Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870

Marx to Engels
In Manchester


Written: May 18, 1870;
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence, International Publishers (1968);
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers (1975);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 1999;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

[London,] 18 May 1870

Our members in France are giving the French government ocular proof of the difference between a secret political society and a genuine workers' organisation. No sooner had the government jailed all the members of the Paris, Lyons, Rouen, Marseilles, etc., committees (some of them fled to Belgium and Switzerland) than twice the number of committees announced themselves as their successors with the most daring and provocative declarations in the newspapers (and as an additional precaution added their private addresses as well). At last the French government has done what we have so long wanted it to do and transformed the political question, Empire or Republic, into a question of life or death for the working-class.

* * *

In general the plebiscite [1] dealt the final blow to the empire. Because so many voted aye for the empire wreathed in constitutional phrases Boustrapa[2] believes he can now quite unceremoniously restore the empire sans phrase, that is to say, the December regime. According to all the information received privately the Society of 10 December[3] has been fully restored in Paris and is teeming with activity.



1. The plebiscite referred to was held by Napoleon III in May 1870 with the aim of consolidating the empire and foiling the republican agitation in the country. The government resorted to various demagogical devices during the plebiscite and exerted strong pressure on the voters – Progress Publishers.

2. Sobriquet of Louis Bonaparte consisting of the first syllables of Boulogne, Strasbourg and Paris. An allusion to Bonaparte’s attempts to carry out a Bonapartist putsch in Strasbourg on 30 October 1836, and at Boulogne on 6 August 1840, and to the coup d'état in Paris of 2 December 1851, which led to the establishment of a Bonapartist dictatorship in France – Progress Publishers.

3. Society of 10 December – a Bonapartist society set up in 1849 and consisting primarily of déclassed elements, political adventurers, army officers, and such like. The name was chosen in honour of the patron of the Society Louis Bonaparte, who was elected President of the French Republic on 10 December 1848. Although officially the Society was disbanded in November 1850, its members continued to conduct propaganda for Bonaparte and took an active part in the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 – Progress Publishers.