En ce jour de 1871, la Commune de Paris a commencé son gouvernement de Paris. Ne vous inquiétez pas, nous sommes de revenir à l’anglais dès maintenant! As you were!
The Paris Commune of 1871 was an uprising of the workers and lower-middle class of Paris in response to what the Franco-Prussian War had put them through. In the previous year Paris had been under siege, Parisians were starving and forced to eat rats and domestic pets. Things had been pretty bad for years, but this was pretty much the shitty cherry on a cake made of shite. However, the Parisians had something going for them.
At the start of the war, in July 1870, the government – which had buggered off to Bordeaux so that they naughty Germans wouldn’t kill them – the National Guard of Paris had been expanded to protect it from invasion by German troops. This meant that many ordinary citizens were armed. They also had cannons and heavy arms which meant that they were pissed off and heavily tooled up. Not a good situation if you want your citizenry to remain all well-behaved, especially when many of the men being elected to head the Guard were of a socialist or anarchist persuasion. Fast forward a few months; the Prussians are triumphant and want to have a little march around Paris. The Parisians are not happy about this and the provisional French government under Adolphe Thiers realise this and decide they’re not going back to Paris as it’s a bit angry; they’ll go to Versailles for a while. The government also decide that they want their cannons and shit back and this is when everything goes a bit Pete Tong for Thiers et al.
The Communards – as they members of the Commune were called – were not having it. Some of the soldiers who were sent in to get the heavy arms, decided the Communards had it right, so they joined up with them, shot a couple of officers who didn’t like their attitude and there you have it. The Commune began.
Alas, it only lasted until May of that year, but for all the disdain flung at it by the la-di-da government, they were well organised, were not even demanding that much and had a rich culture of their own. After all, it was here that Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles
developed their musical chops and their cover of Never Can Say Goodbye was a heartfelt tribute to the day the Commune was broken up, the lucky escaped to make their way in the world and the unlucky were gunned down or arrested. The end was pretty heinous. In the week of May 21st-28th, nearly 20,000 Parisians were killed and 25,000 arrested. Thousands of the arrested were executed and about 4,000 deported to the province of New Caledonia (out near Australia somewhere). Many of the deported were treated appallingly, tortured and abused. The bad feeling among the poor of Paris as a result of the events of 1871 remained for many years and was only slightly assuaged by the outcome of an inquest into the treatment of the (now returned) deported that published its findings in 1881.
So, that was that. Mais ce qu’il était? Well, it was the first mass working class revolt, which could have become a full on revolution. It was the working classes demanding to be listened to, claiming rights for themselves, refusing to be treated as an afterthought and demanding equality of rights. It was a full on fuck you to the establishment that may have been quashed at the time, but was not forgotten and bore the seeds of later revolutions and the violence they contained. Violence is never right, but here’s the thing; if you’re happy to kill people for standing up for their right to be treated like a human being, you should never be surprised if those people are just as happy to kill you when they have the upper hand. Vive l’esprit de la Commune!
Today is the birthday of young Marvin Humes who is a singer in a boy band called JLS which apparently stands for “Jack the Lad Swing” (Sweet mother of god!). Now, normally I’d have no time for this sort of fly-by-night outfit with their vaguely ear-wormy tunes
that are at once lingering and instantly forgettable, but then the band took part in a great sketch on this year’s Comic Relief and I decided that young Marvin deserved a happy birthday on the back of that. Not least because JLS are going to do a record with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and indeed went out for a pint with him after the recording of the sketch.
I mean, it’s music, Jim, but not as we know it. It’s all X-Factor (American Idol, etc) type shite that in many ways is killing real creativity and making Simon Cowell more rich, more powerful and more unbearable with every passing second. In 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War, Marvin Gaye released What’s Going On? In 1981 with British cities erupting in riots and the economy in the toilet The Specials released Ghost Town. The Falklands War brought us Shipbuilding from Elvis Costello. Now? We have Everybody in Love. Still, it’s not Marvin’s fault that he’s pretty and vacant and he did some good stuff for charity (and his own profile) on Comic Relief, so la!
Happy birthday, young man. Look after your money because this won’t last forever and do try to enjoy the ride.