An insurrection in Paris today, based on old models, has no chance of success. In 1830 popular enthusiasm alone could overthrow a power surprised and terrified by an armed uprising: an unthinkable event which went far beyond any of its predictions. This could work once. The government then learned its lesson. Although founded by a revolution, it remained a counter-revolutionary monarchy. It began to study the strategy of street warfare and its superior skill and discipline soon gave it the advantage over the people’s inexperience and confusion. Yet it is said that the people won in 1848 by the methods of 1830. This is all right, but there should be no illusions; the victory of February was only a lucky chance. If Louis Philippe had seriously defended himself, power would have stayed with the uniforms. The proof is the June days. It is there that we can see how fatal were the tactics of the rising or rather its lack of tactics. Never had an insurrection had such good odds: ten to one. On one side, the government in open anarchy, the troops demoralized; on the other, the workers were
The uprising breaks out. Immediately, in the workers’ quarters barricades go up, here and there, anywhere and everywhere.
Five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty men, recruited at random, most of them unarmed, begin to overturn carriages, pull out and pile up paving stones to block the thoroughfares, sometimes in the middle of streets, more often at their intersections. Many of these barricades could scarcely be considered obstacles for the cavalry. Sometimes after the rough beginnings of a defence, the barricade’s builders would suddenly leave it to set off in search of guns and ammunition.
In June there were more than six hundred barricades. Thirty, at the most, bore all the costs of the battle. Another nineteen or twenty never even burned gunpowder. From this arose those glorious bulletins which recounted with fanfare the seizure of fifty barricades where not a soul was to be found. While some were tearing up the streets, other small gangs ran from one place to another, disarming the security guards by taking powder and arms from the national guards. All of this was done at the whim of individual fantasy with neither co-ordination nor direction. Meanwhile, little by little, a certain number of barricades, higher, stronger, and better constructed, attracted defenders who gathered there. The placement of these principal fortifications was determined not by calculation but by chance; only a few by military stratagem occupied the major intersections.
During this first period of the insurrection, the government troops were brought together. The generals received and studied police reports. They carefully avoided exposing their troops before they had definite information, to avoid risking a failure which would demoralize the soldiers. As soon as they knew the positions of the insurgents, they grouped the regiments at various points which were from then on the bases of operations.
The armies confront each other. It is here that the faults of the popular tactic become obvious: a certain cause of disaster. No general command, thus no direction, not even co-ordination among the fighters. Each barricade had its particular group, varying in size but always isolated. Whether it has ten or one hundred men, it keeps up no communication with the other posts. Often there is not even a leader to direct the defence, and if there is one, his influence is almost nonexistent. The soldiers only do what they feel like doing: one goes, another comes; they stay, they leave, they come back again, following their fancy. At night they go to bed.
Because of these perpetual comings and goings, the number of citizens present changes quickly by a third, by half, sometimes by three-quarters. No one can count on anyone else. From this, suspicion of success and discouragement quickly arise. No one knows much about what is happening elsewhere, and what is more, no one cares. Rumours