An Odious Comparison


At a time when a flood of slobber is being poured out through the capitalist Press concerning the “red-terror” in Russia it might not be inopportune to reproduce a report of a characteristic incident of the suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871. It illustrates the capitalist method of securing order when their supremacy is threatened by the working class. It is to be remembered that these butcheries, of which the following was but a small example, took place, not in the course of fighting, but after the struggle had ceased—not, therefore, under the influence of the fear and anxiety as to the course of the battle, but in cold-blooded lust of revenge.

     “The column of prisoners halted in the Avenue Uhrich and was drawn up four or five deep on the footway facing to the road. General the Marquis de Gallifet and his staff, who had preceded us there, dismounted, and commenced an inspection from the left of the line and near where I was. Walking down slowly, and eyeing the ranks as if at an inspection, the General stopped here and there, tapping a man on the shoulder or beckoning him out of the rear ranks. In most cases, without further parley, the individual thus selected was marched out into the centre of the road, where a small supplementary column was thus soon formed. . . . They evidently knew too well that their last hour had come, and it was fearfully interesting to see their different demeanours. One, already wounded, his shirt soaked with blood, sat down in the road and howled with anguish ; . . . others wept in silence. . , . It was an awful thing to see one man thus picking out a batch of his fellow-creatures to be put to a violent death in a few minutes without further trial. . . .  A few paces from where I stood a mounted officer pointed out to General Gallifet a man and a woman for some particular offence. The woman, rushing out of the ranks, threw herself on her knees and with outstretched arms implored mercy, and protested her innocence in passionate terms. The General waited for a pause, and then, with most impassive face and unmoved demeanour, said: ‘Madame, I have visited every theatre in Paris; your acting will have no effect on me.’ . . . I followed the General closely down the line, still a prisoner, but honoured with a special escort of two chasseurs-a cheval, and endeavoured to arrive at what guided him in his selections. The result of my observations was that it was not a good thing on that day to be noticeably taller, dirtier, cleaner, older, or uglier than one’s neighbour. One individual in particular struck me as probably owing his speedy release from the ills of this world to his having a broken nose on what might have been otherwise an ordinary face, and being unable from his height to conceal it. Over a hundred being thus chosen, a firing party was chosen, and the column resumed its marching, leaving them behind. In a few minutes afterwards a dropping fire in our rear commenced and continued for over a quarter of an hour. It was the execution of these summarily convicted wretches.”—“The Daily News,” June 8,1871.

Here is another report, referring to another case, showing how capitalist butchers dealt with those working men and women of Paris who dared to challenge their supremacy.

      “On the 26th of last May we formed part of the column of prisoners who had left the Boulevard Malesherbes at eight o’clock in the morning in the direction of Versailles. We stopped at the Chateau of La Muette, where General Gallifet, after having dismounted from his horse, passed into our ranks, and then making a choice, he pointed out eighty-three men and three women. They were taken away along the talus of the fortifications and shot before us. After this exploit the General said to us: ‘My name is Gallifet. Your journals in Paris have sullied me enough. I take my revenge.’ ”
The Liberte, Brussels, 26th May, 1871.

Here is a report of a third instance:

  “Yesterday (Sunday, 28th), about one o’clock, General Gallifet appeared at the head of about 9,000 prisoners. . . . They were evidently prepared for the worst fate, and dragged listlessly along, as though it were not worth while to walk to Versailles to be shot. M. de Gallifet seemed to be of the same opinion, and a little beyond the Arc-de-Triompne he halted the column, selected eighty-two, and had them shot there and then.
—“The Times,’’ May 31st, 1871.

Did the capitalist Press rise up in horror and indignation at these ruthless butcheries of daily occurrence? Did the journalists and parsons and public men of the capitalist world heap invective and insult upon the heads of these capitalist murderers who were executing capitalist vengeance on the workers of Paris? Here is what one English newspaper (The “Naval-and Military Gazette” of May 27th, 1871) said, referring, of course, to the Communards, not to their butchers : “We are deliberately of the opinion that hanging is too good a death for such villains to die, and if medical science could be advanced by operating on the living body of the malefactors who have crucified their country, we at least should find no fault with the experiment.”

As to how far the slaughtered were guilty even of the crimes which served to excuse their massacre is shown by the remark of a French capitalist paper (Opinion Nationale, June 1st, 1871), under the fear that the unburied corpses would give rise to pestilence : .“A serious examination of the accused is imperative. One would like to see only the really guilty die.”

This wholesale and absolutely indiscriminate massacre went on for weeks, after which farcical trials provided victims for bourgeois bullets for eighteen months, and for imprisonment and transportation for six years.

And if the workers wish to know how the capitalists really viewed this butchery of over thirty- thousand workers, AFTER THEY HAD LAID DOWN THEIR ARMS, it can be judged from the fact that to the day of his death that English monarch Edward VII, always so careful of bourgeois “public” opinion, maintained the relations of intimate friendship with one of the chief assassins of the piece, the man who used to wait daily for the processions of prisoners, and levy his toll at the city gates because the Paris journals had sullied him—General Gallifet. Well might such a class of vampires palpitate with horror because the Bolsheviks are (they allege) treating their bourgeois opponents to a mild dose of their own physic. Their own hideous example is looming ominously before their affrighted eyes.

A. E. Jacomb