V. I. Lenin

Three Outlines for a Report on the Paris Commune{4}

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 113.2-122.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  



In Memory of the Paris Commune [SQUIGGLY]

Celebration of the greatest working-class uprising of the 19th century.
Historical outline.

  1. 1. France under Napoleon III.
    Imperialism. (S. 45) —retribution for June 1848.
    Napoleon III.
    —Expropriation of France by a gang of brigands.
    &alpha. Bonapartism { the workers not yet capable
    the bourgeoisie no longer{5} }
    β. Rapid industrial development. Plutocratic orgies. Flourishing of speculation. Corruption.
    γ. —Workers’ movement
    I.A.A.{6} 1862 London exposition{7}
    —1864 foundation
    | Proudhonism{8}
    Blanquism{9} |
  2. 2. Dynastic war. Rescue of a band of adventurers—c h a u v i n i s m.
    Left bank of the Rhine. On to Berlin (especially after 1866){10}
    { July 19, 1870 war declared.
    German pronouncements (Wilhelm I): Verteidigungskrieg.{1} (S. 20 in a speech from the throne: war against Napoleon III, not against the French people; idem Aug. 11, 1870 in a manifesto to the French on crossing the border.)
  3. 3. Workers’ protest.
    First Address of the General Council of the International { —French manifesto of July 12, 1870 (S. 16) (and provincial resolutions on July 22, 1870) (S. 16-17) Manifesto of Paris members of the international of July 12.
    — German protest (meeting at Chemnitz) (S. 18)
    (meeting at Brunswick on July 16, 1870) (S. 18)—Berlin section of the International.
    —Address of the G e n e r a l C o u n c i l of the International 1) J u l y 2 3, 1 8 7 0 against the war.
  5. 4. Outcome of war.
    Sedan Sept. 2, 1870. Napoleon III prisoner of war. Deb&ahat;cle.{11}
    Collapse of corrupt regime.
    Proclamation of the republic Sept. 4, 1870 by workers in Paris.
    Power in the hands of rascals, Louis Philippe’s Minister of Police T h i e r s, General T r o c h u. Jules Favre, Jules Ferry, Ernest Picard. ( power—to the delegates of Paris in the legislative corps )
    . . . “Government of national defence” . . . .
    [ National defence = arming of the workers = revolution. Government of popular betrayal. Defence . . . against the Paris workers. ]
  6. 5. Advice of the International.
    Second Address of the General Council (Sept. 9, 1870) (S. 25). Transformation of the defensive war into an offensive one.
    Central Committee of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party protested against annexation of Alsace-Lorraine.{12}
    (Arrest of Bracke and others.)
    Not to allow oneself to be provoked to “desperate folly”.
    Not to be deluded by national memories of 1792.
    Organise your own class calmly and resolutely”, use p. liberty.{13}
  7. 6. Siege of Paris.
    Comedy of Trochu (never!) and Jules Favre (not an inch of soil!).{14} Comedy of defence: Guiod writing to Susane about one of the latter’s protégés: let him go to Mont Valérien, he said, where the guns are being allegedly fired off.{15}
    Surrender of Paris. Jan. 28, 1871.
  8. 7. National Assembly at Bordeaux.  
    Under the terms of the surrender (Jan. 28, 1871)
    — Chamber of Junkers. Reactionaries.
    — Comedy of peace with Paris. U r g e t o d i s a r m P a r i s (“disarmament of the revolution” Sept. 4, 1870). Alliance with the German army against Paris.
    (S. 34), the National Assembly must be convened within 8 days (!).
    Thiers’ agitation for a r e a c t i o n a r y assembly, Legitimists, etc. (450 monarchists out of 750 members).
    Conspiracy against Paris: T h i e r s’ m e a s u r e s (S. 35).
    [BOX:] [ The pretence that the guns of the National Guard belong to the state! A lie! S. 36–37. ]
    1. 1) anti-republican demonstration by the National Assembly
    2. 2) ambiguity of Thiers’ expressions
    3. 3) threat to Paris (déca-piter déapitaliser{2} )
    4. 4) ban on republican newspapers
    5. 5) death sentence for Blanqui
    6. 6) appointment of Vinoy governor of Paris, Valentin, Police Prefect, D’Aurelle de Paladines, commander of the National Guard.
  9. 8. A t t e m p t t o t a k e a w a y t h e g u n s. M a r c h 1 8, 1871.  
    (from the Na- tional Guard).
    { Vinoy.
    Failure }
    Manifesto of March 18: S.43. March 18, 1871. C e n t r a l C o m m i t t e e of the National Guard.
    March 26, 1871. Commune.
    March 18. Government’s flight to Versailles.
    (( clericals, Bonapartists, gendarmes. ))
    [BOX:] [[ It was not the Commune but the indignant soldiers who shot Lecomte and Clément Thomas, the Bonapartist officers. ]] Paris waging war against Versailles from early April.
    Begging Bismarck for troops (prisoners of war) (S. 57–58).
  10. 9. The Commune’s deeds.
    Its m i n u s e s : lack of class consciousness (Proudhonists, Blanquists)
    lack of organisation (( failure to take the bank and attack Versailles ))
    infatuation with nationalistic and revolutionary talk.
  11. 10. Its pluses:
    A) Political reforms
    α. separation of church from state (Apr. 2, 1871). Expropriation of church properties. Abolition of all state payments to the church.
    Free public education (S. 46)
    β. abolition of standing army (March 30, 1871) (S. 46)
    Working- class govern- ment γ. abolition of bureaucracy. G o v e r n m e n t o f t h e w o r k e r s (S. 49). Regierungsf\"ahig.{3}
    (1) All officials elective and removable (S. 46).
    Apr. 1, 1871
    (2) Small salary, to be not over 6,000 francs (S. 46)
    [BOX:] managed to do with a quarter of the officials: Lissagaray, S.
    &delta. Equal rights for aliens (March 30, 1871), a German — minister of the Commune{16} (S. 53). Participation of Poles (Dabrowski, Wróblewski).
    [BOX:] The banner of the Commune is the banner of a world republic
    ε. Self-government of communes.
  13. 11. B) Economic reforms.
    Transformation of the Paris of idlers and pleasure-seekers into a working-class Paris (S. 55–56). { —Bakers’ night work banned (Apr. 20) (S. 53).
    —Fines banned (S. 53).
    — The Commune won over a mass of Paris petty bourgeois ruined (elaborate) by Napoleon III (debts deferred) (S. 51). T h e C o m m u n e a d d r e s s e s the peasants (S. 51).
    — Transfer of abandoned factories to workers’ associations Apr. 16 (S. 54): statistical c e n s u s of factories.
  14. 12. Last fight.
    — Heroism of the Federals (Election of mayors on Apr. 30 against the National Assembly. Thiers gives in to Bismarck: peace treaty signed at Frankfort on May 10. Approved by the National Assembly on May 21.)
    — Week of bloodshed May 21–28, 1871 (S. 62). Rifles not enough machine-guns.
    — Balance 35,000 — — 20,000 killed
    15,000 transported, etc.
    (( Courts busy for several years. ))
    Chorus of slander (S. 64–66).
  15. 13. Results and lessons.
    Revenge by the bourgeoisie. Even the “national war” turned out to be a political fraud (S. 67). Country betrayed (alliance with the Germans: S. 66).
    Instability of bourgeois democracy. Dictatorship of the proletariat.
    Bismarck 1871. Confer 1904.
Written before March 9 (22), 1904
First published in 1934 in Lenin Miscellany XXVI
Printed from the original


1. France under Napoleon III. Government of Bonapartists.
Industrial development.
Working- class movement —
{{ Proudhonism and Blanquism }}
I. A. A.
2. Dynastic war. (July 19, 1870) Chauvinism
On to Berlin.
Left bank of the Rhine. —
(German statements: Verteidigungskrieg.)
3. Workers’ protest (work- ing-class attitude) —French manifesto
—German protest
Address of the General Council of the Internation- al—w a r n i n g t o w o r k e r s: organise,
w a t c h o u t f o r p r o v o c a t i o n s.
4. Course and outcome of war. —Collapse of corrupt regime.
—Siege of Paris.
Proclamation of the republic on Sept. 4, 1870. French workers—their cause—utilised by the bourgeoisie.
Government of “national defence”.
(Rascals in its midst.)
5. Defence of Paris. Comedy of Jules Favre (Trochu).
—its surrender.
6. Attempt to disarm the proletariat. March 18, 1871. T h e C o m m u n e.
7. 7. Versailles government. Chamber of Junkers, landowners
(Ruraux, Krautjunker).
—comedy of “peace” with Paris
—bargaining with Bismarck
—alliance with the German army against the proletariat.
8. T h e C o m m u n e ... Its minuses
—lack of class con- sciousness (Proudhon- ism and Blanquism) —lack of organ- isa- tion {{ failure to take the bank and to attack Versailles }}
—interlacing of nationalistic elements.
9. +A) P o l i t i c a l f r e e d o m

separation of church from state
—abolition of standing army
—abolition of bureaucracy
—equal rights for aliens. Participation of Poles
—self-government of communes (the Commune).
10. B) E c o n o m i c r ef o r m s —bakers’ night work banned
—fines banned
—debts deferred
—idle factories handed over to workers
—binding character (mainten- ance, etc.) of any cohabitation with a woman
—payment (pensions?) to all widows.
11. Last fight: Heroism of the Federals.
Week of bloodshed.
Balance: 35,000.
12. Results and lessons: Revenge by the bourgeoisie.
Challenge to battle.
Bismarck 1871 and 1904.
Written before March 9 (22), 1904
First published in 1934 in Lenin Miscellany XXVI
Printed from the original


  1. I.
    1. 1. Napoleon III and his band.
    2. 2. Shame of France.
    3. 3. Bourgeoisie’s guilt in Napoleon III.
  2. II.
    1. 1. Dynastic war against Germany.
    2. 2. French workers’ protest (Paris, July 12, and Manifesto of the International, July 23).
    3. 3. Wilhelm I’s solemn promise (Aug. 11). His deception.
    4. 4. German workers’ protest (Sept. 5, 1870) and their arrest.
  3. III.
    1. 1. Republic Sept. 4, 1870. Won by Paris workers.
    2. 2. Seizure of power by swindlers (Favre, Trochu, Thiers—ticket-of-leave men{17}).
    3. 3. “Government of popular defence”==government of popular betrayal. Fight against French w o r k e r s
  4. IV. Marx’s warning (Manifesto of the International Sept. 9, 1870).
    Dupont’s letters.{18}
  5. V.
    1. 1. Slave-owners’ and monarchists’ plot to disarm Paris.
    2. 2. Bordeaux and the transfer of the National Assembly to Versailles.
    3. 3. Dispatch of Vinoy, Valentin and de Paladines to Paris.
    4. 4. Monarchist speeches in the Assembly of “Rurals”.
  6. VI. Start of civil war by Thiers: guns taken away March 18, 1871 (Lecomte and Clément Thomas killed).
  7. VII. March 18, 1871. The Commune.
    1. 1. Republic + self-government.
    2. 2. T h e C o m m u n e’ s m e a s u r e s.
    3. 3.
      {{ Its two mistakes }}
      (( Failure to attack Versailles
      ” to take the bank
  8. VIII. War against the Commune: begging Bismarck for soldiers, ignominious peace. Week of bloodshed May 21–28, 1871.
    35,000 killed 20,000 according to {{ bourgeois newspaper }} estimates.  
    13,450 (including 157 women)
    {19} sentenced by the courts (! after March 18 the courts were busy for another 5 1/2 years!).
Written before March 9 (22), 1904 Printed from the original
First published on March 18, 1926 in Pravda No. 63


{1} Defensive war—Ed.

{2} Decapitate and decapitalise.—Ed.

{3} Capable of governing.—Ed.

{4} These outlines were the basis of a report on the Paris Commune given by Lenin at Geneva on March 9 (22), 1904. They were written after a thorough study of Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 473–545). All of Lenin’s references are to the Berlin edition of 1891. He also makes use of Lissagaray’s History of the Commune of 1871 and Weill’s History of the Social Movement in France (1852–1902).

On the basis of these outlines Lenin wrote a “Plan of a Lecture on the Commune” in 1905 (see p resent edition, Vol. 5, pp. 206–08). He returned again and again to the Paris Commune (see, for instance, the articles “Lessons of the Commune” and “In Memory of the Commune”, and Chapter III of the book The State and Revolution—present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 475–78, Vol. 17, pp. 139–43, Vol. 25, pp. 413–32). p. 113

{5} Engels’s “Introduction to Marx’s The Civil War in France” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, p. 475). p. 114

{6} I.A.A. (Internationale Arbeiter Association)—the International Working Men’s Association (First International)—the first inter national mass organisation of the proletariat set up at an international workers’ meeting in London called by British and French workers in 1864. Karl Marx was the organiser and leader of the First International, and wrote its Inaugural Address, Rules and other programme and tactical documents. The establishment of the First International was the result of long and persistent efforts   by Marx and Engels to organise a working-class revolutionary party. Lenin said that the First International “laid the foundation of an international organisation of the workers for the preparation of their revolutionary attack on capital” and “laid the foundation of the proletarian international struggle for socialism” (see present edition, Vol. 29, pp. 306, 307).

The central governing body of the First International was its General Council, of which Karl Marx was a member throughout. He did a great deal to overcome the petty-bourgeois influences and sectarian tendencies which then prevailed in the labour movement (trade unionism in Britain, Proudhonism and anarchism in Romance countries and Lassalleanism in Germany) and rallied the advanced workers in Europe and America round the principles of scientific socialism. The First International directed the economic and political struggle of workers in various countries and strengthened their international solidarity. It also played a great part in spreading Marxism and introducing socialism into the working-class movement.

After the defeat of the Paris Commune, the working class was faced with the task of setting up mass national parties on the basis of the principles put forward by the First International. In 1873 Marx wrote: “As I view European conditions it is quite useful to let the formal organisation of the International recede into the background for the time being” (see Marx’s letter to F. A. Sorge, September 27, 1873) (Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, p. 286). The First International was officially dissolved at the Philadelphia Conference in 1876. p. 114

{7} The world industrial exposition where a delegation of French workers met British workers. p. 114

{8} Proudhonism—an unscientific, anti-Marxist trend of petty-bourgeois socialism named after the French anarchist Proudhon. Marx and Engels waged a consistent struggle against Proudhon’s attempts to impose his views on the First International. Proudhonism was subjected to withering criticism by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy. The resolute struggle conducted by Marx, Engels and their supporters against Proudhonism within the First International ended in the full triumph of Marxism over Proudhonism.

Lenin said Proudhonism was the “stupidity of the petty bourgeois and the philistine”, incapable of accepting the working-class standpoint. Proudhonist ideas have been widely used by bourgeois “theorists” to advocate class collaboration. p. 114

{9} Blanquism—a trend in the French socialist movement led by the outstanding revolutionary and prominent French utopian Communist, Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881).

Lenin wrote that the Blanquists hoped “that mankind will be emancipated from wage slavery, not by the proletarian class struggle, but through a conspiracy hatched by a small minority of intellectuals” (see present edition, Vol. 10, p. 392). They substituted action by a secret group of plotters for the activity of a revolutionary party, failed to take account of the concrete situation   in which an uprising could be victorious, and neglected to maintain ties with the masses. p. 114

{10} Engels’s “Introduction to Marx’s Civil War In France” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 475–76). p. 114

{11} La déb&ahat;cle (1892)—Émile Zola’s novel describing the Franco Prussian War. p. 115

{12} A reference to the manifesto issued by the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany on September 5, 1870. p. 115

{13} Marx, “Second Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association on the Franco-Prussian War” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 491–98). p. 115

{14} Marx, The Civil War in France (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 473–545). p. 115

{15} Alphonse-Simon Guiod, commander of the Paris army artillery, wrote to artillery division General Susane that he could take his protégé on his staff where he would be bored by the inaction, or he could send him to Mont Valérien where only a pretence was made of firing off the guns. This letter, published by the Commune in No. 115 of Journal Officiel de la République Fran&ctail;aise (Official Journal of the French Republic) on April 25, 1871, showed that the “government of national defence” merely pretended that it was defending Paris. Also see Marx, The Civil War In France (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1962, pp. 500–01). p. 115

{16} A reference to Leo Frankel, a jeweller, who was one of the leaders of the German workers’ alliance in France, a prominent leader of the Hungarian and international working-class movement and the founder of the first Hungarian Socialist Labour Party. p. 117

{17} The expression “ticket-of-leave men” was used by Marx in The Civil War in France where he says the following about Thiers’ ministers: “These men, then, could find, in the ruins of Paris only, their tickets-of-leave: they were the very men Bismarck wanted.... In England common criminals are often discharged on parole after serving the greater part of their term, and are placed under police surveillance. On such discharge they receive a certificate called ticket-of-leave, their possessors being referred to as ticket-of-leave men” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, p. 502). p. 121

{18} The letters of Dupont, corresponding secretary of the General Council of the First International, are given in Weill’s History of the Social Movement In France (1852–1902). In his “Plan of a Lecture on the Commune” Lenin mentions Dupont’s letter of September 7, 1870 (see present edition, Vol. 8, p. 207) p. 121

{19} The figures on the number of Communards convicted by courts are taken from Lissagaray’s History of the Commune of 1871. p. 122

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