Blog post

Henri Lefebvre: The proclamation of the Commune 26th March 1871

Henri Lefebvre's account of the ideology of the Paris Commune, newly translated into English 

26 March 2021

Henri Lefebvre: The proclamation of the Commune 26th March 1871

Ideologies of the Commune

Citizens – with the Fatherland in supreme danger, and the principle of authority and centralisation convicted of impotence, our only hope lies in the patriotic energy of the communes of France, which are becoming free, autonomous and sovereign by force of circumstance. Today the destiny of social progress and the Revolution rests on the unshakeable resistance of Paris. It is Paris that has the responsibility for the salvation of the Gallic race, Paris that has the initiative...

These are the opening words of a ‘declaration of principles’ addressed to the electorate on 9 October 1870 by the Central Republican Committee of the twenty arrondissements. [1] The entire text mixes memories of 1792 with older historical references, including the ancient theory (on which Saint-Simon based himself in seeking to understand the struggle of the Third Estate against the nobility, substituting the concept of class for that of race) which attributes the origin of the nobility to the Franks and the origin of the French people to the ‘Gallic race’. The Commune’s Journal officiel contained in its issues of 20 April and 2 May an article by Charles Limousin on Étienne Marcel and the Paris Commune of the Middle Ages.

When the Commune addressed the departments on 6 April 1871, the signatories of its manifesto, members of the Executive Commission, mentioned the ancient communal ‘franchises’: 

Paris aspires only to found the Republic and to restore its communal franchises, happy to provide an example to the other communes of France. If the Paris Commune has broken out of its normal limitations, it is to its great regret, in response to the state of war provoked by the government of Versailles. Paris aspires only to withdraw into its autonomy, full of respect for the equal rights of the other communes of France...

The expression ‘franchises’ precisely denotes the communal tradition under the Ancien Régime, with the extension to the urban bourgeoisie of the freedoms regained from the conquering race, the Franks. 

Having thus re-established part of the historical truth, we can now turn to the analysis of the Commune’s ideology. We find here a very confused ideological-political complex, in which different and even contradictory aspects converge and mingle. Certainly, as a background against which ideological forms stand out, we can discern the action of the proletariat and its representatives aiming to give a certain social and political content to the Communal revolution. But this effort, pursued on the level of project and will rather than practical efficiency, should not hide from us other ideological-political elements. To see only it, to magnify it, would be to distort the historical truth. To make it an absolute by belittling other projects and ideologies would mean using the past as propaganda rather than understanding it. 


Several ideological currents gravitate around this historical nucleus and are illuminated by it. We can mention the Proudhonist current, the Blanquist current, the Fourierist current, and finally the ideas that animated the International, which are themselves very complex.

For the Proudhonists, the Commune and federalism meant decentralisation. For the Blanquists, it was the revolutionary Commune of 1792 and 1793, the inspiration of the Republic one and indivisible, dictatorial and centralising. For the last Fourierists, it was the realisation of the phalanstery, the wellspring of a new society. For the Internationalists, it was a bit of all this and something else as well; those of Proudhonist provenance saw it as a kind of generalised self-management; for others, it was already the rather summary communism they dreamed of; for others again, it was confusedly the dictatorship of the proletariat. For all, except neo-Jacobins and Blanquists, and here we reach the essential, it was the destruction of the existing centralised state and the constitution of a new state that would wither away.

The ideological unity between these tendencies would never go further than an unstable compromise, which would burst open as soon as the Commune took power. This ideological compromise, analysed sociologically, contains elements whose proposals cannot be defined exactly: ideology itself, myth, utopia. These terms have no derogatory meaning. On the contrary: we can assess their effective strength and rationale. There was a myth of the Commune, insofar as for the Communards this word meant the de facto equality both of social groups – towns and villages – and of the individuals in these groups. This was myth insofar as they imagined the possibility of a new kind of broad social contract, immediately and freely substituting state links with links of free association between the contracting parties. It was myth because they referred, consciously or not, to historical facts whose real content was very different from this image. Finally, it was myth because they were prepared to sacrifice themselves to a sacred image of transcendence: the Holy City, desacralised and reconsecrated by the revolution to freedom. It was also utopia, insofar as they dreamed of a new life, established from one day to the next, born ardent and pure in the fire of the Communal revolution and realising communitarian aspirations from one day to the next. Finally, it was ideology, because social reality – praxis – was transposed into an illusory representation, which retained only a part of it and made this into an absolute. The Communards did not think of society as a whole that comprised relationships at different levels, but as a sum of entities: geographical human communities.

The union and interweaving of these disparate elements created an ideological-political ‘complex’ of prodigious power, since it brought together the emotional and the voluntary, dream and thought, past and future. This ideological power, a truly explosive mixture destined to open the way for the most spontaneous forces, contained the seeds of its destruction. The mixture could not fail to burst into heterogeneous fragments when tested in practice.

In terms of the social and political forces that supported such an ideological complex in praxis, we find:

a) a movement of patriotic and national revolt against the invading foreigners, against their accomplices, against the traitors of the defecting government, and against the Bonapartist army and generals held responsible for the defeat;

b) a great movement of republican opinion against the Versailles assembly, rural and conservative (twelve out of its thirteen members were Orleanists);

c) a movement of revolutionary rebellion against the parasitic state, the tyrannical authority of this centralised state and the politicians who belonged to it;

d) a revolutionary movement, with proletarian and socialist content, directed confusedly but genuinely against the bourgeoisie, against capitalism (at the stage then reached in its development), even though with confusion between the social and the political adversary.

The Commune, with its motto ‘France, Republic, Labour’, managed a momentary but effective convergence of these social forces. In an excellent formula of M. Dommanget, ‘The Commune was at the same time the thing and the rallying word, the reality and the sign, the fact and the ideology.’ [2]  It represented both extremism and compromise. It corresponded both to a state of affairs actually achieved during the siege of Paris and to the hope of a radical transformation, using as its means universal suffrage and the transmission of power to known, elected, and revocable representatives. It brought together and combined ‘contradictory, often antagonistic, aspirations scattered in the souls of an over-excited and armed people. Its name alone was enough...’ [3]

The currents of opinion that converged and flowed together into the Commune, and the social forces that supported it, did not correspond to any well-defined social recruitment. While the socialist content of Communard ideology and action came from the existence of the proletariat, its steadfast patriotism could also attract proletarians by origin. This question of social recruitment may not have the importance attributed to it by a naïve sociology. The essential thing is that around a watchword that was seemingly precise yet vague in reality, a unity of action could be achieved, against the ruling bourgeoisie and its state, between the proletariat, artisans, small and medium traders, in other words, between the working class and a fraction of the petty bourgeoisie and middle classes.

It is clear that a premature ideological clarification (inconceivable anyway in the concrete conditions we are examining) would have damaged this unity, to the point of destroying its preconditions. This makes it difficult to support the often expressed hypothesis of the necessity (and lack) of a centralised, monolithic political party, armed with a rigorously coherent ideology and theory.

Let us add that the socialism of the Internationalists oscillated between immediate demands (those concerning night work, reduction of the working day, etc.) and the vision of the universal republic. In the same way, the Blanquists wavered between permanent and pure revolutionary action, appealing to the Hébertist Commune of 1793, and Jacobin centralism, the adversary of Gironde federalism. Neither Blanquists nor Internationalists had a clear theory of the state, though they wanted to break up the existing state and the predominant tendency was towards the creation of a state that would wither away. This was the tendency that prevailed. It did not have a political theory; it was not developed ideologically, let alone conceptually. And this for an excellent reason: the theory of the state withering away, in its full formulation and clarity, would be drawn by Marx from the experience of 1871. This experience was therefore gained in great confusion, from spontaneous and creative life.

Proudhonism and the federative principle

In the first place, Proudhonism is not reducible to such things as credit and mutual insurance, equality through the guarantee of the right to work and education, in a word, reforms. These are rather parts of a larger whole. Marxists who emphasise Proudhonist reformism and idealism are right when they show the inadequacy of these reforms, and wrong when they see only reformism, omitting many other more essential aspects of a much wider doctrine. Secondly, Proudhonism cannot be defined in terms of Proudhon’s philosophical entanglements with Marx, or the temporary concessions he made, in certain phases of his life, to the authoritarian principle of Bonapartism. The idea of a reconstruction of the revolutionary party on the basis of a theory of decentralisation is to a certain extent a response to these accusations, which once again take the part for the whole and the episodic for the essential. There may be a discrepancy between Proudhon as individual and philosopher, and Proudhon’s influence as political thinker. But in 1871 the theory of decentralisation had a revolutionary effectiveness; it entered praxis and made it possible to envisage the transformation of the world. In 1871, practically speaking, the Proudhonists did not disdain the revolutionary action that sprang from the class struggle. It is not even exact to attribute to the Proudhonism of certain men of the Commune (Beslay for example) the respect of the Communards for the Bank of France, their master having expressly advised contrary measures. The notion of decentralisation being again on the agenda, a rehabilitation of Proudhon (as far as one can speak of rehabilitation) is necessary. The failure of 1871 proves nothing, or at least does not prove what people sometimes want it to. It implies neither the revolutionary nor the reformist character of the federalist project, nor again a utopian one in the pejorative sense of the word. If we interpret it this way, the failure of the Commune also compromises Marxism, and still more the theory of proletarian revolution in industrialised countries.

The ultimate goal of Proudhonist doctrine, as a political project, coincides with that of Marxism, the thought of Saint-Simon, and anarchism: the end of the state. Only the means, the policy instruments and stages of implementation, change according to the doctrine. Saint-Simon anticipated the substitution of technocrats for politicians to replace the constraining power over men by the management of things. The Bakuninist anarchists fought for the immediate abolition of the state. The Proudhonists banked on the self-management of groups and individuals. They skipped over a historical period of proletarian dictatorship, which Marx defined precisely as the period that builds a new type of state: in essence, a state that withers away.

This partial coincidence of goals is not enough to explain the compromise of 1871 between the different tendencies in the workers’ movement, because the goal was not yet conscious. Consciousness of the revolutionary project would come precisely from the experience of 1871 and its conceptual elaboration by Marx. On the other hand, the compromise, the confused basis of a kind of ideological-political common front, extended to the Jacobins and neo-Jacobins who were champions of centralisation. This compromise was, in the order of things and people, demanded by the situation. In this specific framework, only the Proudhonist doctrine could and indeed did allow Paris to address the provinces, the workers to address the peasants, by proposing a programme to them. On the other hand, the great idea of the Commune, an idea which the Marxists could not reject, namely the direct democratic management of their affairs by the citizens gathered in councils, commissions and committees, cannot be separated from the Proudhonism which first expressed it.

Blanquists and Jacobins

Blanquists and Blanqui himself were not much concerned with political theory. They were men of action, activists, incorrigible conspirators. Blanqui acted as leader of the Blanquist party, and the Blanquists were grouped around Blanqui. The revolution – a permanent conspiracy – sought to bring down the existing government and bring Blanqui and the Blanquist party to power. The leader of the party was in charge of organising and arming it. When he wrote Instructions pour une prise d’armes [Instructions for an armed uprising], he thought very seriously and deeply about the problems of tactics: insurrection as an art. He did not ponder any further questions but accepted without discussion the historical role of active minorities. Of course, he did think and write a lot. But he always inserted himself immediately into the situation, into political practice, without looking any further ahead. In 1869 and 1870, the Blanquists were courageously anticlerical, anti-plebiscite, anti-war, pacifist. Though not much of a theorist, Blanqui gained immense prestige in action; he exerted on those around him an ascendancy due to his intelligence, his fiery eyes, the flame that devoured a frail body prematurely worn out by prison. When he spoke, he was persuasive. When he wrote, when he protested against the absurd verdicts that condemned him and the slanders made against him, he was eloquent: 

After twenty-five years in prison, when the door of the dungeons half-opened for a moment closes on the few days I have left, I no longer want to go back into my night without speaking my thoughts... I have fought all my life for justice and right against iniquity and privilege, for the oppressed majority against an oppressive minority. Poor and captive I have lived, poor and captive I will die. I believe that no one more than I have the right to say that the unfortunate are my brothers... [4]


The revolutionary and patriotic passion that drove Blanqui did not prevent him from thoughtful reflection and projects when occasion arose. After La Patrie en danger, a newspaper that was hastily typeset with an often faulty presentation, he would publish a concrete and very detailed plan for economic, social and military mobilisation: moving useless mouths out of Paris, requisitioning the necessary resources in the provinces, mass recruitment with rapid training of cadres, all accompanied by figures and budgetary forecasts. [5]

The Blanquists drew their inspiration from memories of 1792-93 and the revolutionary Commune. Those acquainted with Blanqui sometimes called him ‘the old man’, sometimes ‘the Father of the Commune’. When the revolutionary phalanx grouped around him wanted to spread his political thought, it was by reviving the memory of the Hébertists.


The Blanquist movement was initially composed mainly of bohemian intellectuals and students, but it steadily became proletarianised. Some Blanquists used public meetings to recruit among the workers, stressing the defeats of 1848 and 1852. Economic and social demands were associated with political aspirations in Blanquist speech and writings. Victor Jaclard, a future commander of the National Guard, declared himself both a disciple of Blanqui and a ‘rational communist’. Émile Duval maintained at a public meeting in 1869 that it was necessary to suppress ‘this remnant of feudalism which is no longer called nobility but bourgeoisie... We want equality of wages, and the value of each thing be based on the time taken to produce it... We want the application of natural law, equality; we will suppress inheritance, individual property and capital, which cannot exist in labour...’ [6] In a sense, it can be said that the revolutionary and socialist energy of Blanqui’s supporters stimulated those Internationalists who (as we shall see) had denied the importance of political action and focused only on economic reforms and demands.

Outside of any political programme, Blanqui and his followers were distinguished by a burning and brilliant patriotism. This patriotism burst into cries and appeals in the newspaper published by the ‘Enfermé’ during the siege of Paris: La Patrie en danger. [7] There he denounced day by day, with ardent lucidity, the threats against the nation and the dangers coming from treason, cowardice, and the reigning confusion.


The pure patriotism of Blanqui and the Blanquists made them a kind of link between the other tendencies. These tendencies, the Proudhonists, the anarchists, the Internationalists, each had a more or less worked-out programme. In this respect they differed, but they all shared, during the siege, the Blanquists’ patriotism that was passionate more than reasoned. This almost religious patriotism, with no other foundation than the sacred character of the Fatherland, would inspire the great majority of the Central Committee of the National Guard, made up of petty-bourgeois who wanted to fight against the Prussians, defend the Republic and transform it into a true democracy. The irony of history would give this Central Committee a revolutionary role that it did not seek; it would place in its hands a power that at first it did not know what to do with and that it would then hasten to hand over to the elected body, the Paris municipality, which would itself be transformed into the government of the Republic: the Commune. In this confusion, the Blanquists gave the best of themselves. They would show their qualities as men of action, energetic and resolute. Then, faced with a fait accompli, brought to power without a programme or a major political idea, and deprived of their leader, they would prove disappointing. They would contribute to division in the Commune. Obsessed by the memory of ’93, they would succeed in imposing the appointment of a Committee of Public Safety, which would confirm the impotence of the revolutionary power. It was as if they had wanted to prove Marx right when he urged the Parisian proletariat to set aside images of 1792-93.


We need to distinguish here between spontaneity and ideology. Spontaneity, one might say, is anarchistic. It corresponds to an instinctive, negative, and therefore powerfully destructive push against existing institutions, but without a precise objective. It is up to political theory to graft itself onto it and bring it clarity and purpose without destroying it. That is what Lenin understood precisely from the experience of the Commune. The Commune was born spontaneously. Spontaneity, both necessary and insufficient, is susceptible to being crushed ‘spontaneously’; it drifts towards reformist or reactionary positions if it is not guided by political organisation. Still, it should not be scorned or suppressed, because it contains the fundamental impulse without which no revolutionary theory can enter the masses and become a political force.

In 1870 and 1871, the people of Paris spontaneously rose up against the bureaucratic and military state, against the standing army, against the established institutions of police, justice, tax and finance. They had suffered too much from these not to hate them. ‘Only suppress these and we shall immediately embark on a new life, a perpetual celebration of freedom’ – the people of Paris did not and could not go further in political thought. In our opinion, this spontaneity is too rich in meanings and new realities to be reproached for that. 

The anarchists, disciples of Stirner and Bakunin, joined the International. They contributed to bringing it the adhesion of working-class elites and trade-union associations in the big provincial cities, Lyon and Marseille. Considered ideologically, anarchism was strong only in these two cities. It combined with very strong decentralising tendencies, which would go almost as far as separatism with the establishment of the ‘Ligue du Midi’. In Lyon, the royalists (Legitimists) published a newspaper with the title: La Décentralisation. In this same city, an anarchist core exerted a fairly great influence on the workers. In Lyon as in Marseille, the anarchist leaders were first-rate organisers – a rather astonishing contradiction, which we find in the history of the workers’ movement through to the present day, and especially in Spain. Perhaps they knew how to gain personal authority by speaking out against any authority, as strongly as leaders who sought to impose themselves in the name of a doctrine of authority. Such were Bastelica in Marseille and Albert Richard in Lyon. Their ideology was very confused. It seems possible to detect traces of Blanquism and Proudhonism as well as pure anarchising individualism. Marx knew and disliked these eclecticisms, confused as they were, and he even accused certain French workers’ leaders of ‘Stirnerised Proudhonism’. [8] Their ideology boiled down to pure negativity. But why not, if the negative – according to Marx – must precede and herald the ‘positive’? It is true that these anarchists erred as soon as they uttered a constructive thought: ‘Let’s demolish first, and when anarchy has swept away the institutions of the old society – I don’t think the word “anarchy” scares us – the workers’ delegates, at a European congress, will proceed to rebuild,’ the Lyonnais Albert Richard wrote in May 1870.

In the shadows, in Switzerland where he had taken refuge, Bakunin agitated. He blew rage and fury. He combined in an almost absolute state a Promethean, Faustian, titanic and demonic inspiration. Like Blanqui, but always hidden, invisible, he ceaselessly conspired. He sought to unleash the passions. He sought to destroy the state, the Empire, the republic, society. Everything that weighed on the individual and alienated them. Everything and immediately. The revolution he was preparing would be an apocalypse, the end of time and history, immediately decreed. A grandiose and childish dream.

The irony of history had it that it was anarchist militants who launched the first insurrectional movements: in Lyon on 28 September 1870, then in November and December; in Marseille at the end of 1870. Premature and probably doomed to failure in any case, these movements collapsed before Paris rose. But we should not be too quick to accuse the anarchists of adventurism, sectarianism, or isolation from the masses. The provincial communes, which we have already met and will meet again, showed precisely the possible effectiveness of the decentralising programme. And precisely in those regions threatened by authoritarian centralism: the south-west and south-east of France. The spontaneous political genius of the Paris Commune, in my view, was to have broken with traditional state centralism on behalf of the people of the capital, and proposed a decentralising programme. This programme could not but mingle the most varied tendencies: autonomy, separatism, reaction. But the latter was easily distinguishable amid the confusion.

The Internationalists

The First International became in a few years a mass organisation and moved from reformism to revolution. In this metamorphosis, the Inaugural Address written by Marx in 1864 played an indisputable role. The International then became the site of a confrontation between Marx’s thought and the doctrines of Proudhon, the anarchists and Bakunin.

The transformation of the International can be analysed in three ways: by examining the confrontation of positions; by studying the action of its most gifted and active figures, Varlin, Assi, Malou; and by focusing on its practical interventions: strikes, demonstrations, trials. People changed in the course of action, during the trials and the repression that overwhelmed the International until its dissolution. The first leaders – Tolain, for example, who would betray the Commune – were replaced by new men. A general phenomenon, of which the renewal of the International’s cadres is only one example. … However, one cannot reduce to a generational difference what was new in the workers’ movement on the eve of the Commune. That the International had eliminated any survival of the secret societies which before 1848 gave both workers and bourgeois republicans their watchwords is a historical and sociological fact of extreme importance. The reason for this lies not only in the action of leaders or in political ideologies, but essentially in praxis: in working-class struggles, in the class consciousness of the proletariat and in its insertion in a social (historical) consciousness that was slowly but surely changing. We can say with Charles Rihs that on the eve of the Commune a set of opinions was spreading and that these opinions were becoming commonplace: ‘collective ownership of the instruments of labour, economic solidarity, class levelling, in a word, social justice’. [9]

Without eliminating, by a long chalk, all traces of philosophical and political idealism, and retaining both the naivety and the possibilities of action which the idea of justice contains, the people and the working class gradually acquired a new awareness, that of the possible. It was possible to eliminate the bourgeoisie and capitalism, even if the modalities of achieving this did not appear clearly and distinctly. Popular and proletarian spontaneity had been enriched by these new elements, and it was this spontaneity which gave content to ideologies as well as to existing institutional forms and political instruments, including the tradition of the Commune.

‘In 1863, the Internationalists asserted their emancipatory desire through study; in 1870, they declared war on society.’ [10] In 1869, at the Basle congress held from 6 to 12 September, the victory of the revolutionaries was complete. Marxists, Bakuninists and Blanquists, fighting bitterly against Proudhonist-inspired reformism, eliminated ‘mutualist socialism’ (which we should avoid confusing with the federal principle). By 54 votes to 4, with 13 abstentions, the Basle congress passed a resolution proclaiming that society had the right to abolish private ownership of land and the instruments of labour, and transform these into collective property.

This vote did not make the International homogeneous or ‘monolithic’, still less its French section and its local branches. Indeed, the Blanquists flocked to it; the Proudhonists remained and even consolidated their influence in the name of the ‘federative principle’; the Bakuninists continued both their overt actions and their clandestine activities. As for Marxism as an economic and political theory, its influence did not prevail. Perhaps only Varlin sensed the connection between the economic, the social and the political, a connection that demands from political revolution a radical change in the relations of production. Until 1870 he still overestimated the virtues of pure and simple propaganda. [11] Neither he nor Marx’s other correspondents in Paris, Sérailler and Frankel, would make much headway in this knowledge. The French workers’ movement had hardly any theoretical nous. It was only when the workers entered into action that they found themselves in their element. ‘There they are the masters,’ as Engels wrote to Marx on 18 May 1870.

In the revolutionary period, and especially after 18 March, we can see a contrast between the individual action of the Internationalists and that of the International as an association. Could this not be the secret of the riddle, still not completely resolved, of the ineffectiveness of the International? As individuals, Internationalists acted with promptness, speed and authority. They were where they were needed, on the ground, in local or central committees as well as in the Commune itself. Their ideas, their ‘opinions’, they spread among the people. As for the International taken as a whole, it floated between the project of a universal republic (European or global), the communitarian or communalist project, and economic and social demands. It oscillated between pure and simple republicanism and the organisation of the working class by trade (strictly economic). The documents at our disposal (probably incomplete minutes of the meetings of the General Council of the International) seem to indicate these uncertainties, due partly to the lack of homogeneity of the organisation, partly to the absence of a political theory. During the most dramatic period of the siege, the Internationalists were mainly concerned with reorganising themselves, drawing up new statutes and publishing a newspaper. The night work of bakers sometimes interested them more than political revolution, and abstract internationalism more than the situation in France, which they did not always properly appreciate. On 1 March, it was in an individual capacity that the militants of the International joined the mass organisation of the National Guard and its Central Committee. On 23 March, when the Central Committee of the National Guard effectively took power, an action led by the Blanquists as much or more than by the Internationalists (although they cooperated), the Federal Council still hesitated to commit itself fully; if it did commit itself, it was for elections and an elected Commune more than for the revolutionary organism, the armed people and the Central Committee. But on the other hand, on an individual basis, several Internationalists were leaders of local committees, commanded battalions, gave a revolutionary impulse to the Central Committee itself, drafted or signed posters and manifestos.

We can thus understand the perplexities of historians who have studied the International and its activity. [12]

After reading these documents, and not without reservations, we can come to a conclusion regarding the International and the Internationalists. They contributed to giving a revolutionary, socialist and proletarian content to the Paris movement and its direct emanations (the Central Committee, then the Commune), to its ideas and institutional forms (the elected municipality proclaiming itself a republican government). But they did not lead the social forces, prepare or direct the movement. The International tried confusedly to intervene as a political party and was unsuccessful. More a movement than a political organisation, it only vaguely outlined the activity of such a party. The only ideology that offered a political project was federalism, despite all that can be said about the apolitical and reformist character of the Proudhonists. In 1870-71 Proudhon was acclaimed on all sides. [13] The reason for this observation, formulated by two particularly objective Marxist historians, we think we have brought to light.

[1]  Cf. J. Dautry and L. Scheler, Le Comité central républicain des 20 arrondissements de Paris, 1960, p. 85 ff.

[2]  M. Dommanget, Hommes et choses de la Commune, Marseille: Éditions École émancipée, no date. Dommanget himself was inspired by an article that the Communard Félix Pyat published in 1887 in La Semaine sanglante, recalling the motto ‘France, Republic, Labour. ‘It can be said that in history there has perhaps not been a word that has had such a power to bring together different tendencies. Subsequently, however, difficulties arose...’ (op. cit., p. 7).

[3] E. Lepelletier, Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (3 vols), Paris 1911-13, p. 52.

[4]  A. Blanqui, unpublished manuscript, reproduced in M. Dommanget, ‘Blanqui et l’opposition révolutionnaire à la fin du Second Empire’, Cahier des Annales, 1960, p. 39.

[5] A. Blanqui, ‘Un dernier mot’ (undated). Two-page in-folio, Bibliothèque nationale, Lb 57.1104.

[6] Dommanget, Hommes et choses de la Commune, p. 174.

[7] See A. Blanqui, Textes choisis, with an introduction by V. P. Volguine, Éditions Sociales; La Patrie en danger, collection of articles, Paris: Chevalier, 1871.

[8] On the ideology of the Lyon section of the International, cf. the discussions summarised by J. Bruhat, J. Dautry and É. Tersen, La Commune de 1871, Paris 1960, p. 59.

[9] Ch. C. Rihs, La Commune de Paris, sa structure et ses doctrines, Geneva 1955, p. 106.

[10] Ibid. 

[11] Bruhat, Dautry, Tersen, La Commune de 1871, p. 42, make Varlin a Marxist denouncing the Proudhonists. However, Soviet historians of the Commune consider him a ‘left-wing Proudhonist’. Despite the Basle congress, who did not call themselves a Proudhonist in 1871? Cf. Dautry and Scheler, Le Comité central républicain, p. 256.

[12] Les Séances officielles de l’Internationale à Paris pendant le siège de la Commune, Paris: Lachaud, 3rd ed. 1872.

Translated by David Fernbach

The above is an extract from La Proclamation de la Commune: 26 Mars 1871 by Henri Lefebvre, La Fabrique, 2019; first published 1965

[book-strip index="1" style="buy"] [book-strip index="2" style="buy"]
Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche
Henri Lefebvre saw Marx as an ‘unavoidable, necessary, but insufficient starting point’, and always insisted on the importance of Hegel to understanding Marx. Metaphilosophy also suggested the sign...
Critique of Everyday Life
The three-volume text by Henri Lefebvre is perhaps the richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism to emerge from one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers and is now availabl...