After the Commune: The Anti-Colonialism of Louise Michel in Exile | Left Wing Books

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After the Commune: The Anti-Colonialism of Louise Michel in Exile

Size: 
55 pages
ISBN: 
atc
Publisher: 
Year: 
2019
Price: $5.00 (USD)

From Salvage magazine:

In 1871, the French military slaughtered approximately 25,000 people in the streets of Paris. Ferociously repressing the 72-day long revolutionary civil war known as the Paris Commune, the French government intended to obliterate and make examples of the socialist, anarchist, and feminist movements that sparked and sustained the insurrection. Of those escaping the massacre, over 35,000 were arrested, approximately one-third of whom were condemned by court martial. To ensure the eradication of the revolutionary stain, France deported nearly 4,500 of the insurgents to New Caledonia, its South Pacific penal colony one thousand miles off the Australian coast, confining the convicts to cages during the four-month sea voyage. Once in the archipelago, the Communards experienced harsh living conditions, pitiless guards, physical deprivation, psychological and emotional isolation, and intense boredom. Most lived in a “prison without walls” on the arid Ducos Peninsula, exiled by their government to an unforgiving carceral world more than 10,000 miles from their homes.

Five years into these former revolutionaries’ internment, allied tribes of New Caledonia’s indigenous Kanak population rose up against the French colonial authority. Nearly every Communard sided with France and against the Kanak. Dozens of deportees voluntarily took up arms to defend the same government that had slaughtered their comrades, crushed their revolution, flattened their neighborhoods, demonized their communities, and sent them into exile. The vast majority of the others stayed silent or expressed support for France. Abandoning the radical politics for which they had risked everything and sacrificed their freedom in 1871, these deportees instead prioritized whiteness, Frenchness, and the idea of civilization. Embracing a racialized nationalism and imperialism, these condemned revolutionaries now defended the conservative, monarchist-led French government and its brutal colonial policies and actions.

Louise Michel did not. The notorious, celebrated anarchist feminist veteran of the Commune supported the Kanak. Famously, she tore in half the red Commune scarf that she had managed to hide through her arrest, imprisonment, trial, and deportation, and gave one piece to two Kanak as they headed to battle. Writing later of her fellow French exiles, Michel explained that she “had the greatest esteem for them, but at that point, they disgusted me.”

 

This pamphlet tells the story of Michel's anti-colonial politics, after the commune.