Declaration to the French People

Journal officiel de la Commune de Paris, 20 April 1871

To the French people:

In the painful and terrible conflict which once again imposes on Paris the horrors of a siege and bombardment, which causes French blood to flow, which destroys our brothers, our wives, our children, crushed beneath shells and bullets, it is necessary that public opinion not be divided, that the national conscience not be confused.

Paris and the entire nation must know the nature, the reason, and the aim of the revolution that we are making. Finally, the responsibility for the grief, the suffering, and the misfortunes of which we are the victims must fall on those who, after having betrayed France and delivered Paris to the foreigners, pursue with blind and cruel obstinacy the ruin of the capital in order to bury, in disaster for the republic and liberty, the double testament of their treason and their crime.

The Commune has the duty to affirm and define the aspirations and wishes of the people of Paris; to clarify the character of the movement of March 18, misunderstood, unknown and slandered by the politicians who sit at Versailles.

Once again, Paris works and suffers for all of France, whose intellectual, moral, administrative and economic regeneration, its glory and prosperity, it prepares through its struggles and sacrifices.

What does it demand?

The recognition and consolidation of the republic, the only form of government compatible with the rights of the people and the steady and free development of society;

The absolute autonomy of the Commune extended to all the localities of France, and assuring to each one its full rights, and to every Frenchman the full exercise of his faculties and abilities as man, citizen and worker;

The autonomy of the Commune will have as its limits only the right to equal autonomy for all the other communes adhering to the contract, whose association must ensure French unity;

The inherent rights of the Commune are:

Voting on the communal budget, receipts and expenses; fixing and distribution of taxes; management of local services; organisation of its judiciary, internal police and education; administration of property belonging to the Commune;

The choice by election or competition, with accountability and the permanent right of control and revocation, of magistrates and communal officials of all kinds;

The absolute guarantee of individual freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of work;

The permanent intervention of citizens in communal affairs by the free expression of their ideas, the free defence of their interests: guarantees given for these expressions by the Commune, solely responsible for overseeing and ensuring the free and fair exercise of the right of assembly and publicising;

The organisation of urban defence and the National Guard, which elects its leaders and alone watches over the maintenance of order in the city.

Paris wants no more local guarantees than these, on condition, of course, of finding in the great central administration, delegation of the federated communes, the realisation and the practice of the same principles.

But, thanks to its autonomy and taking advantage of its freedom of action, Paris retains for itself the carrying out, internally, as it sees fit the administrative and economic reforms called for by its people; to create suitable institutions to develop and spread education, production, exchange and credit; to universalise power and property, according to the necessities of the moment, the wishes of the interested parties and the data provided by experience.

Our enemies deceive themselves, or deceive the country, when they accuse Paris of wanting to impose its will or its supremacy on the rest of the nation, and to claim a dictatorship that would be a real attack on the independence and sovereignty of other communes.

They deceive themselves, or deceive the country, when they accuse Paris of pursuing the destruction of French unity, constituted by the Revolution to the acclamations of our fathers who rushed to the Fete de la Fédération from all corners of the old France.

Unity, as it has been imposed on us until now by empire, monarchy and parliamentarism, is nothing but despotic, unintelligent, arbitrary or onerous centralisation.

Political unity, as Paris wants it, is the voluntary association of all local initiatives, the spontaneous and free concurrence of all individual energies for a common goal, the well-being, the freedom and the security of all.

The communal revolution, begun by popular initiative on March 18, inaugurates a new era of experimental, positive and scientific politics.

It is the end of the old governmental and clerical world, of militarism, of bureaucracy, of exploitation, of speculation, of monopolies, of privileges, to which the proletariat owes its serfdom; the country, its misfortunes and disasters.

May this beloved and great country, deceived by lies and calumny, be reassured!

The struggle between Paris and Versailles is one of those that cannot end in illusory compromises; the outcome cannot be in doubt. Victory, pursued with an indomitable energy by the National Guard, will remain at the idea and at the right.

We call on France!

Notified that Paris in arms possesses as much calm as bravery; that it supports order with as much energy as enthusiasm; that it sacrifices itself with as much reason as heroism; that it only armed itself in devotion to the liberty and glory of all, France must halt this bloody conflict!

It is up to France to disarm Versailles by the solemn expression of its irresistible will.

Called to benefit from our conquests, may it declare itself in solidarity with our efforts; may it be our ally in this fight, which can only end by the triumph of the communal idea or by the ruin of Paris!

As for us, citizens of Paris, our mission is to accomplish the modern revolution, the widest and must fecund of all those which have illustrated history!

Our duty is to fight and win!

Paris, 19 April 1871.

The Paris Commune