts." Then came the three paragraphs by Engels reproduced in this volume under the heading VI.

48 Engels has in mind the results of the preliminary debates held from May 21 to 23, 1850, on the law abolishing universal suffrage (462 votes for and 227 against). The law was finally adopted on May 31; it introduced a property qualification camouflaged by stipulating three years permanent residence in a given locality and the payment of personal tax.