Vive La Commune!

Paris: They are getting too old, or too fat, to build barricades, their hands too soft to dig up cobblestones, but they still have the voice to sing to the glory of those who fought to defend the world’s first workers democracy, a two month long experiment in 1871 which ended in a blood bath: The Paris Commune.

Young and old celebrate the Commune

Every September for the past 15 years, the Association “Friends of the Paris Commune 1871” organizes a block party at Place de La Commune de Paris – 1871 (where else?) in the 13th district of Paris. They drink blood red wine made deeper with cassis, curse the Versaillais and Adolphe Thiers who sent the French Army to massacre the people and generally enjoy a Fall afternoon.

The Association was founded in 1882 to help the Communards returning from deportation and to fight for a global amnesty. The old Communists who kept it alive during the 1920s and 30s are all gone but their inheritors, many of whom are veterans of the leftist movements from the 50s and 60s keep the standard. You got to love them!

The association claims some 2,200 members in France. They want to “perpetuate the ideals of the Commune,” says Muriel, a 40-something Petroleuse. “We think those ideals can be an inspiration today.”

The next event will be their annual march to the Mur des Fédérés at Père Lachaise cemetery on May 17, 2020, where the last hold-outs were lined up against the wall and executed by the Versaillais. Yes, the same cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. The original marker honoring the fallen is now in the headquarters of the Association.

When Paris City Hall voted 20 years ago to change the name of the ‘Place de la Butte aux Cailles‘ to ‘Place de la Commune de Paris‘ the association scored its first big win. The right wing mayor at the time did everything he could to put off inaugurating the Place. When Jacques Toubon finally got around to it, he hailed Adolphe Thiers during the ceremony. The Communards bombarded him with dixie-cups. Nearly one-hundred-and-fifty-years later, tempers still boil.

The center left mayor of the 13th Arrondissement today is much more Commune compatible. The district’s City Hall printed the posters for the event.

The association is now fighting to get the metro station Belleville renamed La Commune de Paris-1871. Although they have sympathetic ears in city hall, it doesn’t look like they will get their wish short of an insurrection.

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