Gracchus Babeuf and the Conspiracy of the Equals 1796
Fragment of a Speech of the Insurrectional Committee to the People of Paris
Source; Ph. Buonarroti. La conspiration pour l'égalité, Editions Sociales, Paris. 1957;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.
Buonarroti, the great participant in and chronicler of the Conspiracy, wrote: “the Insurrectional Committee recommended to all of the agents under its control to gather, immediately after the destruction of tyranny, the mass of citizens.” This is the speech they would have heard had victory been obtained.
Citizens! If to command the interest of listeners one needs as a subject for a speech issues of the greatest importance, no speaker can ever have been listened to with as much attention as I will be. I demand that attention again, I ask for it, and I want to prepare you in advance, happy people, on this day that lights our way. I want to increase this by warning you that the things I have to tell you are even more important than the sublime conquest you have just carried out. If the confidence you have in he who is speaking, as well as they in whose name he speaks, can increase even more the attention of those who listen, then I don’t think I am wandering from this goal when I say that you are listening to the organ of the Insurrectional Committee of Public Safety.
A free people again! People unchained and victorious! Give yourself over without any constraint to your joy: your masters are no more. The time is passed when, in their presence, and when they spoke of your freedom, your existence, your most cherished interests, they wanted to make a vile automaton of you. We, for our part, don’t tell you to give either a sign of approval or disapproval. Sovereign people! If we betray you, if our words be but the forerunners of our perfidy and our crime, in the name of the fatherland and of freedom, don’t let us finish them: censure us! Punish us immediately!
People of France, I think it appropriate to end my speech by telling you who the members are of the Insurrectional Committee of Public Safety, in whose name I speak. Their names are....
France! It is you as a whole that hears me! And you, my listeners, who along with us make up its first liberators, I promise you, as well as it, to say things worthy of such a great day, things even more interesting than the signal victory it illuminates; I will say, and I will propose things that will guarantee to the people that it can never again lose the fruits of this triumph.
It is still to the people that I address myself; it is all I see here. In the Act of Insurrection we spoke of a representative body; it doesn’t yet exist because it is not yet recognized. It does not yet exist because the people, still in a state of insurrection, still directly exercises its rights; let every other power disappear before the people’s. It does not yet exist, because the fruits of the insurrection have not yet been plucked, nor are the people assured of them. Citizens, grasp well these circumstances. Let ancient privileges cause you no illusions; it is you I see here, I see no senate. Consequently, it is to you and you alone that I am going to speak. And I repeat, it is useful, extremely useful, that you understand this well. The moment is precious, it is unique, it will not come again. Our eternal fate depends on the use to which we put it.