France commune

Commemorations of the Paris Commune reopen old wounds

Protesters march in the rally to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871.

Pierrick Villette / Avenir Pictures / Abaca

The old French wounds reopened last weekend as a Catholic procession commemorating hostages murdered by the anticlerical Paris Commune was attacked by black-clad “antifa” protesters shouting slogans supporting the proletarian uprising in the capital he 150 years ago.

A commemorative mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit the next day, Sunday, May 30, at Notre-Dame des Otages (Notre-Dame des otages) took place without incident. “These martyrs were murdered by blind rage. But until the very end, they never uttered a word of hatred, rage, grudge or even revenge, ”Aupetit said in his homily.

The church was built where the 52 hostages, including 10 priests, were shot dead by the Communards in 1871.

The tension around the anniversary of the end of the 11-week episode, sparked by the country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and a subsequent conservative victory in parliamentary elections, has revealed a social and political split in France that remains topical for this day.

The city and its political left especially hailed the municipality as the birth of modern social reforms. The Archdiocese of Paris recalled its darker side, including the murders of then-archbishop Georges Darboy and 18 other clergymen, the arrest of more than 200 priests, monks and nuns and the confiscation and searches many goods of the Church.

As shocking as the violence of the Communards was under the motto “neither God nor master”, it can fade amid the horrors of the bloody week (bloody week) when the conservative government, taking refuge in the neighboring town of Versailles, returned ruthlessly to crush the town at the end of May 1871.

So many people were killed so quickly that there is no agreed total of the dead for the week and the estimates range from 6,000 to 30,000. Buildings including the Tuileries Palace and the Town Hall have been ransacked and set on fire.

“We focused on prayer and commemoration, without making any political declaration or request,” said Auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet, who led the procession retracing the march of the hostages from Père Lachaise cemetery to their died near the Porte des Lilas.

“We were not celebrating the victory of one side over another,” he said of the procession on Saturday May 29th.

If the parade through a former stronghold of the Commune of the East of Paris was authorized, it is not surprising that it attracts rowdy radicals who often disperse the demonstrations there. Some demonstrators shouted “down with Versaillais” mocking the demonstrators.

The polarization of the time, which amounted to a civil war, also finds an echo here in the discussions on the nearby basilica of the Sacré-Coeur, built at the end of the 19th century at the top of the butte Montmartre where the insurgency began. . The iconic church overlooking Paris is only now in the process of being declared a national monument.

The Commune, which Marx and Engels hailed as the first example of proletarian power, is often seen as the laboratory for many reforms which later became the dominant policy.

These included the separation of church and state, labor protection laws, free schools, soup kitchens, and the beginnings of gender equality. The reminder of these reforms dominated the events organized by the town hall to mark the anniversary.

“The history of the Commune is much more complex than it is said and the Catholic Church does not particularly seek to abuse it”, writes Jean-Pierre Denis, former editor-in-chief of the Catholic weekly. life.