17/04/2022 thesaker.is  26 min 🇬🇧 #206319

The Paris Commune: The birth of international neoliberalism and Eu neo-imperialism

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by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog

(This is the sixth chapter in a new book, France's Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West's Best Values.  Please click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)

One hundred and fifty years later it's clear that the Paris Commune of 1871 was four things, and only one - the last on this list - is widely understood in 2022.

  1. A reverse of the American Civil War: In France it was the slaveowners and slave traders who - as opposed to initiating it - forbid and fought down a rebellious secession. I think Marx would have been more effective in his description if he had compared France with the situation in the US, as it's an interesting reverse parallel.
  2. For rightists: It's interesting that they never look at how their victory over the Paris Commune furthered the right's ideology and goals. It's almost as if the champions of liberalism don't want to admit that armed treason with Bismarck was the reason for their victory in France?

Too bad for them - there's no doubt that's what it was. 1871 marks the restoration of liberalism after the voter-approved coup of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852. But the Third Republic created in 1871 is no longer a "French" government based on liberalism - as in 1848-52 - but a new type of liberalism based on collusion among the international elite: thus, it is truly "neoliberalism". If we're going to call anything "neoliberalism" - even though it's all fundamentally just the same old "liberalism" - this is the most accurate place in history to add that prefix. Most add it over a century later, incorrectly.

  1. If the Commune represents such a major advance in global leftism because it's the first sustained example of the dictatorship of the proletariat - for two months -, then the armed victory of an international elite class over such a major advance must herald something equally significant, no? It does: The Commune represents the very neo-imperialist dictates, with their first troops, of what would eventually be instituted as the European Union.

The definition of neo-imperialism is not simply the replacement of direct rule by Western colonisers with Westerners' indirect rule via local Brown puppets - neo-imperialism also includes Westerners waging imperialist war on their own Western people for the benefit of an international 1%. The first modern example of this intra-European class warfare (not merely feudal class warfare) started with the Commune. The European Union is the bureaucratic expression of these forces which defeated The Commune.

  1. Lastly, there is total understanding that, for leftists, all we need is Frederich Engels' famous concluding remarks on the 20th anniversary of the Commune: "Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." This is the most widely understood understood of the four assertions.

The Commune is a big deal, but we need to make it a big deal for the victors, because they - rightly - are ashamed of it.

The objective history: The Commune was defeated by the armed collusion of the French 1% with the German 1%

Marx's writings on the Paris Commune came in truly real-time. It's incredible journalism that he got it so right but also so quickly, but what's more shocking is what actually transpired:

The Paris Commune came after the capture of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. The average person was fine with this ignominious end to the Bonapartist imperial era - the modern executive branch had been discredited. In 1852 France had democratically sanctioned the self-coup of the executive branch against the usurping, unrepresentative and already disgraced legislative branch of Western Liberal Democracy, and by 1870 France was ready to let go of the world's most progressive monarchy. They wanted something new - Socialist Democracy - but the Western Liberal Democratic elite was happy to push aside Bonaparte and re-usurp power, exactly as they did from 1849-51, when the National Assembly subverted the 1848 constitution to the majority will of parliament and gutted universal male suffrage. To achieve this re-conquering of the French people it took German troops to put them back into power; it took months starvation, censorship and totalitarian controls around Paris; it took the total rejection of any democratic will... but this is "neoliberalism" - should we be surprised?

A hastily-assembled French government of the rich colluding with Bismarck's occupying Germans to bombard and siege Paris, what?

"The conspiracy of the ruling class to break down the revolution by a civil war carried on under the patronage of the foreign invader... culminated in the carnage of Paris."

That's from Marx, but it's not a "a history" - it's "the history".

How can this be anything other than treason? How can this be anything other than forcing political regression onto France? How can the success of such a faction be anything other than ultimately anti-France? How can this be anything but a "not national war" as it has nothing to do with "national peoples" but everything to do with elites/emperors/bankers/slaveowners/industrial barons?

These unanswered questions from supporters of the West add up to a major theme of Western history: the covering up of the early crimes of Western Liberal Democracy, which hypocritically loves to endlessly focus on the early errors of a far more moral and democratic movement - socialism.

It's truly accurate to call these post-1871 war French legislators the "anti-Resistance" of French history, because instead of fighting with autocratic Teutons they colluded with occupying Prussia to subvert the democratic will of Paris and, above all, to ring-fence them from the rest of the nation to keep Paris' victory of Socialist Democracy from spreading.

Yellow Vest: "We didn't score very well in last month's European elections, but remember that we had only a few months to get everything organised, unlike all the other parties. What the Yellow Vests have hammered into people's heads is the reality that, our purchasing power is never going to rise, our debt to high finance can only keep rising, and that tax evasion will only continue to rise unless voters fight for our cause."

(Note: this book intersperses over 100 quotations taken from actual, marching Yellow Vests which were originally published in news reports on PressTV.)

You likely have no idea whose these legislators are, and nor does the average Frenchman. The treasons of Western Liberal Democracy are as hushed up as they are rewarded - the head collaborator, Adolphe Thiers, became the first president of France's Third Republic.

A major difference between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Commune is the lack of violence in Paris - until, that is, the forces of liberal democracy showed up and slaughtered as many in Paris (30,000) as had died in the entire nation during "the Terror" (1793-4). Of course, all one hears about is the Terror of 1793-4 and never this far worse Terror - it's far worse because the victims included far more women, children, poor and innocent, who were all executed without trial, as opposed to the many unrepentant elite of 1793-4. "The Terror" in the Western world is that rich people got tried and sentenced to death - poor people executed without a trial is no problem for Western Liberal Democrats, of course. This faux-reality is because the winners write the history books, but there's no doubt that as socialism prevails over Western Liberal Democracy the true terror will be rightly named more and more.

Not a 'slaveowners rebellion' but a true reversal of the US Civil War

Marx, in his writings on the Paris Commune, repeatedly dubs it a "slaveowners rebellion", but it's actually the inverse - Paris rebelled, not the ruling slaveowners, and after months of siege Parisians called to secede and to establish a new republic.

France had banned slavery, again, in 1848, but the Western Liberal Democrats conniving with Bismarck to establish their mutual control over the masses of Paris contained many former slave-traders; contained families whose wealth was based on centuries of slave trading; contained members whose financial dealings with countries who had not yet banned slavery, thus Marx is entirely justified to call them "slaveowners".

There is also major significance that the opposition to the Paris Commune was first landed at an assembly in Bordeaux: it's a port city built on the slave trade. The elite of Bordeaux, which is located within the department of Gironde, were consistently among the most reactionary, pro-slavery, anti-democracy elite in France (even more than almost English-sighting Brittany, the only region which sent troops to conquer The Commune).

Thus "slaveholders" did not secede against France, like in the US in 1861, but instead colluded with foreign occupiers and the slaughterers of French soldiers in order to contain a rebellious attempt at a new governmental structure. The Civil War in France, the name of Marx's famed pamphlet on the Commune, was caused by the restoration of popularly-rejected Western Liberal Democracy, and only via a treasonous siege did it remain a "Paris Commune" and not a "Second French Revolution".

Having established what transpired and the unpopular role and ideology of the slave-traders/Western Liberal Democrats who prevailed, we can move on to what these colluding traitors of the nation's largest city established.

The restoration of liberalism = neoliberalism = anti-democracy, censorship & oligarchy

Even if the people of France were done with monarchy and empire, aristocracy and autocracy, false meritocracy and unrepresentative faux-technocracy, the liberalists, constitutional monarchists and autocrats alike were not.

The elections for the first legislature of the new Third Republic were with Prussians in half the country - should we be surprised that neoliberalism's birth came under totally undemocratic voting conditions? Two-thirds of its members were either Orleanists or Bourbonists - yes, royalism and autocracy has prevailed in an alleged "Third Republic" built on mass murder in the capital.

Yellow Vests: "There has been so much police brutality today and in recent months. It's clear that the 5th Republic is dead, and that we must change not only the Macron regime, but our entire system. The French people are being ruled by thieves."

It cannot be stressed enough how the Paris Commune relates to the overall historical trend of fighting monarchy and autocratic mindsets: 100 years after the French Revolution the Third Republic was a "republic" mainly run by royalists! This is no longer a "French" government based on liberalism - as in 1849-52 - but a new type of liberalism based on collusion among the international elite: it's neoliberalism.

As the years passed in the Third Republic these royalists would have to renounce their royalism - seeing that it was totally rejected by the French people - and thus they would switch their allegiance to the new neoliberalism. The result was clear to much of the new "Third World": With the fig leaf of republican and democratic institutions France's overseas empire would now become the world's second-largest. The idea that Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte or his uncle represented an "empire" more venal than that of the Third Republic is a totally unsupportable fiction.

Marx notes how the Commune differed from the 1%-er desires of Western Liberal Democrats: in The Commune the worker and lower classes were joined by the petty bourgeois, just like with the Yellow Vests. What united them was the debt-producing and rent-seeking of liberalists.

"And yet, this was the first revolution in which the working class was openly acknowledged as the only class capable of social initiative, even by the great bulk of the Paris middle class - shopkeepers, tradesmen, merchants - the wealthy capitalist alone excepted. The Commune had saved them by a sagacious settlement of that ever recurring cause of dispute among the middle class themselves - the debtor and creditor accounts (via the postponing of debts for 2-3 years). The same portion of the middle class, after they had assisted in putting down the working men's insurrection of June 1848 had been at once unceremoniously sacrificed to the creditors by the then Constituent Assembly. But this was not their only motive for now rallying around the working class. They felt there was but one alternative - the Commune, or the empire - under whatever name it might reappear. The (2nd) empire (of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte), had ruined them economically by the havoc it made of public wealth, by the wholesale financial swindling it fostered, by the props it lent to the artificially accelerated centralisation of capital, and the concomitant expropriation of their own ranks."

To champion Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte over the first class of Western Liberal Democratic politicians is one thing, but we should see here why our modern leftist support must be limited for Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte: He failed to stop, as President or as elected Emperor, the modern home-based debt-slavery which remains rampant in the West today:

"In the eyes of the French peasant the very existence of a great landed proprietor is itself an encroachment on his conquests of 1789. The bourgeois, in 1848, had burdened his plot of land with the additional tax of 45 cents, in the franc; but then he did so in the name of the revolution; while now he had foment a civil war against revolution; to shift on to the peasant's shoulders the chief load of the 5 billion of indemnity to be paid to the Prussian. The Commune, on the other hand, in one of its first proclamations, declared that the true originators of the war would be made to pay its cost."

So we see the roots of neoliberalism both politically and economically: multinational autocrats and elite bourgeois against all workers and the modern, essentially precarious middle class (petty bourgeois).

(In a parenthetical from the larger point of the shift from serfdom to debt-serfdom in France: Here we see the cause of the reparations which France demanded after World War I. These reparations are always historically portrayed as unjustified and as a major cause of Germany's hyper-inflation and the rise of the Nazis. Again, we see how the refusal of Western Liberal Democracy to honestly examine its formative years from 1848-1914 has led to total historical ignorance. Germanic people will also point out that this debt load reflected the same debt load Napoleon put onto Germany, but the differences are enormous: France fought defensive war after defensive war from Prussian-Austrian-Hungarian aggression, and France was also received as liberators from feudalism - 1871 is not liberation at all!)

1871 is popularly portrayed as a localised and extremely radicalised movement (even immoral: from Wikipedia, and without explanation or justification - "The principles underpinning the Commune were viewed as morally degenerate....") and not "The French Civil War of 1871" only because of censorship tactics used against it.

"The Rurals (i.e. the Bordeaux Assembly) - this was, in fact, their chief apprehension - knew that three months' free communication of Communal Paris with the provinces would bring about a general rising of the peasants, and hence their anxiety to establish a police blockade around Paris, so as to stop the spread of the rinderpest."

In the 21st century we see how Western Liberal Democracy, after realising what devolving the "power of writing" via digital social media can do, has responded with vast censorship against their "rinderpest" classes of today. Of course, Western Liberal Democracy has brutally repressed socialist thought for nearly two centuries.

"While the Versailles government (the Bordeaux Assembly would relocate to Versailles, the seat of autocracy, in March 1871), as soon as it had recovered some spirit and strength, used the most violent means against the Commune; while it put down the free expression of opinion all over France, even to the forbidding of meetings of delegates from the large towns; while it subjected Versailles and the rest of France to an espionage far surpassing that of the Second Empire; while it burned, by its gendarme inquisitors, all papers printed at Paris, and sifted all correspondence from and to Paris; while in the National Assembly the most timid attempts to put in a word for Paris were howled down in a manner unknown even to the Chambre introuvable of 1816 (The ultra-royalist and uber-reactionary Chamber of Deputies of the Bourbon Restoration); with the savage warfare of Versailles outside, and its attempts and corruption and conspiracy inside Paris - would the Commune not have shamefully betrayed its trust by affecting to keep all the decencies and appearances of liberalism as in a time of profound peace?"

It's the same problem as in 1849: Western Liberal Democracy does not even protect the democratic freedoms described in liberalist thought. There is never a free marketplace of ideas if the ideas discuss eliminating the oligarchic parliamentary style of government which dominates the West. Similarly, Iran, Cuba, China and other socialist-style democracies censor calls to counter their popular revolutions, but there are two key differences: Western Liberal Democracy hypocritically claims to be more tolerant when they are not, and Western Liberal Democracy's popular support is a false construction.

Because of the cutting off of communications - as well as because of the massive bloodletting when the siege was broken - the French Civil War remained a limited affair: it was the working people of Paris, and the politically progressive there, against the nation-wide banker-lawyer-landlord-aristocrat elite who were colluding with occupying Germans. It could have been the third progressive national revolution in 82 years, but it was massacred before it reached that level.

Yellow Vest: "They are using even harsher tear gas on us, and people are dropping to the ground left and right. Our demand is for a more equal and more democratic society, and this does not merit such inadmissible violence. The government must listen to the people of France."

It remains clearly a class war, and an international one, and that's why the Commune is so vital. Whereas a century earlier it was royals colluding against their own people the Commune saw foreign-backed liberal politicians doing that.

It's truly the birth of the principles of the European Union.

The Commune as the birth of EU neo-imperialism

Returning to the theme of European political history I set out in my Introduction chapter, 1871 represents a vital step beyond Europe's original imperialism, which started with the Columbian era of Old versus New World, and then also a step beyond France's occupation of Algeria in 1830: The refusal of a huge proportion of France to refuse support for armed war on Paris forced Bismarck to release hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war, who were used to reconquer Paris.

"This army, however, would have been ridiculously ineffective without the instalments of imperialist war prisoners, which Bismarck granted in numbers just sufficient to keep the civil war going, and keep the Versailles government in abject dependence on Prussia."

These represent the first-ever shock troops of European neo-imperialism. If Western Liberal Democracy was truly honest about its elitist individualism these men would be lionised as the first neo-imperial EU foot soldiers. Should we see a "Frexit" similar troops might be mustered if financial war fails to force them back into the EU neoliberal empire.

The Third Republic was formed amid German occupation, in the hastiest of a wartime vote, in order to approve a peace plan with Germany, but also - critically - to put the most unfit, unpatriotic, pro-neoliberal 1% people into power. It's a hallmark criticism of Western Liberal Democracy that their politicians are incredibly distrusted and the puppets of big money - the same goes for the first representatives of neoliberals, per Marx.

"The population could not but feel that the terms of the armistice rendered the continuation of the war impossible, and that for sanctioning the peace imposed by Bismarck the worst men in France were the best..... There is but this difference: that the Romans had no mitrailleuses (volley machine guns) for the despatch, in the lump (sum), of the proscribed, and that they had not 'the law in their hands' nor on their lips the cry of 'civilisation'."

We see here that the faux-moralism of Western Liberal Democracy truly began in 1871 as well.

"That, after the most tremendous war of modern times, the conquered and conquering hosts should fraternise for the common massacre of the proletariat - this unparalleled event does indicate, not, as Bismarck thinks, the final repression of a new society up heaving, but the crumbling into dust of bourgeois society."

What Marx misses is that - by his own analysis - the petty bourgeois/small traders/true middle class was also massacred i 1871. The Yellow Vests alliance with this class - as opposed to the general leftist contempt for even the most near-bankrupt shop-keeper - is thus a significant broadening of leftism and also a return to what actually worked.

Yellow Vest: "The G7 is spending 30 million euros over one weekend to give rich ministers champagne, caviar and lobsters, while people in France don't have money for food or electricity. They talk about saving the environment, but only after flying here in their private, first-class planes. France's billionaires see their fortunes rise every year, whereas the minimum salary France is forced to stretch more and more. We need a real redistribution of wealth."

The socialist Paris Commune lost. What up-heaved was not socialist society but a new form of liberalism - one where Western elitist-imperialists turned on Westerners themselves in massacres formerly reserved for Brown peoples. It also marks the start of where liberalism began its war to eradicate socialist societies, a war of eradication which was as brutal and as highly-censored as the monarchical war against liberalism was before the two began colluding in 1871.

Paris Commune: The start of what 1917, 1949, 1959 and 1979 carried

To summarise simply:

"It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last under which to work out the emancipation of labor.... The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundation upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule." (emphasis mine)

And if we aren't working for a classless society, then why are you reading this? Go out and rob, cheat and steal to join the upper class, and then join in their suppression the working, middle, pensioner, student, youth, female, minority, etc. classes.

There's a lot of nonsense emanating from France on the Commune - four months of siege will do that to you, perhaps - and it's on the side of the anarchists.

The Commune is considered by anarchists to be their heyday - a day when the stages of socialism and communism were leapfrogged (who needs development?) - and the immediate repression didn't give a chance to push aside these deluded bores. The only thing duller than, the founder of collective anarchism, Mikhail Bakunin's self-referential writings on the Commune are his metaphysical thoughts. The certainties of the Commune's anarchists are as full of false "universal values" as much as any Western Liberal Democrat. Marx and Trotsky detested their generations's anarchists as much as the Yellow Vests refused to hand any sort of political leadership to Black Bloc or Antifa.

Western Liberal Democrats love to focus on the most individualistic, fantastic and nonsensical ideas espoused during The Commune - again, four months of siege will produce some of that - because it avoids any talk of the actual politics which was discussed, and allows for caricatures such as "morally degenerate". They want to make The Commune like May 1968, but the former was not just a movement for individual rights but about the political right to form a new type of government. As time goes on the unity of the Yellow Vests and their political goals became more apparent - not 68ard individualism but 1789 class and cultural warfare. The Yellow Vest are a class warfare group.

Yellow Vest: "There has been enormous repression never seen before in France. Even in 1968 it was not as bad as this. But this has been the policy chosen by the president in order to break the movement. We will keep improvising new solutions to win our demands."

But the biggest problem leftists must unlearn from the Commune's legacy is that it was totally Parisian. It's led to a veneration of urbanites as outdated as the veneration of factory proletariat - rural people, cubicle dwellers, pensioners and other groups must be in the vanguard, too.

Here's an interesting thought: if we are to accept that - at 1871's time of rural domination - that the urban areas were the political vanguard, then perhaps we should consider that today, when most societies are urbanised, that rural areas are now the political vanguard? With the Yellow Vests this generalisation appears to hold generally true.

What's interesting is that the Paris Commune proved Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, correct regarding the way Western Liberal Democracy, in its ultimate goal of federalism (seen in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia and many Western monarchies are allegedly "unitary"), centers everything around the capital and thus ultimately creates fragmentation and disunity. Federalism is opposed in socialist democracy because Western Liberal Democratic federalism serves to weaken society by weakening the power of government and thus increasing the power of the rich individual - it allows for capitalists to "divide and conquer".

Burke foresaw this: "You cannot but perceive in this scheme that it has a direct and immediate tendency to sever France into a variety of republics, and to render them totally independent of each other without any constitutional means of coherence, connection or subordination, except what may be derived from the acquiescence in the determinations of the general congress of the ambassadors from each independent republic."

More importantly, Burke would't have been surprised one bit by the elite's response in 1871 to the democratic rejection of Western Liberal Democracy:

"Neither they have left any principle by which any of their municipalities can be bound to obedience, or even conscientiously obliged not to separate from the whole to become independent, or to connect itself with some other state.... To this the answer is: We will send troops. The last reason of kings is always the first with your Assembly."

Indeed: become Western Liberal Democratic or die, be sanctioned, etc.

Burke sees a more modern Western problem - capital domination - but agrees that Western Liberal Democrats must control the capital above all.

"All you have got for the present is a paper circulation and a stock-jobbing constitution; and, as to the future, do you seriously think that the territory of France, upon the republican system of eighty-three independent municipalities (to say nothing of the parts that compose them), can ever be governed as one body or can ever be set in motion by the impulse of one mind? When the National Assembly has completed its work, it will have accomplished its ruin. These commonwealths will not long bear a state of subjection to the republic of Paris."

Because the "republic of Paris" in 1871 was socialist the rest of France had nothing to fear from the capital - quite the reverse in modern Western Liberal Democracy. The smothering of local cultures via an ethnocentric capital is something expressly opposed in Socialist Democracy.

In order to forestall incorrect anarchists about Marx, we should note his recognition of the need for centralisation. "The centralisation of government, required by modern society, rises only upon the ruins of the military and bureaucratic governmental machinery that was forged in contrast to feudalism." (emphasis mine)

Above all the Commune represents what neoliberalism requires: armed rule is what keeps Western Liberal Democracy going.

We would do well to remember that Engels believed the biggest mistake of The Commune was to not attack the real heart of Western Liberal Democracy: its Bankocracy.

"The hardest thing to understand is certainly the holy awe with which they remained standing respectfully outside the gates of the Bank of France. This was also a serious political mistake. The bank in the hands of the Commune - this would have been worth more than 10,000 hostages. It would have meant the pressure of the whole of the French bourgeoisie on the Versailles government in favor of peace with the Commune."

At Tahrir Square in Egypt I saw that the first place protesters went to was the television media centre: The main problem is not persuasion, but financial - the people will always admit that Western Liberal Democracy has failed. They should have taken over the banks, just as the Western invaders of Libya knew - they looted the authoritarian form of Islamic Socialism of so much gold that it's been called the "biggest heist in the world".

The Commune ends nearly 100 years of French leadership of progressive politics, as Russia and Eastern Europe would take the reins in the next generation.

What started with the Paris Commune would be bookended in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War. Spain was a non-wartime, legal and national Paris Commune, but neoliberal and neo-imperial Western Liberal Democracy chose war just like in 1871.

Understanding the 1930s, an era as shrouded in Western propaganda as 1789-1917, is the only way to understand post-Great Recession politics. This is truly, Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the 'fascism' of the 2020s.

Upcoming chapter list of the brand-new content in France's Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West's Best Values. The book will also include previous writings from 2018 through the 2022 election in order to provide the most complete historical record of the Yellow Vests anywhere. What value!

Publication date: June 1, 2022.

Pre-orders of the paperback version will be available immediately.

Pre-orders of  the Kindle version may be made here.

Pre-orders of the French paperback version will be available immediately.

Pre-orders of the  French Kindle version may be made here.

Chapter List of the new content

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of '  Socialism's Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism' as well as '  I'll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China', which is also available in  simplified and  traditional Chinese.

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