The Paris Commune

The Paris Commune

March 18, 1871 is a date which will go down in history. On that day Paris no longer intended to govern France; it simply asserted its right to be free, to a self-governed unit. And in appealing to all other centers to do likewise, it resolved to remain: The Paris Commune. 

But the best engineer would fail if in doubt of his plans for any important job; and as base for our revolutionary ideal of free communism, we must know and work for the natural equality of men in the domain of right and justice. These conceptions were not ripe among the 1871 Parisian workers. 

Indeed, in 1900 I attended a lecture given by Constant who had been a member of the Communard Central Committee, and the impression he left me can never be obliterated. 

The Paris Commune – said Constant – had suppressed private property; people had been told that they have the right to select their own dwellings; the right to move anywhere they wanted to without having to pay any back or future rents. Yet, a great number of tenants appeared at the City Hall to tell the Communard Committee: “We wish to move, but we cannot, our landlord does not let us.” Told over and over again that they were their own landlords; told to ignore the property owners for the reason that private property had been suppressed, those workers with unripened and unclear ideas of their rights would not move without having with them a voluntary committee which would act as other past governmental agents had acted. 

Part of the workers’ dwellings – continued Constant – had been destroyed by the result of the siege. To provide shelters for the homeless, the record of empty mansions, left by capitalists who had made their escape to Versaille, had been made, and shelterless workers were sent to those mansions to live there with their families. Still, the same workers went back to the Committee to tell them: “We could never live in those mansions; there are carpets three inches thick; the furniture is too luxurious to be touched … we find it impossible to live in such high class dwellings.” To no avail was the reply: “You, workers, have built those mansions, carved the stones and furniture, woven the carpets and the draperies…!” The workers would not enter the mansions and prefered to live in the storage room or even in the stables. 

Here, I have in mind a prominent German philosopher, Louis Buchner, who, in giving illustrations pointing out the urgent need of a social revolution, wrote the following: “No plant can bloom and produce fruits if kept in a cellar. Give it sunshine, light and fresh air, uproot and transport it and instead of being pale and weak, the plant will be full of color and strength.” 

Surely, this is very true. Still, there must be enough transplantors to bring the job to success. More and deeper convictions need be acquired. This is one of the lessons I received from the Paris Commune. 

From: Individual Action : An Anarchist Publication v.2,n.2 (November 17, 1953)

Stockholm police file for Scarceriaux at

[Cartoon: Richard Warren]