30 THE WORKERS COUNCIL at the. abolition of the pawn shops themselves, which were in opposition to the right of the worker to the instruments of labor and to credit. The liquidation of the pawn sho was to be followed by the regulation of unemp oyment. The victims of the war,. and the needy and helpless were paid voluntary penswns from the public treasury. The social character of the Commune became more apparent from day to day, or, as the pamphlet on the Civil War puts it: Its own exrstence as a working body constituted its great social measure. Besides all this, however, the political measures of the Commune likewise assured the working class freedom of movement. The state of siege was at once lifted and a general amnest declared for all political crimes and offenses. urch and state were strictly separated. The clerical estates were transformed into national property, the support of church organizations by the public treasury ceased. The church was separated from the schools, and the latter were cleansed of all religious symbols, dogmas and pra ers. complete revolution of marriage and fami y rights was contained in the provisions recognizing as binding any union of a man and woman living together as mates and paying all soldier widows alike regardless of the form in which the marriage had been consummated. The Commune burned the guillotine and tore down the Vendome column an act that constituted a declaration of war against the entire nationalistic tradition that famous symbol of war and radical persecution which Na oleon had made out of captured cannon after his victory over Austria in 1809. Foreigners enjoyed all the rights of citizenship. Foreigners even held important posts in the Commune, since the flag of the Commune is that of the world republic, a declaration of principles that was of greater import and significance than any that had heretofore been uttered by any revolution.
But the Commune went on to change fundamentally the entire machine of state and administration. The military and rthe police disa peared.
The standing army and conscription were a olished and the national guard declared the only a ithorized armed force. The Commune held supreme power, being at the same time a legislative and an executive organ, not a parliamentarian but a working body. All oil ices had to be administrered on laborers pay, thus avoiding once and for all the danger of revivrng a bureaucratic class. a a The bourgeois class and the members and adherents of the old government became enraged at this state of affairs. This Commune was not only a workers government. it constituted the worst violation of the rights of citizenship, an abuse of political power. This Communism was nothing more than barbarism and savagery, this rule othhe rabble in reality the tyranny imposed by an inSIgnificant minority over deluded, ignorant masses. This rage of the bourgeoisie is the most effective answer to the doubts that have been occasionally expressed as to whether the Commune was actually a working class government, as the memorial on the Civil War declares. Reference is usually made to the large number of petty bourgeois individuals among the members of the Commune as well as to the confused minds and the mere talkers who frequently appeared on the scene. Whenever there was an important anestion to be decided, long discussions and hot ebates would take place, so that actually one could ain the impression that the Commune was not y without a program but even without guiding principles.
But strong as were the internal disscnsions and violent as was the struggle of various factions for leadership, the spirit of the workers prevailed and asserted itself throughout. The workers impressed their stamp upon the Commune. And just as it is suflicient for an accurate answer to the question of whether the Commune was actually and essentially a government of the working class, to point to the decrees of the Commune, so the government at Versailles with the unerring instinct of ruling classes for maintaining their positions of power, recognized on the very first day the fundamental difi erenoe of the new and the old power and the total incompatibility of the two forms. The old government with its headquarters at Versailles at once called a strike of all officials, in order to deal the Commune a death blow at its very beginnin and the upper bureaucracy willingl responded.
at a common signal the various administrations city tax bureau, roads commission, street lightin department, public charities, postal and telegra service ceased to function. The trade halls, e markets, all the intricate digestive and respiratory organs of the great metro olis suddenly became paral zed. The example of) the officials was followe by a part of the bourgeois population, like the physicians and a portion of the professional personnel of the hospitals. But within two days this manoevre was completely played out due to the energy of the Commune and the readiness of the lesser officials and the petty bourgeois elements to co operate.
What stand did the Commune take in connection with the war? The traditional revolutionary conception of France would have demanded a defense of the inviolability of the national territory.
But with the conclusion of peace on the part of the bourgeoisie the question of the war was likewise settled as far as the proletariat was concerned. In view of the desire of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry for peace and in view of the exhaustion of the petty bourgeois, any attempt to resume the defensive strug 1e would have encountered the united opposition all France. The Commune adapted itself to this situation. In its very first declaration the Commune declared that it considered the war at an end and that its only dispute now was with Versailles. The future universal world republic of the proletariat, it was assumed, would eventuall cope with the policy of conquest of Bismarck. 1nd so the call for the Commune acquired a new and changed significance. Paris in arms and the rapidly arming forces of reaction stood facing one another on the hard ground of power and reality.
The Paris Commune, surrounded though it was by a world of enemies, nevertheless permitted itself to commit two fatal errors. It neglected the necessary militar safeguards and omitted the seizure of the Bank France. The troops of the Versailles government were permitted to withdraw in full force APRIL 15, 1921.
APRIL 15, 1921.
and completely armed from Paris; important strategic posts were left unguarded; the organization of the defense was placed in incompetent and undependable hands; there was no definite plan against Versailles. The Bank of France at that time possessed a capital of three billion francs beSides 90, 000 deposits. The seizure pf this institutlon would have delivered the entire bourgeoiSie of France into the hands of the Commune and might possibly have caused the government at Versailles to plead for negotiations. Even the adherents of Proudhon in the Commune seemed to have forgotten that their master had placed at the head of his program the demand for the suppresswn of the Bank of France. 3 On April 2, the Versailles government was already prepared to begin its attack upon Paris. An attempted sally of the Communards ailed, and only a few days later the governmenttroops forced the passage at Neuilly. Beginnin With May 6th, Paris was again inclosed on all 51 es, as in the days of the German siege. On May 9th the first of. the forts surrendered, on the 14th the second fell; eight days later the Versailles troops set foot upon the ground of the city itself. Then began the street fighting.
The struggle became more bitter day by day. Then the Prussmns opened the neutral zone they were occupying enabling the troops of Versailles to attack the Communards in the rear andflank. The last struggle was the more intense for its hopelessness. It was only on the eighth day that the last defenders succumbed on the heights of Belleville and Menilmontant. The government troops instituted a terrible massacre. Whoever was caught in the national guard uniform, whoever Wore army shoes, whoever showed on his clothing traces of military facings since ripped oil, was shot at once. The rifles of the soldiers were not equal to the bloody task.
So the risoners were gathered in crowds and flu; ished ad. by means of artillery fire. The citizens guard appeared on the scene the national guard of the forces of law and order showing of their armbands as a mark of honor for being permitted to direct the executions. Toward the end of the struggle, the Prussians surrounded the hunted game.
Their ofiicers drove back to the executioners all those soldiers of the federated legions who attempted to cross the line. This mass slaughter lasted. until the early days of June, the summary executions well into the middle of the month. The military admitted 17, 000 executions. From May 21 to May 30, the representatives of law and order gathered some 40, 000 prisoners, including numerous women and children. There were counted no less than 400, 000 denunciations, of which a largeshare may be credited to the press. The press reJOiced that there are 100, 000 voters less than there were in the February elections! And Thiers stood up proudly in the national assembly to announce: We are honest pee»
ple. Law will be administered according to the common statute shall have recourse only to the law.
The Commune lay shattered and lifeless on the ground. It failed because of the support given by THE WORKERS COUNCIL 31 the foreign foe to the bourgeois government of France, because of the unrestrained animosity of the rural population, because of the unWillingness to co operate and the indeciswn of the workers and petty hour eoisie of the other French cities. It failed not because the economic status of the country had not attained sufiicient maturity, but because the re classification of society, conditioned the methods of production, had not yet develops in a sufficient degree, because the industrial worker had not yet acquired a position of sufi iCIent strength in society to remain permanently in power. The Commune failed because it was lmpOSSIble for it to conquer.
Without number were the victims who died in the prisons, for after the defeat of the Commune there broke out a perfect orgy of Justice. Thousands were sent away to the watery wastes. of the Pacific Ocean. When the parliament ended its term in 1876 it shortened a few prison sentences and granted 600 pardons. This was the extent of its mercy. And when the new Chamber With its republican majorit went into session, it too refused. am.
nasty to the ommunards. And as late as the Winter of that year the military courts tried cases and in flicted death penalties for participation in the May battles. And yet the bourgeoisie spilled the blood of the people in vain; in vain did they condemn innumerable youths and aged men to rot in prison hells, in vain did they deliver women andgirls into the hands of the Bagno of New Caledonia. From the graves of these thousands have sprouted all the more profusely and richly the seeds of revolution, and out of the blood and flames and smoking ruins of Paris, that mother of the European Revolution, arose the reality of proletarian dictatorship, of. the free Commune, lighting its inextmguisha e fires in every corner of the globe. To be concluded)