Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Marx: The Civil War in France, 1872 Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

Although Marx did not expect the working people of Paris to succeed in their revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871, he considered them to be the forerunners of all future socialist revolutions.

Along with Engels, he followed events closely and wrote about them immediately, in a series of addresses to the General Council of the Communist International, with the aim of distributing to workers of all countries a clear understanding of the world-wide significance of their struggle. The addresses were widely circulated as a book, The Civil War in France by 1872. The first address was delivered on July 23rd, 1870, five days after the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war. The second address, delivered on September 9, 1870, gave a historical overview of the events a week after the army of Bonaparte was defeated. The third address, delivered on May 30, 1870, two days after the defeat of the Paris Commune, detailed the significance and the underlining causes of the first workers government ever created. It included a detailed account of the Paris Commune which had existed from March 26 to May 30, 1871 and an introduction by Engels which provided an overview of the historical events.

The experience of the Paris Commune in 1870 led Marx and Engels to revise one aspect of the Communist Manifesto, in their 1872 preface, the only time they ever felt it necessary to do so. In their words, "One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.'" As Lenin would repeat later in State and Revolution, this means that "that the working class must break up, smash the "ready-made state machinery", and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it."

As Marx describes, because of the ongoing war with the Germans who held Paris under seige, the working people of Paris were able to get rid of the army, and replaced it by a National Guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men. For Marx this was key: "The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people."

The Commune established a people's democracy: "The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at any time. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time."

To a great extent, the Commune took power into its hands in the name of the working class: "The police, which until then had been the instrument of the Government, was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen's wages. The privileges and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves.... Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the instruments of physical force of the old government, the Commune proceeded at once to break the instrument of spiritual suppression, the power of the priests."

Education and science were opened up. As Marx describes, "The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it."

The plan was to extend the Commune organization to the entire country: "The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France. The communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old centralized government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers. In a rough sketch of national organization, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris ... The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by Communal Constitution."

When communes in other parts of France could not defend themselves against the attacks of the bourgeoisie, the Paris Commune found itself alone, surrounded by the previously-defeated French army on two sides and the victorious German army of Bismarck on the other two sides. The French bourgeoisie conspired with the Germans, and it was only a matter of time before the Germans helped them invade the city and destroy the Commune. As Engels described at least 30,000 Communards were massacred and 38,000 imprisoned.

The Commune had stormed heaven and, as Marx says at the conclusion of the last chapter: "Working men's Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class." After only two months of existence, the Commune was crushed and its participants massacred. The question remains for the 21st Century to answer: "How can the revolution be defended?"

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Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

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Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

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