Why Marx (and Bakunin) supported The Paris Commune?

54 posts / 0 new
Last post
kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 6 2014 19:30
Why Marx (and Bakunin) supported The Paris Commune?

Actually an interesting issue came up in another thread which -I think- deserves to be discussed in more detail: 1)The similarities and differences between Paris Commune and Rojava Autonomy. 2) Why the anarchists and communists back then supported Paris commune? 3) What can we conclude from this on to what extend anarchists/communists should support the Rojava today ?

Let's start here:
http://www.servetdusmani.org/rojava-fantasies-and-realities/
For example writer here mentions that: " the fact that the newly emerging structure does not aim at the elimination of private property," I think this appears to be in current situation. However on second thought I remembered for example Paris Commune did not abolished private property, am I right? It also had no "future" plans to do so I guess also, right? When I searched internet The Commune actually did not wished to be independent or anything but demanded right to autonomy just as granted to other far off cities. The democracy of the commune was also direct, but it was not totally non-hierarchical as far as I know (there were difference in payment according to ranks for example). So basically The Commune was similar to Rojava Experiment in economical policies and in political organization as well as political demands (autonomy). I guess there are people who know the history of the commune more than me. so they can show me where I am wrong, also maybe they can point to other interesting similarities.I really did not made an extensive research on The commune and just speak what I have in my mind alread, so if I am making mistakes apologies.

OK then the real issue I am trying to aim is this so why then Marx, Bakunin well practically every revolutionary supported the commune? If it was so far away from being a perfect example of future society from the day one, why did they supported it? Also we can ask the question like this: Why revolutionaries supported a Commune that was not one hundred percent at the same ideological line with them? What I suspect is this they had an idea of political struggle and political solidarity that was not totally the same with issues of ideology So basically maybe for them ideological questions and political questions were not the same. Maybe we can discuss it, anyone?

plasmatelly's picture
plasmatelly
Offline
Joined: 16-05-11
Nov 6 2014 19:49

And another thing - I understand both Ocalan and Malatesta had moustaches, and on that basis how come all of Libcom don't support the PKK? Huh?

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 6 2014 19:56

I am glad you exist plasmatelly grin

plasmatelly's picture
plasmatelly
Offline
Joined: 16-05-11
Nov 6 2014 19:58
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
I am glad you exist plasmatelly grin

You belong to a ever shrinking club.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 6 2014 20:00

plasmatelly

Quote:
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
I am glad you exist plasmatelly
You belong to a ever shrinking club.

And you belong to somewhere else. Please go away if you do not want to say anything

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 7 2014 10:51

kurrem....

Your attempt to role current anarchist and marxist critics into more support for the PKK/Rojava 'experiment' on the back of what happenned in the Paris Commune in 1871 shows a serious lack of understanding of the different historical period then and now. The Paris Commune was certainly radical for it's time and in some respects more so than the Kobane experiment, but if (and it's a big 'if') there is any comparison to be made it would only be in the similar backward economic and class formation between the two, though I would of course not wish the same sorry fate on the remaining residents of Kobane. If you want to pursue this comparison you should do your research first.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Nov 7 2014 11:00

The Commune was not controlled by a single party but was an alliance of Proudhonist socialists, left Jacobins, Blanquists, and members of the First International who adhered to either the Marx or the Bakunin camp so for starters no comparison there with Rojava. Didn't notice any nationalists there.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 11:41

Ok, but you need to also do your own search and "name" things so that we can have a discussion:

Quote:
The Paris Commune was certainly radical for it's time

In what respects? Why Rojova can not be considered at least relatively "radical" for today? And from what geography you are speaking about?

Quote:
in some respects more so than the Kobane experiment

Yeah let's discuss these: in what respects? And also for example are there any respects that Rojava is more radical compared to it?

Quote:
I would of course not wish the same sorry fate on the remaining residents of Kobane.

Me too so we agree here.

Let's discuss these as analytical as possible. I am not trying to impose my ideology to you or anyone reading it. I actually see this sort of a benefit of all these discussions going on here. I did not considered such comparison could be made between these two before I started debating in these forums. It is actually informative to compare Rojava to an actual communist experiment (that was supported by revolutionaries of the time), to see its better or worst sides. (And not to the ideal communist society in our mind)

Here is again a short summary of what I find interesting: In both cases:
1) Private property was not abolished (hell actually even the banks were not abolished in Paris commune)
2) There was a demand for autonomy.
3) There was a semi-perfect direct democracy.
4) There were conditions of war. (I add this one now)
And all the revolutionaries at that time supported (as far as I know) Paris Commune, right? What motivated them to do so? Also will the fate of these two experiments will be the same ? Or might differences occur?

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 11:42

Battlescarred

Yeah you are right that there were not one dominant party in The Commune. However still I am not sure about the national issue. For example were Proudhonists (or left jakobins) devoid of any nationalism?

Also PYD (and 5 other parties) who wrote the constitution of Rojava claim that it is not an ethnic-nationalist self-government. They wrote it similar to a constitution of a federal republic (with equal citizens) I wonder for example how was the constitution of The Commune ? As far as I understand it was not an explicitly stated "worker's" government also. There were employers and bosses in the commune, right?

I mean come on people you can definitely show me how wrong I am under this topic. But let's make a theoretical discussion that benefits everyone.

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Nov 7 2014 11:50

That is very specious asking if the Proudhonists and left Jacobins were devoid of any nationalism. Certainly the myth of revolutionary France persisted with left Jacobins but it should be remembered that Proudhonist workers meeting with English trade unionists founded the First International.
As to the 5 other parties they are creatures of the PKK as much as the PYD is.
One of the measures passed by the Paris Commune was the end of military conscription whereas the Rojava Constitution includes a military draft "In the case of a war of legitimate defense, as a requirement of patriotism, there is the responsibility to actively join the defense of the homeland and basic rights and freedoms"for 18-30 year-old members to serve in the defence corps of the PYD, for a period of six months, either continuously or intermittently over a one year period. “Non-adherence” to this law was subject to punishment as stipulated in the law.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Nov 7 2014 12:10

Well, Bakunin and Marx, over the course of their lives, also supported some other causes that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. They also predicted about 4 of the 0 imminent socialist revolutions in the 19th century. But anyway, did 19th century revolutionaries have over a hundred years of experience with nationalist gangs and the left wing of capital? There's your answer.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 12:54

Battlescarred

You are right there is conscription in Rojava. It is also something I do not endorse. However I will look at the situation is commune in more detail can you recommend me some stuff that mentions it? (I am ready to accept it as one important difference between two cases, if I learn the situation in the Commune)

On nationalism, either you get me wrong or your opinion of PYD is distorted. PYD is not politically Kurdish, just like Proudhonists. However their social base consists of by majority of Kurds. They have members from a lot of ethnicities. They also come together with non-kurds in different other platforms. I guess they do not come together with unionists but this is hardly their fault as there is no such independent union. (however They recognize the right to form unions) Also for example Kurdish movement in turkey is possibly the most ethnically diverse party in whole of Turkey. They also come together with anarchists/communists from Europe and Turkey on different platforms and organize stuff. According to your evaluation of proudhonists Kurdish movement can not be called nationalist. They could be called Ocalanist grin . (under the light of current evidence I know).

Quote:
As to the 5 other parties they are creatures of the PKK as much as the PYD is.

This is just your imagination. Go listen to Zaher's recording. (it is shared in libcom somewhere)

But let's discuss more politics or maybe better more economics here? Let's not just get drown in our ideological differences (and selective reading of Rojava or Commune)

One more thing that comes ot mind is that Rojava is now like 3 years old (in practice) and it seems to be (except Kobane) very established and had managed to reorganize social life, unlike The commune which was always tried to survive in very harsh conditions.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 13:06

jura

Yeah you are definitely right that if somethings can not just be supported on the basis that Marx or Bakunin supported them.

However the question related to The Commune is this do we not support it now? (or were they making a mistake defending the Commune?) If we still endorse it. The question becomes: How related the Rojava is to The Commune in political, social and economical aspects? (We already know it is different historically I guess, For example unlike Marx or Bakunin, we would be very shocked if it leads to a major revolution even in a long time period.)

Quote:
But anyway, did 19th century revolutionaries have over a hundred years of experience with nationalist gangs and the left wing of capital? There's your answer.

Yeah I understand if these experiences make you very skeptical. However being skeptical should encourage us more to have a detailed analysis of the situation (not just label people outright).

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Nov 7 2014 13:36

I understand the need to find a historic precedent for the situation in Rojava but the Commune is not it. For one thing, we have the benefit of hindsight or the weight of revolutionary history, which the Communards simply did not have. Social democracy, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Pol Pot, etc, was still in the future and yet to be suffered, learnt from (or ignored). For another thing, nationalism or ethnic struggle was not an issue in the Commune. With Rojava, it is very much an issue. Thirdly, if you look hard enough, you will find similarities but you will also find such similarties in aspects of bourgeois democracy, 'people's democracy', the Co-operative Retail Society, the kibbutz movement, and so on.

The Commune was essentially ground zero of social revolutionary change but it was of its time. The nationalism and ethnic political orientation of Rojava 2014 added to our own hindsight makes such revolutionary comparison futile.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Nov 7 2014 13:38

... dbl post

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 14:31

Serge

But my point is not that they are the same. I accept from the start these two events happened in two different times /and two very different places).

However what I am trying to show is this if you do not idealize and focus on "what the aims of the commune were" and "what kind of the reforms they made" and "how it was organized". It appears to be really close to Paris Commune (I will show more examples in a post following this one) However most of what we have discussed here related to Rojava relate to two main issues with it. 1) It is national (I am still discussing it in above comments grin ) 2) it is not totally socialist (I am using it as a general term, OK?) Most of these criticisms are followed by a very big generalization: anarchists/communists never supported anything that falls short of their immediate aims (communism) However this historical discussion can wake us up from idealizing the communist past. I think communists/anarchists were not in fault to support The Commune (The struggle of people who want to govern themselves -in a progressive way- despite its locality, mixedness with nationalism, imperfect realization of communist utopia etc...) back then and it is not a fault also now.

Finding similarities with other "progressive" stuff is not a problem for me. I do not know if it is a problem for you.

Learning from history is again another issue. That I agree to you there were really terrible experiments made in the name of communism, however as I try to argue Rojava does not seem to be so (at least for now) Most of exaggerated claims of "uber-nationalist super-capitalist pro-rape genocidal gang nation-state based PYD" is just a myth (Again I am not saying they have no faults, but again The Commune also had huge faults).

However the ultimate point is I think at least partially Marx and Bakunin were aware of the problems of nationalism and also possible problems of authoritarianism (at least one of them grin) They were also probably informed about the mixed economic system in The Commune. Nevertheless they supported it in political terms for its possibility to show what an organized people can do to whole world and make the bourgeoisie and nation-states afraid. If we will not support such openings how can we justify calling ourselves revolutionaries.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 14:48

I am a lazy person I just read the Wikipedia page on The Paris commune and here is what I found (any more expert view will be much appreciated).

1)

Quote:
“The extreme left members of the Central Committee, led by the Blanquists, demanded an immediate march on Versailles, to disperse the Thiers government and to impose their authority on all of France; but the majority of the Committee wanted first to establish a more solid base of legal authority in Paris. The Committee officially lifted the state of siege, named commissions to administer the government, and called elections for 23 March. They also sent a delegation of mayors of the Paris arrondissements, led by Georges Clemenceau, to negotiate with the Thiers government in Versailles to obtain a special independent status for Paris.”

If this account is correct, then the political demand of autonomy of The Commune was very similar to demand of Rojava. Not against the state.

2) There were elections in Paris Commune to elect a governing body just like Rojava (actually Rojava still did not made elections but it is planning and it is "ruled" by a coalition including every party, if you do not believe me search yourself)

3) the deliberations of the Council should be secret, since the Commune was now effectively at war with the government in Versailles and should not make its intentions known to the enemy
This does not sound democratic at all.

4)

Quote:
One of the first measures passed declared that military conscription was abolished, that no military force other than the National Guard could be formed or could be introduced into the capital, and that all healthy male citizens were members of the National Guard.

This is interesting! They abolished the conscription but declared every male as a member of National Guard, I think we could consider this as a form of “conscription” right? And it is obvious that they should have some sort of law to enforce it. (As the turnout in military was rather low in National Guard, I guess real number was only a quarter of the number on the paper)

5)

Quote:
the abolition of night work in the hundreds of Paris bakeries;
the right of employees to take over and run an enterprise if it were deserted by its owner; the Commune, nonetheless, recognized the previous owner's right to compensation;

So there were private enterprises in Paris During the commune (also a Bank)

6)Only the male voted!
Rojava says: In your face Commune ! grin

What I am trying to emphasize here is this: Most of the stuff criticized in Rojova and attributed the problematic ideology of PYD is actually related not to ideological reasons at all. Their recurrence in Rojava is not just luck. They are results of real political issues that needs to be addressed for continuity of the experiments (who are born in hostile conditions) As these similarities show most of these were related to being under a war and also related to the need of maintaining at least a relative consent from the most of the population.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Nov 7 2014 15:40

Whatever it's faults, Paris Commune was primarily an example of the working class taking power. Whereas Rojava... I'm sceptical to say the least.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 7 2014 16:19

kurrem..... ''The struggle of people who want to govern themselves...'' is perhaps different to the struggle of the working class to self-manage the whole of their collective life. This later is certainly a continueing element in any potential for revolutionary change and it was so amongst at least the nascent working class of Paris. I would expect such a desire to be present amongst the workers and other classes in the Kurdish areas of the Middle East in so far as it is always an underlying aspect of any struggle of exploited and oppressed classes everywhere. That much is positive. But it is not in itself sufficient to destroy capitalist social relationships and create communism (the 'labour republic' is not communism anyway) and it has been effectively subverted and redirected in various ways throughout the long history of capitalism since the Paris Commune to serve it's own purposes. Put bluntly what was radical in the Paris Commune yesterday is today just part of the make-up of the capitalist totality - that which appears in history first as (a heroic) tragedy appears later as a farce.

Forget wikipedia and try researching some of the texts and discussion threads on this site around the Paris Commune and the related views of Marxist's and Bakuni'ists when you get round to taking a break.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 7 2014 19:43

Gepetto the issue in question is not what you know by memory. But this: what made it working class take the power ? What makes Rojova totally reactionary bourgoisie etc?

Leo
Offline
Joined: 16-07-06
Nov 8 2014 11:22
Quote:
Why Marx (and Bakunin) supported The Paris Commune?

Because the Paris Commune wasn't led by a nationalist organization with an insane cult of personality built around a rapist? Because the Paris Commune wasn't allied with Jihadists and didn't have a history of dubious positions and intentions towards ethnic minorities? Because the Paris Commune didn't enjoy the military support of numerous major powers in the world imperialist arena?

I can keep counting.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Nov 8 2014 02:32

I may be mistaken about this, but I believe the deputies to the city council were elected from section (neighborhood) assemblies. I think this is why Marx speaks of the "imperative mandate". That assumes there is a way for the constituency to create such a mandate.

There were also moves to create large worker coop workshops. They didn't really have a lot of time to do constructive social changes. Certainly there were people like Varlin who were advocates for workers self-management of industry, for independence of the unions. Varlin was one of the leading Internationalists.

The main power of the working class in Paris at the time was the National Guard actually, not the city council. the National Guard was not subordinate to any political party.

Irrespective of anything else certainly it is a worthy & brave thing for the ordinary people there in Rojava to fight against subordination to other powers altho the PYD has entered into all sorts of compromises on that score. But as libertarian socialists I guess what we would like to see are signs of independent organization of the immediate producers, even if we don't fully agree with their politics.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Nov 8 2014 16:13

Paris Commune didn't just want autonomy for Paris, it wanted a federation of communes as an governmental model for whole France. Also pretty sure they saw themselves as a seed of future "world republic", that's why they didn't use the Tricolore or flag of Paris but the red flag. Despite the patriotic sentiments being clearly visible in declarations the Commune had an international character, with foreigners being elected for various offices (most notably a Pole Dąbrowski, who was the chief commander of Commune's army). The Vendome column erected by Napoleon was brought down as a symbol of chauvinism etc., etc.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Nov 8 2014 16:35
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
anarchists/communists never supported anything that falls short of their immediate aims (communism)

It's not like that. What communists support unconditionally is the real movement of the working class. Strikers in 1980 Poland were mostly nationalist and Catholic reactionaries and that showed, however communists should have supported the workers in their demands, while of course having the same scorn for clergymen and CIA-funded "democratic opposition" that led them astray as for the Stalinist bureaucracy.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 10 2014 08:09

Gepetto

Everything you wrote as characteristic as Paris is also true for Rojava. Rojava wishes and suggests federative organization for all syria. (Well actually for everywhere). They also see themselves of seed of a future for a peaceful and democratic middle east. There is even laws to ensure non kurds will be elected and represented in every level of government. This is a characteristic of all democratic organizations of kurds (EDIT: No not all kurds of course, I mean only PKK-PYD and their associate organizations). I am not sure about statues but in turkey Kurdish youth attacks statutes of Ataturk as symbols of ethic nationalism. Lets generate more examples
I do not know anything about the strike you mentioned. I also did not get its relation. I think you might be getting what i try to mean there wrong ( your quote is opposite of what i try to argue: I think they supported politically (and played important roles) in actual movements that were not totally same with their own ideologies, i think this is very true again for many socialists from turkey who are fighting in Kobane)

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Nov 8 2014 17:50

FYI

Marx to Domela Nieuwenhuis
In The Hague

Quote:
Perhaps you will point to the Paris Commune; but apart from the fact that this was merely the rising of a town under exceptional conditions, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it be. With a small amount of sound common sense, however, they could have reached a compromise with Versailles useful to the whole mass of the people -- the only thing that could be reached at the time. The appropriation of the Bank of France alone would have been enough to dissolve all the pretensions of the Versailles people in terror, etc., etc.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/letters/81_02_22.htm

There was another letter from Karl to Fred just before it kicked off in which he said it was stupid idea I can probably dig it out if people want me to look for it.

.

bricolage
Offline
Joined: 14-11-10
Nov 8 2014 18:06
Battlescarred wrote:
The Commune was not controlled by a single party but was an alliance of Proudhonist socialists, left Jacobins, Blanquists, and members of the First International who adhered to either the Marx or the Bakunin camp so for starters no comparison there with Rojava. Didn't notice any nationalists there.

There were definitely nationalists in the Paris Commune, for example Rossel who served as Minister of War was a military patriot who joined the Commune as a protest against the French state and the surrender to Prussia.

Also this statement is a bit misleading because the Proudhonists were actually members of the First International - if I remember correctly the majority of the First International in France at the time was Proudhonist.

As for what the Commune 'wanted' it's contradictory and you can't say it 'wanted' anything coherent. Some statements talk about just wanting city autonomy, others have it as the basis for a future left-federal France. Still it's pretty clear that they did try to engage with other bits of France but the ideas of the Commune were never going to spread into the countryside and after the defeat of Lyon/St-Etienne etc Paris was isolated. However, the key point is more that the Commune began when soldiers refused to fire on the Parisian women that covered the cannon, and then deserted the army. In May the Commune tried again to appeal to soldiers of Versailles but this time there was no fraternisation and the city was butchered.

I think the important point is how Marx called the Commune 'the political form at last discovered' under which in the future economic emancipation could be achieved. It was never going to be socialist and it was never going to abolish private property; it certainly could have gone a lot further and certain people tried to push it that way (against the wishes of Proudhonists etc) but it was always going to be limited. But I think people are right to talk about the Commune in the confines of the historical period it was located in. I don't know enough about Rojava to comment but I think it's pretty reductionist to just translate the experience of 1871 to 2014 without any analysis of what is different.

Gepetto's picture
Gepetto
Offline
Joined: 28-10-12
Nov 8 2014 18:02
kurremkarmerruk wrote:
I am not sure about statues but in turkey kurdish youth attacks statutes of Ataturk as symbols of ethic nationalism.

Well, it's obvious that Kurds aren't endeared to the Turkish nationalism...

kurremkarmerruk wrote:
I do not know anything about the strike you mentioned. I also did not get its relation.

What I meant is that there was no communist revolution going on (mind you, the participants thought they were fighting against "communism"), but it was still supportable.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 10 2014 08:30

Syndicalistcat

I am not sure about recallablity. However zahers report speaks very positive on working direct democracy. I think in turkey for examle HDP (party of socialists and kurds) has recallable representatives. The problem with it. In turkey it is never used (also in other left parties etc) But I think Ocalan or Kurds wont be against it.

I also dont know if they would really make or be able to make such workers management. I know they make it in rural places. The villages are turned into communes. But the real task is to realize it in urban areas as they are the places of emergence of Bourgeoisie. I really dont know what is the status about it. Anyway Bookchinan ideals are very compatible with democratic organization of workplace in general, but i am not sure about its practice.

Can you reccomend me some stuff on National guard. Because it appears that every man was forced to be parts of the militia power so there were huge amounts of absentees in the ranks. I do not know it was the power of working class. If it was ok but it was possibly a very authotarian way to hold the power.

On last issue of support: I am i guess very sympathic to your position.

I will write now for everyone. All i can do is to provide you with more information on Rojava. It is your decision. Despite what everyone says and thinks, i am not making propaganda of kurdish movement. I did not opened This forum just to enlist people into ranks of YPG. I am just wishing to make a historical comparison between these two events and also to show political solidarity with porggresive elements in existence was not a sin in communist and anarchist history. So lets keep discussion more historical like why marx/bakunin supported in the commune despite its very imperfectness, and not why i am supporting pkk or something. Best wishes

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 10 2014 08:31

Gepetto

Well i mean i do not know for example what are the symbols of kurdish social chauvanism. But i can say you that PKK recognises the involvement of kurds in Armenian genocides. It officially pardoned it. Is this example good?

On second issue it is very hard for me to find it out know. (I am on phone now) I am glad you supported it. But it is jst another issue. And if you want to establish a relation: Contemporary PKK would definitely see their struggle as a movement of oppresed and endorse it. Lets stick to our common issue here.

kurekmurek
Offline
Joined: 15-11-07
Nov 10 2014 08:14

Dave B

It is very interesting what you quote above. It appears Marx was not very into the Commune actualy. (I actually think it makes sense) However I suppose these letters are written after the commune right? I think his position regarding commune in International was very supportive (at least politically) right?