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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

The Paris Commune: The first proletarian revolutionary political power in the history of humanity

From China Pictorial Magazine, March 1971, a short, edited illustrated look at the Paris Commune at its centenary:

On March 18,1871 the proletariat and other labouring people in Paris overthrew the reactionary rule of the traitorous government of the French bourgeoisie...and established the Paris Commune, the first proletarian revolutionary political power in the history of humanity. It was a great epoch-making revolution of far-reaching significance for the whole world. And it was the first attempt of the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeoisie and set up the dictatorship of the proletariat.

During the Franco-Prussian War, France had met with disastrous defeat. The traitorous French bourgeois government had ceded territory to the enemy and paid large sums of money in war indemnities, while carrying out cruel suppression of the people at home. It is under this situation in which the whole nation was racked by increasing misery and class contradictions were growing more acute with each passing day that the proletariat and other labouring people of Paris launched an armed uprising.

After its founding the Paris Commune adopted a series of measures to abolish the old standing army, build up the people’s armed forces, smash completely the old bureaucratic political system for enslaving the people and carry out a system of universal suffrage. It is just as Marx pointed out: The Paris Commune is “the dawn of the great social revolution which will liberate mankind from the regime of classes for ever”.

However, since at the time the French proletariat was not sufficiently mature or powerful and lacked the leadership of a Marxist political Party, the leaders of the Paris Commune failed to follow up the victory of March 18 by pursuing and completely wiping out the Thiers reactionary forces which were massed in Versailles. They did not carry out a firm and decisive suppression of the counter-revolutionaries. Nor did they expropriate the capitalist Bank of France. They failed to form an alliance with the peasants. All these factors led to the final strangulation of the great proletarian revolution by the joint forces of the enemy at home and abroad. But in the face of the enemy’s frenzied counter-attacks the heroic sons and daughters of the Paris Commune fought valiantly in a spirit of utmost devotion to the revolution. To defend the Commune they battled to their last drop of blood. Their heaven-storming heroic deeds will always shine forth with dazzling splendour.

At the time when the revolution of the Paris Commune took place Karl Marx was in London. He gave active support to the revolutionary initiative taken by the proletariat in Paris. Two days after the defeat of the Paris Commune Marx, in his brilliant work The Civil War in France, described the great achievements won by the heroes of the Commune, and summed up the experience and lessons of this revolution. In the light of the attempt by the Paris Commune to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, Marx pointed out, “ The working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.”


A banner of the Paris Commune. It bears the inscription: Battalion 117, Legion 9, Paris Commune, Republic of France

On March 18, 1871 the proletariat and other working people in Paris launched an armed uprising and completely defeated the reactionary troops.

Establishment of the first proletarian revolutionary political power in human history — the Paris Commune — was proclaimed amidst thunderous cheers and shouts of “Long live the Commune!” which shook the square.

Members of the Paris Commune in Session

The Paris Commune, holding high the great banner of proletarian internationalism, demolished the “Victory Column” on the Place Vendome, a symbol of Napoleonic militarism and chauvinism, and renamed the place “International Square”. Commune fighters on the square.

Fighters of the Paris Commune put up street barricades, determined to defend the Commune at ail costs.

After its establishment, the Paris Commune put out a series of decrees aimed at smashing the old state machinery and improving the living and working conditions of the labouring people. Upper, centre: On the abolition of the old standing army and its replacement by the National Guard. Lower, centre: On the improvement of the working conditions for bakers. Left: “To the Labourers of the Countryside.” Right: On the separation of the church and the state.

Women fighters of the Paris Commune defend their revolutionary political power.

Heroic fighters of the Paris Commune are firmly resolved to defend their position.

Louise Michel, a heroine of the Paris Commune, was unyielding after arrest. In the reactionary court she said to the judges, “If you let me live I will never stop crying out for revenge.” In the end she was sentenced to heavy labour and banished by the reactionary government to New Caledonia Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Poet Eugene Pottier, Member of the Paris Commune, wrote the famous The Internationale. Worker composer Pierre Degeyter, once a member of the Volunteers reinforcing the Paris Commune, set this immortal poem to a battle song of the proletarian revolution. The song expresses the revolutionary will and lofty militancy of the proletariat and the working people the world over.

After a fierce battle against the enemy, the last group of Commune fighters heroically sacrificed their lives at this wall at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Since then it has been called “The Wall of the Communards” by the revolutionary masses. It will always inspire the proletariat all over the world to keep firmly in mind the principles of the Paris Commune and fight to the end for the emancipation of all humanity.



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