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(en) France, UCL AL #312 - Special file Paris 1871, Gustave Lefrançais (1826-1901), between communalism and anarchism (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 23 Mar 2021 10:28:14 +0200

Among the memorialists of the Commune, Gustave Lefrançais (1826-1901) was among those who drew from the event a revolutionary lesson going in a federalist and self-management direction. ---- When the Paris Commune began, this Angevin teacher, who had become an opposition journalist, already had solid experience as a revolutionary and an outlaw. At 22, inhabited by the legend of 1793, he took part in the revolution of February 1848. The betrayal of the working class II eRepublic and massacres in June have sickened and switches in a more radical camp: that of socialism. A socialism founded on the workers' association, but not exactly Proudhonian, because open to feminism: he collaborated, notably with Jeanne Deroin and Pauline Roland, in an innovative educational program which, published in 1849, earned him revocation.

Exiled for two years in London after Bonaparte's coup, he then returned to France, where he lived from various trades. The authorization of public meetings, in 1868, revealed him to be a speaker - soon to be one of the most listened to on the Parisian market, professing social ideas quite similar to those of Bakunin: collectivization of the means of production, suppression of inheritance, rejection. marriage, free union ...

After the fall of the Empire, he was one of the leaders of the Republican Central Committee of the twenty arrondissements, driven by the AIT, advocating the People's War and denouncing the pusillanimity of the provisional government. A stakeholder in the insurrectionary attempt of October 31, 1870, he once again experienced prison.

Bakuninian tendency
So it is a well-known character, March 28, 1871, was elected to the Commune by the 4 tharrondissement. In his Memories of a Revolutionary (1886), he will tell of having very quickly sensed the inevitable crushing of the Commune, isolated and destitute. However, he is fully committed.

Member of the Labor and Trade Commission, then of the Finance Commission, he unsuccessfully advocates the takeover of the Banque de France, then ranks in the "anti-authoritarian minority" which, in May, opposed the establishment of a committee of public safety. Bloody Week sees him on the barricades of the Bastille, then he manages to take refuge in Switzerland. There, he worked on the railroad, and joined the International Association of Workers (AIT), in the Bakuninian tendency. He will also chair the congress of Saint-Imier, founder of the anti-authoritarian AIT.

His solid Study on the Communalist Movement in Paris in 1871 made a strong impression on Kropotkin, who saw it as a major book. He regretted, for example, that the Commune had insufficiently given "to the citizens themselves, by means of their district assemblies, the care of regulating their collective and local interests". For him, "the central administration should only be the coordinator" and not "the sole judge and director of the interests of all".

Exiled in Switzerland, Lefrançais militated within the anti-authoritarian AIT.
Lefrançais will subsequently be a "traveling companion" of anarchism, without claiming the label. Calling himself a "communalist", he criticized in effect, in his essay Where are the anarchists going ? (1887), the "modern" (anti-patriot, communist) conceptions of anarchism, but also the anti-organizational and illegalist fashion which flourished in the 1880s.

He died on May 16, 1901, at the very thirtieth anniversary of the Commune. Thousands of people will accompany his coffin to the cremation at Père-Lachaise. Eugène Pottier dedicated his famous revolutionary hymn, L'Internationale, to him.

Dominique (UCL Angers)

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