2.1. The Paris Commune (1871; an improvisation)

At the time when the Parisian proletariat gave birth to the Commune, there was no political organization which had elaborated a plan of action. It was the difficult situation of the period following the war with Prussia, the existing social conditions which contrasted with the hope aroused by the birth of the First International, and the tradition of vanguard that the French workers' movement had enjoyed for decades which created the mix that sparked the first authentically self-managed proletarian experiment on a vast scale.

When Adolphe Thiers moved all the structures of the French State to Paris from Versailles, a vacuum was created which the Commune filled, without almost any plan. Even the Blanquists, the strongest and least heterogeneous group within the Commune, did not have clear ideas on what to do, apart from creating the most centralized revolutionary government possible. They had no social plan. The others (Jacobins, Proudhonians, Internationalists, etc.) were few and divided amongst themselves and were swamped by the elected representatives of the people who had no political direction. The Jacobins had their heads in the past and had nothing to say about the future. The Proudhonians were practically inexistent, as their traditional representatives were against the Commune. The Internationalists were split between a few Marxists, some Syndicalists and a section of militants or Anarchists (Louise Michel, Louis-Jean Pindy) or people very close to Bakuninist ideas (Eugène Varlin), but none of these had a stable relationship with libertarian organizations. Bakunin's comrades in France had mostly departed following the ruinous failure of an attempted Commune in Lyons the previous year.

This was how the Paris Commune proceeded for a few months before being drowned in blood (there may have been 30,000 dead and 45,000 taken prisoner). It took no precise direction and did not therefore foreshadow any complete social model. The surprising thing, and its greatest legacy to the workers' movement, is that despite the quarrels inside the Commune, the dangers from outside, the state of war in which it found itself operating and despite the lack of a politically mature element, the daily life of the Commune was organized, services worked well or badly as may be, production continued. Even a fairly respectable military defence organization was set up.

This period is not only essential in order to understand the development of the international workers' movement and the emblematic role that the Commune of 1871 has always played in it, but it is fundamental in the development of Anarchist Communist theory. Karl Marx was, to say the least, surprised by the events in Paris and was rapidly forced to revise some of his conceptions of the workers' state, which he did by publishing "The Civil War in France". For Bakunin, everything that happened was natural and formed part of his theory - even, to a certain extent, the errors of the Commune and its defeat. It was not, in fact, surprising that the proletariat was able to organize itself spontaneously and efficiently. Speaking with the benefit of hindsight (in the light of experiences of later revolutions), neither was it surprising that the path of post-revolutionary society followed the correct way towards ever more self-managing structures, searching for federative alliances with similar groups. This is the natural way of things whenever the revolution is not led astray by perverting theories. In fact, the absence of already-existing organizations with a definite programme serves to prove this elementary fact, in the case of the Commune.

On the other hand, it was the very absence of a conscious vanguard (which, according to Anarchist Communist theory, must orient the revolution, not direct it, and must protect it from deviations, not impose its own beliefs) which constituted the weakness of the Commune and stopped it from acting resolutely thereby isolating it from the rest of France. By then, France was resigned to defeat and was firmly under the control of reaction. Revolution either expands and contaminates or it perishes!


2.2. Ukraine (1917-1921; an idea)