2 thoughts on “Capitalism

  1. In the second of this series, Workers Power in Action, the first example used by Marx of workers implementing socialism was the Paris Commune of 1871:

    In the midst of a gruesome war between France and Germany, the working people of Paris, who successfully defended the city from attack, rebelled against the violence and privations caused by the war. The masses of Parisians instituted the Commune as the first workers’ government in history.

    The Commune immediately implemented a series of unheard-of measures that included, among other things:

    — Universal male suffrage, with all elected officials subject to immediate recall and paid no more than the average worker.

    — All rents temporarily suspended, interest on all debts abolished, and the right established of employees to take over and run an enterprise if it was deserted by its owner.

    — Separation of church and state.

    Although women didn’t get the vote, the commune gave rise to a radical feminist movement. The Women’s Union for the Defense of Paris and Care of the Injured believed that the struggle for women’s rights could only be pursued through a global struggle against capitalism. Among other things it demanded gender equality, equal pay, the right of divorce for women, and secular and professional education for girls.

    Marx was thrilled by the Commune and saw in it a vindication of his ideas. As he wrote in the Civil War in France:

    The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce…They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it, that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant.

    The ruling classes of France, who had mostly fled the city, were terrified by the Commune, to say the least. When they first sent troops to try to retake Paris, the Communards convinced the soldiers to switch sides and shoot their officers instead.

    In a final effort to defeat the rebellion of Paris, the old order of France joined forces with Germany–its mortal enemy in the Franco-Prussian War–to crush the Commune once and for all. What ensued was one of the most brutal episodes in history to put down the rebellion–in all, more than 30,000 people were killed and another 38,000 imprisoned.

    (Now, please, htlml tags, work well!)

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