The Last Communard: Adrien Lejeune, the Unexpected Life of a Revolutionary by Gavin Bowd is 50% off until July 4th! Click here to activate the discount.
The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first experience of what a successful workers' revolution could look like, an example of what Karl Marx described as the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
In March of that year, the workers of Paris, organized into the Parisian National Guard, defeated troops sent by France's leader, Louis Thiers. The Paris Commune was elected on March 26 and remained in power for only two months. Thiers and his troops reorganized at Versailles and eventually fought their way back into Paris, where the Communards were crushed in a massive show of violence that took 30,000 workers' lives.
This year marks the 400 anniversary of the birth of one of the great revolutionary democrats of British history, John Lillburne. 200 years before the Chartists and 300 before the universal suffrage became a reality in Britain, ‘freeborn John’ and the Levellers campaigned tirelessly for freedom and justice during the turbulent years of the English Revolution.
In honour of this, and to mark this weekend’s conference to celebrate this life and work at the Bishopsgate Institute (featuring John Rees, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Peter Flannery and more) we have an extract from John Lilburne’s pamphlet ‘England’s New Chains Discovered’. Written in 1649, and thus after the execution of Charles I, the abolition of the House of Lords, and the people being declared the origin of all power by the House of Commons, Lilburne argues that the republican government is reverting to a new form of tyranny. This marked the beginning of the end for the possibilities for radical change that emerged during the great social upheavals of the ‘century of revolution’. Yet, Lilburne’s pamphlet shows that the seeds of liberty still remained. As the incomparable historian of the 17th century Christopher Hill argued, ‘Each generation ... rescues a new area from what its predecessors arrogantly and snobbishly dismissed as 'the lunatic fringe,”’ and perhaps now more than ever can we learn anew from the Leveller’s fight for freedom.