To the worker of the countryside

André Léo

La Commune, 10 April 1871

Brother, they deceive you. Our interests are the same. What we ask for, you want it too. The liberation that we seek is [also] yours. What does it matter if it is in the city or in the countryside that food, clothing, shelter, assistance are lacking for those who produce all the wealth of this world? What does it matter what name the oppressor has: big landowner or industrialist? For you, as for us, the work-day is long and hard, and does not even provide enough to keep the body going. As for you, as for us, freedom, leisure, the life of mind and body, are lacking. We have always been and still are, you and I, the vassals of poverty.

You, peasant, poor day-labourer, have for almost a century been repeatedly told that property is the sacred fruit of labour, and you believe that. But open your eyes and look around you; look at yourself, and you will see that it is a lie. Here you are old; you have always worked; all your days have passed with the shovel or sickle in your hand from dawn to dusk, and yet you are not rich, and you do not even have a piece of bread for your old age. All your earnings have been spent raising children, so that conscription will take them from you, or that, marrying in their turn, they shall lead the life of the beast of burden you led, and will end up as you will end, miserably, for the strength of your limbs being exhausted, you will find hardly any work; you will worry your children with the burden of your old age and will soon see you obliged, rucksack on your back, and bowing your head, to go begging door to door for condescending and bitter handouts.

That is not right, brother peasant, do you not feel it? You can see, then, that you have been deceived; for if it were true that property was the fruit of labour, you would be the owner, you who have worked so hard. You would own this little house, with a garden and a paddock, which was the dream, the goal, the passion of your whole life, but which you have not been able to acquire – or perhaps that you have the misfortunate of acquiring it by a debt that exhausts you, gnaws at you and will force your children as soon as you are dead, perhaps before, to sell that roof which has already cost you so much. No, brother, work does not yield property. It is inherited or earned by trickery. The rich are idle; the workers are poor – and stay poor. The exceptions only prove the rule.

This is unjust. And that is why Paris – which you denounce upon the word of people interested in deceiving you – that is why Paris stirs, demands, rises, and wants to change the laws that gives all power to the rich over the workers. Paris wants the son of the peasant to be as educated as the son of the wealthy, and FOR NOTHING, since human science is the right of all men, and is no less useful for conducting life than having eyes to see.

Paris wants there to be no more king who receives 30 million of the people’s money and who moreover fattens his family and his favourites; Paris wants this huge expense no longer, greatly reducing taxation. Paris demands that no more functionaries be paid 20,000 – 30,000 – 100,000 francs – feeding a man the wealth of several families in a single year; and that, and that with this saving, retirement homes are established for the workers’ old age.

Paris demands that every man who is not a proprietor pays not a penny in tax; that he who has only a house and his garden again pays nothing; that small fortunes are taxed lightly, and the whole weight of taxation falls on the rich.

Paris says that it is the deputies, senators, and Bonapartists, the authors of the war, who paid five billion to Prussia, and for which they sell their holdings out of what is called the property of the crown, who are no longer needed in France.

Paris demands that justice costs nothing to those who need it, and that it is the people themselves who chooses the judges, from amongst the honest people of the county.

Finally, Paris wants – listen well to this – worker of the countryside, poor day-labourer, small owner whom usury gnaws, strip-farmer [bordier], sharecropper, farmer, all who sow, harvest, sweat, so that most of your products go to someone who does nothing; what Paris wants, all told, is THE LAND TO THE PEASANT, THE TOOL TO THE WORKER, WORK FOR ALL.

The war that Paris is waging right now is the war against usury, deceit and idleness. They tell you: the Parisian, the socialists, are dividers [partageux]. – Well! Good people, do you not see who is telling you that? Are not those who, doing nothing, live handsomely off the work of others, dividers? Have you never heard thieves, to hoodwink others, shout out thief? And make a run for it while we stop the one accused of theft?

Yes, the fruits of the earth to those who grow them. To each his own; work for all. No more very rich, nor very poor. No more work without rest, no more rest without work. This is possible; for it would be better to believe nothing than to believe that justice is not possible. It only requires good laws, which will be made when workers stop wanting to be duped by the idle.

And at that time, believe us, brother cultivators, fairs and markets will be better for those who produce wheat and meat, and more plentiful for all, than they ever were under any emperor or king. For then, the worker will be strong and well nourished, and work will be free of the heavy taxes, licences and charges that the Great Revolution did not completely sweep away, as it appeared to.

So, inhabitants of the countryside, you see, the cause of Paris is yours, and it is for you that it works, at the same time as for the worker. Those generals who are attacking it at the moment are the general who have betrayed France [to the Prussians]. Those deputies, whom you have appointed without knowing, want to restore Henri V.[1] If Paris falls, the yoke of poverty will remain around your neck and will be passed onto those of your children. So help it prevail, and, whatever happens, remember well these words – for there will be revolutions in the world until they are achieved: – THE LAND TO THE FARMER, THE TOOL TO THE WORKER, WORK FOR ALL.


End Notes

[1] Henri, Count of Chambord (1820-1883), as a result of the July Revolution of 1830, became King of France from 2 to 9 August 1830 as Henry V, although he was never officially proclaimed as such. Subsequently, he was the Legitimist pretender to the throne of France and as the Second Empire collapsed following its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, royalists became a majority in the National Assembly and agreed to support the aging comte de Chambord’s claim to the throne. (Translator)