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(en) France, UCL AL #312 - Special file Paris 1871, For the anarchist Jean Grave, "The Commune legislated, but acted little" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 12 Mar 2021 09:38:25 +0200

What I think of the parliamentary, financial, military and administrative organization of the Municipality can be summed up in very few words. It has been too parliamentary, financial, military, administrative and not revolutionary enough. To begin with, while, every day, the battalions of federates met at their meeting places, awaiting orders to march on Versailles,[...]the central committee[...]only thought of organizing the elections[...]. The elected Commune took care of making laws, decrees, which, for the most part, remained unfulfilled, because those they were targeting saw that the Commune legislated a lot, but acted little.
Revolutionaries !... Yet they believed they were, but in words and parade, only[...]. They were short of money, while hundreds of millions were sleeping at the Bank, and it would have been enough for them to launch against it two or three battalions of National Guards[...].

Jean Grave (1854-1939) was one of the most prominent militants of French anarchism between 1880 and 1914. Too young to play a role in 1870-1871, on the other hand he frequented the former Communards who had become anarchists in France. exile, like Louis Pindy or Élisée Reclus. The final judgments that he allows himself in this text published by {La Revue blanche} in March 1897 can therefore be considered as representative of the opinion that the anarchist movement had of the Commune a quarter of a century later: a failure certainly heroic, but above all a failure, from which the revolutionary movement was to draw lessons.
They voted for the law on hostages and never dared to execute it, while Versailles continued to massacre the federates who fell into its hands. I'm not saying that she should have shot the few gendarmes or obscure priests she had in her hands. Versailles cared very little about it[...]; but it had the cadastre, the mortgage office, the notary's offices, everything that regulates bourgeois property ; if, instead of threatening, the Commune had burned down all the paperwork and seized the Bank, the same bourgeois who insulted the federated prisoners would have forced Thiers to come and apologize to them.

This is because, in a revolution, legality is not only a joke but a hindrance[...]. It is not speeches, paperwork or laws that are needed in revolutionary times, but actions. Instead of voting for the downfall of the fleeing employers, it was necessary to immediately put their workshops in the possession of the workers who would have made them march. And so in everything: instead of a law, a decree, which remained in the state of a dead letter: a fact![...]

They wanted to play the soldier, parade, in the uniforms of Jacobin officers, as if the revolutionaries were to wage a disciplined war.[...]No, even cornered in Paris, they still wanted to practice strategy: they erected enormous barricades which, pointed to face a designated point, were turned by the enemy.[...]It was[yet]so easy to crenellate the houses, to make each of them a fortress[...]. The Municipality respected property ! Versailles, its less scrupulous defender, did not hesitate to open up houses when it was necessary to turn a barricade.

Now, it must be said, the men of the Commune are not responsible for what has not been done. They were of their time, and in their time, if there was a vague sense of socialism, leaders, as soldiers, no one had any clear-cut ideas, so it was fatal that everyone floundered in uncertainty.

Triumphant, the Commune would have become a government like all the others ; it would have taken a new revolution to put it to the ground. Defeated, it synthesized all proletarian aspirations, and gave impetus to the movement of ideas of which we are all the product today.

Illustration: Jean Grave, by Steinlen, 1907.

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