On this day, in 1871, the Commune was born, the best 72 days in history. It marks the beginning of what I like to call the Second Revolutionary Period [the first being 1789-1848] which ended by 1945 with capital’s decapitation of the workers’ movement. Thirty thousand Parisians were executed when the Commune was overrun, hundreds of thousands more revolutionaries than that, the cream of proletarian militancy, died at the hands of Franco, Hitler, Mussolini and others in an archipelago of camps stretching from Iberia to the Ukraine.
One might say that such a lengthy funereal procession is nothing to celebrate, but I think that it is fitting that we should commemorate our martyrs. It has indeed been a staggering start for those of us who seek a world free of exploitation and tyranny, but power has had millennia and a whole world in which to hone its ugly craft, we emancipators are just now taking our first baby steps. The defeats, as numbing and catastrophic as they have been, are not what matter. Rather it is the inextinguishable, dull, thumping ache for freedom and justice that we witness daily on this planet to which we should pay heed. That inexhaustible longing, which invariably surfaces whenever the existing order collapses, as happened in Paris in 1871, is the flame which cannot be doused. The bourgeoisie came to power in 1789, just yesterday, and it has been fighting for its survival ever since. It has only narrowly escaped extinction on more than one occasion. In historical terms, it cannot last much longer. However unlikely it may appear at any moment, its fate is sealed.
And it was the Communards of Paris who lead they way. They were the first. So they have my deepest affection, and my inexpressible gratitude.
A brief and unabashedly sentimental look at the Paris Commune of 1871 can be found here.