Welcome to Vive la Commune!

Communalism as a Democratic Repertoire

This research project engages with the legacies of the Paris Commune of 1871. In March 1871, in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war and the ensuing political crisis, the people of Paris denounced their provisional government, and declared their city a free Commune. What followed was 72 days of social and political experimentation. As its main body of government, the Commune established a council. Public life flourished, especially in the political ‘clubs’ that emerged in each neighbourhood. Self-organised workers’ cooperatives fulfilled a central economic role, and the communards established a free, secular school system. Gender equality increased significantly, and women played a key role in the establishment and defence of the Commune.

Not everyone was thrilled by this experiment in self-organisation. France’s economic and political elites perceived the Commune as a peril to social order. As it combined decentralised forms of organisation with strong internationalist aspirations, the Commune was also understood to threaten the nationalist ambitions of the newly founded Third Republic. The national government’s reaction was fierce: when it recaptured Paris by the end of May, the Commune was drenched in blood. Many communards lost their lives on the barricades, and thousands more were executed afterwards. The memory of the Paris Commune would nevertheless continue to haunt conservative politicians and theorists until the present day. 

In light of the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the aim of this project is to reconstruct how the image of ‘The Commune’ has continued to inform political experiences, ideals, and conflicts between 1871 and 2021.


The latest output from this project can be found on our Research page.


May 28 – Festive International Project Launch!