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The Paris Commune

We cannot let March pass away without a reference to an event of great significance in the history of the Working Class Movement. We refer to the Paris Commune of 1871.

Although nearly sixty years have passed away since the Commune, yet it still has a message for us, a message of hope and a message of warning. Then for the first time a section of the French working class, owing to a set of favourable circumstances, obtained control of supreme power and held it for a period of three months. Their defeat was due to many causes, chief of which were the unity of the International capitalists against them and the as yet unreadiness of the French working class for a social change in their interests.

The story of the Commune is told by Karl Marx in his little book, “The Civil War in France," and also by Lissagary (himself a fighter in the Commune) in his “Paris Commune of 1871.”

Of the objects of the Commune Marx speaks as follows:

Who was Blanqui?

Louis Auguste Blanqui was the quintessential angry revolutionist, insurrectionist, conspiratorial socialist, who was in conflict with every French government from the 'July monarchy' of Louis-Philippe, the 1848 National Assembly, Napoleon III's Empire, to the Third Republic. Anarchist Michael Bakunin was won over to ideas of socialism through the influence of Blanqui. Blanqui lived for 76 years and spent 44 of those years in prison! Blanqui was nicknamed 'L'Enfermé' which translates as the 'the enclosed' or 'the locked one' or even 'the prisoner'. Engels in the 1874 article The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune wrote: 'Blanqui is essentially a political revolutionist. He is a socialist only through sentiment, through his sympathy with the sufferings of the people, but he has neither a socialist theory nor any definite practical suggestions for social remedies.

How Should Socialists Organise?

We were anti-Leninist from the start.

In recent months the idea or concept of 'Leninism' has been placed under the microscope with the revelations of the undemocratic activities of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party. In March the Socialist Standard republished its 1995 education document as The SWP: an undemocratic Leninist organisation which identifies the undemocratic nature of the 'Leninist' concept of 'democratic centralism' in the SWP. The origins of 'Leninism' lie at the beginning of the twentieth century when Lenin distorted the original message of Marx and Engels, but even in this period there were criticisms of 'Leninism' and 'Bolshevism' by such revolutionary thinkers as Rosa Luxemburg and Julius Martov.

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