Paris Commune 1871

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1871: the Paris Commune


Max Shachtman

The following account was written by Max Shachtman for the then-revolutionary US Communist Party’s “Little Red Library” in the early 1920's.

“This history... is due to their children, to all the working men of the earth. The child has the right to know the reason of its paternal defeats, the Socialist party, the campaign of its flag in all countries. He who tells the people revolutionary legends, he who amuses them with sensational stories, is as criminal as the geographer who would draw up false charts for navigation.”

An account of the Paris Commune written by Max Shachtman for the US Communist Party in the early 1920's.


Marxist Theory and History: 

In memory of the Commune

Forty years have passed since the proclamation of the Paris Commune. In accordance with tradition, the French workers paid homage to the memory of the men and women of the revolution of March 18, 1871, by meetings and demonstrations. At the end of May they will again place wreaths on the graves of the Communards who were shot, the victims of the terrible “May Week”, and over their graves they will once more vow to fight untiringly until their ideas have triumphed and the cause they bequeathed has been fully achieved.

Lenin on the Paris Commune of 1871.

Marxist Theory and History: 


The Paris Commune: Revolution, Resistance, a Model for Revolutionaries


14 January, 2013 - 19:30 to 21:00


The Bath Hotel, 66-68 Victoria Street, Sheffield


The Paris Commune was a short window of time in 1871 when workers took control over Paris, and made radical demands for a programme of socialist government:

- the separation of church and state;
- the remission of rents owed for the entire period of the siege (during which, payment had been suspended);
- the abolition of night work in the hundreds of Paris bakeries;
- the granting of pensions to the unmarried companions and children of National Guards killed on active service;
- the free return, by the city pawnshops, of all workmen's tools and household items valued up to 20 francs, pledged during the siege; the Commune was concerned that skilled workers had been forced to pawn their tools during the war;
- the postponement of commercial debt obligations, and the abolition of interest on the debts; and
- the right of employees to take over and run an enterprise if it were deserted by its owner; the Commune, nonetheless, recognized the previous owner's right to compensation.

The Commune, though it lasted just a short while, formed a large part of the basis on which Marx wrote his later writings on revolution and socialist society. It has informed much of the theory and practice of both Socialist and other revolutionary schools of thought (such as Anarchism) until the present day.

Sheffield Workers Liberty will be leading a discussion about the nature and legacy of the Commune - what, who, where, how and why, and what we can learn from it today.

You don't have to know anything in advance, but if you want to read up first, here's some recommended online texts:

Karl Marx, The Civil War in France:
Frederick Engels, Introduction to The Civil War In France:
Marxist Internet Archive:
Olivier Lissagaray, History of the Paris Commune 1871:
Lenin: Lessons of the Commune:

Merseyside AWL - Long live the Paris Commune!


8 June, 2011 - 19:30 to 21:30


In 1871, the workers and poor people of Paris organised to take power and create the world’s first workers’ government – the Paris Commune. The result was an explosion of democracy, freedom and human creativity unparalleled in history up to that point.
Although the Commune lasted less than three months and was drowned in blood by the French ruling class, its example has inspired workers in revolutionary struggle across the world ever since.

Between March 18, the day the Commune began, and 28 May, the day it fell, Working men and women of Paris instituted radical democracy, abolished the police and the army and workers took control of their work places.
63 years before women in France won the vote, during the 72-day reign of the Commune, women organised, argued, theorised and fought alongside men to defend and develop the revolution. Paule Mink, Louise Michel & Nathalie LeMel and many other women organised societies, published papers demanding equal rights, the abolition of marriage and the organisation of women workers both inside and outside the home.

Elaine Jones from Workers Liberty will talk about this pivitol moment in the history of the world workers movement and the role of women in the Commune. We will also discuss what the Commune teaches us about the kind of workers government we fight for.

facebook event here:


AWL event, 30 April: "The world's first Workers' Republic - the Paris Commune"


30 April, 2011 - 16:00 to 1 May, 2011 - 00:00


Green Shoots community centre, Besson Street, London SE14 5AS


"The cry of 'social republic', ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express an aspiration after a republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic." - Marx

The circus surrounding the Royal Wedding on the April bank holiday weekend will be unbearable. Don't just grind your teeth! As a contribution to protesting against this nonsense, and as part of a series of events to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, we will be holding a dayschool about the lessons of the Commune - the first time in history the working class, inspired by the revolutionary republican tradition, created a government of its own.

Sessions will include:

* The Commune, democracy and the state
* Revolution without a revolutionary party?
* Women in the Commune: lessons in workers' revolution and women's emancipation

Followed by a revolutionary/republican social to replace the wedding as the social event of the season!

Facebook event here