Marx-Engels Correspondence 1871

Karl Marx to Adolphe Hübert in London, 10 August 1871 [1]

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

... The public prosecutor of Versailles has drawn up a grotesque indictment against the International. [2] In the interest of the defence it may perhaps be useful to communicate the following facts to Mr Bigot. [3]

1) Enclosed herein (marked No 1) are the two Addresses of the General Council on the Franco-Prussian War. [4] In its first Address, dated 23 July 1870, the General Council declared that the war was not the handiwork of the people of France but of the Empire and that basically Bismarck was as guilty as Bonaparte. At the same time the General Council appealed to the German workers not to let the Prussian Government change the war of defence into a war of conquest.

2) The second Address, of 9 September 1870 (five days after the proclamation of the republic), is a very emphatic denunciation of the Prussian government’s plans of conquest. It is an appeal to the German and English workers to take the part of the French Republic.

As a matter of fact the workers in Germany belonging to the International Association opposed Bismarck’s policy so vigorously that he had the principal German representatives of the International illegally arrested and cast into Prussian fortresses on the trumped-up charge of ‘conspiring’ with the enemy.

In response to the appeal of the Council, the English workers held large meetings in London to force their government to recognise the French Republic and to oppose the dismemberment of France with all its strength.

3) Does the French government now ignore the support which the International gave France during the war? On the contrary. M Jules Favre’s [5] consul in Vienna, M Lefaivre, has even committed the indiscretion of publishing, in the name of the French government, a letter of thanks to Messrs Liebknecht and Bebel, the two representatives of the International in the German Reichstag. In that letter he said among other things (I shall retranslate it from a German version of Lefaivre’s letter): ‘You, gentlemen, and your party [that is to say, the International] have upheld the great German tradition [that is, the humanitarian spirit], etc.’

Well, this letter figures in the criminal proceedings for high treason which the Saxon government was forced by Bismarck to institute against Liebknecht and Bebel and which are still going on at this moment. It served Bismarck as a pretext for having Bebel arrested after the adjournment of the German Reichstag.

At the very time when the villainous press denounced me to Thiers as an agent of Bismarck, Bismarck imprisoned my friends for being guilty of high treason against Germany and gave orders to arrest me should I set foot on German soil.

4) Some time before the armistice [6] the worthy Jules Favre – as the General Council declared in a letter to the Times of 12 June, a reprint of which is hereby enclosed (No II) [7] – asked us through his private secretary, Dr Reitlinger, to arrange public demonstrations in London in favour of the ‘Government of Defence’. Reitlinger added, as the General Council said in its letter to the Times, that one should not speak of the ‘Republic’ but only of ‘France’. The General Council refused to give any assistance to demonstrations of this sort. But all this proves that the French Government itself considered the International an ally of the French Republic against the Prussian conqueror – and it was indeed the only ally France had during the war.

Fraternal greetings


1. Adolphe Hübert – French emigrant in London, member of First International – Progress Publishers.

2. The reference is to the bill of indictment against a group of Paris Communards who were tried by the second military court. The indictment misrepresented the revolutionary actions of the Commune and sought to turn the trial of the Communards into an ordinary criminal case dealing with common ‘incendiaries’, ‘thieves’ and ‘murderers’ – Progress Publishers.

3. Léon Bigot (1826-1872) – French lawyer and publicist, Left Republican, after suppression of Paris Commune defended Communards at Versailles Court – Progress Publishers.

4. First Address andSecond Address.

5. Jules Favre (1809-1880) – French lawyer and politician, in late 1850s became a leader of the bourgeois-republican opposition, Minister of Foreign Affairs (1870-71), hangman of Paris Commune and inspirer of struggle against International – Progress Publishers.

6. The reference is to the Convention on Armistice and the Capitulation of Paris signed by Bismarck and Favre on 28 January 1871. By signing this document the French bourgeoisie betrayed the national interests of France in order to suppress the revolutionary movement in the country – Progress Publishers.

7.Statement by the General Council on Jules Favre’s Circular’, The Times, 13 June 1871.