Jules Vallès 1871

A Choice Must Be Made

Source: Jules Vallès, le Cri du Peuple. Editeurs francais réunis, Paris, 1953;
First Published: Le Cri du Peuple Thursday April 6, 1871;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

The white flag against the red flag: the old world against the new! Who will win: the descendants of Hoche [1] or the grandchildren of Cathelineau [2]?

It’s the white flag that covered the vile soldiers. It’s the red flag that was defended by honest soldiers!

The red flag: it floats over two hundred battalions of féderés, the victors in Paris. In the past two weeks of victory, not one single man has compromised the idea of virtue. Not a single crime was committed; in this glorious chaos not one woman was insulted, not one loaf of bread stolen, not one enemy bruised.

During the battles, behind the serried flags, there was not a single violation of the rules of war, not a single violation of honor.

And if under the fire of Mont-Valerien it has been said that a few companies broke, it’s not that anyone was frightened; rather the idea of treason suddenly overcame people’s spirits, and it takes Paris, even on days of combat, two hours to recover its sang-froid and glory in the face of treason.

But it didn’t even take it two hours.

How admirable! Before the aggression and weakness of the cowards, in front of this fort from which death descended; among those roads where chouans and Corsicans waited in ambush; behind a curtain of cannons, an army of brave men, commanded by improvised generals honored the Republic with a day of defense and a night of assault: blood was offered up like water!

They advanced before battalions that cried out: “We are brothers,” and who raised their rifle stocks in the air! On two occasions, yesterday and today, the rifles betrayed and they assassinated Parisians who believed in fraternity! Twice, in Neuilly and Chatillon!

An end must be put to this!

What do you say, you men of all ranks and all classes, workers from the Twentieth arrondissement or bourgeois of the Second!

Paris can’t be either massacred or dishonored with impunity!

An end must be put to this!

In order to do this there are two paths to follow!

Either go to Versailles or else remain in Paris!

If we go to Versailles, we must do so like a torrent!

Let all of Paris set itself in motion, and let the women follow the men, let the children follow the mothers, let the ninety-two of the Commune be in the middle of this.


Thus spoke of a handful of Reds! Well, here are a million heads!


We remain at the bridgeheads, the cannons at the ready, rifles aimed, and we wait!

Deputies, chosen by the Commune will demand the right to eternal and unassailable independence for the city under arms: FREE PARIS!

Paris abandons to France the right to allow itself to be bloodied and degraded. And strong in its past, sure of its future, it commits itself to living its life of labor and honor! Deep down it knows that the world cannot do without Paris and that under all skies its freedom and its genius are needed!

But let us decide!

No skirmishes, down with strategy. I only believe in you, O! Revolution!

There is a choice to be made: levée en masse, a march on Versailles, the flood; or else we negotiate – with the world! – FREE PARIS!

But we must hurry up and choose.

Versailles imprisoned or Paris a free city!

There is no other way.

But we must at all cost avoid the continuation of this anguish and bloodshed. We don’t care about the blood of gendarmes and disguised informers that will not fertilize, but rather will soil the earth. But that of the revolution must not flow, drop by drop!

Let us make a supreme resolution! And in the meanwhile, watch over us, National Guard of Paris! Watch over the city!

Don’t advance, don’t retreat! Be soldiers, you who could be heroes!

Watch over us! And may the Commune decide!

Le Cri du Peuple Thursday April 6, 1871

1. Republican general of the Revolutionary period

2. Royalist commander of the Revolutionary period.