Marx-Engels Correspondence 1871

Marx to Leo Frankel and Louis Varlin[1]
In Paris


Written: May 13, 1871;
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.

[London,] May 13, 1871

Dear Citizens Fränkel and Varlin

I have had meetings with the bearer. [2]

... Would it not be useful to put the documents which compromise the Versailles canaille [blackguards] in a safe place? A precaution of this kind could not do any harm. I hear in a letter from Bordeaux that four Internationalists were elected at the last municipal elections. The ferment is beginning in the provinces. Unfortunately the action there is only local and "pacific." I have written several hundred letters on behalf of your cause to every corner of the world in which we have branches. The working class, for the rest, was on the side of the Commune from the beginning. Even the bourgeois papers in England have given up their first ferocity. I have succeeded in slipping some favourable paragraphs into them from time to time.

The Commune seems to me to be wasting too much time in trivialities and personal quarrels. One can see that there are other influences besides that of the workers. None of this would matter if you had time to make up for the time lost.

It is absolutely necessary that whatever you want to do outside Paris, in England or elsewhere, you should do quickly. The Prussians will not hand over the forts to the Versailles government, but after the final conclusion of peace (May 26[3]) will allow it to invest Paris with its gendarmes. Since Thiers and Co. had, as you know, stipulated for a large commission[4] for themselves in the treaty they concluded by Pouyer Quertier, they refused to accept the help from the German bankers which Bismarck offered them. Had they accepted it they would have lost their commission. The preliminary condition for the realisation of their treaty being the subjugation of Paris, they have asked Bismarck to postpone their payment of the first instalment until after the occupation of Paris. Bismarck has accepted this condition. Prussia, being herself in very urgent need of this money, will therefore give the Versailles government every possible facility for hastening the occupation of Paris. So take care!


1. Leo Fränkel (1844-1896) – prominent figure in Hungarian and international working-class movement, member of General Council of First International (1871-72), a founder of Workers Party of Hungary (1880), associate of Marx and Engels; Louis Eugène Varlin (1839-1871) – outstanding figure in French working-class movement, bookbinder, left Proudhonist, one of leaders of International’s sections in France, member of Central Committee of National Guard and Paris Commune, shot by Versaillists – Progress Publishers.

2. Probably N Eilau – Progress Publishers.

3. The final peace treaty concluding the Franco-Prussian War was signed in Frankfurt on 10 May 1871. Presumably a slip of the pen occurred in the date given by Marx – Progress Publishers.

4. Marx is referring to the internal loan which the government of Thiers intended to raise. Thiers and other members of the government were to receive over 300 million francs as a commission – Progress Publishers.