Dmitri Prieto

Paris Commune March 18, 1871.

March 18th marked the 140th anniversary of the proclamation of the Paris Commune, an attempt at socialism born of a popular revolution that overthrew French emperor Napoleon III during a war against Prussia.

See part one of this post here.

That Napoleon was the youngest nephew of the uncle to which the Havana Napoleonic Museum is dedicated. This means he was a relative of “Her Imperial Highness Princess Napoleon,” who recently visited our city us to take part in the re-inauguration of that Bonapartist facility along with local officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

No mention of the Paris Commune

I didn’t hear news about any homage paid to the Paris Commune during its recent anniversary. On the other hand, we were able to enjoy the activity with the princess, whose statements concerning the activity were broadcast across the country on the national news.

Napoleon Bonaparte manipulated the papacy to get himself crowned Emperor by the Supreme Pontiff (in the ceremony he snatched the crown from the Pope’s hands and put on by himself); whereas the Commune established freedom of conscience, separating the church and state.

Napoleon sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to kill and die in distant lands, from Egypt and Moscow to our sister nation of Haiti (a country where he suffered his first great defeat, after having deceitfully captured its leader, Toussaint Louverture, who died in a dungeon); whereas the Commune demolished the Vendome Column, the Napoleonic symbol of French militarism.

Napoleon established total control over each and every French newspaper; whereas the Commune defended the freedom of the press and printing.

Napoleon created the model for “rational” bureaucracy; whereas the Commune paid each one of its members an allowance equal to half of a worker’s wage and also tried to replace state administration with workers self-government.

Napoleon and his minister, Fouche, maintained and increased terror in France and across the rest of Europe; whereas the Paris Commune eliminated the guillotine from the public square (the rebellious workers set the murderous instrument on fire, reducing it to ashes).

Napoleon died on a distant island, apparently poisoned by British agents; whereas the Commune was drowned in the blood of thousands of volunteers by unruly soldiers along what is today the Communards’ Wall (Mur des Federes) in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery (where I went twice to lean my head against it when I — a fortunate Cuban — visited Paris).

On the other hand, I’ve never gone to the Napoleonic Museum in Havana.

Historian Ariel Hidalgo says that in 1875, among the troops fighting for Cuban independence under General Vicente Garcia were former Parisian communards, and that they proposed the first socialist constitution for Cuba.

The Cuban Social Forum called by the Critical Observatory Network dedicated time in its presentations to pay a simple homage to the Paris Commune on its 140th anniversary. We watched an excerpt of a docudrama in which French workers of today acted in the roles of their predecessors of 1871. It was presented by a French revolutionary, the son of exiles from the Spanish revolution. But there were no television cameras.

Siding with the Bonapartists too

Only two days later, Her Imperial Highness Princess Napoleon re-inaugurated the museum of her political ancestor — created, let’s remember, by a liberal-capitalist defender of the “heavy hand”.  She was accompanied by the City Historian, Cuban officials and diplomatic representatives of a government presided over by a former-friend of Gaddafi who is currently bombarding the people of Libya: curiously a nation located between Tunisia and Egypt, two countries conquered in their time by French imperialism (the second, in fact, by Napoleonic troops).

Both news items — the inauguration and the bombings — were shown on the same television broadcast.  A few days from now will be the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.  Let’s let the dead rest in peace.  We are the revolution.  That is their problem.


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

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