Jules Vallès 1871

Can This be True?

First Published: Le Cri du Peuple, Wednesday April 19, 1871;
Source: Jules Vallès, Le Cri du Peuple. Editeurs Francais Réunis, Paris, 1953;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2006.

It’s Paris that is the accused. It pillages and kills. It crushes legality under the heel of drunkards from the faubourgs.

This is what M. Thiers says, and what provincials believe.

The Cri du Peuple has imposed upon itself the obligation to only defend that which seems to it to be just, and to affirm only that which seems to be exact and true. It knows that sang froid is worth as much as passion in moments of supreme anguish and decisive battle.

So we feel comfortable judging the situation in the midst of the solemn tumult of rifle and cannon shots.

Having insulted no one, never slandered a man, never misrepresented an act, never lied for a single instant and never spoken with hesitation; placed above the quarrels caused by the angers of a day, not judging the means, pursuing the goal, devoted only to the triumph of social ideas and attached until death to the cause of the proletariat, the Cri du Peuple has the right to be heard when it gives out a cry of indignation.

It gives one out today.

According to information we have received it appears that Versailles has committed crimes that no one can excuse, neither a famous statesman nor an honest citizen. Whoever excuses them is a coward.

It is established that Duval was executed against all rights; they assassinated him and according to Independence Belge, eighty executed victims rolled onto his cadaver!

Paris knows this.

But Paris doesn’t know that Flourens was killed in as cowardly a way as Duval.

Here is what happened.

Flourens was in a house in Chatou, isolated from his armed corps, surrounded by only two or three of his own, waiting for the je ne sais quoi that is called the “turning about” of an army of the lost or “acceptance” by a battalion of heroes.

He waited.

An officer of the fire brigade, a meat seller it is said, recognized him and denounced him.

The gendarmes arrive. The house is surrounded.

Flourens attempts to escape from the assassins: he wants to live to fight some more! But the bayonets search everywhere: he is found. Crushed, bloody he is brought to he doorway where the traitor who denounced him recognizes him.

He was a prisoner, defenseless, disarmed and defeated.

They hold his arms.

A drunken gendarme raises his saber, splits his skull.

The man falls!

The next day the newspapers say that Flourens had fired his revolver at the enemy, and that he was killed because he had killed.

A lie!

The murder was committed at an inn.

They went to ask the innkeeper to sign a statement establishing that Flourens fired: in this way the wretch who delivered the sabre blow would be excused.

The innkeeper, a simple, honest man refuses to sign: he knows about the murder.

He is arrested and is in prison today.

Can this be true?

The other morning they went to intimidate his wife, who in turn refused to be an accomplice.

Can this be true?

Can it also be true that three féderés – a captain, a lieutenant and a sergeant-major – having been taken prisoner, the gendarmes then took all three of them into a field to execute them?

The captain unbuttons his tunic and shows his breast.

“You can kill me,” he says. “Me, I don’t ask for grace. In the name of humanity I ask that you let my sergeant-major live, who has a wife and five children!

“Go ahead, kill me, but spare him!”

The gendarmes start to laugh.

He falls on his knees!

“Grace for the father of a family,” he cries out again! They kill all three of them.

Can this be true?