18 March

I know the day after St. Patrick’s Day….the cabbage has been eaten and the green beer is gone…..why not hurt your head with some history?

It is Women history month and since I do enjoy my history and today is the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, 18 March 1871.

The Paris Commune was a popular-led democratic government that ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. Inspired by the Marxist politics and revolutionary goals of the International Workingmen’s Organization (also known as the First International), workers of Paris united to overthrow the existing French regime which had failed to protect the city from Prussian siege, and formed the first truly democratic government in the city and in all of France. The elected council of the Commune passed socialist policies and oversaw city functions for just over two months, until the French army retook the city for the French government, slaughtering tens of thousands of working-class Parisians in order to do so.

The Paris Commune was formed on the heels of an armistice signed between the Third Republic of France and the Prussians, which had laid siege to the city of Paris from September 1870 through January 1871. The siege ended with the surrender of the French army to the Prussians and the signing of an armistice to end the fighting of the Franco-Prussian War.

At this period in time, Paris had a considerable population of workers—as many as half a million industrial workers and hundreds of thousands of others—who were economically and politically oppressed by the ruling government and the system of capitalist production, and economically disadvantaged by the war. Many of these workers served as soldiers of the National Guard, a volunteer army that worked to protect the city and its inhabitants during the siege.

More on the background of the uprising……https://www.thoughtco.com/paris-commune-4147849  and  https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/21095-the-paris-commune-150-when-workers-ran-a-city

Among the leaders of this uprising were many women….among them was Louise Michel…..

During the Paris Commune, women organised as never before. There were women caring for the wounded, women bringing food to the fighters and women fighting – some doing both. Women’s organisations and meetings were set up to improve the role of women in society. But of all the many women who took part in these activities, including prominent political thinkers and organisers, such as Elizabeth Dmitrieff, Andre Leo, and Nathalie Lemel, the name which is remembered most in association with the Commune is that of Louise Michel.

This is probably because Michel, as her biographer, Edith Thomas, says, was everywhere at once: in the political clubs and on the battlefield, in the 61st Montmartre battalion (noted for fighting like devils, and for her energy in particular), on committees and in the ambulance stations she helped to organise. Soldier, ambulance nurse, orator, her courage and audacity meant she was at Clamart, Neuilly, and Issy Les Moulineaux, with a rifle in her hands. She also proposed going in person to Versailles to assassinate Thiers. When told she would not be able to get that far, she disguised herself and got within reach of Versailles.

https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/22143-louise-michel-the-revolutionary-woman-who-led-the-paris-commune

These are events that you probably have never heard of or the women who were a vital part of this historic event…..and that is why I am here.

An interesting time and a fascinating historic event…..

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The Paris Commune

No not the one in 1871….but rather the one that was formed shortly after the storming of the Bastille…..that date was 10 August 1792…

In case you are confused….this is the Paris Commune of 1871……

The Paris Commune was a popular-led democratic government that ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. Inspired by the Marxist politics and revolutionary goals of the International Workingmen’s Organization (also known as the First International), workers of Paris united to overthrow the existing French regime which had failed to protect the city from Prussian siege, and formed the first truly democratic government in the city and in all of France. The elected council of the Commune passed socialist policies and oversaw city functions for just over two months, until the French army retook the city for the French government, slaughtering tens of thousands of working-class Parisians in order to do so.

https://www.thoughtco.com/paris-commune-4147849

As you would suspect…yes I have written about the Paris Commune of 1871 here on IST……..https://lobotero.com/2011/03/28/birth-of-the-paris-commune/

Now for the first and some say the most important of these “Communes”…..and the subject of today’s post……

The Paris Commune was the municipal government of Paris during the French Revolution. It was formed during the insurrection of July 1789. The Commune played an important role in the life of the capital. Not only did it provide civic functions like tax collection, services and public works, the Paris Commune was also a democratic assembly where the ordinary people of Paris were represented. This gave the Commune a great deal of sway.

Membership of the Commune council reflected the political will of the people of Paris – moderate from July 1789, radical from August 1792. In its first three years the Commune was dominated by the urban bourgeoisie and liberal-moderates like Jean-Sylvain Bailly. But after the journée of August 10th 1792, control of the Commune was seized by radical Jacobins like Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Jacques Hébert.

From this point, the Commune became directly representative of the Paris sections and sans culottes. The actions of this radical Commune challenged the authority of the national government and shaped the violence of 1792-94.

The Paris Commune

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Bastille Day

Today, 14 July, is when the French celebrate their revolution that overthrew the corrupt monarchy…..lead by the slogan….Liberty, Equality, Fraternity…..but was it all that equal and what about liberty……

The American attitude toward the French Revolution has been generally favorable—naturally enough for a nation itself born in revolution. But as revolutions go, the French one in 1789 was among the worst. True, in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, it overthrew a corrupt regime. Yet what these fine ideals led to was, first, the Terror and mass murder in France, and then Napoleon and his wars, which took hundreds of thousands of lives in Europe and Russia. After this pointless slaughter came the restoration of the same corrupt regime that the Revolution overthrew. Aside from immense suffering, the upheaval achieved nothing.

Leading the betrayal of the Revolution’s initial ideals and its transformation into a murderous ideological tyranny was Maximilien Robespierre, a monster who set up a system expressly aimed at killing thousands of innocents. He knew exactly what he was doing, meant to do it, and believed he was right to do it. He is the prototype of a particularly odious kind of evildoer: the ideologue who believes that reason and morality are on the side of his butcheries. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot are of the same mold. They are the characteristic scourges of humanity in modern times, but Robespierre has a good claim to being the first. Understanding his motives and rationale deepens our understanding of the worst horrors of the recent past and those that may lurk in the future.

Historians distinguish three phases of the French Revolution. The last, the Terror, ran roughly during 1793–94. It began with the fall of the moderate Girondins and the radical Jacobins’ accession to power. As the Jacobins gained control of the Committee of Public Safety, which in turn controlled the legislature (the Convention), the disputes among their factions sharpened. After an interregnum of shared power, Robespierre became dictator, and the Terror started in earnest. It took the form of the arrest, show trial, and execution of thousands of people, including the leaders of the Girondins and the opposing Jacobin factions, who were suspected of opposing—actively or passively, actually or potentially—the policies Robespierre dictated.

https://www.city-journal.org/html/why-robespierre-chose-terror-12935.html

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Class Dismissed!

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Independence Declared–Now What?

The DoI was signed and presented to the people of the Colonies….and now the die was set and war was the only recourse.

With few allies the colonists had to do what they could…..that is until France showed interest in their struggle against England…..but why the interest?

After years of spiraling tensions in Britain’s American colonies, the American Revolutionary War began in 1775. The revolutionary colonists faced a war against one of the world’s major powers, one with an empire that spanned the globe. To help counter Britain’s formidable position, the Continental Congress created the “Secret Committee of Correspondence” to publicize the aims and actions of the rebels in Europe. They then drafted the “Model Treaty” to guide negotiations of alliance with foreign nations. Once the Congress had declared independence in 1776, it sent a party that included Benjamin Franklin to negotiate with Britain’s rival: France.

France initially sent agents to observe the war, organized secret supplies, and began preparations for war against Britain in support of the rebels. France might seem an odd choice for the revolutionaries to work with. The nation was ruled by an absolutist monarch who was not sympathetic to the principle of “no taxation without representation,” even if the plight of the colonists and their perceived fight against a domineering empire excited idealistic Frenchmen like the Marquis de Lafayette. In addition, France was Catholic and the colonies were Protestant, a difference that was a major and contentious issue at the time and one that had colored several centuries of foreign relations.

https://www.thoughtco.com/france-american-revolutionary-war-1222026

Americans like to think that they took on the most powerful empire in the world of 1776 and won….but that win became more possible with the assistance of France….

I know too many do not read these days so I will give them videos to watch and learn…..

Do you think you know all there is to know about the revolution?

Think again.

There is so much more to the war for independence than the sanitized versions taught in schools….

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Closing Thought–22Apr19

Happy Earth Day!

The news out of Paris about the fire that destroyed Notre Dame has gotten crazier than I would have thought……

First, the conspiracy that it was a cover-up of a terrorist attack……this is silly….there have been several attacks in France and they were not “covered up”…

Next as the donations pour inthere is a bit of controversy…..

The $1 billion raised to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral is now receiving a dose of controversy. The Washington Post is among several outlets reporting that criticism is mounting in regard to income inequality about the large donations that came from billionaires like Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault. While most want to see Notre Dame restored to its former glory or beyond, critics see the donations as proving “social problems could be quickly addressed if the wealthy were motivated to do so,” per USA Today. “If two men … can provide [$337 million] to restore Notre Dame, within six hours, then there is enough money in the world to feed every mouth, shelter every family and educate every child,” writes Carl Kinsella at Joe.ie. “The failure to do so is a matter of will, and a matter of system.”


Adds journalist Simon Allison, who is based in South Africa: “In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame. In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.” Critics were pointing to other examples, including the need for money to ease the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Though the French government usually grants corporations a 60% tax deduction on culture donations, Pinault and Arnault say won’t get any such deduction. “It’s pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest,” Arnault says, per Reuters. It’s “an act, which in many other countries, we’d be congratulated for.”

(Now we know why Apple has donated so much, right?)

As usual everyone is looking for the cause of the fire……and culprit may have been found……a computer?

…. the cathedral’s rector said a “computer glitch” may have been behind the blaze, though Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate. “We may find out what happened in two or three months,” he told local business leaders. The fire burned through the centuries-old oak beams supporting the vaulted stone ceiling, dangerously weakening the building. The neighborhood was blocked off as stones continued to tumble off the sides of the cathedral.


Investigators said an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire. The Parisien newspaper has reported that a computer glitch might have misdirected firefighters responding to the initial alarm. The unsourced report said investigators are also looking into whether the fire was linked to temporary elevators being used in a renovation. Chauvet said there were fire alarms throughout the building, which he described as “well protected.” As Catholics carried out the Way of the Cross ritual near the cathedral to mark Good Friday, President Emmanuel Macron met with officials from the United Nations’ cultural agency. UNESCO representatives have offered their technical expertise to help with the reconstruction

 

Now for some good news from the fire of the century……

 

The 180,000 bees that live in three hives in the cathedral’s roof have been discovered alive, Nicolas Geant, the monument’s beekeeper said.

“I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn. I thought they had gone with the cathedral,” he said.  

Mr Geant has looked after the bees since 2013, when they were installed as part of a city-wide initiative to boost declining bee numbers.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/notre-dame-latest-180000-bees-living-in-hives-in-cathedrals-roof-found-alive-after-inferno-a4122321.html

I am sure there will be more news as the situation develops and IST will be there to report the findings……

 

Kellogg-Briand Pact

Nope has nothing to with corn flakes!

War Is Hell!

I have always appreciated the times when our politicians looked to the future and tried to head off wars…….and you guessed it…..the old professor gonna drop some history…..

Most everyone knows that I am antiwar and have been so since 1972 plus I am a history wonk and have been studying World War One, The War To End War, well it did not work out that way…..but back in the 1920’s US SecState, Frank B. Kellogg and French Foreign minister Aristide Briand put together a pact for the League of Nations that would make war impossible……

After World War One, many Americans were determined that the United States should not become involved in another war. Their methods of trying to achieve this were varied – some pointed to the new World Court and the existing League of Nations as being the best forums in which to decide international disagreements, while others believed that disarmament was the first priority. The latter group tended to speak out in favor of the 1921 Washington Naval Conference and its successors.

A further group, generally given the title of peace advocates, went further and declared that war itself should be made illegal. Among the most prominent people to be involved with this faction were James T. Shotwell and Nicholas Murray Butler, who had close links with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This organization had been set up by the renowned industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, in 1910, and had as its aim the promotion of internationalism.

http://totallyhistory.com/kellogg-briand-pact/

Sadly just a short decade later and the pact was voided by the actions of Germany, who once again became the European aggressor.

Another sad thing is that a devastating war is never unavoidable…..simply because the active participants want the clash…..for whatever reason.

Side Note:  The idea of a League of Nations that would prevent war from becoming a major incident……The League arbitrated disputes between member countries in order to peacefully preserve sovereignty and territorial rights. The League encouraged countries to reduce their amount of military weapons. Any country that resorted to war would be subject to economic sanctions such as a halt to trade……..an idea from American President Woodrow Wilson but was never ratified by the US Congress.

Without the US the League was weak and ineffective…..thus WW2 loomed large.

Bastille Day

If you are in France then today is a big day…….

July 14 is celebrated as the French independence day since 1789……and anyone that took a history class knows the story of how the people of Paris stormed the Bastille which was a prison at the time of the revolution…..or so they say…..

You guessed it…the old professor will drop some history on you that you may not have been aware of in you studies…..

In contrast with what we have learned in history class, the Bastille was never captured by attack. Actually, it was handed out to the rebels in a quite peaceful way. Strictly speaking, French national holiday – 14th of July, shouldn’t be celebrated for the storming of Bastille, but for handing it to the rebels instead.

Official historical description of the event is as follows: on the 14.th of July 1789, thousands of rebels marched towards the Bastille, well-known royal fortress in the center of Paris, to protest against tyrannical regime of king Louis XVI, and against the retirement of Jacques Necker, popular French minister of finances.

Guards loyal to the king soon started to shoot into the rebel crowd using cannons and muskets, but yet the rebels, although with heavy casualties, managed to heroically storm and conquer this despicable symbol of the royal power. They freed the suffering prisoners from the dungeons of Bastille, announced the end of despotism and beginning of the better future for the mankind.

http://www.historyrundown.com/was-bastille-really-conquered-by-the-people-of-paris/

And that is my dropping of history……did you know that Thomas Paine was earmarked for execution after the Revolution but he made it out because of a mistake.  (that is a post for another day)

Since some of my ancestors were French…I have taken to celebrating the Bastille Day as a family tradition.

Today will be my way of celebrating…… wine and cheese (French of course) and afternoon nap….after all I am an old fart and need my rest……and then a soccer match between Belgium and England……

Have a good day and I will see you guys tomorrow…..be well, be safe….chuq

The Vietnam War: The First Time

It is June and time for a look back into the shadows of history.

On this day the last French troops leave Algeria……in 1964…but before that defeat the French tasted defeat earlier…..in a spot called French IndoChina…..

As a Vietnam veteran I was always interested in how we, Americans, became the fighters of this conflict.  Reading the history of Vietnam you see that the country has been a battlefield for damn near a thousand years.

But what interested me the most was the involvement after WW2…..when control of Vietnam returned to the French……

America’s involvement in Vietnam from early 60’s to mid 70’s was not the first time Vietnam was a major battlefield….a conflict between the West and the East…….

After World War Two the communist in Vietnam started a war for control against the French…who were supported by the West most notably the US………..

In the late 1940s, the French struggled to control its colonies in Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Despite financial assistance from the United States, nationalist uprisings against French colonial rule began to take their toll. On May 7, 1954, the French-held garrison at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam fell after a four month siege led by Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French pulled out of the region. Concerned about regional instability, the United States became increasingly committed to countering communist nationalists in Indochina.

Dien Bien Phu…a fascinating battle in so many ways.

With the First Indochina War going poorly for the French, Premier Rene Mayer dispatched General Henri Navarre to take command in May 1953.

Arriving in Hanoi, Navarre found that no long-term plan existed for defeating the Viet Minh and that French forces simply reacted to the enemy’s moves. Believing that he was also tasked with defending neighboring Laos, Navarre sought an effective method for interdicting Viet Minh supply lines through the region. Working with Colonel Louis Berteil, the “hedgehog” concept was developed which called for French troops to establish fortified camps near Viet Minh supply routes.

Supplied by air, the hedgehogs would allow French troops to block the Viet Minh’s supplies, compelling them to fall back. The concept was largely based on the French success at the Battle of Na San in late 1952. Holding the high ground around a fortified camp at Na San, French forces had repeatedly beaten back assaults by General Vo Nguyen Giap’s Viet Minh troops. Navarre believed that the approach used at Na San could be enlarged to force the Viet Minh to commit to a large, pitched battle where superior French firepower could destroy Giap’s army.

https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-dien-bien-phu-2361343

Arrogance and stupidity lost this battle for the French which in turn basically lost Vietnam for France……about here enter the US and its advisers and as they say  we all know the outcome of that move.

And apparently we learned nothing from the French or our own experience.

Arrogance and stupidity…..sound familiar?

France And The Middle East

I have a degree in Middle East Studies and Conflict Management….but my interests first were ignited by movies like Beau Geste and Lawrence of Arabia and then my trips through the Middle East…..

In all that time what suck in my brain was France’s involve in desert warfare by trying to subjugate the tribes of North Africa…..and in doing so should have learned how to fight a desert war more so than most other nations…..

A paper that I recently read on France’s place in this region of the world……

  • The Middle East is a key stage for France’s foreign policy, one where it bids to prove its credentials as an international power, punching above its weight and demonstrating the independence that is so important to the French sense of place in the world.
  • In this context, the Arab uprisings and their subsequent upheavals have been a particular challenge, to such an extent that France attempted to recalibrate its strategy. Despite this, France soon settled back into its traditional realism by adopting an approach based on “reassurance”.
  • Under this approach, France sought to foster stability by reassuring its partners against their perceived anxiety in the face of domestic instability, regional changes, and international uncertainties. But “reassurance” did not deliver and France still faces key challenges in the region.
  • France also feels increasingly ‘alone in the desert’, with little European support. Even with armed conflicts, terrorism, and migration flows across the region, France has failed to rally its European partners around strategic purpose.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s ardent pro-Europeanism presents an opportunity for France, and for Europe. But France must move on from its “reassurance” approach and better embed its leadership in concerted European cooperation.

http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/alone_in_the_desert_how_france_can_lead_europe_in_the_middle_east

We here in the States hear a lot about what Great Britain is doing and possibly to a lesser extent what Germany is doing but we hear very little of France and its foreign policies…..

I think that if we are to work all aspects of the situation then we need to know what all players are doing….it is the only way for success.

Closing Thought–15Dec17

Most everyone knows that the US has been stuck in Afghanistan for almost 17 years now….and it appears that another western nation will follow in our footsteps.

France followed in our footsteps back in the 1700’s and had a revolution that got rid of a monarchy and brought about democracy and liberty….although their transition was are violent than ours….but 5 years ago they took upon themselves to go to Mali to fight terrorists  and now they are stuck…or so it would seem…..

In a recent editorial in Le Monde, French journalist Christophe Ayad draws disturbing parallels between the French military operations in Mali — which will reach their five-year mark in January — and America’s involvement in Afghanistan. At first glance the comparison is compelling, and in some important ways, accurate. Yet these two interventions present some fundamental differences that make the Afghanistan case likely more intractable than Mali’s, and give reason for optimism in France.

Ayad’s argument relates to the course of the wars and the apparent bind in which the American and French militaries now find themselves. Ayad observes that in both cases a lightning offensive gave way to a grinding counter-insurgency. In neither case can one now discern an alternative to continuing indefinitely to pay in blood and treasure to prop up governments that frequently act in ways contrary to good sense or good strategy. One can, in fact, blame those governments, as many critics do, but Ayad insists on Western militaries’ fundamental inability to do what they’re being asked to do in countries like Afghanistan and Mali. They have, he argues, neither “the mandate, the vocation, nor, finally, the qualifications for reconstructing the States in which they are intervening.” They “no longer know what to do” and have to choose between hunkering down in bunkers to prevent useless losses while becoming an army of occupation, or conducting raids to intimidate the enemy but risk accidents and ambushes like that which took the life lives of four American soldiers in Niger in October. Winning “hearts and minds” through civil-military engagements is supposed to be a third option, but, Ayad asserts, this is not really the job of soldiers, “as we saw in Afghanistan, where dozens of billions of dollars were spent for nothing.”

https://warontherocks.com/2017/12/mali-is-frances-afghanistan-but-with-a-difference/

Hopefully the French will not have to endure the decades of war….they did that back in the 50-650’s and it ended their overseas colonies for good.

That be it for me and my pen…..the that writes moves on and so shall I…..see you guys tomorrow hopefully it will be  better day….chuq