MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  Marx Engels

Civil War in France, Marx 1871

Notes on the Publication of “The Civil War in France” from MECW Volume 22


The Civil War in France, one of Marx’s most important works, was written as ail address by the General Council of the International to all Association members in Europe and the United States.

From the earliest days of the Paris Commune Marx made a point of collecting and studying all available information about its activities.. He made clippings from all available French, English and German newspapers of the time. Newspapers front Paris reached London with great difficulty. Marx had at his disposal only individual issues of Paris newspapers that supported the Commune. He had to use English and French bourgeois newspapers published in London, including ones of Bonapartist leanings, but succeeded in giving an objective picture of the developments in Paris. The notebook with newspaper excerpts from March 18 to May 1, 1871 is extant (it was published for the first time in the original languages in: Civil War, Archives, Vol. III (VIII), Moscow, 1934).

Marx also drew valuable information from the letters of active participants and prominent figures of the Paris Commune, such as Leo Frankel, Eugene Varlin, Auguste Serraillier, Yelisaveta Tornanovskaya, as well as from the letters of Paul Lafargue, Pyotr Lavrov and others.

Originally he intended to write an address to the workers of Paris, as lie declared at the meeting of the General Council on March 28, 1871. His motion was unanimously approved. The further developments in Paris led hint, however, to the conclusion that an appeal should be addressed to proletarians of the world. At the General Council meeting on April 18, Marx suggested to issue “an address to the International generally about the general tendency of the struggle.”

Marx was entrusted with drafting the address. He started his work after April 18 and continued throughout May. Originally lie wrote the First and Second drafts of The Civil War in France as preparatory variants for the work, and then set about making up the final text of the address.

He did most of the work on the First and Second drafts and the final version roughly between May 6 and 30. On May 30, 1871, two days after the last barricade had fallen in Paris, the General Council unanimously approved the text of The Civil War in France, which Marx had read out.

The Civil War in France was first published in London on about June 13, 1871 in English, as a pamphlet of 35 pages in 1,000 copies. Since the first edition quickly, sold out, the second English edition of 2,000 copies was published at a lower price, for sale to workers. In this edition [I.e., MECW], Marx corrected some of the misprints occurring in the first edition, and the section “Notes” was supplemented with another document. Changes were made in the list of General Council members who signed the Address: the names of Lucraft and Odger were deleted, as they had expressed disagreement with the Address in the bourgeois press and had withdrawn from the General Council, and the names of the new members of the General Council were added. In August 1871, the third English edition of The Civil War in France came out, in which Marx eliminated the inaccuracies of the previous editions.

In 1871-72, The Civil War in France was translated into French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, Serbo-Croat, Danish and Polish, and published in the periodical press and as separate pamphlets in various European countries and the USA. It was repeatedly published in subsequent years.

The German translation was made by Engels and published in Der Volksstaat in June-July 1871 (Nos. 52-61, June 28 and July 1, 5, 8, 12, 16, 19, 22, 26 and 29), and, in abridged form, in Der Vorbote (Nos. 8-10) in August-October 1871, and it also came out as a separate pamphlet in Leipzig. Engels made several insignificant alterations in the text. By the fifth anniversary of the Paris Commune, in 1876, a new German edition was put out, with minor corrections introduced in the text.

In 1891, when preparing a jubilee German edition of The Civil War in France to mark the 20th anniversary of the Paris Commune, Engels once again edited the text of his translation. He also wrote an introduction to this edition, emphasising the historical significance of the experience of the Paris Commune, and its theoretical generalisation by Marx in The Civil War in France, and also giving additional information on the activities of the Communards from among the Blanquists and Proudhonists. Engels included in this edition the First and Second addresses of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association on the Franco-Prussian war, which were published in subsequent editions in different languages also together with The Civil War France.

The Civil War in France was published in French for the first time in L’Internationale in Brussels in July-September 1871. A separate French edition appeared in Brussels in 1872; it was edited by Marx, who made numerous changes in the proofs and retranslated many passages.

The first Russian edition of The Civil War in France, which served as the basis for a number of subsequent printed and hectographed publications, appeared in Zurich in 1871. In 1905, The Civil War in France came out in Russian in a translation from the German edition of 1891 (Burevestnik Publishers, Odessa). The second edition was brought out under the editorship of Lenin by the same publishing house, also in 1905 during the first Russian revolution. When editing the translation of The Civil War in France, at the request of the publishers, Lenin introduced precise economic and political terminology into the text, eliminated numerous mistakes and inaccuracies of the previous edition of 1905 and restored those parts of the text deleted by Tsarist censorship.

In this volume [i.e., MECW Volume 22], The Civil War in France is published according to the 3rd English edition of 1871, collated with the German translations of 1871 and 1891. The most essential textual differences are given in the footnotes. To establish Marx’s sources, his notebook with excerpts front various newspapers was used. References to the sources quoted or mentioned in the text are given according to these excerpts. In a number of cases concerning decrees and other documents of the Paris Commune, a reference is also given to the publications of the official organs of the Commune.

Marx wrote the drafts of The Civil War in France, which are preparatory, versions of this work, between mid-April and May 23, 1871; after this, lie started work on the final version of The Civil War in France as an Address of the International Working Men’s Association. Newspaper clippings and excerpts in Marx’s notebook relating to the last week of the Paris Commune were used not in the second draft, but in the final text of the Address itself.

The manuscript of the first, more sizable draft, which seems to have survived in full, fills eleven sheets, 22 pages altogether. judging by Marx’s pagination (it is not on all sheets), the Second Draft consisted of 13 sheets, of which only 11 have survived. The missing sheets apparently contained item 4, which preceded extant item 5: “Opening of the civil war. 18 March Revolution. Clement Thomas. Lecomte. The Affaire Vendôme.” The last three unnumbered pages (see this volume, pp. 545-51) contain, in the main, a new version of separate passages of the Second Draft. Marx marked a large part of the text of the First and Second Drafts with vertical and oblique lines, by which he usually indicated the passages included in the final version of a text. Words and sentences crossed out by Marx by horizontal lines are riot reproduced in this edition (in some cases, the crossed out passages that are of importance are reproduced in the footnotes). Both manuscripts have numerous marks in the margins, parentheses, square brackets, etc., that Marx made for himself. They are not reproduced in the present edition.

When Marx quotes or mentions the decrees and proclamations of the Commune, he often gives the dates according to their publication or reports of them in London newspapers.

The drafts were not published in Marx’s and Engels’ lifetime and for a long time after their death. Some excerpts front the First Di-aft were published first, in Russian, in the USSR in Pravda, Nos. 72 and 76, March 14 and 18, 1933; both drafts were first published in full in the USSR in 1934 in the language of the original (English), and in a Russian translation in Marx/Engels Archives, Vol. III (VIII), by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU.


The first Address (The General Council of the International Workingmen’s Association on the War ) was written by, Marx between July 19 and 23, 1870. On July, 19, 1870, when the Franco-Prussian war broke out, the General Council instructed Marx to draft an address on the war, of which Marx informed Engels in his letter of July 20 (see present edition, Vol. 44). The Address was adopted by the Standing Committee of the General Council on July 23, and then unanimously approved at the Council meeting on July 26, 1870. It was first published in English, in the London Pall Mall Gazette, No. 1702, July 28, 1870, and a few days later it appeared as a leaflet in 1,000 copies, The Address was reprinted, in full or in part, by a number of British provincial newspapers.

As the first edition of the Address was quickly sold out, on August 2, 1870, the General Council resolved to have additional 1,000 copies printed. In September that year, the first Address was published in English again, together with the General Council’s second Address on the Franco-Prussian war. In this edition, Marx corrected the misprints that had occurred in the first edition of the First Address.

On August 9, the General Council appointed a commission to have the first Address translated into German and French and then distributed. The commission included Marx, Jung, Serraillier and Eccarius. The first German translation of the Address, made by Wilhelm Liebknecht, appeared in Der Volksstaat (Leipzig), No. 63, August 7, 1870. Marx edited it heavily, and made a new translation of more than half the text. The new German translation of the Address was published in Der Vorbote (Geneva), No. 8, August 1870, and as a leaflet. Then it appeared in the Arbeiter Union (New York), August 12; Die Tagwacht (Zurich), No. 26, August 13; the Volkswille (Vienna), No. 26, August 13, and the Proletarier (Augsburg), No. 56, August 21. By the twentieth anniversary of the Paris Commune in 1891, Engels had the General Council’s first and second addresses published in tile book K. Marx, Der Burgerkrieg in Frankreich, 3rd German edition, Berlin, 1891, Vorwärts Publishing House The translation of the two addresses for this edition was made by Louise Kautsky and edited by Engels.

The French translation of the Address appeared in L’Égalité No. 28. August 6, 1870: (Brussels), No. 82, August 7, 1870, Second Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association on the Franco-Prussian War was written by Marx between September 6 and 9, 1870.

On September 6, 1870, having examined the new situation that had taken shape after the collapse of the Second Empire and the start of a new stage of the war, the General Council of the International decided to issue a second address on the Franco-Prussian war and, for that purpose, appointed a commission including Marx, Jung, Milner and Serraillier.

In his work on the Address, Marx used the material he received front Engels, which exposed the efforts to justify, on military-strategic grounds, the urge on the part of the Prussian military clique, the Junkers and tile bourgeoisie to annex French territory (see Engels’ letter to Marx and Marx’s reply of September 4 and 10, 1870 respectively). The Address was unanimously adopted by. a special meeting of the General Council on September 9, 1870, and was circulated to all the bourgeois London newspapers, which ignored it, with the exception of The Pall Mall Gazette which published an excerpt from the Address in its issue No. 1745 of September 16, 1870. On September 11-13, it was issued as a leaflet in English (1,000 copies); a new edition containing the First and Second addresses appeared in late September. The misprints in the first edition were corrected and some editorial changes made in it. The Address was published by the US labour press: The Working Man’s Advocate, Chicago, No. 7, October 8, 1870; The National Standard, No. 1573, November 12, 1870.


The Second Address was translated into German by, Marx, who added several sentences intended for the German workers and deleted some passages. This translation was published in the newspaper Der Volksstaat, No. 76, September 21, 1870; in the journal Der Vorbote, No. 10-11, October- November 1870; Volkswille, Wien, No. 37, October 8, 1870; Die Tagewacht, Zurich, No. 33, October 1, 1870; and also as a leaflet in Geneva. In 1891, Engels published the Second Address in a German edition of The Civil War in France; the translation for that edition was made by Louise Kautsky under Engels’ supervision.

The French translation of the Second Address was published in the newspapers L’Internationale, Nos. 93 and 99, October 23 and December 4, 1870; in La Tribune de Bordeaux, September 21. 1870; and, in an abridge([ form, in L’Égalité, No. 35, October 4, 1870. It was also published in Antwerp in Flemish by De Werker, Nos. 51 and 52, October 16 and 24, 1870.

In the present edition, the Second Address is published according to the second edition of the English leaflet checked against the 1870 leaflet, which was translated into German by Marx. The major differences in reading are given in footnotes.