College of Political Knowledge
Subject: Political Theory/History
This was an approximately two months of existence and yet not many Americans can tell you just what is was…I hope to rectify that…..
I recall having to do a research paper back in my university days and I chose the Paris Commune to write…..and today is the 150 year anniversary of that situation…I tried to locate my original paper but since Katrina I have NOT been able to find much of my stash of early writings….so I sat done to try and re-write the paper and in doing research I found a piece written by David Rapkin…it is well written and easy to understand so I decided to post a bit of his piece…..
FOR TWO months in 1871, the downtrodden workers and poor of war-torn Paris were able to run the city after having driven their rulers and most of their bosses away. Remarkable as this may seem, it was an ordinary event under capitalism that gave Parisians such an opportunity: inter-imperialist warFrance’s losing war with Prussia, part of the newly formed German Empire, left Paris besieged and bombarded, with the people hungry and angry. The war, started by France’s ruler Napoleon III in 1870, had dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor, and fueled the popular demand for Paris to become a self-governing city.
While France’s provisional government, led by Adolphe Thiers, signed a self-serving armistice with Germany, Parisians were subjected to a humiliating ceremonial Prussian occupation of Paris, while the country’s rulers cowered in safety at Versailles, far outside the city.
But instead of suffering in silence, the working class of Paris took matters into their own hands. As Prussian troops marched on the city, armed worker National Guards and ordinary workers were able to carry off cannons and other armaments and secure them in key positions.
The National Guards were actually citizens’ militias, armed and trained by France’s rulers against the Prussians, but now willing to turn their guns against “their own” corrupt government. When regular troops were sent by Thiers from Versailles to seize these weapons, many of the troops fraternized with the workers and the rest were sent packing. Two of the hated leading officers were killed. Workers, who had been armed by their rulers to fight the “foreign enemy,” were left in control of the city.Sadly, the Commune was destroyed in an orgy of bloody revenge, perpetrated not only at the hands of Thiers’ army from Versailles, but also by the Prussian leader Bismarck, who cut a deal with his French “enemies” and released thousands of French prisoners of war so they could help crush the Commune. Bismarck also threw in many of his own troops for good measure. The rulers of the two warring nations shook hands and made up over the dead bodies of the workers of Paris.
Somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 workers were killed as Paris was retaken. Tens of thousands more were imprisoned or exiled. “The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters,” Marx wrote. “Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge.”
But the workers of the Paris Commune did not fight and die in vain.
They installed many “innovated” ideas into the Commune….
- the separation of church and state;
- the remission of rents owed for the entire period of the siege (during which, payment had been suspended);
- the abolition of night work in the hundreds of Paris bakeries;
- the granting of pensions to the unmarried companions and children of National Guards killed on active service;
- the free return, by the city pawn shops, of all workmen’s tools and household items valued up to 20 francs, pledged during the siege; the Commune was concerned that skilled workers had been forced to pawn their tools during the war;
- the postponement of commercial debt obligations, and abolition of interest on the debts; and
- the right of workers to take over and run an enterprise, if it were deserted by its owner; the Commune, nonetheless, recognized the previous owner’s right to compensation.the association demanded gender equality and wage equality, the right of divorce for women, the right to secular education and professional education for girls.
- an organized woman’s movement that even participated in the affairs of the commune
Yes, they lead the way……whether you be a left leaner or right….they showed us the way to protect ourselves and to take matters in our own hands when the need arises…..I hate to say this but.,…..the rhetoric and the vile being spewed daily may make it necessary for us to take matters in our hands to prevent the loss of freedoms and representation……