The defeat of the Paris Commune

Christiana Carvalho's photo


The Commune's wreckers had to adopt part of their program to govern the country where class contradictions had most openly and sharply manifested themselves.

The defeat of the Commune was the defeat of revolutionary France, and the beginning of a century of misery, death and humiliation for the colonial peoples dominated by the nation, the mouthpiece of freedom. In 1789, 1792, 1820, 1830, 1848 and 1871, a series of revolutions transformed the country into the political center of the world, carrying out the cycle from democratic revolution to proletarian revolution passing through all the intermediate stages, making France the model for the political thought from around the world. Why was the Commune defeated? Its first mistake, "decisive" according to Marx, happened on its opening day, March 18, 1871, when Thiers' government evacuated Paris. The Parisian Central Committee should, without delay, have ordered the National Guard to march on Versailles, completely defenseless. He also let the regular army abandon Paris after it failed at Montmartre; his troops had fraternized with the Parisian population, but were later retaken by the officers and used against Paris. Why did the Commune not persecute Thiers, his government and his demoralized troops? Pierre Luquet opined that it was mainly due to the illusory belief in the possibility of reaching an agreement with the “legal” government: “The death decree of the Commune was pronounced on the very day of its victory, by the Central Committee of the National Guard”.[I] The latter, contrary to his anti-militarist declaration of March 29, did not abdicate his will to lead the movement militarily, in fact competing with the Commune. The disunity between the Central Committee and the Executive Council of the Commune became public, weakening the revolution. The Commune, even so, ensured the functioning of the Parisian administrative machine, abandoned by many civil servants, especially by the bosses. The post office, the trains, the national print shop, the revenue office, the schools continued to function. He managed to keep the National Guard up to date and equipped, and prohibited the accumulation of paid positions.

The Commune was criticized for neglecting to support the workers' struggles in the province and, particularly, in the Communes that had sprung up in some large towns in the interior (“to raise France, a maximum of one hundred thousand francs was allocated”, complained Lissagaray); the Commune failed to understand the eminently driving and centralizing role that its directives could play: it could try to promote a coalition of the various municipal movements against the government of Versailles; he did not even realize what the pursuit of solidarity activities and movements would represent: the possibility of opening new foci of struggle and clarifying and undoing the lies of Versailles, especially among the peasantry (the vast majority of the population of France). The Commune's neglect of the international labor movement was also pointed out: there was a commission in charge of maintaining relations with the outside world, but this almost totally forgot the rest of the world. Lissagaray pointed out that, throughout Europe, the working class avidly drank the news of Paris, fought with the big city, multiplied the rallies, the marches, the appeals. Its newspapers fought against the slander of the bourgeois press. The duty of the commission abroad was to feed these helpers. Some foreign newspapers went into debt to the point of bankruptcy to defend the same Paris Commune that let its defenders perish for lack of economic support. From the first moment, the old possessing classes, on the contrary, regrouped at Versailles (with Thiers and the National Assembly in command), organized themselves to crush the Commune, obtaining from Prussia the release of hundreds of thousands of soldiers imprisoned in the war. The international propaganda campaign against the Commune was fierce.

The Commune was presented as the enemy of God and religion, as the announced Antichrist had finally arrived. The Commune, having proclaimed the separation of Church and State, could not but exclude the religious institution from public education which, in turn, had to be organized. But the Commune did not stop at this level: it set itself the initial task of eradicating from the school, at all levels, both the clerical-religious influence, which incited men, from their childhood, to submit to their destiny, and to the influence of bourgeois morals. Religious teaching in schools had been reinforced after the failure of the Revolution of 1848: “Property cannot be saved if not through religion, which teaches how to bear the cross meekly”, said Montalambert, Falloux and Thiers. Charles Fourier had harshly criticized the falsehood of teaching that inculcated in children “love of neighbor”, while industry and commerce threw them into unbridled competition, as well as the morality that defended “virtue”, while society taught them to ignore it. Having raised the flag of the Republic of Labour, the Commune tried to carry out a cultural revolution, which would eliminate: 1) the division between manual and intellectual work; 2) the oppression of women by men; 3) the oppression of children by adults. The Commune made an effort to provide professors with “remuneration consistent with their important functions” and, for the first time, proclaimed salary and work equality between professors, regardless of their gender. In addition to suppressing the teaching of religion, the Commune also sought to create “free, secular and compulsory education”; a Commission was instituted to transform private confessional education into secular education, as well as to organize and develop professional education. The Commune managed to open two professional schools: one for young men and one for young women.

The Delegation of Education of the Commune proclaimed, on May 17, 1871, under the signature of Edouard Vaillant: “Considering it important that the Communal Revolution assert its essentially socialist character through a reform of education, assuring to all the true basis of social equality, the comprehensive education to which everyone is entitled and facilitating learning and the exercise of the profession towards which their tastes and aptitudes direct them. Considering, on the other hand, that while it is expected that a complete plan of integral education can be formulated and executed, it is necessary to enact immediate reforms that guarantee, in the near future, this radical transformation of education. The Delegation of Education invites the district municipalities to send, as soon as possible, to the Ministry of Public Instruction from now on, indications and information on the best-suited places and establishments for the prompt establishment of professional schools, where students, at the same time in which they will learn a profession, complete their scientific and literary instruction”.

Because of its premature defeat, the Paris Commune did not have time to give its measure in the most diverse fields, including the school one. Circular Vaillant indicated, however, that she intended to carry out a socialist reform of the school. Comprehensive education, tending to make complete men, to harmoniously develop all the faculties, to link intellectual culture to physical culture and technical education, was one of the demands of the International Workers' Association, voted at its Geneva Congress of 1866, and in the resolution of the Congress of the AIT of Lausanne of 1867. On May 9, 1871, the Parisian section of the International had asked the Commune to persevere in the way of the progress of the human spirit, decreeing secular, primary and professional education, obligatory and free in all grades. In the “Official Journal” of April 13, a manifesto by the citizen Rama, endorsed by Benoît Malon, developed opinions inspired by the secular and irreligious spirit on primary education. As little as they could have done, the Communards stopped getting in the way of a complete reorganization of teaching.

The Commune thus carried out, in its brief existence, a work of democratization and secularism in education to put it at the service of the “Republic of Labour”. Marx commented that "in this way, not only was instruction made accessible to all, but science itself was freed from the fetters which had been imposed upon it by class prejudices and governmental force":[ii] “The Delegation of Education had one of the most beautiful pages in the Commune. After so many years of study and experience, this question had to come fully worked out from a truly revolutionary brain. The Delegation left nothing as a testimony for the future. However, the delegate was a most educated man. He contented himself with eliminating crucifixes from classrooms and making an appeal to all who had studied the questions of education. A commission was charged with organizing primary education and vocational training; all his work was to announce, on May 6, the opening of a school. Another commission, for the education of women, was appointed on the day of the entry of the Versailleses. The administrative role of this delegation was restricted to impractical decrees and a few appointments. Two dedicated and talented men, Elisée Reclus and Benjamin Gastineau, were tasked with reorganizing the National Library. They banned the lending of books, putting an end to the scandal of privileged people who built libraries at the expense of public collections. The Federation of Artists, whose president was Courbet – named a member of the Commune on April 16 – and which included the sculptor Dalou among its members, took care of the reopening and inspection of the museums”.

Finally, “nothing would be known about this revolution in terms of education without the circulars of the municipalities. Several had reopened schools abandoned by congregations and primary school teachers in the city, or had expelled the remaining priests. The one in the XX District dressed and fed the children, thus laying the first foundations for the Caixas Escolares, which were so prosperous from then on. The delegation from the IV District said: 'Teach the child to love and respect his fellow man, inspire him with a love of justice, teach him that he must instruct himself with the interest of all in mind: these are the moral principles on which he will henceforth rest communal education'. 'Teachers in primary schools and kindergartens', prescribed the delegation from the XVII District, 'shall exclusively use the experimental and scientific method, which always starts from the exposition of physical, moral and intellectual facts'. It was still far from a complete program”.[iii] Consideration was given to establishing a National School of Public Service (an idea from which, ironically, the ENA, Ecole Nationale d'Administration, training center par excellence for the French state bureaucracy). In just two months, it was impossible to put all the plans into practice. But it was clear that the Commune intended to program an integral education system, at all levels, that united manual and intellectual work, through a teaching that was both scientific and professional. The Commune, on the other hand, fought the oppression of women based on ignorance. An April 9, 1871 article from the Revolutionary newspaper Pere Duchene warned: “If you only knew, citizens, how much the Revolution depends on women. In that case, they would be attentive to the education of girls. And they would not leave them, as has been done until now, in ignorance!”.[iv] The defeat of the Commune imposed an extraordinary social and cultural setback. But the seed left by the Commune – the public, secular, free and obligatory school; women's liberation – flourished again in social struggles before the XNUMXth century concluded. The destruction of the class character of teaching and the school, the elitization of the university, were proposed by the Commune through the only possible means: the destruction of the oppressive State and the end of the class character of society as a whole.

The Paris Commune was a first attempt at a workers' government. Started at the end of a war, squeezed between two armies ready to join hands to crush it, it did not dare to embark fully on the path of economic revolution. It did not initiate a process of expropriation of capital or organization of work on socialist bases. He didn't even know how to assess the city's resources. On March 29, the Commune had organized itself into ten commissions, having as a reference the ministries that existed until then (except the ministry of cults, which was suppressed): Military, Finance, Justice, Security, Work, Subsistence, Industry and Exchanges, Public Services, Education — crowned by an Executive Committee. In the meantime, the Versailles government was not idle. He brought troops from the interior to the Paris region. The armistice authorized France to keep only forty thousand soldiers in the Paris region; the Thiers government negotiated with the Germans the authorization to concentrate more troops, in order to “restore order”. Bismarck was very understanding: the March 28 agreement authorized the release of eighty thousand men. After further negotiations, Versailles obtained authorization to concentrate 170 men, of which about 18 were French prisoners released by the Germans for the specific purpose of destroying the Commune. The Commune clumsily prepared its military defense: “Many battalions had been without leaders since March XNUMX; the national guards, without cadres; the makeshift generals, who took on the responsibility of leading forty thousand men, had no military knowledge, nor had they ever led a battalion into combat. They didn't take the most elementary steps, they didn't assemble either artillery, or ammunition, or ambulances, they forgot to make an order of the day, they left the men without food for several hours in a mist that penetrated their bones. Each federate followed the leader he wanted. Many did not have cartridges, as they believed, as the newspapers said, that it was a simple military tour”.[v] On March 30, the government of Versailles began to attack Paris, initially seizing the border municipality of La Courbevoie. On April 2, the first confrontation took place between the troops of Paris and those of Versailles, still furious over the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War and the punitive agreement of January 1871. The confrontation concluded with the defeat of the Parisians; the prisoners Communards were shot by the Versaillese. The news shook Paris.

Yielding to popular pressure, the Commune decided to send troops against Versailles. Badly organized, with illusions that the soldiers of Versailles would not dare to fire on the National Guard, the initiative resulted in a serious defeat. On April 5, the Commune took the decision to execute three hostages for every federate executed by Versailles (the decree would only apply, however, in the last days of the Commune). The military struggle entered a phase of ranged bombing warfare, with hand-to-hand skirmishes only now and then. Versailles repeatedly stated that it did not accept any pacification or conciliation, only the pure and simple surrender of Paris. The dramatic end of the Commune was precipitated: on April 19th the Commune voted, almost unanimously, a Declaration to the French People, which presented its program and proposal for a Communalist Constitution which, according to Marx, would have “begun the regeneration of France”. On April 21, there was a restructuring of the Commissions, which started to be headed by a delegate, the nine delegates constituting the Executive Commission. As this was not enough to strengthen and streamline the action of the Commune, a Committee of Public Safety was created, with five members, “responsible only to the Commune” (a proposal that was opposed by a significant minority, including the members of the AIT ). The new committee, which intended to reproduce the method and, above all, the ghost of Public Health Committee of the “Great Revolution” of the 1860th century, did not have the magical effect expected by its proponents. The decision to install barricades was little more than a threat, as they had been rendered useless after Baron Haussmann had reformed Paris in the 26s, endowing it with wide avenues to allow troops to pass through. As of April 4, the federates began to lose positions: Les Moulineaux that day; the fortifications of Moulin-Saquet on May 6; loss of Clamart the next day; reverse of Vanves, on May 8; loss of the Issy fortifications on the 9th, the day Thiers issued an ultimatum to the Parisians. On May 10, the Public Safety Committee underwent a renewal, hoping to improve its effective action. On the 15.000th, Thiers' government signed the definitive peace treaty between France and Germany in Frankfurt am Main. Germany released prisoners of war to compose the forces that the French army would use against the Commune, which had less than 20 militiamen defending the city against the army under the command of Versailles. On the 130th of May, finally, the Versaillese entered Paris: a traitor opened a door for them; 22 thousand men began to penetrate the city. The alert was given; resistance initiatives were taken. On May XNUMX, the Committee of Public Safety issued a general call to arms. Popular neighborhoods were filled with barricades. Street warfare was practiced; to hinder the advance of the enemy, they set fire to the buildings when it was time to abandon them. The Versaillese troops were forced to conquer the city block by block, house by house.

In their fall, the revolutionaries destroyed the symbols of the Second French Empire – administrative buildings and palaces – and executed hostages, mostly clergy, soldiers and judges. In all, the Paris Commune executed one hundred people. On May 24, the Commune left the City Hall, seat of government, to settle in the City Hall of the 11th administrative region. On May 25, their last meeting took place. The next day, only a pocket in the Saint-Antoine district and surroundings remained. The last barricade, on Rue Oberkampf, was taken by the Versaillese at 13 pm on 28 May. A total of 877 men from Thiers' military forces died during the clashes. Four thousand Communards, in return, died in battle; and twenty thousand more were summarily executed in the days that followed; ten thousand managed to flee into exile; more than 40 were arrested, many of them tortured and executed without any process, 91 were sentenced to death after trial, 100 to deportation and 5 to different sentences. cause an epidemic. A total of around 1871 people, including prisoners, exiles and dead, more than XNUMX% of the city's population. From a high observation platform on the outskirts of the city, the young and noble Prussian lieutenant Paul Ludwig Hans Anton Von Beneckendorff und Von Hindenburg, commander of a German military unit on standby to eventually assist French troops (which he had fought until a few days ago). before), watched in amazement the bloody outcome of the greatest class battle of the modern era. Forty-five years later, as a member of the German General Staff, he would be decorated as a war hero in the First World War. And just over sixty years later, as president of the Weimar Republic and already an old man, but probably with the images of the XNUMX Commune still in his memory, he appointed a political leader named Adolf Hitler to head the country's government.

Of the 38.578 Commune prisoners tried in January 1872, 36.909 were men, 1.054 women, and 615 children under the age of 16. Only 1.090 were released after interrogations. Prisoners and exiles, in turn, were only granted amnesty in July 1880. One of the military leaders of the Commune, a French officer who was in no way “internationalist” or “communist”, but who understood it to be his duty to fight alongside to the “French” Commune against the orchestrations of the “Prussians” and the “traitors”, he said to those who judged him for his “crime”: “You see, imbecile legislators, that it is necessary to open society to the horde that besieges it: without that, that horde will make itself a society outside of yours. If nations do not open their doors to the working class, the working class will rush towards the International”. And he added: “I have no prejudice in favor of Communards: even so, in spite of all the shame of the Commune, I claim to have fought with these vanquished than with the victors... If I had to start over, perhaps I would not serve the Commune, but I would certainly not serve Versailles”. The officer, called Cluseret, was shot. Along with Roussel, another decorated officer in the French army, he had been responsible for the military defense of the Commune.[vi] Coinciding with the evaluation of these officials, the end of the Franco-Prussian war happened with the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt, which confirmed the previous negotiations of Versailles, totally favorable to Germany. The document established the delivery of the territories of Alsace (geographically separated from Prussia by the Rhine), and part of Lorraine (including Metz) to the domain of the German Empire, that is, the cession of three departments populated with one and a half million people . Within a year, Alsatians could choose between French or German nationality. 50 of them settled in France, while several thousand emigrated to Algeria, which had previously been declared “perpetually French”. The remainder adopted German citizenship. Lenin, in his conclusions about the defeat of the Commune, pointed out that “for a social revolution to be victorious, at least two conditions are necessary: ​​highly developed productive forces and a well-prepared proletariat. But, in 1871, these two conditions were missing. French capitalism was still underdeveloped, and France was, above all, a country of petty bourgeois (artisans, peasants, merchants, etc.). What the Commune lacked was the time and the possibility to orient itself and to approach the realization of its program”. Guy Debord said that “the Paris Commune was defeated less by force of arms than by force of habit. The most scandalous practical example was the refusal to use cannon to take over the Bank of France, when money was sorely needed. As long as the power of the Commune lasted, banking remained an enclave in Paris, defended by a few guns and the myth of property and theft. The remaining ideological habits were disastrous from every point of view (the resurrection of Jacobinism, the defeatist strategy of the barricades in memory of 1848)”.[vii]

The defeat of the Commune began a period of decline for the European labor movement and its organisations. The AIT was already the theater of internal disputes since before 1870, fundamentally opposing Bakunin and Marx. Disagreements redoubled in intensity after the defeat of the Commune, with backstage maneuvers involving all parties. The AIT, which had staged great episodes in 1870 and 1871, did not survive the defeat of the Paris proletarians. The influence of the Workers' International on the Commune was more potential than real, and therefore more feared. The specter of the International loomed over all of Europe, and beyond; even in faraway Buenos Aires, communeiros were held (falsely) responsible for the burning of the city's cathedral.

The massacre of the Commune was important for its further projection. In the report of Dr. José Falcão, in Portugal, “the fight in Paris lasted eight days, fierce, bloody, terrible, in the forts, on the walls, on the barricades, in the squares, in the streets, in the houses, in the cellars, in the underground. The troops of Versailles had to take Paris neighborhood by neighborhood, square by square, house by house, inch by inch”.[viii] This is typical of a revolution; the Commune had, however, for the development of the European proletarian movement, contradictory effects. The Blanquists, the vast majority imprisoned or exiled, ended up joining the AIT in its last years of existence, but they did not overcome their conspiratorial ideas and disappeared as a current of the labor movement in the following decades. Among anarchists, the Commune had the effect of weakening early Proudhonist views and reinforcing Bakuninist tendencies. Post-Commune France was the birthplace of the currents that became predominant in European anarchism in the following decades: anarcho-syndicalism and individual terrorism, in whose body of ideas the lessons of the Parisian revolution had little space. Blanqui, for his part, neither anarchist nor Marxist, but always a “Blanquist”, wrote hundreds of articles after the Commune and, in his book L'Eternite par les Astres (from 1872, written shortly after the Commune) defended the theory of the “eternal return”, and also that the atoms of which men are composed reproduce themselves an infinity of times in an infinite number of places, in such a way that we would all have an infinity of doppelgangers…[ix] Until the end of his life, little more than a decade later, he would be a revolutionary and socialist agitator. In 1871, when the last Communards hit by the bullets of the French reaction, a chapter in the history of the international labor and socialist movement ended. A curtain of violence descended on the European political scene. Liberals and conservatives, republicans and monarchists have united in a new holy alliance against the revolutionary proletariat and its representative, the International. Elected deputy in Bordeaux in April 1879, Blanqui had his election invalidated, as he was still in prison; he was unable to take the seat, but was pardoned and released in June. In 1880, he launched the newspaper Ni Dieu ni Maitre, which he directed until his death, victim of a stroke, after giving a speech in Paris, on January 1, 1881. He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, in a tomb created by the plastic artist Jules Dalou, a combatant of the Commune. His main book, Social criticism, from 1885, actually a vast collection of articles, was published posthumously. With Blanqui dead, is “Blanquism” over?

As a pejorative epithet, it far outlived the person who inspired it. Blanquism strongly influenced Russian populists. In the early days of Russian socialism, and even much later, there was no lack of those who wanted to oppose the “democratic spontaneism” of the young Trotsky (or Rosa Luxemburg) to the “dictatorial blanquism” of Lenin, with his theory of the centralized and professional party, although the Lenin himself claimed that the Blanquists believed that "mankind would free itself from wage slavery not through the class struggle of the proletariat, but thanks to the conspiracy of a small minority of intellectuals". In Il Popolo d'Italia, the fascist newspaper founded and edited by Benito Mussolini in 1915, the epigraph was a sentence by Blanqui: “Chi ha del ferro ha del pan” (“He who has iron [weapons] has bread”). Walter Benjamin considered Blanqui, in his “Theses on History”, as the character most closely linked to his century (in his time) of the 1871th century. Blanqui was finally “recovered” by official iconography. Blanqui did not overcome, doctrinally or politically, the historical, economic and political conditions of his environment. His policy and his theory (in his case, practically one thing) did not resist the passage of time (although the Blanquist current persisted until the end of the 1816th century, managing to elect several deputies during the period of the Third Republic). But they decisively marked his time. In 1887, Eugène Pottier (XNUMX-XNUMX), after the defeat of the Commune, wrote The International which, set to music, became an international anthem for work and socialism. Pottier's intention was that the poem be sung to the beat of the Marseillaise, but in 1888 Pierre de Geyter composed music for the poem, which is still used today. On the other side of the barricade, metaphorically and literally, counterrevolutionary and elitist thought elaborated the arguments for a formidable “scientific” reactionary literature that reached its apogee at the end of the XNUMXth century. It fell to the French sociologist and psychologist Gustave Le Bon, in his essay La Psychologie des Foules (from 1895), to demonize the insurgent masses. For him, a witness to the 1871 Commune, the immense human gatherings that decided to march and protest were nothing more than irrationalism put into action. Even when they mobilized for a patriotic or altruistic cause, they brought nothing good, except depredation and disorder, if not social subversion. The Church, doing during to the majority chorus in the press and in ruling circles, he proclaimed the Pope's infallibility exactly in 1871. The faithful were summoned (and threatened) never to disobey again.

The Commune, its achievements and its defeat, as well as the divergent and contradictory conclusions drawn about it, were the basis for the development of revolutionary and reformist currents in the French and European labor movement until 1914. In France, workers' organization progressed slowly during the III Republic, marked by the recent experience of the Commune: “The Third Republic drew its legitimacy from its ability to limit divisions; later, he simply owed it to his ability to stay on his feet. Republicans and royalists in the 1870s were alike interested in keeping all reference to social and historical projects to a minimum; republicans, in particular, wanted to distance themselves from past failures and, more recently, from the experience and goals of extreme social republicanism manifested and failed in the Paris Commune”.[X] The ghost of the Commune, however, continued to loom. Republicanism and secularism based on civic education (defended by Jules Ferry and Gambetta), were marked by the idea that citizens were part of a “single and indivisible” body (the Nation), represented in the National Assembly elected by universal suffrage ( masculine), erected on the rubble of revolutionary Paris. Nothing should affect the unity of this body. Against this idea, in the preface to The Civil War in France, republished in 1895, Engels wrote: “Universal suffrage is the index that makes it possible to measure the maturity of the working class. In the present state, it cannot, and will never, go beyond that, but it is enough. On the day when the thermometer of universal suffrage registers the boiling point for the workers, they will know - as much as the capitalists - what is left for them to do”. The “secular capital of the world” (as opposed to Rome, capital of the Christian world) was dominated at its highest point, the hill of Montmartre, by a monumental church, the Sacré Coeur, built in reparation for the “anticlerical excesses” of the Commune of 1871.

The Commune's audacity in attacking the state bureaucracy was answered by its monstrous growth: France had two state officials for every hundred inhabitants in 1870; by 1900, that number had grown to four (more than a doubling, given the strong population growth).[xi] Of course, class divisions and clashes continued despite repression and official ideology. They took their most acute form in the Carmaux miners' strike, immortalized in the novel Germinal of Émile Zola, who projected nationally the figure of his parliamentary representative, Jean Jaurès, who took to French (and European) socialism, of which he became the main representative, the whole burden of a republicanism that had lost its way in its anti-monarchical struggle through the Jacobin experiences and commonard. The decisive factor in the dissolution of the Workers' International (AIT), following the defeat of the Commune, were its internal political complications (which reflected its external isolation). According to Miklós Molnár, Engels suffered from an optimism that had not foreseen the consequences of the workers' predisposition in favor of anarchism, especially in Spain and Italy. The General Council of the AIT was made up of Englishmen and emigrants residing in London. After the Commune, it had no living ties with the national sections. Correspondence was no substitute for the permanent and personal confrontation of opinions and information. The General Council's correspondents in Germany were Liebknecht, Bebel, Kuggelmann and Bracke, the German "experts" on the General Council were Marx and Engels. In fact, the International was walking in a vacuum: “Born out of the royal movement, in 1872, a year after the defeat of the Commune, it had no solid foundation on the European continent. The program adopted at the London Conference deprived the General Council of the support of the Federalists and Collectivists, the foundations of future anarchism, without bringing it the active support of the Social Democrats. These approved the Council's program, but were not interested in the International; the former, on the contrary, remained faithful to the International Association, but disapproved of its political program. For eight years (1864-1872) the international interests of the working class triumphed over the diversity of tendencies gathered around the banner of the International. But, once the historical and political conditions changed, the elements that guaranteed cohesion weakened. Diversity won over unity. The distance between trends was too great to allow the General Council to pursue a policy in line with the aspirations and degree of development of each one of them. The Council had to choose between them, thus accepting the danger of bringing about its own demise”.[xii]

The European balance was altered with the proclamation of the German nation and the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war: the peculiarities of German unification decisively marked the destiny of Europe until the 1871th century and, as a result, the configuration of the labor movement on the continent. In the political development of the working class following the defeat of the Commune, and given the situation in France as well as in England, only Germany could serve as a base and center for the international labor movement: Marx was the first to admit this situation. The policy of the General Council of the AIT was modeled, from 1872, on the basis of German socialism: it was a radical transformation, in accordance with the mode of organization and the program of German social democracy, reputed to be the center of European attraction and the driving force of the renewed International. In XNUMX, the last congress of the First International (AIT) on European soil met in The Hague. On Marx's proposal, the General Council of the AIT was transferred to the United States, to protect itself from the attacks of the reaction and also from the action of the Bakuninists, who threatened to take over the leadership of the organization. The “anarchists” reacted immediately, holding a meeting in Zurich, and immediately moving to Saint Imier, Switzerland, where, on the initiative of the Italians, a congress was held that created what would be known as the “anti-authoritarian International”. There were four Spanish, six Italian and two French delegates, two from the Jurassian Federation and one from the United States. A total of fifteen delegates unanimously decided not to recognize the Hague congress, and deliberated resolutions on the "pact of friendship, solidarity and mutual defense between free federations", "the nature of the political action of the proletariat", the "organization of resistance of work”.

Anarchists asserted their “anti-political and anti-authoritarian” status by asserting: “1°, That the destruction of all political power is the first duty of the proletariat; 2nd, That every organization of a supposedly provisional and revolutionary political power, to bring about this destruction, cannot be more than a mistake, and would be as dangerous to the proletariat as all the governments that exist today; 3°, That, rejecting all compromise to arrive at the realization of the Social Revolution, the proletarians of all countries must establish, outside all bourgeois politics, the solidarity of revolutionary action”. Marxists called the Bakuninists "divisionists". These finally held their Congress in Geneva in 1873, organized by the Socialist and Revolutionary Propaganda Section of Geneva, attended by 26 delegates. The statutes of the AIT were modified according to the principles defended by the Bakuninists. The “Hague” (“Marxist”) International lived feebly for a few more years. The process was thus explained by Miklós Molnár: “The utopian way of thinking typical of the infancy of the proletarian movement was still deeply rooted in the mentality of the workers, which, according to Marx, had been overcome by the International, just as science had overcome the old conceptions of the workers. astrologers and alchemists. The era of utopian socialism was not yet so far behind us when the authors of the London resolutions tried to transform the Association into a militant political organization adapted to the needs of the modern proletariat. There were still many who had known the inhabitants of the New Harmony of Owen, and among the members of the International there were still old Icarians from the Texian colony of Considerant... The International was still deeply marked by utopianism. It was only viable as a broad organization made up of heterogeneous elements… If it had continued to be what it was in 1864 (date of its foundation) it would have been able to survive for some time, albeit in a more or less anachronistic way. Upon leaving its old sphere, it condemned itself to the distortion produced by the centrifugal force of its various tendencies released from that context, just as the commitment to its fundamental pact would be denounced”.

In Philadelphia (USA), in July 1876, it was agreed to "suspend the International Workers' Association indefinitely". Engels wrote to Sorge on the occasion of the latter's resignation from the position of secretary of the organization: “With your resignation, the old International is definitively wounded to death and comes to its end. That is good. It belonged to the period of the Second Empire”. The exiles of the Commune in New Caledonia constituted a “community” that, notably, sided with the French authorities when there was an anti-colonial uprising of the local population.[xiii] In France, on January 30, 1875, a new Constitution was proclaimed, on republican bases and based on the universal suffrage: “All who, by wealth, education, intelligence or cunning, are fitted to lead a human community and have the opportunity to do so – in other words, all factions of the ruling classes – must bow before the universal suffrage, as long as it is instituted, and equally, if the occasion requires it, to flatter and deceive it”, theorized the Italian conservative Gaetano Mosca in Sulla Teorica dei Governi and southern Government Parliamentary, 1883. Universal suffrage was introduced after the defeat of the Commune, when it had ceased to be the terror of the dominant classes. The Commune convicts were finally amnestied; in the early 1871th century, a cultural group of French anarchists made a modest (silent) film about the Commune, in which some survivors of XNUMX took part. The last commonard alive, Adrien Lejeune, died in 1942 in the Soviet Union; he was buried in the Kremlin during the Second World War and currently rests in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, opposite the “Wall of the Federals” (place of execution of Commune fighters).

“Representative democracy” demanded the previous crushing of the working class; it altered the terrain of political struggle. With parliament placed at the forefront of the political stage, the split between reformists and revolutionaries within the labor movement became inevitable and came to dominate debates. In England, the trade unions evolved into the form of trade unions, which had a slow evolution in their claims. Working hours had decreased, the purchasing power of wages had grown, but the situation in working-class neighborhoods was still very precarious. To the trade unions English associations were recognized as working class unions precisely in 1871. In terms of rights political For the workers, conquests were slower: it was only with the electoral reform of Benjamin Disraeli (1867) and later with the parliamentary reform of William Gladstone (1884), that the majority of English workers obtained the right to suffrage. On the other side of the English Channel, the wave of the Commune still made itself felt, even in a tacit or implicit way. In the French elections of 1876 the republicans were victorious, overcoming the monarchists. In 1879 the republican Jules Grévy was re-elected president; Republicans, among whom were many Freemasons, united in combating the clergy; not only did they intend to remove education from the congregations, but also to make secular, free and compulsory schools the basis of the political regime. The Commune's destroyers had to adopt part of their program for governing the country where class contradictions had most openly and acutely manifested themselves: begun in France, the policy of "democratic" expropriation of the revolutionary potential of the working class was a process of worldwide reach.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History and Revolution (Shaman).


[I] Pierre Luquet, André Dunois et al. The Paris Commune. Rio de Janeiro, Laemmert, 1968.

[ii] “Communist education”, overcoming the contradictions of class society, should be “intellectual, physical and polytechnic”: the latter should be both theoretical ('transmitting the general principles of all production processes') and practical ( 'initiation to the practical use and handling of the basic instruments of all branches of work'). This double training was considered essential for workers to master the scientific bases of technology, which would allow them to organize and control production once political power was conquered (under the rule of the bourgeoisie, they had only “the shadow of professional education”) .

[iii] Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray. History of the Commune of 1871. Paris, Francois Maspero, 1983.

[iv] In: Raoul Dubois. à l'Assaut du Ciel. La Commune racontée. Paris, Les Éditions Ouvrières, 1991.

[v] Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray. Op.Cit.

[vi] Cluseret-Roussel. La Commune et la Question Militaire. Paris, UGE, 1975.

[vii] Guy Debord. 14 theses on the Commune de Paris. International Situationists No. 7, Paris, April 1962.

[viii] apud Alexander Cabral. Nineteenth century notes. Lousã, Platano Edtora, 1973.

[ix] Jorge Luis Borges was a regular reader of Blanqui, in whom he recognized a source of inspiration.

[X] Tony Judt. An Imparfait Pass. Paris, Fayard, 1992.

[xi] Guy Thuillier. Bureaucratie et Bureaucrates en France au XIXè Siècle. Geneva, Droz, 1980. By 1930, the “boa constrictor” had grown to seven state employees for every hundred inhabitants, children included. Alfred Sauvy. The bureaucracy. Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1976.

[xii] Miklós Molnár. The Slope of the I International. Madrid, Edicusa, 1974.

[xiii] Umberto Calamita. Il ciliegie time. The Contraddizione n° 135, Rome, April-June 2011.

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