Mikhail Bakunin, “The Reveille of the Peoples” (1870)

The Germans have just rendered an immense service to the French people. They have destroyed its army.

The French army! That terrible instrument of imperial despotism, that unique reason for the existence of the Napoleons! As long as it existed, bristling with its fratricidal bayonets, there was no salvation for the French people. France could have a pronunciamento as in Spain, a military revolution, but never liberty. Paris, Lyon and so many other worker cities of France, know it well.

Today that immense army, with its formidable organization, no longer exists. France can be free. It will be free, thanks to the German brothers!

But one good deed deserves another. Now it is the turn of the people of France to render the same service to the German people. Woe to the Germans if their armies returned triumphant to Germany; that would be it for their hopes for the future and for their liberty for at least fifty years. Just imagine these hordes of slaves, disciplined and led by Pomeranian barons and rendered… [The manuscript is interrupted here.]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.