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A Short Account of the Commune of Paris

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Paris and the Reactionary Assembly at Versailles, with the natural result that to the latter they seemed dangerous Revolutionaries, to the former traitorous Reactionaries.

     In consequence, the Municipal Elections had to be put off till the 26th. The Mayors had the effrontery to appoint an opposition Commander of National Guard, and a Staff-General-in-Chief, and Commander of the Artillery, as though they represented the legal power in Paris.

     Encouraged by this resistance to the Revolution, for Saisset, the intrusive Commander of the National Guard, was attempting to organize Reactionary battalions, the mere Reactionaries, men of the Third Empire thought they might make a stroke, and on the 22nd March they tried it: a crowd of "gentlemen," stock-jobbers, journalists, etc., the dregs of the Third Empire, proceeded to the Place Vendome in the guise of an unarmed crowd, where they were met by the National Guards, whom they insulted; the commander in vain summoned them to retire, these unarmed people then drew revilvers and fired on the guards, killing two and wounding several; the guards, at the end of their patience, fired in turn, but not in deadly fashion, so that only a few of the rioters fell; but it was enough, and the rest fled leaving the place strewn with revolvers, sword-canes, daggers, etc.

     This failure of an openly Reactionary attempt was followed, after a brief space, by the breakdown of what may be called the respectable Radical opposition who, repudiated by the Versailles Assembly, and without support in Paris, had to yield to the only real power in the city, the Central Committee. Of the Deputies, some left Paris to play the hopeless part of decent Democracy at Versailles; but some few, Socialists and sympathizers with the cause of the people, cast in their lot with the revolt, after indignantly resigning their positions as Deputies.

     This was followed on the 26th March by the election of members of the Communal Council. Out of 101 members, 21 were declared Socialists and members of the International Working Men's Association; the rest were advanced Radical and Jacobin type, with the exception of a few respectabilities, who soon resigned in disgust. But Radicals of Socialist, the whole Commune found itself forced to legislate in a Socialistic sense: the welfare of the people was and had to be its aim, and so-called property was attacked in several edicts all tending to make life in Paris, at least, possible for the workers. The Commune of Paris meant the beginning of the new world for the working classes; the continuance of its life would have meant the downfall of class society. If this was clear to no one else it was clear enough to the Reactionaries who were preparing to attack Paris and its terrible rebels. Extermination was now the only word with them. Although they were, if not daunted, at least surprised at the joy with which all Paris received the proclamation of the Commune in a simple but noble ceremonial.

     In spite of this unbridled hatred on the part of the Reactionaries, Paris found it difficult to believe in their enmity. The Commune, to speak with all respect, committed the mistake of supposing it possible to legalize its position. They did not act as if they clearly saw that they were in revolt against the corrupt society of the present, and accordingly they wasted precious time and opportunity in what may be called parliamentary pros and cons, instead of applying themselves to organizing their splendid fighting material into a serious army. History, when it is cleared from lies woven by bitter class prejudice, will applaud their humanity; but we, amidst our present struggles, must say sadly that the result might have been different if they had been more open–eyed — more practical.

     All illusions as to civil was vanished when, on April 1st, the Verailles troops attacked a post at Courbvoie and drove its defenders, heavily outnumbered, into retreat, after a stout resistance. The few prisoners taken having been first beaten and then shot to death by the Veraillese.

     It was now a matter of war, simply and solely; and, looking back on the events of that time, it would now seem as if the Commune had some chance of triumphing in that war. Paris was now well victualed, ammunition was plenty, and munitions


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