On the Paris Commune: Part 3


Politics beyond the State 

Already in Marx and Engels's lifetime, the most controversial problem raised by the Commune and their analyses of it was the question of the state; or, in other words, the question of the Commune's real nature as a form of political power. This experience seemed to defy all existing classifications — hence why Marx and others after him termed it a 'sphinx'. Indeed, this debate is anything but straightforward. In the first draft of his The Civil War in France, Marx had spoken of the Commune as 'a revolution against the State itself' [1]— not against a particular political regime. But he did not use this formulation in the final version, instead limiting himself to a brief comment remarking that, under a generalised Commune-regime, state power would be 'superseded'. As for the anarchists, Bakunin saw the Paris events as a 'bold, clearly formulated negation of the State'[2]— though he also qualified this assessment later on in the text, as he bemoaned the grip of 'Jacobin' ideas on both the actors in the Commune and the wider Paris population. Kropotkin and a whole new generation of anarchists instead drew the conclusion that, while the Commune had upheld a new ideal, it was much too mired in the 'tradition of the state and representative government'. To this, they counterposed the idea of a communism based on a thoroughly decentralised vision of communal organisation.

In his State and Revolution — one of his most famous texts, long providing revolutionary Marxists with their basic framework for interpreting this question[3] — Lenin closely studied Marx and Engels's writings, and emphasised the Commune's supposed moves to 'smash the state'. For the Bolshevik leader, the Commune represented a 'democracy' which transformed into 'something which is no longer the state proper', for here 'the majority itself can directly fulfil all these functions' which had previously been 'the special institutions of a privileged minority'.[4] He emphatically restated Engels's formulations on communism as the 'withering-away of the state' — itself synonymous with the 'withering-away of democracy', insofar as Lenin (contrary to Engels’s suggestions in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State[5]) considered that 'democracy' necessarily meant a state form.[6] Nonetheless, he added, getting this far would require a 'strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power' and an organisation of political life in which there 'is no departure whatever from centralism' — an idea which he curiously attributed to Marx's discussion of the Commune.[7] Yet, in the conclusion of this text, Lenin then reversed these earlier formulations, stating that 'the Commune was able in the space of a few weeks to start building a new, proletarian state machine'.[8] We should also add that, for Lenin, this new machine — which certainly was meant to be transitional and anti-bureaucratic — also had to rely on an organisation of the economy in which 'All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of the armed workers. All citizens become employees and workers of a single countrywide state “syndicate”'.[9] It then becomes easier to understand the — to say the least — contradictory legacy of this text. It has been read as a quasi-libertarian manifesto, the work of a Lenin who on the eve of the October Revolution dreamt of a soviet power that would make it possible rapidly to get rid of the state. But so, too, as an underhandedly statist line of argument, through which the proclamation of a libertarian objective ('Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing')[10] serves to excuse repressive measures, paving the way for an authoritarian regime. These measures were, admittedly, meant to be temporary — but as history has shown, nothing risks turning out more permanent than the temporary. The problem takes on further levels of complexity if we consider the stance of such convinced 'anti-authoritarians' as the leading Communards Arthur Arnould and Gustave Lefrançais — who have the advantage, over other revolutionaries, that they took part in a real revolution. Drawing the lessons of the Commune, they made the case for a 'dictatorship' over military matters (precisely what the Commune failed to do) and even spoke of a centralisation of public services in the future liberated society, embracing the essential social functions (communications, defence, diplomacy, public services) which would still need to be handled on a national scale.[11] The communism that Lefrançais envisages in his memoirs does not even seem to involve the abolition of the state: as he puts it, 'in future the state would be nothing but the simple expression of the communal interests organised on the basis of solidarity'.[12] Such discussions of the problem suggest that the relationship between means and ends cannot be resolved via a few simple formulae, abstracted from political practice. 

To try and untangle this problem, we will pick up just one of its threads, namely Marx's reflection on the state and revolution. Indeed, this theme runs throughout his writings on France, the main hotbed of the revolutions of the nineteenth century. As he told Kugelmann,[13] the experience of the Commune compelled him to revisit and rework the fundamental conclusion he had reached two decades earlier in the Eighteenth Brumaire. Through the abrupt twists and turns that marked the conjuncture running from February 1848 to the Bonapartist coup d'état, Marx had seen another, much deeper and more 'organic' tendency at work: the history of the formation of the modern state. This process had begun with the absolutist monarchy's efforts to centralise the state; it had then continued with the French Revolution and was completed under Napoleon. But the modern state had further developed under the regimes that followed, including the republican one that emerged from the February 1848 revolution.[14] Thus, behind the varied succession of political regimes, there was a more powerful tendency at work: namely, the construction of an ever denser and more ramified state machine (Staatsmaschinerie), which created a bureaucracy 'whose work is divided and centralized as in a factory'.[15] This machine dispossessed society of its 'common' interests, transforming them into 'an object of government activity'.[16] The 'common' thus became a hypostasised 'general interest' embodied in the state, which moulded and gained mastery over this interest by it by 'snatch[ing]' control over the 'activities' coming from below. This proved much more deep-rooted a process than the multicoloured array of political regimes that came and went according to the vagaries of the conjuncture. Yet, Marx now claimed, if 'all revolutions' of the past had 'perfected this machine instead of breaking it', the revolution of the future — and the 'centralization of the state' it would enact — demanded the demolition of the state machine' [die Zertrümmerung der Staatsmaschinerie].[17] This was a specific aspect of the proletarian revolution which made it impossible to consider it on the model of the bourgeois revolution'. The revolution that would 'raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class', as the Manifesto put it, could not anymore be considered analogous to the rise of the bourgeoisie; it demanded a much deeper rupture with the organisational forms of political power than had hitherto been imagined. 

Yet, while Marx did here resume his reflection on the break of the state machine', he had already begun to revise his vision of revolutionary power on one essential point. In the 1869 edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire he struck out a passage from the original text which had said that 'the demolition of the state apparatus will not endanger centralization'.[18] The experience of almost two decades of intensified Bonapartist centralism — combined with the spread of ideas in favour of centralisation across the spectrum of French republican and socialist forces — led Marx to step away from the pro-centralisation positions that he and Engels had held during the revolutions of 1848. The Communist Manifesto had proclaimed that 'The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class'.[19] The concrete measures spelled out in the ten-point programme that followed listed the sectors that were intended to become part of a state-centralised organisation of the economy (centralised credit and means of transportation, an increased number of 'national factories', and the creation 'industrial armies, especially for agriculture').[20] Over the final phase of the revolutionary period that began in 1848, the German communists' immediate objective continued to be the creation of a republican regime; Marx and Engels insisted on the need for its strict centralisation: 'in opposition to this plan [for a federal republic] the workers must not only strive for one and indivisible German republic, but also, within this republic, for the most decisive centralization of power in the hands of the state authority. They should not let themselves be led astray by empty democratic talk about the freedom of the municipalities, self-government, etc.'[21] They emphasised that 'revolutionary activity ... can only be developed with full efficiency from a central point' and forcefully lay claim to (what they understood to be) the Jacobin model, insisting that '[a]s in France in 1793, it is the task of the genuinely revolutionary party in Germany to carry through the strictest centralization.'[22] 

The Civil War in France revisited and further sharpened this thesis regarding the need for a rupture from the existing state machinery, a thesis which would, in turn, be incorporated into the 1872 preface to the Manifesto.[23] The only such foreword jointly signed by both Marx and Engels, it was written for a new edition which marked the real beginning of the wide circulation of this text. The preface said that if it were to be written again, the ten-point programme would 'in many respects, be very differently worded today'. Marx and Engels referred to two factors which made this part of the text 'antiquated': on the one hand, ' the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848' and, no less importantly, the 'extended organization of the working class', an advance which resulted from the practical experience' of the February 1848 revolution and ' then, still more, in the Paris Commune'. This latter had 'proved one thing especially' — and the Preface cited The Civil War in France on this point — namely, that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes'.[24] This revision thus immediately aimed at a rupture with the 'state machinery' by the revolutionary government which was meant to replace it. But it is also worth noting that there was no reference to the 'smashing' or the 'destruction' of the state in this text, in which Marx and Engels could express themselves free of the restrictions which applied when they wrote collective texts issued in the name of the International. In his — private — letter to Kugelmann, Marx added that 'what our heroic Party comrades in Paris are attempting' was to 'smash' [zerbrechen: to break] 'the bureaucratic-military machine', and that this should be considered 'essential for every real people's revolution on the Continent'.[25]

Let us take a closer look at what the Commune's 'practical experience' was in that respect, as analysed by Marx in The Civil War in France and especially its third, more theoretical part, devoted to discussing the 'character of the Commune'. The start of this section built on the line of argument formulated in The Eighteenth Brumaire, which was summarised in the corresponding part of the first draft. Here, Marx sought to shed light on the historical process that had formed the French bourgeois state, and unravel the mystery of its Bonapartist (Second Empire) form — i.e. a hypertrophied bureaucratic-repressive machinery which had grown autonomous from the bourgeoisie, 'apparently soaring high above society'. In fact, far from standing above the classes, this regime stripped the bourgeoisie of its direct political role while also ensuring an unprecedented development of both its economic power and its domination over labour: 'Imperialism [here in the sense of the Bonapartist regime] is, at the same time, the most prostitute and the ultimate form of the state power which nascent middle class society had commenced to elaborate as a means of its own emancipation from feudalism, and which full-grown bourgeois society had finally transformed into a means for the enslavement of labour by capital.'[26]

Nonetheless, there was a major difference between the first draft and the final version of The Civil War in France. The first draft had proceeded from what we might call the Tocquevillian narrative in the Eighteenth Brumaire, which retraced the emergence of a centralising state which developed under absolutism and whose edification was completed by the Revolution of 1789 and the regimes that followed. Here, 'The first French Revolution with its task to found national unity (to create a nation) ... was, therefore, forced to develop, what absolute monarchy had commenced, the centralization and organization of State power, and to expand the circumference and the attributes of the State power, the number of its tools, its independence, and its supernaturalist sway of real society'.[27] But, in the final version, the 'edifice of the modern state' — centralised and oppressive — was explicitly and exclusively attributed to the period of the 'First Empire', not that of the French Revolution, which was instead hailed as 'the gigantic broom that had swept away all the feudal relics which still served as obstacles to the emergence of the modern state'.[28] Directly echoing the discourse of the Communards, in which Marx had immersed himself throughout these weeks in April-May 1871, the Great Revolution was rehabilitated. Here, Marx cited two dimensions of the French Revolution which the Commune had breathed fresh life into: it was both a moment in which popular initiative was set loose by the demand for 'direct government', and it also meant the emergence of a revolutionary authority of a new type, opening the way to a rebuilding 'from below' of national unity and the internationalist horizon of the universal workers' republic. Before we press on with our reading of The Civil War in France, it is worth adding that in 1885 Engels mounted an explicit self-critique of the conceptions that he and Marx had associated with the French Revolution — and, by extension, the centralising positions they had defended in 1848 to 1850. In a note to the new edition of the March 1850 address to the Communist League, he emphasised that the claim that the 1793 government had 'carr[ied] through the strictest centralization' owed to a 'misunderstanding', which he blamed on 'the Bonapartist and liberal falsifiers of history'. The truth was that 'throughout the revolution up to the eighteenth Brumaire the whole administration of the départements, arrondissements and communes consisted of authorities elected by, the respective constituents themselves, and that these authorities acted with complete freedom within the general state laws'.[29] Engels continued by praising this 'self-government' (Selbstregierung, as he put it in a literal German translation), which Napoleon had hastened to abolish by replacing it with a centralised administration by prefects, ' a pure instrument of reaction from the beginning'.[30]

But let us get back to Marx's analysis of the Commune. The features of this political form, such as they transpire from this text, have been subjected to a number of commentaries. But whether they praise or criticise Marx, they seem to share in the assumption that he made the Commune the model — or rather, the ideal-type — to which any revolutionary authority must conform. Among his disciples, it was Lenin who first introduced this type of reading with his State and Revolution, thus contradicting his earlier positions in which the Commune had specifically served as a negative example of a revolutionary government.[31]

While they recognised its symbolic importance, it would seem that Second International Marxists refrained from taking Commune-form for a functional reference point guiding their vision of the socialist future (and this across all wings of the International, albeit in different ways: the right wing of the SPD was overtly hostile, the left rather more nuanced).[32] The anarchist/libertarian 'communalist' tradition also has its own particular use of the Commune as a reference point, for instance in the work of Murray Bookchin, to take just one recent example. Marx's critics have instead emphasised the fundamental inadequacy of such a model and/or the measure of romanticisation inherent in such an approach — in other words, the gap separating the dream of the Commune from the Commune 'such as it really was'. The term 'transfiguration' — as Jacques Rougerie termed Marx's interpretation of the Commune — is often used, here. But this is to forget that Rougerie himself specified that The Civil War in France, an ‘exposé of Marx's ideas', is a 'transfiguration (not a disfigurement)' of the Commune.[33] And that, on the 'crucial point' of the state and of the political form that would make superseding it an imaginable prospect —  'a project that still endures within the workers' movement', Rougerie wrote in a 1971 article — 'Marx sought to preserve its best aspect'.[34] Indeed, interpretations of Marx's text often pay all too little heed to its status and the unique method that he strove to deploy therein. So, we should remember that The Civil War in France was entirely written 'in the heat of the moment', mainly during the Bloody Week, and that it was a collective text — the Address that the International had some weeks earlier promised to communicate to its members. It is often forgotten that the greater part of this text was devoted to refuting the narrative of the Paris events spread by the international press of the time. In unison with all governments, this newspaper coverage reduced the Commune to an explosion of destructive energies and a succession of apocalyptic images, saturated in references to blazes, 'pétroleuses' and ruins — even if the 'excesses' of repression did discomfit some among the foreign correspondents in Paris.[35] The 'communist plot' attributed to IWMA and its 'chief in London' — Marx — occupied a central place in this narrative. These attacks had the paradoxical effect — if a rather commonplace one in Marx's case — of granting sudden celebrity to their target and contributing (among other factors) to the publishing success of The Civil War in France, such as none of his previous texts had enjoyed.[36]

This function of the text — combined with the fact that it was near-simultaneous to the event it described — itself explains some of the characteristics which it has most been criticised for. For instance, the gap between the almost uniformly laudatory portrait of the Commune in The Civil War in France, and the more realistic assessment we find in Marx's correspondence. To mention just a few examples that often recur in commentaries: in his published text, Marx went no further than point to the 'merely defensive attitude' that the Central Committee of the National Guard had taken in the days following 18 March, even as Versailles was rapidly reorganising its armed forces. He also praised the fact that, under the Commune's authority, 'the proletarian revolution remained ... free from the acts of violence in which the revolutions ... of the “better classes” abound'. Marx even went so far as to attribute the executions of generals Lecomte and Thomas to the 'inveterate habits acquired by the soldiery under the training of the enemies of the working class' — habits which they could hardly shake off overnight when they rallied to the other side.[37] But, in his letters, Marx issued a much harsher assessment of the Commune's military efforts, and judged that, despite the reassuring reports, Serraillier was sending from Paris, the battle was lost since early April. Even more tellingly, where The Civil War in France spoke of the Commune as a 'working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time', his 13 May 1871 letter to Frankel and Varlin instead pointed to the time that had been wasted on 'trivialities and personal quarrels'. These problems were well-known, and Marx's comments echoed debates that the actors in the Commune had themselves been having — for he took particular care to avoid any appearance of laying down lessons. Even his expertise on economic matters was only offered after the Parisian leaders had sought his insight. A text expressing a specifically IWMA point of view, The Civil War in France could thus still less take a stance on questions that had divided the Commune Council and even the International members among its ranks. This was not least true of the divide between a 'majority' and a 'minority' over the question of forming a Comité de salut public — later notes suggest that Marx took a position distant from both camps. Even more tellingly, in his additions to the German translation of Lissagaray's History of the Paris Commune, published in 1877 and subject to a full revision by Marx, he hinted at serious doubts as to the 'working-class' character of the 'Communal government' — an assessment foreshadowing the one that he provided in his 1881 letter to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis in which he wrote 'the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it be'.[38] Doubtless, the antics of the Communard exile community in London and Marx's (and Engels's) own tangles with many of its members had a grave effect in driving this turn.[39] In his additions to the German translation of Lissagaray's text (which he entirely supervised), Marx also damned the Commune's reluctance to make its debates public. It is worth noting that Marx either kept these more critical judgements private or else smuggled them in under another writer's name (as in the case of this translation of Lissagaray's History). In their public texts, Marx and Engels adopted similar formulations to The Civil War in France. Hence in his 1891 introduction to this text, Engels wrote that 'As almost only workers, or recognised representatives of the workers, sat in the Commune, its decisions bore a decidedly proletarian character’.[40]

Moreover, we need to reckon with the fact that, despite the impressive array of sources Marx gathered and the information from Paris he could draw on (inevitably focusing on the urgent demands of the moment), many facets of the Commune escaped his notice. This is especially true of certain aspects that have attracted the attentions of contemporary historians seeking a view of the events 'from below'.[41] Writing in the immediate aftermath of this event, freeing the Communards of the image they had been granted in contemporary reports — painting them as barbaric arsonists — and establishing the facts on the carnage in the streets of Paris, doubtless seemed a more pressing task. 

Should we conclude, then, that Marx and Engels took a deliberately duplicitous approach — combining a public discourse that provided an idealised image of the Commune with another, private one in which they expressed how they 'really' saw things? This would be a rather rash conclusion, overlooking the close relationship between these texts and the conjuncture of which they were part — and the function they were meant to play therein. Introducing The Civil War in France to a German audience in 1891, Engels could hardly have distanced himself from its content — for this would have meant disavowing Marx, whose authority was hardly unchallenged within Social Democracy. He was still less able to do so in a moment in which the SPD's right wing was hard at work in denigrating the Commune, as it sought to reject any notion of a revolutionary rupture in Germany. Yet, as we have seen, while Marx was very much conscious of the Commune's internal tensions and debates, when he analysed its socialisation projects he tried to capture the part of the event that had gone beyond them. This meant grasping the Commune's characteristic element of the unprecedented, in which Marx had seen emerging elements of communism— at least partly going beyond the initial intentions and the consciousness of actors who only 'discovered' this after the fact. In an 1884 letter to Bernstein, Engels summarised Marx's method as follows: 'That the Commune's unconscious tendencies should, in The Civil War, have been credited to it as more or less deliberate plans was justifiable and perhaps even necessary in the circumstances'.[42]Some commentators saw in what Engels says here a certain 'lack of caution' — revealing, in Georges Haupt's words, the problematic character of a 'theoretical model of the Commune based on interpretation and projection'.[43]Or even, as Robert Tombs puts it, a calculated bid to spread 'myths', by 'repeating contemporary propaganda as fact, assuming the actual application of measures that existed only on paper, [and] misinterpreting or exaggerating acts and intentions'.[44]Yet, however critical or polemical they may be, these commentaries also emphasise the necessarily 'interpretative' character of any analysis of the event — the real question being whether it corresponds to the 'projection' of the authors' desires alone, or if it draws on verifiable, tangible elements of the situation. In other words, whether the hypotheses this analysis formulates allow us to explain the processes underlying this event, and give a coherent overall picture which is also able to integrate new elements. 

In his analysis of the Commune as a political form, Marx drew less on the Commune's real achievements — of whose limits, we have seen, he was well aware— than on its 'programme', as articulated by its most emblematic decisions, its proclamations, and in a certain sense its discourse itself. But unlike some, Marx did not consider this discourse a matter of merely rhetorical exercises 'exist[ing] only on paper'. For he was conscious of what one contemporary jurist well grasped, as she delved into the Commune's legislative efforts: 'If for historians, the Paris Commune marked a high point of class struggle and an opening for social  progress, for jurists it could be one of the key moments in the construction of essential juridical notions. For in a revolution words are not only weapons but also "acts" [actes — also in the sense of legal and legislative documents]. The Commune's revolutionary work proceeded by way of discourse and action, discourse made into acts'.[45] If this is so, it refers not to any mysterious 'performative' properties the Commune supposedly had, but to the fact that this discourse was carried forth by the concrete activity of 'masses' in movement. It was their aspirations it translated — even through its uncertainties and limitations — along with the reality of their transformation into historical actors. 

So, it was the Paris masses' aspiration to govern themselves — and, faced with an intransigent adversary, their willingness to commit to a process of social transformation — that allowed Marx to re-elaborate his ideas on the nature of revolutionary government. Two closely linked ideas immediately become central, here. On the one hand, the Commune both confirmed and itself embodied the idea of a rupture with the state machinery. It had not just sketched out but experimented with the first outlines of a different institutional configuration — an expansive form that itself spurred the fight for social emancipation. On the other hand, while this rupture process did emphatically lay claim to the republican tradition and continued on from tendencies that had already surfaced in previous revolutionary moments of, it could hardly be reduced to this alone. The Commune was not simply the 'true', 'Social' Republic of 1848, but also its transcendence in favour of something new. Indeed, it allowed this something new to be given a name — an adequate name, if perhaps also a temporary one. 

Let us begin with this second aspect. In The Civil War in France, Marx had defined the Commune's relationship with the Republic as follows: 'The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune. The cry of “social republic,” with which the February Revolution was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to super[s]ede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic.'[46] A passage in the first draft further explained this idea: 'The Republic had ceased to be a name for a thing of the past. It was impregnated with a new world. Its real tendency, veiled from the eye of the world through the deceptions, the lies and the vulgarizing of a pack of intriguing lawyers and word fencers, came again and again to the surface in the spasmodic movements of the Paris working classes (and the South of France) whose watchword was always the same, the Commune!'[47] Fully conscious of the Communards' ardent republicanism and the omnipresent references to 1789-93 and 1848 — and doubtless impressed by this — Marx identified elements of both continuity and rupture. There was continuity, with the sans-culotte demand for direct government, but also with the energy of the revolutionary assemblies. As we have seen, this led Marx to revise his views regarding the role of the Great Revolution in the emergence of the bourgeois state. There was a further continuity with the first expression of proletarian aspirations, as crystallised in the 1848-inspired  call for a 'Social Republic'. But most importantly, there was a rupture. For this was not simply a matter of changing France's political regime, but of putting an end to class domination, including that domination perpetuated under a republican order. But such a task could not be fully conceived — and thus fully realised — with (and within) the old words. Between the Republic (even if given an added 'social' aspect) and the Commune, there was a great rift produced by the rupture with the old state machine, by way of the masses' direct action. And this rupture was the necessary condition if the Commune was to prepare the way for the abolition of class domination. In a sense Marx here provided a pre-emptive response to Jean Jaurès's 'synthesis' between socialism and republicanism, by revealing its true nature, as an attempt to integrate the workers' movement into a Republic whose fundamental structures were unchanged, on the grounds that the very concept of ‘Republic’ was supposedly open to the realisation of the 'socialist ideal'. For Jaurès, socialism was indeed essentially a matter of 'ideals' and the republican synthesis he professed marched his synthesis between the 'materialist' and 'idealist' conceptions of history such as he understood them, i.e. a synthesis between the effect of economic factors and the action of humans driven by their consciousness toward 'an intelligible direction and an ideal sense', thus realising their human essence.[48] For Marx, conversely, the Commune — 'the positive form of that republic', the 'Social' republic dreamed of in 1848 — was summoned to replace it. The Commune heralded the 'new world' with which the Republic had been pregnant; it still saw itself in connection with the republican form, with which it identified more than anything, but its own dynamic pointed further. The Commune, wrote Marx, 'supplied the republic with the basis of really democratic institutions. But neither cheap government nor the “true republic” was its ultimate aim; they were its mere concomitants.'[49] He continued — in the passage we have here discussed at some length — by unveiling its 'true secret', namely that it was 'essentially a working class government', 'the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour'.[50] But, as we have also seen, the Commune was 'not the social movement of the working class ... but the organized means of action'; and on this basis, we can also think that, being a mediation, it was itself nothing but a temporary name, destined itself to be superseded in the course of the long process that 'affords the rational medium in which that class struggle can run through its different phases in the most rational and humane way'.[51] In worldly history and politics, no name — however necessary in a given moment — should indeed be considered final.

'Smashing'  and/or 'transforming' the state machine?

As a positive form of the 'social republic', the experience of the Commune made it possible to grasp concretely what happens to the pre-existing state machine during a social revolution of a new type. For this was a revolution that gave rise to a 'thoroughly expansive political form', making the emancipation of labour an effective possibility. At this point, we should start with a terminological clarification: the 12 April 1871 letter to Kugelmann spoke of the need to 'smash' (zerbrechen) the political-military machine and referred to his Eighteenth Brumaire, in which Marx had used the terms 'breaking' (brechen) and 'destruction/demolition' (Zertrümmerung). The first draft of the Civil War in France again employed this strongly anti-statist terminology: 'It was not a revolution to transfer it from one fraction of the ruling classes to the other, but a revolution to break down this horrid machinery of class domination itself';[52] the same verb (to break) also appeared three further times in Marx's preparatory manuscript. Yet, in the final version of The Civil War France — in a passage also incorporated into the 1871 preface to the Communist Manifesto —, Marx did not speak of 'breaking' the state as such, instead declaring that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes'.[53] This formulation implied the need for a transformation of the state machine, rather than its destruction. He kept the term 'destruction', but now with reference to 'the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excres[c]ence.'[54] This would suggest that the Tocquevillian terms which Marx had used to characterise the state in his draft manuscript were closely bound up with his disgust at the Bonapartist ‘imperial’ regime. He defined the Commune as the '[t]he direct antithesis to the Empire' — not to the state per se, or even to the bourgeois republic. Moreover, to 'destroy' a 'state power' or destroy the 'state machine' is not the same thing as 'smashing the state': a 'state power' could break and collapse (like Napoleon I's First Empire, for instance) without its underlying material apparatus being destroyed. Indeed, this is the thrust of Marx's own exposition, which underscores the continuity of the state machine, notwithstanding the varied succession of regimes that had come and gone since. 

So, how are we to interpret this shift in Marx's reasoning? Did it simply express a desire to soften the more personal, exploratory formulations he had advanced in his first draft, now that he was writing a text on behalf of the IWMA as a whole? Did it reflect a measure of uncertainty and/or ambivalence in his thinking? It is worth noting that the only subsequent text in which Marx revisited the question of the state as a theoretical problem — the Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) — spoke only of 'transforming the state'. Largely devoted to refuting Lassallean statist socialism, this text called the 'transition period' between capitalist society and communism the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. It defined this transformation as the radical reduction of the state's autonomy from society, i.e. as the process that 'convert[ed] the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it'.[55] 'The question then arises', Marx continues, of 'what social functions will remain in existence [in a communist society] that are analogous to present state functions?' This idea continues in line with formulations in The Civil War in France referring to the 'legitimate functions' of the 'old governmental power' which had 'to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society'.[56] In very similar terms, the first draft spoke of how the Commune had made 'the public functions — military, administrative, political — real workmen’s functions, instead of the hidden attributes of a trained caste)',[57] thus expressing the idea of a debureaucratisation process that would transform the state's functions. This debureaucratisation was not so much a total deprofessionalisation of these functions (even if it did mean simplifying and reducing them as far as possible) as of subjecting them to social control and the principle of public accountability. It was also clear that this transformation would entail a clear rupture with the state's repressive functions in particular; this really was a matter of 'breaking' the state machine, leading as it did to the dismantling of the repressive state apparatuses. So, here, the important thing is to understand the nature of a revolutionary government, its relationship with the state, and its relationship with the 'mass' political practices that accompany its emergence but seem doomed to perish once it has consolidated itself. To try to shed some light on this question — one on which a lot of ink has been spilt already, through many and varied interpretations — we need to delve more deeply into both Marx's text and the historical reality of the Commune. The portrait of the Commune in the third part of The Civil War in France points us in two main directions, in this regard, which we will each examine in turn: firstly, the historical development of the state machinery itself, and then, in the next section, the institutional project that the Commune designed and carried forth. 

Let us begin with the measures that fulfilled the Commune's transformation of - or rupture - with the 'bureaucratic-military machine'. 'The first decree of the Commune', Marx notes, 'was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.'[58] In issuing this 30 March 1871 decree, the Commune was confirming what was already a fait accompli, given the flight of the Versailles government following the 18 March insurrection, and the de facto seizure of power by the Central Committee of the National Guard, which had just given its mandate back to the Commune. This, moreover, corresponded to the demand for the abolition of the standing army, common among the advanced wing of the republican movement and widespread among the opposition to the Second Empire. Indeed, the 'Belleville programme' underpinning Gambetta's election in 1869 had called the standing army a 'cause of ruin for the nation's finances and its affairs, a source of hatred among peoples and of domestic mistrust'.[59] These same sentiments would drive the Commune's single most symbolic action, the destruction of the Vendôme Column; the 12 April decree announcing this move termed the Column 'a monument to barbarism, a symbol of brute force and false glory, an assertion of militarism, a negation of international right, a permanent insult by the victors against the defeated, and a perpetual attack on fraternity, one of the three great principles of the French Republic'. It is worth adding, here, that the first decree on the abolition of the standing army was complemented by a further one in which the Commune ordered the 'employees of the various public services' to 'henceforth take for null and void all orders or communications emanating from the Versailles government or its members', explaining that 'any functionary or employee not confirming to this decree will be immediately dismissed'. The following day, in its electoral commission's report, the Commune refused all recognition of National Assembly's authority and issued a ban on dual membership of both bodies.[60] Tellingly, this same text proclaimed that foreigners — meaning, Léo Frankel — were admitted to its own General Council, 'considering that the Commune's flag is that of the Universal Republic' and that 'every city has the right to grant the title of citizen to the foreigners who serve it'. The Commune thus declared itself the only legitimate power in the capital and, calling on other towns and cities to rally to its side, established a de facto dual power situation nationally. Moreover, as Jacques Rougerie notes — citing the notification to foreign governments issued by its 'delegate for foreign relations',[61] Paschal Grousset — 'to settle an old debate, the Commune did indeed consider itself a government of the City'.[62] Its official organ's full title was Journal officiel de la République française — the official organ of the French Republic, not 'of the Commune', as historians often cite it. Yet the Commune refrained from touching the Bank of France's reserves, on the grounds that 'they belong to France'.[63] Here, we can see the fundamental uncertainty over the character of this new regime, even in the actors' own understanding. While some, reflecting on these events' meaning after the fact, considered that 'the Paris Commune expressed, personified, the first application of the anti-governmental principle', or that its 'its mission was to make power itself disappear, if it was not to betray its first pronouncements',[64] it still had to be recognised that very quickly 'it had become — deliberately or not — a government with its assemblies, its army, its Journal officiel, and when it did agree to deal with Versailles it did so as one government to another' (as Jeanne Gaillard puts it).[65] Decisively, this was a government based on a considerable military force — the Paris National Guard, with its almost 150,000 armed men, which 'always retained a deeply democratic and political character, and the trappings of a club or union'.[66] The fédérés elected both their officers and delegates who served as their spokesmen. They took initiatives and discussed the orders they had received — often rejecting them. Doubtless, this also served to undermine the National Guard's military efficacy and contributed no little to the final tragedy. But there is also no doubt that this is also the point where we see the Commune's clearest rupture with the state logic. Here we can again cite Robert Tombs, on the terrain where he is most reliable: 'the National Guard perhaps represented a rare thing in history: a genuine citizen army that citizens were bound to serve in, but without the high command having to force them; incapable of strict discipline, but having a sense of duty and solidarity; an unusual army that refused to use capital punishment to enforce discipline in its ranks'.[67]

While the Commune was an armed power, it set itself a resolutely anti-bureaucratic agenda. Marx cites two telling measures in this sense: firstly, the extension of the principle of election and recall to civil servants, including those who made up the repressive apparatus (the police and justice system); and, secondly, the introduction of a 'worker's wage' for all public service roles, even the very top posts. What evidence was Marx basing himself on, here? In the second case, he could simply draw on the 2 April decree in which 'considering that in a really democratic Republic there can be no sinecure or excessive stipend' the Commune 'decree[d that] ...  the maximum stipend for employees of the various communal services is fixed at six thousand francs per annum'.[68] It has often been observed — sometimes rather wryly[69] — that this was around triple the salary of a skilled worker: the mean annual wage of a Parisian worker at the time was of the order of 1,500 francs, and that of a director of a municipally owned company (like the Tobacco Board) 4,000 — hence below the ceiling established by the new regime. It seems clear that, faced with the flight of a large proportion of upper-ranking management personnel — a classic problem in all revolutions —, the Commune sought to avoid any punitive pay cuts and instead stopped at vigilance against abuses and banning individuals from taking on multiple posts. It, moreover, sought to grant greater value to emblematic social functions, by doubling stipends for school teachers, which were raised to 2,000 francs a year; it also set at an equal rate for both men and women teachers. The Commune itself set a good example by fixing the allowance for its Council members at 15 francs a day (i.e. a little over 3,000 a year): an amount that Arthur Arnould judged 'more or less' equivalent 'to what an excellent, intelligent and industrious worker would earn in a good trade in Paris'.[70] There was doubtless a certain desire to reduce the wage gap: but the 'cheap government' cited in The Civil War in France owed more to the need to keep public services running with reduced numbers of personnel, and a determination to cut out corruption, than a levelling of salaries. Marx implicitly recognised as much, when he noted that '[t]he vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves.'[71]

Important though it was, the question of stipends nonetheless remained subordinate to another, more structural problem — the effort to make public functionaries 'responsible and revocable'. For Marx, this would make it possible to stop public functions being the 'private property of the tools of the Central Government'; 'Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.'[72] But on what grounds could Marx assert these principles — which, it is worth underlining, corresponded in good measure to the principles of self-government in the English-speaking countries, where sheriffs and a substantial share of magistrates were elected? The election and recallability of public functionaries and elected officials made up demands widespread among the forces who supported the Commune, and among advanced republican currents more broadly. The Committee of the Twenty Arrondissements, which resurfaced with its Manifesto published on 26 March, spelled out its great foundational principles (republicanism, fundamental freedoms, a full popular sovereignty based on universal suffrage) before setting out how they could be enacted:

The principle of election applies to all public functionaries or magistrates.

The accountability of those holding mandates, and, therefore, their permanent recallability.

Binding mandates, specifying and limiting the power and the missions of those who hold them.[73]

But even the 'Belleville programme' of 1869 — the banner upheld by the 'radical' wing of bourgeois republicanism — demanded 'the direct accountability of all functionaries' and the 'appointment of all public functionaries by election'.[74] The 19 March Declaration to the French People was less categorical in extending the election principle, but it did — decisively — add the principle of recallability. The Commune sought to establish 'The choice by election or competition of magistrates and communal functionaries of all orders, as well as the permanent right of control and revocation.'[75] Moreover, some of the socialist programmes that circulated during the 26 March elections for the Commune Council envisaged a combination of elections with established competitive recruitment processes.[76] 

Of the two principles mentioned in the 19 April Declaration, the only one toward which concrete steps were made was the principle of competitive examinations, though even this was never truly put into practice. In reality, other logics guided the recruitment of the Commune's administrative personnel, from the informal (neighbours, mutual connections) to the more traditional (invoking expertise or 'objective' criteria like educational qualifications) or even more directly political ones. Historical studies well as some of the accounts by actors in the Commune (first and foremost, Jules Andrieu, the Paris communal administration's head of personnel from late March and from 20 April a delegate to the Public Services Commission) give more specific insights into the concrete functioning of the Paris administrative machine under the Commune.[77] The new government's main challenge was, quite simply, to provide for the vital functions of a large city under a state of siege, after a significant part of its functionaries had deserted it upon Thiers's instructions.

According to Lissagaray, the municipal services 'were all carried on with a fourth part of their ordinary numerical strength'— but this figure seems like a significant under-estimate, and it is also unverifiable.[78] We may think, like Gustave Lefrançais, that if the new regime initially had rather ill-defined ambitions (an assembly demanding expanded 'municipal franchises' in parliament, or else a real 'government' legitimated through revolution?) precisely what made it embrace its own role and radicalise was its need to take these concrete problems in hand: 'this decision by Versailles [to dismiss any functionary who did not leave Paris for Versailles] would bring us out of the framing that we had initially set ourselves and force us to stick our nose into state affairs ... We took to the broader path not of a simple communalist revolution, but of the real revolution; the revolution proposing not only the political and administrative emancipation of the communes, but also the economic emancipation of the workers — finally, the social revolution'.[79] 

The question this poses then becomes: what progress in this direction did the Commune actually make? This is not an easy question to answer, considering both the brevity of this experience and the unique circumstances in which it arose (though it is also true that, by definition, any revolution is bound to be confronted by extremely adverse conditions). Andrieu's account gives an impression of great disorganisation, inefficiency and endless disputes over the limits of different areas of responsibility. But his comments are doubtless also coloured by his frustration at having seen his proposals for administrative reorganisation rebuffed — and, especially, by his own particular viewpoint as an administrator professing what we would today term a 'technocratic' conception of his job. Openly hostile to the principle of electing functionaries and the emphasis on social revolution, more than sceptical of workers' ability to take on management functions, and concerned to keep as many of the existing functionaries as possible in their posts, Andrieu demanded a greater centralisation of power in his own hands (he spoke of 'turning the Haussmann plan inside-out' and of 'using centralisation against itself')[80] even as he asserted the need for a mode of governance that combined centralisation and decentralisation and granted a large measure of autonomy to the municipal level. According to Andrieu, the 'national council' that he wanted to crown a future Republic's institutions should draw 'only on learned, philosophical minds of expansive culture'.[81] As Maximilien Rubel, who published this manuscript in 1971, soberly notes, 'Andrieu, both an actor and a judge, did not see the Commune as a workers' government and still less the negation, the abolition of the state'.[82] It is unsurprising that such a figure should have found himself in a doubly awkward position in insurgent Paris,  caught between the decentralised and often confused logics of the action coming from below, and the lack of sufficiently assertive leadership from above. This situation led him to conclude that 'the Commune needed administrators but it was overflowing with men who wanted to govern it. The gap between the two is greater than that between a mathematician and a dancer'.[83]

Yet, according to other important accounts, the administration of the Commune was far from disastrous. Lissagaray, who was hardly prone to idealise the Commune and did not spare it from criticism on many accounts (its military affairs of course, but also its handling of police, justice and education) states that, overall, 'the municipal services did not overly suffer' and that they 'were managed with skill and economy ... by workmen, subordinate employees'.[84] Recent research by historians, taking as their sample the individuals prosecuted after the Commune for 'usurping public functions', also attests to this tendency toward the 'plebeianisation' of such posts.[85] Lissagaray draws a particularly positive assessment of the Albert Theisz's management of the postal service and Zéphirin Camélinat's handling of the Commune's money supply (both of these men were workers in artistic trades), as well as public welfare and health, the telegraphs, the national printworks, the services connected to finances, and, more generally, the Labour and Exchange Commission we have already spoken about in some detail. And it is worth underlining that everyday life went on without major impediments, despite the ever-tightening siege with its vice-like grip on Paris: the food supply remained stable, theatres, shops, cafés, museums and libraries were open and public safety protected. This is confirmed by accounts by contemporaries who stayed in the city over this period, far from all of them sympathetic to the Commune.[86] Ultimately, Andrieu himself was not ever so unhappy at the results of his work reorganising the cemeteries or ensuring the continuity of the gas and lighting service.[87] 

If the Commune avoided chaos — certainly no mean feat — were the routines and the habits of the administrative apparatus which the new regime inherited actually transformed? Was there any concrete progress in carrying out the debureaucratisation mentioned in The Civil War in France? Here, the picture looks rather mixed. Elections for functionaries did not become a reality, or they did so only to a marginal extent, and plans for competitive examinations were also frustrated for lack of time. But telling in this regard were the written tests for those who had applied to become National Guard officers, held a week before the Versailles troops entered Paris; the choice of subjects expressed an evident desire to test out the candidates' political convictions, at least when it came to filling such sensitive roles.[88] But the Commune more drew on 'apolitical' criteria in its efforts to incentivise already-established functionaries to remain in post or to take on new responsibilities (like ‘serving  the general interest', or keeping trust in a competent superior).[89] So even if, as Deluermoz and Foa suggest, there was a longer-term project to create a properly 'Commune' functionary who combined political loyalty and an impersonal logic of public service,[90] its definition appears at least rather fluid. Concretely speaking, the continuity of the city administration and public services was fulfilled through a hybrid logic of ad hoc reorganisation, militant mobilisation, informal means of recruitment, 'meritocratic' appeals to expertise... and a great deal of improvisation. Eugène Protot, a lawyer delegated to the Justice commission, had no time to implement the proposed reforms — there was even discontent that he had not immediately made the justice system free of charge. In some municipally owned companies, and, in particular, the postal service and the Louvre arms factory, there was a genuine attempt to promote workers' participation in management and to challenge the previous hierarchical relations. But the actual results on this second score are disputed; and, looking at the overall picture, these were exceptional cases. The Commune’s personnel’s concrete actions present a similarly mixed picture; they greatly depended on local and neighbourhood dynamics, whose decisive influence on Commune-era Paris can hardly be overstated. The logic of ad hoc revolutionary measures (for instance the requisition of housing and the arrest of priests) sat side-by-side with a — sometimes ostensible — respect for legal forms, but also a seemingly temporary redefinition of public functions and their remit. These practices had to be enacted in both hostile environments (as in bourgeois neighbourhoods) and more favourable terrain, in working-class areas, where 'the authorities seemed more integrated into the local fabric and the inhabitants' lifestyle ... and where the transformation of everyday relations went further, if not without friction'.[91] 

This was especially true of policing. According to Marx, '[i]nstead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration'.[92] Such a claim clearly corresponds to the need to defend the Commune, in a time and a context where the Communards were presented as bloodthirsty criminals responsible for all manner of destruction and the mass execution of hostages. The reality is that the Commune had little control over the central policing institution, renamed the 'ex-prefecture'; it was entrusted to Blanquist cadres (headed by Raoult Rigault, then, from 24 April, Théophile Ferré) who were left to their own devices. This police mounted a necessary — if often ineffective — hunt for Bonapartist agents and Versaillais spies, but it was also prone to arbitrary acts and excesses, in particular, anti-clerical attacks. This reflected both a certain Blanquist obsession and the 'priest-hatred' that so animated the Parisian popular classes of the time. In early April, Lefrançais and Delescluze demanded Rigault's immediate replacement, while Protot, himself an ardent Blanquist, took a number of initiatives to limit Rigault's power, ensure respect for procedure during arrests and release people who had been arbitrarily arrested. Lissagaray and Andrieu, among others, passed a very severe judgement on the police's work.[93]

But it would be illusory to imagine that the 'ex-prefecture' controlled everything that was going on in the city. On the ground, a form of 'citizens' police' was created in the neighbourhoods sympathetic to the Commune, combining police commissioners with National Guards and local residents. If these self-organised security functions generally did allow for public safety to be protected, they also gave rise to abuses and — allied to a certain vagueness over legal procedures — a form of 'complete politicisation of social life' that even led at times to personalised score settling.[94] But we should be careful not to exaggerate the extent of such practices. Somewhere between 1,400 and 3,500 people were arrested at some point during the two months of communalist power[95] — and this in an insurgent city with almost two million inhabitants, under siege conditions and a permanent state of military confrontation. 

Overall, then, the landscape of the real transformation of the state machinery under the Commune appears rather uneven, also foreshadowing in that respect certain important features of the revolutionary experiences of the twentieth century. On the one hand, we can see a sharp rupture in the repressive apparatuses (except for the judiciary), and even a radical rupture when it came to the army — the sole case where we can say that a new institution built on citizens' self-organisation took over from the old apparatus. But this came at much too high a price in terms of military effectiveness; the Commune's military high command proved technically but — even more importantly — politically incapable of commanding a popular army of this kind. The transformation of the administrative machine was far more modest and largely appears the product of circumstances imposed by the government's flight to Versailles and the pressure imposed by the new siege. This machine's actual effectiveness was more satisfactory, though also mixed: its political mobilisation ensured the continuity of the services essential to the capital's social and economic life, notwithstanding the unprecedented difficulties posed by this situation. All the same, elements of qualitative transformation did begin to emerge, with a strong tendency toward the 'plebeianisation' of upper administrative positions and some — limited, but real — cases of the democratisation of public services and municipally owned firms.


Changing power: from communal autonomy to the producers' self-government 

Much more than the organisation of everyday life or the development of the city administration (apart from the role of the National Guard) the key focus of contemporaries' attention was the institutional dimension of the Paris Commune's project, as expressed by its very name. Marx's portrayal of this question in his The Civil War in France, which was largely based on the 19 April Déclaration, centres on two structuring ideas. 

First, a rupture with what we might call 'parliamentarism'. Based on the principles of binding mandates and the recallability of elected representatives, this rupture sought to reduce if not abolish outright the distance created by relations of representation. This change was allied to the Commune's determination to transform the functioning of the communal assembly itself, by making it 'a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.' These were complemented by another principle which Marx credited the Commune with having accomplished; namely, that of making its debates fully public and thus allowing for mistaken decisions to be rectified.

The second idea was based on the principle of a radical decentralisation of power. This underpinned the idea of the Commune as the 'direct antithesis to the Empire' and its oppressive and corrupt centralising state. This principle of communal autonomy would then be generalised across the national territory, allowing a refoundation of national unity from below. This institutional architecture was to be crowned by a pyramid-like system of delegation based on universal suffrage; this was meant to take in hand the 'few but important functions which would still remain for a central government'.

It is difficult — and largely pointless — to try and separate Marx's ideas from the Commune's own, a large share of which were also shared among republican currents more generally. Both decentralisation and distrust toward parliamentarism were recurrent themes in the democratic and socialist thinking of the time. These sentiments expressed the lessons of the failure of the republic which had emerged from the 1848 revolution, which saw an assembly elected by (male-only) ‘universal’ suffrage crushing the insurgent workers in the June Days, and then committing to an authoritarian, conservative path which directly led to Bonapartism. Marx thus damned 'parliamentarism' by noting that 'its last term and fullest sway was the Parliamentary Republic from May 1848 to the coup d’état. The Empire that killed it, was its own creation'.[96] But, in so doing, he was voicing a conclusion to which many republicans well beyond socialist ranks could have subscribed.

The ardent desire for a Republic and genuinely ‘universal’ (although still male) suffrage was not, therefore, synonymous with blind faith in the virtues of a parliament. Or, more accurately, it did not imply any illusion that such an assembly would alone suffice to make a democratic system viable, not least given that the Second Empire had itself restored a façade of parliamentarism with a bicameral system that preserved the reality of Bonapartist power. The idea of strengthening the power of the communes (municipalities) — the basic unit of the French institutional structure since the Revolution — thus appeared as a necessary means for endowing a republican order with deeper roots, especially given that throughout the final decade of the Empire the cities had constantly expressed their own republican impulses. This process can also be read as a translation of France's socio-economic and institutional transformations under the Second Empire, as expressed in the progress of urbanisation, the consolidation of a provincial bourgeoisie and — helped by the regime's own liberalisation measures — the growth in the political importance of the municipal tier of government. This made its suppression in the capital all the more difficult to tolerate.[97] The commune as an idea — from the municipal commune to the Paris capital-C Commune —was thus a shared point of reference for all forces seeking a political form that could be a true 'antithesis to the [Bonapartist] Empire' and its centralising and oppressive state.

But, while both the Commune and Marx's reading of it made up part of a broader movement, they nonetheless proposed a radicalised and properly revolutionary version of these ideas. This marked them apart from bourgeois republicanism, even in its most advanced variants. The cleavage is well illustrated by Marx's idea of a communal assembly as a both legislative and executive working body. This is sometimes reduced to a straightforward denial of the classic constitutionalist separation of powers; according to the champions of political liberalism, it allows us to glimpse an authoritarian or even totalitarian propensity in Marx's thinking.[98] Some Marxists lean in the same direction, seeing in this formulation 'a confusion between the notion of the withering away of the state as a separate body parasitic [on society] and the notion of the disappearance of politics in favour of a simple self-administration of things or social life'.[99] In this view, Marx sought to fuse administrative and political functions, and in practice this meant collapsing the latter into the former in order to produce what Engels famously called in the Anti-Dühring a simple 'administration of things'.[100] On this reading, for want of a proper distinction between the two kinds of functions, this depoliticising vision had ultimately served as a justification for ever-expanding bureaucratisation under Soviet socialism.[101] Yet, as we have seen, Marx saw the Commune as a 'thoroughly expansive political form' making it possible to wage the fight for the emancipation of labour — so, quite the opposite of a technocratic depoliticisation of social life. As for bureaucratic functions, the point was not to abolish them — that is, when they were necessary to social life itself — but rather to debureaucratise them by setting them under popular and public control. This was the alternative to abandoning the monopoly on these functions up to a hierarchical caste of functionaries, concerned to defend their privileges and working at a remove from of any kind of scrutiny by society.

To better understand what Marx meant by this formulation, we should begin by clarifying what he meant by the — obviously pejorative — term 'parliamentarism'. [102] Indeed, this term referred not to the existence of parliaments, or to their power, but rather to their impotence, which resulted from the structural transformations of the bourgeois state over the course of its historical evolution. A passage in the first draft of The Civil War in France well summarises this idea: 'the State machinery and parliamentarism are not the real life of the ruling classes, but only the organized general organs of their dominion, the political guarantees and forms and expressions of the old order of things.'[103] In other words, the true centre of the ruling class's power, the place where its real policy was articulated, was neither the bureaucratic machine nor parliament, even if this was the site where it had first asserted itself in the early phase of the bourgeois revolutions in Britain and France. But where was it, then? In the executive, which now dominated the legislative branch of government and concentrated political decision-making in its own hands, protecting it from popular pressure far more effectively than any assembly could. This was the mechanism that had led the Constituent Assembly of 1848 to scuttle its own authority and pave the way for Louis Bonaparte, the very incarnation of the all-powerful executive. As Marx put it, 'In their uninterrupted crusade against the producing masses, they were, however, bound not only to invest the executive with continually increased powers of repression, but at the same time to divest their own parliamentary stronghold – the National Assembly – one by one, of all its own means of defence against the Executive. The Executive, in the person of Louis Bonaparte, turned them out. The natural offspring of the “Party of Order” republic was the Second Empire.'[104] In this sense the critique of parliamentary impotence was related to the denunciation of 'parliamentary cretinism' — i.e. the outlook of those trapped within the exaggeratedly dramatised forms of political representation. The Eighteenth Brumaire had mocked this as 'that peculiar malady which since 1848 has raged all over the Continent ... which holds those infected by it fast in an imaginary world and robs them of all sense, all memory, all understanding of the rude external world'.[105]

Conversely, the idea of an assembly as a 'working body' referred to the experience of the assemblies of the French Revolution. Marx had studied them closely in his youthful writings, and planned to write their history.[106] For him, these assemblies embodied the primacy of legislative power, the site for the articulation of a popular will that always exceeded its forms of representation - as he put it, 'legislative power produced the French Revolution'.[107] This primacy was further expressed in these assemblies' ability to establish their own supremacy over the executive. To put it in the terms of The German Ideology, the 'essentially active Assembly' — the National Assembly — owed its capacity for action to the pressure that the popular masses had exerted upon it, to which it had had to bend (willingly or otherwise),[108] ‘actually transform[ing] itself thereby into the true organ of the vast majority of Frenchmen'.[109] In his notes on Levasseur — a former National Convention[110] member from the Sarthe — in 1844, as he was working on plans for a history of the Convention, Marx more systematically explored the three-way relations between legislative power, popular movement and executive power. Marx's attention was particularly drawn to the exemplary period in which real executive power had come into the hands of the 'popular movement'. Taking down excerpts from Levasseur, Marx especially noted that the 'popular movement' — a key term in Jacobin discourse — had found organised expression in another elected body, the (first) Paris Commune. This was the Paris Commune of the sans-culottes and Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette, which continued to exercise authority over the Convention that followed the Girondin-dominated assembly: 'An interregnum begins on August 10, 1792. Impotence of the Legislative Assembly, impotence of the Ministry to which it had given rise. Government passes over to the public meetings and municipalities; improvised centres of government, products of anarchy, they were bound to be the expression of the popular movement, for their power was only the power of popular opinion ... The Provisional Council of Ministers, entrusted with executive power by the Gironde on August 10, was powerless "since the party on which it depended had made itself unpopular", "executive power was in fact exercised by the Communes, especially by the Commune of Paris, composed of men of vigour and beloved of the people. The elections in the capital took place under the influence of the Commune whose leading members were elected”.[111] The Convention itself only managed to become a real 'working body' thanks to this constant interaction with the popular movement and its multiple forms of expression, be they informal or organised. In a passage copied down by Marx, Levasseur relates this in disapproving yet powerfully evocative terms: 'The committees of the Convention and the Convention itself dealt with all the branches of administration and performed through decrees numerous and frequent acts of executive authority. On the other hand, the municipalities had also taken over a large section of the administration. Civil power, military power, even judicial power, nothing was properly organised ... As soon as, for any reason whatsoever, a gathering of citizens was called upon to deal with a matter of public concern, it would at the same time interfere in matters quite unconnected with the task it had been given.... If there existed an infinity of powers in practice, a single collective entity, the Convention, legally united in itself all the authority of the social body, and it frequently used it: it acted as the legislative authority through its decrees, as the administration through its committees, and besides it exercised judicial power through the manner in which it extended the right of indictment'.[112] From one revolutionary Commune to the other, here was a striking game of mirrors between Marx's reflection and the conjunctures to which it related, themselves reflected in the fundamental unity of the great revolutionary sequence which began with the victorious uprising of July 1789 and ended in May 1871 with the massacre of the people of Paris. So, it is no surprise that Marx saw the 1871 Commune as a 'working body' insofar as, like the 1792 Commune, it was the emanation of the popular movement. That was the source of its strength — and it internalised this strength in its own structure, as it went beyond 'parliamentarism' to become simultaneously both a deliberative assembly and an executive power, even if only at the level of a single city. 

Here, Marx was basing himself on the fact that the near totality of the Commune Council's members were also members of one of its nine executive 'commissions'. René Bidouze notes that the Commune 'was a "representative" assembly each of whose members had been delegated their powers by the electors'[113]—we will discuss later the question of binding mandates and the extent to which they alter the representative principle. But elected representatives' role went beyond that of a traditional MP limited to making laws, since the Commune Council's members took up hybrid functions which also reflected this assembly's dual character as both a municipal council and a revolutionary government. But this was also its downside: for the Commune's main internal weakness doubtless lay in its demonstrable inability to become a true 'working body'. This was not, of course, because it had become the plaything of the executive like bourgeois assemblies had, but because it failed to fit itself out with a functioning executive organ, even one subordinate to it. The sentiment soon took hold that the Commune Council was getting lost in discussions not followed up by concrete results, and that it had not provided itself the means of applying its many decisions. Marx, informed by his correspondents, was perfectly conscious of this situation, as his 13 May letter to Frankel and Varlin indicates.[114] Part of the difficult lay in the dual-power situation with regard to military matters: the Central Committee of the National Guard constantly challenged the authority of the Commune’s Council and, on top of this, it had itself to grapple with battalions often little-inclined to accept authority from above and which, given their well-established self-organisation, also had effective means of asserting their autonomy. But it soon became clear that this problem extended much further, and that the commissions structure was inefficient. The excessive number of (ill-defined) functions, their overlap and unstable composition, the lack of coordination between commissions, and the various conflicts between them fuelled incessant debates on the need to reorganise the executive. Following a text by Delescluze, adopted on 20 April,[115] 'the Council decided to replace [the Executive Commission] by the delegates of the nine commissions, amongst whom it had distributed its different functions.' These delegates, elected by a majority of votes within the Council, would 'meet each day and take decisions relative to each of their departments by a majority of votes' and 'report to the Commune each day, in a secret committee, on the measures they had decreed or executed, and the Commune would rule on them'. Here we see both the determination to build a distinct, compact executive to which the Commune could 'delegate' what it called 'executive power', and the determination to keep tight control over it. We can also note the straining of the principle of publicity. In truth, this principle was always the object of bitter disputes between those who saw this as a constitutive element of the democratic principle and those (especially among the Blanquists and those considered as 'Jacobins') who opposed this, citing exceptional circumstances or the need to streamline the Council's deliberations (indeed, a large part of its sittings was devoted to discussing the minutes of the previous ones). The Journal official only began to publish reports starting with the 14 April sitting — minutes that Lissagaray considered 'abridged' and giv[ing] but a very vague idea of these sittings'.[116] Many secret sittings continued to be held, even in the face of the opposition of many Council members.

Yet even all this was not enough to resolve the problem of the executive. This resulted — as the military situation deteriorated — in the crisis of May 1871, and the constitution of a 'Committee of Public Safety' barely more effective than the previous Executive Commission. This further brought a split between the 'majority' and the 'minority', with disastrous consequences for the troops' morale. The Civil War in France carefully skipped over these questions, and for good reason. This was hardly the right moment to put the Commune’s internal squabbles on display; and moreover, this split had also divided the International's own members on the Council, with a majority taking sides with the supporters of the Committee of Public Safety but most of the more prominent figures siding with the minority opposed to this remake of 1793.[117] From Marx's addenda to the German translation of Lissagaray's work, it becomes clear that he refused to side with either 'camp', judging the 'minority's' objections well-grounded at the level of principle but wholly out of place given the desperate circumstances of the moment.[118] Jacques Rougerie plays down the importance of this divide,[119] which concerned the appropriate means of action rather than the objective of forming a more energetic executive with real powers. He moreover emphasises that the mass of the Communard rank-and-file was resolutely on the majority's side, constantly complaining of the Commune's 'limpness' and — in direct continuity with the spirit of 1793 — calling for the use of Terror.[120] Indeed, here it is worth emphasising a point that is often misperceived: power 'from below' and popular 'spontaneity' (or what is perceived as such) were (and are) not in any way synonymous with non-violence. While the level of revolutionary violence actually deployed under the Commune remained remarkably low, the 'libertarian' rejection of mediations and juridical formalism encouraged the direct use of repression against its adversaries. The use of repression was itself identified with this conception of popular sovereignty: 'dictatorship, the Terror, was for the others, the counter-revolutionaries. [The Communard] himself was perfectly "libertarian"; the government that he imagined and demanded was direct government by and for the people, the fullest exercise of the most total popular sovereignty'.[121] To get back to the question of the executive, Édouard Vaillant's assessment upon the 4 May vote on the Committee of Public Safety doubtless sums up a widely shared assessment of the Commune Council's real functioning: 'if the assembly wants a real executive committee that can truly take charge of the situation and cope with whatever political hazards it may face, it has to start with self-reform, and stop being a talking-shop parliament that breaks what it creates the one day upon the whims of its imagination the next day, and cuts across all its executive committee's decisions'.[122]

But if the Commune did not manage to transform itself into a 'working body', did it have any more success in reducing the distance between representatives and represented — realising the principle of 'direct government' so deeply cherished by people of insurgent Paris? The 19 April Declaration to the French People went no further than a reference to ' The permanent intervention of citizens in communal affairs by the free manifestation of their ideas, the free defence of their interests'. But, after the onset of the siege, and even before that among labour and socialist circles, the ideas of recallability and 'binding mandates' were seen as an integral part of the communalist idea:[123] 'the Communards considered those they elected not as ‘deputies’ (their name under the Second Empire) or as their ‘representatives’ (as in 1848) but, using the expression from Year II, as their mandataries, who were given a binding mandate, and could thus be recalled at will by their mandators for transgressing or proving unable to fulfil it'.[124] These principles went together with two others: the public nature of the Commune's debates but also — as we will see — the decentralised exercise of popular sovereignty. For it is clear that the question of scale is decisive, in concretely exercising a right to monitor elected officials' activity. Marx expressed his keen enthusiasm for these principles; in this, he saw nothing less than an emancipatory use of universal suffrage, able to drastically reduce the distance between represented and representatives. As he put it, 'Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workmen and managers in his business. And it is well-known that companies, like individuals, in matters of real business generally know how to put the right man in the right place, and, if they for once make a mistake, to redress it promptly. On the other hand, nothing could be more foreign to the spirit of the Commune than to super[c]ede universal suffrage by hierarchical investiture'.[125] As we can see, here the author of Capital fully grasped the demand for mandated representatives who would truly be the servants of the people, to which they would be subordinates Thanks to this now-generalised, anti-hierarchical use of universal suffrage — its application now extended also to the appointment of functionaries — it became possible to integrate the mediation of elective and administrative functions into the dynamic of a rising popular power. 

But if these principles were the consensus among Communard ranks, how far were they also the reality? Let us start with binding mandates. Although demanded from all quarters — and invoked both when it came to justifying crucial decisions, and in the vote to create the Committee of Public Safety — they were never truly binding.[126] Despite the doubtless very lively atmosphere, the 26 March elections for the Commune Council were held in classic fashion. The election was marked by an intense activity, from meetings to the circulation of programmes, but there was no specific procedure to bind the elected individuals to offer detailed pledges or to vote in a particular way. Moreover, the reticence over fully applying the principle of publicity heralded an at least as great reticence to appear before public meetings or even give any account of themselves at all — though it is also true that the Commune's members were structurally overwhelmed with work, given the sheer mass of functions they were supposed to fulfil. Rougerie mentions only three cases of municipal commissions — in the 17th, 18th and 4th arrondissements — that held meetings where their mandators could query how their mandates were being handled.[127] Most significant was the last of these, held at the Théâtre Lyrique, place du Châtelet, on 20 May, in front of 2,000 people. The municipal commission of this arrondissement was in the hands of the 'minority' opposed to the Committee of Public Safety; it had announced its withdrawal from the Council on 16 May. At the meeting it was confronted with a stinging rejection of its attitude, and a motion was passed exhorting it to again take up its seats. Arthur Arnould was left stung by this experience, forcing him to later admit that 'the minority's manifesto was generally not understood by the mass of the population'.[128] But, during the Commune's short life, such initiatives remained the exception — suggesting that the process of institutionalising them would have been anything but obstacle-free. 

Now we get to the second key idea in the Commune's transformation of political institutions, namely the radical decentralisation of power. As we have said, in one way or another, this principle inspired all forces in the opposition against the Second Empire, from municipalist republicans to the various versions of federalism and even socialist projects. We find similarly multifaceted expressions of this principle also among the ranks of the workers' movement. This, of course, included Proudhonian currents, inspired by his The Principle of Federation (1863), one of the last of his works to appear during his lifetime. [129] Contrary to what is often imagined, this principle was far from limited to these currents alone, even if — it is worth remembering — this political aspect of Proudhonism, fundamentally hostile to the state, all centralisation and even any form of wide-scale political or economic organisation, had lasted better than Proudhon's more properly socialist perspective, which was largely superseded in the workers' movement in the years before the fall of the Second Empire. Indeed, as Jacques Rougerie's works show,[130] the genealogy of the term and idea of federation had deep roots in the republican and socialist thought that crystallised during the revolutions of 1848, around such figures as Constantin Pecqueur, Victor Considérant, Saint-Simonianslike Pauline Roland or the socialist Moritz Rittinghausen. A former collaborator of Marx's Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Rittinghausen had in 1850 published a series of three articles on 'Direct legislation by the people, or genuine democracy' in the Fourierist weekly La Démocratie pacifique, republished in book form the following year — a true manifesto for direct democracy. By the time of the Commune, almost everyone had their own version of the communalist idea, from 'neo-Jacobins' like Delescluze to sui generis socialists like Vermorel or Millière. Even the Blanquists had their own notion of the 'revolutionary Commune'. Their main theorist, Gustave Tridon, had in 1864 mounted a rehabilitation of Hébert and the sans-culotte commune of 1792-94,[131] in a text that sought to defend the need for a revolutionary dictatorship, relentlessly fighting from above against reaction and thus unleashing the masses' spontaneous energy from below.

Immediately confronted with this abundance of projects, the 19 April Declaration to the French People provided what we could term a synthesis. This also allowed this document to be adopted almost without debate, one vote short of unanimously, by an assembly otherwise prone to conflicts. But this consensus went hand-in-hand with the fact that the text could be read in many different ways; after all, it proclaimed both '[t]he absolute autonomy of the Commune extended to all localities in France' — with the 'only limit to the autonomy of the Commune' being 'the equal right to autonomy for all communes adhering to the contract' — and a 'great central administration' conceived as 'the delegation of federated Communes'. The text steered clear of any ideas that might imperil 'French unity' but also denied that the Paris authorities had any intention of imposing their views on the rest of the country: 'Political unity, as Paris wants it, is the voluntary association of all local initiatives, the spontaneous and free concourse of all individual energies in view of a common goal: the well-being, the freedom and the security of all.'[132] This unstable mix of federalism and centralism, delegation and association by contract, was nonetheless all meant to serve one essential idea: the foundation of a Republic from below, at odds with '[u]nity, as it has been imposed on us until today by the Empire, the monarchy or parliamentarism, [which] is nothing but unintelligent, arbitrary or onerous centralization.' This was an idea still in search of its own definition, which is also why it exceeded the grasp of all the currents that made up the Commune. This is well illustrated by the thoughts that Delescluze's reading of the Declaration sparked in one of the assembly members, Paul Rastoul, for whom this was Jacobinism's funeral oration pronounced by one of its own leaders'.[133] This is also the reason why Marx and Engels ultimately attributed rather little importance to the doctrinal divergences that coloured debates in the Commune. All of these differences were superseded by the unprecedented experience of which they were part. In his own way, Engels recognised as much in his 1891 introduction to The Civil War in France: 'the irony of history willed – as is usual when doctrinaires come to the helm – that both did the opposite of what the doctrines of their school proscribed.'[134]

So, without getting bogged down in points of doctrine, Marx had no hesitation presenting this texts' main points in a sympathetic light: 'In a rough sketch of national organization, which the Commune had no time to develop, it states clearly that the Commune was to be the political form of even the smallest country hamlet, and that in the rural districts the standing army was to be replaced by a national militia, with an extremely short term of service. The rural communities of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send deputies to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the mandat impératif [binding mandate]) of his constituents. The few but important functions which would still remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal and thereafter responsible agents. The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but, on the contrary, to be organized by Communal Constitution, and to become a reality by the destruction of the state power which claimed to be the embodiment of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation itself, from which it was but a parasitic excres[c]ence.'[135] And as we have seen, this was also a decisive move away from his earlier 'centralising' views. 

As many commentators have noted,[136] Marx's conception was also a synthesis, marrying a decentralisation rooted in significant local autonomy with the 'few but important functions which would still remain for a central government'. These functions were not to be abolished, but fulfilled by 'Communal and thereafter responsible agents' subject to popular control. In particular they took up the functions of the 'common plan' which, as we have seen, was meant to 'regulate national production' and co-ordinate the activity of the 'united co-operative societies'. Political decentralisation was thus to be combined with a certain measure of economic centralisation, which would nonetheless preserve the associative-co-operative form at the level of individual production units. Marx again raised this idea in a slightly later text in which he argued for the nationalisation of the land, thanks to which 'There [would] be no longer any government or state power, distinct from society itself! ... National centralisation of the means of production [would] become the national basis of a society composed of associations of free and equal producers, carrying on the social business on a common and rational plan’.[137]

In The Civil War in France, Marx also seemed to accept the idea of a pyramid-like national system of representation, elected not directly but through a system of delegates elected from each département. Yet he would not again raise this idea, and Engels explicitly argued against it in his late texts defending the goal of a unitary republic (even if this structure was to be combined with broad provincial and municipal autonomy).[138] But this is not the essential point. For this was also the text in which Marx arrived at a 'substantial' definition of the 'political form' whose appearance on the stage of history the Commune had heralded: 'The communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old centralized government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers.'[139] In the formulation 'self-government of the producers' we again find 'true democracy' defined as the 'self-determination of the people', as per his youthful (so-called 'Kreuznach') manuscript where he critiqued Hegel in light of the lessons of the French Revolution. This revealed, Marx wrote, that 'Democracy is the solved riddle of all constitutions'.[140] In the 1891 introduction, Engels positively defined the Commune as 'a new and really democratic state' which 'replaced' the 'state power' that this revolution had 'shatter[ed]'. In the conclusion of this text, polemicising against the right wing of German Social Democracy (whom Engels termed 'philistines') he identified the Commune with the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. This phrase ought to be understood in line with the widespread terminology of the time, in which the term 'dictatorship' (here meaning, dictatorship by a class and not by an individual or a party) had kept its original, Roman meaning. This referred to not just any authoritarian regime, but to a revolutionary government that established a new legitimacy and assumed the need to defend itself.[141] Indeed, in another text from this same period Engels explicitly referred to the 'democratic republic' as 'the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat' immediately adding that this was what 'the Great French Revolution ha[d] already shown'.[142]

The sphinx of the latest revolution in Paris had thus revealed its secret by creating this 'thoroughly expansive political form', the 'political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labour'. This was neither a new state or the negation of the state, but an experimental form opening up the field of possibilities, and which would itself be summoned to go beyond itself, in the process of its historical unfolding.

Conclusion: 'This Movement Divided the Land and Seas'[143] 

In November 1870, Gustave Lefrançais, already a highly visible figure among Paris's socialist circles, was jailed at the Conciergerie for his participation in the 31 October insurrection — the first attempt to proclaim a Commune in the capital following the Second Empire's collapse. From prison, he wrote a pamphlet to make his case to Parisians, above all addressed to 'those who believe their interests compromised by the social revolution that the present crisis is inevitably preparing'.[144] Having patiently explained the social and republican goals that inspired the participants in the 31 October insurrection, he appealed to the bourgeois republicans who so dreaded socialism: 'how, I repeat, can these satisfactions granted to the workers compromise your immediate interests? Don't you see that an end to all antagonism will also cast off the risk of civil war which so exclusively worries and frightens you?'[145] Far from atypical — if doubtless somewhat tactical — this discourse was the norm among the ranks of the French socialist and workers' movement of the time (with the Blanquists the only exception). It expressed a deep-rooted belief in the possibility of carrying out a far-reaching social transformation without violent expropriation. In this view, it would be possible to achieve a harmony of interests within a republican framework that respected popular sovereignty, through the generalisation of the principle of free association and an equality based on solidarity. Of course, there had already been the terrible split of June 1848; but this remained a localised, Parisian affair and not everyone had understood its true significance. In the ensuing period, a common opposition to Bonapartism had allowed the reconstitution of a 'republican camp'; it was doubtless heterogeneous, especially when it came to different currents' positions on social questions, but its divisions were hardly seen as irreconcilable antagonisms. The talismanic reference to 'the Republic' was shared across a spectrum from “the three Jules” (Favre, Ferry and Simon), the leaders of the most conservative brand of republicanism, to Jacobins like Delescluze, and from Gambetta's radicals to the socialists of the IWMA. It still had a revolutionary meaning, reflected even by the very bourgeois (and very moderately republican) government of national defence. After all, this latter drew its whole legitimacy from the fact that it had been imposed on 4 September 1870 by the movement of the Paris crowd in reaction against the defeat at Sedan. 

All this fell apart over spring 1871, before the final descent into the massacres of the Bloody Week, the hell of Satory and the pontoons,[146] the mass deportations and the long years of exile. But there were also certain regrets over this. For instance, in the lines that Benoît Malon, a mainstay of the International and protagonist in the Commune, wrote a few months after this terrible dénouement: 'Perhaps there is still time for the bourgeoisie to return to the path of progress. It should recognise that, in the present state of human affairs, the emancipation of the proletariat is an inevitable social fact of the near future; it should immediately separate itself from the financial servitude which it suffers as much as we do; it should recognise that no property is legitimate apart from ownership of one's labour ... it should do this, and we will pardon it these three massacres of proletarians in thirty-nine years,[147] its renegacy, its deceit, and we will not refuse to deal with it. We will be glad not to bequeath to our children [the task of] pursuing a war of vengeance and vindication'. Yet he immediately continued: 'but this is just an impossible fantasy. The ever-crueller bourgeoisie will never have any other response to our demands than the massacre ... Since it does not want to welcome us fraternally into the city of humanity, we will break our way back into it, followed by all the oppressed, all the exploited, all the suffering'.[148] 

We might think that these were the comments of a rather sentimental militant inclined toward reconciliation. But Gustave Lefrançais — an assertive and rather sharp-tongued figure — said little different. Writing at the same moment as Malon, he similarly foresaw a future of conflicts and clashes. But he could also imagine an alternative: 'there really is a way of warding off these gloomy prospects... That is, that the bourgeoisie, convinced of all these things, abandoning any pretence to govern either politically or economically, consented to an understanding with the proletariat, to lay the basis of a new social contract tending to bring their interests into solidarity and not antagonism'. Before convincing himself to abandoning any such notion, he further asked 'Could this accord still be attempted once more? We would like to believe that were the case, but strongly doubt it. We fear that the bourgeoisie gone mad on terror and egoism will only continue to widen the river of blood that separates it from the proletarians ...'[149] These rather forced farewells were acknowledgements that a certain conception of social emancipation had now become obsolete. But they also revealed an inability to grasp the reasons for this; everything was imputed to essentially moral factors, i.e. the 'cruelty' and 'egoism' of the bourgeoisie. For the same reasons, this turn also marked 'the unbinding of republic and revolution' — the end of an era in the history of the workers' movement and socialism.[150]

But if in this sense the Commune marked an endpoint, it was also a new beginning. It reshuffled the deck, recasting political divides in function of different actors' positions on this both unprecedented and polarising event. This was also true at a global level: even within the International, the British trade unionists (like George Odger and Benjamin Lucraft), the largest of the forces that had founded the IWMA, split away, prompting this body's fragmentation. Mazzini strongly condemned the Paris insurgents — earning him a scathing response from both Bakunin and Marx — while Garibaldi supported them. In France, most of the 1848er republicans and socialists were hostile (notably Louis Blanc and Victor Schoelcher) or 'neutral' (Ledru-Rollin) and even some of the later generations swung behind the party of order, like the Proudhonian and IWMA militant Tolain or the internationalist democrat (and Union fighter in the American Civil War) Ulric de Fonvielle. Writers, including solid republicans like Emile Zola and George Sand, vented their hatred for the 'barbarians' and 'déclassés'. When the socialist feminist André Léo tried to defend the Commune at the September 1871 congress of the League for Peace and Freedom — an organisation which rallied a progressive-minded element among Europe's democrats and pacifists — she was violently taken to task by the audience and was unable to finish her speech. Léon Richer's l'Avenir des femmes — a historic organ of French feminism, to which Léo had herself been a contributor — did endorse an amnesty for those sentenced to deportation, but nonetheless roundly condemned the Commune and its former collaborator's 'senseless' involvement therein.[151] Historians have been forced to recognise that Commune was a clash that gave vent to the dominant classes' hatred of the dominated — and prompted sharp divisions even among forces who had not hitherto seemed ever so distant.[152]

There was, in fact, a similar effect among those who did identify with this experience. But before we get to what divided them, it is worth pausing for a moment and looking at the common denominator in the new positions they adopted. For they agreed on the need to assert the autonomy of the working class's action, and the necessity for it to separate itself from the bourgeois world — what Georges Sorel would later call the 'spirit of scission’ – a term on which Gramsci will eventually elaborate extensively. For some, in particular the 'Marxists' (a term which began to appear in these years) this meant fully committing to the political terrain, now itself being deeply transformed by the extension of the franchise, compulsory education, the rise of the movement for women's rights and, in short, the dawn of the 'era of mass politics'. In this perspective, class autonomy first of all meant the building of real political organisations. This meant building structured and coherent organisations with solid roots among the working classes, organisations capable of giving the movement the leadership that the Commune had so lacked and of mounting an effective challenge to the ruling classes' concentrated and centralised power. Taking state power was a necessary but insufficient condition for transforming social relations; the means of achieving this depended on national contexts but they included — insofar as conditions allowed — participation in elections and parliaments. The IWMA's London Congress in September 1871 passed the theses to this effect by Marx and Engels; tellingly, they were backed by almost all the delegates who had taken part in the Commune, whatever their earlier differences (Vaillant had been in the 'majority' and Longuet and Serraillier in the 'minority', while Frankel had wavered between the two). This heralded a major readjustment of Marx and Engels's strategic approach, indeed at two levels. Firstly, they abandoned the association between war and revolution that they had defended back in 1848 when they saw European and even world war as a necessary condition for the radicalisation and spatial extension of the revolutionary process across the belligerent countries, as in the case of the French Revolution.[153] The Franco-Prussian war and its fallout had radically changed the picture: Engels, in particular, believed that it had prepared the way for a further European conflict, a prospect which now filled him with dread. As he wrote with astonishing prescience in his 1891 introduction to The Civil War in France, this would be 'a war of which nothing is certain but the absolute uncertainty of its outcome; a race war which will subject the whole of Europe to devastation by 15 or 20 million armed men, and is only not already raging because even the strongest of the great military states shrinks before the absolute incalculability of its final outcome'. Throughout the years that followed the Commune's defeat, up to his own death, Engels never ceased to repeat that a fresh European war could only be counter-revolutionary. Hence opposition to war and militarism became a key foundation of the socialist movement and the new International created in 1889. 

No less was dramatic was the realignment of the strategy the new workers' parties were called on to commit to in terms of the conquest of power. In short, for Marx and Engels the Commune and its outcome marked the end of the age of barricades, in countries which had real parliamentary institutions and which were advancing toward universal (male) suffrage. Here, they instead saw the possibility of forming 'socialist governments' by electoral means, as Marx wrote in his 1881 letter to Nieuwenhuis. In this letter — pre-empting a possible objection by his correspondent — he termed the Commune 'merely the rising of a town under exceptional conditions'.[154] In both his many public interventions and the instructions he provided in his correspondence, Marx was perfectly clear that in countries like Britain and the Netherlands — and subsequently, the France of the now-consolidated Third Republic — 'the workers [could] attain their goal by peaceful means', as he put it in his closing speech at the Hague Congress in September 1872,[155] though he also specified that ' in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force.' In the preamble to the programme of the French Workers' Party — a document which he co-authored together with Engels, Guesde and Lafargue — he emphasised that 'such an organization [in a distinct political party] must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation'.[156] But this possibility of reaching power by electoral means in no way implied that social transformation could take place without violence or by simply parliamentary means. As Marx emphasised in 1878, as he commented upon the German Reichstag debates on the German Social Democracy's means of action (whether or not they stepped outside of 'legality'), 'an historical development can remain "peaceful" for as long as its progress is not forcibly obstructed by those wielding social power at the time. If in England, for instance, or in the United States the working class — for example - were to gain a majority in parliament or congress, they could, by lawful means, rid themselves of such laws and institutions as impeded their development, though they could only do so insofar as society had reached a sufficiently mature development. However, the "peaceful" movement might be transformed into a "forcible" one by resistance of those interested in restoring the old state of affairs; if (as in the American Civil War and the French Revolution) they are put down by force, it is as rebels against “lawful” force.'[157] In such a case, a socialist government would have to ‘suppress by force a development it dislikes but cannot lawfully attack. This is the necessary prelude to forcible revolutions’.[158] Hence The Civil War in France's repeated description of the Versaillais camp as a 'slaveowners' rebellion' — rather metaphorically, given that at the time it was the National Assembly that embodied legal authority as chosen at the ballot box. Engels would turn these theses into more systematic arguments in his late texts,[159] in particular his 1895 'Introduction' to The Class Struggles in France, a text that the German Social-Democratic leadership thought best to expurgate of passages that troubled its own strategy's cautious legalism. In this text, representing Engels's political testament, he mischievously noted that 'the irony of history turns everything upside down. We, the “revolutionists,” the “subversives,” we thrive much better with legal than with illegal means in forcing an overthrow ... if we are not insane enough to favor them by letting them drive us into street battles, nothing will in the end be left to them but themselves to break through the legality that is so fatal to them'.[160] But, in one of the passages censored by the SPD Parteivorstand, he added — in direct reference to France's revolutionary history and in particular the period before the Commune, 

Does that mean that in the future street fighting will no longer play any role? Certainly not. It only means that the conditions since 1848 have become far more unfavourable for civilian fighters and far more favourable for the military. In future, street fighting can, therefore, be victorious only if this disadvantageous situation is compensated by other factors. Accordingly, it will occur more seldom at the beginning of a great revolution than at its later stages, and will have to be undertaken with greater forces. These, however, may then well prefer, as in the whole great French Revolution or on September 4 and October 31, 1870, in Paris, the open attack to passive barricade tactics.[161]

Far from preaching legalism on principle, Engels thus outlined a flexible revolutionary strategy combining multiple modes of action, in each case guided by a political assessment of the overall relations of force and not any fetishised attachment to this or that tactic or mythologised view of the seizure of power.

Marx and Engels's paths thus inevitably diverged with those who insisted on the need to mount a radical break with the political terrain, seen as a mere trap. For the 'anarchists' and 'anti-authoritarian' socialists — as they rebranded themselves during this era — this was nothing but the terrain of hated parliamentarism, of the sparring among professionals in representation who spent their time deceiving the people. The important thing was not to play the game of electoral participation but to attack the state — a pillar of oppression and an incorrigible enemy of individual emancipation — from the outside. The Commune was criticised for having aped the practices of governments and parliaments and thus acted as a brake on the revolutionary activity of the masses. In this view, the goal was not to conquer power but to dissolve it outright — and, to this end, it was necessary to start right away in exploring new practices that would concretely prefigure its future abolition. For some, this meant revolutionary syndicalism, which stood outside of bourgeois state institutions and sought to replace them by seizing control of the economic apparatus in a victorious 'general strike'. For others, it meant flocking together in small groups held together by flexible, non-hierarchical relations, and immediately realising an ideal of autonomy and the abolition of power relations, and/or turning to 'propaganda of the deed'. The revolution became essentially a question of will and transforming people's thinking, but it was also prepared by the proliferation of spaces of anti- or counter-power. 

Marx and Engels essentially saw this as an approach based on a series of refusals — thinking it could resolve the contradictions of revolutionary action through a sort of thought-decree. Their clash with Bakunin and his disciples set down dividing lines that would time and again re-emerge among the forces and social movements challenging capitalism.[162] For the founders of historical materialism, the rejection of structured (democratic) organisation led to the creation of informal networks, a kind of 'invisible churches' often dominated by charismatic figures neither responsible nor accountable for their actions. So, far from unleashing the exploited classes' energies and preserving them from the dominant ideology, political abstentionism only reproduced their subaltern position and left the field open to bourgeois politics. A successful revolutionary process would need both an orientation and a leadership to implement it — neither of which was possible without authority, even if this would also have to be subject to democratic control. The means could not be a simple prefiguration of the ends, for they had to take into account the constraints imposed by the existing relations of domination. But it should be noted that, if violence had an important place in most anarchist currents' repertoire of action, and, if the memory of the Bloody Week — kept alive by the repression against social movements under the Third Republic — weighed heavily on activists' minds, this violence was used to symbolic ends and targets. This ‘propaganda by the deed’ often meant individual or small-scale acts seeking to incite others to action, or which took place on the edges of mass movements (demonstrations, strikes, etc.) — something quite distinct from attempts at armed uprisings, like the ones that had studded the 1830s and 1840s.[163] We could say the same of the 'insurrectionist' discourse (combined with sectarian maximalism and an obsessive, idiosyncratic anti-clericalism) promoted by the Blanquists over the 1870s and 1880s, prompting some rather sarcastic comments by Engels.[164] In reality, upon their return from exile, the most dynamic Blanquist elements around Édouard Vaillant did soon turn to political and electoral activity, with sometimes significant results.[165] Engels was thus hardly just expressing his own credo when he wrote in his political testament, that 'rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades, which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, had become largely outdated'.[166] Yet, as we have seen, this implied no on-principle refusal of revolutionary violence or any notion that everything could be settled by parliamentary means alone.

If the different sides' paths diverged irreversibly with the definitive split at the IWMA's Hague Congress (September 1872) all currents identifying with anti-capitalist revolution nonetheless agreed on one point: the need to get over the hesitation and illusions that had hobbled the Communards' action. In his early April 1871 letter to Liebknecht, Marx himself took up the proposals that the Blanquists had made in vain in the wake of 18 March: an immediate march on Versailles was the only path to victory. Showing 'too great honnêteté [decency]' and trapped by the illusion of fair play among republicans, the National Guard's central committee did not want to 'start civil war' — forgetting that Thiers and the Versaillais had already declared one — and lost valuable time, much to its enemies' advantage’[167]. Engels would say the same thing in his 11 April intervention at the International's General Council. As we have seen, The Civil War in France explicitly criticised the fédéré leaders' stubborn insistence on a purely defensive attitude. Both Marx, in his 1881 letter to Nieuwenhuis and Engels in his 1891 introduction to The Civil War in France raised a criticism that had been near-unanimously expressed among the former Communards since 1871:[168] its failure to seize the Bank of France's reserves, even if just to bolster its negotiating position, was a fatal error. More generally, the Commune's lack of revolutionary determination was the target of many converging critiques. Deported after the crushing of the Commune, in her first speech in Paris upon her return Louise Michel forcefully insisted 'We were generous, once, but we shall be no longer. You have broken our hearts. So much the better. Now we shall be implacable!'[169] Lenin couldn't have put it any better!

But there is another way of retracing the Commune's afterlives, following a more tortuous, sometimes underground course. Here we will briefly suggest a few paths, the ones that Marx and Engels started to beat over the years that followed the Paris Revolution. At the IWMA's London Congress, Marx called for the creation of women's branches in the International, citing the 'great role' women had played in the Commune. It is worth remembering that this was what Dmitrieff and Le Mel's Women's Union had started to do in insurgent Paris, proposing a federation of women's trade-union sections affiliated to the IWMA. If this may seem a very modest programmatic advance, it nonetheless expressed a telling development in an organisation which had, at its Geneva Congress barely five years earlier, voted by a majority to approve the Proudhonian position condemning women's labour, and which had just one woman (Harriet Law) on its General Council.[170] Yet this had had no practical follow-up, and does not seem to have left any trace. Despite everything, something did change in the workers' movement's way of relating to the question of women's emancipation over the period following the Commune. At the international level, powerful socialist women's organisations emerged in Germany, inspired by the enormous success of August Bebel's 1879 book Woman and Socialism. In France itself, the tireless activism of former Communards like Paule Minck and Louise Michel, but also socialist feminists like Aline Valette and Léonie Rouzade (and also, for a brief but crucial moment, Hubertine Auclert), strongly posed the question of women's emancipation in the working women's organisations that emerged during this period. But to find a major theoretical contribution in the wake of Bebel's, we would have to look to Friedrich Engels. In his 1884 Origin of Family, Private Property and the State, drawing on the most advanced anthropological studies of the time, he turned back to the roots of the 'world historical defeat of the female sex', resulting in the 'modern individual family .... founded on the open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife'[171]. 

The title of Engels's book invites us to delve into the anthropological foundations of class society, linking the emergence of the state to the two great spheres where the relations of domination and exploitation are constituted — the family and the means of appropriating the social surplus. Yet Engels's interest in these questions was not exclusively or even primarily historical in character. His essential concern was to identify the past forms of social organisation that had been at least partly free of class relations and gender domination. He thus devoted particular attention to 'archaic' communitarian forms, from the Iroquois to the ancient Germans or the Germanic communities of the early Middle Ages. This did not mean turning back the clock with an attempt to return to 'primitive communities', or reducing the Paris Commune to a resurgence of archaic forms. Rather, this was a matter of exploring the great continent of classless societies, across the expanse of time. Through a diachronic analysis Engels was able to show that alternative forms of human organisation had existed and were thus historically possible. He attributed particular importance to the state-forms of the 'primitive democracy' that structured life in these societies, from archaic Greece to the ancient Germans and Iroquois. Engels called for a departure from linear conceptions of progress and a reflection — in a clearly Rousseauian vein — on the sheer loss for humanity that the disappearance of 'primitive' communitarian forms had represented, even while also accepting that this was now irreversible.[172] The analysis of the deeper structures of social evolution sought to demonstrate that this possibility still existed and was inscribed within the social relations of the present. The emancipated society of the future had to reactivate — in a sense, revive — this possibility, albeit in a transformed manner, drawing on history in order to set off along a new path. Engels thus embraced the conclusion offered by Henry Lewis Morgan, the US anthropologist whose work he had used so extensively: 'Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes.'[173]

Kristin Ross — following a now well-established approach to Marx's late texts[174]— says tells us 'the most significant and direct effect that the Commune's alternative ways of organizing social and economic life had on Marx was to make the actual existence of alternative, non-capitalist societies outside of Europe more visible'.[175] The same conclusion ought to be applied to Engels. We could say that this decentring of Engels's approach followed a temporal axis, while for Marx it was above all a matter of spatial perspective. In the final years of Marx's life, two questions seem to have particularly captured his attention:[176] on the one hand, a study of the peasantry and the rural world, both in non-European societies (past and present) and in light of the capitalist transformation of agriculture; and, on the other, the possibility of a route to communism based on the rural commune, without passing via capitalism but in coordination with a global revolutionary process. At the IWMA's London Congress he proposed 'rural branches' aiming at 'securing the adhesion of the agricultural producers to the movement of the industrial proletariat'.[177] As with the resolution on the creation of women's branches, this had no notable practical effect. But this parallel also reveals a certain determination to expand the workers' movement's field of action to include these 'blind spots' (women, the peasantry) — though at least at this stage, the intention was not matched by the means for its concrete implementation. This shift is nonetheless remarkable, for it meant acknowledging the (small) peasants' subjective ability to become full participants in socialist organisations. This was also a reversal of the position Marx had taken toward the peasantry during the 1848 revolutions, when he had written that 'The history of the past three years has, however, provided sufficient proof that this class of the population [the French peasantry] is absolutely incapable of any revolutionary initiative' or compared it to a 'sack of potatoes'.[178] The Commune had confronted these same problems: and its impact is especially visible in Marx's changed positions. Its lasting trace is further visible in Engels's late interventions on the agrarian question in industrialised countries.[179] Here, he called for the generalisation of co-operatives in the countryside (through voluntary participation and material-political incentives), seeing this as the only path of development that could avoid both the expropriation of the peasantry by industrialised capitalist agriculture or the continuation — considered regressive and unrealisable — of small individual holdings exposed to market competition. As for Marx, he explored the prospect of a communitarian organisation of the countryside, as he delved into non-European (or at least, non-Western) realities, in particular Russia. Having overcome his long-standing Russophobia through his contact with the Russian revolutionaries German Lopatine and Elizabeta Dmitrieff — who particularly set him along the right track[180] — he learned Russian and embarked upon an in-depth study of the obshchina, the communitarian form that was still present in the countryside of Tsarist Russia. At the start of the 1880s he began a discussion on this subject with the great figure of Russia's revolutionary-socialist movement, Vera Zasulich. Though Marx did not romanticise the obschchina — and was well aware of its real decline — he refused to see it as a simple archaic remnant, doomed to be swept up by capitalist modernity, just as he refused to see the Paris Commune as a return of (and to) premodern forms. Breaking out of isolation through a system of assemblies, appropriating the scientific and technological advances brought by capitalism, and linking up with the working masses in the West in a unitary revolutionary process, the Russian communes could overcome the spatial and temporal discrepancies to their own advantage. In this sense, the Commune could be 'the element in the regeneration of Russian society, and an element of superiority over countries still enslaved by the capitalist regime.'[181] Breaking with a single-track view of history, Marx radically pluralised the modes of transition to communism and recognised the essential openness of the political and social struggle. For Marx, 'What threatens the life of the Russian commune is neither a historical inevitability nor a theory; it is state oppression, and exploitation by capitalist intruders whom the state has made powerful at the peasants’ expense.'[182]

In his Civil War in France, Marx had written that 'Within sight of that Prussian army, that had annexed to Germany two French provinces, the Commune annexed to France the working people all over the world'. But when he wrote these lines, he could never have foreseen how widely the Commune would cross spaces and temporalities, voyaging through his thought and separating land and sea around the world in front of him. And we can bet that the Commune's ’spirit of scission’ will remain an active force in our own world, for reasons that have not fundamentally changed.

[1] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[2] Bakunin, The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State, text from marxists.org.

[3] Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chapter 3, text from marxists.org.

[4] Ibid.

[5] I will return to this point in the conclusion of this text.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., Chapter 6.

[9] Ibid., Chapter 5.

[10] Ibid., Chapter 6.

[11] Gustave Lefrançais, 'La Commune et la révolution', p. 395: 'The military events prompted by the proclamation of the Commune in Paris doubtless led its Council to take on the trappings of government, even a dictatorship, but these exclusively temporary actions, resulting from the terrible struggle which it had to withstand, would necessarily have been put to an end the day that the Commune again became master of its action', See also Arthur Arnoud, Histoire populaire..., op. cit., pp. 146 and 272-273: 'there needed to be a firm, dictatorial leadership for the military question'; 'all that concerned the posts, telegrams, means of communication ... national defence, everything necessary for the maintenance of independence and for resistance to violent and immoral conquest, also necessarily concerned the entire collectivity ... The same was true of international relations with the outside world. The national finances, meaning the portion of the national wealth devoted to these public services, to the fulfilment of collective interests, ought to have been centralised, but to that extent alone.’

[12] Gustave Lefrançais, Souvenirs d’un révolutionnaire. De juin 1848 à la Commune, Paris, La Fabrique, 2013, p. 488.

[13] Marx to Kugelmann, 12 April 1871, text from marxists.org.

[14] The Eighteenth Brumaire, Chapter 7, text from marxists.org. 

[15] The Eighteenth Brumaire, Chapter 7, text from marxists.org. 

[16]  Ibid.

[17] MECW 11 p. 193, footnote - this sentence was deleted by Marx in the 1869 edition of the text. It’s not included. 

[18] Ibid.

[19]The Communist Manifesto, Chapter 2, text from marxists.org.

[20] Ibid.

[21] 'Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League', 1850, text from marxists.org.

[22] Ibid.

[23] The Communist Manifesto, Preface to the 1872 German Edition, text from marxists.org.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Marx to Dr Kugelmann, 12 April 1871, text from marxists.org.

[26] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[27] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[28] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[29] Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, text from marxists.org

[30] Ibid. Engels also specified that this principle of self-government was not incompatible with national unity and that he opposed a Swiss or south-German type federalism that reproduced narrow and outdated particularisms.

[31] In his 1905 Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution he would write: 'The more we cherish the memory of the Paris Commune of 1871, for instance, the less permissible is it to refer to it offhand, without analysing its mistakes and the special conditions attending it. ... What reply will a “Conference” give to a worker who asks him about this “revolutionary commune” that is mentioned in the resolution? He will only be able to tell him that this is the name, known in history, of a workers’ government that was unable to, and could not at that time, distinguish between the elements of a democratic revolution and those of a socialist revolution, that confused the tasks of fighting for a republic with the tasks of fighting for Socialism, that was unable to carry out the task of launching an energetic military offensive against Versailles, that made a mistake in not seizing the Bank of France, etc. In short, whether in your answer you refer to the Paris Commune or to some other commune, your answer will be: it was a government such as ours should not be' (Chapter 10, text from marxists.org).

[32] See Haupt, 'La Commune...', op. cit., pp. 69-70; Gilbert Badia emphases that 'it is striking that neither Luxemburg nor Mehring nor the leaders of the left wing of social democracy in general confronted a problem that Marx had long addressed with regard to the Commune — the problem of the state, of the Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat': 'Discussion' in La Commune de 1871. Colloque de Paris, op. cit., p. 233.

[33] Rougerie, La Commune de 1871, op. cit., p. 77.

[34] 'L’AIT et le mouvement ouvrier... ', art. cit., p. 71.

[35] See Deluermoz, Commune(s)..., op. cit., pp. 255-275.

[36] Close to 11,000 copies were sold by spring 1872, added to which were its translations into multiple languages. See Gilbert Badia, 'Discussion', op. cit., p. 231.

[37] 'Paris Workers’ Revolution & Thiers’ Reactionary Massacres', The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[38] Marx to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis In The Hague, 22 February 1881, text from marxists.org

[39] In a 17 September 1874 letter to Sorge, Engels counterposed the leading figures among the Communard exiles, prey to all sorts of pathologies, and the anonymous mass: 'The French refugees are in utter chaos. They have all fallen out with each other and with everyone else for quite personal reasons, money matters for the most part, and we are now almost entirely rid of them. ... All these people have been horribly demoralised by their dissolute life during the war, the Commune and in exile, and the situation really has to be desperate to rescue a Frenchman once he has let himself go. The great mass of politically unknown French workers, on the other hand, has simply abandoned politics for the moment and found work here' (MECW, Vol. 45, p. 44). In his letter to Sorge of 5 November 1880, Marx spoke enthusiastically of Guesde and Lafargue's efforts to organise a socialist party in France, issuing this overall assessment of the French workers' movement's past — with a clear reference to the Commune — ''Up to the present time only sects existed there, which naturally received their mot d'ordre from the founder of the sect, whereas the mass of the proletariat followed the radical or pseudo-radical bourgeois and fought for them on the day of decision, only to be slaughtered, deported, etc., the very next day by the fellows they had put into power' (text from marxists.org).

[40] 1891 preface to The Civil War in France, this text in MECW, Vol. 27, p. 185.

[41] In particular, Roger Thomas's criticism seems, to say the least, rather over-the-top, when he writes that 'some of its omissions and silences are glaring ... Marx's decision to exclude the popular activities and the activities of the socialist feminists is problematical': 'Enigmatic Writings, art. cit.' p. 500.

[42] Engels to Bernstein, 1 January 1884, in MECW, Vol. 47, p. 74.

[43] Haupt, The Commune as Symbol and Example, op. cit., p. 35.

[44] Robert Tombs, The Paris Commune 1871, London, Routledge 2014, p. 201. 

[45] Genevève Koubi, 'Histoire du droit public: Le Journal officiel de la Commune de Paris (1871) produit de la révolution du 18 mars 1871', available at Droit cri-TIC, 18 March 2008, koubi.fr/spip.php?article24#nh1. 

[46] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org. 

[47] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[48] 'Idéalisme et matérialisme dans la conception de l’histoire', in Jean Jaurès, L’Esprit du socialisme, Paris: Gonthier, 1964, pp. 24-25.

[49] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[50] Ibid.

[51] The Civil War in France, First Draft, text from marxists.org.

[52] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[53] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[54] Ibid.

[55] 'Part IV' in The Critique of the Gotha Programme, text from marxists.org.

[56] 'The Paris Commune', The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[57] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[58] 'The Paris Commune', The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[59] 'Programme de Belleville' (15 May 1869): see https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Programme_de_Belleville

[60] Journal officiel, 31 March 1871.

[61] According to this note, published in the 5 April 1871 Journal officiel, the 'delegate for foreign relations has the honour of officially notifying you of the constitution of the Communal Government of Paris. He kindly requests that you inform your Governments of this and takes the opportunity to express the Commune's desire to tighten the fraternal ties that bind the people of Paris to [your] people'.

[62] Rougerie, Paris libre..., op. cit., p. 165.

[63] Ibid., p. 166.

[64] See, respectively Arnould, Histoire populaire..., op. cit., p.130; Lefrançais, Étude..., op. cit., p. 266.

[65] Gaillard, Communes de province..., op. cit., p. 83.

[66] Robert Tombs, La Guerre contre Paris, Paris, Aubier-Flammarion, 2009, p. 175.

[67] Ibid., p. 182.

[68] Journal officiel, 2 April 1871

[69] Tombs, The Paris Commune 1871, op. cit., p. 

[70] Arnould, Histoire populaire..., op. cit., p. 159.

[71]  'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[72] Ibid. 

[73] Dautry, Scheler, Le Comité central..., op. cit., pp. 235-239 — quoted from p. 237.

[74] 'Programme de Belleville', cit.

[75] The Manifesto of the Paris Commune, text from marxists.org.

[76] Hence in the programme of the 'Republican, democratic, socialist central electoral committee for the 11th arrondissement' we read that 'The Republic's functionaries at all levels must be responsible for their acts. All public functions, whether national or communal, must be temporary, elected and accessible to all, according to recognised capacities and aptitudes, tested by examinations': cited in Rougerie, Paris libre..., op. cit., p. 141-142.

[77] Quentin Deluermoz, Jérémie Foa, 'Titulatures, positions sociales et le mouvement révolutionnaire : les “usurpations de fonctions” communardes (1871)', in Quentin Deluermoz, Jérémie Foa (eds.), Usurpations de fonction et appropriations du pouvoir en situation de crise (xixe-xxe siècle), Paris, Centre d’Histoire du xixe siècle, 2012, pp. 59-74; Quentin Deluermoz, Commune(s)..., op. cit., p. 151-177 ; René Bidouze, La Commune de Paris telle qu’en elle-même, Pantin, Le temps des cerises, 2008, p. 96-100, 105-109; Jules Andrieu, Notes pour servir à l’histoire de la Commune de Paris, Paris, Spartacus, 1984. See also Jean Bruhat, Jean Dautry, Émile Tersen, La Commune de 1871, Paris, Éditions sociales, 1970, pp. 199-227; Laure Godineau, La Commune de Paris..., op. cit., pp. 129-139 ; Jacques Rougerie, Paris insurgé..., op. cit., pp. 37-67.

[78] Lissagaray, History of the Paris Commune, chapter XVIII, text from marxists.org. Only slightly earlier, we read that 'with most of the staff remaining in post, the municipal services did not overly suffer' (translation corrected).

[79] Lefrançais, Souvenirs..., op. cit., p. 417.

[80] Andrieu, Notes..., op. cit., p. 78. Later he adds, 'I do not hide the fact that I had the proud but revolutionary ambition of bringing the men, the acts and the affairs of the four great commissions and the twenty mayoralties under meticulous control': ibid., p. 80. Haussmann was clearly his model.

[81] Ibid., p. 201.

[82] 'Introduction', ibid., p. xxi.

[83] Ibid., p. 102.

[84] Lissagaray, History of the Paris Commune, chapter XVIII, text from marxists.org

[85] See Deluermoz, Foa, 'Titulatures, positions sociales...', art. cit., p. 62. Marc Ferro systematically uses the term 'plebeianisation' to analyse the transformations in the state personnel of Soviet Russia; see Marc Ferro, Des soviets au communisme bureaucratique. Les mécanismes d’une subversion, new edition Paris, Gallimard, 2017 [1980].

[86] See Laure Godineau, La Commune de Paris..., op. cit., pp. 100-114.

[87] Notes..., op. cit., p. 72, 80-81.

[88] Andrieu thus bemoans the incompetence of the telegraph employees, which he imputes to the 'system of elections, deplorable if it is not also armed with the guarantee of prior examinations', Notes... op. cit., p. 86. Around mid-May 1871 the Commune organised a competitive recruitment process for high-command officers; Jacques Rougerie has published a very instructive sample of candidates' answers on questions such as "What do you understand by social questions?", "The causes for the defeat of the 1848 Revolution" and "The role of the National Guard in Paris's various revolutions"'. See Jacques Rougerie, 'Comment les communards voyaient la Commune', Le Mouvement social, no. 37, 1961, pp. 58-67.

[89] See Andrieu, Notes....

[90] Deluermoz, Foa, 'Titulatures, positions sociales...', art. cit., p. 72.

[91] Deluermoz, Commune(s)..., op. cit., p. 164.

[92] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org. 

[93] Lissagaray, Histoire..., op. cit., pp. 233-234, 237-238; Andrieu, Notes..., op. cit., pè. 88-89.

[94] Deluermoz, Foa, 'Titulatures, positions sociales...', art. cit., pp. 68-69.

[95] The first figure is from Lissagaray, Histoire.... op. cit., p. 238, the second from Tombs, The Paris Commune 1871, cit., p. 89.

[96] The Civil War in France, first draft, text from marxists.org.

[97] See the overview of these socio-economic transformations in Quentin Deluermoz, Le Crépuscule des révolutions 1848-1871, Paris, Seuil, 2012, pp. 139-166; on the new republicanism that emerged under the Second Empire, see Sudhir Hazareesingh, From Subject to Citizen. The Second Empire and the Emergence of Modern French Democracy, Princeton, New Jersey, University Press, 1998.

[98] Along this line of argument, see Yves Sintomer, 'Émancipation et commensurabilité', in Stathis Kouvélakis (ed.), Marx 2000, Paris, PUF, 2000, p. 122.

[99] Daniel Bensaïd, Politiques de Marx, op. cit., pp. 54-55.

[100] Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, text from marxists.org.

[101] See e.g., Antoine Artous, 'Démocratie et émancipation sociale', in Marxisme et démocratie, Paris, Syllepse, 2003, pp. 56-57. 

[102] It is worth noting that Marx also strongly called for the independence of the judiciary, to which end elect magistrates had to be elected: 'The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible, and revocable': 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org. 

[103] The Civil War in France, First Draft, text from marxists.org.

[104] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org. 

[105] Chapter Five in The Eighteenth Brumaire, text from marxists.org.

[106] See Jacques Guilhaumou's indispensible study 'Marx et la langue jacobine: un espace de traduisibilité politique', in Jacques Guilhaumou, Philippe Schepens (eds.), Matériaux philosophiques pour l’analyse du discours, Besançon, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2011, pp. 51-81.

[107] Chapter Four, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, text from marxists.org.

[108] 'The National Assembly had to take this step because it was being urged forward by the immense mass of the people that stood behind it' — Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, New York: Prometheus, 1998, p. 214.

[109] Ibid., p. 215.

[110] The National Convention was a parliament of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French Republican government. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

[111] From the Mémoires de R. Levasseur (de la Sarthe), in MECW, Vol. 3, pp. 363, 366. On his recommendation, Vorwärts — the German émigré paper in Paris to which he himself contributed and which he helped transform into a communist publication — published a selection of extracts from these Mémoires.

[112] Ibid. p. 365.

[113] Bidouze, La Commune de Paris..., op. cit., p. 64. On the question of the executive and the separation of powers, see the enlightening discussion in Bidouze, ibid., pp. 64-74.

[114] ' The Commune seems to me to be wasting too much time in trivialities and personal quarrels. One can see that there are other influences besides that of the workers. None of this would matter if you had time to make up for the time lost'. Marx to Leo Frankel and Louis Varlin In Paris, 13 May 1871, text from marxists.org.

[115] Journal officiel, 21 April 1871.

[116] Lissagaray, History of the Paris Commune, Chapters XVIII, XXI, text from marxists.org.

[117] It has long been thought that most of the IWMA's members on the Council joined the 'minority', doubtless because of the presence therein of leading Internationalists like Malon, Theisz and Serraillier (the London Council's own envoy), subsequently joined by Frankel. The libertarian 'minoritarians' themselves cultivated this version of events, as they painted a divide between the various 'socialists' and the 'Blanquist'-'Jacobin' majority (see in particular Lefrançais, Étude..., op. cit., pp. 201-204 and 216-221). Rougerie's meticulous breakdown of the figures ('L’AIT et le mouvement ouvrier... ', art. cit., p. 68-69) gives a different image: among the 68 Council members who took part in the vote, 13 Internationalists voted against the Committee of Public Safety, 22 for (and 17, if we adopt a more restrictive definition of IWMA membership).

[118] See Gaido, 'Marx’s addenda...', art. cit.

[119] It was above all those members of the minority who evolved toward Bakuninite positions who tended to make this split an ex post dividing line between 'anti-authoritarians' and the partisans of a 'supreme dictatorship' and 'despotic centralism'. See Lefrançais, Étude..., op. cit., pp. 201-204, 216-221; in a much more nuanced and self-critical way, Arnould, Histoire..., op. cit., pp. 197-211. Georges Arnold, an influential member of the Central Committee of the National Guard and also a member of the Commune and signatory of the minority's text, instead judged it in 1897 'above all a divergence over the means of action and execution of the measures decreed by the Commune with regard to the war', Revue blanche, op. cit., p. 96.

[120] Rougerie, Procès..., op. cit., pp. 186-198, and Paris libre..., op. cit., pp. 218-228.

[121] Ibid., p. 220. 

[122] Journal officiel, 4 May 1871.

[123] See especially the National Guard Central Committee's recommendations upon the eve of the elections: 'the members of the municipal assembly, constantly monitored, surveilled and discussed by public opinion, are recallable, accountable and responsible': Journal officiel, 25 March 1871. We again find the idea of citizen 'monitoring of mandataries' acts' in the manifesto of the IWMA's Paris sections, and a more explicit formulation of the principle of binding mandates and the 'permanent recallability' of 'mandataries' in the manifesto issued by the Central Committee for the Twenty Arrondissements (in Dautry, Scheler, Le Comité central..., op. cit., p. 237).

[124] Rougerie, Paris libre..., op. cit., p. 221.

[125] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org. 

[126] See the discussion of this in Bidouze, La Commune de Paris..., op. cit., pp. 105-9. 

[127] Rougerie, 'La Commune et la démocratie', art. cit.

[128] Arnould, Histoire..., op. cit., pp. 208-210 – citation from p. 209.

[129] Pierre-Joseph Proudhon The Principle of Federation, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.

[130] See Jacques Rougerie : 'La Commune et la démocratie', art. cit.; 'Sur le mot Commune 1848-1871', available at commune1871-rougerie.fr/; 'Entre le réel et l’utopie: République démocratique et sociale, Association, commune, Commune', in Laurent Colantonio (ed.), Genre et utopie. Avec Michèle Riot-Sarcey, Saint-Denis, Presses universitaires de Vincennes, 2014, pp. 273-292.

[131] Gustave Tridon, Les Hébertistes, plainte contre une calomnie de l’histoire, first edition, Paris (self-published), 1864, with an unsigned preface by Auguste Blanqui. This short book was republished under a slightly different title in Brussels in 1871, without Blanqui's preface (Les Hébertistes. La Commune de 1793); this is the edition available on the BNF's Gallica site. On the political thought of Tridon and late Blanquism, see Patrick H. Hutton, The Cult of the Revolutionary Tradition. The Blanquists in French Politics 1864-1893, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1981.

[132] The Manifesto of the Paris Commune, cit., text from marxists.org.

[133] Lissagaray, Histoire..., op. cit., p. 214.

[134] Engels's 1891 Postscript, The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[135] 'The Paris Commune', The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[136] Especially English-speaking commentators. See in particular Monty Johnstone, 'The Paris Commune...', art. cit. and his contribution following Jean Bruhat and Henri Lefebvre's interventions at the 1971 conference in Paris, La Commune de Paris. Colloque de Paris, op. cit., pp. 183-184; Richard Hunt, The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1984, vol. 2, pp. 153-157; Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx, Greatness and Illusion, London, Allen Lane, 2016, p. 507. The French debate has long been polarised by the champions of a certain Communist orthodoxy, keen to defend the understanding of the Commune as essentially the beginnings of a 'new state' or a 'new state in formation' (Jean Bruhat, 'Pouvoir, pouvoirs, État en 1871?', in La Commune de Paris. Colloque de Paris, op. cit., p. 165), and the partisans of a 'libertarian' interpretation, in the tradition of Maximilien Rubel; see his Marx critique du marxisme (1974), Paris, Payot & Rivages, 2000, in particular pp. 96-97, 408-410.

[137] Marx, 'The Nationalisation of the Land', 1872, text from marxists.org. 

[138] Engels, 'A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program of 1891', text from marxists.org (MECW, Vol. 27).

[139] 'The Paris Commune' in The Civil War in France, text from marxists.org.

[140] Marx, 'Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right' in MECW, Vol. 3, p. 29. 'In democracy none of the elements attains a significance other than what is proper to it ... In democracy the constitution itself appears only as one determination, that is, the self-determination of the people. ...'Democracy is the solved riddle of all constitutions.'

[141] On the meaning of the term 'revolutionary dictatorship' in the nineteenth century, including among radical republicans, see Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of the Revolution, vol. 3: The 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat', New York, Monthly Review Press, 1986, especially pp. 11-67.

[142] ' If one thing is certain it is that our party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown.' Engels, 'A Critique of the Draft Social-Democratic Program of 1891', text from marxists.org

[143]  Lissagaray, Histoire de la Commune de 1871, Bruxelles, Kistemaeckers, 1876, p. 514. This passage and certain other similar ones were deleted from the 1896 edition, which has repeatedly been reprinted since. This change reflected Lissagaray's gradual evolution, after returning to exile, toward a position making peace with the Republic. See René Bidouze, Lissagaray, la plume et l’épée, Paris, Les éditions ouvrières, 1991, pp. 149-224 et Jacques Rougerie, 'Écriture d’une histoire immédiate: l’Histoire de la Commune de 1871 de Lissagaray', in Philippe Bourdin (ed.), La Révolution 1789-1871. Écriture d’une histoire immédiate, Clermont-Ferrand, Presses de l’Université Blaise-Pascal, 2008 – available at commune1871-rougerie.fr.

[144] This pamphlet – Le 31 octobre, ses causes, son but, sa nécessité – first appeared in Combat, 28 November-8 December 1870. It was reproduced as an appendix to his book Étude sur le mouvement communaliste, op. cit., pp. 287-310 – quote from p. 289. 

[145] Ibid., p. 309.

[146]  Satory was a military camp near Versailles where arrested Communards were detained in terrible conditions and many executions took place. The pontoons were boats converted into prisons and kept moored in several ports due to the insufficient capacity of the existing prisons to handle the unprecedented numbers of detainees.

[147]  Malon is referring to the canuts' revolts of 1831-1834, June 1848 and the repression of the Commune.

[148] Benoît Malon, La Troisième ééfaite..., op. cit., pp. 530-532

[149] Lefrançais, Étude..., op. cit., pp. 280-281.

[150] Deluermoz, Le Crépuscule..., op. cit., p. 367.a

[151] See André Léo, La Guerre sociale, Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, Le passager clandestin, 2011; André Dalotel, 'André Léo, la Junon de la Commune', Cahiers du pays chauvinois, no. 29, 2004, pp. 103-15.

[152] 'The Paris Commune tended to shift the political dividing lines, especially where it caused the strongest echoes and the liveliest debates. In schematic terms, a split seemed to take place in liberal, republican and radical groups, in reaction to the event', Deluermoz, Commune(s)..., op. cit., pp. 283-284 ; 'There were also working men who sympathized with the Communards, not "upon strictly Communist grounds", but because "they believed [the Communards] to be thorough patriots and true republicans" who supported the International’s aim to secure ‘the fusion of interests among the working classes throughout the world': Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2016, p. 509. 

[153] Hence Part I (The Defeat of June, 1848) in The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850 concludes that 'with the victories of the Holy Alliance, Europe has taken on a form that makes every fresh proletarian upheaval in France directly coincide with a world war. The new French revolution is forced to leave its national soil forthwith and conquer the European terrain, on which alone the social revolution of the nineteenth century can be accomplished'. For an analysis of this strategic axis see the excellent discussion in Fernando Claudín, Marx, Engels et la révolution de 1848, Paris, Maspero, 1980, chapter five pp. 230-255.

[154] Marx to Niewenhuis, 22 February 1881, text from marxists.org.

[155] Marx, 'La Liberté Speech', 1872, text from marxists.org. On this, see also the two interviews about the Commune that Marx granted to American journalists in summer 1871 (the first to the London correspondent of the New York World, the second to the correspondant of the New York Herald – see Philip S. Foner, and R. Landor. "Two Neglected Interviews with Karl Marx", Science & Society 36, no. 1 (1972): 3-28., and his letter to the British socialist leader Henry M. Hyndman's 8 December 1880 (MECW 46 p. 49-50). 

[156] 'The Programme of the Parti Ouvrier', 1880, text from marxists.org.

[157]  ‘The Parliamentary Debate on Anti-Socialist Law' MECW 24 p. 248.

[158]  Ibid., p. 249

[159] Engels, 'Introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France', 1895, text from marxists.org. See also his 'Critique of the Erfurt Programme'.

[160] Ibid.

[161] MECW, Vol. 27, p. 519.

[162] See Engels 'On Authority' (1872) and Marx on 'Political Indifferentism' (1873), available at marxists.org.

[163] See John Merriman, 'L’influence de la Commune sur les anarchistes au début des années 1890', in Laure Godineau, Marc César (ed.), La Commune..., op. cit., pp. 405-414; Constance Bantman, 'The Era of the Propaganda by the Deed', in Care Levy, Matthew S. Adams (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Anarchism, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 371-387.

[164] In his 1895 introduction to Class Struggles in France.

[165] Michel Pigenet, 'L’adieu aux barricades. Du Blanquisme au Vaillantisme (décennies 1880 et 1890)', in Alain Corbin, Jean-Marie Mayeur (ed.), La Barricade, op. cit., pp. 367-379.

[166] 1895 introduction to Class Struggles in France, in MECW, Vol. 27, p. 519.

[167] MECW 44 p. 128.

[168] See especially Lefrançais, Étude..., op. cit., pp. 190-191; Lissagaray, Histoire..., p. 202. Louise Michel, La Commune. Histoire et souvenirs, Paris, La Découverte, 1999, p. 137, 187. In the 1897 Revue blanche study almost all the former Communards surveyed agreed on this point.

[169] 'Conférence à l’Élysée-Montmartre', 22 November 1880, cited in Edith Thomas, Louise Michel, Black Rose, 1980, p. 172.

[170]  La Première Internationale, op. cit., pp. 118-122 ; Antje Schrupp, 'Bringing Together Feminism and Socialism in the First International. Four Examples' in Fabrice Bensimon, Quentin Deluermoz, Jeanne Moisand (eds.), “Arise ye Wretched of the Earth”: The First International in a global perspective, Leiden, Brill, 2018, pp. 343-354, 362.

[171] Engels, The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State, 1884, Chapters II/3-4, text from marxists.org.

[172]  Ibid, Chapter III: 'The power of this primitive community had to be broken, and it was broken. But it was broken by influences which from the very start appear as a degradation, a fall ... The lowest interests ... inaugurate the new, civilized, class society. It is by the vilest means – theft, violence, fraud, treason – that the old classless gentile society is undermined and overthrown. And the new society itself, during all the two and a half thousand years of its existence, has never been anything else but the development of the small minority at the expense of the great exploited and oppressed majority; today it is so more than ever before.'

[173]  Ibid., Chapter Nine, Engels's emphasis.

[174] The bibliography grew rapidly after the major collection edited by Teodor Shanin (Late Marx and the Russian Road, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1983). These included, to mention just a few titles, Kevin Anderson, Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies, Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Le Dernier Marx, edited by Kolja Lindner, Toulouse, Éditions de l’Asymétrie, 2019. Other major French titles include the pioneering study by the French Communist Party-linked CERM (Centre d’Études et de recherches marxistes) , edited and published before the Shanin collection by a collective led by Maurice Godelier, who wrote an extremely useful preface: CERM, Sur les sociétés précapitalistes. Textes choisis de Marx, Engels, Lénine, Paris, Éditions sociales, 1978. 

[175]  Kristin Ross, Communal Luxury. The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, London: Verso, 2015, p. 82.

[176]  See the studies by Michael Krätke, 'Le dernier Marx et le Capital', Actuel Marx, no. 37, 2005, pp. 145-160; 'Marx and World History', International Review of Social History, vol. 63, n° 1, 2018, pp. 91-125. 

[177]  Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, 'On the Political Action of the Working Class and Other Matters', in Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later edited by Marcello Musto, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, p. 284.

[178] Karl Marx, The Class Struggle in France, Part IV; Eighteenth Brumaire, Chapter Seven; text from marxists.org.

[179]  Friedrich Engels, The Peasant Question in France and Germany, 1894, text from marxists.org.

[180] Particularly by pointing him to Haxtausen's book and acquainting him with the Russian socialists' debate on this question. See his 7 January 1871 letter, full text in Sylvie Braibant, Élisabeth Dmitrieff..., op. cit., pp. 99-100.

[181] Marx to Zasulich, The 'First' Draft, 1881, text from marxists.org.

[182]  Marx to Zasulich, The 'Second' Draft, 1881, text from marxists.org.