rimbaud and the paris commune

19 11 2010

Sean Bonney was not impressed by a talk on French poet Arthur Rimbaud and the 1871 revolution in Paris

Last month, the Marx Memorial Library hosted a talk called “Rimbaud and the Paris Commune”, given by the latter-day “decadent” poet Sebastian Hayes. Hayes – whose qualification to talk about the revolutionary aspects of the poetic imagination didn’t amount to much more than having apparently hung out in Paris in 1968 – seemed to know little about Rimbaud, nothing about the Paris Commune and even less about Marx.

The most memorable part of the evening was his suggestion that Marx’s definitive account of the Commune, The Civil War in France was ‘not worth reading’ because it contains ‘too much detail’. It was also surprising to hear his claim that there had been no uprisings in France since 1968: presumably the riots in 2005, or indeed last month’s strikes – still going on while he was speaking – were not ‘poetic’ enough for him. Read the rest of this entry »





communism, anarchism and the paris commune: bristol, 28th february

8 02 2010

The second of The Commune’s Bristol reading group sessions will be on Sunday 28th February at 6pm in Cafe Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol. The session will discuss late nineteenth century ideas on communism and anarchism and the significance of the Paris Commune of 1871

All welcome – email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info. Some background reading which may be of interest is posted below. Read the rest of this entry »





new pamphlet – storming heaven: the paris commune of 1871

5 10 2009

The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first working-class revolution in history. With the French capital surrounded by the troops of the newly founded German Empire and the ruling-class government in Versailles presiding over military and economic chaos, the Parisian population overthrew the state apparatus and created a revolutionary government. The Paris Commune comprised diverse political forces, from radical plebian French nationalists aspiring to complete the 1789-93 revolution; to communists and anarchists: but its democratic way of organising and splitting of the army meant it represented what Karl Marx called in his first draft of The Civil War in France “a revolution against the state as such“.

pariscommune1

The Commune’s new pamphlet features a chapter from Marx explaining how the revolution came about and its significance; and the reproduction of the text of a pamphlet by libertarian socialist group Solidarity critiquing the traditional left’s claim that the Paris Commune proved the need for a vanguard party to seize state power on behalf of the masses. Read the rest of this entry »





why we need a new human emancipatory communism

2 06 2009

by Allan Armstrong

Introduction

How many people today, even on what remains of the Left, publicly and confidently declare their support for ‘Communism’? Take just three British organisations, which claim to be key parts of the revolutionary Left – the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Nowhere in their What We Stand For columns is there any mention of communism. If these comrades are communists they are ‘closet communists’.

Looking tentatively out from their closets, with doors slightly ajar, they might whisper to those within hearing distance, that ‘Communism’ is nothing to get het-up about really. ‘Communism’ can be safely relegated to a distant future. The real task is “to build socialism”. If they make any reference at all to communism, it is confined to in-house events or theoretical journals and has about as much purchase on their everyday politics as ‘Clause 4 Socialism’ had for the reformist Left who led the old British Labour Party. If Marx hadn’t called himself a communist for most of his life and hadn’t entitled his best-known work, The Communist Manifesto, most of the British revolutionary Left would probably prefer to jettison the term altogether. Read the rest of this entry »





reminder: january 19th reading group on self-organisation and communism from below

16 01 2009

Our series of reading groups kicks off at 6:30pm on Monday January 19th with a discussion on the subject of working class self-organisation and “communism from below”.  Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to find out more info on the central London venue. The texts for this first meeting are:

The Communist Manifesto (click here)

Arguing against different conceptions of “socialism” prevalent at the time, such as paternalistic “utopian” projects, Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto argues that it is the working class must take power in order to revolutionise society. Tracing the development of Western society through the ages, Marx argues that we must get rid of capitalist ownership and the repressive social order and create a new, free and collectively organised system based on the development achieved by humanity thus far.

The Civil War in France - Engels’ 1891 introduction (click here) and chapter five (click here)

Marx’s thundering eulogy to the Communards – the Parisian workers who seized power in 1871 in the midst of France’s defeat in a war against Prussia – and the new order they established, casting aside the state bureaucracy and standing army and taking control with their democratic working-class “commune”. Introduction by Engels traces French history in the intervening decades and summarises the work.

Communism and Society (click here)

This section of British communist William Paul’s 1922 work argues against conceptions of introducting socialism through Parliament, and like Marx in The Civil War in France denies that the working class can take over the existing state machinery. Paul’s piece focuses on the self-organisation of the class and the manner in which the organisation of struggles against capitalism prefigures the society which will replace it.

Socialism and self-management (click here)

Yugoslav Marxist Mihailo Markovic’s piece looks at different aspects of workers’ self-management, with particular reference to post-war Yugoslavia where organs expressing elements of workers’ democracy were in conflict with the state bureaucracy under Marshal Tito. He argues that the state and party should be replaced by organs of workers’ self management whereby the mass of the population make economic, political and social decisions for themselves.






revolutionary strategy: reply by mike macnair

3 09 2008

on friday 29th david broder posted a review of revolutionary strategy, a new book by the cpgb’s mike macnair. this provoked more than seventy comments, and mike himself has written a response, which we reproduce here. Read the rest of this entry »





links added in ‘ideas’

30 08 2008

today we have added three more links to the ‘ideas‘ page of the commune.

the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in marx and engels, by hal draper, explains how marx and engels used the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ not to mean a specific form of government but rather to denote the class rule of the working class once it has overthrown the bourgeoisie. in this vein draper attacks the understanding of the term elaborated by plekhanov, who proclaimed “when we come to power, we will allow no freedom for anyone but ourselves”.

anton pannekoek’s world revolution and communist tactics, written for an organ of the comintern in 1920, effectively combats statist visions of working-class power and bureaucracy in the workers’ movement, and looks at the new organisational forms workers must use to re-shape society: “the formation by the workers of the soviets, their own organs of power and action, in itself signifies the disintegration and dissolution of the state. as a much more recent form of organisation and one created by the proletariat itself, the trade union will survive much longer, because it has its roots in a much more living tradition of personal experience, and once it has shaken off state-democratic illusions, will therefore claim a place in the conceptual world of the proletariat. but since the trade unions have emerged from the proletariat itself, as products of its own creative activity, it is in this field that we shall see the most new formations as continual attempts to adapt to new conditions; following the process of revolution, new forms of struggle and organisation will be built on the model of the soviets in a process of constant transformation and development”.

ubu saved from drowning: worker insurgency and statist containment in portugal and spain 1974-77, by loren goldner, is of particular interest in that focuses on the struggles of the portuguese working class rather than merely the history of the sects that aspired to lead it (much like mailer’s the impossible revolution). the fact that the portuguese revolution represented the end of an era of class struggle rather than the beginning of a new one, and that the onward march of state capitalism had also petered out by the end of the 1970s, by no means devalues the lessons of the portuguese revolutionary crisis, which saw mass working-class mobilisation, factory expropriations and efforts at workers’ self-management.





more new content in ‘ideas’

26 08 2008

today we have added to the ‘ideas‘ section of the website…

the solidarity group’s pamphlet on the 1871 paris commune. this compares trotsky and tales’ insistence that the communards failed because of their lack of a party unfavourably to karl marx’s civil war in france, which makes no such argument; and furthermore celebrates this great display of working class insurgency from below.

we also feature an article by david broder on the organisation of education under capitalism and the alienation of students, and an essay by chris ford on the relevance of the theory of state capitalism in today’s globalised capitalist economy.

the website is now accessible at www.thecommune.co.uk as well as the wordpress address.








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