Jules Vallès 1871

Paris, Free City

First Published: Le Cri du Peuple, Wednesday March 22, 1871;
Source: Jules Vallès, Le Cri du Peuple. Editeurs français réunis, Paris, 1953;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.

There is the working bourgeoisie and the parasitic bourgeoisie.

Those who Le Cri du Peuple attacks, who its editors have everywhere and always attacked, are the do-nothings, those who traffic in positions and have turned politics into a trade.

They’re a herd of chatterboxes, a mass of the ambitious, a seedbed of sub-prefects and state counselors.

They produce nothing but froth. Through shadowy banking systems or shameful stock market speculations they grab the profits produced by those who work – they’re shameless speculators who rob the poor and loan to kings, who played dice on the drums of Transnonain or December 2 and who are already thinking of ways to carve their bank out of the corpse of the bloodied fatherland.

But there is a working bourgeoisie, this one honest and valiant. It goes to the workshop wearing a cap, wanders in wooden clogs through the mud of factories, in the cold and the heat remains at its cash register or its office, in its small shop or its large factory, behind the windows of a boutique or the walls of a manufactory. It swallows dust and smoke, burns itself behind the workbench or the forge, helps out wherever needed. It is, with its courage and fears, the sister of the proletariat.

For it has its fears, its risks of failure, its days when bills come due. Thanks precisely to those parasites who need trouble and agitation in order to live, not one fortune is certain today. Nothing is stable: today’s boss is tomorrow’s laborer, and school graduates see their jackets worn to rags.

How many I know among those who are well-established and well-dressed who have the same worries as the poor, who sometimes ask what will become of their children and who would trade all their chances of happiness and profit for the certitude of a modest job and a tearless old age.

It is this whole world of workers who fear ruin and unemployment who make up Paris, the great Paris. Why in all our misery as men and citizens wouldn’t they take each other by the hand? And why, in this solemn moment, wouldn’t we try for once and for all to wrest this country – where we are brothers in effort and danger – from that eternal uncertainty which allows adventurers to always succeed, and obliges honest men to always suffer and tremble!

Fraternity was queen the other day before the cannons and under the bright sun. It must remain queen and Paris must take a solemn decision – a decision that will be the only correct one and will only take its place in history if it manages to avoid civil war and returns to the war with the victorious Bismarck.

As for ourselves, we are ready to impose nothing, to suffer everything in this painful circle of fatality, on condition that the freedom of Paris remain safe, and that the flag of the republic shelter, in an independent city, a courageous people of workers.

Workers and bourgeois: several hundred years ago, in that Germany from which came the cannons that struck us, four cities declared themselves free cities; for centuries they were great and proud, rich and calm. In all corners of the world they were heard, and they cast merchandise and gold on all the shores!

In order to untie the Gordian knot that had bound together our recent misfortunes other than with the saber, there is only one word:


Through the intermediary of the peoples’ representatives we will immediately negotiate with the government of Versailles for a status quo without battle, and with the Prussians for the settling of indemnities.

No blood will be shed, the cannons will remain cold, the barracks will close and the workshops reopen and work recommence.

Work recommences! This is the inflexible necessity, the supreme desire. Let us all come to agreement so that everyone finds tomorrow his work. Citizens of all classes and ranks: this is salvation!

Paris, a free city, returns to its labors.

This secession would save the provinces from their fears and the faubourgs from famine.

Bordeaux said: Down with Paris!

We for our part cry out: Long live France, Long live Paris! And we promise to never extend to that France that slanders us the hand that they took as a threat.

It’s between Montrouge and Montmartre that, whatever the circumstances will always beat the heart of the country, which we’ll always love and which will return to us in the end.

Several cities – precisely those feared by the moderates – can also negotiate so they can live free and take part in the great federation of republican cities.

To those who fear that they would suffer from isolation, we would respond that there are no frontiers high enough to prevent labor from crossing them, industry from razing them, commerce from poking holes in them.

Labor! The cities with high chimneys that spit the smoke of factories, with their great workshops and long counters; cities made fertile don’t die! Even peasants don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs!

Having a flag of its own, Paris could no longer be defamed or threatened, and it will remain the able seeker, the happy finder who invents beautiful plans and great instruments, who will be forever implored to put its seal on this metal or that cloth, on this toy or that weapon, on this cup or that basin, on the mould of a porcelain or the silk of a gown! It will remain master and king.


No more blood spilled! Rifles at rest! Mayors are named and magistrates elected. And then to work! To work! The bell tolls for work and not for combat.