Soldiers of Revolution

Soldiers of Revolution:The Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune

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How War Gave Birth to Revolution in the 19th century

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 introduced new military technologies, transformed the organization of armies, and upset the continental balance of power, promulgating new regimented ideas of nationhood and conflict resolution more widely. However, the mass armies that became a new standard required mass mobilization and the arming of working people, who exercised a new power through both a German social democracy and popular insurgent French movements. As in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Paris Commune of 1871 grew directly from the discontent among radicalized soldiers and civilians pressed into armed service on behalf of institutions they learned to mistrust. If this militarized class conflict, the brutality of the Commune’s subsequent repression not only butchered the tens of thousands of Parisians but slaughtered an old utopian faith that appeals to reason and morality could resolve social tensions. War among nations became linked to revolution and revolution to armed struggle.

Reviews

  • Mark Lause’s investigation of the link between mass conscription, war and revolution is timely. Many of the classic revolutions and vast movements of social reforms on which the 21st century Left can base its reflection involve soldiers and ex-soldiers: the Paris Commune of course, but also the Russian, German and Chinese revolutions, the rise of social states around 1945 in Britain, France and even the US (around the GI Bill). Mark Lause is well placed to conduct this investigation with his specialization on the US Civil War, the first emergence of Left movements and labor in the mid-nineteenth century, and the lively interactions between the US and European, notably French, Left at the time of Lincoln, Marx and Clemenceau.

    John Barzman
  • This is military history at its broadest and best. Lause captures events and technologies of destruction to be sure but also the regimented labor of war, the soldier’s experience of larger worlds and new comrades, the coming to know of politics as a life and death matter, and the invitation to interrogate national ideals. These transformations set the stage for the for both the Paris Commune and the brutality of its repression.

    David Roediger teaches history at the University of Kansas. He is the author most recently of The Sinking Middle Class
  • Mark Lause’s investigation of the link between mass conscription, war and revolution is timely. Many of the classic revolutions and vast movements of social reforms on which the 21st century Left can base its reflection involve soldiers and ex-soldiers: the Paris Commune of course, but also the Russian, German and Chinese revolutions, the rise of social states around 1945 in Britain, France and even the US (around the GI Bill). Mark Lause is well placed to conduct this investigation with his specialization on the US Civil War, the first emergence of Left movements and labor in the mid-nineteenth century, and the lively interactions between the US and European, notably French, Left at the time of Lincoln, Marx and Clemenceau.

    John Barzman, Université Le Havre Normandie