The Paris Commune

Karl Marx

On the dawn of March 18, Paris arose to the thunder-burst of “Vive la Commune!” What is the Commune, that sphinx so tantalizing to the bourgeois mind?

“The proletarians of Paris,” said the Central Committee in its manifesto of March 18, “amidst the failures and treasons of the ruling classes, have understood that the hour has struck for them to save the situation by taking into their own hands the direction of public affairs…. They have understood that it is their imperious duty, and their absolute right, to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power.”

But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.

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Lessons of the Commune[1]

V. I. Lenin

Published: Zagranichnaya Gazeta, No. 2 March 23, 1908. Published according to the text in Zagranichnaya Gazeta.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 475-478.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source. • README

After the coup d état, which marked the end of the revolution of 1848, France fell under the yoke of the Napoleonic regime for a period of 18 years. This regime brought upon the country not only economic ruin but national humiliation. In rising against the old regime the proletariat under took two tasks—one of them national and the other of a class character—the liberation of France from the German invasion and the socialist emancipation of the workers from capitalism. This union of two tasks forms a unique feature of the Commune.

The bourgeoisie had formed a “government of national defence” and the proletariat had to fight for national independence under its leadership. Actually, it was a government of “national betrayal” which saw its mission in fighting the Paris proletariat. But the proletariat, blinded by patriotic illusions, did not perceive this. The patriotic idea had its origin in the Great Revolution of the eighteenth century; it swayed the minds of the socialists of the Commune; and Blanqui, for example, undoubtedly a revolutionary and an ardent supporter of socialism, could find no better title for his newspaper than the bourgeois cry: “The country is in danger!”

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Remembering Gustave Lefrançais

Daniel Bensaïd

VERSO | March 17, 2021


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 »


The 150th Anniversary of the Paris Commune

POLISTRUM | March 18, 2021

The 150th Anniversary of the Paris Commune

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 »


Paris Commune 150: the economics

Michael Roberts Blog | March 18, 2021

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 »


The Paris Commune of 1871, banks and debt

Éric Toussaint

CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt) | March 18, 2021

The Paris Commune of 1871, banks and debt

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 »


Guangzhou 1927: The Paris Commune of the East

Tings Chak

Peoples Dispatch | March 18, 2021

(Article originally commissioned and published by The Funambulist 34 (Mar-Apr 2021))

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 »

Manifesto of the Paris Commune

Written: April 19, 1871

Source: Paris Libre, April 21, 1871

Translated: for by Mitch Abidor

Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005

To the French people:

In the painful and terrible conflict that again threatens Paris with the horrors of a siege and bombardment; that causes French blood to flow, sparing neither our brothers, our wives nor our children; crushed beneath cannonballs and rifle shot, it is necessary that public opinion not be divided, that the national conscience be troubled.Read More »

Marx and the Paris Commune

New Frame

paris 123.jpg

May 1871: The statue of Napoleon I was pulled down along with the Vendome Column on which it stood in a ceremony during the reign of the Paris Commune. Bearded painter Gustave Courbet is ninth from the right. (Photograph by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Paris Commune fell bloodily at the hands of French troops on 28 May 1871. A prototype social republic ushered in by the proletariat and citizens from other classes of the city, the Commune lasted 72 days, from its birth on 18 March until its brutal demise.

Two days after the Communards were massacred and captured, Karl Marx read The Civil War in France to the General Council of the First International (also known as the International Working Men’s Association). It was the last of Marx’s political pamphlets, supplemented later by Friedrich Engels for publication in 1891. Significantly, Marx accorded the Commune the status of the first historical occurrence – albeit brief – of effective government by the proletariat.Read More »