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A Short Account of the Commune of Paris

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Reactionist Assembly plotting mere monarchical restoration, and determined to humble the great Revolutionary city, in which determination M. Thiers helped to the best of his power. His attempt to disarm Paris failed on the 18th March, and Paris asserted her freedom amidst the universal joy and hope of her population, most touching indeed when looked at by the light of after events.

     So far, then, the revolt appeared to most men to be little more than an assertion of Municipal and Republican freedom. But, besides the idea of the Federation of Communes which we have mentioned before, and which was the special politics of the Commune, behind all this lay the people, and it was soon shown that the Commune of Paris must obey the great impulse towards the real Revolution: the freedom of labour from the trammels of wage-slavery. The declared Socialist on the Council of the Commune were in the minority, but nevertheless all its acts were aimed at the extinction of class slavery; and if the Revolution could have lived through the fiery furnace of war, it cannot be doubted that it would have developed largely in this direction.

     Its enemies saw this image of Social Revolution rise up clearly enough; and well would it have been for our cause if its own children had been as clear-sighted! They had done enough to. Draw upon them the implacable hatred of the combination which they threatened. If they had proclaimed in plain terms the Social Revolution, which was indeed their only aim, if they had all known it as some did, they would have drawn no more enmity upon them, for they already had gained the complete hatred of the classes of tyranny; while they would have rallied to them the whole living moving spirit of the times; would have multiplied every chance of success, and minimized every cause of failure.

     Unhappily they were not, as a whole, prepared for this. The spirit of nationality, which has so often betrayed France into the hands of foreign enemies and domestic traitors, still cling to the Parisians generally, who did not quite understand what they were doing. Conscious, too conscious, perhaps, of their own rectitude and their goodwill towards France and towards humanity, they could not believe that the enemy was irrevocably the enemy. Much precious time and still more precious energy was wasted by the leaders in vain attempts to legalize their position in the eyes of France; a position, one cannot too often repeat, whose real aim was the destruction of legalized tyranny throughout the world.

     We cannot help thinking that this uncertainty of aim was felt through all their counsels, and was the cause of the shortcomings that hampered the heroism of the people of Paris. In nothing was this more plain than in their dealing with the Bank. The very heart of the enemy was in their grasp, as the giant's heart in the old fable, and they refused to clench their hand. They borrowed a small sum of money from the stored up plunder of the people, instead of taking the people's own and using it for the freeing of the people.

     We wish our readers to understand that we should not say even so much as this of the failures of the leaders of this heroic struggle if we regarded it as a mere piece of dead history. But since it lives, and will live always in the hearts of the people, we feel that we have no right to neglect the lessons which it holds out to us, The only gratitude which it is possible to show towards those who suffered and died for us is our resolution to carry forward the work which they left unfinished, and even the failures of our comrades must be used in the work. Whatever minor failures took place in the administration are easily excusable, and would have done little harm probably if the Commune leaders had remembered that they were not the administrators of a regenerated society, but rather the leaders in an implacable war waged for that regeneration. It must be noted that the event came upon everybody suddenly; that the Versaillese officials had fled from the offices everywhere, taking with them nearly all the machinery of them; so that never was Revolutionary administration carried on under such difficulties.

     Again, if the Commune found its helpers bad policemen, as indeed they were, letting all sorts of plotters and Reactionist agents slip through their fingers; at least they did not need


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