Remembering the Commune: texts and celebrations in Britain and the United States.
AuthorLandrigan, Aloysius Judas
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Aloysius Judas Landrigan
This thesis contends that the Paris Commune had a significant impact on late nineteenth and early twentieth century working-class communities and organisations in the U.S. and Britain. First, the thesis establishes the broader understanding of the Commune seen in large, elite newspapers from both the U.S. and Britain. Many radical authors countered this conservative opinion in their own smaller press that also hosted transnational discussion. This was a harbinger for Marx’s The Civil War in France, which came to dominate the socialist interpretation of the Commune. Marx established the Commune as a revolutionary ideal. This was further developed and became the socialist canon with works by Hippolyte-Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray and Ernest Belfort Bax. The proliferation of these works, especially Marx’s The Civil War in France, is examined with close attention to the publishers who established transnational links when printing these socialist texts. Marx’s work gained further influence through its impact on Lenin who referred to it frequently in State and Revolution and in the burgeoning Bolshevik mythology. Secondly, this thesis demonstrates how the Commune’s socialist interpretation manifested itself in both countries’ annual celebrations. These annual celebrations were a ritualised part of working-class lives which instilled the values speakers took from the Commune. Consistently, celebrating workers were exposed to idealised images of internationalism and martyrdom, as well as the idea that they were oppressed by their state. These celebrations often gave conflicting interpretations of the Commune which suited their shifting needs. By analysing their speeches, the Commune celebrations become a palimpsest, revealing these shifting objectives as speakers debated the merits of reform and revolution through the imagery of the Commune. As working-class and radical communities in both the U.S. and Britain faced state repression in the wake of the Haymarket Affair, 1886, and the Trafalgar Square Bloody Sunday, 1887, the rhetoric at Commune celebrations became increasingly violent. These celebrations were informed by the socialist canon of the Commune and through the annual celebrations in Britain and the U.S. the Commune was able to have a direct impact on lives of workers and radicals in both countries.
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