parliamentary opposition


Anarchist group EXPOSA (extra parliamentary opposition socialist alternative) in London’s east end, 1970

As always, the news guy is hostile and probably misrepresenting them, but they interview the anarchists themselves and everything they say is pretty much as bang on now as it was then

“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. They do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution. One compels respect from others when one knows how to defend one’s dignity as a human being. This is not only true in private life; it has always been the same in political life as well.”
- Rudolf Rocker, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism


From Parisian newspaper Le Journal des Débats, written 6 June 1832, published 7 June 1832.

English translation:

A faction, small in number but blindly furious, recruited from among the most desperate of the mercenary adventurers of a large city, has just attempted, in the aftermath of a funeral, a bloody parody of the July Days.  A few hundred men, shooting guns, raising barricades, here and there stealing the weapons from some guardhouses taken by surprise, thought that they could substitute themselves for the voting, property-owning population of Paris and change the government in one blow.

This cruel attempt, reproduced in several places and prolonged for the past twenty-four hours in a few narrow streets, is everywhere overcome or surrounded by the public authorities.  It did not inspire the majority of citizens with anything other than indignation and horror; it did not find the slightest support among the people.  Never was an act of sedition more flagrant and less provoked.  And nevertheless some publish the apologia for it, even while the final gunshots of the factious still echo in the streets.  [These journalists] insult the population of Paris by comparing an ambush by anarchists, suppressed by force in the name of the law, to the legal protest against the overthrow of the Charter, the great national movement of July [1830].

A few men have raised the flag of pillage against the flag of the new royalty, the red cap against the tricolor standard; they have evoked the bloody memories and the examples of a day of the Terror against a constitutional and moderate power strictly enclosed within the limits of laws.  They began with violent insults to individuals, they continued with murders, and at last they attempted an open aggression against the military forces, against the National Guard, against the mayors’ offices, against the Bank; and because they proclaimed the Republic, people would like to defend them.  They place these criminal acts of violence under the protection of a funeral ceremony, and they think them justified by the presence of a few famous individuals (who were rather embarrassed, it is said, by the anarchists’ laurels they had been given and by the sinister figures who escorted their triumphal carriage).

We must speak more sincerely; we must confess that the Opposition has been flooded with sedition.  But no, they say, it is sedition that is innocent, glorious, legal.  It is sedition that they connect with the July Revolution, a revolution necessitated by an obvious violation of the social contract and accomplished by a popular push that was so unanimous.

These are the same circumstances, they say, the same preliminaries; except, they add, it was just that this time the National Guard took the side of the powers-that-be.

Yes, you are right, there is that big difference.  In July 1830, propertied men, men of commerce, all the citizens, National Guards and others, all fought either with their own person or with their will against the tyrannical ordinances and in favor of the success of a revolution that punished arbitrary power and prevented anarchy.  In June 1832, propertied men, men of commerce, and the National Guard are all together in solidarity with the government forces to push back seditious attacks and an attempt at political theft made in the middle of the streets.  Back then the nation had felt threatened in its liberty, in its rights; today it is again threatened, but by anarchy and not by the government.  Thus it is to the government, such as it emerged from the July Revolution, that the nation lends its adherence and its aid; it is for the government that the nation would rise if, by some impossibility, a band of anarchists, revolting for no reason, without popular grievances, had for a moment seized success.

But only revolutions succeed—conspiracies, never.  Revolutions succeed when they are provoked by long discontents or by some serious insult to individual and public rights, when they are a necessary and long-awaited response, a national vengeance.  Conspiracies, especially in a great country, no matter how combustible that country seems to be, are always found lacking in some way.  A bizarre coalition of opposing interests, of mad hopes, of burning desires, plus the example of how easily a necessary revolution was accomplished, all of this deceives the conspirators but does not give them more strength on the crucial day.  The events of July [1830] were accomplished so quickly precisely because they were not a conspiracy; the lamentable events of yesterday and today are likewise judged by their result.

We consider these events irrevocably ended by the powerful convergence of military and civilian forces, by the admirable courage shown by the army, the National Guards of Paris and of the suburbs, and by the imposing unanimity that joined them all today in arms.  Some partial crimes could still be attempted, but the conspiracy has been destroyed.  The appearance of Paris, though agitated, announces strength and confidence.  Everywhere in the most populous neighborhoods can be seen a crowd of men of the working class, peaceful and denouncing the disorders.  The regiments of the line and the National Guard are animated with the same zeal and everywhere they calmly increase in numbers.

Within the ranks of the National Guard, they are asking for strong measures to be taken against the anarchists.  The laws suffice.  The authorities, like the citizens, have done their duty; there was coordination and energy in the means of repression and defense.  Society defended herself against anarchy; and she was easily victorious, as she will always be.

The swift return of the King to the Tuileries was natural.  Apart from the danger that could have seemed greater from St-Cloud, there only had to be alarm in Paris for the King to return there right away.  His presence was a mark of appreciation for the good men of the National Guard and of the regiments of the line who were defending public order, and it reminded the citizens of Paris that the King will never separate his interests from theirs for even a moment and that his safety was only to be found among them.

Today the King, while going through the neighborhoods that had been troubled by the attempt of the factious and by the repression of the population that it had produced, everywhere received sincere and lively acclamations.  We knew, we felt that he was the primary guardian of public peace.  We laugh at those ridiculous calumnies that would cast the King of July as his own enemy, plotting against his own throne.  We are thankful to his government for suppressing armed revolt in Paris just as in the West.

The warning is useful for everyone: we saw how certain speeches turned out, certain direct calls for force, to conquer the republican institutions.  Theft and murder took on the task of carrying out this figure of speech (one that was, at the very least, imprudent), and blood has been spilled in Paris.

But it is still a fight for the benefit of a royal dynasty, says one paper.

No, there is more to it than that.  All property as a whole, the safety of private property and of individuals, today relies on the July Monarchy.  Let us realize this, let us understand it well in all the classes of society: anarchy victorious, the Republic, will not stop at the ruins of a throne: it would need something to sell off to support its flock of sheep; it would take it from your houses, from your coffers, from your stores.  Such is the powerful motive that must overcome all others right now, and that which raises so many defenders for public order.  The energetically constitutional spirit of Monsieur Périer has not been extinguished: there are still men of brains and heart to defend public peace after him.

We do not doubt that in these grave circumstances a part of the parliamentary Opposition, even the most excitable part, individually gave signs of support to the July Monarchy.  Speeches do not make common cause with insurrectional murders.  We know how the most eloquent organs of English democracy conducted themselves during a mutiny in the fleet stationed on the Thames, and what loyal support they offered to the government.  The anti-social republican conspiracy of the 5 June must certainly provoke even more indignation and zeal.

Whatever the case, constitutional France, that great majority who wants order and a monarchy with new priorities, awaits from the government a lively step and decisive acts for public peace.  The citizens of Paris did not fail the government, and the government will not fail either France or itself.    

*     *     *     *     *

The attempt—as mad as it was guilty—of a handful of men against the government that the people founded during the July Days, is finished.  Today, at five o’clock, all the posts occupied by the rebels were retaken through the courage and devotion of the National Guards of Paris and of the suburbs, and of the troops of the line.

In the midst of the most contradictory rumors that are everywhere circulating and coming to us from all sides, we are going to report those that seem to us to offer the most authenticity.

As we said yesterday, the disorder, or rather the attempt at civil war, began from the aggression of several young people against a regiment of dragoons that was blocking the Pont d’Austerlitz.  In this encounter, the dragoons, having seen three of their officers fall under gunfire, launched themselves forward; the aggressors were immediately pushed back into the little streets of the Saint-Antoine neighborhood, near the Arsenal, and then they retreated back into the interior of the city and threw themselves into the rue Saint-Denis, the rue de la Verrerie, the rue des Arcis, and the rue de la Planche-Mibraye.  That was the area they had chosen as being most favorable for attack and for defense.

At the same time, another column [of the insurgents] returned by way of the boulevards, which they barricaded with all the carriages they could find.  When they arrived at the Porte Saint-Martin, this column was rejoined by another group that had followed the rue Saint-Denis, armed with guns and provisioned with cartridges and ammunitions.  All together they raised a strong barricade there, ready to give combat.

And in fact soon the battle began.  A detachment of carabiniers, having arrived at this barricade and being received with gunfire, did not want to make their horses cross this obstacle and fell back behind a company of voltigeurs who immediately threw themselves forward in firing formations, overthrew the barricade in spite of vigorous resistance, and opened the street for the troops that followed.  From that moment, the boulevards were under the troops’ control.  The only exception being that, around nine-thirty in the evening, the commander having learned that a barricade was going up at the corner of the rue de Lancry, sent a detachment of National Guards and voltigeurs of the line to destroy it.  Several shots were fired there, and a National Guard and two voltigeurs were wounded, with another voltigeur killed.

While these events were taking place on the boulevards Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin, other insurrectionary movements were breaking out throughout Paris.  Isolated guardhouses, among others those of the Bank, of the place Maubert, and of the place Saint-Michel, were surrounded; but soon the National Guard and the troops retook them.  In the retaking of the guardhouse of the place Maubert, a brave captain of the Municipal Guard, Monsieur Amédée de Turpin, was killed.

However, the night had come, and the rebels still occupied two principal spots: the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine and the rue Saint-Denis from the church of Saint-Merri to the place du Châtelet and the little adjoining streets.  In these two spots they were still raising barricades.  At first the troops sought to drive them out, but seeing in the course of these minor skirmishes that they were losing many men to no purpose, they resolved to wait for daybreak.

When the morning came, Paris presented the appearance of a vast military camp.  The King made the review of the National Guard and of the troops who had occupied the Tuileries since the previous day and those who had arrived during the night, and all swore to die for him and all were ready to keep their word.  National Guards, infantry of the line, and cavalry covered the boulevards and quays.  All were at their posts, and for those who could see what a selfless indignation animated them, the outcome of the combat was not in doubt.  At the same time, the National Guards of the suburbs were arriving by way of several barrières, and they were certainly no less resolved to defend order and true liberty.

We have been told that it was they who began the combat against the two principal spots, that is, in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and in the place du Châtelet.  Even though they had not yet received supplies of cartridges, they launched themselves with their bayonets against the first barricades that the rebels had built during the night.  They dislodged those who defended these barricades, but they were assailed by vigorous gunfire to which they could not respond, and so they retreated.  But then the cartridges arrived, and the firing began from both sides.  

In the faubourg Saint-Antoine the combat lasted a rather long time, but, the barricades having been broken down by a few cannon rounds, citizens and soldiers swarmed into the faubourg, which was soon occupied.  They say (but we cannot believe it) that in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a captain of the National Guard fired on his fellow National Guards from his window and that he had already killed seven of them when they burst into his house.  After a vigorous resistance he was taken prisoner.

Now here are a few details on the combat in the rue Saint-Denis.

At four o’clock in the morning the firing began in the place du Châtelet.  A few of the houses that surround this square were occupied by the rebels; from there they fired almost point-blank, but they were soon either killed or taken in their positions.

From the Pont Notre-Dame to the middle of the rue Saint-Martin they had raised seven barricades built solidly.  A crossfire from the neighboring houses protected each entrenchment.  At the level of the rue Saint-Merri, seven or eight houses that faced each other seemed to have been inclined to the most obstinate resistance.  [Army] sharp-shooters had fought in the rue Saint-Martin with much courage but always without success.

Our troops felt the need for a more decisive attack.  A battalion of the brave 1st regiment of the line leapt forward in a charge in the rue Saint-Martin, coming up from the quay.  It was supported with vigor by a battalion of the 42nd, which marched in by following the adjoining streets.  Four times the first barricades were breached with as much bravery as tenacity, under the fire that was being kept up from the windows; but as soon as the troops came up to the houses situated near the rue Saint-Merri, the firing became so strong that for a long time it was impossible to overcome the obstacle that the troops encountered.

A hail of rocks, paving-stones, and broken furniture, falling from the highest stories, chased away or crushed everything in its way.  After [the soldiers] had breached this murderous entrenchment, they had to break down the doors of these houses to arrest those who were firing with such ferocity against their fellow citizens.  General Tiburce Sébastiani commanded the troop movements with that sang-froid and that intrepid bravery that characterize the French soldier.

Two officers of the command staff of the National Guard along with National Guards of all ranks continually took part in the action in the middle of the line [in the midst of the troops of the line?].  Each charge took place to the cries of Long live the King!  After two hours of fighting they were masters of all the barricades, and the people themselves rushed to destroy these barricades, while cursing those who did not hesitate to bring down so many evils upon their country.  General Leydet, for his part, commanded the battalion of the 42nd, the colonel of which received two wounds, one in the head and the other in the thigh.

In this war from barricade to barricade, from window to window, from house to house, in this war, the most difficult of all, where the enemy you are attacking is invisible and aims at you with a sure shot, never did our brave National Guards or our intrepid soldiers show a single moment of hesitation.  Once they had taken one position, they went a moment later to attack another with cries of Long live the King!  Down with the carlistes!  Down with the republicans!  You would have had to see what their courage and their ardor were like to have some idea of it.

Alas!  They bought victory at the price of cruel losses.  At each moment there passed stretchers carrying wounded citizens or soldiers.  Nevertheless, their deaths were well avenged, with an indignation of which it is easy to conceive.  In many houses taken by assault by the National Guard or by the regiments of the line, those who had begun this criminal war were killed by bayonet blows.  However, several owe their lives to the humanity of their conquerors.  When they were being brought through the city to be handed over to the authorities, popular vengeance was on the verge of taking justice into its own hands.  The cries of ‘death!’ rang out from all sides on their route; they were able to learn the true feelings of the population of Paris.

A little after the Faubourg Saint-Antoine was occupied, that is, at two o’clock, the King left the Tuileries accompanied by the Duc de Nemours and the Ministers of War and of Public Works, and escorted by the National Guard on horseback and by detachments of all the cavalry corps.  His Majesty first carried out a review of the regiments stationed at the place du Carrousel, then followed the quay along the edge of the Seine, then along the boulevards and through the Faubourg Saint-Antoine up to the barrière Saint-Antoine.  His Majesty then came back down through the faubourg, crossed the boulevard Bourdon, and returned by way of the quays to the Tuileries.

It would be difficult for us to express the enthusiasm with which the King was welcomed.  Every time he passed before detachments of the National Guard or of the regiments of the line, or in front of groups who had assembled on the boulevards and on the quays, the shouts of Long live the King!  No anarchy!  No carlistes!  No Republic! rang out from all sides.

When the King passed along the quai de la Grève, they were still fighting in that neighborhood.  And since they feared that some gunshot might be fired upon him from the narrow streets that adjoined that quay, before he arrived at each of those streets, the soldiers and the National Guards threw themselves there to protect him with their bodies.

Several times in his walk, the King encountered stretchers carrying the wounded.  The King then stopped, addressed words of consolation to them, and took down their names.

Yes, we repeat it again, there can’t be enough praise for the courage, zeal, and devotion of the National Guards of Paris and of the suburbs, and of the troops of the line.  There you surely have an energetic response to these madmen who used to tell us every day that the people marched with them, and that it would suffice to just take a stand in order to rally all the people to their cause.  But what also attests even more strongly to these men being in the minority was the appearance of Paris all throughout the day; doubtless they excited a few feelings in all the classes of the population, but it was the feeling of pity for their madness and hatred for their anarchical plots.  In the short period of time that has passed since the end of the fighting, we have not been able to gather all the names of those who served the country well.  We will hurry to report them for public recognition.

This is the third of a number of June 1832 newspaper articles that I used to form the core of the epilogue for Virago, and one of the few selections I used from a conservative (pro-government) paper.  This should give a good (if predictable) sense of what non-republicans thought about the June Rebellion.  For the epilogue of Virago I didn’t really want to directly reiterate anything Hugo had already written about, so I opted to use real documents to show the ending of the story.  Of course in Virago these articles were edited for repetition and length, and interpolated with details about the fictional barricade of the rue de la Chanvrerie, but here I’m giving them to you as “straight up” translations of the original articles.  ;)

[Also, just as an editor’s note, I have occasionally tried to clarify the punctuation, which in these papers can often be geared more towards a logic of spoken rhetoric than towards what we would consider modern grammatical rules.  Breaking up these long, semi-colon sentences can sometimes make for a slightly more readable translation.]

Find other 1832 barricade-related newspaper selections here:

Le National, 5 June 1832 (published 6 June).

Le National, 6 June 1832 (published 7 June).

Le National, 8 June 1832 (published 9 June).

La Tribune des Départements, 19 June 1832 (published 20 June).

Find Virago here!

Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution. One compels respect from others when he knows how to defend his dignity as a human being.
—  Rudolf Rocker

“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labour as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers’ organizations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance. Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination, and the like have long existed, governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting. Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution.”
— Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory & Practice, 1947