February 2018

170 Years ago ...


Bourgeois-democratic Revolution

in France 1848


In the period leading up to the revolutions of 1848 Marx and Engels were extremely active as proletarian journalists, reacting to all contemporary events, especially those of a revolutionary nature.

This volume includes a large number of their articles and reports published in the working-class and democratic press of the time, particularly in the Deutsche-Brusseler-Zeitung, which under their influence became the unofficial organ of the Communist League.

The chief aim of Marx and Engels' writing for the press in this period was to explain to the working class its role and tasks in the imminent bourgeois revolution, to prepare the proletarian party that was beginning to take shape for the forthcoming battles, to spread the new revolutionary proletarian world outlook and to defend scientific communism from the attacks of its enemies.

The publication of these articles and reports helped to strengthen the international ties between the proletarian and democratic circles of the European countries and to evolve a common platform for the revolutionary forces.

Marx and Engels demonstrate that, although their ultimate aims go far beyond establishing bourgeois-democratic freedoms, the Communists' immediate aim is to win democracy, and in this struggle they make common cause with the democrats.

Engels argued that not the peasantry but "the industrial proletariat of the towns has become the vanguard of all modern democracy; the urban petty bourgeoisie and still more the peasants
depend on its initiative completely."

Marx and Engels regarded the bourgeois-democratic revolution as merely an intermediate stage in the proletariat's revolutionary struggle. The proletarians, Marx wrote, "can and must accept the bourgeois revolution as a precondition for the workers' revolution". With the victory of the democratic revolution the proletariat is confronted with the task of "becoming a power, in the first place a revolutionary power" in order to carry the struggle against the bourgeoisie itself to its ultimate conclusion. Marx and Engels
approached the idea of uninterrupted revolution and regarded the working class' conquest of political power as its next stage. 1848, we have the first published formulation of the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat as an instrument for the revolutionary reconstruction of society.


* * *



Friedrich Engels


"the ever-burning volcano of Paris".

(Friedrich Engels - September 1, 1846)

* * *

A Frenchman is necessarily a cosmopolite. Yes, in a world ruled over by French influence, French manners, fashions, ideas, politics.
In a world in which every nation has adopted the characteristics of French nationality. ,But that is exactly what the democrats of other nations will not like. Quite ready to give up the harshness of their own nationality, they expect the same from the French. They will not be satisfied in the assertion, on the part of the French, that they are
cosmopolites; assertion which amounts to the demand urged upon all others to become Frenchmen.
(Friedrich Engels, December 1847)



Friedrich Engels 

Reform Movement in France




Karl Marx


What does the Ministry do?—Nothing.
What does the parliamentary, legal opposition do?


What can France expect from the present Chambers?


What does M. Guizot want?—To remain Minister.
What do Messrs Thiers, Mole and Company want?

—To become ministers again.

What does France gain from this ôte-toi, afin que je m'y mettea?—

Ministry and opposition are thus condemned to do nothing.

Who alone will accomplish the coming French revolution?—

The proletariat.

What will the bourgeoisie do for this?


Written about January 16, 1848




Friedrich Engels 


in Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung

Revolution in Paris

MECW Volume 6, p. 356;
Written: on February, 25-26, 1848;
First published: in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, February 27, 1848.


The year 1848 is turning out well. The Sicilian revolution with its long train of constitutions is hardly over before Paris experiences a victorious insurrection.

The opposition deputies had publicly pledged themselves to defend the right of assembly against Guizot, Duchâtel and Hébert by means of a courageous demonstration.

All the preparations had been made. The hall was ready and awaited the banquet guests. Then suddenly, when the time had come to act, the poltroons of the Left, M. Odilon Barrot at their head, beat, as always, a cowardly retreat.

The banquet was called off. But the people of Paris, stirred up by the loud-mouths in the Chamber, raging at the cowardice of these épiciers. and made discontented at the same time by protracted general unemployment, the people of Paris refused to be called off.

At midday on Tuesday, all Paris was on the streets. The masses were shouting: “Down with Guizot, long live the Reform!” They proceeded to Guizot’s residence, which was protected by the troops with difficulty; but the windows were nevertheless broken.

The masses proceeded to Odilon Barrot’s house as well, shouted “Down with Barrot!” and broke his windows, too. M. Barrot, the cowardly originator of the whole outbreak, sent to the government and asked for a security guard!

The troops stood by and quietly looked on. Only the Municipal Guard struck out, and that with the greatest brutality. The Municipal Guard is a corps consisting in the main of natives of Alsace and Lorraine, that is, men who are half German; they receive three and a half fr a day and look very plump and well-nourished. The Municipal Guard is the basest body of soldiers in existence, worse than the Gendarmerie, worse than the old Swiss Guard; if the people win, things will go badly for it.

Towards evening the people began to resist. Barricades were set up, guard posts stormed and set on fire. A police spy was cut down in the Place de la Bastille. Arms shops were looted.

At five o'clock marching orders were sounded for the National Guard. But only a very few turned up, and those who did shouted “Down with Guizot!”

During the night calm was restored. The last barricades were taken and the outbreak appeared to be over.

On Wednesday morning, however, the revolt began again with renewed vigour. A large part of the centre of Paris lying to the east of the Rue Montmartre was strongly barricaded; after eleven o'clock the troops no longer dared venture in there. The National Guard gathered in large numbers, but only to hold the troops back from any attacks on the people and to shout “Down with Guizot, long live the Reform!”

There were 50,000 soldiers in Paris, disposed according to Marshal Gérard’s defence plan and holding all strategic points. But these points were so numerous that all of the troops were kept busy with them and were thus already forced into inaction. Apart from the Municipal Guard there were almost no soldiers free for an offensive. Gérard’s excellent plan was of infinite help to the outbreak; it paralysed the troops and made it easier for them to maintain the passivity to which they were in any case inclined. The detached forts also proved to be anything but beneficial to the government. They had to be kept manned and thus also withdrew a considerable section of the troops from the battle area. No one thought of a bombardment. In general not a single person gave a thought to the fact that these bastilles even existed. One more proof how fruitless are all defence plans against a mass revolt in a great city!

Towards noon the outcry against the Ministry in the ranks of the National Guard was so strong that several colonels sent word to the Tuileries that they would not hold themselves responsible for their regiments if the Ministry were to remain.

At two o'clock the aged Louis Philippe was forced to drop Guizot and form a new Ministry. Hardly had this been made public when the National Guard went home in jubilation and illuminated their houses.

But the people, the workers, the only ones who had erected the barricades, battled with the Municipal Guard and thrown themselves against the bullets, the bayonets and the horses’ hoofs, these workers had no desire to fight merely for M. Molé and M. Billault. They continued the struggle. While the Boulevard des Italiens was full of joy and jubilation, there was heavy shooting in the Rue Sainte-Avoie and Rambuteau. The battle lasted long into the night and was continued on Thursday morning. Evidence of the general participation of the workers in the battle was the tearing up of the rails on all the railways around Paris.

The bourgeoisie has made its revolution, it has toppled Guizot and with him the exclusive rule of the Stock Exchange grandees. Now, however, in the second act of the struggle, it is no longer one section of the bourgeoisie confronting another, now the proletariat confronts the bourgeoisie.

News has just arrived that the people have won and proclaimed the Republic. We confess that we had not dared hope for this brilliant success by the Paris proletariat.

Three members of the provisional government belong to the definitely democratic party, whose organ is the Réforme. The fourth is a worker — for the first time in any country in the world. The others are Lamartine, Dupont de l'Eure and two men from the National. By this glorious revolution the French proletariat has again placed itself at the head of the European movement. All honour to the workers of Paris! They have given the world an impulse which will be felt by every country in turn; for the victory of the Republic in France means the victory of democracy in the whole of Europe.

Our age, the age of democracy, is breaking. The flames of the Tuileries and the Palais Royal are the dawn of the proletariat. Everywhere the rule of the bourgeoisie will now, come crashing down, or be dashed to pieces.

Germany, we hope, will follow. Now or never will it raise itself from its degradation. If the Germans have any energy, any pride or any courage, then in a month’s time we too shall be able to shout:

Long live the German Republic!”



* * *



from the Committee of the Democratic Association

Brussels, February 28, 1848


The Democratic Association having as its aim the union and brotherhood of all peoples, established a few months ago at Brussels, and composed of members of several European nations which enjoy with the Belgians on their soil institutions which have long allowed the free and public expression of all political and religious opinions, hereby offers you the homage of its congratulations upon the great task the French nation has just accomplished, and of its gratitude for the immense service which this nation has just rendered the cause of humanity.

We have already had occasion to congratulate the Swiss for having led, as they did not long ago, in the work for the emancipation of the peoples which it has fallen to you to promote with the vigour which the heroic population of Paris always displays when its turn comes.

We were counting before long on repeating to the French the message we had addressed to the Swiss. But France has greatly advanced the time when we counted on addressing her.

This is only one reason why all the nations should hasten to follow in your footsteps.

We believe we can be sure in surmising that the nations nearest to France will be the first to follow her in the career on which she has just entered.

This conjecture is all the more certain in that France has just made a revolution destined rather to strengthen the bonds which link it to all nations than to menace the independence of any of them. We salute in the France of February 1848 not the mistress of the peoples but an example for them—France will henceforward look for no other homage.

We already see the great nation whose destinies you direct today, your sole authority the trust of all, we already see it, citizens, forging again, even with peoples whom she has for long regarded as rivals for power, an alliance which the hateful policy of certain men succeeded in shattering.

England and Germany stretch out their hands once more to your great country. Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium are going either to rise or to remain quiet and free under your threefold aegis.

Poland, like Lazarus, will rise again to the appeal you will make in a threefold language.

It is impossible that Russia itself should not join in, with accents as yet only slightly known to the ear of Western and Southern peoples.

Yours, Frenchmen, yours is the honour, yours is the glory to have laid the main foundations of this alliance of peoples so prophetically sung by your immortal Béranger.

We offer you, citizens, in all the flow of feelings of an immutable fraternity, the tribute of our deepest gratitude.

The Committee of the Democratic Association, whose aim is the union and brotherhood of all peoples, at Brussels.

L. Jottrand, barrister, President

Ch. Marx, Vice-president

General Mellinet, Honorary president

Spilthoorn, barrister, President of the Democratic

Association at Ghent

Maynz, professor at Brussels University


F. Balliu, treasurer

A. Battaille, Vice-secretary

J. Pellering, workman

Labiaux, merchant

First published in the newspapers

Le Débat social, March 1, 1848

and La Réforme, March 4, 1848




The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte




The Civil War in France














in Frankreich wird im Februar 1848 der Bürgerkönig Louis Philippe gestürzt.


Karrikatur von der Februarrevolution


Die Zeichnung zeigt den König von Frankreich, Louis Phlippe (1773-1850), auf seiner Flucht ins englische Exil, zu der er sich nach seiner Abdankung im Zuge der Februarrevolution 1848 gezwungen sah. Zu dieser Flucht wird die Reise des Prinzen von Preußen nach England am 21. März 1848 in Beziehung gesetzt, vermutlich in der Hoffnung, dass dessen Englandaufenthalt ebenfalls zum Exil werden möge.