Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Men Fought And Died For Palimony

O.K, not really for palimony, but for pensions for mistresses and women's rights.

I have been planning to write about the subject for quite some time, but the sheer gruesomeness of this story prevented me. It all started when someone gave me the Short Version of World History by one J.W. Pik, the edition of 1934.  It was there that I read about Paris Commune and its demise.

Now, of course, I heard about Paris Commune before, but it was long ago and I never gave much thought to it. It was just a historical fact. This time I became interested and checked Wikipedia, which as usual, supplied me with many details of the story absent in the book. Naturally, I was especially interested in the feminist angle of the famous uprising.

So first the short summary of the facts: Paris Commune events happened during and after the Franco-Prussian war, after the Second Empire collapsed and the National Assembly proclaimed the new French Republic. At that time, the population of France was sharply divided between conservative Catholics who chiefly lived in the countryside and various radicals and socialists living in big cities such as Paris. A lot of them supported First International and wanted to make France socialist.

As the war progressed and Germans surrounded Paris, the discontent among the radicals grew and there were several small uprisings. When the armistice was signed, the country held general elections where Catholic candidates won, except in Paris, where socialist took the majority of seats. The rift between the conservatives in the Assembly and the radicals was quickly growing and turned violent as the Paris National Guard refused to return some old-fashioned cannons to the regular army, despite the demands of the lawfully elected national Parliament.

On the 19th of March, 1871, National Guard took power and proclaimed new elections for a city council, which were supported only by 48% of registered voters. For the Central Committee of the National Guard it was enough though and thus Paris Commune came into being.

It started with introducing the old Republican Calendar and the red flag and establishing progressive democracy, which included: taking away the property of the  Church as a part of separating Church and State, pensions for mistresses of National Guardsmen killed in action and struggle against Western patriarchy (represented by Western capitalism).

To get rid of patriarchy, the following was proposed:

gender equality
wages equality
right of divorce
professional (secular) education for girls
erasing of the distinction in status between wives and mistresses, and consequently, their children

While the feminist movement consisted chiefly of women, some of whom even joined men on the barricades, it's obvious that they wouldn't go anywhere far, were it not for men, and all the Commune leaders were male.

The French government sent the troops to suppress the uprising. It's interesting that while the Commune leaders stated that they were against death penalty, when the situation deteriorated they quickly took the law allowing execution of hostages (among whom were many priests). In fact, the law stated that if one person who was on the side of the Commune gets executed by the lawful government, the Commune will execute "a triple number of hostages" in retaliation. The National Assembly reacted by establishing military tribunals.

Among the notable achievements of the Commune was the destruction of the Vendome Column erected to celebrate Napoleonic Victories. The Column was accused of being a symbol of "brute force" and barbarism (and was probably oppressive to women, too, taking into account its shape). The idea came from the painter Mr Courbet.

The Commune was also against military conscription but forced every able-bodied man to become a member of the National Guard, thus creating an army of 200,000. The officers were elected though, and not always according to their capability. As the result, the army lacked discipline and necessary skills. They were hardly a match for the regular army. When it entered the city, the situation quickly became desperate for its defenders who lacked all the organisational skills and distrusted their commanders.

After the uprising was suppressed, the reprisals started. The Wiki article mentions that several women who manned the barricades were executed alongside with men, however, as usual, men bore the brunt of it. Till this day, it's not known how many exactly were killed after short show trials (which mostly included examining their hands for the traces of the gun powder), however the number of casualties during the "Bloody Week" most commonly named is ten thousand.

The leaders of Commune were tried separately, including the feminist leader Louise Michel. Evil French Males refused to give her a death sentence though and sent her to New Caledonia instead where she had to work as a schoolteacher. 9 years later she returned to France and resumed her career in fighting patriarchy by inciting the people to pillage the bakery. She was imprisoned again, then pardoned, then arrested again etc etc, until her death in 1905.

 It's interesting that already in those times, men (or some men at least) were much inclined to admire the ferociousness of women who supposedly fought alongside men like tigresses and set fire to many buildings. Though nowadays the historians believe it to be a myth (why men tend to get obsessed with female warriors is beyond my comprehension), at that time the myth cost some unlucky women dearly as they were accused of arson and murdered.

What conclusion can we draw from the story above? I'll leave it to you, dear reader. For me, it shows how feminism would never take root so to say, without men who aided and abetted it and were ready to fight and die for among other things, women's rights.


  1. Very good post. I wonder how many feminists of today know about the Commune? As Churchill said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

  2. Thanks, Julie! I think people should be aware of the roots of the modern feminist movement.

  3. Looking at their list of proposals sounds very familiar!! :( As Lady Lydia and you have told us feminism has been sneaking around for a very long time. Some of their thoughts sound right till you give it a second thought and realize the reality. Once they get a foothold they weasel another foothold and there is no going back to the way things were...if they can help it. Yes they even hoodwinked the men into believing and fighting. Think people. Think! Use the head and mind God gave you to reason the right and wrong of things!! :) Sarah

  4. Dear Sanne

    A good post but I'd like to throw a small spanner into the works.

    Napoleon III the nephew of the Emperor Napoleon believed he was a military genius like his uncle. However the Franco-Prussian War was a humiliating defeat for him and for France. Many Parisians blamed Napoleon and his Government for the defeat. So when at the first post war elections, with a Prussian army based just outside Paris, many of the same men were elected to the National Assembly many in Paris felt betrayed. The National Guard were guarding the cannons so that they could be used against the Prussians, but the National Government knew France was defeated and wanted a peace treaty with Prussia. This is what set off the fighting.

    Once the fighting started many on the Left joined in and as they had organising abilities they often had important positions. The fighting brought up all of the old hatreds within French political life and it got very ugly. It started as a Nationalist uprising and quickly became a Leftist one.

    Two asides: In 1873 the Royalist Assembly wanted France to become a Kingdom once again, but the heir to the throne wanted so many concessions that even the Royalists had to say no and France became a Republic. Secondly Paris is famous for it's wide boulevards, they were built to repair the damage from the Communes and designed to be so wide that it would be impossible for any future revolutionaries to build any barricades.

    Sorry Julie, Winston Churchill said many wise things but he didn't say that, George Santayana did.

    Mark Moncrieff
    Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future

  5. ''What conclusion can we draw from the story above? I'll leave it to you, dear reader. For me, it shows how feminism would never take root so to say, without men who aided and abetted it and were ready to fight and die for among other things, women's rights.''

    The reason for this is this bullheaded notion of equality cooked up during the enlightenment era. Culminating in the bloody french revolution that committed numerous atrocities in the wake of overthrowing the old order. Killing the king and queen as well as decimating the aristocracy by mass execution.