L’International-Homage to the Women of the Paris Commune.

Posted: March 16, 2014 in a story, Call to Action, For your information, for your reflection

On the coming anniversary of the Paris Commune we here at Furbirdsqueerly republish our appropriation collage in honor of the brave women and men who fought on the barricades. Today we join with millions of others who go up against the state and all that the state stands for. We dedicate this piece to all of our women warriors who fight the good fight all around the world and to all of our Trans warriors who stand up against injustice not only the grave injustice towards themselves but against injustice against all people.

This work is an appropriation collage, it has been gathered from many sources and is given out in the service of the people. This appropriation collage was first published on this blog in  2012.

The Paris Commune, the first successful worker’s revolution, existed from March 18 to May 28, 1871.

“If socialism wasn’t born of the Commune, it is from the Commune that dates that portion of international revolution that no longer wants to give battle in a city in order to be surrounded and crushed, but which instead wants, at the head of the proletarians of each and every country, to attack national and international reaction and put an end to the capitalist regime.” -Edouard Vailant, a member of the Paris Commune.L ‘International

Eugene Pottier 1871

Sung by Pete Seeger

L ‘International

*The original French words were written in June 1871 by Eugène Pottier (1816–1887, previously a member of the Paris Commune) and were originally intended to be sung to the tune of “La Marseillaise“.[2] Pierre De Geyter (1848–1932) set the poem to music in 1888. His melody was first publicly performed in July 1888 and became widely used soon after.

 

This work begins in tribute to the women, unnamed thousands strong who fought off the troops, who stood together. The rank and file who yes stayed at the barricades even when some of the menfolk were escaping. Who stayed on and were shot down when the many leaders escaped the slaughter. It has always interested us that when some stand out in leadership positions folks tend to heap praises on them, and praise them we shall, but these folks should never give us reason to not stand in tribute and awe of the rank and file fighters for justice and freedom. Thousands of women were murdered during the Paris Commune’s ending days. For all we stand, for all we say, we fight on.

Revolutionary Women of the Paris Commune:

“A woman replied to the accusation of having killed two soldiers: “May God punish me for not having killed more. I had two sons at Issy; they were both killed. And two at Neuilly. My husband died at this barricade – and now do what you want with me.” She was undressed and shot.”

There are many witnesses to the crucial role played by women in the Commune. One reactionary writer declared:

The weaker sex behaved scandalously during these deplorable days … Those who gave themselves to the Commune – and there were many – had but a single ambition: to raise themselves above the level of man by exaggerating his vices … They were all there, agitating and squawking … the gentleman’s seamstresses; the gentleman’s shirt- makers; the teachers of grown-up schoolboys; the maids-of-all-work … What was profoundly comic was that these absconders from the workhouse unfailingly invoked Joan of Arc, and were not above comparing themselves to her … During the final days, all of these bellicose viragos held out longer than the men did behind the barricades.

Vengereuses in Paris May 27, 1871

The Association of Women for the Defence of Paris was one of the most revolutionary groups during the Paris Commune (1871). In the following submission to the Commune’s Commission on Labour and Exchange, the Association sets forth a revolutionary program similar to that of the anarchists. Capitalism was to be replaced by the free association of the producers by means of aworldwide strike of labour against capital. … The Paris Commune and Workers’ Self Management.

Highlighting the efforts and achievements made by the working women during the Commune we dedicate this piece. Women like Louise Michel, Elisabeth Dmitrieff, André Léo, Anne Jaclard, Paule Mink, and Nathalie Lemel, organized secular schools, ambulance services, and work cooperatives, as well as taking up arms for the revolution. The working women of the Commune fought for women’s rights on a class basis, and defended the revolution with their very lives.

Louise Michael

“I have been told that I am an accomplice of the Commune. Certainly, yes; for the Commune wanted, above all else, the Social Revolution, and the Social Revolution is the dearest of my desires. Even more, I am honoured in being one of the promoters of the Commune … Since it seems that every heart that beats for freedom has no right to anything but a little slug of lead, I demand my share. If you let me live, I shall never cease to cry for vengeance.” Louise Michael

We celebrate Louise Michael fighter, revolutionary of the Paris Commune, member of ourstories, and rebel. Emma Goldman wrote about Michael in a major article for the German Yearbook for Sexual Intermediate Types defending gay rights and discussing Louise Michel who was alleged to be a lesbian. Michel once joked, “We love to have agents provocateurs in the party, because they always propose the most revolutionary motions.”

Louise Michel was simply amazing, revolution personified. Known as “The Red Virgin,” she played an important role in the creation of the Paris Commune by leading the people of Montmontre to stop the government seizing the guns of the National Guard. She fought on the barricades during the final days of revolt when not tending the wounded. Escaping the mass slaughter of 35,000 Parisians after the Commune was defeated, she was arrested, tried and exiled to New Caledonia along with thousands of other rebels. There, she supported the indigenous people in their revolt against French imperialism.

Finally returning to France when the government pardoned the remaining Communards, she took an active part in the anarchist movement. In 1883, she hoisted the Black Flag and led a protest against unemployment across Paris. This act ensured that this flag, previously associated with French labor struggles (“the black flag is the flag of strikes and the flag of those who are hungry,” as she put it), became the classic anarchist symbol. A participant in many struggles, she was arrested numerous times and always remained defiant of the authorities she so clearly held in utter contempt. Anarchist and feminist, Michel fought for equality for all and for women’s self-emancipation (“we women must take our place without begging for it”). She died at the age of 74 and, by a fitting co-incidence, she was buried before a crowd of 120,000 people the same day as the 1905 Russian Revolution started.

 Women of the Paris Commune

Nathalie Lemel

“We have come to the supreme moment, when we must be able to die for our Nation. No more weakness! No more uncertainty! All women to arms! All women to duty! Versailles must be wiped out!” These were the words of Nathalie Lemel, participant in the Paris Commune of 1871, and member of the Union des Femmes pour la Defense de Paris et les Soins aux Blesses (The Union of Women for the Defense of Paris and Aid to the Wounded).

She worked as a bookbinder and retailer in Paris, and then became a socialist activist.[5] In 1864, the International Workers Association (IWA, aka First International) was created in London in the midst of the agitated social climate in Europe. In August 1864, the bookbinders all went on strike in the middle of a very large conflict, where one of the best known militants was Eugène Varlin. In 1865, Nathalie Lemel joined the First International. When a new strike was called, she was a member of the strike committee and was elected union delegate, which was a rare position for a woman to hold in those days. She distinguished herself by her determination and organization: she fought notably for the equality of salaries between men and women.

This was in addition to her strong opposition to the Second Empire. In 1868, she left her home and family (mainly because of her husband’s alcoholism), which did not help her reputation in the eyes of conservatives and the police. This increased freedom intensified her political activism: with Varlin and the other bookbinders, she participated in the creation of “The Housewife” (“La Ménagère“),[a co-op, and “The Pot” (“La Marmite“), an open restaurant (that would account for four establishments in all for 8000 workers). She was employed there to prepare meals.

Paule Mink

The Franco-Prussian War went badly for Napoléon III, and in late 1870, his government fell. Paule Mink was then in Paris and became active in the defence of the besieged city. She supported the uprising of the Paris Commune and was a prominent revolutionary orator at the republican clubs of St. Sulpice and Nôtre Dame. She was a member of the Committee of Vigilance of Montmartre and organized a free school for the poor at the church of St.-Pierre. With Louise Michel, André Léo, Nathalie Lemel, Anne Jaclard and other prominent feminists, she organized a Women’s Union and participated in the Commune’s committee on women’s rights. As always, she tirelessly advanced the argument that the struggle for feminism must be linked to the struggle for socialism. Paule Mink also made several tours to the provinces to drum up support for the Paris Commune in other cities; somehow she always managed to get through the German siege. She was absent on one of these tours during the Bloody Week (Semaine sanglante) and the suppression of the Commune. That is how she managed to evade capture and escape from France.

Paule Mink died on April 28, 1901. Her remains were cremated and buried at the famous Père-Lachaise cemetery. Her funeral was the occasion for a large demonstration of socialists, anarchists and feminists and ended in a violent brawl with the police.

Anne Jaclard

Anne Jaclard, born Anna Vasilevna Korvin-Kurkovskaya (1843–1887), was a Russian socialist and feminist revolutionary. She participated in the Paris Commune and the First International and was a friend of Karl Marx. She was once engaged to Fyodor Dostoyevsky but married the Blanquist Victor Jaclard. Her sister was the mathematician and socialist Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850–1891). Anna married Victor Jaclard in 1867. The Jaclards were involved in the revolutionary anarchist groups set up by Mikhail Bakunin, but this did not prevent them from befriending Karl Marx, subsequently Bakunin’s greatest opponent. They joined the First International, organised in 1864 under Marx’ leadership, Anna as a member of the Russian section, Victor as a member of the French. Together with her husband she participated actively in the Paris Commune of 1871. She sat on the Committee of Vigilance of Montmartre and on the committee supervising the education of girls; she was active in organizing the food supply of the besieged city of Paris; she co-founded and wrote for the journal La Sociale; she acted as one of the representatives of the Russian section of the International and she participated in a committee on women’s rights. She was convinced that the struggle for women’s rights could only succeed in conjunction with the struggle against capitalism in general. Anne Jaclard, as she was then known, collaborated closely with other leading feminist revolutionaries in the Commune, including Louise Michel, Nathalie Lemel, the writer André Léo, Paule Mink and her fellow Russian, Elisaveta Dimitrieva. Together they founded the Women’s Union, which fought for equal wages for women, female suffrage, mesures against domestic violence and the closing of the legal brothels in Paris.

The Paris Commune

The Paris Commune or Fourth French Revolution (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.

In late May after eight days’ fighting the last defender of the Commune were overwhelmed on the heights of Belleville and Menilmontant; and then the massacre of defenseless men, women, and children, which had been raging all through the week on an increasing scale, reached its zenith. The breechloaders could no longer kill fast enough; the vanquished workers were shot down in hundred by mitrailleuse fire [over 30,000 citizens of Paris were massacred]. The “Wall of the Federals” [aka Wall of the Communards] at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where the final mass murder was consummated, is still standing today, a mute but eloquent testimony to the savagery of which the ruling class is capable as soon as the working class dares to come out for its rights. Then came the mass arrests [38,000 workers arrested]; when the slaughter of them all proved to be impossible, the shooting of victims arbitrarily selected from the prisoners’ ranks, and the removal of the rest to great camps where they awaited trial by courts-martial.

Some references that should be checked: Works used to build this collage.

The Paris Commune, Karl Marx

One of the most important works is Tony Cliff, Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation: 3. The Paris Commune. (a must read for the full story.)

Gay American History, Jonathan Katz, Resistance: 1859-1972 Emma Goldman The Unjust Treatment of Homosexuals, Letter to Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and published in Yearbook for Sexual Intermediate Types.

Gay Resistance, Sam Deaderick and Tamara Turner, Red Letter Press, Emma Goldman, “Stop assuming a woman is a lesbian or anything else for that matter simply because she doesn’t fit men’s shopworn requirements of what a woman should.” Goldman was one of the first to address what today we know as lookism.

Anarchist Writers: Louise Michael, “If you are not cowards, kill me.”  HERE

Women of the Paris Commune, Carolyn Kemp and Christina Gridley, In Defence of Marxism, HERE

Edwards, Stewart (June 1973). The Communards of Paris, 1871. Cornell University Press. p. 172. ISBN 9780801491405. http://books.google.com/books?id=FfP51lZXEI0C. Retrieved 15 October 2010.

On Anne Jaclard HERE.

The Lesson of the Paris Commune, Alexander Tracutenberg fro Anarchy Archives.  (another must read. Excellent pictures.)

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