Monday, 5 October 2009

Thinking About The Paris Commune

The Paris Commune holds a significant place for Marxists, it was after all the first time that workers took power somewhere, even if it was only for a tenuous period. But also it was an incident that was important on developing Marxist ideas about the role of the state, so it has always been something of interest to me. So I've been reading up on it over the last few days.

For those who don't know, the jist of what happened is this. Dictatorship of Louis Bonapart loses war against Germany (Prussia) and gets overthrown by a provisional government which fails to do anything and in its turn gets overthrown by an organisation of conscripted soldiers (the National Guard Central Committee). Provisonal government flees to Versaille whilst elections in Paris go ahead to elect local government (the Paris Commune). The Commune passed lots of good laws, but eventually was defeated militarily by troops from Versailles and others realeased by the Prussians to assist with the crushing of the commune and drowned in blood.

Theres quite a few things that strike me about it. The military ineptness has to be one of the main causes of the Commune's defeat, for a start they essentially let the Versailles troops into Paris because they didn't plan guarding the gates properly, and on several times they ended up losing positions because reinforcements weren't sent. But also the sympathy throughout France that existed and the attempts to set up their own Communes / stop troops being sent towards Paris. There's more that could be talked about but I think it is an event that is extremely rich in things that one can learn from it, so I may end up writing a long article or doing a leadoff on it at some point.

So far I've read

Civil War in France - Karl Marx
State and Revolution - Lenin
Terrorism and Communism - Trotsky
History of the Paris Commune - P.O. Lissagaray
The Women Incediaries - Edith Thomas
The Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy - Donny Gluckstein

I've also found an archive about the Paris Commune on the Marxist internet archive

Theres also another article by Trotsky about the Paris Commune (which Gluckstein uses instead of Terrorism and Communism)

Theres also a short piece by Lenin here

If anyone knows of more good resources I can look at please let me know!

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