To What Extent Was Socialism the Inspiration for the Paris Commune?

Essay by yoshimiCollege, UndergraduateB-, October 2004

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The battle of Sedan in 1870 was to prove to be the decisive battle of the Franco-Prussian war and effectively witnessed the capitulation of France to Germany. The resulting abdication of Napoleon III and end of the second empire resulted in a power vacuum. IN response to this a general election (with universal male suffrage) was called in January 1871 which saw monarchist candidates winning huge support from the provinces. The result of this was the formation of the National Assembly under the leadership of the monarchist Adolph Thiers.

In February the National Assembly had established itself in Bordeaux, citing the presence of Prussian troops as the cause of their abandonment of Paris and even Versailles. However this caused an outburst of anger among Parisians who were still reeling from the effects of their siege by the Prussians. Further news in March of the peace negotiations with the Prussians, which included the ceding of Alsace and Lorraine greatly increased Parisian hatred of the provisional government.

When news followed that the National Assembly had since moved to Versailles Paris was thrown into revolt in response to this perceived slight. The radical members of the political groups within Paris proclaimed the Commune thus placing Paris beyond the control of the Versailles government.

Those who argue that the Commune was a socialist movement often support this by claiming that, the Communards were, for the most part proletarian. However recent studies of court records have shown that this is not the case. In fact, ?most Communards were skilled workers?and they worked mostly in long-established and small-scale Paris craft industries.? Thus the Communards were not a new breed of proletarian revolutionaries, as Marxists would describe them. Conversely they were not far removed from, ?those involved in the events of 1848-51, and recognizably similar to the...