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Two Months of Red Splendor:
The Paris Commune and Marx' Theory of Revolution
Additional Online Resources on the Paris Commune

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Over the course of his active life, Karl Marx' thinking about the revolutionary process naturally evolved and developed. His work must therefore be considered in its entirety to adequately understand his perceptions. It would be inaccurate to characterize Marx' analysis of the revolutionary process strictly on the basis of his early writing - such works as The German Ideology (1845-46) and the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844). A better understanding requires examining how the theoretical premises suggested by these introductory works evolved when tested in revolutionary practice. As a scientific thinker, Marx understood that the ultimate test of any theory is practice. The location for testing his ideas regarding class struggle - his laboratory - was the labor movement. How did the experiences of the two great revolutionary periods in Marx' life - the revolutions of 1848-49 and the Paris Commune of 1871 - change his thinking?

The two crucial texts to understanding Marx's thinking about revolution are The Communist Manifesto and The Civil War in France. Of these, The Civil War in France is perhaps more important since it represents a mature statement of Marx' revolutionary theory. Written in the period prior to the great revolutions of 1848-49, The Communist Manifesto is primarily a theoretical anticipation - quite accurately expressed - of future revolutionary developments based upon historical research. However, The Civil War in France was written after the class struggle developed to the point that it introduced a new institution: the commune. No astute theoretician - neither utopian dreamer nor even a great materialist thinker like Marx - had imagined the commune. In fact, this new state form - the world's first workers' government - developed in spite of the influence of Blanquist conspiratorial theories and Proudhonist anti-statist anarchist ideas. The Paris Commune developed spontaneously from the process of class struggle: the need for a new political form arose and the commune was created to address it.

In their 1872 introduction to The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels acknowledged the important influence of the Paris Commune on their thinking:

In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." (See The Civil War in France: Address of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association, 1871, where this point is further developed.)[1]

In addition, Engels would later cite the Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat:

Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. [2]

Marx once wrote that among his most important contributions was his identification of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" - the working class organized as the ruling class - as the key to the transition to socialism. [3] Should it be any surprise that Marx was tremendously inspired by the Paris Commune? Calling it "a new point of departure of world-historic importance," Marx recognized that the commune represented the first concrete manifestation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. [4] The experience of the Paris Commune provided practical answers to the theoretical questions only hinted at in The Communist Manifesto. What would a workers' government look like? How would it use state power to further the development of socialism? How would other classes respond to this worker's state? Why had previous revolutions failed?

The Paris Commune is the key to understanding Karl Marx' theory of revolution.

Any analysis of the revolutionary theory of Karl Marx should begin with the thinker himself. A materialist approach, understanding that ideas and theories don't just pop out of thin air, would start with biographical details - with the historical context and the social movements effecting the thinker. Examining these factors informs our understanding of theories and gives a truer sense of their importance. The best evidence of a person's ideas may not necessarily be what they put down on paper. Actions often provide a better gauge than rhetoric of the importance a person attaches to a particular set of ideas: How did that person act to realize their conceptions?

In examining Marx' life, we see that he was a devoted husband and father; an admirer of Shakespeare and classical Greek drama; a one-time romantic poet who was especially contemptuous of - among others - the superficial popular poet Martin Tupper [5] ; an impoverished radical journalist, chess player and social scientist. Above all else, however, Karl Marx was a revolutionary. No ivory-tower intellectual, working in an isolated and sterile environment proposing abstract theorems of no real consequence, Marx was an active participant in building the revolutionary movement. Marx was a revolutionary.

Marx was involved in the working-class movement across the entire continent of Europe. He was the editor of the Left Hegelian opposition newspaper Rheinische Zeitung; and for 11 tumultuous months in 1848-49 he edited the revived Neue Rheinische Zeitung. He was a contributor to numerous journals. A leading member of the Communist League, Marx was the primary author of its legendary manifesto. He corresponded frequently with working class activists in Europe, Russia and the United States, exchanging ideas and arguing vociferously about tactics and strategies. Marx was often called upon to conduct workshops, classes and training sessions for workers in Belgium, France and England. He addressed rallies and meetings of working class organizations. He helped to form the International Working Men's Association, served on its General Council and wrote many of its important tracts. From his exile in England he carefully observed the development of workers' parties in Europe, and intervened to correct their activities, such as his critique of the Gotha program of the German party. In short, Marx was a revolutionary activist. [6]

At the same time, Marx was also committed to theoretical analysis. At all times Marx demonstrated a combination of theory and practice, with more stress on one side or the other as events demanded. In the revolutionary upsurge prior to the events of 1848, the youthful Marx was actively involved in creating links among workers across Europe through the Communist League. During this period he continued his theoretical explorations, as demonstrated by writings such as The Poverty of Philosophy, Wage Labour and Capital and The Holy Family. After the failure of the revolutions of 1848-49, Marx recognized - and was one of few among the Communist League to admit so - that the prospect of immediate revolution was off the agenda. He turned to more intensive research, spending hours in the British Museum attempting to gain a greater understanding of the capitalist system. Yet even while pursuing this theoretical work - which would lead, among other things, to the first volume of Capital - Marx continued to correspond with other revolutionaries, address labor meetings and write polemical articles.

After more than a decade of emphasizing theoretical work, Marx was inspired by events in Italy, Poland and elsewhere in Europe, especially the response of the English proletariat to the US Civil War. Seeing the possibility of a renewed working class movement, Marx was instrumental in the 1864 founding of the International Working Men's Association (IWMA), an activist grouping of revolutionaries from Europe and North America. The period of Marx' activity with the IWMA was perhaps the most combative, prolific and eventful of his life. The IWMA had some, though limited and inconsistent, influence in the European workers' movement. The Paris Commune of 1871 marked the high point for the IWMA, with Marx vigorously defending the communards on behalf of the organization.

Marx' revived political activism meant that much of his most important theoretical work - including Theories of Surplus Value, The Grundrisse and the additional planned five volumes of Capital - was suspended. It was left to Engels and others to prepare Marx' last works for publication after his death in 1883. Clearly, when faced with a choice between revolutionary activism or theoretical deliberations, Marx chose the former. Above all else, Marx was a revolutionary.

What lessons, then, did Marx the revolutionary draw from the experience of the Paris Commune?

The Paris Commune represented a new form of government, never before seen or imagined. In its brief existence, the commune was never avowedly socialist. Yet Marx suggested that events would force it to act in a socialist manner.

The multiplicity of interpretation to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which construed it in their favour, show that it was a thoroughly expansive political form, while all previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive. Its true secret was this: It was essentially a working class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour.

Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot co-exist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundation upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute. [7]

With its expansive political form, the Paris Commune indicated how a workers' government could negate the political functionaries and the bureaucratic layers that had blocked revolutionary efforts in the past:

The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. 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. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police 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 workman's wage. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune. [8]

Using state power, the working class through the commune would uproot the means by which the bourgeoisie had maintained its dictatorship: repression and ideology.

The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.

Having once got rid of the standing army and the police - the physical force elements of the old government - the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the "parson-power", by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles. 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. [9]

In a country in which the majority of citizens were peasants, how would a proletarian government win the support of rural residents? How would it gain the support of the other urban classes, such as the sizable middle class (petit bourgeois) of shopkeepers, professionals, tradesmen, etc.? The Paris Commune took several steps to win broader support and protect itself. Perhaps most attractive was the commune itself; the most democratic type of government ever seen.

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, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat imperatif (formal instructions) of his constituents. The few but important functions which would still remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal and thereafter responsible agents. [10]

The highly democratic nature of the commune form of government would make it extremely efficient at performing necessary social tasks. The working class would run the "state," rather than the reverse. Without the need to repress the majority in the interests of a minority, the "state" would assume a different character, have greater legitimacy in the public perception. The commune would win middle class support by providing "good government."

The Communal Constitution would have restored to the social body all the forces hitherto absorbed by the state parasite feeding upon, and clogging the free movement of, society. By this one act, it would have initiated the regeneration of France. [11]

The Commune would have delivered the peasant of the blood tax - would have given him a cheap government - transformed his present blood-suckers, the notary, advocate, executor, and other judicial vampires, into salaried communal agents, elected by, and responsible to, himself. It would have freed him of the tyranny of the garde champetre, the gendarme, and the prefect; would have put enlightenment by the schoolmaster in the place of stultification by the priest. And the French peasant is, above all, a man [sic] of reckoning. He would find it extremely reasonable that the pay of the priest, instead of being extorted by the tax-gatherer, should only depend upon the spontaneous action of the parishioners' religious instinct. Such were the great immediate boons which the rule of the Commune - and that rule alone - held out to the French peasantry. [12]

With parts of their city occupied by Prussian soldiers, the Paris Commune would need the support of the international working class to survive.

If the Commune was thus the true representative of all the healthy elements of French society, and therefore the truly national government, it was, at the same time, as a working men's [sic] government, as the bold champion of the emancipation of labor, emphatically international. Within sight of that Prussian army, that had annexed to Germany two French provinces, the Commune annexed to France the working people all over the world. [13]

The Commune admitted all foreigners to the honor of dying for an immortal cause. Between the foreign war lost by their treason, and the civil war fomented by their conspiracy with the foreign invader, the bourgeoisie had found the time to display their patriotism by organizing police hunts upon the Germans in France. The Commune made a German working man its Minister of Labor. Thiers, the bourgeoisie, the Second Empire, had continually deluded Poland by loud professions of sympathy, while in reality betraying her to, and doing the dirty work of, Russia. The Commune honored the heroic sons of Poland by placing them at the head of the defenders of Paris. And, to broadly mark the new era of history it was conscious of initiating, under the eyes of the conquering Prussians on one side, and the Bonapartist army, led by Bonapartist generals, on the other, the Commune pulled down that colossal symbol of martial glory, the Vendome Column. [14]

The Paris Commune also began to erode the traditional patriarchal structure of French society, allowing women greater social involvement. It was the activity of women that had launched the commune:

On March 18th, the soldiers were ordered by M. Thiers, the head of the reactionary government, to transport the cannon of Paris to Versailles. The milkmaids, who were on the streets before dawn, saw what was afoot and thwarted the treacherous plans of the reactionary government. They surrounded the soldiers and prevented them from carrying out Theirs' orders. Although the men had not yet come into the streets on this early morning, and although the women were not armed, they held their own. As in every real peoples' revolution, new strata of the population were awakened. This time it was the women who were to act first. When reveille was sounded, all of Paris was in the streets. Theirs' spies barely escaped with the information that it was impossible to inform on who the leaders of the uprising were, since the entire population was involved. [15]

On the first day of the Commune, 18 March, women played a crucial role in neutralizing the troops sent by Theirs to seize the cannons of the National Guard. At Montmartre General Lecomte gave the order to fire. At this the women spoke to the soldiers: "Will you fire upon us? On your brothers? Our husbands? Our children?" Faced with this unexpected intervention, the soldiers hesitated. A warrant officer stood in front of his company and shouted: "Mutiny!" Thereupon the 88th battalion fraternized with the crowd. The soldiers arrested their general. [16]

The commune introduced measures to better the lot of women:

The Commune also saw the first growing shoots of a new sexual morality and women's emancipation. Marriage came in for strong condemnation. The Commune decreed on 10 April a pension for widows and children of `all citizens killed defending the rights of the people', whether the children were legitimate or not. This in effect meant putting the free unions common among the working-class population of Paris on an equal footing with marriage. `This decree,' said Arnould afterwards and rather hopefully, `delivered a mortal blow to the religio-monarchical institution of marriage as we see it functioning in modern society.' [17]

In the defense of the Paris Commune during the bourgeoisie's final assault, women showed exceptional courage. They fought on the barricades alongside the men, and were particularly effective incendiaries. Marx exclaimed about these brave Communards:

The real women of Paris showed again at the surface - heroic, noble, and devoted, like the women of antiquity. Working, thinking fighting, bleeding Paris - almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the Cannibals at its gates - radiant in the enthusiasm of its historic initiative! [18]

These were some of the positive lessons drawn by Marx from the experience of the Paris Commune. The commune demonstrated many of the steps any workers' state would have to undertake in order to protect itself: the elimination of the police and army; the undermining of the bureaucracy; the appeal to other classes and the international working class; the activation of formerly marginalized sections of the populace such as women and national minorities. However, despite a heroic struggle, the Paris Commune was eventually crushed. While never hesitating to praise the positive impact the Paris Commune had on the international working class movement, Marx also drew lessons from the negative aspects.

The most important failure of the Paris Commune was its lack of relentless and decisive action against the bourgeoisie. The very magnanimity and humanity of the commune proved fatal. Only reluctantly did it use force, take hostages or keep the prisoners it captured. It had many opportunities to eliminate the threat poised by the weakened Versailles government of Thiers. The commune's hesitation allowed the bourgeoisie time to regroup, gather an army and arrange a deal with the Prussians. The commune's moderation left the way open for the vicious, vengeful retaliation the Versailles government inflicted on the workers of Paris. Marx suggested what the Communards should have done:

In their reluctance to continue the civil war opened by Theirs' burglarious attempt on Montmartre, the Central Committee [of the Paris Commune] made themselves, this time, guilty of a decisive mistake in not at once marching upon Versailles, then completely helpless, and thus putting an end to the conspiracies of Thiers and his Rurals. [19]

If they [the Communards] are defeated only their "good nature" will be to blame. They should have marched at once on Versailles, after first Vinoy and then the reactionary section of the Paris National Guard had themselves retreated. The right moment was missed because of conscientious scruples. They did not want to start the civil war, as if that mischievous abortion Thiers had not already started the civil war with his attempt to disarm Paris. [20]

Writing his stirring address to the IWMA mere days after the event, Marx overlooked another troublesome aspect of the Paris Commune. Alex Callinicos, a leading British Marxist, writes:

Marx did not recognize the second weakness of the Commune. It was elected by all the male citizens of Paris, divided into separate wards. The exclusion of women, which is especially striking in the light of the magnificent role played by the working women of Paris under the Commune, was a reflection of the influence of Jacobinism on the French labour movement. Moreover, the election of representatives on a territorial basis meant that the Commune was chosen by members of all classes. Just as in bourgeois elections, all citizens were treated as equal irrespective of their class position. Normally, this formal equality conceals the real inequalities of wealth and power which undermine bourgeois democracy. In Paris under the Commune, this method of election did not have such harmful effects because most of the bourgeoisie had fled the city. [21]

The Paris Commune was the closest thing to a socialist revolution Marx witnessed. Why wasn't there a successful socialist revolution during Marx' life? The material conditions, the objective circumstances, were certainly favorable. Commenting on the Paris Commune with the same acuity he brought to so many political situations, Leon Trotsky wrote:

The proletariat grows and gathers strength together with the growth of capitalism. In this sense the development of capitalism is the development of the proletariat toward dictatorship. But the day and the hour when power goes over into the hands of the working class depends immediately not on the level of the productive forces, but on the relations of the class struggle, on the international situation, and finally, on a series of subjective factors: tradition, initiative, readiness for struggle.

In a country which is economically more backward, the proletariat can come to power sooner that in an advanced capitalist country. In 1871 it consciously "took into its own hands the direction of public affairs" in petty-bourgeois Paris - to be sure, only for two months, but it did not take power even for an hour in the large-scale capitalist centers of England and the United States. The idea that the proletarian dictatorship is somehow automatically dependent on the technical forces and means of the country represents a prejudice of an extremely simplified "economic" materialism. Such a viewpoint has nothing in common with Marxism. [22]

Perhaps the most important lesson of the Paris Commune was suggest by Marx and developed further by later revolutionaries such as Lenin, Luxembourg and Trotsky. Marx described the problem both in his criticism of the leadership of the commune and in the following:

In every revolution there intrude, at the side of its true agents, men of different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by the sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declarations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. After March 18, some such men did also turn up, and in some cases contrived to play pre-eminent parts. As far as their power went, they hampered the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. They are an unavoidable evil: with time they are shaken off; but time was not allowed to the Commune. [23]

In short, the political immaturity of the working class prevented a successful revolution in the 19th century. The proletariat hadn't - and hasn't yet - created the political leadership needed for a successful worker's revolution. Creating such a political leadership was the project Marx pursued throughout his life, both as an activist and as a theoretician. Objective conditions frequently present revolutionary opportunities. Yet without political leadership that advocates socialism, that instills class consciousness, that understands the history of political struggle and the necessity for decisive action (including revolutionary terror) against the bourgeoisie, any revolutionary movement will fail to create socialism. [24] Historically the most important missing element of socialist revolution has been the subjective factor: the revolutionary socialist party. While it had some members in key positions of the Paris Commune, the International Working Men's Association was not yet the revolutionary party needed for a successful transition to socialism. It lacked the theoretical clarity, critical mass and organic connection to the working class necessary to lead events.

A revolutionary party cannot be created in the midst of civil war, armed occupation, social chaos, economic disruption. Long before a revolutionary situation arises, the party needs to develop its theory, test it in practice and gain credibility among the working class. When it begins to fight against the bosses, the working class looks for ideas to advance its struggle. Without a legitimate revolutionary working class party, these workers will often be tempted to follow the well-meaning, charlatan "[people] of a different stamp" Marx described above. However, if a revolutionary party has established itself in advance of the struggle, gaining sufficient size and the respect of workers, it can lead the fight to a successful conclusion: socialism.

Leon Trotsky elaborated on this lesson from the experience of the Paris Commune:

The proletariat of Paris did not have such a party. The bourgeois socialists with whom the Commune swarmed, raised their eyes to heaven, waited for a miracle or else a prophetic word, hesitated, and during that time the masses groped about and lost their heads because of the indecision of some and the fantasy of others. The result was that the revolution broke out in their midst, too late, and Paris was encircled. Six months elapsed before the proletariat had reestablished in its memory the lessons of past revolutions, of battles of yore, of the reiterated betrayals of democracy - and it seized power.

These six months proved to be an irreparable loss. If the centralized party of revolutionary action had been found at the head of the proletariat of France in September 1870, the whole history of France and with it the whole history of humanity would have taken another direction. [25]

Marx' theory of revolution was derived from this understanding. The demise of capitalism is inevitable, but there is no certainty as to when. Capitalism has been able to hobble along only because of the political immaturity of its future gravediggers. The one consistent feature of Marx' life, from the time before The Communist Manifesto until his death, was his attempt both theoretically and practically - as a person of thought and a person of action - to hasten the political development of the proletariat.


Paris Commune Archive at
Wikipedia: Paris Commune
Anarchist Archive: Paris Commune
Essay on Louise Michel, a French anarchist woman who fought in the Paris commune
Bureau of Public Secrets (Situationist) Page on Paris Commune
International Socialist Review, "Classics of Marxism: The Civil War in France"
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1. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "Preface to the German Edition of 1872," in Manifesto of the Communist Party, (New York: Pathfinder, 1987), pg. 13. "The only major correction ever proposed by Marx and Engels to The Communist Manifesto was based on the experience of the Paris Commune. When The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, Marx and Engels had assumed that the working class as it came to power would use the capitalist state apparatus for its own purposes." Douglas Jenness, Introduction to Leon Trotsky on The Paris Commune. (New York: Pathfinder, 1987) pg. 4. Back to text

2. From Engels' 1891 introduction to Karl Marx, The Civil War in France, in Marx/Engels/Lenin On Historical Materialism, (New York: International Publishers, Inc., 1974) pg. 242. Back to text

3. Marx: "What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society." Karl Marx, "Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer," in The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert Tucker, (New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1978) pg. 220. See my March 19 paper "Marx's Concept of History: Class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat."Back to text

4. Karl Marx, letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, April 17, 1871, available online at the Marx/Engels WWW Archives. Back to text

5. "Classical economy always loved to conceive social capital as a fixed magnitude of a fixed degree of efficiency. But this prejudice was first established as a dogma by the arch-Philistine, Jeremy Bentham, that insipid, pedantic, leather-tongued oracle of the ordinary bourgeois intelligence of the 19th century. Bentham is among philosophers what Martin Tupper is among poets. Both could only have been manufactured in England." Karl Marx, Capital, Chapter 6, available online at the Marx/Engels WWW Archives. Back to text

6. Biographical information on Marx is drawn largely from V.I. Lenin's "Karl Marx: A Brief Biographical Sketch with an Exposition of Marxism," an essay for the Granat Encyclopaedia published in 1915; and David Riazanov's Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: An Introduction to Their Lives and Work. Both texts are available online at the Marx/Engels WWW Archives. Back to text

7. Karl Marx, The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune, (New York: International Publishers, 1984), pg. 60. Back to text

8. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 57. Back to text

9. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 57. Back to text

10. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 58. Back to text

11. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 59. Back to text

12. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 63. Back to text

13. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 64. Back to text

14. Karl Marx, ibid. pg. 65. Back to text

15. Raya Dunayevskaya, Marxism and Freedom (London: Pluto Press, 1971),pg. 95. Back to text

16. Tony Cliff, Class Struggle and Women's Liberation (London: Bookmarks, 1987) pg. 38. Back to text

17. Tony Cliff, ibid., pg. 42. Back to text

18. Karl Marx, op cit., pg. 68 We should note here that Marx' recognition of women, while better than many of his associates, reflected the influence of contemporary assumptions. However, Tony Cliff writes: "The International Working Men's' Association was founded in 1864 and its General Council, led by Marx, voted to admit women to membership. But the French delegation voted against this by 'a large majority', on the grounds that 'the place of woman is by the home fire, not at the Forum ... To men belong labour and the study of human problems; to women, child care and adornment of the worker's home.' The conflict was resolved by allowing each section to define its own membership. (The French decision was not retroactive, so some women were allowed to continue as members.)" Tony Cliff, Class Struggle and Women's Liberation, pg. 37. The traditional patriarchy of France was an enormous obstacle that the Paris Commune was only beginning to address in its brief existence. Back to text

19. Karl Marx, ibid., pg. 51. Back to text

20. Karl Marx, letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, April 12, 1871, available online at the Marx/Engels WWW Archives. Back to text

21. Alex Callinicos, The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx (London: Bookmarks, 1987) pg. 159. Back to text

22. Leon Trotsky, "Thirty-Five Years After: 1871-1906," in Leon Trotsky on The Paris Commune. (New York: Pathfinder, 1987), pg. 12. Back to text

23. Karl Marx, The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune, (New York: International Publishers, 1984), pg. 67. Marx here refers in covert form to the Blanquists and Proudhonists; the covert form necessary since both groups were considered part of the IWMA. See Hal Draper, Karl Marx' Theory of Revolution, Volume III, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1986). Back to text

24. There have been many revolutions since 1871. Ultimately none have resulted in a socialist society. The great 1917 October Revolution in Russia was a hopeful start, but like the Paris Commune, eventually failed to ignite an international revolution against capitalism. There is much dispute among socialists surrounding the true nature of the Stalinist political regime that emerged in the USSR: degenerated workers state, bureaucratic collectivist, state capitalist, etc. My preferred description is the one proposed by the British Trotskyist Tony Cliff in his 1948 work, State Capitalism in Russia (Chicago: Bookmarks, 1982 edition). This analysis has since been generalized, so that such revolutions as occurred in China, Cuba and elsewhere can be seen as "deflections" from the course of socialist revolution. See Tony Cliff, Deflected Permanent Revolution (London: Bookmarks, 1984) and Chris Harman, Class Struggle in Eastern Europe: 1945-70 (London: Pluto Press, 1978). Back to text

25. Leon Trotsky, "Lessons of the Paris Commune," in Leon Trotsky on The Paris Commune. (New York: Pathfinder, 1987), pg. 53. Back to text

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