Certain of these violations (of natural right) have escaped the notice of philosophers and legislators, even while concerning themselves zealously to establish the common rights of individuals of the human race, and in this way to lay the foundation of political institutions. For example, have they not all violated the principle of the equality of rights in tranquilly depriving one-half of the human race of the right of taking part in the formation of laws by the exclusion of women from the rights of citizenship? Could there be a stronger proof of the power of habit, even among enlightened men, than to hear invoked the principle of equal rights in favour of perhaps some 300 or 400 men, who had been deprived of it by an absurd prejudice, and forget it when it concerns some 12,000,000 women?
To show that this exclusion is not an act of tyranny, it must be proved either that the natural rights of women are not absolutely the same as those of men, or that women are not capable of exercising these rights.
But the rights of men result simply from the fact that they are rational, sentient beings, susceptible of acquiring ideas of morality, and of reasoning concerning those ideas. Women having, then, the same qualities, have necessarily the same rights. Either no individual of the human species has any true rights, or all have the same; and he or she who votes against therights of another, whatever may be his or her religion, colour, or sex, has by that fact abjured his own.
It would be difficult to prove that women are incapable of exercising the rights of citizenship. Although liable to become mothers of families, and exposed to other passing indispositions, why may they not exercise rights of which it has never been proposed to deprive those persons who periodically suffer from gout, bronchitis, etc.? Admitting for the moment that there exists in men a superiority of mind, which is not the necessary result of a difference of education (which is by no means proved, but which should be, to permit of women being deprived of a natural right without injustice), this inferiority can only consist in two points. It is said that no woman has made any important discovery in science, or has given any proofs of the possession of genius in arts, literature, etc.; but, on the other hand, it is not pretended that the rights of citizenship should be accorded only to men of genius. It is added that no woman has the same extent of knowledge, the same power of reasoning, as certain men; but what results from that? Only this, that with the exception of a limited number of exceptionally enlightened men, equality is absolute between women and the remainder of the men; that this small class apart, inferiority and superiority are equally divided between the two sexes. But since it would be completely absurd to restrict to this superior class the rights of citizenship and the power of being entrusted with public functions, why should women be excluded any more than those men who are inferior to a great number of women? Lastly, shall it be said that there exists in the minds and hearts of women certain qualities which ought to exclude them from the enjoyment of their natural rights? Let us interrogate the facts. Elizabeth of England, Maria Theresa, the two Catherines of Russia—have they not shown that neither in courage nor in strength of mind are women wanting?
Elizabeth possessed all the failings of women. Did these failings work more harm during her reign than resulted from the failings of men during the reign of her father, Henry VIII., or her successor, James I.? Have the lovers of certain empresses exercised a more dangerous influence than the mistresses of Louis XIV., of Louis XV., or even of Henry IV.?
Will it be maintained that Mistress Macaulay would not have expressed her opinions in the House of Commons better than many representatives of the British nation? In dealing with the question of liberty of conscience, would she not have expressed more elevated principles than those of Pitt, as well as more powerful reasoning? Although as great an enthusiast on behalf of liberty as Mr. Burke could be on behalf of its opposite, would she, while defending the French Constitution, have made use of such absurd and offensive nonsense as that which this celebrated rhetorician made use of in attacking it? Would not the adopted daughter of Montaigne have better defended the rights of citizens in France, in 1614, than the Councillor Courtin, who was a believer in magic and occult powers? Was not the Princesse des Ursins superior to Chamillard? Could not the Marquise de Chatelet have written equally as well as M. Rouillé? Would Mme. de Lambert have made laws as absurd and as barbarous as those of the “garde des Sceaux,” of Armenouville, against Protestants, invaders of domestic privacy, robbers and negroes? In looking back over the list of those who have governed the world, men have scarcely the right to be so very uplifted.
Women are superior to men in the gentle and domestic virtues; they, as well as men, know how to love liberty, although they do not participate in all its advantages; and in republics they have been known to sacrifice themselves for it. They have shown that they possess the virtues of citizens whenever chance or civil disasters have brought them upon a scene from which they have been shut out by the pride and the tyranny of men in all nations.
It has been said that women, in spite of much ability, of much sagacity, and of a power of reasoning carried to a degree equalling that of subtle dialecticians, yet are never governed by what is called “reason.”
This observation is not correct. Women are not governed, it is true, by the reason (and experience) of men; they are governed by their own reason (and experience).
Their interests not being the same (as those of men) by the fault of the law, the same things not having the same importance for them as for men, they may, without failing in rational conduct, govern themselves by different principles, and tend towards a different result. It is as reasonable for a woman to concern herself respecting her personal attractions as it was for Demosthenes to cultivate his voice and his gestures.
It is said that women, although superior in some respects to man—more gentle, more sensitive, less subject to those vices which proceed from egotism and hardness of heart—yet do not really possess the sentiment of justice; that they obey rather their feelings than their conscience. This observation is more correct, but it proves nothing; it is not nature, it is education, it is social existence which produces this difference.
Neither the one nor the other has habituated women to the idea of what is just, but only to the idea of what is “honnête,” or respectable. Excluded from public affairs, from all those things which are judged of according to rigorous ideas of justice, or according to positive laws, the things with which they are occupied and which are affected by them are precisely those which are regulated by natural feelings of honesty (or, rather, propriety) and of sentiment. It is, then, unjust to allege as an excuse for continuing to refuse to women the enjoyment of all their natural rights motives which have only a kind of reality because women lack the experience which comes from the exercise of these rights.
If reasons such as these are to be admitted against women, it will become necessary to deprive of the rights of citizenship that portion of the people who, devoted to constant labour, can neither acquire knowledge nor exercise their reason; and thus, little by little, only those persons would be permitted to be citizens who had completed a course of legal study. If such principles are admitted, we must, as a natural consequence, renounce the idea of a liberal constitution. The various aristocracies have only had such principles as these for foundation or excuse. The etymology of the word is a sufficient proof of this.
Neither can the subjection of wives to their husbands be alleged against their claims, since it would be possible in the same statute to destroy this tyranny of the civil law. The existence of one injustice can never be accepted as a reason for committing another.
There remain, then, only two objections to discuss. And, in truth, these can only oppose motives of expediency against the admission of women to the right of voting; which motives can never be upheld as a bar to the exercise of true justice. The contrary maxim has only too often served as the pretext and excuse of tyrants; it is in the name of expediency that commerce and industry groan in chains; and that Africa remains afflicted with slavery: it was in the name of public expediency that the Bastille was crowded; that the censorship of the press was instituted; that accused persons were not allowed to communicate with their advisers; that torture was resorted to. Nevertheless, we will discuss these objections, so as to leave nothing without reply.
It is necessary, we are warned, to be on guard against the influence exercised by women over men. We reply at once that this, like any other influence, is much more to be feared when not exercised openly; and that, whatever influence may be peculiar to women, if exercised upon more than one individual at a time, will in so far become proportionately lessened. That since, up to this time, women have not been admitted in any country to absolute equality; since their empire has none the less existed everywhere; and since the more women have been degraded by the laws, the more dangerous has their influence been; it does not appear that this remedy of subjection ought to inspire us with much confidence. Is it not probable, on the contrary, that their special empire would diminish if women had less interest in its preservation; if it ceased to be for them their sole means of defence, and of escape from persecution?
If politeness does not permit to men to maintain their opinions against women in society, this politeness, it may be said, is near akin to pride; we yield a victory of no importance; defeat does not humiliate when it is regarded as voluntary. Is it seriously believed that it would be the same in a public discussion on an important topic? Does politeness forbid the bringing of an action at law against a woman?
But, it will be said, this change will be contrary to general expediency, because it will take women away from those duties which nature has reserved for them. This objection scarcely appears to me well founded. Whatever form of constitution may be established, it is certain that in the present state of civilisation among European nations there will never be more than a limited number of citizens required to occupy themselves with public affairs. Women will no more be torn from their homes than agricultural labourers from their ploughs, or artisans from their workshops. And, among the richer classes, we nowhere see women giving themselves up so persistently to domestic affairs that we should fear to distract their attention; and a really serious occupation or interest would take them less away than the frivolous pleasures to which idleness, a want of object in life, and an inferior education have condemned them.
The principal source of this fear is the idea that every person admitted to exercise the rights of citizenship immediately aspires to govern others. This may be true to a certain extent, at a time when the constitution is being established, but the feeling can scarcely prove durable. And so it is scarcely necessary to believe that because women may become members of national assemblies, they would immediately abandon their children, their homes, and their needles. They would only be the better fitted to educate their children and to rear men. It is natural that a woman should suckle her infant; that she should watch over its early childhood. Detained in her home by these cares, and less muscular than the man, it is also natural that she should lead a more retired, a more domestic life. The woman, therefore, as well as the man in a corresponding class of life, would be under the necessity of performing certain duties at certain times according to circumstances. This may be a motive for not giving her the preference in an election, but it cannot be a reason for legal exclusion. Gallantry would doubtless lose by the change, but domestic customs would be improved by equality in this as in other things.
Up to this time the manners of all nations have been more or less brutal and corrupt. I only know of one exception, and that is in favour of the Americans of the United States, who are spread, few in number, over a wide territory. Up to this time, among all nations, legal inequality has existed between men and women; and it would not be difficult to show that, in these two phenomena, the second is one of the causes of the first, because inequality necessarily introduces corruption, and is the most common cause of it, if even it be not the sole cause.
I now demand that opponents should condescend to refute these propositions by other methods than by pleasantries and declamations; above all, that they should show me any natural difference between men and women which may legitimately serve as foundation for the deprivation of a right.
The equality of rights established between men by our new constitution has brought down upon us eloquent declamations and never-ending pleasantries; but up till now no one has been able to oppose to it one single reason, and this is certainly neither from lack of talent nor lack of zeal. I venture to believe that it will be the same with regard to equality of rights between the two sexes. It is sufficiently curious that, in a great number of countries, women have been judged incapable of all public functions yet worthy of royalty; that in France a woman has been able to be regent, and yet that up to 1776 she could not be a milliner or dressmaker (‘marchande des modes’) in Paris, except under cover of her husband’s name; and that, lastly, in our elective assemblies they have accorded to rights of property what they have refused to natural right. Many of our noble deputies owe to ladies the honour of sitting among the representatives of the nation. Why, instead of depriving of this right women who were owners of landed estates, was it not extended to all those who possessed property or were heads of households? Why, if it be found absurd to exercise the right of citizenship by proxy, deprive women of this right, rather than leave them the liberty of exercising it in person?” Marquis de Condorcet, “On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship;” 1789
‘The proletarians of Paris,’ said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, ‘amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs…. They have understood that it is their imperious duty, and their absolute right, to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power.’
But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.
The centralized state power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature – organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and hierarchic division of labor – originates from the days of absolute monarchy, serving nascent middle class society as a mighty weapon in its struggle against feudalism. Still, its development remained clogged by all manner of medieval rubbish, seignorial rights, local privileges, municipal and guild monopolies, and provincial constitutions. The gigantic broom of the French Revolution of the 18th century swept away all these relics of bygone times, thus clearing simultaneously the social soil of its last hinderances to the superstructure of the modern state edifice raised under the First Empire, itself the offspring of the coalition wars of old semi-feudal Europe against modern France.
During the subsequent regimes, the government, placed under parliamentary control – that is, under the direct control of the propertied classes – became not only a hotbed of huge national debts and crushing taxes; with its irresistible allurements of place, pelf, and patronage, it became not only the bone of contention between the rival factions and adventurers of the ruling classes; but its political character changed simultaneously with the economic changes of society. At the same pace at which the progress of modern industry developed, widened, intensified the class antagonism between capital and labor, the state power assumed more and more the character of the national power of capital over labor, of a public force organized for social enslavement, of an engine of class despotism.
After every revolution marking a progressive phase in the class struggle, the purely repressive character of the state power stands out in bolder and bolder relief. The Revolution of 1830, resulting in the transfer of government from the landlords to the capitalists, transferred it from the more remote to the more direct antagonists of the working men. The bourgeois republicans, who, in the name of the February Revolution, took the state power, used it for the June  massacres, in order to convince the working class that “social” republic means the republic entrusting their social subjection, and in order to convince the royalist bulk of the bourgeois and landlord class that they might safely leave the cares and emoluments of government to the bourgeois “republicans.”
However, after their one heroic exploit of June, the bourgeois republicans had, from the front, to fall back to the rear of the “Party of Order” – a combination formed by all the rival fractions and factions of the appropriating classes. The proper form of their joint-stock government was the parliamentary republic, with Louis Bonaparte for its president. Theirs was a regime of avowed class terrorism and deliberate insult towards the “vile multitude.”
If the parliamentary republic, as M. Thiers said, “divided them [the different fractions of the ruling class] least”, it opened an abyss between that class and the whole body of society outside their spare ranks. The restraints by which their own divisions had under former regimes still checked the state power, were removed by their union; and in view of the threatening upheaval of the proletariat, they now used that state power mercilessly and ostentatiously as the national war engine of capital against labor.
In their uninterrupted crusade against the producing masses, they were, however, bound not only to invest the executive with continually increased powers of repression, but at the same time to divest their own parliamentary stronghold – the National Assembly – one by one, of all its own means of defence against the Executive. The Executive, in the person of Louis Bonaparte, turned them out. The natural offspring of the “Party of Order” republic was the Second Empire.
The empire, with the coup d’etat for its birth certificate, universal suffrage for its sanction, and the sword for its sceptre, professed to rest upon the peasantry, the large mass of producers not directly involved in the struggle of capital and labor. It professed to save the working class by breaking down parliamentarism, and, with it, the undisguised subserviency of government to the propertied classes. It professed to save the propertied classes by upholding their economic supremacy over the working class; and, finally, it professed to unite all classes by reviving for all the chimera of national glory.
In reality, it was the only form of government possible at a time when the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired, the faculty of ruling the nation. It was acclaimed throughout the world as the savior of society. Under its sway, bourgeois society, freed from political cares, attained a development unexpected even by itself. Its industry and commerce expanded to colossal dimensions; financial swindling celebrated cosmopolitan orgies; the misery of the masses was set off by a shameless display of gorgeous, meretricious and debased luxury. The state power, apparently soaring high above society and the very hotbed of all its corruptions. Its own rottenness, and the rottenness of the society it had saved, were laid bare by the bayonet of Prussia, herself eagerly bent upon transferring the supreme seat of that regime from Paris to Berlin. Imperialism is, at the same time, the most prostitute and the ultimate form of the state power which nascent middle class society had commenced to elaborate as a means of its own emancipation from feudalism, and which full-grown bourgeois society had finally transformed into a means for the enslavement of labor by capital.
The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune. The cry of “social republic,” with which the February Revolution was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supercede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic.
Paris, the central seat of the old governmental power, and, at the same time, the social stronghold of the French working class, had risen in arms against the attempt of Thiers and the Rurals to restore and perpetuate that old governmental power bequeathed to them by the empire. Paris could resist only because, in consequence of the siege, it had got rid of the army, and replaced it by a National Guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men. This fact was now to be transformed into an institution. The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.
The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.
Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workman’s wage. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.
Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power”, by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles.
The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it.
The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible, and revocable.
The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France. The communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old centralized government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers.
In a rough sketch of national organization, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents. The few but important functions which would still remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal and thereafter responsible agents.
The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excresence.
While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society. Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workmen and managers in his business. And it is well-known that companies, like individuals, in matters of real business generally know how to put the right man in the right place, and, if they for once make a mistake, to redress it promptly. On the other hand, nothing could be more foreign to the spirit of the Commune than to supercede universal suffrage by hierarchical investiture.[A]
It is generally the fate of completely new historical creations to be mistaken for the counterparts of older, and even defunct, forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. Thus, this new Commune, which breaks with the modern state power, has been mistaken for a reproduction of the medieval Communes, which first preceded, and afterward became the substratum of, that very state power. The Communal Constitution has been mistaken for an attempt to break up into the federation of small states, as dreamt of by Montesquieu and the Girondins,[B] that unity of great nations which, if originally brought about by political force, has now become a powerful coefficient of social production. The antagonism of the Commune against the state power has been mistaken for an exaggerated form of the ancient struggle against over-centralization. Peculiar historical circumstances may have prevented the classical development, as in France, of the bourgeois form of government, and may have allowed, as in England, to complete the great central state organs by corrupt vestries, jobbing councillors, and ferocious poor-law guardians in the towns, and virtually hereditary magistrates in the counties.
The Communal Constitution would have restored to the social body all the forces hitherto absorbed by the state parasite feeding upon, and clogging the free movement of, society. By this one act, it would have initiated the regeneration of France.
The provincial French middle class saw in the Commune an attempt to restore the sway their order had held over the country under Louis Philippe, and which, under Louis Napoleon, was supplanted by the pretended rule of the country over the towns. In reality, the Communal Constitution brought the rural producers under the intellectual lead of the central towns of their districts, and there secured to them, in the working men, the natural trustees of their interests. The very existence of the Commune involved, as a matter of course, local municipal liberty, but no longer as a check upon the now superseded state power. It could only enter into the head of a Bismarck – who, when not engaged on his intrigues of blood and iron, always likes to resume his old trade, so befitting his mental calibre, of contributor to Kladderadatsch (the Berlin Punch)[C] – it could only enter into such a head to ascribe to the Paris Commune aspirations after the caricature of the old French municipal organization of 1791, the Prussian municipal constitution which degrades the town governments to mere secondary wheels in the police machinery of the Prussian state. The Commune made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions – cheap government – a reality by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure: the standing army and state functionarism. Its very existence presupposed the non-existence of monarchy, which, in Europe at least, is the normal incumbrance and indispensable cloak of class rule. It supplied the republic with the basis of really democratic institutions. But neither cheap government nor the “true republic” was its ultimate aim; they were its mere concomitants.
The multiplicity of interpretations to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which construed it in their favor, show that it was a thoroughly expansive political form, while all the previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive. Its true secret was this:
It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor.
Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot co-exist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundation upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute.
It is a strange fact. In spite of all the tall talk and all the immense literature, for the last 60 years, about emancipation of labor, no sooner do the working men anywhere take the subject into their own hands with a will, than uprises at once all the apologetic phraseology of the mouthpieces of present society with its two poles of capital and wages-slavery (the landlord now is but the sleeping partner of the capitalist), as if the capitalist society was still in its purest state of virgin innocence, with its antagonisms still undeveloped, with its delusions still unexploded, with its prostitute realities not yet laid bare. The Commune, they exclaim, intends to abolish property, the basis of all civilization!
Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land, and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor. But this is communism, “impossible” communism! Why, those members of the ruling classes who are intelligent enough to perceive the impossibility of continuing the present system – and they are many – have become the obtrusive and full-mouthed apostles of co-operative production. If co-operative production is not to remain a sham and a snare; if it is to supersede the capitalist system; if united co-operative societies are to regulate national production upon common plan, thus taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of capitalist production – what else, gentlemen, would it be but communism, “possible” communism?
The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce par décret du peuple. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistably tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen’s gentlemen with pen and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility.
When the Paris Commune took the management of the revolution in its own hands; when plain working men for the first time dared to infringe upon the governmental privilege of their “natural superiors,” and, under circumstances of unexampled difficulty, performed it at salaries the highest of which barely amounted to one-fifth of what, according to high scientific authority,(1) is the minimum required for a secretary to a certain metropolitan school-board – the old world writhed in convulsions of rage at the sight of the Red Flag, the symbol of the Republic of Labor, floating over the Hôtel de Ville.
And yet, this was the first revolution in which the working class was openly acknowledged as the only class capable of social initiative, even by the great bulk of the Paris middle class – shopkeepers, tradesmen, merchants – the wealthy capitalist alone excepted. The Commune had saved them by a sagacious settlement of that ever recurring cause of dispute among the middle class themselves – the debtor and creditor accounts.[D] The same portion of the middle class, after they had assisted in putting down the working men’s insurrection of June 1848, had been at once unceremoniously sacrificed to their creditors[E] by the then Constituent Assembly. But this was not their only motive for now rallying around the working class. They felt there was but one alternative – the Commune, or the empire – under whatever name it might reappear. The empire had ruined them economically by the havoc it made of public wealth, by the wholesale financial swindling it fostered, by the props it lent to the artificially accelerated centralization of capital, and the concomitant expropriation of their own ranks. It had suppressed them politically, it had shocked them morally by its orgies, it had insulted their Voltairianism by handing over the education of their children to the fréres Ignorantins,[F] it had revolted their national feeling as Frenchmen by precipitating them headlong into a war which left only one equivalent for the ruins it made – the disappearance of the empire. In fact, after the exodus from Paris of the high Bonapartist and capitalist bohème, the true middle class Party of Order came out in the shape of the “Union Republicaine,”[G] enrolling themselves under the colors of the Commune and defending it against the wilful misconstructions of Thiers. Whether the gratitude of this great body of the middle class will stand the present severe trial, time must show.
The Commune was perfectly right in telling the peasants that “its victory was their only hope.” Of all the lies hatched at Versailles and re-echoed by the glorious European penny-a-liner, one of the most tremendous was that the Rurals represented the French peasantry. Think only of the love of the French peasant for the men to whom, after 1815, he had to pay the milliard indemnity.[H] In the eyes of the French peasant, the very existence of a great landed proprietor is in itself an encroachment on his conquests of 1789. The bourgeois, in 1848, had burdened his plot of land with the additional tax of 45 cents in the franc; but then he did so in the name of the revolution; while now he had fomented a civil war against revolution, to shift on to the peasant’s shoulders the chief load of the 5 milliards of indemnity to be paid to the Prussian. The Commune, on the other hand, in one of its first proclamations, declared that the true originators of the war would be made to pay its cost. The Commune would have delivered the peasant of the blood tax – would have given him a cheap government – transformed his present blood-suckers, the notary, advocate, executor, and other judicial vampires, into salaried communal agents, elected by, and responsible to, himself. It would have freed him of the tyranny of the garde champêtre, the gendarme, and the prefect; would have put enlightenment by the schoolmaster in the place of stultification by the priest. And the French peasant is, above all, a man of reckoning. He would find it extremely reasonable that the pay of the priest, instead of being extorted by the tax-gatherer, should only depend upon the spontaneous action of the parishioners’ religious instinct. Such were the great immediate boons which the rule of the Commune – and that rule alone – held out to the French peasantry. It is, therefore, quite superfluous here to expatiate upon the more complicated but vital problems which the Commune alone was able, and at the same time compelled, to solve in favor of the peasant – viz., the hypothecary debt, lying like an incubus upon his parcel of soil, the prolétariat foncier (the rural proletariat), daily growing upon it, and his expropriation from it enforced, at a more and more rapid rate, by the very development of modern agriculture and the competition of capitalist farming.
The French peasant had elected Louis Bonaparte president of the Republic; but the Party of Order created the empire. What the French peasant really wants he commenced to show in 1849 and 1850, by opposing his maire to the government’s prefect, his school-master to the government’s priest, and himself to the government’s gendarme. All the laws made by the Party of Order in January and February 1850 were avowed measures of repression against the peasant. The peasant was a Bonapartist, because the Great Revolution, with all its benefits to him, was, in his eyes, personified in Napoleon. This delusion, rapidly breaking down under the Second Empire (and in its very nature hostile to the Rurals), this prejudice of the past, how could it have withstood the appeal of the Commune to the living interests and urgent wants of the peasantry?
The Rurals – this was, in fact, their chief apprehension – knew that three months’ free communication of Communal Paris with the provinces would bring about a general rising of the peasants, and hence their anxiety to establish a police blockade around Paris, so as to stop the spread of the rinderpest [cattle pest – contagious disease].
If the Commune was thus the true representative of all the healthy elements of French society, and therefore the truly national government, it was, at the same time, as a working men’s government, as the bold champion of the emancipation of labor, emphatically international. Within sight of that Prussian army, that had annexed to Germany two French provinces, the Commune annexed to France the working people all over the world.
The Second Empire had been the jubilee of cosmopolitan blackleggism, the rakes of all countries rushing in at its call for a share in its orgies and in the plunder of the French people. Even at this moment, the right hand of Thiers is Ganessco, the foul Wallachian, and his left hand is Markovsky, the Russian spy. The Commune admitted all foreigners to the honor of dying for an immortal cause. Between the foreign war lost by their treason, and the civil war fomented by their conspiracy with the foreign invader, the bourgeoisie had found the time to display their patriotism by organizing police hunts upon the Germans in France. The Commune made a German working man [Leo Frankel] its Minister of Labor. Thiers, the bourgeoisie, the Second Empire, had continually deluded Poland by loud professions of sympathy, while in reality betraying her to, and doing the dirty work of, Russia. The Commune honored the heroic sons of Poland [J. Dabrowski and W. Wróblewski] by placing them at the head of the defenders of Paris. And, to broadly mark the new era of history it was conscious of initiating, under the eyes of the conquering Prussians on one side, and the Bonapartist army, led by Bonapartist generals, on the other, the Commune pulled down that colossal symbol of martial glory, the Vendôme Column.[I]
The great social measure of the Commune was its own working existence. Its special measures could but betoken the tendency of a government of the people by the people. Such were the abolition of the nightwork of journeymen bakers; the prohibition, under penalty, of the employers’ practice to reduce wages by levying upon their workpeople fines under manifold pretexts – a process in which the employer combines in his own person the parts of legislator, judge, and executor, and filches the money to boot. Another measure of this class was the surrender to associations of workmen, under reserve of compensation, of all closed workshops and factories, no matter whether the respective capitalists had absconded or preferred to strike work.
The financial measures of the Commune, remarkable for their sagacity and moderation, could only be such as were compatible with the state of a besieged town. Considering the colossal robberies committed upon the city of Paris by the great financial companies and contractors, under the protection of Haussman,[J] the Commune would have had an incomparably better title to confiscate their property than Louis Napoleon had against the Orleans family. The Hohenzollern and the English oligarchs, who both have derived a good deal of their estates from church plunders, were, of course, greatly shocked at the Commune clearing but 8,000F out of secularization.
While the Versailles government, as soon as it had recovered some spirit and strength, used the most violent means against the Commune; while it put down the free expression of opinion all over France, even to the forbidding of meetings of delegates from the large towns; while it subjected Versailles and the rest of France to an espionage far surpassing that of the Second Empire; while it burned by its gendarme inquisitors all papers printed at Paris, and sifted all correspondence from and to Paris; while in the National Assembly the most timid attempts to put in a word for Paris were howled down in a manner unknown even to the Chambre introuvable of 1816; with the savage warfare of Versailles outside, and its attempts at corruption and conspiracy inside Paris – would the Commune not have shamefully betrayed its trust by affecting to keep all the decencies and appearances of liberalism as in a time of profound peace? Had the government of the Commune been akin to that of M. Thiers, there would have been no more occasion to suppress Party of Order papers at Paris that there was to suppress Communal papers at Versailles.
It was irritating indeed to the Rurals that at the very same time they declared the return to the church to be the only means of salvation for France, the infidel Commune unearthed the peculiar mysteries of the Picpus nunnery, and of the Church of St. Laurent.[K] It was a satire upon M. Thiers that, while he showered grand crosses upon the Bonapartist generals in acknowledgment of their mastery in losing battles, signing capitulations, and turning cigarettes at Wilhelmshöhe,[L] the Commune dismissed and arrested its generals whenever they were suspected of neglecting their duties. The expulsion from, and arrest by, the Commune of one of its members [Blanchet] who had slipped in under a false name, and had undergone at Lyons six days’ imprisonment for simple bankruptcy, was it not a deliberate insult hurled at the forger, Jules Favre, then still the foreign minister of France, still selling France to Bismarck, and still dictating his orders to that paragon government of Belgium? But indeed the Commune did not pretend to infallibility, the invariable attribute of all governments of the old stamp. It published its doings and sayings, it initiated the public into all its shortcomings.
In every revolution there intrude, at the side of its true agents, men of different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by the sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declarations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. After March 18, some such men did also turn up, and in some cases contrived to play pre-eminent parts. As far as their power went, they hampered the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. They are an unavoidable evil: with time they are shaken off; but time was not allowed to the Commune.
Wonderful, indeed, was the change the Commune had wrought in Paris! No longer any trace of the meretricious Paris of the Second Empire! No longer was Paris the rendezvous of British landlords, Irish absentees,[M] American ex-slaveholders and shoddy men, Russian ex-serfowners, and Wallachian boyards. No more corpses at the morgue, no nocturnal burglaries, scarcely any robberies; in fact, for the first time since the days of February 1848, the streets of Paris were safe, and that without any police of any kind.
“We,” said a member of the Commune, “hear no longer of assassination, theft, and personal assault; it seems indeed as if the police had dragged along with it to Versailles all its Conservative friends.”
The cocottes [‘chickens’ – prostitutes] had refound the scent of their protectors – the absconding men of family, religion, and, above all, of property. In their stead, the real women of Paris showed again at the surface – heroic, noble, and devoted, like the women of antiquity. Working, thinking fighting, bleeding Paris – almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the Cannibals at its gates – radiant in the enthusiasm of its historic initiative!
Opposed to this new world at Paris, behold the old world at Versailles – that assembly of the ghouls of all defunct regimes, Legitimists and Orleanists, eager to feed upon the carcass of the nation – with a tail of antediluvian republicans, sanctioning, by their presence in the Assembly, the slaveholders’ rebellion, relying for the maintenance of their parliamentary republic upon the vanity of the senile mountebank at its head, and caricaturing 1789 by holding their ghastly meetings in the Jeu de Paume.(2)There it was, this Assembly, the representative of everything dead in France, propped up to the semblance of life by nothing but the swords of the generals of Louis Bonaparte. Paris all truth, Versailles all lie; and that lie vented through the mouth of Thiers.
Thiers tells a deputation of the mayors of the Seine-et-Oise – ‘You may rely upon my word, which I have never broken!’
He tells the Assembly itself that ‘it was the most freely elected and most liberal Assembly France ever possessed;’ he tells his motley soldiery that it was ‘the admiration of the world, and the finest army France ever possessed;’ he tells the provinces that the bombardment of Paris by him was a myth: ‘If some cannon-shots have been fired, it was not the deed of the army of Versailles, but of some insurgents trying to make believe that they are fighting, while they dare not show their faces.’ He again tells the provinces that ‘the artillery of Versailles does not bombard Paris, but only cannonades it.’ He tells the Archbishop of Paris that the pretended executions and reprisals (!) attributed to the Versailles troops were all moonshine. He tells Paris that he was only anxious ‘to free it from the hideous tyrants who oppress it,’ and that, in fact, the Paris of the Commune was ‘but a handful of criminals.’
The Paris of M. Thiers was not the real Paris of the ‘vile multitude,’ but a phantom Paris, the Paris of the francs-fileurs, the Paris of the Boulevards, male and female – the rich, the capitalist, the gilded, the idle Paris, now thronging with its lackeys, its blacklegs, its literary bonhome, and its cocottesat Versailles, Saint-Denis, Rueil, and Saint-Germain; considering the civil war but an agreeable diversion, eyeing the battle going on through telescopes, counting the rounds of cannon, swearing by their own honor and that of their prostitutes, that the performance was far better got up than it used to be at the Porte St. Martin. The men who fell were really dead; the cries of the wounded were cries in good earnest; and, besides, the whole thing was so intensely historical.
This is the Paris of M. Thiers, as the emigration of Coblenz was the France of M. de Calonne. …
The first attempt of the slaveholders’ conspiracy to put down Paris by getting the Prussians to occupy it was frustrated by Bismarck’s refusal.The second attempt, that of March 18, ended in the rout of the army and the flight to Versailles of the government, which ordered the whole administration to break up and follow in its track.
By the semblance of peace negotiations with Paris, Thiers found the time to prepare for war against it. But where to find an army? The remnants of the line regiments were weak in number and unsafe in character. His urgent appeal to the provinces to succour Versailles, by their National Guards and volunteers, met with a flat refusal. Brittany alone furnished a handful ofChouans fighting under a white flag, every one of them wearing on his breast the heart of Jesus in white cloth, and shouting ‘Vive le Roi!’ (Long live the King!)
Thiers was, therefore, compelled to collect, in hot haste, a motley crew, composed of sailors, marines, Pontifical Zouaves, Valentin’s gendarmes, and Pietri’s sergents-de-ville and mouchards. This army, however, would have been ridiculously ineffective without the installments of imperialist war prisoners, which Bismarck granted in numbers just sufficient to keep the civil war a-going, and keep the Versailles government in abject dependence on Prussia. During the war itself, the Versailles police had to look after the Versailles army, while the gendarmes had to drag it on by exposing themselves at all posts of danger. The forts which fell were not taken, but bought. The heroism of the Federals convinced Thiers that the resistance of Paris was not to be broken by his own strategic genius and the bayonets at his disposal.
Meanwhile, his relations with the provinces became more and more difficult. Not one single address of approval came in to gladden Thiers and his Rurals. Quite the contrary. Deputations and addresses demanding, in a tone anything but respectful, conciliation with Paris on the basis of the unequivocal recognition of the republic, the acknowledgment of the Communal liberties, and the dissolution of the National Assembly, whose mandate was extinct, poured in from all sides, and in such numbers that Dufaure, Thiers’ Minister of Justice, in his circular of April 23 to the public prosecutors, commanded them to treat ‘the cry of conciliation’ as a crime! In regard, however, of the hopeless prospect held out by his campaign, Thiers resolved to shift his tactics by ordering, all over the country, municipal elections to take place on April 30, on the basis of the new municipal law dictated by himself to the National Assembly. What with the intrigues of his prefects, what with police intimidation, he felt quite sanguine of imparting, by the verdict of the provinces, to the National Assembly that moral power it had never possessed, and of getting at last from the provinces the physical force required for the conquest of Paris.
His bandit-warfare against Paris, exalted in his own bulletins, and the attempts of his ministers at the establishment, throughout France, of a reign of terror, Thiers was from the beginning anxious to accompany with a little by-play of conciliation, which had to serve more than one purpose. It was to dupe the provinces, to inveigle the middle class elements in Paris, and above all, to afford the professed republicans in the National Assembly the opportunity of hiding their treason against Paris behind their faith in Thiers.
On March 21, when still without an army, he had declared to the Assembly: “Come what may, I will not send an army to Paris.”
On March 27, he rose again: “I have found the republic an accomplished fact, and I am firmly resolved to maintain it.”
In reality, he put down the revolution at Lyons and Marseilles[B] in the name of the republic, while the roars of his Rurals drowned the very mention of his name at Versailles. After this exploit, he toned down the “accomplished fact” into a hypothetical fact. The Orleans princes, whom he had cautiously warned off Bordeaux, were now, in flagrant breach of the law, permitted to intrigue at Dreux. The concessions held out by Thiers in his interminable interviews with the delegates from Paris and the provinces, although constantly varied in tone and color, according to time and circumstances, did in fact never come to more than the prospective restriction of revenge to the “handful of criminals implicated in the murder of Lecomte and Clement Thomas,” on the well-understood premise that Paris and France were unreservedly to accept M. Thiers himself as the best of possible Republics, as he, in 1830, had done with Louis Philippe, and in 1849 under Louis Bonaparte’s presidency. While out of office, he made a fortune by pleading for the Paris capitalists, and made political capital by pleading against the laws he had himself originated. He now hurried through the National Assembly not only a set of repressive laws which were, after the fall of Paris, to extirpate the last remnants of republican liberty in France; he foreshadowed the fate of Paris by abridging what was for him the too slow procedure of courts-martial,[C] and by a new-fangled, Draconic code of deportation. The Revolution of 1848, abolishing the penalty of death for political crimes, had replaced it by deportation. Louis Bonaparte did not dare, at least not in theory, to re-establish the regime of the guillotine. The Rural Assembly, not yet bold enough even to hint that the Parisians were not rebels, but assassins, had therefore to confine its prospective vengeance against Paris to Dufaure’s new code of deportation. Under all these circumstances, Thiers himself could not have gone on with his comedy of conciliation, had it not, as he intended it to do, drawn forth shrieks of rage from the Rurals, whose ruminating mind did neither understand the play, nor its necessities of hypocrisy, tergiversation, and procrastination.
In sight of the impending municipal elections of April 30, Thiers enacted one of his great conciliation scenes on April 27. Amidst a flood of sentiment rhetoric, he exclaimed from the tribune of the Assembly:
“There exists no conspiracy against the republic but that of Paris, which compels us to shed French blood. I repeat it again and again. Let those impious arms fall from the hands which hold them, and chastisement will be arrested at once by an act of peace excluding only the small number of criminals.”
To the violent interruption of the Rurals, he replied:
“Gentlemen, tell me, I implore you, am I wrong? Do you really regret that I could have stated the truth that the criminals are only a handful? Is it not fortunate in the midst of our misfortunes that those who have been capable to shed the blood of Clement Thomas and General Lecomte are but rare exceptions?”
France, however, turned a deaf ear to what Thiers flattered himself to be a parliamentary siren’s song. Out of 700,000 municipal councillors returned by the 35,000 communes still left to France, the united Legitimists, Orleanists, and Bonapartists did not carry 8,000.
The supplementary elections which followed were still more decidedly hostile.
Thus, instead of getting from the provinces the badly-needed physical force, the National Assembly lost even its last claim to moral force, that of being the expression of the universal suffrage of the country. To complete the discomfiture, the newly-chosen municipal councils of all the cities of France openly threatened the usurping Assembly at Versailles with a counter assembly at Bordeaux.
Then the long-expected moment of decisive action had at last come for Bismarck. He peremptorily summoned Thiers to send to Frankfort plenipotentiaries for the definitive settlement of peace. In humble obedience to the call of his master, Thiers hastened to despatch his trusty Jules Favre, backed by Pouyer-Quertier. Pouyer-Quertier, an “eminent” Rouen cotton-spinner, a fervent and even servile partisan of the Second Empire, had never found any fault with it save its commercial treaty with England,[D]prejudicial to his own shop-interest. Hardly installed at Bordeaux as Thiers’ Minister of Finance, he denounced that “unholy” treaty, hinted at its near abrogation, and had even the effrontery to try, although in vain (having counted without Bismarck), the immediate enforcement of the old protective duties against Alsace, where, he said, no previous international treaties stood in the way. This man who considered counter-revolution as a means to put down wages at Rouen, and the surrender of French provinces as a means to bring up the price of his wares in France, was he not the onepredestined to be picked out by Thiers as the helpmate of Jules Favre in his last and crowning treason?
On the arrival at Frankfurt of this exquisite pair of plenipotentiaries, bully Bismarck at once met them with the imperious alternative: Either the restoration of the empire or the unconditional acceptance of my own peace terms! These terms included a shortening of the intervals in which war indemnity was to be paid and the continued occupation of the Paris forts by Prussian troops until Bismarck should feel satisfied with the state of things in France; Prussia thus being recognized as the supreme arbiter in internal French politics! In return for this, he offered to let loose for the extermination of Paris the Bonapartist army, and to lend them the direct assistance of Emperor William’s troops. He pledged his good faith by making payment of the first installment of the indemnity dependent on the “pacification” of Paris. Such bait was, of course, eagerly swallowed by Thiers and his plenipotentiaries. They signed the treaty of peace on May 10 and had it endorsed by the Versailles Assembly on the 18th.
In the interval between the conclusion of peace and the arrival of the Bonapartist prisoners, Thiers felt the more bound to resume his comedy of conciliation, as his republican tools stood in sore need of a pretext for blinking their eyes at the preparations for the carnage of Paris. As late asMay 18, he replied to a deputation of middle-class conciliators –
“Whenever the insurgents will make up their minds for capitulation, the gates of Paris shall be flung wide open during a week for all except the murderers of Generals Clement Thomas and Lecomte.”
A few days afterwards, when violently interpellated on these promises by the Rurals, he refused to enter into any explanations; not, however, without giving them this significant hint:
“I tell you there are impatient men amongst you, men who are in too great a hurry. They must have another eight days; at the end of these eight days there will be no more danger, and the task will be proportionate to their courage and to their capacities.”
As soon as MacMahon was able to assure him, that he could shortly enter Paris, Thiers declared to the Assembly that
“he would enter Paris with the laws in his hands, and demand a full expiation from the wretches who had sacrificed the lives of soldiers and destroyed public monuments.”
As the moment of decision drew near, he said – to the Assembly, “I shall be pitiless!” – to Paris, that it was doomed; and to his Bonapartist bandits, that they had state licence to wreak vengeance upon Paris to their hearts’ content.
At last, when treachery had opened the gates of Paris to General Douai, onMay 21, Thiers, on the 22nd, revealed to the Rurals the “goal” of his conciliation comedy, which they had so obstinately persisted in not understanding.
“I told you a few days ago that we were approaching our goal; today I come to tell you the goal is reached. The victory of order, justice, and civilization is at last won!”
So it was. The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge. Each new crisis in the class struggle between the appropriator and the producer brings out this fact more glaringly. Even the atrocities of the bourgeois in June 1848 vanish before the infamy of 1871. The self-sacrificing heroism with which the population of Paris – men, women, and children – fought for eight days after the entrance of the Versaillese, reflects as much the grandeur of their cause, as the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization, indeed, the great problem of which is how to get rid of the heaps of corpses it made after the battle was over!
To find a parallel for the conduct of Thiers and his bloodhounds we must go back to the times of Sulla and the two Triumvirates of Rome.[E] The same wholesale slaughter in cold blood; the same disregard, in massacre, of age and sex, the same system of torturing prisoners; the same proscriptions, but this time of a whole class; the same savage hunt after concealed leaders, lest one might escape; the same denunciations of political and private enemies; the same indifference for the butchery of entire strangers to the feud.
There is but this difference: that the Romans had no mitrailleuses for the despatch, in the lump, of the proscribed, and that they had not “the law in their hands,” nor on their lips the cry of “civilization.”
And after those horrors look upon the other still more hideous face of the bourgeois civilization as described by its own press!
“With stray shots,” writes the Paris correspondent of a London Tory paper, “still ringing in the distance, and unintended wounded wretches dying amid the tombstones of Pere la Chaise – with 6,000 terror-stricken insurgents wandering in an agony of despair in the labyrinth of the catacombs, and wretches hurried through the streets to be shot down in scores by the mitrailleuse – it is revolting to see the cafes filled with the votaries of absinthe, billiards, and dominoes; female profligacy perambulating the boulevards, and the sound of revelry disturbing the night from the cabinets particuliers of fashionable restaurants.”
M. Edouard Herve writes in the Journal de Paris, a Versaillist journal pressed by the Commune:
“The way in which the population of Paris [!] manifested its satisfaction yesterday was rather more than frivolous, and we fear it will grow worse as time progresses. Paris has now a fete day appearance, which is sadly out of place; and, unless we are to be called the Parisiens de la decadence, this sort of thing must come to an end.”
And then he quotes the passage from Tacitus:
“Yet, on the morrow of that horrible struggle, even before it was completely over, Rome – degraded and corrupt – began once more to wallow in the voluptuous slough which was destroying its body and pulling its soul – alibi proelia et vulnera, alibi balnea popinoeque [here fights and wounds, there baths and restaurants].”
M. Herve only forgets to say that the “population of Paris” he speaks of is but the population of the Paris of M. Thiers – the francs-fileurs returning in throngs from Versailles, Saint-Denis, Rueil, and Saint Germain – the Paris of the “Decline.”
In all its bloody triumphs over the self-sacrificing champions of a new and better society, that nefarious civilization, based upon the enslavement of labor, drowns the moans of its victims in a hue-and-cry of calumny, reverberated by a world-wide echo. The serene working men’s Paris of the Commune is suddenly changed into a pandemonium by the bloodhounds of “order.”
And what does this tremendous change prove to the bourgeois mind of all countries? Why, that the Commune has conspired against civilization! The Paris people die enthusiastically for the Commune in numbers unequally in any battle known to history. What does that prove? Why, that the Commune was not the people’s own government but the usurpation of a handful of criminals! The women of Paris joyfully give up their lives at the barricades and on the place of execution. What does this prove? Why, that the demon of the Commune has changed them into Megaera and Hecates!
The moderation of the Commune during the two months of undisputed sway is equalled only by the heroism of its defence.
The working men’s Paris, in the act of its heroic self-holocaust, involved in its flames buildings and monuments. While tearing to pieces the living body of the proletariat, its rulers must no longer expect to return triumphantly into the intact architecture of their abodes. The government of Versailles cries, “Incendiarism!” and whispers this cue to all its agents, down to the remotest hamlet, to hunt up its enemies everywhere as suspect of professional incendiarism. The bourgeoisie of the whole world, which looks complacently upon the wholesale massacre after the battle, is convulsed by horror at the desecration of brick and mortar!
When governments give state licences to their navies to “kill, burn, and destroy,” is that licence for incendiarism? When the British troops wantonly set fire to the Capitol at Washington and to the summer palace of the Chinese emperor,[F] was that incendiarism? When the Prussians not for military reasons, but out of the mere spite of revenge, burned down, by the help of petroleum, towns like Chateaudun and innumerable villages, was that incendiarism? When Thiers, during six weeks, bombarded Paris, under the pretext that he wanted to set fire to those houses only in which there were people, was that incendiarism? – In war, fire is an arm as legitimate as any. Buildings held by the enemy are shelled to set them on fire. If their defenders have to retire, they themselves light the flames to prevent the attack from making use of the buildings. To be burned down has always been the inevitable fate of all buildings situated in the front of battle of all the regular armies of the world.
But in the war of the enslaved against their enslavers, the only justifiable war in history, this is by no means to hold good! The Commune used fire strictly as a means of defence. They used it to stop up to the Versailles troops those long, straight avenues which Haussman had expressly opened to artillery-fire; they used it to cover their retreat, in the same way as the Versaillese, in their advance, used their shells which destroyed at least as many buildings as the fire of the Commune. It is a matter of dispute, even now, which buildings were set fire to by the defence, and which by the attack. And the defence resorted to fire only then when the Versailles troops had already commenced their wholesale murdering of prisoners.
Besides, the Commune had, long before, given full public notice that if driven to extremities, they would bury themselves under the ruins of Paris, and make Paris a second Moscow, as the Government of National Defence, but only as a cloak for its treason, had promised to do. For this purpose Trochu had found them the petroleum. The Commune knew that its opponents cared nothing for the lives of the Paris people, but cared much for their own Paris buildings. And Thiers, on the other hand, had given them notice that he would be implacable in his vengeance. No sooner had he got his army ready on one side, and the Prussians shutting the trap on the other, than he proclaimed: “I shall be pitiless! The expiation will be complete, and justice will be stern!” If the acts of the Paris working men were vandalism, it was the vandalism of defence in despair, not the vandalism of triumph, like that which the Christians perpetrated upon the really priceless art treasures of heathen antiquity; and even that vandalism has been justified by the historian as an unavoidable and comparatively trifling concomitant to the titanic struggle between a new society arising and an old one breaking down. It was still less the vandalism of Haussman, razing historic Paris to make place for the Paris of the sightseer!
But the execution by the Commune of the 64 hostages, with the Archbishop of Paris at their head! The bourgeoisie and its army, in June 1848, re-established a custom which had long disappeared from the practice of war – the shooting of their defenceless prisoners. This brutal custom has since been more or less strictly adhered to by the suppressors of all popular commotions in Europe and India; thus proving that it constitutes a real “progress of civilization”!
On the other hand, the Prussians in France, had re-established the practice of taking hostages – innocent men, who, with their lives, were to answer to them for the acts of others. When Thiers, as we have seen, from the very beginning of the conflict, enforced the human practice of shooting down the Communal prisoners, the Commune, to protect their lives, was obliged to resort to the Prussian practice of securing hostages. The lives of the hostages have been forfeited over and over again by the continued shooting of prisoners on the part of the Versaillese. How could they be spared any longer after the carnage with which MacMahon’s praetorians[G] celebrated their entrance into Paris?
Was even the last check upon the unscrupulous ferocity of bourgeois governments – the taking of hostages – to be made a mere sham of?
The real murderer of Archbishop Darboy is Thiers. The Commune again and again had offered to exchange the archbishop, and ever so many priests in the bargain, against the single Blanqui, then in the hands of Thiers. Thiers obstinately refused. He knew that with Blanqui he would give the Commune a head; while the archbishop would serve his purpose best in the shape of a corpse.
Thiers acted upon the precedent of Cavaignac. How, in June 1848, did not Cavaignac and his men of order raise shouts of horror by stigmatizing the insurgents as the assassins of Archbishop Affre! They knew perfectly well that the archbishop had been shot by the soldiers of order. M. Jacquemet, the archbishop’s vicar-general, present on the spot, had immediately afterwards handed them in his evidence to that effect.
All the chorus of calumny, which the Party of Order never fail, in their orgies of blood, to raise against their victims, only proves that the bourgeois of our days considers himself the legitimate successor to the baron of old, who thought every weapon in his own hand fair against the plebeian, while in the hands of the plebeian a weapon of any kind constituted in itself a crime.
The conspiracy of the ruling class to break down the revolution by a civil war carried on under the patronage of the foreign invader – a conspiracy which we have traced from the very 4th of September down to the entrance of MacMahon’s praetorians through the gate of St. Cloud – culminated in the carnage of Paris. Bismarck gloats over the ruins of Paris, in which he saw perhaps the first installment of that general destruction of great cities he had prayed for when still a simple Rural in the Prussian Chambre introuvable of 1849.[H] He gloats over the cadavers of the Paris proletariat. For him, this is not only the extermination of revolution, but the extinction of France, now decapitated in reality, and by the French government itself. With the shallowness characteristic of all successful statesmen, he sees but the surface of this tremendous historic event. Whenever before has history exhibited the spectacle of a conqueror crowning his victory by turning into, not only the gendarme, but the hired bravo of the conquered government? There existed no war between Prussia and the Commune of Paris. On the contrary, the Commune had accepted the peace preliminaries, and Prussia had announced her neutrality. Prussia was, therefore, no belligerent. She acted the part of a bravo, a cowardly bravo, because incurring no danger; a hired bravo, because stipulating beforehand the payment of her blood-money of 500 millions on the fall of Paris. And thus, at last, came out the true character of the war, ordained by Providence, as a chastisement of godless and debauched France by pious and moral Germany! And this unparalleled breach of the law of nations, even as understood by the old-world lawyers, instead of arousing the “civilized” governments of Europe to declare the felonious Prussian government, the mere tool of the St. Petersburg Cabinet, an outlaw amongst nations, only incites them to consider whether the few victims who escape the double cordon around Paris are not to be given up to the hangman of Versailles!
That, after the most tremendous war of modern times, the conquering and the conquered hosts should fraternize for the common massacre of the proletariat – this unparalleled event does indicate, not, as Bismarck thinks, the final repression of a new society up heaving, but the crumbling into dust of bourgeois society. The highest heroic effort of which old society is still capable is national war; and this is now proved to be a mere governmental humbug, intended to defer the struggle of classes, and to be thrown aside as soon as that class struggle bursts out into civil war. Class rule is no longer able to disguise itself in a national uniform; the national governments are one as against the proletariat!
After Whit-Sunday, 1871, there can be neither peace nor truce possible between the working men of France and the appropriators of their produce. The iron hand of a mercenary soldiery may keep for a time both classes tied down in common oppression. But the battle must break out again and again in ever-growing dimensions, and there can be no doubt as to who will be the victor in the end – the appropriating few, or the immense working majority. And the French working class is only the advanced guard of the modern proletariat.
While the European governments thus testify, before Paris, to the international character of class rule, they cry down the International Working Men’s Association – the international counter-organization of labor against the cosmopolitan conspiracy of capital – as the head fountain of all these disasters. Thiers denounced it as the despot of labor, pretending to be its liberator. Picard ordered that all communications between the French Internationals and those abroad be cut off; Count Jaubert, Thiers’ mummified accomplice of 1835, declares it the great problem of all civilized governments to weed it out. The Rurals roar against it, and the whole European press joins the chorus. An honorable French writer [Robinet], completely foreign to our Association, speaks as follows:
‘The members of the Central Committee of the National Guard, as well as the greater part of the members of the Commune, are the most active, intelligent, and energetic minds of the International Working Men’s Association… men who are thoroughly honest, sincere, intelligent, devoted, pure, and fanatical in the good sense of the word.’
The police-tinged bourgeois mind naturally figures to itself the International Working Men’s Association as acting in the manner of a secret conspiracy, its central body ordering, from time to time, explosions in different countries. Our Association is, in fact, nothing but the international bond between the most advanced working men in the various countries of the civilized world. Wherever, in whatever shape, and under whatever conditions the class struggle obtains any consistency, it is but natural that members of our Association, should stand in the foreground. The soil out of which it grows is modern society itself. It cannot be stamped out by any amount of carnage. To stamp it out, the governments would have to stamp out the despotism of capital over labor – the condition of their own parasitical existence.
Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.” Karl Marx, The Civil War in France; “The Paris Commune” & “The Fall of Paris,” 1871
Numero Tres—“All in that city was strange, incomprehensible. Churches in great number pointed their many tinted steeples toward the sky, in gleaming colours; but the walls and the chimneys of the factories rose still higher, and the temples were crushed between the massive façades of commercial houses, like marvellous flowers sprung up among the ruins, out of the dust. And when the bells called the faithful to prayer, their brazen sounds, sliding along the iron roofs, vanished, leaving no traces in the narrow gaps which separated the houses.
They were always large, and sometimes beautiful, these dwellings. Deformed people, ciphers, ran about like grey mice in the tortuous streets from morning till evening; and their eyes, full of covetousness, looked for bread or for some distraction; other men, placed at the crossways, watched with a vigilant and ferocious air, that the weak should, without murmuring, submit themselves to the strong. The strong were the rich; everyone believed that money alone gives power and liberty. All wanted power because all were slaves. The luxury of the rich begot the envy and hate of the poor; no one knew any finer music than the ring of gold; that is why each was the enemy of his neighbour, and cruelty reigned master.
Sometimes the sun shone over the city, but the life therein was always wan, and the people like shadows. At night they lit a mass of joyous lights; and then famishing women went out to the streets to sell their caresses to the highest bidder. Everywhere floated an odour of victuals, and the sullen and voracious look of the people grew. Over the city hovered a groan of misery, stifled, without strength to make itself heard.
Every one led an irksome, unquiet life; a general hostility was the rule. A few citizens only considered themselves just, but these were the most cruel, and their ferocity provoked that of the herd. All wanted to live; and no one knew or could follow freely the pathway of his desires; like an insatiable monster, the present enveloped in its powerful and vigorous arms the man who marched toward the future, and in that slimy embrace sapped away his strength. Full of anguish and perplexity, the man paused, powerless before the hideous aspect of this life; with its thousands of eyes, infinitely sad in their expression, it looked into his heart, asking him for it knew not what – and then the radiant images of the future died in his soul; a groan out of the powerless of the man mingled in the discordant chorus of lamentations and tears from poor human creatures tormented by life.
Tedium and inquietude reigned everywhere, and sometimes terror. And the dull and sober city, the stone buildings atrociously lined one against the other, shutting in the temples, were for men a prison, rebuffing the rays of the sun. And the music of life was smothered by the cry of suffering and rage, by the whisper of dissimulated hate, by the threatening bark of cruelty, by the voluptuous cry of violence.
In the sullen agitation caused by trial and suffering, in the feverish struggle of misery, in the vile slime of egotism, in the subsoils of the houses wherein vegetated Poverty, the creator of riches, solitary dreamers full of faith in Man, strangers to all, prophets of seditions, moved about like sparks issued from some far-off hearthstone of justice. Secretly they brought into these wretched holes tiny fertile seeds of a doctrine simple and grand – and sometimes rudely, with lightnings in their eyes, and sometimes mild and tender, they sowed this clear and burning truth in the sombre hearts of these slaves, transformed into mute, blind instruments by the strength of the rapacious, by the will of the cruel. And these sullen beings, these oppressed ones, listened without much belief to the music of the new words – the music for which their hearts had long been waiting. Little by little they lifted up their heads, and tore the meshes of the web of lies wherewith their oppressors had enwound them. In their existence, made up of silent and contained rage, in their hearts envenomed by numberless wrongs, in their consciences encumbered by the dupings of the wisdom of the strong, in this dark and laborious life, all penetrated with the bitterness of humiliation, had resounded a simple word:
It was not a new word; they had heard it and pronounced it themselves; but until then it had seemed to them void of sense, like all other words dulled by usage, and which one may forget without losing anything. But now this word, strong and clear, had another sound; a soul was singing in it – the facets of it shone brilliant as a diamond. The wretched accepted this word, and at first uttered it gently, cradling it in their hearts like a mother rocking her new-born child and admiring it. And the more they searched the luminous soul of the word, the more fascinating it seemed to them.
“Comrade,” said they.
And they felt that this word had come to unite the whole world, to lift all men up to the summits of liberty and bind with new ties, the strong ties of mutual respect, respect for the liberties of others in the name of one’s own liberty.
When this word had engraved itself upon the hearts of the slaves, they ceased to he slaves; and one day they announced their transformation to the city in this great human formula:
I will not.
Then life was suspended, for it is they who are the motor force of life, they and no other. The water supply stopped, the fire went out, the city was plunged in darkness. The masters began to tremble like children. Fear invaded the hearts of the oppressors. Suffocating in the fumes of their own dejection, disconcerted and terrified by the strength of the revolt, they dissimulated the rage which they felt against it.
The phantom of famine rose up before them, and their children wailed plaintively in the darkness. The houses and the temples, enveloped in shadow, melted into an inanimate chaos of iron and stone; a menacing silence filled the streets with a clamminess as of death; life ceased, for the force which created it had become conscious of itself; and enslaved humanity had found the magic and invincible word to express its will; it had enfranchised itself from the yoke; with its own eyes it had seen its might – the might of the creator.
These days were days of anguish to the rulers, to those who considered themselves the masters of life; each night was as long as thousands of nights, so thick was the gloom, so timidly shone the few fires scattered through the city. And then the monster city, created by the centuries, gorged with human blood, showed itself in all its shameful weakness; it was but a pitiable mass of stone and wood. The blind windows of the houses looked upon the street with a cold and sullen air, and out on the highway marched with valiant step the real masters of life. They, too, were hungry, more than the others, perhaps; but they were used to it, and the suffering of their bodies was not so sharp as the suffering of the old masters of life; it did not extinguish the fire in their souls. They glowed with the consciousness of their own strength, the presentiment of victory sparkled in their eyes. They went about in the streets of the city which had been their narrow and sombre prison, wherein they had been overwhelmed with contempt, wherein their souls had been loaded with abuse, and they saw the great importance of their work, and thus was unveiled to them the sacred right they had to become the masters of life, its creators and its law-givers.
And the life-giving word of union presented itself to them with a new face, with a blinding clearness:
There among lying words it rang out boldly, as the joyous harbinger of the time to come, of a new life open to all in the future – far or near? They felt that it depended upon them whether they advanced towards liberty or themselves deferred its coming.
The prostitute who, but the evening before, was but a hungry beast, sadly waiting on the muddy pavement to be accosted by someone who would buy her caresses, the prostitute, too, heard this word, but was undecided whether to repeat it. A man the like of whom she had never seen till then approached her, laid his hand upon her shoulder and said to her in an affectionate tone, “Comrade.” And she gave a little embarrassed smile, ready to cry with the joy her wounded heart experienced for the first time. Tears of pure gaiety shone in her eyes, which, the night before, had looked at the world with the stupid and insolent expression of a starving animal. In all the streets of the city the outcasts celebrated the triumph of their reunion with the great family of workers of the entire world; and the dead eyes of the houses looked on with an air more and more cold and menacing.
The beggar to whom but the night before an obol was thrown, price of the compassion of the well-fed, the beggar also, heard this word; and it was the first alms which aroused a feeling of gratitude in his poor heart gnawed by misery.
A coachman, a great big fellow whose patrons struck him that their blows might be transmitted to his thin-flanked, weary horse; this man, imbruted by the noise of wheels upon the pavement, said, smiling, to a passer by: “Well, comrade!” He was frightened at his own words. He took the reins in his hands, ready to start, and looked at the passer by, the joyous smile not yet effaced from his big face. The other cast a friendly glance at him and answered, shaking his head: “Thanks, comrade; I will go on foot; I am not going far.”
“Ah, the fine fellow!” exclaimed the coachman enthusiastically; he stirred in his seat, winking his eyes gaily, and started off somewhere with a great clatter.
The people went in groups crowded together on the pavements, and the great word destined to unite the world burst out more and more often among them, like a spark: “Comrade.” A policeman, bearded, fierce, and filled with the consciousness of his own importance, approached the crowd surrounding an old orator at the corner of a street, and, after having listened to the discourse, he said slowly: “Assemblages are interdicted … disperse.” … And after a moment’s silence, lowering his eyes, he added, in a lower tone, “Comrades.”
The pride of young combatants was depicted in the faces of those who carried the word in their hearts, who had given it flesh and blood and the appeal to union; one felt that the strength they so generously poured into this living word was indestructible, inexhaustible.
Here and there blind troops of armed men, dressed in grey, gathered and formed ranks in silence; it was the fury of the oppressors preparing to repulse the wave of justice.
And in the narrow streets of the immense city, between the cold and silent walls raised by the hands of ignored creators, the noble belief in man and in fraternity grew and ripened.
‘Comrade.’ – Sometimes in one corner, sometimes in another, the fire burst out. Soon this fire would become the conflagration destined to enkindle the earth with the ardent sentiment of kinship, uniting all its peoples; destined to consume and reduce to ashes the rage, hate, and cruelty by which we are mutilated; the conflagration which will embrace all hearts, melt them into one – the heart of the world, the heart of beings noble and just – into one united family of workers.
In the streets of the dead city, created by slaves, in the streets of the city where cruelty reigned, faith in humanity and in victory over self and over the evil of the world, grew and ripened. And in the vague chaos of a dull and troubled existence, a simple word, profound as the heart, shone like a star, like a light guiding toward the future: Comrade!” Maxim Gorky, “Comrade,” 1906
In thus transmitting to me the detailed report of the Board, the Committee emphasizes the Board’s observation that the Report is not intended as a final plan but ‘a place to begin, a foundation on which to build.’ The Committee also states that it regards the consultants’ work as ‘the most constructive analysis of the question of international control we have seen and a definitely hopeful approach to a solution of the entire problem.’
The intensive work which this document reflects and the high qualifications of the men who were concerned with it make it a paper of unusual importance and a suitable starting point for the informed public discussion which is one of the essential factors in developing sound policy. The document is being made public not as a statement of policy but solely as a basis for such discussion. …
The board of consultants met for the first time on January 23d, conferring briefly with the Secretary of State’s Committee on Atomic Energy respecting the board’s assignment to study the problem of international control of atomic energy. For more than seven weeks since that time we devoted virtually our entire time and energies to the problem we were directed to study and report upon. We visited the plants and installations at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico, and spent days consulting with numerous scientists, industrial experts, and geologists, authorities in the technical fields concerned with atomic energy. Since February 25th this board has met almost continuously, developing and writing the following report. Our absorption in this task does not, of course, assure the soundness of the recommendation which is the product of our deliberations. But it is relevant as a measure of how important and urgent we feel it to be that the Government and the people of the United States develop a rational and workable plan, before the already launched international atomic armament race attains such momentum that it cannot be stopped.
We have concluded our deliberations on this most difficult problem, not in a spirit of hopelessness and despair, but with a measure of confidence. It is our conviction that a satisfactory plan can be developed, and that what we here recommend can form the foundation of such a plan. It is worth contrasting the sense of hope and confidence which all of us share today with the feeling which we had at the outset. The vast difficulties of the problem were oppressive, and we early concluded that the most we could do would be to suggest various alternative proposals, indicate their strengths and limitation, but make no recommendations. But as we steeped ourselves in the facts and caught a feeling of the nature of the problem, we became more hopeful. That hopefulness grew not out of any preconceived ‘solution’ but out of a patient and time-consuming analysis and understanding of the facts that throw light on the numerous alternatives that we explored. Five men of widely differing backgrounds and experiences who were far apart at the outset found themselves, at the end of a month’s absorption in this problem not only in complete agreement that a plan could be devised but also in agreement on the essentials of a plan. We believe others may have a similar experience if a similar process is followed.
We have described the process whereby we arrived at our recommendation, to make it clear that we did not begin with a preconceived plan. There is this further reason for describing this process. Others would have a similar experience if they were able to go through a period of close study of the alternatives and an absorption in the salient and determining facts. Only then, perhaps, may it be possible to weigh the wisdom of the judgment we have reached, and the possibilities of building upon it.
The plan of the report itself may be briefly described, as an aid in reading it:
In Section I. we examined the reasons that have led to a commitment for the international control of atomic energy and the early proposal for realizing this objective by a system of inspection.
In Section II. the essential characteristics of a workable plan for security are stated, and the considerations that favor the development of a plan are set out. By the time this discussion is concluded, the outlines of a workable plan as we see it are apparent.
In Section III. the essentials of an organization that puts such principles into effect are described.
In Section IV. we consider the problems of the transition period leading from the present to the full operation of the plan.
We have tried to develop a report that will be useful, not as a final plan, but as a place to begin, a foundation on which to build. Many questions that at later stages should and must be asked we have not touched upon at all. We recognize that securing the agreement of other nations to such a plan will raise questions the precise contours of which can hardly be drawn in advance of international meetings and negotiation. We have not, of course, undertaken to discuss, much less to try to settle, problems of this character. The newly created Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations, when its deliberations begin, will deal with many of these in joint discussion. Indeed, this process of joint international discussion is itself an integral part of any program for safeguards and security.
We desire here to express our great indebtedness to the Secretary of the Secretary of State’s Committee on Atomic Energy, Mr. Herbert S. Marks, Assistant to the Under Secretary of State, and to the Secretary of this board, Mr. Carroll L. Wilson. They have contributed in many ways to the work of the board. Whatever value our work may prove to have owes a great deal to their acumen, diligence, and high quality of judgment. We wish especially to thank General Groves and his associates in the Manhattan District and the industrial contractors for facilitating our inspection of the installations at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, and Captain Joseph Volpe, Jr., for his liaison services. We are also indebted to a number of other officers and staff members of the Manhattan Project for their cooperation. As a result of this cooperation we have had unlimited access to the entire range of facts and activities involved in our assignment, and this has been most helpful.
It has not been possible for security reasons to set forth in this report all of the facts which we have taken into account, but we believe that those which are set forth are a sufficient basis for a useful appraisal of our conclusions and recommendations. …
To ‘outlaw’ atomic energy in all of its forms and enforce such a prohibition by an army of inspectors roaming the earth would overwhelm the capacity and the endurance of men, and provide no security. This conclusion has a further implication in a search for a security system. While suppression is not possible where we are dealing with the quest for knowledge, this thirst to know (that cannot be ‘policed’ out of existence) can be used, affirmatively, in the design and building of an effective system of safeguards.
Human history shows that any effort to confine the inquiring human mind, to seek to bar the spirit of inquiry, is doomed to failure. From such efforts comes subversion fraught with terrible consequences: Gestapo, inquisitions, wars. The development of atomic energy is one of a long, long line of discoveries that have their well springs in the urge of men to know more about themselves and their world. Like the jiu jutsu wrestler whose skill consists in making his opponent disable himself with his own thrusts, the designers of a system of safeguards for security should and can utilize for enforcement measures that driving force toward knowledge that is part of man’s very nature.
If atomic energy had only one conceivable use–its horrible powers of mass destruction–then the incentive to follow the course of complete prohibition and suppression might be very great. Indeed, it has been responsibly suggested that however attractive may be the potentialities for benefit from atomic energy, they are so powerfully outweighed by the malevolent that our course should be to bury the whole idea, to bury it deep, to forget it, and to make it illegal for anyone to carry on further inquiries or developments in this field.
We have concluded that the beneficial possibilities–some of them are more than possibilities, for they are within close reach of actuality–in the use of atomic energy should be and can be made to aid in the development of a reasonably successful system of security, and the plan we recommend is in part predicated on that idea.
That mankind can confidently look forward to such beneficial uses is a fact that offers a clue of not inconsiderable importance to the kind of security arrangements that can be made effective
The difficulty of recruiting enforcement officers having only a negative and policing function, one of prohibiting, detecting, and suppressing, is obvious. Such a job lacks any dynamic qualities. It does not appeal to the imagination. Its future opportunities are obviously circumscribed. It might draw the kind of man, let us say, who was attracted to prohibition squads in years past. Compare this type of personnel with those who could be expected to enter a system under which it is clear that the constructive possibilities of atomic energy may also be developed. Atomic energy then becomes a new and creative field in which men may take pride as participants, whatever their particular role. They are in “on the ground floor” of a growing enterprise. Growth, opportunities, future development–these are the characteristics, let us say, of the field of air transport that have made it possible for the airlines to attract a high grade and youthful personnel.
The importance of this fact that atomic energy has beneficial uses as well as destructive uses, in terms of the attraction of personnel in a security organization will, of course, depend upon the functions given to that organization. If the security organization has not only enforcement but also development functions, then this consideration of beneficial possibilities becomes a most weighty one.
What are the beneficial possibilities? We have had the benefit of a thoughtful, unpublished report on the technical possibilities now apparent in this field. This report was prepared for the Secretary of War’s Interim Committee on Atomic Energy by a panel of scientists who worked with a large additional group of leading scientists in the field. (* This panel included A. H. Compton, E. Fermi, E. O. Lawrence, and J. R. Oppenheimer. Their report was prepared in consultation with S. K. Allison, Zay Jeffries, C. C. Lauretsen, I. I. Rabi, C. A. Thomas, H. C. Urey, and with the further help of numerous specialists.) The conclusions there stated represent an appraisal of these possibilities, that is, in our opinion, challenging and at the same time balanced and restrained.
In introducing its conclusions the report observes that “We are probably no more able to foresee the ultimate fruits of development than were Faraday’s contemporaries to understand what would come of the discovery of electro-magnetic induction.” It gives a further sense of perspective in emphasizing that “The unique pre occupation of the war years in the use of atomic energy for military weapons . . . has probably retarded our understanding of other applications.” We believe that this is equally true at present.
The report discusses two “great fields” for beneficial use, “the development of atomic energy as a controlled source of power” and “the application of radiations and radioactivities to the growth of the sciences and the practical arts.” It gives a sober appraisal of each of these possibilities: “It is probable,” the report states, “that the exploitation of atomic energy as a tool for research will outweigh the benefits to be derived from the availability of a new source of power.” But this new source of power is itself regarded as of great significance, and is thought to be “the most appropriate focal point for the work of the next few years.”
“We have examined in some detail [the report continues] the technical problems of making available heat and power on the scale of present world consumption from controlled nuclear reactors. We see no significant limitations on this development, either in the availability or in the cost of the fundamental active materiels. We see characteristic limitations and characteristic advantages in atomic power which make us regard it in great measure as a supplement to existing sources, and an incentive to new developments, rather than as a competitor, let us say, to coal or to petroleum products. We see no foundation in current science for the hope that atomic power can be effectively used for light, small portable units such as are required for aircraft and for automotive transportation; but we believe that the development of rather large power units for heat and conversion to electrical energy is a program for the near future; that operating units which will serve to demonstrate the usefulness and limitations of atomic power can be in existence within a few years, and that only the gradual incorporation and adaptation of such units to the specific demands of contemporary economy will involve a protracted development.”Finally, the report takes up the opportunities which have been opened in the field of research by the prospect of a plentiful supply of radioactive substances as byproducts of the manufacture of fissionable materials, a circumstance which it has been said may well be as significant for scientific progress as the ready availability of microscopes for every laboratory.“It should be understood [the report says] that work specifically focused on atomic power need not and should not interfere with making available to biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics the radiations and activities characteristic of this field . . . We should not be astonished if the greatest benefit of this program were in fact to lie in therapy for some of the neo-plastic diseases, such as cancer, or in the increased understanding of biological systems or of the realities of the physical world, which will in turn open up new fields of human endeavor.”The full report contains descriptions in more concrete terms of some of these possibilities. We are convinced that in the vigorous exploitation of them lies one of the greatest hopes of developing a successful system of international control.Under the most favorable conditions, the peril of atomic warfare can be averted only by drawing upon the best human resources of good will, imagination, and ingenuity. All experience teaches that these resources cannot be tapped except by challenging opportunities. One of the most serious dangers to the promotion of effective international action is the danger that our natural preoccupation with the destructive aspects of atomic energy may blind us to its useful aspects. Upon searching investigation, some of the latter may prove illusory. But if the lessons of past scientific and technological progress mean anything, we also know that many of these opportunities will materialize. We believe that only a system of safeguards which is built around these hopeful prospects can succeed. We have tried throughout this report to make explicit the connection between a system of safeguards and these opportunities.
Important, perhaps even decisive, in the proposals we put forth in this report is the fact that many of the constructive activities required in the development of atomic energy involve no risks of providing a material basis for weapons of war. This aspect of the matter is dealt with in detail in Chapter V of this Section. …
It is true that the internationalization of activities intrinsically dangerous to security reduces the hazards in the way of security and does bring into more manageable form the problems of enforcement and the suppression of atomic weapons. If it were necessary, in such a scheme of safeguards, to vest in an international agency a total monopoly as to all aspects of atomic energy, disadvantages would arise so great as conceivably to make the prospect of effective internationalization itself beyond realization. Such an overall grant of exclusive right to develop, operate, and utilize, conferred upon an international agency, would change many of the industrial and economic practices of this country, for example, and would change them quite disadvantageously.Such a complete international monopoly would be hard to live under. Its restrictive limitations would chafe, and might in time cause serious loss of support to the security purposes that lay behind the proposal itself. Many of the considerations of complexity, irritation, the engendering of suspicion, the encouragement of deceit that we found militated against a system of safeguards based upon national operation and international inspection would to a lesser degree be repeated by such an all out proposal for centralization.
This problem need not arise. For there are important areas in the field of atomic energy where there is no need for an international monopoly, and where work may and should be open not exclusively to the international organization, but to private and to national institutions in a quite free manner. These fields are among those of the greatest immediate promise for the beneficial exploitation of atomic energy. They are technically complex and closely related to the central scientific problems. That open and, in some respects, competitive activity is possible in much of the field should go a long way toward insuring contact between the experts of the international organization and those outside it, in industry and in scientific and educational organizations. The same fact should help correct any tendencies that might otherwise develop toward bureaucratic inbreeding and over-centralization, and aid in providing healthy, expanding national and private developments in atomic energy.
The technical facts which underlie the possibility of regarding many developments in the field of atomic energy as safe for national and private exploitation are in themselves rather complex; to the discussion of these we must now turn. These are, of course, activities which without reliance on the conscious determination of the operators, and with a minimum of control and supervision, are physically incapable of contributing to the making of atomic weapons.
A word may be in order about our views on what constitute “dangerous activities”–those that, in our opinion, ought to be subject to an international monopoly. It will be appreciated at the outset that this distinction between the “safe” and the ” dangerous” can be useful without being completely sharp or fixed for all time. In our view, any activity is dangerous which offers a solution either in the actual fact of its physical installation, or by subtle alterations thereof, to one of the three major problems of making atomic weapons:
- I. The provision of raw materials,
- II. The production in suitable quality and quantity of the fissionable materials plutonium and U 235, and
- III. The use of these materials for the making of atomic weapons.
Thus we regard the mining and processing of uranium as a dangerous activity even though it must be supplemented by plants and ordnance establishments if atomic weapons are to result. We regard the facilities for making atomic weapons as dangerous even though some control be exercised over the provision of the fissionable material; and we regard the operation of reactors or separation plants which make the material for bombs or which, by relatively minor operational changes, could make the material for bombs, as dangerous even though they in turn would have to be supplemented by supplies of raw material and by installations for assembling atomic weapons.We need not regard as dangerous either amounts of material which are small in relation to those needed to make a weapon or installation whose rate of production is small in these terms. A further point which will prove important in establishing the criteria for the safety or danger of an operation is this: U 235 and plutonium can be denatured; such denatured materials do not readily lend themselves to the making of atomic explosives, but they can still be used with no essential loss of effcetiveness for the peaceful applications of atomic energy. They can be used in reactors for the generation of power or in reactors useful in research and in the production of radioactive tracers. It is important to understand the sense in which denaturing renders material safer. In the first place, it will make the material unusable by any methods we now know for effective atomic explosives unless steps are taken to remove the denaturants. In the second place, the development of more ingenious methods in the field of atomic explosives which make this material effectively useable is not only dubious, but is certainly not possible without a very major scientific and technical effort.
It is possible, both for U 235 and for plutonium, to remove the denaturant, but doing so calls for rather complex installations which, though not of the scale of those at Oak Ridge or Hanford, nevertheless will require a large effort and, above all, scientific and engineering skill of an appreciable order for their development. It is not without importance to bear in mind that, although as the art now stands denatured materials are unsuitable for bomb manufacture, developments which do not appear to be in principle impossible might alter the situation. This is a good example of the need for constant reconsideration of the dividing line between what is safe and what is dangerous.
We would, however, propose as criterion that installations using material both denatured and insufficient in quantity for the manufacture of bombs could be regarded as safe, provided the installations did not themselves make large quantities of suitable material. With some safeguards in the form of supervision, installations in which the amounts of material are small, or in which the material is denatured, might also be regarded as safe; but installations using or making large amounts of material not denatured, or not necessarily denatured, we would call dangerous.
Let us see now what we regard as safe activities in this field.
(1) Perhaps the clearest case is the application of radioactive material as tracers in scientific, medical, and technological studies. This is a field in which progress may be expected to be very rapid, and we can see no reason at all for limiting, on grounds of safety, the activities using such tracer materials.
(2) It is easy to design small nuclear reactors which use denatured U 235 or plutonium. These reactors can be operated at a power level low enough to be incapable of producing dangerous quantities of fissionable materials but high enough to provide neutron sources and gamma ray sources of unparalleled intensity. The material in these reactors is neither in quantity nor in quality significant for bomb production; even if one combined the material from many, no practical method of making weapons would be available. On the other hand, reactors of this kind can and almost inevitably will be designed to operate at so low a power level that they cannot be used to produce quantities of fissionable material which are of military significance. Reactors of this general kind have the following important applications:
(a) They may be used to make radioactive materials, and as such may be a supplement, and a valuable supplement, to the more dangerous reactors operating at higher power levels; in particular, they can make useful radioactive materials that last too short a time to permit them to be provided from remote plants.
(b) As a source of radiation, primarily of neutron radiation, such reactors are research tools for physics, for chemistry, and for biology. This may, in fact, be one of the most important applications of the release of atomic energy.
(c) The high intensity of radiation from such reactors will bring about changes in chemical and biological systems which may be of immense practical value, once they have been understood.
(3) More marginal from the standpoint of safety, but nevertheless important, is another case of an operation which we would regard as safe. This is the development of power from the fission of denatured U 235 and plutonium in high power level reactors. Such power reactors might operate in the range from 100,000 to 1,000,000 kw. If these fissionable materials are used in installations where there is no additional uranium or thorium, they will not produce further fissionable material. The operation of the reactors will use up the material. If the reactors are suitably designed, a minimum of supervision should make it possible to prevent the substitution of uranium and thorium for the inert structure of the materials of the reactors. In order to convert the material invested in such reactors to atomic weapons, it would be necessary to close down the reactor; to decontaminate the fissionable material of its radioactive fission products; to separate it, in what is a fairly major technical undertaking, from its denaturant; and to establish plants for making atomic weapons. In view of the limited amount of material needed for such a power reactor, and of the spectacular character and difficulty of the steps necessary to divert it, we would regard such power reactors as safe provided there were a minimum of reasonable supervision of their design, construction, and operation. If the material from one such reactor (of a size of practical interest for power production) were diverted, it might be a matter of some two or three years before it could be used to make a small number of atomic weapons.
We attach some importance to reactors of this type because they make it possible in large measure to open up the field of atomic power production to private or national enterprise. It is; in this connection, important to note that the materials required to construct these reactors cannot themselves be produced in installations which we could regard as safe. It is, furthermore, important to note that for every kilowatt generated in safe reactors, about 1 kilowatt must be generated in dangerous ones in which the material was manufactured. Thus if atomic power is in fact developed on a large scale, about half of it will inevitably be an international monopoly, and about a half might be available for competitive exploitation. That is to say, the primary production plants necessary to produce the materials required to construct safe power plants will in that process of production produce large amounts of power as a by-product. It is, furthermore, clear that the stockpiling of appreciable quantities of fissionable material suitably denatured, must precede the development of these safe power reactors. We think it fortunate that the actual operation of such reactors will have to await the production of these essential materials, so that there will be time for further study of means by which they may be supervised and their safety insured.
All the above illustrations show that a great part of the field of atomic energy can be opened with relative safety to competitive activity. They also show that the safe operations are possible only because dangerous ones are being carried out concurrently. It is not possible to devise an atomic energy program in which safeguards independent of the motivation of the operators preclude the manufacture of material for atomic weapons. But it is possible, once such operations are undertaken on an international basis, to devise others of great value and of living interest in which safety is no longer dependent on the motivation of the operators.
We have enumerated elements of the large field of non-dangerous activities under (1), (2), and (3) above. Among the activities which we would at the present time classify as those dangerous for national exploitation are the following:
- (4) Prospecting, mining, and refining of uranium, and, to a lesser extent, thorium.
(5) The enrichment of the isotope 235 by any methods now known to us.
(6) The operation of the various types of reactors for making plutonium, and of separation plants for extracting the plutonium.
(7) Research and development in atomic explosives.
Of these activities, (6), as have indicated, not only plays an essential part in providing active materials, but involves installations capable of generating power.
It should be added in conclusion that to exclude even safe activities from international operation seems unwise, but these should not be an international monopoly. It would equally be unwise to exclude from knowledge and participation in the dangerous activities experts who are not associated with the international authority. As the next section will show, there are practical means for making this collaboration possible in such a way that security will be promoted rather than impaired. Only a constant reexamination of what is sure to be a rapidly changing technical situation will give us confidence that the line between what is dangerous and what is safe has bees correctly drawn; it will not stay fixed. No international agency of control that is not qualified to make this reexamination can deserve confidence.
1. If nations or their citizens carry on intrinsically dangerous activities it seems to us that the chances for safeguarding the future are hopeless.
2. If an international agency is given responsibility for the dangerous activities, leaving the non-dangerous open to nations and their citizens and if the international agency is given and carries forward affirmative development responsibility, furthering among other things the beneficial uses of atomic energy and enabling itself to comprehend and therefore detect the misuse of atomic energy, there is good prospect of security.” The Acheson-Lilienthal Report, “A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy;” Foreword & Introduction & Chapter Three, “Constructive Applications of Atomic Energy & Chapter Five, “‘Safe’ and ‘Dangerous’ Activities,” 1946