The Paris Commune: A Story in Pictures by William Siegel. John Reed Club, International Pamphlets No. 12. New York, 1931.

Proclaimed March 18, 1871. William Siegel’s marvelous illustrated history of the Commune, edited by Alexander Trachtenberg, went through a number of editions, first published for the Commune’s 60th anniversary. Here, the full picture-story is presented in twenty wonderful, uniquely Siegel, drawings.

The Paris Commune: A Story in Pictures by William Siegel. John Reed Club, International Pamphlets No. 12. New York, 1931.

In the summer of 1870, the French bourgeoisie drew their country into a war with Prussia. The government and leaders of the army were corrupt. There was a series of defeats.

Finally, in September, 80,000 untrained and ill-equipped men were thrown against the great Prussian war machine. The French were surrounded and defeated. Napoleon III and nearly half his army were captured, as were the Paris defences; and the Prussians swept on to the capital.

But the city’s masses had organized a National Guard. They al¬ ready felt the shortage of food: long lines of the hungry stood about the bakeries waiting for bread. But they procured a number of cannon for their defence and placed them on the Paris ramparts.

In this move the wealthy saw a danger to themselves, no less than to the Prussians. The masses were aroused to a revolutionary fervor; their guns could be swung toward the bourgeoisie within the walls as easily as against the foe without.

An attempt was made to capture the cannon. The alarm was given: the whole city of workers, women as well as men, turned out to their defence. And the Government troops rather fraternized than attacked the defenders.

On March 18 the Commune was proclaimed. The Government withdrew with its troops to Versailles. The Communards allowed the departure, though the troops could have been won over; and the city’s rich who swarmed out of Paris should have been held as hostages.

The city, organized into arrondissements, or districts, was now headed by groups of Communards—men and women, workers and intellectuals— who were, says Lenin, creating “a new type of state— the Workers’ State.”

And in the streets the crowds stood to read the proclamations of this new State: separation of the church; no more night work in bakeries; no back rent for the poor; the arrest of priests; the re-opening of abandoned factories; the abolition of fines laid on workers.

n the meantime, in Versailles, Thiers and his reactionary government, aided by Prussian officers, were planning an attack on the Paris Commune. Thousands of captured French soldiers were to be re¬ turned and armed for the onslaught—for which, however, the Communards were also preparing.

Barricades were erected in the streets. Men and women labored to construct and man them. But the whole city could not be held. The bourgeois who remained in Paris communicated its vulnerable places to Versailles; and from May 22 to May 28, a bloody week, the troops poured through undefended gates.

The Communards, fighting valiantly, were driven to a last stand in one small section of Paris. Every pavement was a battlefield; every house a fort. The Communards, worn and exhausted, were falling back before an advance that spared neither woman nor child. Still fighting among the flaming ruins of the city, they were captured.

Thousands were killed where they stood; other thousands— children, the old and sick—were herded to open places to be shot. Each detachment of the maddened Versailles troops was an executioner’s gang, summarily killing every suspected sympathizer. The Commune was being drowned in its own blood

And the wealthy, many of whom had now returned, stood on the curbs to watch the ghastly parade and congratulate themselves on their victory.

he White Terror knew no bounds. At Pere la Chaise Cemetery, at a dozen other points, thousands of Communards were herded together and shot. General Gallifet, the Butcher of the Communards, stood by and watched while the troops fired into the crowds massed against walls, who still defied them. Huge mounds were formed of corpses and those not yet dead. A part of ‘‘The Wall of the Communards” still stands; and the sculptured faces that peer from it are at once a challenge and a monument to the martyrs of the Commune.

In that one week 40,000 workers were slaughtered. Then those Communards who had so far escaped were herded together and given mock trials. With monotonous regularity they were found guilty and executed or shipped to the tropical colonies.

There they were forced to slave at the most difficult labor. They had helped found the first government of workers; and in revenge the victorious bourgeoisie sent them to die of fever, overwork and inattention, under the tender ministrations of the French foreign troops.

With the greatest care and understanding Karl Marx had followed the fortunes of the Commune. Immediately after its fall, he spoke to the workers of the world on the lessons of its rise and fall. “Workingmen’s Paris,” he said, “with its Commune, will forever be celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society.

March i8, anniversary of the Paris Commune, is one of the mile¬ stones of the advancing workingclass. Since 1871, it has been a day of celebration and re-dedication of the workers in every country.

The Commune lives again! In October, 1917, forty-six years after the Paris Commune, the workers of Russia under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, with Lenin at its head, established the first workers’ state rooted in permanence. These Russian Communards directed from Smolny by Lenin, troops of workers from the factories, the Aurora steaming up the Neva, and the soldiers and sailors who joined the Proletarian Revolution, defeated the bourgeois government under the slogan: “All Power to the Soviets.” “The Paris Commune,” said Lenin, “was the first step.” The Socialist Society now being built in the Soviet Union is the beginning of the workers’ march to a World Proletarian Commune.

The Paris Commune: A Story in Pictures by William Siegel. John Reed Club, International Pamphlets No. 12. New York, 1931.

Contents: Introduction by Alexander Trachternberg, The Battle-Front is Far Flung, War Threatens the Soviet Union, Workers Study Lessons of Commune, The Commune Fights for Power, The Commune – the First Proletarian Revolution, The Illustrated History by William Siegel.

PDF of 1st edition (1931)

PDF of 2nd Edition (1932)

PDF of 3rd Edition (1934)

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