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Plan of a Lecture on the Commune[6]

V. I. Lenin

1. Historical outline of the Commune.
    France under Napoleon III. Foundations of imperialism: the bourgeoisie no longer, the proletariat not yet....[7]

    Adventurism of Napoleon III. Need for romp, wars.

2. Growth of proletariat after June 1848. Internationale Arbeiterassoziation,[1] 1864. Its persecution by Napoleon III.

    Protest of the French workers against war (July 12, Paris Section of the International, S.[2] 16) and of the German workers (Brunswick workers' meeting, July 16, Chemnitz, Berlin Section of International, S. 18).[8]

3. Sedan: September 2, 1870, and proclamation of republic on September 4, 1870. Artful liberals seize power. Liberal lawyers and double-faced monarchists: Thiers.

4. Government of national defence=government of national betrayal. Trochu: “plan” for defending Paris. Comedy of defence. Heroism of the Paris workers. C a p i t u l a t i o n on January 28, 1871.

5. Bismarck imposes conditions for convocation of the National Assembly in eight days (S. 34) to decide question of war and peace. Thiers' intrigues with the monarchists.

Chamber of Country Gentry (ruraux). National Assembly at Bordeaux: 630 members=30 Bonapartists+200 republicans (100 moderates and 100 radicals)+400 monarchists (200 Orleanists+200 Legitimists).

Thiers' talk with Falloux.

6. Paris provoked: appointment of monarchist ambassadors: "30 sou” pay cut for soldiers of the National Guard; in Paris Prefect of the Police Valentin, Commander of the National Guard d'Aurelle de Paladines, and others (Trepov and Vasilchikov!)[9]; National Assembly moved to Versailles; suppression of republican newspapers and so on. Making the poor pay for the war. (S. 35) Armed Paris workers and— a monarchist assembly. Conflict inevitable.

7. Marx's warning[3]: second address of General Council of the International, September 9, 1870: “They must not allow themselves to be swayed by the national memories of 1792”; to proceed with “the organisation of their own class”; not to set itself the aim of overthrowing the government (“a desperate folly”): S. 25. Eugène Dupont, Secretary of the International (General Council) for France, wrote the same on September 7, 1870 (Weill, 134).[10]

8. Last act of provocation. Seizure of the guns from the National Guard, March 18, 1871. Thiers' fraudulent pretexts. Attempt fails. Central Committee of National Guard proclaims the Commune. Civil war begun between Paris Commune and Versailles Government.

9. Trends in the Commune: (a) Blanquists. In November 1880 Blanqui in Ni Dieu ni mâitre[4] condemns the theory of the class struggle and the separation of the interests of the proletariat and those of the nation. (Weill, 229) (draws no line between the workers and the revolutionary bourgeoisie). (b) Proudhonists (Mutualists) “organisation of barter and credit”.

Revolutionary instinct of the working class asserts itself despite fallacious theories.

10. Political measures of the Commune:

    (1) Abolition of the standing army.
    (2) Abolition of the bureaucracy (a) Electivity of all officials; (b) Salary not > 6,000 fr.
    (3) Separation of Church from State || Minimum Programme ||
    (4) Introduction of free tuition || Minimum Programme ||

    Commune and peasants. In three months it would all be different! (S. 49-50).[5]


    and International. Franckel, the Poles (banner of world republic).

11. Economic measures of the Commune.

    (1) Ban on night-work for bakers.
    (2) Ban on fines.
    (3) Registration of abandoned factories, their transfer to workers' associations with compensation on basis of decision by arbitration committees. (S. 54.)
    NB || Did not take over the bank. Eight-hour day did not go through. Will, 142. ||
    (4) Halt to foreclosures of mortgages. Deferment of payments (of rent).

12. Crash. Deficiencies of organisation. Defensive attitude. Thiers-Bismarck deal {role of Bismarck=hired assassin}. Bloody week, May 21-28, 1871.

Its horrors, exile, etc. Slanders (S. 65-66).

Women and children.... P. 487: 20,000 killed in streets, 3,000 died in prisons, etc. Military tribunals: until January 1,1875—13,700 persons sentenced (80 women, 60 children), exile, prison.[11]

13. Lessons: Bourgeoisie will stop at nothing. Today liberals, radicals, republicans, tomorrow betrayal, shootings.

Independent organisation of the proletariat—class struggle—civil war.

In the present movement we all stand on the shoulders of the Commune.


[1] International Working Men's Association. —Ed.

[2] Seite—page.—Ed.

[3] Contra Blanqui, who founded Patrie en danger (The Fatherland in Danger.—Ed.) in 1870 (N.B.).—Lenin

[4] Neither God nor Master.—Ed.

[5] Baring of “secrets”: tricks of Trochu, “goings on” in the monasteries (S. 54). Very little has yet been done!Lenin

[6] Plan of a Lecture on the Commune—an outline of Lenin's lecture on the Paris Commune delivered by him in Geneva on March 5 (18), 1905, for the Russian colony of political emigrants.

[7] In his introduction to Marx's The Civil War in France, Engels analysed the situation in France after the June insurrection of 1848, saying: “If the proletariat was not yet able to rule France, the bourgeoisie could no longer do so.” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow, 1958, Vol. 1, p. 475.)

[8] Here and further below Lenin refers to the German edition of Karl Marx's pamphlet The Civil War in France, which appeared in Berlin in 1891.

[9] Lenin draws a comparison between the executioners of the Paris Commune of 1871. and the executioners of the first Russian revolution of 1905.

Trepov, D. F.—Governor-General of St. Petersburg; responsible for the suppression of the first Russian revolution.

Vasilchikov, S. I., Prince—tsarist general; commanded the tsarist troops in St. Petersburg which shot down the peaceful demonstration of workers on January 9 (22), 1905.

[10] Here and further below Lenin refers to the book Histoire du mouvement social en France 1852-1902 by G. Weill, Paris, 1904.

[11] The number of Communard victims is quoted from Prosper Olivier Lissagaray's Histoire de La Commune de 1871, Paris, 1896.

Written: Written in February-March 1905
Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVI.
Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 206-208.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker

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