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(en) France, UCL AL #312 - Special file Paris 1871, Lyon, Marseille ... failed attempts (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 12 Mar 2021 09:32:14 +0200

The communalist movement did not touch only Paris. The fall of the Empire caused two revolutionary waves: in the fall of 1870, Lyon and Marseille were ahead of the capital, in the spring of 1871, it was the opposite. But Narbonne or Saint-Étienne also proclaimed the Commune. Ephemeral uprisings, which did not help Paris against Versailles. ---- From the news of the first military defeats against the Prussians, the opposition to Napoleon III was agitated. On August 8, 1870, in Marseilles, the crowd took hold of the town hall for a while ; on August 13 in Lyon, a riot at Croix-Rousse left one dead and two injured. On September 4, the two cities proclaimed the Republic a few hours before Paris, and formed committees of public safety. In the Rhône valley and in Provence, the movement is spreading.

The committees send emissaries to neighboring towns, coordinate and eventually federate on September 18: 48 delegates from 13 departments, meeting in Marseille, create the Ligue du Midi to organize the defense against the Germans.

Communalism: towards going beyond the state
In Lyon as in Marseille, the sections of the International Association of Workers (AIT), close to Bakunin, consider that the insurrection is on the agenda. A first attempt was made in Lyon on September 28, it came to an end[1]. On 1 stNovember it was the turn of Marseille, where the crowd seized the town hall. The revolutionaries proclaim the Revolutionary Commune of Marseilles. But the National Guard is divided and, the next day, clashes kill three people. The leaders, frightened by the prospect of a civil war, put an end to the insurrection. On November 3, the army loyal to the government regained control of the situation.

The communalist movement then ebbed, and the Ligue du Midi disappeared from the political landscape. The conditions are not ripe for the installation of popular powers even in large urban centers. The priority is the defense of the country, as well as the unity of the Republicans in the face of the threat of monarchist domination over the National Assembly. However, this first revolutionary wave leaves traces. By making the association of cities the foundation of political life, the communalist movement foreshadows an overtaking of the state, an idea that will resurface at the end of winter.

When the news of the March 18 uprising arrived in Paris, several towns rose up. The Commune is proclaimed in Lyon and Marseille on March 23, on 24 in Nîmes, Narbonne and Le Creusot, on 25 in Toulouse and Saint Étienne, on April 4 in Limoges. But it's a flash in the pan. These insurgencies only last a few hours, a few days at best. Unlike the fall attempts, they fail to expand or coordinate. Isolated, they were unable to resist the Versailles army. The examples of Lyon, Narbonne and Marseille illustrate the sad fate of this second revolutionary wave.

On the evening of March 22, companies of the National Guard seized the town hall of Lyon ; a provisional commission is constituted, and the following day the Commune is proclaimed by way of posters. The new power, weak, undermined by divisions, is unable to handle the situation. Noting that the majority of the National Guard does not move, while the Versailles troops are concentrating troops at the gates of the city, the revolutionary power abdicates on the evening of the 24th. The next day, the army parades in Lyon, the Commune died without a fight. .

Narbonne besieged
In Narbonne, the revolutionary agitation, which began on March 20, bore fruit on the 24th. The armed people seized the town hall, from the balcony of which they proclaimed the "Central municipality of the district of Narbonne". The next day, the soldiers fraternize with the insurgents, and the Communards are masters of the city. They are actively working on contagion to neighboring towns, but Carcassonne, Béziers and Sète do not follow ; the attempts at uprising in Perpignan and Coursan were failures. During this time, the Versailles people raised troops in the region, which besieged Narbonne on the 31st. After clashes which left two dead, the Communards, judging the balance of power too unequal, surrendered.

Émile Digeon (1822-1894)
Leader of the Municipality of Narbonne, then a refugee in Spain, at the beginning of the 1880s he participated in the nascent anarchist movement in France, and was the mentor of a famous libertarian, thinking head of the CGT: Émile Pouget.
Of all the provincial municipalities, Marseille has gone the furthest. Between the capture of the prefecture on March 23 and the crushing of the revolt on April 4, the Communards had time to outline a political program, but not enough to implement it. Revolutionary power, exercised by a departmental commission, is made up of various local progressive forces: moderate republicans (who hold the municipal council), radicals (including the young lawyer Gaston Crémieux) and members of the AIT. From the outset, tensions were high between these factions. At the head of the movement, Crémieux is undecided. The arrival of three delegates from the Paris Commune, on March 27, consolidates the most determined revolutionaries, and leads to a break with the moderates.

The demands of the manifesto of March 31 show continuity with the communalist movement of the autumn: there is a demand for a Constituent Assembly, municipal autonomy and the abolition of prefectures. At the social level, the only decision that the Municipality has time to take is to lower rents with retroactive effect.

A battalion of sailors deployed at Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde against the Communards entrenched in the prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône.
cc The Illustrated World, July 8, 1871
Early in the morning of April 4, the Versailles troops entered the city, and the artillery bombarded the points of resistance. The fiercest fighting takes place around the prefecture. In the evening, the badly armed, badly organized revolutionaries are defeated. The death toll is 150 on the Communard side, 30 on the Versailles side. Marseille submissive, the Paris Commune loses its ultimate hope of breaking the isolation.

Hervé (UCL Marseille)

Illustration: Michel Bakounine, by Nadar.


[1] "1870: Waging war and revolution with Bakunin in Lyon" , Alternative libertaire , September 2020.

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