France commune

Cissie Gool House, a modern town: New Frame

Living in England in the mid-1980s and mentioning the Communards in some contexts often met with enthusiastic approval from British pop duo Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles, whose Do not leave me like this was the best-selling single of 1986. Since the original Communards were intended, it was all about biting your tongue, mentally singing “Leave Me Like This” and trying to get out as quickly as possible.

The real Communards were supporters of the Paris Commune proclaimed on March 18, 1871. The Commune was essentially a municipal government elected on March 26 and run according to communitarian principles until its bloody overthrow on May 28 of the same year. Specifically, it was a revolt of the workers, radicals, students and socialists of Paris against the national government, then seated in Versailles, with the broader agenda that each city or district should be ruled independently by the communes.

How had the capital of France stood up against its own government? First, the French had been defeated in the Franco-Prussian War and signed an armistice on January 28, 1871. The newly constituted National Assembly ratified the terms of peace on February 12. The cunning political survivor Louis Adolphe Thiers is appointed Chief Executive of the French Republic. When, a month later, he tried to withdraw from the National Guard the cannons they had seized to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Prussians, a revolt broke out. Far from claiming arms, units of the French regular army rather fraternized with the Guard. Thiers fled Paris, moving the nominal government of France to nearby Versailles.

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The central Committee of the National Guard, itself nascent, commanded Paris, a quarter of a million armed men and the support of most of the Parisians. Surprisingly, rather than rule by diktat, the committee held elections on March 26 for a Municipality of Paris. The most striking contemporary account is that of Karl Marx, in the last of his great pamphlets, Civil war in France. Writing over the events of September 1870 to May 1871, Marx grasps the thread of the history and the significance of the Commune, which was not what it achieved but what it foreshadowed: a workers’ revolution and a government. working proletarian.

In one of the greatest sketches in history combined with foreknowledge, Marx delivers his words to the General Council of the International Workers’ Association on May 30, just two days after the last bloody acts of the Versailles army who put an end to the Commune.

Marx noted, revealingly, “When the Paris Commune took the leadership of the revolution into its own hands, when ordinary workers for the first time dared to infringe on the governmental privilege of their ‘natural superiors’, and, in circumstances of unprecedented difficulty, carried out their work with modesty, conscience and efficiency… the old world writhed with rage at the sight of the Red Flag, symbol of the Republic of Labor, floating above the Town Hall.

True, it only lasted 72 days, but even this paltry number became a marker of great importance in the October Revolution in Russia, when Lenin celebrated the day when the Bolsheviks outlasted the Commune.

The greatest of symbolists

There was a writer who came even closer to the Commune than Marx, an eyewitness who would also become one of the greatest poets of all languages. A 16-year-old boy, not for the first time, fled his home in Charleville after the February armistice. He headed for Paris, wandering its streets, seeing the Prussian army making its triumphal procession on the deserted Champs-Elysees on March 1 and was there too when the Commune rose up against the government of the old order at Versailles. .

The boy was Arthur Rimbaud, destined to die at 37, to write poetry for the shortest of seasons, a few years, and yet to be hailed as the greatest of Symbolists. He left Paris later in March 1871, returning home to write angry, inflammatory and enlightening poems about the Commune. Here are three lines from one of the most famous, Parisian War Cry (Parisian War Song), translated by Paul Schmidt.

Never, never now we will back down
Of our barricades, of our piles of stones;
Under their clubs our blond skulls crackle
In a dawn that was meant only for us.

The cobblestones of the city are hot
Despite the gasoline that you shower,
And absolutely, now, now we have
To find a way to break your power!

Bourgeois, eyeing their balconies,
Trembling at the sound of broken glass,
Can hear the trees fall on the boulevards
And, in the distance, a shivering scarlet shock.

Read on the antics of the former regime of the provincial government of the Western Cape, led by the DA, recalls the government of Versailles against the Commune. Calling on the brutal red ants to spur already violent and heartless expulsions shows that the party of neoliberalism has probed its lowest moral depths. Although DA premier Alan Winde is still a cartoon villain against Thiers, give the glove puppet some time: sheer power of the type the DA seeks to wield in the Western Cape absolutely corrupts.

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  • Cissie Gool residents want talks, not evictions

The most eloquent example of a modern Cape Town is a working-class town at Cissie Gool House, the abandoned hospital in Woodstock. Here, the so-called occupants have become residents and contributors to a dynamic communitarianism, managed by its members for its members. They have shown that oppressed, neglected, exploited and impoverished people can organize themselves better than Cape Town, which is why the city without love and indifference, embarrassed and shown, tries to evict them and close the house.

Athol Fugard wrote a heartbreaking and moving play in 1963, at the height of the great apartheid. His title doubles in 2021 as a reminder to Winde and the DA gang in town hall: People live there.

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