Sunday, March 22, 2015

In Honor Of The 144th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune –Jean-Paul Jacques Paget’s Dilemma


Home, home for a few hours reprieve, a little rest, and some precious bread, if young daughter Lilly had been able to obtain any at the market was all that was on Jean- Paul Paget’s mind as he left the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) on that late march evening. He had a few days before, as a proud and well known Proudhonist around the neighborhood been elected to the ad hoc committee of public safety for the neighborhood, for the section, and for the Paris Commune that had been established week before in the wake of the struggle between the Central Committee of the National Guard and the old, good riddance, Theirs government that had fled, fled tail between its legs, to Versailles and he hoped to oblivion. This day however had not been a good day, not at all, since there were still many hot disputes among the partisans about how to proceed next. All Jean-Paul knew was that he was opposed to the Central Committee of the National Guard trying to duck responsibility for defense of the revolution and that they, meaning not just the committee but all of Paris had to pitch in and try to get the damn Germans and their infernal army the hell away from Paris, far away. And that latter concern was not just a show of French nationalism before the wicked enemy on Jean-Paul’s part but a very practical consideration since his son Leon was being held by the Germans as a prisoner of war waiting parole.    

As Jean Paul meandered home and headed toward Rue Saint Catherine he could see his young son Jean Jacques sitting on a chair behind a makeshift barricade parapet, rifle in hand, defending the rue, the section, hell, all of Paris, against the surrounding Germans but, more importantly, any efforts by the Theirs bandits to try to cause a disruption in Paris. Jean- Paul had immense pride in Jean-Jacques (and Leon too, for that matter, although he had advised against going into the army, the national guard would have been a better place for a son of the people ), a lad of only fourteen, yet the leader of the young comrades who had erected the barricade Saint Catherine in a few hours. And in a talk that that the pair had had one night Jean Jacques, after listing all the “demands” he wished considered by the various committees, expressed his willingness to die for the Commune if it came to it. That stopped the old man for a moment, he was willing to die, no question, but to ask the young, the future, to do so was a separate serious question that he was not sure where he stood on.  Probably events and luck would sort that out.

After a couple of words with Jean-Jacques Jean-Paul went up the street to home still heated up by the argument that he had with others on the public safety committee, especially Varlin, a fellow Proudhonist, but others as well, about the role of the National Guard. Basically his view was that the Central Committee of the National Guard was necessary to keep a strong military posture when Thiers was still a threat, a distant threat but a threat nevertheless, and the Germans were hovering by. They, in turn, were trying to dissolve themselves into street militias and other ad hoc formations and not take central political responsibility for the defense of the Commune. Jean-Paul was not a military man but he remembered what had happened in the June days of 1848 when he was a lad not much older than Jean –Jacques and the practically defenseless Parisian working quarters ran with blood because they had no proper military formations to fight against the government onslaught. As he entered his house he had a queasy foreboding feeling, a something foul in the air feeling …           

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