What Was the Goal of the Paris Commune?

The Paris Commune wanted to eliminate the weak monarchist government of France and replace it with independent communes organized and ruled by the people. Poor organization, however, led to its defeat.

After the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III's government collapsed, necessitating the election of a new ruling body in siege-torn Paris. However, it was clear that the new government leaned to the royalist side. Already, Adolphe Thiers, the executive head of the provisional government, was withdrawing pay for the National Guard and demanding rent from Parisians. Paris, however, was filled with radicals and revolutionaries who preferred to rule themselves. They planned to create a communist utopia in Paris, which they could spread outward to other French cities, ultimately forming a confederation.

Thiers moved to disarm Paris's National Guard contingent, who were largely sympathetic to the revolutionaries. Violence broke out on March 18, 1871, and the revolutionaries seized the guard's cannon to prevent it from being removed. A week later, municipal elections brought the revolutionaries into power, and they instituted the Paris Commune, an anarchistic, decentralized form of socialism largely inspired by the 1793 French Revolution. Within months, on May 21, federal troops entered the city and crushed the rebellion, which was still poorly organized and unprepared to fight a war. Over 20,000 revolutionaries were killed and over 38,000 people were arrested. Of these, about 7,000 were deported.