The Commune of France, officially the Federation of Communes of France (French: Fédération des Communes de France), is a country in Western Europe. The Commune of France was proclaimed on 22 June 1920, following the French Civil War. The French National State was established by remnants of the old government in North Africa and disputes the Commune's status as the legitimate French government.
It is bordered to the north by the English Channel, across which is the Union of Britain, to the east by Flanders-Wallonia, Germany, Switzerland and the Socialist Republic of Italy, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and Spain, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean.
The French syndicalist movement
Karl Marx, in his important pamphlet The Civil War in France, considered the 1871 Paris Commune as the prototype for a future revolutionary insurrection, the form at last discovered for the emancipation of the proletariat. In fact, triggered by the Parisians' resentment against the defeatist French government and after months of siege by the Prussian Army, the Paris Commune was something more of a Utopian and enthusiastic socialist experiment, having short-lived and anecdotal followings in French provinces, and later smashed in a bloodbath by the Legalist French Army.
The repression that followed decapitated for years the nascent French socialism, while the SPD developed in Germany and the Trade Unions flourished in Britain. Those left in the wake of the debacle were torn apart, divided between the Marxist-inspired Parti Ouvrier Français of Jules Guesde and the French trade unions, encouraged by the successes of Fernand Peloutier's Fédération des Bourses du Travail. The French syndicalist movement was quickly overtaken by anarchist activists, after the repressive "lois scélérates" of 1894.
In 1895, the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour), vowing to be independant from all political formations, was founded at Limoges, an engagement that was renewed by the 1906 Charte d'Amiens, affirming the anarcho-syndicalist tendency within the CGT, embodied by its vice-secretary Emile Pouget.
Helped by the union of Guesde's revolutionary followers and Jean Jaurès' social-democrats into the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière (French Section of the Workers' International), the French left was coming into prominence, helped by its role in the Dreyfus affair, when the Weltkrieg broke out.
First an outspoken pacifist, Jaurès was shot down by a nationalist activist four days before the French entry in the war. His successor, Léon Jouhaux, agreed to participate to the Union Sacrée government, followed by most of the SFIO leadership.
Fall of the Third Republic
The revolution was initially sparked by the CGT, who declared a General Strike in the spring of 1919, hot on the heels of a second outbreak of mutiny in the French Army. the mutineers were protesting the Conservative call for a last-ditch counter-offensive following a string of severe French defeats during the German offensives of 1918.
The CGT wanted to paralyse the nation, force the ruling Conservatives to step down and hand over power to the CGT's executive arm; the Comité de Salut Public, or CSP - led by the zealous anarchist Emile Pouget.
They were charged with the task of leading first the General Strike and then the establishment of a new government and constitution which would allow for a complete reconstruction of the French nation. They also had as their immediate aim to end "the abominable war" as soon as possible. In achieving these aims the strike was initially unsuccessful, and the CGT was unable to seize power before the fall of Paris to German general Oskar von Hutier.
The French Civil War
With the fall of Paris however, the General Strike turned violent, as frustrated Unionists became desperate to end the war before the Germans were in a position to occupy the whole country. Skirmishes with police turned into riots across much of the country, and the government was forced to resign, marking the beginning of a transitory period between the Third Republic to the Fourth.
This period was characterised by a dualistic power structure much like that of Russian between the revolutions of 1917 - on the one hand a Provisional Government of Liberals and Socialists, and on the other the CGT, claimed a "legitimate right to power" via their Trade Union structure and a new system of local councils. (However, unlike in Russia - where the Revolutionary Left's gains proved ephemeral - in France this provided the revolutionaries with the chance for permanently taking power.)
This uncertain situation continued through the summer of 1919 until things came to a head in the early autumn when the Provisional Government attempted to disarm and demobilise the French Army following the conclusion of a truce with the Germans. Fearing the Government was attempting to stifle the revolution (the Army was largely supportive of the Left) the Socialist Party began a boycott of the Parliament, and declared itself an ally of the CGT, followed thereafter by a number of the more radical Liberals.
Following this decision the Bolshevik Jacobins declared the Provisional Government an enemy of the Proletariat, encouraging Party members to begin a policy of agitation in favour of a "great purge of France, to forever destroy her class enemies". Inspired by Lenin and his revolutionaries and the outbreak of the Russian Civil War between the Reds and the Whites, gangs of working men and army units sympathetic to the Jacobin cause began to attack and loot the property of the aristocracy and upper middle classes - seizing land by force and holding the Establishment to account in revolutionary "courts".
Although they wanted to put a stop to this policy (they had hoped to negotiate with the Provisional Government), the CGT was unable to prevent the Jacobins from carrying out their attacks, or prevent an escalation of the crisis, as the Provisional Government gathered together the "forces of reaction" to respond with force and attempt a counter-revolution.
Enforcement of the regime
Not wanting to see the revolution die, and simultaneously desiring to limit the influence of the Jacobins, the CGT was left with no choice but to declare war on "the Provisional Government and the forces of Counter-Revolution", and attempt to seize control of the entire country.
Taking full control of Paris, they formally concluded peace with Germany in the winter 1919, accepting the annexation of the rest of Lorraine, the legitimacy of the new state of Flanders-Wallonia, and agreeing to pay a heavy burden of reparations.
Following the conclusion of the truce with the Germans, the CGT began to draft a new constitutional setup together with the Socialists, Jacobins, Anarchists and radical Liberals . Meanwhile they had to fight the self-styled "Establishment" and "drive them into the sea", and try and prevent and limit the Jacobins' "hunt for the Bourgeoisie".
Though they proved unable to counter the Jacobins' image as integral members of the revolution, they were able to largely limit their participation in arranging the constitutional setup of the new state. Through ensuring that leading Jacobins were often engaged in the conduct of the war, the CGT were able to cultivate and protect their own image as the Revolutions' legitimate political leaders.
Chairman of the Bourse Générale du Travail: Sébastien Faure (Anarchist, born 6 January 1858)
Chairman of the Comité de Salut Public: Marceau Pivert (Travailleur, born 2 October 1895)
Delegate to Foreign Affairs: Pierre Brossolette (Travailleur, born 25 June 1903)
Delegate to Economic Affairs: Pierre Monatte (Travailleur, born 15 January 1881)
Delegate to Internal Security: Charles Rappoport (Travailleur, born 14 June 1865)
Director of Services de Renseignements Généraux: May Picqueray (Anarchist, born 8 July 1898)
Chief of the General Staff of the Communal Army: General Henri Rol-Tanguy (Anarchist, born 12 June 1908)
Commander of Communal Ground Forces: General Jacques Doriot (Sorelian, born 26 September 1898)
Commander of Communal Navy: Marcel Déat (Jacobin, born 7 March 1894)
Commander of Communal Air Force: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Travailleur, born 29 June 1900)
The Commune of France is a socialist and syndicalist federal republic composed of the 36,000 communes of France and ruled by a dual structure, with the legislative powers going to the General Labor Council (French: Bourse Générale du Travail) and and executive powers in the hands of the Commitee of Public Safety (French: Comité de Salut Public).
The Commune of France is of a primarily Syndicalist construction, based around federated union organisations which emphasise worker control on an industry-by-industry basis. The CoF is in fact a federation of major cities, such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Toulouse, each one ruled by a Bourse du Travail (labour council) which is directly elected by the citizens of the regional commune. The task of the Bourse du Travail is to manage not only the general affairs of local government, but also local military arrangements in the form of the popular militia.
The Chairman of the Commune is elected directly by the citizens, and confirmed in their appointment by the Comité de Salut Public (rejection by the Comité demands a new election be held). The Chairman (currently the anarchist Sébastien Faure) is the Head of State, as well as leader of the Bourse Générale du Travail - which functions as a form of Parliament, representing the individual Communes that make up the administrative structure of Syndicalist France. The BGT is primarily responsible for forming a bridge between the national executive (CSP) and the local governments.
The CSP takes decisions at the national level, "uniting the efforts of the Communes", directing foreign affairs and organising the Garde Nationale (the professional element of the CoF's army). It too is elected by the general populace (though on the positionary basis that they must secure the support of a regional Bourse, via caucus, to make the short-list). The current Premier of the Comité de Salut Public is the Travailleur Marceau Pivert, who succeeded Pouget in 1931, following a turbulent election that lead to a government of compromise.
Whilst the Commune of France claims to be fully decentralized, and fully endorses free elections to both the BGT and local Bourses as fundamental to democracy, the fact is that the CGT holds a position so dominant that her rivals have not seriously been able to challenge her rule since the Fourth Republic's foundation (managing at best to put the CGT in the position of a minority government), and the CSP remains by far the most powerful institution in the country. However, the CGT is not of a uniform opinion, and is in fact divided into several "camps" of opinion.
In 1925 a powerful group was born, known as Travailleurs (Workers), inspired by the British system established after the successful British revolution. The Travailleurs specifically desire an extension of democracy by adopting many British constitutional arrangements, and though they have found strong allies in the Anarchists in their aim of reducing the CSP's power, they fundamentally disagree on the question of local government (as Socialists they would prefer the Bourses to be split from the Unions). They head the current government of compromise.
The Sorelians take their name and some inspiration from the theories of French anarcho-syndicalist thinker Georges Sorel. A minority in the CGT, they feel that the CSP was necessary only to ensure the successful establishment of the revolutionary state in it's transition from a capitalist to a syndicalist economy, and that the time has now come to hand national power from the CSP to the BGT, forging a more centralized state. They are currently lead by Georges Valois.
Outside the CGT remain the Jacobins, inspired by Lenin's brand of Communism as well as French revolutionary history. They desire that their tightly knit and structured party rid France of its anarchistic and syndicalist characteristics and form a "vanguard" to lead a Communist reconstruction.
There is also an Anarchiste (or Anarchiste Pur - Pure Anarchist) movement which takes both inspiration and "leadership" from the exiled Ukrainian revolutionary Makhno. Often considered an eccentric element of French political life, the Anarchiste movement campaigns for greater regional freedom in the make-up and constitution of local government, and a drastic cut in the legislative role of the CSP.
The Radical Liberals who boycotted Parliament with the Socialists in 1919 have largely been forced to emigrate as a result of persecution and victimization lead by Jacobin extremists.
In 1936 elections are about to begin within the CSP and one third of the BGT - to elect for example the delegates for the army, foreign affairs, treasury, and of course the Premier. With Pivert considered "too weak" even by his own followers, the continuation of the CGT's political dominance can no longer be assured, and France looks to be standing at a crossroads.
During the early years of the Commune, people's militia formed the bulk of the army as a professional army was seen as "anti-revolutionary" and "an enemy of the people's freedom". The Swiss Army was studied closely and the communes modelled their militia units on the basis of the Swiss cantonal troops. Weapons are kept in the central storage of the local commune (Délégation Générale pour l'Armement or the General Weaponry Delegation is responsible for the upkeep of these storages), where all members of the militia will gather should they be called to arms. Some communes (mainly the ones bordering Germany and Flanders) are required to keep their militias armed and ready at all times. This has led to the first standing army units being formed and trained in the border regions. The armoured reserve is stationed in Paris and is under the direct control of the Chef des Armées. L'Armée Populaire de la Commune de France has modern equipment and is largely motorized. However, organization and co-operation with other branches of the military is a problem.
During the civil war, the French navy was divided as was the rest of the nation. There were some engagements between the nationalist and the syndicalist naval units, but most of the ships remained in their ports as fuel was scarce and the crews divided. After the civil war, the ships that followed the nationalists into Africa formed the Marine Nationale anew and the ships that stayed in France were the backbone of the new Marine de libération du peuple. The navy has two main fleets, the Flotte de la Patrie in Marseilles and Flotte de la Normandie in Brest. The navy was severely weakened during the civil war and not much emphasis has been put into building new ships for the navy. The main purpose of the navy is to prevent landings into the southern and northern coasts(and the navy is such targeted quite solely against Germany and National France). Marine libération du peuple has potential, but is currently incapable of promoting the Commune's interests abroad.
The Air Force
The Armée de l'Air du peuple is the air arm of the Armées françaises. The aerial aspect of war was closely studied by the Commune's military minds after the civil war and has lead to a strong, medium-sized air force with modern equipment and well-trained pilots. Innovative generals like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry have developed organization and tactics for the air force and during a conflict the Commune's air force can be expected to cause significant damage to the enemy.
Commune of France is the leader of the Syndicalist Internationale and maintains good relations with almost all socialist countries and major socialist movements (such as the CNT-FAI) around the world.
Unfriendly relations with Flanders-Wallonia, Italian Federation, Switzerland, Kingdom of Spain and Canada.
Declared hostility against the French government in exile, Germany and Austria-Hungary.
One could say the French culture has gained some and lost some after the civil war. Old masterpieces of art and music are labelled as "bourgeois" and "anti-revolutionary" and are banned from public display by many labour councils. However, new art-forms such as surrealism have flourished, fueled by the bohemian art-circles of Paris and other major cities. Cuisine remains relatively unaltered, but the visual art forms have gone through a revolution of sorts. Film, radio and many other inventions are being used extensively as means of providing cultural experiences for the masses.