The Paris Commune was a democratic government led by the people that ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. Inspired by Marxist policies and the revolutionary goals of the International Workers’ Organization, the Paris workers united to overthrow the then French regime. A regime that had failed to protect the city from the siege of the Prussian government. The council elected by the commune approved the socialist policies and ruled the city for more than two months. After these two months, the French army retook the city for the regime of the time. During the recapture of the city by the army, a bloodbath ensued in which tens of thousands of Parisians were killed.
Incidents that led to the Paris Commune
The Revolution of 1789 is well known in France. But this revolution was not the only French revolution. After that, the change of government from a republic to a monarchy and vice versa happened many times in France. One of the most famous French revolutions is known as the Commune. The Commune was formed after a catastrophic war between France and Prussia. In January 1870, Napoleon III, Emperor of France, declared war on the Rhineland against the Prussian government. Bismarck, the ruler of Prussia, was inclined toward conflict and wanted to turn a collection of small German-speaking countries into a single nation through war, centered on a hostile state. War broke out, but France not only lost the battle of Sedan disgracefully and surrendered the sedan to Prussia; He also besieged the Prussian army in Paris. Napoleon III, the ruler of France, was also arrested and sent to prison. After the news of this defeat reached Paris, the city became angry and disgusted. Masses of people stormed the city’s main buildings and were able to establish a Republican government in Paris within two days. Thus the Third French Republic was established. The ruling government, however, did not meet the demands of the people of the city, as expected, either within the country or against a foreign enemy. The workers of Paris were worried that the new government would prepare the country for a return to the monarchy, as many monarchists held positions in the republican government. This led to constant clashes between the revolutionary forces and the ruling government. Paris had a significant population of workers at this time. About half a million industrial workers were economically and politically oppressed by the capitalist production system as well as the ruling government. It was in this situation that the Prussian army reached the gates of Paris and laid siege to the city. With the siege of Paris by the Prussian army, many of these workers, as soldiers of the National Guard, formed an army of volunteers to protect the city and its inhabitants during the siege. Hunger and famine ruled the city during the siege.
The ruling Republican government, unable to stand up to the Prussian army, ended the war by signing a peace treaty, paying compensation to Prussia and surrendering several areas, and ending the siege of the city. Despite its inadequacies, the treaty, and its humiliating defeat, the government insisted on retrieving the weapons of members of the National Guard and the people who had defended the city during the siege. It was after these events and concerns that the Commune was gradually formed. National Guard soldiers, many of whom were workers, began fighting the French army and the ruling government. The aim was to control key government buildings and weapons in Paris. The Parisians had already expressed their desire to establish a democratic government in the city before the treaty was signed. The gap between rich and poor in the capital has widened in recent years and dissatisfaction has widened. Tensions escalated between supporters of the municipality and the ruling government, and the first attempts were made to occupy government buildings and form a new government. These tensions continued and intensified until members of the National Guard on March 18, 1871, took control of government buildings and weapons.
Two months of socialism and democracy
After the National Guard succeeded in seizing the city’s main buildings and weapons, the commune began to form members of the Central Committee. And in a democratic election, the General Assembly elected sixty council members, including workers, businessmen, bureaucrats, artists, artisans, journalists, as well as intellectuals, and writers. The central idea of the Council was democracy and justice for all. The council stated that the municipality has no exclusive leader and no one has more power than the others. The council functioned democratically and decisions were made with the coordination of its members. After the election of the council, the “communists” implemented a set of policies and practices that were expected of a socialist and democratic government. Their policies hindered the domination of the powerful and deprived them of the privileges of the upper classes.
The basic ideas of the revolution are modern and positive: the commune abolished the death penalty as well as the permanent army in leading decisions – instead of the army, volunteer forces of the National Guard were used. They also completed night work in the town’s bakeries, paid the families of those killed while defending the municipality, and relieved tenants of their debts to landlords (rents skyrocketed during the siege). ) Excused. The commune was also governed by secular principles and established a separation of church and state. The municipal council decided that religious education should not be part of education and that church property should be publicly owned so that everyone could use it. Thus the churches became social clubs. They also confiscated bank assets with the slogan that the property was stolen. The education of children and the equality of men and women were other decisions of the council. Women played a very important role in the commune, both as fighters and revolutionary fighters, and nurses. But they still had no role in the main decisions. No women were members of the council, and women did not have the right to vote, even in the commune. Despite leading its decisions, the commune had many opponents. In a letter to Gustave Flaubert, Georges Sand, a French writer living in Paris at the time, described the situation as follows:
“The horrific adventures continue. They threaten, arrest and prosecute. They have taken over all the town halls and public centers. “They are looting food and ammunition.”
Finally the Paris Commune
While it was not long before the commune ruled in Paris; In Versailles, the government rebuilt the army with Prussian prisoners of war. Paris was besieged again, this time by the French. The Versailles army, with the help of anti-commune rebels, launched several attacks outside the city walls and began bombing the city. The commune, in turn, often took hostages from the clergy. On May 21, a gate in the eastern part of the city was broken, the Versailles army stormed into the city, and a massive battle, known as Bloody Week, broke out. The army entered the city and left no prisoners. Any enmity and resistance deserved death. Many unarmed civilians were even executed. The municipality also retaliated by executing the hostages. Terrible fires broke out in many historical sites. Government and police offices were set on fire, and all archives were destroyed. The air became incurable due to the constant fire. Thousands were killed. No one, not even children, women, or the sick, survived this great massacre.
After the victory of the Versailles army, the hardest retaliation began. Any support for the municipality was a crime, and thousands were arrested for it. Many communists were put against a wall and shot. This wall is also known today as the wall of the communes. Thousands of other communes were also tried in Versailles. For days and weeks, many men, women, and children were held in temporary prisons in Versailles. They were tried later and many were sentenced to death. Several prisoners who had not been sentenced to death were deported to New Caledonia, an island in the Pacific Ocean. The exact number of dead is unknown. In all, about 30,000 people were killed, including the wounded and exiles, 40,000 of their lives were overshadowed by the attack on the municipality during the bloody week. Fifty thousand people were executed or imprisoned later this week. The commune was defeated, and Paris remained under martial law for five years. Today, after about 150 years, the struggle of the workers and people of Paris for democracy and socialism is celebrated as the first workers’ revolution in the world.