Though less famous than Varlin, Vallès, Flourens or Rossel, Gustave Lefrançais was the first president of the Paris Commune and the dedicatee of Eugène Pottier’s L’Internationale.
Born into an anti-Bonapartist family in Anjou in 1826, Lefrançais attended the teacher training college at Versailles from 1842, but was unable to find a job when he left: he was already banned from working on account of his scurrilous opinions. After temporarily replacing a colleague in Dourdan, where he tussled with the local priest, he had to resign himself to becoming a clerk for a Parisian businessman, who dismissed him when the revolution broke out in February 1848. His future life was exemplary for a nineteenth-century communist militant. Arrested even before the June days, he was sentenced to three months in prison and two years’ surveillance for possession of weapons, and sent to Dijon under house arrest. Exiled in London from 1851, he might have crossed paths in Soho with Marx, Mazzini or Louis Blanc. He founded a cooperative restaurant, ‘La Sociale’, before returning to Paris in 1853.Read More »
Even though the Commune lasted only 72 days, falling in an unequal struggle against the French counter-revolution, supported by the German war machine, it left an indelible mark in the history of the liberation struggle of the working class in France and the world.
The Commune provided the most important lesson and historical experience, proving that “the working class cannot simply seize a ready-made state machine and put it to work for its own ends,” as Marx noted in “The Civil War in France”. The proletariat must completely destroy it by creating a principally new state, a state of dictatorship of the people, of the working masses, which is true democracy, devoid of the exploitation of man by man.Read More »
Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Paris Commune. The Commune (Council) was formed as result of what should be considered the first uprising and revolution led by the working class in history. This new class was the product of the industrial revolution in the capitalist mode of production that Marx and Engels first spoke of most prominently in the Manifesto of the Communist Party published in March 1848.
Before the Paris Commune, revolutions in Europe and North America had been to overthrow feudal monarchs and eventually put the capitalist class into political power. While socialism as an idea and objective was already gaining credence among the radical intelligentsia, it was Marx and Engels who first identified the agency of revolutionary change for socialism as the working class, namely those who owned no means of production but their own labour power.Read More »
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the extraordinary experience of the Paris Commune, it is fundamental to draw a number of lessons from it. The measures a government takes regarding its Central Bank, the debts of working class people, public debt and private banks are decisive. If a popular government does not implement radical financial measures, it will be responsible for ending in failure, with possibly tragic consequences for the population. The Commune, an extraordinary and dramatic experiment, exemplifies this, and must thus be analyzed from this point of view.
The role of debt in the emergence of the Paris Commune(1)
It was the desire of the reactionary government to pay off its debt to Prussia and continue to repay existing public debts that precipitated the Commune experiment. Let us recall that it was Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon III) who declared war on Prussia in July 1870 and that that military venture soon ended in a total fiasco.(2) The Prussian Army beat the French Army in early September 1870, and imprisoned Napoleon III in Sedan, triggering the fall of the Second Empire followed by the proclamation of the Republic.(3) The payment of 5 billion francs was the condition laid down by Bismarck for signing the peace treaty and withdrawing the forces of occupation.Read More »
It was in the Russian autumn of 1920 when Qu Qiubai first heard L’Internationale – the socialist anthem born of the Paris Commune of 1871. Eugène Pottier, author of the song’s lyrics, was a Communard and elected member of the workers’ state that lasted 72 days in the French capital. Though written nearly half a century earlier, that song had been adopted only recently as the anthem of the Bolshevik Party. Until today, this song is one of the most translated and sung anthems of the oppressed around the world. Qu was attending the third anniversary celebration of the October Revolution, having traveled through Harbin – China’s northernmost provincial capital – to reach Russia. Fluent in French and Russian, he was sent to be a correspondent in Moscow for the Beijing Morning News (晨报), covering the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution.Read More »
A life size kangaroo painted in red ochre around 17,300 years ago is Australia’s oldest known rock art. This indicates that the earliest style of rock art in Australia focused on animals, similar to the early cave art found in Indonesia and Europe.
Thousands of rock art sites are found all over Australia, with the Kimberley region of Western Australia containing a particularly rich record. But dating the images is challenging as the minerals and organic material needed to determine when the art was created are hard to find.Read More »
Around 3200 B.C.E., Stone Age farmers in Wales’s Preseli Hills built a great monument: They carved columns of unspotted dolerite, or bluestone, from a nearby quarry, then thrust them upright in a great circle aligned with the Sun. Exactly what the circle meant to them remains a mystery. But new research reveals that several centuries later, their descendants took down many of the giant stones and hauled them 200 kilometers to the Salisbury Plain, where they created what is still the world’s most iconic prehistoric stone monument: Stonehenge.Read More »
Parker and Alex have a conversation with the editor and translator of Karl Kautsky on Democracy and Republicanism (Haymarket, 2020) on the legacy of Karl Kautsky before he turned renegade. They discuss the convergence of various conflicting political views, from ‘Leninists’ to Social Democrats and Cold War Warriors, into what Ben Lewis calls in his book a “peculiar consensus” that fundamentally misrepresents the historical figure of Kautsky.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Photo: Public domain image
In the year 1930, Subhas Chandra Bose composed a long, handwritten letter to the revolutionary leader Barindra Kumar Ghosh, a younger brother of Shri Aurobindo. In it, he set out his belief in class struggle:
“During all these years we have meant and explained by freedom, political freedom alone; but henceforth we have to declare that we do not want to liberate people merely from political bondage. We want to liberate them from all forms of bondage. The struggle for Independence has as its aim the removal of the triple bondage of political, economic and social oppression. When all shackles are removed, we can proceed to build a new society on the basis of communism. This principal aim of our freedom struggle is to build a free and classless society.”
These words should come as no surprise. Over the three decades of his political life, Bose consistently expressed his faith in socialism, not of the Fabian or Gandhian brand, but based on Marxist theory.Read More »
By John Riddell: Parliaments and elections are no guarantee of democratic rights and fair treatment for working people. Capitalist forces displeased with an electoral outcome are all too likely to take direct action to impose their will, whether by financial manipulations, economic blockades, or military coups.Read More »