The Neue Rheinische Zeitung

The June Revolution
The Course of the Paris Uprising

by Frederick Engels

Translated: by the Marx-Engels Institute;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 32, July 1, 1848;
Transcribed: by, 1994.

Gradually we gain a more comprehensive view of the June Revolution; fuller reports arrive, it becomes possible to distinguish facts from either hearsay or lies, and the nature of the uprising stands out with increasing clarity. The more one succeeds in grasping the interconnection of the events of the four days in June, the more is one astonished by the vast magnitude of the uprising, the heroic courage, the rapidly improvised organization and the unanimity of the insurgents.

The workers' plan of action, which Kersausie, a friend of Raspail and a former officer, is said to have drawn up, was as follows:

The insurgents, moving in four columns, advance concentrically towards the town hall.

The first column, whose base were the suburbs of Montmartre, La Chapelle and La Villette, advance southwards from the gates of Poissonniere, Rochechouart, St. Denis and La Villette, occupy the Boulevards and approach the town hall through the streets Montorgueil, St. Denis and St. Martin.

The second column, whose base were the faubourgs du Temple and St. Antoine, which are inhabited almost entirely by workers and protected by the St. Martin canal, advance towards the same centre through the streets du Temple and St. Antoine and along the quais of the northern bank of the Seine as well as through all other streets running in the same direction in this part of the city.

The third column based on the Faubourg St. Marceau move towards the Ile de la Cite through the Rue St. Victor and the quais of the southern bank of the Seine.

The fourth column, based on the Faubourg St. Jacques and the vicinity of the Medical School, move down the Rue Saint Jacques also to the Cite. There the two columns join, cross to the right bank of the Seine and envelop the town hall from the rear and flank.

Thus the plan, quite correctly, was based on the districts in which only workers lived. These districts form a semicircular belt, which surrounds the entire eastern half of Paris, widening out towards the east. First of all the eastern part of Paris was to be cleared of enemies, and then it was intended to move along both banks of the Seine towards the west and its centres, the Tuileries and the National Assembly.

These columns were to be supported by numerous flying squads which, operating independently alongside and between the columns, were to build barricades, occupy the smaller streets and be responsible for maintaining communication.

The operational bases were strongly fortified and skillfully transformed into formidable fortresses, e.g., the Clos St. Lazare, the Faubourg and Quartier St. Antoine and the Faubourg St. Jacques, in case it should become necessary to retreat.

If there was any flaw in this plan it was that in the beginning of the operations the western part of Paris was completely overlooked. There are several districts eminently suitable for armed action on both sides of the Rue St. Honore near the market halls and the Palais National, which have very narrow, winding streets tenanted mainly by workers. It was important to set up a fifth centre of the insurrection there, thus cutting off the town hall and at the same time holding up a considerable number of troops at this projecting strongpoint. The success of the uprising depended on the insurgents reaching the centre of Paris as quickly as possible and seizing the town hall. We cannot know what prevented Kersausic from organizing insurgent action in this part. But it is a fact that no uprising was ever successful which did not at the outset succeed in seizing the centre of Paris adjoining the Tuileries. Suffice to mention the uprising [The uprising took place in Paris on June 5-6, 1832. -- Ed.]" which took place during General Lamarque's funeral when the insurgents got as far as the Rue Montorgueil and were then driven back.

The insurgents advanced in accordance with their plan. They immediately began to separate their territory, the Paris of the workers, from the Paris of the bourgeoisie, by two main fortifications -- the barricades at the Porte Saint Denis and those of the Cite. They were dislodged from the former, but were able to hold the latter. June 23, the first day, was merely a prelude. The plan of the insurgents already began to emerge clearly (and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung grasped it correctly at the outset, see No. 26, special supplement), especially after the first skirmishes between the advanced guards which took place in the morning. The Boulevard St. Martin, which crosses the line of operation of the first column, became the scene of fierce fighting, which, partly due to the nature of the terrain, ended with a victory for the forces of "order".

The approaches to the Cite were blocked on the right by a flying squad, which entrenched itself in the Rue de la Planche-Mibray; on the left by the third and fourth columns, which occupied and fortified the three southern bridges of the Cite. Here too a very fierce battle raged. The forces of "order" succeeded in taking the St. Michel bridge and advancing to the Rue St. Jacques. They felt sure that by the evening the revolt would be suppressed.

The plan of the forces of "order" stood out even more clearly than that of the insurgents. To begin with, their plan was merely to crush the insurrection with all available means. They announced their design to the insurgents with cannon-ball and grape-shot.

But the government believed it was dealing with an uncouth gang of common rioters acting without any plan. After clearing the main streets by the evening, the government declared that the revolt was quelled, and the stationing of troops in the conquered districts was arranged in an exceedingly negligent manner.

The insurgents made excellent use of this negligence by launching the great battle which followed the skirmishes of June 23. It is simply amazing how quickly the workers mastered the plan of campaign, how well-concerted their actions were and how skillfully they used the difficult terrain. This would be quite inexplicable if in the national workshops the workers had not already been to a certain extent organized on military lines and divided into companies, so that they only needed to apply their industrial Organization to their military enterprise in order to create a fully organized army.

On the morning of the 24th they had not only completely regained the ground they had lost, but even added new strips to it. True, the line of Boulevards up to the Boulevard du Temple remained in the hands of the troops, thus cutting off the first column from the centre, but on the other hand the second column pushed forward from the Quartier St. Antoine until it almost surrounded the town hall. It established its headquarters in the church of St. Gervais, within 300 paces of the town hall. It captured the St. Merri monastery and the adjoining streets and advanced far beyond the town hall so that together with the columns in the Cite it almost completely encircled the town hall. Only one way of approach, the quais of the right bank, remained open. In the south the Faubourg St. Jacques was completely reoccupied, communication with the Cite' was restored, reinforcements were sent there, and preparations were made for crossing to the right bank.

There was no time to be lost. The town hall, the revolutionary centre of Paris, was threatened and was bound to fall unless resolute measures were taken immediately.