March 28th 1871: Paris Commune declared
On this day in 1871, following elections held two days prior, the Paris Commune was officially proclaimed. The Commune seized power in opposition to the election of a conservative National Assembly February 1871; republican Parisians feared that when they met in Versailles the royalist Assembly would restore the monarchy. When officials of Adolphe Thiers’s government tried to remove the city guard’s cannons as a precautionary measure on March 18th, the people rebelled. The city guard called municipal elections for March 26th, which saw victory for the revolutionaries, who established the Commune to govern the city of Paris. On March 28th, the new government held its first meeting and was formally declared. The Commune immediately set about enacting socialist policies, which included a ten-hour work day, abolition of the death penalty, end of military conscription, banning established religion and promoting female suffrage. They adopted a plain red flag as the flag of the Commune, and envisioned that the situation in Paris would encourage a nationwide revolution. The Commune’s lack of internal organisation left them vulnerable to attack, but the catalyst for retribution came when Communard soldiers killed two French troops. On May 21st, national forces entered Paris through an undefended area, launching a violent campaign of street fighting known as ‘Bloody Week’. Around 20,000 insurrectionists were killed before the Commune fell on May 28th. The government treated the surviving Communards and their supporters ruthlessly - arresting around 38,000 and deporting another 7,000. The Commune became a symbol of socialist revolution in Europe and further abroad, with their supporters lamenting the martyrdom of the Communards.