The Last Meeting of The Commune
In 1908 Vaillant gave the following account of the last assembly of the remnant of the Commune on May 27th, 1871 at Belleville, a working- class quarter of Paris.
The details of that meeting are very little known, and a description by one of the actors in that last episode of Bloody Week will therefore be read with lively interest.
We were compelled, with Parent, to whom the military command had been entrusted in succession to Varlin, to abandon all hope of organising the defence. The pavilion and garden at the right extremity of the rue Haxo, near the fortifications, were abandoned; and the centre and direction of the resistance had been transferred on the Saturday to the town hall of the 20th District, then situate in the rue de Belleville, opposite the church. Ranvier and Trinquet, the elected representatives of the 20th District, seconded by several of their colleagues, made such arrangements for the transfer as were possible.
The town hall was encumbered by a crowd eagerly seeking news. But all the militants, forced back there by the defeat, were still animated by the same communard spirit, and not a word of weakness or of discord was uttered. Optimistic, but false, news came at intervals to revive hope; nevertheless, the forebodings of final defeat were accumulating. The agents of Versailles hid themselves less carefully. They were taken to the town hall, and, avowing spontaneously their guilt, were shot in the courtyard.
Toward the end of the afternoon, while Ranvier and Trinquet remained at the town hall, such other members of the Commune as could be notified and reassembled met for the last time on the first floor of a house situated on the right-hand side of the rue Haxo, where Oudet, wounded in the defence of the 19th District, had just been carried.
We numbered about fifteen, of whom two or three were militants, secretaries of the Commune.
The fact could no longer be ignored that the last moment had come, and we now examined what remained to be done. All reports agreed that the Versaillese massacre was becoming general in Paris.
I suggested sending an emissary to the nearest Prussian commander, asking him to serve as intermediary in proposing to the Versaillese Government the voluntary capitulation of the remaining members of the Commune, on the single condition that the massacres ceased and the liberty of the defenders of the Commune be guaranteed. This proposal, strongly supported by Vallès, seemed to obtain unanimous acceptance. I proceeded to draw it up.
I had finished writing it in order to get it signed, when Constant Martin declared that in his opinion it would be a mistake, and that what made and would in future make the greatness of the Commune was its end in combat, without negotiation with or capitulation to the Versaillese. Others remarked further that our proposal had very little chance of acceptance. And after a short debate it was withdrawn It was then decided that in order to mark effectively the end of the resistance it was necessary to unite all the combatants that could be found for a final attack. The rallying point was to be the place des Fêtes. But the day was already drawing to its close, rain supervened, and the attempt was a failure.
On the following morning all Paris was in the power of the Versaillese.
Translated for the Socialist Standard.