March 31, 2013
The Paris Commune 1871
One of the most inspiring and greatest events for the working class in history is The Paris Commune of 1871. In March of 1871, the citizens of Paris declined the authority of the French government. The working class people were able to replace the state government with their own branch of government and held power until their decline. Causes of the Communes origins lie in the Franco-Prussian War as well as the siege of Paris. During this time, people were experiencing intense isolation from France and uproar of patriotism which caused socialist aspects to come about among the lower class Parisians. With the defeat of France and the end of the siege, people felt betrayed and defiance led to the withdrawal of the government, creating the Commune. Though the Commune did not last very long, this movement was seen as revolutionary. Their circumstances were difficult and grave but the workers of Paris still strived to stop the oppression and transform society in a new way.
The siege of Paris was a tremendous blow to Parisians and ultimately planted the seeds of the Commune. With the capture and defeat of Napoleon III at Sedan, a republic was declared on September 4, 1870. However, rather than being concerned with fighting the Prussians, the moderate contingent government’s priority was to “repel the forces of anarchy and prevent a shameful revolt in Paris” (Tombs 102). The government tried negotiating peace with German legislator Otto von Bismarck quickly while also maintaining a committed stance in Paris’ defense. The population, including the National Guard, became more frustrated with the coactions and apparent deception of the government. The isolation and patriotism felt from the central authority revealed itself to be an overwhelming mix. Within the working class areas of the city, clubs and committees were formed and started making very radical requests and demands. More significantly, people started requesting municipal elections. In French, the word commune references the municipal authority of major cities. Nevertheless, the Paris Commune had a history that gave it other overtones (Shafer 400). It played a major role in the most radical phase of the French Revolution. The government was able to hold off most of the demands; however its control of the population became more delicate.
The siege of Paris came to an end of on January 28, 1871.The French government was eager to end the war so they agreed to many of Bismarck’s requests. In the span of two months, Paris grew more distant from the central government. National elections came back with a National Assembly more conservative than the contingent government. The Assembly consistently provoked Parisians, referring to them as criminals. It eliminated the already low pay of the National Guard unless they were able to prove their inability to work The siege led to unemployment for many and their service to the National Guard was all that kept them from starving. Adolphe Thiers led the new regime and was very insensitive regarding the suffering of the lower class Parisians. He implemented many measures that “inflicted much hardship and further put the lower class people in greater economic trenches” (Shafer 419). As a result, the lower middle and working classes of Paris united against the government.
The battle between the National Assembly and Paris reached its crisis point on March 18. Thiers was very determined to take great action against the Paris National Guard as they grew more defiant. Therefore, he sent his troops to capture the National Guard’s cannons that were taken to the districts of the working class. “…businessmen constantly repeated that the financial operations could never start up again… but that was until those despicable wretched people were done away with and all their cannons were taken” (Shafer 426). This was an attempt by the government to take all the...
Cited: Gluckstein, Donny. The Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy. Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, 2011. February 2013.
Magraw, Roger. France 1815-1914: The Bourgeois Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. February 2013.
Shafer, David. The Paris Commune: French Politics, Culture and Society at the Crossroads of the Revolutionary Tradition and Revolutionary Socialism. Long Beach: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. www.ebooks.com. February 2013.
Starr, Peter. Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.
Tombs, Robert. France 1814-1914. Ed. J.H. Shennan. Vol. 1. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 1996. 5 vols. Febrary 2013.
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