Auguste Blanqui 1849
Source: Banquet des Travailleurs Socialistes. Chez Pages, Paris, 1849;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2010.
The Socialist Worker’s Banquet took place Sunday December 3, 1848 at exactly noon at the Association of Cooks, 36 Barrière du Maine. 1,000 guests and 300-400 of the curious – 1,500 in all, among them 400-500 women, participated. The name of the Chairman of the banquet, Citizen A. Blanqui, held in the dungeon of Vincennes, could be read on the tribune across from the name of the candidate of the republican socialists, F-V Raspail. There could also be read on signs the names of those outlawed by reaction who are the most beloved of the people: Louis Blanc, Barbès, Albert.
Citizen Salières opened the session with these few words:
The Commission of the Socialist Worker’s banquet has chosen as its Chairman Citizen Auguste Blanqui, held in the dungeon of Vincennes (applause).
This commission, composed of workers, calling workers to this fraternal banquet wants to testify in their name to its gratitude to this indefatigable combatant for democracy, this man who is the incessant victim of persecution because of his defense of the most noble of causes, whose pure devotion has been repaid with persecution and calumny.
Citizens, you know how overwhelmed socialism today is. The very people who, if socialism could be personified in one man, would attempt to cross that man from the book of life, these very people proclaim themselves to be socialists. They say they are its adherents and reject its true principles. This presents a great danger for us. The history of the ideas that in all eras have served to tie men together shows us that it is the same lovers of the form who have often stifled the idea, or at least have reduced it to petty proportions. And so we proletarians, we for whom the word “socialism” is synonymous with that of “liberation,” have come here to present the true idea, the principle of socialism. We will do it in our way, with our hearts. We hope that you will take account of our efforts (Yes! Yes!)
After these words Citizen Salières read the prisoner’s toast:
To the Mountain of 1793! To the Pure Socialists, its true heirs!
Citizens, the Mountain had sublime inspirations, daughters of the gospels and philosophy. But it never possessed those positive theories that only grow slowly from a close analysis of the social body, just as the art of healing is born of the revelations of anatomy.
Nevertheless, if it was lacking in the organizing force of science, the impulses of the heart sufficed to dictate to it the immortal slogan of the future: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and that admirable symbol, the Declaration of Rights, which broadly interpreted contains the seed of all that will come in the future society. Unfortunately, it’s the fate of the works of genius that have shaken the world to perish asphyxiated under the clouds of incense under which superstitious admirers drown them. The vivifying spirit of the master dies suffocated by the narrow observance of the text. The Law of Moses succumbed to the desperate embrace of the Pharisees. The Koran will be extinguished, turned into stone by the immobility of its imbecilic sectarians. And the Gospels themselves would have been sealed in their tomb by the idolatrous hands of its disciples – who had become its gravediggers – if their immortal ideas, escaping from the icy corpse around which they knelt, had not reappeared ever more shining in the new incarnation that will perpetuate them among humanity.
The Declaration of Rights, a formula born yesterday, is already suffering the fate of the old dogmas which in their period of decrepitude almost always become instruments of reaction against the redemptory labors of their revealers. The Judaic cult of the letter killed the revolutionary spirit of the symbol.
The militant life of the Mountain was brief, and like that of Christ ended on Golgotha. But its acts are a sparkling commentary on its words and provide the true meaning of the teachings it spread around the world.
Like Jesus, the consoler of the poor, the enemy of the powerful, the Mountain loved those who suffer and hated those who caused suffering. The salient element of its existence was its intimate alliance with the Parisian proletariat, not because it only felt the pain of one city, but because among so many populations equally bent down by suffering it found this energetic group ready at hand for the fight, for it was moved by the consciousness of its sufferings, and it made of them the liberating army of the human race.
From August 10, the date of the fall of the monarchy, until 4 Prairial, the final convulsion of the faubourgs, the people and the Mountain marched as one across the revolution, inseparable in victory and defeat. What a marvelous role to assume again! And one all the easier because the fight of 1793 was taken up again in 1848, on the same battlefield between the same combatants and , strange as it might seem, with almost the same incidents.
What do we see? As in 1793 privilege in combat with equality, and as their champions in combat a reactionary legislative majority colliding with the masses of Parisian democracy.
Will we also again find the Mountain and its faithful brotherhood in arms with the people?
And in fact, the name has reappeared! All the soldiers of the young phalanx bear it with pride and swear to bravely follow the steps of their predecessors.
Silence! The gates swing open and the action begins.
What do I hear! Under the pretext of fraternity M. Ledru-Rollin, the new leader of the Holy Mountain imperiously demands the return of the troops to the capitol against the will of the people. Is this in any way the tradition of the Mountain? I open my history book and I read that the Gironde, trembling in anger and fright before the pressure of the faubourgs, having demanded the formation of a camp of 20,000 men at the city gates to cover the national representatives, the Mountain rose up against this project fatal to freedom, set the multitude in motion, threatened the majority, and finally gained victory in this life or death question. Paris remained free.
We were less fortunate. And yet, turning the soldiers away from the bloody arena of civil war, where they could only harvest hatred and death, signified treating them as brothers. The men of the Mountain preferred fraternization in the streets.
What do we see now? The people marching in columns from the Champ de Mars to the Hotel de Ville and M. Ledru-Rollin, leader of the Mountain, has them run the gauntlet between two ranks of bayonets. And then he sets counter-revolution on the anarchists. I never saw this maneuver in either Marat’s or Danton’s campaigns. On that day did the hero of the recall of the troops incorrectly read his Montagnard theory?
And then there was another adventure. Who is that on horseback at the head of the National Guard? It’s M. Ledru-Rollin, leader of the Mountain leading victorious reaction to the Hotel de Ville and the patriot prisoners to the dungeon of Versailles.
Is it possible? Is it also M. Ledru-Rollin who presents and the Mountain who vote the draconian law against public gatherings? It is!
Good god! Are these Montagnards nothing but Girondins? But I read the name of Robespierre on their hats.
Be patient. Faithful to the parallels, no scene of the past will be missing from today’s drama. As in the past the mounting tide of hostilities between a reactionary majority and the Parisian workers must inevitably lead to a May 31. It broke out not on May 15, a grotesque day, but on June 23.
The army of the Mountain was ready on that day. And what did we see? Our monkeys of the Mountain throwing away their liberty bonnets and other revolutionary garb, inciting from the four corners all the stored up anger of the federalists, and like an avalanche, precipitating the counter-revolutionary masses on Paris.
The affront of May 31 was avenged; the rebellious Babylon punished. And by whom? By the Mountain!
Woe on the defeated. Those of June drank the chalice to the dregs. Crimes are eagerly being imputed to them. Had they emerged victorious everyone would have asked for a place of honor behind their flag. They are dead, and everyone spits anathema on them. Reaction says they are escapees from penal colonies and the Mountain says they are in the pay of monarchism.
What was the point of this last outrage? What is the goal of the fable of Russian gold and the ridiculous voyage in search of dynastic employment? As if royalty could today move a single paving stone. Why this pathetic tactic which makes friends and enemies laugh with pity? Most likely to prevent any solidarity with the defeated. But everyone knows there is nothing in common between you and them. Your artillery has sufficiently proved your innocence. Perhaps your artillery has to be justified in the eyes of some others, and so you go seeking imaginary leaders at the expense of the honor of the dead.
You dare to say that the Parisian people, the precursors of the future, are nothing but a herd of animals that Pitt and Cobourg lead to the slaughterhouse with a handful of salt. And all this because it pleased M. Ledru-Rolin to harangue them in the form of cannon fire. Fire, gentlemen, but don’t slander. June 26 is one of those ill-fated days that the revolution takes credit for in tears, just as a mother calls for the corpse of her son.
All of you, you great unknowns, who are swallowed up by the mass graves, poor Lazaruses fallen before the bullets in the great hunt for those in rags, you were nothing but the tools and mercenaries of royalism! You too, monuments to the justice and the clemency of our masters, unfortunate victims of prison ships. Colfavru, Thuillier, writers struck from behind, noble martyrs of the press for whom the press had not one word of protection or farewell. And you my old companions of Mont Saint Michel: Jarasse, Herbulet, Pétremann, valiant soldiers of May and February, thrice guilty of the crime of lack of respect for the army, know there in your lion’s pit that the kabyle razzia swept you up as enemies of the republic.
And the saviors of the republic, the Brutuses and Scaevolas are the generals and aides-de-camp of Louis-Philippe, the marquis of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the holy militias of the congregations. But also the glorious decorated of June, all of them furious newly-minted royalists, the princes and dukes, intrepid leaders of the rural National Guard. And finally, there’s the Chouans who rose up en masse at the call of their priests to attack Paris. Did they do this to avenge ‘93, to avenge the old insults of the impious city? Not at all! It was to defend the republic against the Parisian royalist brigands!
O old formulas! Will of the wisps that cause the mountains to sink into the marshes. This is the result of your blows! You’ve turned our senators into vicars and marabouts murmuring prayers they no longer understand. But this isn’t your fault. You have always been clear about things, but the Mountain’s senses have been weakened.
The world has moved on in fifty years, but they have remained immobile. Science has forged more certain weapons, cleared a wider and more direct road. But the Mountain persists in walking down the paths of the past in old worn out attire, and they cry out against any novelty unknown to our fathers. These Epimenides fell asleep during a session of the Convention and upon awakening inadvertently took their place on the benches of the right. And then there they come, playing the year 1793 before the public, with its words, costumes and decors, everything except the play’s meaning, like those Ellevious and Malibran of Quimper-Corentin who think they’ll find the voices they need in the costume room.
The first act opened with the decree of vests à la Robespierre. The show goes on, and we will be spared not a couplet or a line. The least change in the script will result in its criminal author being sent before the revolutionary tribunal.
Our Epimenides recognize no other living beings than the dead of 1793, and whether they want it or not they assign everyone a role in their play. At the current moment it’s the second Cordelier Club that’s on stage. A deputy (infinitely newer in the Taitbout Room than today on Rue Taitbout) having gotten sensed the presence of the first version and denounced a Hébertist conspiracy, the men of the Mountain immediately set out on their trail.
They swear that in order to fool the bloodhounds who are after them the guilty have changed their names; that Hébert is now called Proudhon and Chaumette Raspail. They are searching everywhere for disguised versions of Ronsin, Momoro, Vincent, Anacharsis Cloots, Bishop Gobel. Watch out for the priest of Saint Eustache, who is a socialist. I advise him if he falls into their hands that if he wants to come out of this safe to protest that he is not Father Gobel, but rather the abbot Gregoire, and then he’ll be smothered in excuses and caresses.
The Jacobins asked M. Buchez to illuminate their searches with his parliamentary history lantern. Imagine their surprise when he angrily answered them: “There’s no need to seek; it is you who are the Hébertists since you don’t admire the Saint Bartholomew’s massacre.”
It appears that at the moment of the abrupt awakening of February 24 all of the sleepers carried out a confused exchange of heads, to such an extent that in the midst of this chaos of unmatched physiognomies the disoriented M. Buchez takes Girondins for Hébertists, the former thinking themselves to be men of the Mountain.
People then ran to seek information from Pierre Leroux, the author of the “Renaissance dans l’Humanité.” But the good patriarch gently told his questioners that without any doubt individuals are indefinitely reborn from generation to generation, but perfected and better; that consequently there were no more, there could no longer be, either Girondins, men of the Mountain, or Hébertists.
The response convinced no one and the searches are actively continuing. We already have proof that “Le Peuple” the newspaper of Hébert-Proudhon is nothing but the former “Père Duchêne” disguising its style.
These buffooneries would be funny if they hadn’t become tragic. Unfortunately, in this play every scene of uncontrollable laughter immediately engenders a scene of tears and blood. The actors themselves don’t know the denouement of their performance. In all good faith they thought they were presenting it for the profit and not at the expense of the workers. They will perhaps console themselves for the misadventure with the thought that they were performing in a play with two ends, one happy and the other sad, and that all that is wrong flows from an error in the variant.
But this mass of unexpected incidents, of situations improvised outside and against the libretto, seriously demoralizes them and leads them to dream about the fickleness of the public. Political romanticism has most decidedly perverted people’s spirits. In no condition to resist the torrent and maintain the classical tradition in its integrity, the academicians of the Mountain painfully resign themselves to make a sacrifice to the folly of the day and dress the old repertoire in the taste of today.
Rags cut from Proudhon, Leroux, Cabet and Fourier have been sewed onto Robespierre’s worn out coat, and from this variety they’ve put together the most eclectic of picturesque and vulgar costumes, a harlequin’s costume, now hung as a sign at the doors of the theater and carried in great pomp around the streets for the edification of the crowd.
On the breast of the mannequin, spread in trompe l’oeil, shine the socialist labels, to the great chagrin of their legitimate owners, the innovators who see their formulas turned into advertisements for the Hotel des Invalides.
These fraudulent borrowings force us to lengthen our motto with endless epithets. Is it not disastrous to call oneself by a name more interminable than that of a Spanish grandee and to need a half an hour to issue one’s rallying cry?
We are victims of the most abominable of ambushes. It is we socialists, the so-called despoilers, who everyone despoils at will and with no shame. Even our name has been taken from us, and soon our shadows will be stolen. What is more, the men of the Mountain, reaction’s youngest children, in pillaging us have done nothing but follow the example of their elders. If today they steal our title of socialist, yesterday the others wrested our title of republican.
Yes, this noble name of republican, outlawed and ridiculed by the counter revolution, was imprudently stolen by them so they could crown themselves with the laurel of our victory. With the same audacity they stole from us our sublime slogan of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, so long insulted and covered with mud by them as the symbol of blood and death.
Fortunately it rejected our flag... This was a mistake: It remains ours.
Citizens, the Mountain is dead!
To socialism, its sole heir!
This speech, religiously listened to, at various points incited unanimous applause among the listeners.