Revollution & Reaction in Modern France - Practice Essay
At first, it might sound strange to ask whether or not the Commune posed any threat to the Republic. When looking closely at the events in 1871, one indeed sees on the one side a democratic insurrection, openly fighting for a ?Republic?, and on the other, a monarchist Assembly. The symbols used on both sides strengthen that idea: while the Parliament is seated in Louis XIV's Versailles, the Commune is centred upon the Hotel the Ville of Paris, one of the buildings that convey the most revolutionary significance in France's capital.
[...] It seemed as though, as long as the basic needs of stability and security were ensured, the political form which the government was to take did not really matter, except to Paris. This is probably why such proclamations as the Commune issued to win the province's support2 did not have extraordinary success: the peasants just did not care about the political regime. What they cared about was peace, and the security of their belongings, both of which the Republic, as understood before 1871 and still in the Commune, could not guarantee. [...]
[...] Republicanism at that time mainly referred to the First French Republic, established in 1792 after Louis XVI betrayed the constitutional monarchy. Firstly, this Republic was very different from what was to become the Third Republic: it had only one Chamber, in which the whole power, both executive and legislative, was concentrated. It was soon to degenerate into Robespierre's Terror regime, since it contained virtually no checks and balances to prevent one individual from seizing power. Secondly, the Republic had at first been established as a government of national defence, which succeeded in mobilising the French people against the foreign invader. [...]
[...] (op.cit., p.61) 6 Une accusation a été lancée contre Thiers. Il lui a été reproché d'avoir, à dessein, laissé grandir la Commune pour mieux l'écraser et, du péril conjuré, se faire un piédestal. Il est peu vraisemblable que Thiers ait nourri un pareil calcul et, de propos délibéré, joué une partie aussi chanceuse. (Jacques Bainville, La Troisième République, p. 28-29), although Bainville does not provide any proof either Bainville, op.cit., p Jellinek, op.cit., p nom9.” Furthermore, the Paris Commune, whether or not consciously provoked by Thiers, did serve his plans to establish the new regime, because it made very clear that a Republic could stand for order, and could even be more ferocious in repressing a popular uprising than any monarchy had ever been. [...]
[...] But the Commune was in a state of war and threatened by conspiracy. Of looting, of beatings such as those inflicted upon Communard prisoners by the citizens of Versailles there is no trace8.” As we continue, it seems increasingly clear that the Commune in itself probably could not be a real threat to the Republic, not even to Thiers' “Conservative Republic”, which many considered as being in fact a “monarchie constitutionnelle sous un autre 3 L'étiquette républicaine lui semblait être, à elle seule, de nature à conjurer de nouvelles convulsions en retirant un prétexte aux révolutionnaires. [...]
[...] Rather the Commune was brought about by the conservatives wishing to end the old problem of Parisian insubordination. Thiers had an old score to settle with the city which had overthrown him in 1848. When the Parisians refused to surrender their artillery, he withdrew all troops from the city, and made military preparations to retake it by force, as he believed Louis-Philippe should have done twenty-three years before. He was determined not only to obtain the submission of the Parisians but to exterminate once and for all their intransigent radical opposition, the perpetual threat to all stability. [...]
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