(KARL MARX – continued)

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The Paris Commune and regret

Marx was in London in 1871 when a municipal council took over the city of Paris, a council that included a leading French socialist-activist Louis Blanqui, some followers of Proudhon, a few members of the First International Workingmen's Association to which Marx belonged, and some libertarians. This was the Paris Commune, which flew the socialist red flag rather than France's traditional tricolor..

Marx wrote of France's "collapsing bourgeois society" as "pregnant" with a new society. Soon the Paris Commune was attacked by conservative forces from outside Paris. Parisians went to the barricades again and were defeated by the French Army. The Commune had been in power only two months. The military command proclaimed to the inhabitants of Paris that The French army has come to save them. "Paris is freed!" he said. "Order, work and security will be reborn."

Reprisals began. Having supported the Commune in any way was deemed a crime. Thousands were tried by summary courts martial of doubtful legality, and thousands were shot. Around 4,000 were deported to serve a life sentence on the prison island of New Caledonia. Estimates of the number killed vary from about 10,000 to 50,000.

Marx, safe in England. was identified as the brains behind the Paris Commune. He was visited by reporters. He was known to have a PhD, and for his support of the 1871 uprising in Paris he became known as the Red Doctor.

Marx had belatedly decided that the Paris Commune was a mistake. He and his collaborator, Friedrich Engels, concluded that to succeed a revolution had to have broad support from a citizenry. Marx described an immature attempt at revolution as "Blanquism."

But Marx celebrated the rising. For the International Workingmen's Association (the First International) he wrote:

Workingmen's Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. note110

But Marx remained flexible regarding whether his new society had to be born with an armed takeover. In 1872 he said, "... we do not deny that there are countries like England and America... where labour may attain its goal by peaceful means." note111


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