The Spectre of the Commune and French Anarchism in the 1890s

  • John Merriman


This chapter considers not the influence of the Paris Commune of 1871 on anarchist theory (e.g., on Peter Kropotkin, Élisée Reclus, Michael Bakunin, and Louise Michel) in the decades before the Great War but rather its influence on the reality of anarchist organisation in France, above all, in Paris. The Commune offered a permanent source of inspiration and a practical guide for the anarchist movement. In terms of anarchist ‘organisation’, significant continuities in space were to be found in Paris. Anarchists worked to attract followers in the quartiers populaires of the capital that had been bastions of support for the Commune and resistance until the bitter end during Bloody Week. Thus Montmartre, where the Commune had begun and where the basilica of Sacré-Coeur loomed in triumph over People’s Paris, and Belleville, which had suffered horribly in May 1871, remained essential in the mobilisation of anarchists. Anarchists continued to underline the importance of popular, spontaneous action. Here, too, the Commune remained an inevitable frame of reference. The destruction of the Paris Commune remained an essential part of the collective memory of anarchists as they organised against the state.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Merriman
    • 1
  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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