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Posted: February 24th, 2021

Basis of Marxism in the Establishment of Paris Commune

Basis of Marxism in the Establishment of Paris Commune

The Paris Commune was a revolutionary government that ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871, following the defeat of the French army by the Prussian forces in the Franco-Prussian War. The Commune was composed of workers, artisans, small traders, and radical republicans who wanted to establish a more democratic and social form of government. The Commune was inspired by the ideas of Karl Marx, who saw it as a historical example of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Marx’s conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not a dictatorship in the modern sense of the word, but rather a form of democracy in which the working class would exercise political power and transform the economic and social relations of society. Marx argued that the proletariat, as the majority class exploited by capitalism, had to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the minority class that owned the means of production and controlled the state. The proletariat would then establish its own state, based on workers’ councils or communes, that would suppress the resistance of the former ruling class and gradually abolish all forms of class oppression and exploitation. The dictatorship of the proletariat would eventually lead to a classless and stateless society, where production would be organized according to human needs and not for profit.

The Paris Commune was an attempt to realize this vision in practice. The Commune abolished the standing army and replaced it with a people’s militia. It introduced universal suffrage and direct democracy for all citizens, regardless of gender or nationality. It separated church and state and confiscated church property. It implemented various social reforms, such as free and secular education, rent cancellation, workers’ cooperatives, and the right to work. It also tried to federate with other communes in France and Europe, creating a network of solidarity and mutual aid.

However, the Paris Commune faced many challenges and limitations. It was isolated and besieged by the French army, which was loyal to the conservative government of Adolphe Thiers. It lacked a clear political program and leadership, and was divided by internal factions and conflicts. It failed to take control of the Bank of France and secure its financial resources. It was unable to organize production and distribution efficiently and meet the needs of the population. It also committed some errors and excesses, such as executing hostages and destroying public monuments.

The Paris Commune was eventually crushed by a brutal military assault, known as the Bloody Week, in which tens of thousands of communards were killed or executed. The defeat of the Commune marked a setback for the socialist movement in France and Europe, but also a source of inspiration and lessons for future generations of revolutionaries. Marx praised the courage and achievements of the communards, while also criticizing their mistakes and weaknesses. He saw the Paris Commune as a historical experiment that showed both the potentialities and difficulties of creating a socialist society.

References:

– Nicholls J (2019) The Origins of Marxism in Modern France. In: Revolutionary Thought after the Paris Commune, 1871–1885. Cambridge University Press.
– Johnstone M (1971) The Paris Commune and Marx’s Conception of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Marxist Quarterly 3(2): 5-37.
– Jacobin (2021) Karl Marx Saw Signs of the Socialist Future in the Paris Commune. https://jacobin.com/2021/05/karl-marx-signs-of-communist-future-paris-commune-communist-history/

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