The war between France and Prussia led an uprising by the workers of Paris and they seized the power. In this army French army was defeated and the French emperor Louis Bonaparte was taken prisoner. The new government declared France a republic. This government was dominated by the propertied classes and had agreed to Bismarck’s terms for truce which included: huge war indemnity, surrender of Paris and cession of Alsace-Lorraine. The workers of Paris regarded the surrender by the government as treacherous. The government withdrew from Paris on 18 February 1871 and asked for German help to crush Paris.
The workers of Paris elected a council which on 28 March 1871 assumed the title of the Paris Commune. It was elected by universal adult franchise and represented the workers and the lower middle classes of Paris. It proclaimed as its aim “the ending…of exploitation, stock-exchange speculation, monopolies and privileges to which the proletariat attributes its slavery, and the fatherland its misery and ruin”. All public offices were elected by universal suffrage with people having the right to recall.
The Paris Commune the result of the first workers’ revolution in history but was soon drowned in blood. The French government which had established its headquarters in Versailles attacked Paris with a huge army with German help. The attacks on Paris had begun in April. The battle continued in the city of Paris up to 28 May when the Commune was finally exterminated. It is estimated that between 14,000 to 30,000 defenders of the Commune were slaughtered in the streets of Paris or killed by firing squads. Thousands were deported and imprisoned. The French government called it the victory of order, justice and civilization. The International’s address on the Commune to its members, written by Marx, concluded with the words, “Working Men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priests will not avail to redeem them”.