The Civil War in France, Karl Marx
The Civil War in France
Karl Marx
2:35 h History Lvl 10.26
"The Civil War in France" (German: "Der Bürgerkrieg in Frankreich") was a pamphlet written by Karl Marx, as an official statement of the General Council of the International on the character and significance of the struggle of the Communards in the Paris Commune. Marx originally intended to write an address to the workers of Paris and made such a motion to the meeting of the governing General Council of the International on March 28, 1871, a proposal unanimously approved. Further developments in France made Marx think that the document should be instead directed to the working class of the world, and at the April 18 meeting of the General Council, he passed along that suggestion by noting his desire to write on the "general tendency of the struggle." The proposal was approved, and Marx began writing the document. Main writing on the publication seems to have taken place between May 6 and May 30, 1871, with Marx writing the original document in English.

The Civil War in France

by
Karl Marx


Chapter 1: The Beginning of the Franco-Prussian War

The First Address

July 23, 1870

In the Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association, of November 1864, we said:

“If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal concurrence, how are they to fulfill that great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people’s blood and treasure?”

We defined the foreign policy aimed at by the International in these words:

“Vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the laws paramount of the intercourse of nations.”

No wonder that Louis Bonaparte, who usurped power by exploiting the war of classes in France, and perpetuated it by periodical wars abroad, should, from the first, have treated the International as a dangerous foe. On the eve of the plebiscite he ordered a raid on the members of the Administrative Committee of the International Working Men’s Association throughout France, at Paris, Lyons, Rouen, Marseilles, Brest, etc., on the pretext that the International was a secret society dabbling in a complot for his assassination, a pretext soon after exposed in its full absurdity by his own judges. What was the real crime of the French branches of the International? They told the French people publicly and emphatically that voting the plebiscite was voting despotism at home and war abroad. It has been, in fact, their work that in all the great towns, in all the industrial centres of France, the working class rose like one man to reject the plebiscite. Unfortunately, the balance was turned by the heavy ignorance of the rural districts. The stock exchanges, the cabinets, the ruling classes, and the press of Europe celebrated the plebiscite as a signal victory of the French emperor over the French working class; and it was the signal for the assassination, not of an individual, but of nations.

The war plot of July [19] 1870 is but an amended edition of the coup d’etat of December 1851. At first view, the thing seemed so absurd that France would not believe in its real good earnest. It rather believed the deputy denouncing the ministerial war talk as a mere stock-jobbing trick. When, on July 15, war was at last officially announced to the Corps Legislatif, the whole Opposition refused to vote the preliminary subsidies – even Thiers branded it as “detestable”; all the independent journals of Paris condemned it, and, wonderful to relate, the provincial press joined in almost unanimously.

Meanwhile, the Paris members of the International had again set to work. In the Reveil of July 12, they published their manifesto “to the Workmen of all Nations,” from which we extract the following few passages:

“Once more,” they say, “on the pretext of European equilibrium, of national honor, the peace of the world is menaced by political ambitions. French, German, Spanish workmen! Let our voices unite in one cry of reprobation against war!

“War for a question of preponderance or a dynasty can, in the eyes of workmen, be nothing but a criminal absurdity. In answer to the warlike proclamations of those who exempt themselves from the blood tax, and find in public misfortunes a source of fresh speculations, we protest, we who want peace, labor, and liberty!

“Brothers in Germany! Our division would only result in the complete triumph of the despotism on both sides of the Rhine…

“Workmen of all countries! Whatever may for the present become of our common efforts, we, the members of the International Working Men’s Association, who know of no frontiers, we send you, as a pledge of indissoluble solidarity, the good wishes and the salutations of the workmen of France.”

This manifesto of our Paris section was followed by numerous similar French addresses, of which we can here only quote the declaration of Neuilly-sur-Seine, published in the Marseillaise of July 22:

“The war, is it just? No! The war, is it national? No! It is merely dynastic. In the name of humanity, or democracy, and the true interests of France, we adhere completely and energetically to the protestation of the International against the war.”

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