The Second Empire and the Paris Commune

This is the final excerpt in the current series from Karl Kautsky's 'Republic and social democracy in France', translated by Ben Lewis[1] and published in English for the first time. Kautsky begins his discussion of the Commune by examining the situation in France under emperor Napoleon III

One of the first acts of the empire was to try to reconcile the working class, which the bourgeois republic had estranged. Under Louis Philippe,[2] the number of voters for the second chamber had been very limited - there were only 300,000 in total. The revolution suddenly caused this to swell to around nine million. The electoral law of May 31 1850 then reduced it by three million again. The constitution of January 14 1852 restored universal suffrage, which has existed to this day in France.

But the proletariat did not allow itself to be bought off by this. Its opposition to the empire remained intransigent. It remained faithful to the republic, even when the empire made further political concessions in addition to universal suffrage from 1860 on, expanding the parliament’s powers and dealing with the press, clubs and meetings in a more liberal fashion.

The bourgeoisie came to terms with the empire more easily, even though this meant the inhibition of the parliament, which was condemned to utter impotence. This hit its chosen means of rule, the political institution which most closely corresponds to bourgeois class interests, the hardest. But the empire brought about protection of property from communism, as well as an economic boom. And this is a spell which the bourgeoisie has never been able to resist.

The decades following the February Revolution[3] were the golden age of industrial capitalism in England and France. As Gladstone[4] put it, it was the period of the “intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power”. The emperorship had not created this, but it profited from it and won the bourgeoisie’s recognition. But, just like in England, in France this “intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power” was almost entirely restricted to the capitalist class (including the large estates). The working classes’ share of this was small, imperceptible; for wide layers of working people this development even expressed itself in a direct depression of their living standards, so that their opposition to the capitalist class grew and grew, as did their opposition to the ruling regime.

Rise of Marxism

But, if the days after the February Revolution had been particularly favourable to the tendencies of Louis Blanc,[5] now Proudhonism came to the fore. Louis Blanc’s illusions had been drowned in the blood of June for a long time to come. But this defeat had also paralysed the power to engage in a political rebellion along the lines of Blanqui. The bulk of the socialist working class despaired of politics, believed political activity to be as futile as it was corrupting, and predominantly turned to the advancement of peaceful economic organisations.

When the International[6] emerged in the middle of the 1860s, the Proudhonists were also predominant in its French section. But, the more it grew in strength, the more it was persecuted; the more the opposition against the empire grew, the more the French section of the International went from the society of peaceful social studies and experiments it initially was to a fighting organisation. With this, it increasingly lost its original Proudhonist character. From 1868 other elements arose alongside the Proudhonists: Blanquists and Bakuninists.[7] Bakunin, who had escaped from Siberia in 1860, exaggerated both Proudhon’s distrust of the state and the Blanquists’ putschism, uniting these two extremes into a mixture very much to the taste of the declassed intellectuals in the romance countries.

Besides these, however, a new tendency began to emerge in the International: Marxism, which in this context can be viewed as the synthesis of all the viable seeds contained within the three tendencies of French socialism. Like Blanquism, it recognised the necessity of conquering political power as an indispensable precondition for the emancipation of the proletariat. But Marxism was clear that the methods of 1793 were not suitable for this, that the proletariat could no longer be victorious by organising a small number of conspirators, but only by organising itself in an independent political party of the majority of the people. But in addition it also understood that the seizure of state power was tied to a series of moral and material preconditions, which not merely demanded the political organisation of the proletariat, but its economic organisation as well. This economic organisation should not develop behind the backs of the ruling powers, but in the struggle against them.

Marxism substituted the organisation of the economic struggle - the strike organisation, the union - for the peaceful economic organisations of petty bourgeois Proudhonism like insurance institutions, exchange and credit banks, cooperatives, etc. At the same time it also recognised the need to use the available political means to wrest as much as possible from the contemporary state, to carry out measures through the bourgeois state in favour of the workers. But unlike Louis Blanc it did not expect from the capitalist state the means to build a new, cooperative, anti-capitalist mode of production, but a means to protect labour-power, that commodity in whose largest possible use-value capitalist society is always most actively interested. It did not demand from the state that it subsidise workers’ cooperatives, but that it concede a normal working day and similar measures of worker protection.

As I have already said, this reasoning signified a synthesis of the viable seeds of all three tendencies of French socialism. But it was too much at odds with the revolutionary traditions of France and the traditions of each and every one of these tendencies. It was only assimilated by a few members of the French section of the International. These few were, of course, its best members.

Incidentally, Marxism went through a similar experience in the other sections of the International. In the International, Marx did not merely seek to organise the Marxists. Just as in theoretical terms his politics were themselves a synthesis of all the viable seeds of the various proletarian movements, he also wanted to fashion their practical application into an organisational synthesis of these movements in a united class struggle.

The International was open to all: Proudhonists and Blanquists, British trade unionists and German social democrats. Albeit with great effort and difficulty, Marx initially succeeded in keeping together these various elements. But eventually each of these tendencies again sought to go its own particular way to the exclusion of the others. In the name of freedom of expression and tolerance, they were up in arms against the ‘intolerant’ Karl Marx, the one who had wanted to unite them all. And so that each tendency could one-sidedly restrict itself to its own specialised hobby, they rebelled against the ‘narrow and one-sided dogmatism’ of Marxism, which had given voice to their various concerns within the framework of a comprehensive theory.

This, however, only happened after the fall of the Paris Commune, which had risen on the ruins of the empire.

Military empire

Before its internal opponents had become strong enough to overthrow it, the emperorship succumbed to its foreign policy. This policy had to be world policy in order to impress its own bourgeoisie - to compensate for the fact that, whilst he was condemned to political impotence at home, abroad the French bourgeois would be marvelled as the citizen of a great nation. Of course, world policy necessarily became military policy. But these policies were also necessary for the empire to keep the army busy and happy. The empire rested on the army’s shoulders.

However, wars cost money - lots of money. Where to get this from? Perhaps through frugality in other areas of government spending? But Napoleon[8]
and his men were a gang of adventurers who had conquered the state not in order to use it for the realisation of a social idea or to bring a certain class to power, but to plunder it. The most shameless waste coursed through the court and the upper civil service.

Thus the only remaining way of satisfying the financial demands of war policy was to increase taxes. But the regime, volatile and weak as it was, was scared of this, constantly scrambling for cheap popularity. It was frivolous and unscrupulous enough to plunge the country into war adventures, but not strong and bold enough to burden the country with the consequences by raising taxes accordingly.

“The Second Empire,” writes Adolf Wagner,[9] “was always - even at its height - anxious about and dependent upon not stirring up the population through unpopular tax policy” (Special taxation p394). The revenue from direct taxes therefore remained essentially the same as it was at the end of the July Monarchy.[10] With the other taxes they sought to change as little as possible. In many cases the increase in revenue resulted not from an increase in tax, but from the increase in the population and the “intoxicating augmentation of wealth”. This was particularly true in the case of the increased revenue from transaction taxes.

Adolf Wagner illustrates this in a table, from which we have taken the figures (see Fig 1).  Thus tobacco, sugar and alcohol had to ‘bleed’. But in return the taxes on salt, already cut under the Second Republic, and customs duties were reduced. But because the receipts increased nowhere near as much as expenditure, the natural consequences of this was necessary deficits, debt and the breakdown of state finances. The Statesman’s year book (1904) stated that the debt of the French government was as set out in Fig 2.

 The increase is thus an enormous one. Nonetheless, given the general corruption of the state administration, the borrowed billions were not sufficient to meet the demands of the army. The army was less and less up to its tasks. Of course, this is not an argument in favour of firmly cranking up taxes, but one in favour of eschewing any adventures in world policy.

As long as France was only up against equally corrupt and bankrupt powers like Russia, Austria and China, it emerged victorious. But the empire failed as soon as it confronted countries like the USA and Germany, which back then were at the beginning of their rise to leading world powers. In the face of US threats, Napoleon III withdrew from his Mexican adventure[11] without a fight.

Third Republic

In his conflict with Germany a few years later, he became the prisoner of victorious Germany after a few quick blows. With this the Third French Republic was created. This time, this ripe fruit fell into the lap of the people without any exertion at all.

Today, due to the existence of modern mass armies on the one hand, and the modern mass proletariat on the other, a capitalist state can no longer fend off a foreign invasion without arming the proletariat. Under the impression of the first military defeats, the bourgeois republicans had demanded an expansion of the national guard in the chamber of the old empire. In the empire the national guard had become the meaningless gimmick of a few select bourgeois circles. All citizens of full age were to be armed - “as long as they have been living in the community for at least a year”. This nonetheless signified a manner of arming the people, which included numerous proletarians.

It was a most democratic measure when you come to think that the new battalions of the national guard were conceded the right to choose their officers and non-commissioned officers themselves. It was their fear of the victorious Germans, and even more so of the outraged Parisians, which on August 11 forced the reactionaries in the chamber to accept this proposal of the radicals. But when the empire collapsed and the people of France again became the master of their own destiny, the bourgeoisie was seized by an even greater fear: the fear of the battalions of the Paris national guard.

Of course, in the hours of the Commune’s distress the proletariat did not think about its specific class interests. It unhesitatingly put up with the fact that the bourgeois republicans in the chamber simply formed a centrist government, without consulting any proletarian elements.[12]

On the other hand, the bourgeois leaders of the new republic were from the outset paralysed in defending the country by their fear of the armed Parisian proletarians. The defence of Paris suffered just as much from the their attempt not to allow the national guard to become too powerful, or even to achieve victory, as it did from the arms of the besiegers. This time around, the arming of the people, the levée en masse from which miracles were expected, had quite a different effect than it did in the Great Revolution.

In 1793 the great mass of the people consisted of peasants and petty bourgeois. The class contradiction between capitalists and proletarians was still weakly developed and pushed into the background by the great common opposition of all these classes to the aristocracy, which was allied with the foreign enemy. Back then the arming of the people had signified the highest military power of the nation. In 1870 the class antagonism between capital and labour already dominated the whole of France. Here the capitalist class was presented with much less of a threat from the enemy without. Whereas this enemy would weaken it financially and restrict its domestic market, the enemy within threatened the foundations of its very existence.

The situation was thus quite different to that of 1793. The revival of the revolutionary traditions, the belief in being able to drive out the enemy abroad through the levée en masse, was therefore illusory. It was precisely the arming of the people which paralysed the country in defending its key point, Paris, by severing those defending it into two hostile camps.

Finally, on January 29, there was a ceasefire which was to initiate peace. In order to conclude this peace, a national assembly was elected by universal suffrage on February 8. The elections resulted in a large majority for the reactionaries - 450 of the 750 deputies were monarchists. If the proletariat and the proletarian parties were the most determined advocates of the republic, and also in favour of continuing the war, then both the peasant and the bourgeois alike cursed it. The former particularly did so because it ruined him. The latter because the war entailed the arming of the people and increasingly brought the armed proletariat to the fore. It cursed the republic, along with the war.

The reactionary composition of the assembly arose far more from the desire for peace and the hatred of revolutionary republican Paris than from monarchist sentiments. The clerical-royalist country squires were also welcomed by the liberal bourgeois republicans as angels of peace. In equal measure they were welcomed as opponents of Paris, whose revolutionary proletariat terrified all of them. When it came to weakening Paris and humiliating it, republicans and monarchists worked together in the national assembly. This is something which must be established in the face of the current attempts of the revisionists to shift the blame for the battle against the Paris Commune and for the June battle of 1848 from the bourgeois republicans entirely onto the clerical monarchists.

It was not a member of the latter tendency who became head of the executive power of the republic. It was Thiers,[13] who to this day is admired by the French bourgeois republicans as their great man.

And at the time of the Commune radical republicans like Jules Favre,[14] Picard[15] and J Simon[16] were members of this government. From the outset the hatred against Paris dominated the national assembly. Its delegates were verbally abused. Paris itself was divested of its status as the capital of France by the order of March 10, which made Versailles the seat of the government and the national assembly. This again had the petty bourgeoisie of Paris up in arms against the assembly, driving it into the ranks of the revolutionary elements.

Civil war

This contradiction became increasingly trenchant, ultimately breaking out into open civil war when Thiers consigned a few regiments to steal the Parisian national guard’s canons in the early hours of March 18 - a move he hoped would initiate the disarmament of Paris. The attempt was detected and thwarted. But with this war was declared. From the defence of the Parisian proletariat’s weapons ensued that violent war which both initiated and toppled the first modern proletarian regime.

It was initially a struggle for the national guard, in which the proletariat was victorious in Paris. On March 26 it then gave itself its own government in the Commune.

Unfortunately it was not a united one: within it we again find the three directions of French socialism present. Alongside the Proudhonists were the Blanquists. Alongside these there was a third tendency, admittedly no longer a theoretically based one like that represented by Louis Blanc, but a mere petty bourgeois-proletarian mishmash - devoid of any particular programme, but boasting a lot of passion and drive. Above all, this tendency was steeped in the traditions of the Great Revolution.

At this point Louis Blanc himself was no longer to be found in Paris. Paris may have elected him as a deputy to the national assembly, but when the assembly declared war on Paris, he remained in Versailles and supported the government in its fight against the Commune. His illusory belief that the proletariat had to collaborate with the most advanced and noble parts of the bourgeoisie in order to liberate itself culminated in his collaboration with the most backward and brutal elements of the country squires in order to defeat it. In doing so his theoretical views and sympathies had hardly changed. But class divisions were stronger than his pious wishes. Anybody who, coming over from the side of the bourgeoisie, does not possess the courage and abjuration to wholeheartedly join the fighting proletariat against the bourgeoisie and to break all ties with it can eventually, notwithstanding all of their proletarian sympathies, all too easily be pushed onto the side of the proletariat’s opponents at the decisive moment.

As bad as the theoretical fragmentation and ignorance of the Parisian proletariat was, it was not so much damaged by this as it was by its lack of a uniform organisation. This was indeed partly caused by theoretical disjointedness and partly by the absence of the right to association and assembly, which had rendered the creation of any proletarian mass organisation impossible since 1794. We shall return to the latter point further on.

Proletarian rule

However, notwithstanding its theoretical ignorance and organisational fragmentation, the Parisian proletariat achieved amazing things in the organisation of economic and social life. It came upon one of the most difficult situations: the misery of the siege which had left Paris completely exposed followed the mismanagement and bankruptcy of the empire. Circumstances forced on the proletariat the administration of this enormous, completely ruined area without any preparation at all. During a war, and in the face of the betrayal of the previous administration, it had to build up a new administration with new forces in an instant. Despite everything it was most successful in this task. Paris had never been administered as well as during the Commune.

We may hold up this example to those faint-hearted in our ranks, who fear nothing more than our victory, and consider it their main task to convince the world that for a long time to come the conquest of political power by our party will necessarily mean chaos and the bankruptcy of our party. If a generation ago the proletariat of Paris - completely undeveloped and operating under the most trying circumstances - proved up to its social tasks, then today we may look forward to the day of our victory with the most joyous expectation.

Where the Commune utterly failed, however, was in military affairs and politics. In these matters it completely lost its way. Whilst it could doubtless boast some serious, capable men in these areas too, their effectiveness was more than paralysed by vain dandies, bawlers and do-nothings who stayed away from organisational and administrative work, preferring those aspects of work where one could feign greatness with sabre-rattling and rhetoric. Above all, however, it was here in particular that the disjointed character of the Commune had the most severe consequences.

Whatever the individual socialists’ theoretical quirks may have been, when they were faced with the practical work of social and political organisation, their instincts led them to quickly unite around what was necessary and to work out what the most indispensable tasks were, even if this ran contrary to their outdated theories.

Things were different when it came to the military and political struggle against the enemy. It became apparent that the modern mode of production and its elemental [urwüchsig][17] social struggles might by themselves develop the proletariat’s capacity for social and political organisation, but not the higher art of war and high politics. We can easily appreciate the absence of the former.

On the other hand, political education can actually be more easily accessed by the proletariat than military training. But political education was also lacking amongst the Parisian workers in 1871. Such education not only requires knowledge of their own needs and strengths, but also those of the enemy. But this can only be attained by detailed study or extensive political practice. The proletarians of 1871 lacked both. Extensive participation in parliamentary work provides the best school for the political struggle against the bourgeoisie, but neither the Proudhonists nor Blanquists had participated in the parliamentary struggle, and the petty bourgeois-radical ‘sentimental socialists’ à la Rochefort[18] were generally incapable of learning anything politically.

The little bit of political insight which all of these tendencies were able to develop was obscured by the traditions of the Great Revolution. They were still guided by these traditions and failed to realise that the situation had completely changed.

Rapid, uniform and consistent action was needed if Paris was to be victorious against the forces of the whole of France, deployed by the central government of Versailles - or rather, if Paris was to paralyse this government and win so many of the country’s forces over to its side that it could attain a settlement securing the democratic republic and the proletariat’s political and military ability to put up a fight. But this rapid and uniform action was impossible. For Paris had not sought the war: rather it was surprised by it. And there was no single political organisation with specific goals which could have led the Commune politically and militarily.

Manifold organisations whirled around - each with different goals and different tactics. They took the political and military leadership of the Commune in a different direction with each day that passed. One day would see an aggressive stance. The next would see this aggression countered with peaceful mediation. The roar of cannons the day after would then undermine this newly initiated mediation before it had brought any results.

Whereas the proletariat did not quite know what to expect from the bourgeoisie and how it could best deal with it, the government was determined from the outset to suppress and decimate the armed proletariat at all costs. And in this endeavour it met with the unanimous approval of the national assembly - including its far left. Despite the proletariat’s capability of social organisation and administration most brilliantly manifesting itself, the politically disjointed Commune succumbed to this unity and confidence of bourgeois politics and warfare.

Since then the supremacy of bourgeois politics has come to an end. Three decades of parliamentary struggles have sufficiently acquainted the proletariat with bourgeois politics. The military superiority of modern rulers, on the other hand, only lasts as long as the army remains its submissive tool. With an unreliable army, even the greatest general cannot be victorious.

To set out the political ideal of the Commune is not so easy, since various different tendencies clashed within it. But fundamentally all the practical demands and organisational efforts of the Commune arose from the same type of democratic republic that had already been established by the Great Revolution.

Marx on the Commune

There is no better way for me describe the constitution initiated by the Commune than by repeating Marx’s classical description in his declaration on the civil war in France. He says:

“Paris could resist only because, in consequence of the siege, it had got rid of the army, and replaced it by a national guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men.

“This fact was now to be transformed into an institution. The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.

“The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body - executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the central government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune.

“So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at a workman’s wage.[19] The acquired interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared, along with the dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the central government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.

“Having once got rid of the standing army and the police - the physical-force elements of the old government - the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the ‘parson-power’, by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles. The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state.

“Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it. The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subservience to all succeeding governments, to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible, and revocable.

“The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France. The communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old, centralised government would in the provinces too have to give way to the self-government of the producers. In a rough sketch of national organisation, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the national delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents. The few but important functions which would still remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by communal and thereafter responsible agents.

“The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organised by a communal constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity, independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence. While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society.”[20]

Thus the ideal of the democratic republic was created, which the Parisian proletariat of 1871 would seek to form into an instrument of its emancipation.


  1. Thanks again to Maciej Zurowski for his excellent work in proofing this translation.
  2. Louis Philippe I (1773-1850) was king from 1830 to 1848. He spent 21 years in exile following the French Revolution, mainly in the USA. He was proclaimed king after Charles X was forced to abdicate. When, in 1848, he was forced to abdicate the throne, he again went into exile - this time to England.
  3. This refers to the revolution of February 1848 in France, which ended the Orleans monarchy and created the French Second Republic.
  4. William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98) was a British Liberal who served as prime minister four times. As chancellor of the exchequer in 1860 he presided over the Cobden-Chevalier treaty, which reduced trade tariffs between France and Britain.
  5. For Kautsky’s discussion of the various tendencies of French socialism around Proudhon, Blanc and Blanqui, see K Kautsky, ‘Second Republic and the socialists’ Weekly Worker May 9.
  6. The International Workingmen’s Association, or First International, was established in 1864 and disbanded in 1876. Seeing that its creation represented a real step forward for the working class movement, Marx and Engels threw their weight into the organisation and its work.
  7. Mikhail Bakunin (1814-76) was one of the founders of anarchism and played a disruptive role in the First International.
  8. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-73) was the president of the Second Republic, before becoming ruler of the Second Empire. Elected president by popular vote in 1848, he initiated a coup in 1851, before ascending the throne as Napoleon III on December 2 1852, the 48th anniversary of Napoleon I’s coronation. He ruled as ‘Emperor of the French’ until September 4 1870.
  9. Adolph Wagner (1835-1917) was one of the most important economists of the Bismarck era. A leading monarchist politician, he was also a key figure of the anti-Semitic ‘Conservative Central Committee’.
  10. The term ‘July monarchy’ refers to 1830-48, when Louis Philippe I was on the throne.
  11. Napoleon III sought to reassert French influence in Europe and beyond. Amongst other things, this saw wars against Austria (1859), Russia in the Crimean war, and intervention in Mexico in 1861. French troops were withdrawn by 1867.
  12. Footnote by Karl Kautsky: “Here I would like to confront a misconception surrounding a claim I made in the Amsterdam tactical commission. I explained that, among the predicaments in which a socialist may enter into a bourgeois government, I count ‘situations like, for example, that after September 4 1870 in France, when demands came from socialists that a socialist like Blanqui or Deleseluze ought to join the government, which had the aim of organising national defence’. Jaurès thinks that if for the defence of the fatherland I am accepting something which I reject for the defence of the republic then I am countering his republican ministerialism with a far worse ‘nationalist ministerialism’. This same reasoning is repeated by Pressensé in his article on the Amsterdam Congress in the first issue of La Vie Socialiste.
    “In fact, nowhere did I mention that the defence of the fatherland justified a socialist joining the government per se; this would mean that the Russo-Japanese war would eventually force our Russian comrades to support the tsar’s government. I spoke of ‘situations, like that after September 4 1870 in France’. Back then it was not simply a matter of defending a country against foreign invasion, but also of defending a democratic republic against an enemy which wanted to maim and weaken it, to force the hated usurper onto it. It was a situation where all freedom-minded [freiheitlich gesinnt] elements of the whole civilised world, including German Social Democracy but not German liberalism, took the side of France.
    “If in 1899 the republic had been just as much at threat as in 1870, and if back then the government participation of socialists had increased the forces defending the republic, then in such a predicament - solely for the purposes of defending the republic and only for the duration of its defence - Millerand’s participation in a bourgeois administration would have been justified. However, it has never been demonstrated that this was the case. And a bourgeois administration was a far cry from an administration of general Gallifet. The inclusion of this man in the government was an insult to the socialists. But rescuing the republic cannot be initiated by insulting its staunchest defenders.”
  13. Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) was prime minister under king Louis-Philippe of France. Following the overthrow of the Second Empire, he came to prominence as the French leader who suppressed the Paris Commune. From 1871 to 73 he held the presidential post of head of state.
  14. Jules Favre (1809-80) was vice-president of the government of national defence under general Trochu and minister of foreign affairs, tasked with negotiating peace with Germany.
  15. Ernest Picard (1821-77) held the portfolio of finance in the government of national defence. In January 1871 he accompanied Jules Favre to Versailles to negotiate the capitulation of the Paris Commune, and in the next month he became minister of the interior in Adolphe Thiers’ cabinet.
  16. Jules François Simon (1814-96) was education minister in the government of Thiers. He became French president in 1876.
  17. For a brief discussion of the term urwüchsig, see B Lewis, ‘Singing from the same hymn sheet’ Weekly Worker May 9.
  18. Victori Henri Rochefort, 1830-1913.
  19. Footnote by Kautsky: “The biggest salary was 6,000 francs.”
  20. Quote taken from the Marxists Internet Archive: www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/ch05.htm

Fig 1. State revenue (millions of francs)

Types of tax

1847 1870
A. Direct taxes 331.7 332.8
B. Transaction taxes
(stamps, transportation, transfer duties)
253.8 446.5
C. Indirect taxes:    
  1. Customs
  2. Salt
  3. Beverages
  4. Domestic sugar
  5. Tobacco monopoly
Total 464.8 708.9
D. Remaining small taxes 48 54.8
Total (A-D) 1,098.3 1,543


Fig 2. French debt (millions of francs)


Capital Interest
January 1 1852 5,516 239
January 1 1871 12,454 386