A Short Account of the Commune of Paris
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to understand that, from the Social point of view, the Revolution of Paris brought about the final rupture between the working–class democracy and the ruling middle-class; that the workman originally associated for the first time since the Communes of the Middle Ages, and since 1798 were bringing to birth a new world — the world of the independent and free organization of industrial and commercial labor.
Moreover, these same "accepted" historians believed that when the Commune was overthrown everything would fall back again into the old order of things. They could not understand that the great movements of history are not regulated by the chronology of defeats and victories, that its laws are accomplished by death and martyrdom as mush as by success and triumph, and that the Commune of Paris, vanquished and drowned in blood, did yet spring from its ashes and, victorious in its own fashion, has become the starting point of the irresistible Unity of Socialism in Europe and America.
We believe that the English working men know nothing, as a rule, of what happened in Paris between March and June of the year 1871; and we feel that it is our duty to enlighten them on this matter, and so remove some part of that ignorance which is the great instrument of oppression everywhere and always, and, in this case, is being used continually with the effect to prevent the union of the worker of all countries which, even before it is complete, will shake down the edifice of misery, violence, and injustice, which, for want of a better word, has to be called modern civilization.
The revolt of the Paris Commune was neither murderous, not mad, nor aimless. Its fault was want of success only. If it had succeeded the working men of this country would by this time be in a very different condition than they are in now.
Nor is that all. One day we believe we shall no longer have to say of it that it was unsuccessful, The beneficent Revolution which we Socialists aim at is so stupendous that when it is accomplished we shall look back and see past events in a very different light from what we do now, and shall understand how much each one of them contributed to our changed and happier condition. In that day belike the great shall seem small and the small great; things which, when they happened, were hailed as great and fortunate steps towards progress we shall know were unimportant incidents, hiding by their noise and clatter the real springs of action, the real events. So it has been in the past history, so it will be in the future. The time will come when the Revolt of Paris, quenched in blood though it was — and apparently the unluckiest of all attempts of slave to free themselves — will be recognized as one of the noblest of those steps whereby mankind has risen to freedom and happiness.
It is our business, therefore, to lay before the workers of this country a plain statement of fact as to the Paris Commune; to give a brief outline of the course which to revolt took; in order that it may be seen how different this attempt in favor of the working classes was from the picture painted of it by those whose position of robbery and violence its success would have ended.
We must, therefore, ask our readers to remember that, after having ruled France for eighteen years, the wretched adventurer — whose reign began with the murder in cold blood of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, and which while it lasted meant simply the basest corruption which the world has ever seen — had made his exit to the sound of the cannon of Sedan; that the Republic had been proclaimed, and that many honest men were hoping that a new world was beginning for France; but they did not understand that a society which welcomed such "saviors" as this band of swindlers and whores was incurable, and that in creating such a government it was but fulfilling its ordinary functions in a somewhat exaggerated manner. After Sedan and the Proclamation of the Republic, The French people still made head against the invader, and many deeds of military heroism were performed; but the army was a mere mass of corruption and treachery. Bazaine's treason of delivering up the last regular army of France to the Prussians was only a flagrant example of the universal treachery and time-serving. The heads of the defense had always before their eyes another enemy besides