Did Marx change his opinion about the Paris Commune?

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Did Marx change his opinion about the Paris Commune?
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Did Marx change his opinion about the Paris Commune?

Recently I saw a letter from Marx to Domela in which Marx's statement about the Paris Commune differs from his previous views (I've highlighted the sentence), see below:

”Perhaps you will point to the Paris Commune; but apart from the fact that this was merely the rising of a town under exceptional conditions, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it be. With a small amount of sound common sense, however, they could have reached a compromise with Versailles useful to the whole mass of the people -- the only thing that could be reached at the time. ”

The letter can be read at the following link:

Marx to Domela Nieuwenhuis In The Hague

Did Marx change his mind, or did I misunderstand the letter?


I don't think so, as I recall

I don't think so, as I recall that just before the Paris Commune broke out he already was quite moderate/sceptical about what could be expected in the French situation.

By the way, there's the often-quoted rumor about Lenin "dancing" (a few steps) in the snow in Petrograd (in front of some surprised Commissars, in another variation of the story) when the revolution out-lasted the number of the days of the Paris Commune (~71 days?). It seems this rumor first can be found in a novel of André Malraux. Perhaps Trotsky told him that story in conversation, but I'm really doubtful about it. Like calculating, it would be just a few days after the shot fired on Lenin's car in January 1918.

But it needs to be said, that Lenin (many years before he wrote State&Revolution) taught about the Paris Commune, contrary to some modern revisionist historians who imply that the pre-1917 (or pre-1914) Lenin was ignorant of it.

Btw, on Lissagaray's history of the Commune and Marx's view there's a long article (in Spanish only for now). August Bebel reviewed the book in 1878 (here in German). Recently a collection (in French) about the Marx-aligned Communard Leó Frankel appeared (here's a review in English), a direct participant, who went on to help organise the launch of the Second Internationalin 1889  (so one can't simply portray the latter as somehow having forgotten about the Paris Commune).

Marx on Objective Conditions

Before the Paris Commune was erected, Marx stated that any uprising of the Parisians against the French government would be "desperate folly". I think the point in him saying that and what he's trying to get at in the letter is that the Paris Commune - despite its vital lessons for the proletariat - could never have sparked world proletarian revolution because the conditions weren't ripe for this. In the Communist Manfesto, Marx and Engels write that
"The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered"
but in the aftermath of the 1848-1851 period, with only bourgeois revolutions having took place and a new period of economic growth beginning, they had to re-examine this. In 1850 he was already saying
"In view of this general prosperity, in which the productive forces of bourgeois society are flourishing as exuberantly as they possibly can under bourgeois conditions, there can be no talk of a real revolution. Such a revolution is only possible at periods when the two factors, modern forces of production and bourgeois forms of production, come into conflict."

This led him to develop a deeper understanding of when/how capitalism would cease to be a progressive force and in a letter to Engels from 1858 he outlines this:
“The proper task of bourgeois society is the creation of the world market, at least in outline, and of the production based on that market. Since the world is round, the colonisation of California and Australia and the opening up of China and Japan would seem to have completed this process. For us, the difficult question is this: on the Continent revolution is imminent and will, moreover, instantly assume a socialist character. Will it not necessarily be crushed in this little corner of the earth, since the movement of bourgeois society is still, in the ascendant over a far greater area?” (https://marxists.architexturez.net/archive/marx/works/1858/letters/58_10...)

I think you can see the consistency of this in the second last paragraph of the letter.

On another note, I think the last paragraph gives some vindication to the GCF's analysis that "The experience of the Second International confirms the impossibility of maintaining the party of the proletariat during a prolonged period marked by a non-revolutionary situation." (Point 12, Nature and Function of the Proletarian Party)