The Paris Commune: An Episode in the History of the Socialist Movement

The Paris Commune: An Episode in the History of the Socialist Movement

The Paris Commune: An Episode in the History of the Socialist Movement

The Paris Commune: An Episode in the History of the Socialist Movement

Excerpt

The close of the Franco-Prussian war, foreshadowed by the capitulation of Paris on January 28th, 1871, after four months of heroic resistance, was quickly followed by an uprising which has long ago taken its place beside the revolutions of 1830 and 1848. The radical republicans of Paris, among whom were mingled socialists of all shades of opinion, established a government which for two months ruled the capital and gave battle to established authority in France. This government collapsed during the last week of May in the bloodiest bit of street fighting of the century.

The Commune is often lost sight of in the larger panorama of the Franco-Prussian War. Despite the profound impression which it made upon contemporaries with its bombardment of Paris, its summary executions, the massacres in the streets, and the eccentricities of its revolutionary government, it quickly lost its separate identity. For a while conservatives in France and in Europe saw in the revolution of March 18th the hand of socialism. The Commune made the reputation of Karl Marx in France and generated in Europe a remarkable fear of the First International. But soon, as the real weakness of this organization became evident, opinion turned the other way and students of the Commune were inclined to regard it as a regrettable but inevitable by-product of the war. Its socialist origins were vague and its socialist intentions, dubious. Fifteen thousand men were dead, another fifteen thousand impris-

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