Thunderstorms, torrential rains… dreams of strangeness. Dark now, with very heavy rains. Lightning all over the place. Went to a party on Saturday night, a Brazilian Party to be exact. Discovered I liked Brazilian Rum. Discovered Sunday morning that it doesn’t always agree with me. Aiyeee. A slow Sunday that proceeds into the distance now…
Rowan headed off to camp for a week of counselling 6th graders at OutDoor School, along with his friend Ryan at 11:00 in the morning. Kinda miss him already. He went in a flurry of hurry and forgotten items. He rolls and tumbles towards his future in such a funny way. Watching him move forward with his life has taken some great turns lately. If I had only known what fun this all could be. He holds up a mirror for me, like no other person ever has. The moments I spend with him are some of the best, and sometimes the hardest. I have to walk my talk with this one…
So I sit here, in the darkening night, listening to Kate Bush’s latest album. Eric Satie a bit earlier. The house is quiet, but for the rain. The fullness of the season, and the beauty of it all.
Tonights’ Entry is in memory of the Paris Commune, of 1871.
A blessing to you and yours.
On the Menu:
The Satanic Links…
The Article: 135 Years Ago, The Paris Commune
The Poetry: Rumi
The Art: Illustrations from The Paris Commune of 1871 by Eugene Schulkind
The Satanic Links:
135 Years Ago…
A brief history of the world’s first socialist working class uprising. The workers of Paris, joined by mutinous National Guardsmen, seized the city and set about re-organising society in their own interests based on workers’ councils. They could not hold out, however, when more troops retook the city and massacred 30,000 workers in bloody revenge
The Paris Commune is often said to be the first example of working people taking power. For this reason it is a highly significant event, even though it is ignored in the French history curriculum. On May 18 1871, after France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war, the French government sent troops into Paris to try and take back the Parisian National Guards cannon before the people got hold of it. Much to the dismay of the French government, the citizens of Paris had got hold of them, and wouldn’t give them up. The soldiers refused to fire on their own people and instead turned their weapons on their officers.
The PNG held free elections and the citizens of Paris elected a council made up mostly of Jacobins and Republicans (though there were a few anarchists and socialists as well). The council declared that Paris was an independent commune and that France should be a confederation of communes. Inside the Commune, all elected council members were instantly recallable, paid an average wage and had equal status to other commune members.
Contemporary anarchists were excited by these developments. The fact that the majority of Paris had organised itself without support from the state and was urging the rest of the world to do the same was pretty exciting. The Paris Commune led by example in showing that a new society, organised from the bottom up, was possible. The reforms initiated by the Commune, like turning workplaces into co-operatives, put anarchist theory into practice. By the end of May, 43 workplaces had become co-operatives and the Louvre Museum was a munitions factory run by a workers council.
The Mechanics Union and the Association of Metal Workers stated our economic emancipation . . . can only be obtained through the formation of workers’ associations, which alone can transform our position from that of wage earners to that of associates.” They also advised the Communes Commission on Labour Organisation to support the following objectives: The abolition of the exploitation of man by man… The organisation of labour in mutual associations and inalienable capital. Through this, it was hoped that within the Commune, equality would not be an empty word. In the words of the most famous anarchist of the time, Mikhail Bakunin, the Paris Commune was a clearly formulated negation of the state.
However, anarchists argue that the Commune did not go far enough. Those within the Commune didnt break with the ideas of representative government. As another famous anarchist, Peter Kropotkin said: if no central government was needed to rule the independent Communes… then a central municipal government becomes equally useless… the same federative principal would do within the Commune. As the Commune kept some of the old ideas of representative democracy, they stopped the people within the Commune from acting for themselves, instead trusting the governors to sort things out for them.
Anarchists argued for federations of directly democratic mass assemblies had been set up just like the people of Paris had done just over a hundred years previously (must be something in the water!).
The council became increasingly isolated from those whod elected it. The more isolated it got, the more authoritarian it got. The council set up a Committee of Public Safety to defend [by terror] the revolution. This Committee was opposed by the anarchist minority on the council and was ignored by the people who, unsurprisingly, were more concerned with defending Paris from invasion by the French army. In doing so, they proved right the old revolutionary cliché of no government is revolutionary!
On May 21st, the government troops entered the city and were met with seven days of solid street fighting. The last stand of the Communards took place at the cemetary of Montmartre, and after the defeat troops and armed members of the capitalist class roamed the city, killing and maiming at will. 30,000 Communards were killed in the battles, many after they had surrendered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves.
The legacy of the Commune lived on, however, and “Vive la commune!” (“Long live the Commune!” was painted over on the walls of Paris during the 1968 uprising, and not for the last time we can be sure…
If you can disentangle
yourself from your selfish self
all heavenly spirits
will stand ready to serve you
If you can finally hunt down
your own beastly self
you have the right
to claim Solomon’s Kingdom
You are that blessed soul who
belongs to the garden of paradise
is it fair to let yourself
fall apart in a shattered house
You are the bird of happiness
in the magic of existence
what a pity when you let
yourself be chained and caged
But if you can break free
from this dark prison named body
soon you will see
you are the sage and the fountain of life
Gone to the Unseen
At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvelous route did you take from this world?
Beating your wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer’s call
and flew beyond space and time.
As a lovesick nightingale, you flew among the owls.
Then came the scent of the rosegarden
and you flew off to meet the Rose.
The wine of this fleeting world
caused your head to ache.
Finally you joined the tavern of Eternity.
Like an arrow, you sped from the bow
and went straight for the bull’s eye of bliss.
This phantom world gave you false signs
But you turned from the illusion
and journeyed to the land of truth.
You are now the Sun –
what need have you for a crown?
You have vanished from this world –
what need have you to tie your robe?
I’ve heard that you can barely see your soul.
But why look at all? –
yours is now the Soul of Souls!
O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.
The flowers flee from Autumn, but not you –
You are the fearless rose
that grows amidst the freezing wind.
Pouring down like the rain of heaven
you fell upon the rooftop of this world.
Then you ran in every direction
and escaped through the drain spout . . .
Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.
REALITY AND APPEARANCE
‘Tis light makes colour visible: at night
Red, greene, and russet vanish from thy sight.
So to thee light by darness is made known:
Since God hat none, He, seeing all, denies
Himself eternally to mortal eyes.
From the dark jungle as a tiger bright,
Form from the viewless Spirit leaps to light.
I made a far journey
Earth’s fair cities to view,
but like to love’s city
City none I knew
At the first I knew not
That city’s worth,
And turned in my folly
A wanderer on earth.
From so sweet a country
I must needs pass,
And like to cattle
Grazed on every grass.
As Moses’ people
I would liefer eat
Garlic, than manna
And celestial meat.
What voice in this world
to my ear has come
Save the voice of love
Was a tapped drum.
Yet for that drum-tap
From the world of All
Into this perishing
Land I did fall.
That world a lone spirit
Like a snake I crept
Without foot or wing.
The wine that was laughter
And grace to sip
Like a rose I tasted
Without throat or lip.
‘Spirit, go a journey,’
Love’s voice said:
‘Lo, a home of travail
I have made.’
Much, much I cried:
‘I will not go’;
Yea, and rent my raiment
And made great woe.
Even as now I shrink
To be gone from here,
Even so thence
To part I did fear.
‘Spirit, go thy way,’
Love called again,
‘And I shall be ever nigh thee
As they neck’s vein.’
Much did love enchant me
And made much guile;
Love’s guile and enchantment
Capture me the while.
In ignorance and folly
When my wings I spread,
From palace unto prison
I was swiftly sped.
Now I would tell
How thither thou mayst come;
But ah, my pen is broke
And I am dumb.