Paris Commune

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The Paris Commune (French: La Commune de Paris, IPA: [la kɔmyn də paʁi]) was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 (more formally, from March 28) to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune contributed to the break between those two political groups.

In a formal sense, the Paris Commune simply acted as the local authority, the city council (in French, the "commune"), which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. However, the conditions in which it formed, its controversial decrees, and its violent end make its tenure one of the more important political episodes of the time.

Contents

Background

The Commune was the result of an uprising in Paris after France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. This uprising was chiefly caused by the disaster in the war and the growing discontent among French workers.[1] The worker discontent can be traced to the first worker uprisings, the Canut Revolts, in Lyon and Paris in the 1830s[2] (a Canut was a Lyonnais silk worker, often working on Jacquard looms).

Parisians, especially workers and the lower-middle classes, had long supported a democratic republic. A specific demand was that Paris should be self-governing with its own elected council, something enjoyed by smaller French towns but denied to Paris by a national government wary of the capital's unruly populace. An associated, but less well-articulated, wish was for a more "just", if not necessarily socialist, way of managing the economy, summed up in the popular appeal for "la république démocratique et sociale!" ("the democratic and social republic!")

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