Jules Vallès 1871
First published: Le Cri du Peuple March 5, 1871;
Source: Jules Vallès, le Cri du Peuple. Editeurs français réunis, Paris, 1953;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.
They think it’s been made.
What is a peace treaty signed on?
On a piece of parchment, a rag from the chancellery?
It’s signed and written on the people’s skin, nothing but their skin. And if by chance the people molt, the treaty rots.
You might well have signed the peace in Quinconces and dictated it to the Trianon.
Nothing that was decided on in Bordeaux or Versailles counts. Ransoms promised, the tearing of flesh settled upon, none of this means anything if the ransom isn’t paid or if the cut up flesh is put back together. No one can force the Alsace to become attached to Prussia or France’s money to run to Berlin.
They will perhaps succeed in sewing the shreds back together or making the arms of the workers sweat till they bleed. But all of this only lasts the time that lasts the delirium of a drunk and the drunkenness of a nurse.
By this you mean the silence of the cannons. I don’t know if this silence won’t some day be troubled by the storm of insurrection. But even if we admit that we won’t be see terrifying fantasy of the eruption of a volcano, it is still a peace that limps, a sick peace, an infirm peace.
They have silenced our rifles, wet our powder, covered the points of our bayonets; there still rest 300,000, sharp and new.
I accept that everything has been thrown in a heap, along with honor, into the abyss where lie, mutilated and frozen, the sacrificial victims of Champigny and Buzenval, and that not a single weapon remains in the hands of those who have a taste for the barrel of a rifle.
Is this silence peace? This agony, is it death?
Whose peace, what peace? Between the Alsatian street sweepers and the Parisian maids? Between the wine sellers and the beer sellers? Between the singers of “P’tits agneaux” and the singers of “La-i-tou?”
But they don’t hate each other, these people, proof of this being that from la Villette to the faubourg Antoine they spend time together, they drink together, and they marry each other. Many uhlans have weighed sugar in Montmartre and sold coupons at the Café Grétry.
All war does is dress in carnival costumes warriors of twenty or thirty who wear a blue or a white jacket. For six months or a year they exercise the profession of heroes. At the end of this time peace is signed to the benefit of the one or the other. A laurel wreath or funeral crepe is hung from the end of the rifle.
There is a victor and a vanquished, but the eternal antagonism of idleness and effort, of poverty and wealth, of parasitism and work, of capital and labor remain upright and threatening, mightier than triumph and above defeat.
Have you extinguished the hatred of the exploited for the exploiter, of the proletarian for the boss, the tenant for the landlord, the farmer for the lord?
They smolder everywhere, beneath the ashes of a burned-down Paris and beneath the bonfires of victorious Berlin. And the socialists laugh in your faces, victors of Berlin, traitors of Paris.
You will kill them, but when the poor have no more blood, the rich have no more gold.
Don’t you see: it is we vanquished who are declaring war!
In the 13th arrondissement there are already artillery men, à la Westermann, who have brought pieces to the Place Jeanne-d'Arc and the Place d'Italie in front of town hall.
The 18th arrondissement has elected a defense committee and posted sentinels at the barricades.
There are balls and bullets in the cartridge pouches and the caissons.
And there was fighting at Creusot.
Don’t you hear the tocsin sound?
1. A square in Bourdeaux
2. Sites of two bloody failures in the Franco Prussian war
3. Republican general who crushed the rebellions in the Vendée
4. Since September 4 the city of Creusot had been administered by socialistt. On February 26 the red flag was hung from City Hall, and a month later a Commune was briefly in power.