Hypocrisy, Brutality, and the Elite: On the Fate of Working-Class Struggle from the Gracchi to Occupy

Dr. Nicholas Partyka I Social Movement Studies I History I January 11th, 2016

The strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must.


When the rich rob the poor, it is called business. When the poor fight back, it is called violence.

-Mark Twain

Throughout history elites have always been of two minds about political violence, that is, held a double-standard about it vis-à-vis the masses. While on the one hand, elites have always eschewed, and in the strongest terms, the use of force against what they perceive to be their interests by those they oppress. On the other hand, elites have seemed never to be shy about applying terrible violence in order to secure their political and economic objectives. Whether in the ancient world, or in the modern one, elites maintain a special hypocrisy about political violence, and its role in upholding their position. These elites would have one praise the work of a Marcus Junius Brutus, but condemn the deeds of an Ernesto 'Che' Guevara; laud the American Sons of Liberty, but excoriate the Russian Bolsheviks. This hypocrisy is worth pointing out so that would-be revolutionaries know the stakes of the endeavor they undertake. In his farewell letter to Fidel and the Cuban people, Che, said it well, "in revolution one wins or dies (if it is a real one)".

This hypocrisy takes its origin in the highly class-stratified society of the Ancient Greco-Roman world, and the bigoted attitudes Greek and Roman elites held toward the lower classes in their own societies. Much like Nietzsche describes, Greeks elites were the sources of self-serving and aristocratic values.[2] The elites were, in their own minds, Kalos Kagathos, literally the "beautiful" and the "good", that is, real gentlemen, or men of leisure.[3] The rest were the opposite of the "beautiful and the good", and this distinction of birth and blood formed the very foundation of the social order. The Romans, who adopted much from the Greeks, give a particular insight in this matter with their use of words libertas and licentia. The former represents the freedom of action of the elite, the libertas senatus, the freedom of the Senate to do as it wishes, that is, in what amounted to much the same thing, the power to make the law. The latter represents the elites' view of the lower classes taking the political initiative to advance their own interests. This latter was not the exercise of true freedom, but an expression of wanton and lustful mayhem.

In Plato's Republic, the philosopher-kings rule over the auxiliaries and the workers since they are the most qualified to lead the city. They live a life of true freedom, because they know the Forms, that is, they know the ultimate realities of the universe. The other people, who are led by a noble lie to believe they are bronze-souled, are what Plato calls "lovers of sights and sounds". Because they do not know the Forms, they flutter about chasing after one shiny thing or another, never able to direct their lives toward the pursuit of one consistent goal. Because the bronze-souled citizens of the city do not know the Forms, because they only perceive the shadows on the wall of the cave and think them real, they are not capable of acting freely; hence Plato's prisoner metaphor. This is how many ancient elites saw things. The lower classes, in their eyes, were uneducated, and not capable of acting freely, that is, in a way consistent with the highest exercise of reason and wisdom. And, indeed, this is exactly how aristocratic historians portray the classical Roman plebs urbana.

As if hypocrisy were not enough, elites have also demonstrated a historical pattern of blaming the victims of their sanguinary exploits. As one scholar asserts, "It is a time-honored practice to blame "rash" and "provocative" reformers for the violence delivered upon them by reactionary forces". [4] Elites often resort to violence and brutality to maintain order and to advance other political objectives, and then to justify their actions by blaming those against who that violence was directed. Elites, since time immemorial, have preferred to present domination and empire as forced upon them, as something they embrace only grudgingly. This is how the Athenian elite rationalized their acquisition of a naval empire under the Delian League. It was only because Sparta refused to participate that the Athenians had to step in and provide the needed leadership. The Romans were very much the same. They did not like to think of themselves as invaders and conquerors, but rather as always pursuing legal or justified remedies to violations of their rights or honor. The Romans liked to think of themselves as not starting wars, but merely defending themselves. Of course, this was not true, but this is how the Senatorial elites of Rome rationalized their acquisition of an empire.

In what follows we will examine several significant historical examples, from both the ancient world and the modern world, that clearly display the disposition of ruling classes towards the use of violence against their political opponents. We'll see that the use of violence and murder for the purposes of political repression is an ancient tradition. In both the Romans' suppression of rebellious Italian allies, or in the United States' many engineered coups de etat, e.g. that against Salvadore Allende, one can clearly and distinctly perceive the machinations of elites designed to impose and maintain the basic conditions for their political power and accumulation of wealth. Not covered here are the various macro-level social projects of the bourgeoisie, which aim at large-scale transformation of society. These processes cause much social dislocation and human suffering, but are less easily recognizable as instances of violence and murder, since the victims and perpetrators are separated by indirect causal mechanisms. Nevertheless, what becomes immediately clear is that ruling elites have never been hesitant to use force and violence to restore "order" when the basic conditions of their position of power and privilege are seriously threatened. This is an important lesson for revolutionaries to bear in mind.

The Purge of the Democrats, or the Reign of the Thirty at Athens

In 431 B.C. Pericles, Athens' leading politician and statesman, found himself at war with Athens' great rival Sparta, despite his repeated efforts to avert such a war. The causes of this war, which to the people of the Greek world felt like World War I did to the Euro-Atlantic world, interesting as they are, are outside our purposes here. In any event, two years into the fighting Athens' long-time leader was dead. The war would go on for more than another two decades. Perhaps it was because the Athenians lost their greatest leader, the one man capable of holding together a coalition in support of his visionary strategy to survive the war, they ended up losing the war. The Peloponnesian War was a long and protracted struggle, and Athens was by no means pre-destined to lose. If the Athenians had stuck to Pericles' strategy they might still have lost. His plans for the offensive part of the war proved insufficient. In several instances Pericles' plans, and with them Athens' empire, were saved by the sending of reinforcements against his wishes, e.g. in the defense of Corcyra. While he likely would have counseled against the Syracusian expedition in 415 B.C., there is no way to know that even the great Pericles could have guided Athens to final victory in the war.

In 404 B.C. Athens finally capitulated to Sparta. It had suffered the loss of its unifying leader, as well as a devastating plague early in the war, and then the defection of allies, and the collusion with its enemies by Persia late in the war. Athens lost its empire, the walls of Piraeus, its fleet, and much of its prestige in the surrender, and was, of course, forced to pay war indemnities. However, not wanting to embolden one of their strongest allies, the Corinthians, the Spartans chose not to raze the city, or its walls. Everyday Athenians had watched for almost three decades as their homes and farms were destroyed by the annual marauding of Peloponnesian armies through the countryside of Attica during the fighting season.[5] Aristocrats had spent much of their accumulated treasure to keep up the war effort. [6] Immediately after victory the Spartans, under Lysander, installed a new oligarchic government at Athens, abolishing its previous democratic constitution. This regime has come down to us as 'the Thirty Tyrants'. In keeping with aristocratic oligarchic constitutions, e.g. as at Sparta, the regime of the thirty, backed by Spartan troops, restricted the franchise heavily. In order to secure these constitutional changes, upon taking power the thirty began a brutal purge of the democratic faction at Athens.

A sense of the scale of the brutality of this ultra-conservative reactionary regime can be gleaned from the fact that it was violently overthrown after only thirteen months, as well from the derogatory appellation Athenians gave to this regime. During their reign of terror the "Thirty Tyrants", as they quickly came to be called, executed and or exiled a great many Athenian citizens, stripped them of their property and divided it up among themselves. In the Ancient Greek world, if a citizen were executed for certain criminal offenses, treason especially high on this list, their property could be confiscated by the state. The Thirty exploited this legal mechanism to enrich themselves and provide patronage to their clients. Estimates of causalities are, of course, somewhat variable as is common with ancient scholarship. The main estimates we have suggest that 1,500 Athenian citizens were executed by the Thirty. While some certainly were members of the democratic faction at Athens, and were executed for political as well as financial reasons, many others were killed solely because they possessed valuable property desired by some aristocrat. Other accounts suggest that around 5% of Athenian citizens were executed, that is, 5% of the voting-eligible, native-born, adult males. While estimates of the Athenian population at this particular point in time are also somewhat inexact, they are exact enough for us to know that the executions conducted by the Thirty eliminated a rather sizeable portion of the Athenian citizen body.

The Thirty were by no means he first to persecute their political enemies, not did they invent the bloody tactic of execution to seize land and wealth. However, the scale of their murderous violence is unique, especially for a regime with such a short duration. Even in a city with as long and contentious a history of factional political strife as Athens, rarely had a regime, democratic or oligarchic, been so brutal. Through the history of Athenian politics from the late 6th century and the founding of the democracy, through the late 5th century and the defeat by Sparta, power had changed hands between the democratic and oligarchic factions several times. It was common in these episodes for many supporters of the now deposed regime to go into exile; often returning later when the hostile regime had been toppled again. After several consecutive decades of Alcmaeonid dominance, and expansion of democracy, the ultra-conservative faction seized the opportunity presented by Athens' defeat to pursue long-held political objectives.

In 403 B.C. exiled Athenian aristocrats at the head of armies, in conjunction with risings of resident common people quickly pushed the thirty out of power, and out of the city. It required brutal street fighting, which left several leading members of the regime of the thirty dead, but a democratic regime was resorted to Athens. Unfortunately, as history would have it, this democratic restoration was to last less than a century before the Macedonian conquest in 338 B.C.. One of the most striking features of the democratic restoration was the general amnesty that was passed. Only the members of the thirty were outlawed, i.e. forced into permanent exile, while all others were fully pardoned. No legal actions in connection with the persecutions of the thirty were allowed, however justified the victims might be. This contrast is significant. When the extreme wing of the oligarchic faction came to power it unleashed a wave of violence and murder to try to permanently suppress its enemies. When the democratic faction returned to power, even after the outrageous behavior of the thirty, they decided on the amnesty policy.

Now, to be responsible we must note that this amnesty was, although a bold political act, and certainly on the generous end of the spectrum of political settlements in the ancient world, it was also very much the expedient decision. Rather than continue on the potentially self-destructive course of anti-oligarchic reprisals, the restored democratic regime chose the generous settlement so that Athens could begin the necessary work of rebuilding. The delicate balance of political forces in the city, and the inter-connectedness of the families at the apex of society, often prevented extremes of violence from breaking out when either the democratic or oligarchic factions came to dominate. As has been the case in societies throughout history, there were more radial wings to each faction, and their existence served to forge moderate coalitions, which also often prevented extreme blood-letting.

During the reign of the thirty tyrants, the ultra-conservative faction was eager to embark on their sanguinary predations against their political opponents, and anyone who might be or become such an opponent, once they had taken power with Spartan backing. Throughout the previous century they had also been the first to denounce popular leaders like Pericles and Ephialtes in the most vicious terms, and to portray them as thuggish demagogues fomenting class warfare against the rich. After the defeats of the Persians in 480-479 B.C. democratic leaders were increasingly successful at increasing popular control over the business of government. Part and parcel of this process was the formal sidelining of the political bodies of the aristocracy, namely the Areopagus, which was eventually striped of all powers except for adjudicating murder trials. Leaders as far back as Solon had created important legislation that limited the power of elites, granting the masses a small degree of legal protection against the aristocracy's aggressively predatory behavior. This process continued under other democratic leader like Cleisthenes, Ephialtes, Pericles, and Cleon, and others, who succeeded in transferring much of the powers of the old aristocratic political bodies to newer more democratic bodies.

The Assassinations of the Populares: From the Gracchi to Caesar

Around the time of the emergence of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus into Roman political life in 133 B.C., the Roman state was in a radically new position. After the Punic Wars, and the conquest of Greece, the Roman state had achieved a new height of power and preeminence. Rome was now an, if not the, super-power in the Mediterranean world. Roman society was still dominated by the Patrician class, who monopolized the highest political offices of the state, in particular the consulship. The Roman economy was also dominated by this same Patrician class, who were also the largest landowners. From the wars of conquest the Romans brought back not only masses of treasures, but also hordes of slaves. Since the patrician class dominated the state, and the army, it controlled the division of the spoils. To no one's surprise the majority of these spoils went to the Patricians. Breaking important old laws, the Licinian laws, with impunity, this Patrician oligarchy had accumulated vast estates called latifundia. These slave-worked estates provided their owners with very large incomes.

In the wake of Rome's military victories, and rise to super-power status, serious problems had emerged in Roman society. A multitude of Roman citizens, a great many military veterans, had been defrauded, intimidated, or bankrupted out of their small holdings, and usually re-locating to Rome itself. The growth of this restive urban population, the plebs urbana, as well as the concentration of wealth and land in the hands of the aristocracy made for a combustive political situation in Rome. Many in the lower classes saw a great injustice in the division of wealth, rights, and privileges in Roman society. To their eyes, it was they, the plebians, who had fought in the army, who had bled and died for the Roman state and for its new-found wealth. And yet, they were being in large part deprived of, not only their patrimony as Roman citizens, but also of their rightful share of the spoils of conquest. Many of the social and political issues that had dominated during the period known as the 'conflict of the orders', returned during this period, as the tumult and urgency of the war years had ceased to contain these sources of tension.

It is this highly charged environment that Tiberius Grachhus enters when he is elected Tribune in 133 B.C.. As a blue-blooded patrician Tiberius came from a well-connected, and wealthy family. Indeed, his maternal grandfather was the famous Scipio Aemilianus, victor over Carthage. Yet, he legally renounces his patrician status, to become a plebian, and thus be eligible to run for Tribune. As Tribune, Tiberius fought for land-reform, and other measures chiefly of benefit to the plebians. Forsaking Patrician-hood, and working with the plebians politically to limit the power and wealth of the aristocracy, Tiberius was much hated by the optimates in the Senate. Eventually, when Tiberius sought re-election, the Senate felt threatened enough to murder Tiberius and a large cohort of his supporters in the street. This same fate befell Tiberius' brother Gaius in 121 B.C., after he pursued a political career in the same way, and championing the same issues.

The problems of the Roman state were deep and severe, and though the Gracchi had some success, which alleviated some of the pressure on Roman society and the Roman state, the main problems continued to grow worse. Plebians, including many of Rome's Italian allies who had fought in the army, wanted expanded citizenship rights, shortened military service, land to farm, money to stock those farms with essential goods and equipment, debt relief, rent relief, and other measures. That Gaius Julius Caesar made his political career on much the same issues almost a century after Tiberius' assassination shows how durable these problems, and the dynamics underlying them, were. Importantly, Caesar differed from either of the Gracchi, namely, he commanded an army. Thus, he was more successful in his reform projects than the Gracchi. And yet, Caesar too threatened the optimates' power and privilege too gravely, and so in 44 B.C., they assassinated him.

A similar fate came to most if not all of the leading populares between the Gracchi and Julius Caesar. A popularis was a Roman politician whose political base was among the plebians and the Assembly, rather than among the optimates and the Senate. All these politicians took up similar issues, to greater and lesser degrees, and with greater and lesser success. And they were all murdered by the optimates when they appeared to be too threatening. Livius Drusus, Fluvius Flaccus, Sulpicius Rufus, Cornelius Cinna, Marius Gratidanius, Appuleius Saturninus, Cnaeus Sicinius, Quintus Sertorius, Servillius Glaucia, Sergius Cataline, and Clodius Pulcher were all killed by what can most appropriately be termed optimate death-squads.[7] Of course, in all cases the Senate justified itself by labeling the populares as dangerous men, criminals, revolutionaries, or anarchists threatening to undermine the social order. Not only would Patrician Romans, as deeply conservative people, have been morally scandalized by the idea of political reform aiming at the increased inclusion of the voice of the plebians. But, moreover, they would have seen this as a direct challenge to the economic and political system that created and maintained their position of privilege.

One must not forget that when one of these populares were murdered it would not be just that individual politician who was killed. It was common practice to persecute the political supporters of those politicians. Just as with the Gracchi, the assassination of these figures often involved a brutal street fight wherein many scores of that politician's followers would also be killed. Not only this, but after the fighting was done, and the intended target killed, there would commonly be further purges of opposition supporters, which could be quite large in scale. One of the striking features of the career of Julius Caesar is that when given the chance, he was, by comparison, very restrained in his purges of those who opposed him. Caesar tried to make friends of his enemies by generosity and mercy. His enemies repaid him with a conspiracy bent on murder; or tyrannicide as the conspirators saw it.

The Execution of Jesus of Nazareth

What is known for sure about the historical Jesus of Nazareth is that he was executed as a criminal, as the leader of a rebellious Jewish political movement, by the Roman state in Palestine circa 30-33 A.D. He had challenged the power of the ruling Jewish elites, the Pharisees, and with it Roman control. He was not the first such person to be crucified for this crime, but he was the first to have a long-lasting cult, or sect, spring up around him after his death. Jesus of Nazareth was, as Reza Aslan portrays him, a zealot, a revolutionary, a Jewish nationalist. [8] It was for this, his seditious political activity, that he was executed. His religious teachings had political implications that directly challenged both the local Jewish elite as well as the Roman occupiers. It was because of the tight connection between religious and political authority within Judaism, centered in Jerusalem, that radical religious teachings could have radical political consequences.

Jewish life in this era revolved heavily around the temple, specifically the temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a special place for the Jews. It was their spiritual center of the divine universe. It was God's chosen city for God's chosen people. It was the best place to worship God, the only place really. Many Jewish rituals and ceremonies could only be performed in the temple at Jerusalem. At the heart of the temple lay the literal dwelling-place of God, the Holy of Holies. The temple served as a calendar, a clock, an entrepot for trade, a bank, a capitol, a library, as well as a place or worship and sacrifice. The temple also contained a large complex of agricultural fields, domestic industries, and warehouses in addition to its religious edifices. This temple complex was maintained almost entirely by slave labor.

The temple and its life was in turn controlled by the priestly class, with the high priest as its top official. The priesthood was a hereditary position, limited to the descendants of Aaron. Priests controlled access to the sacrifices and other religious rituals that were essential to the practice of Judaism. The most significant of these rituals would have been sacrifices, mainly of animals. Of course, sacrificial animas are not free, because there are a host of religious regulations about the appropriate character of these sacrifices, so there is thus a class element to access to religious rituals. The priests would not only retain the sacrificial animal, parts of which they could re-sell for a profit, but also pocket a fee for their services. The money lenders, in and around the temple also got a piece of the action. They exchanged foreign for domestic currency for a fee, sold sacrificial animals, and lent money for those Jewish citizens wealthy enough to patronize the temple. The temple priests also collected the taxes and tithes that were owed to the temple as a religious obligation of Jewish citizens.

After the Roman invasion and conquest, these local elites were co-opted by the Romans into maintaining order, and sending tribute to Rome, in exchange for retaining and likely enhancing their positions of power and privilege. This was necessary given the role of the temple, and of religious practice and authority in the daily life of Jewish citizens. It was standard policy for the Romans in maintaining and extending their empire to make allies among the local elites through bribery, and by providing Roman troops to back up these local elites. These were the Pharisees, they were essentially Roman collaborators who enforced not only their traditional taxes and tithes, but now also the extractions necessary to support a respectable tribute to Rome. This burden further impoverished many in the countryside. Resentment at both greedy local elites and a military occupation by Roman foreigners, combined with growing poverty and starvation, caused many Jewish peasants to be swept up in an apocalyptic fervor. This sense of apocalyptic foreboding in the minds of the populace was cause of, and enhanced by, the succession of itinerant preachers, bandit-messiahs, and militant nationalistic secret sects and their anti-Roman, anti-Pharisee actions.

The historical Jesus of Nazareth was likely born to an entirely illiterate family of subsistence level farmers, or day-laborers, living in an impoverished country village around 4 B.C.. If Jesus was indeed a tekton, a wood-worker, then he and his family were among the poorest classes of society. In a time of economic despoliation and mass unemployment in the countryside, formerly free peasants being turned into tenant farmers, or even slaves, through debt; debt often incurred to meet basic subsistence needs. Again, if a tekton, Jesus was a hired worker, who likely migrated seasonally to the nearest large city where the work was. He was then very likely aware of and imbued with the apocalyptic sentiment in the air, aware of the anti-colonial movements that swirled about, had heard or heard of the prophesies of the apocalyptic preachers who came into and then went out of fashion. He would have been directly aware of the toll that the extractions of the Pharisees were taking on the peasants of the countryside, and as a Jew likely appalled by the decadent and sacrilegious Roman occupiers and their effect on life in the cities.

What is known about the historical Jesus of Nazareth has to be gleaned from ancient sources, and Christian religious texts, and must thus be disentangled from Jesus the Christ. What most of the sources agree on is that he was an itinerant preacher delivering an apocalyptic, populist, and anti-colonial message, who attracted a sizeable following. He then made a highly ceremonialized entrance into Jerusalem, sending an unmistakable political message, after which he launched a brazed raid on the temple. Attacking the religious authority of the Pharisees, was for the Romans, the same as attacking the Roman state. Jesus' claim to be a messiah, was a radical claim with big political implications, that people of the day would not have missed. They would have seen such a move as a provocative anti-Roman, anti-colonial stance. In the end, he was betrayed to Roman authorities by a member of his inner-circle. The Romans then tortured and executed him as a lestai or bandit -more accurately, an insurrectionist - just as they had plenty of would-be messiahs before Jesus.

The Suppression of the Rebels of '48

In the run-up to 1848, Europe was still largely dominated by absolute monarchies. Britain has a constitutional monarchy, the French had a kind of limited monarchy, the United States was still the world's only republican democracy. Eastern Europe remained under the sway of absolutist empires, the Austrian Hapsburg empire, the Prussian empire, the Russian empire, and the Ottoman empire in the Balkans. The conquests of Napoleon, and his introduction of his reform to the civil law, the "Napoleonic Code", liberated much of Western Europe from old feudal obligations that burdened the people. These conquests did not touch Eastern Europe, and thus the institutional forms of serfdom and feudalism remained. France after Napoleon had vacillated between republic and restoration, between revolution and order. Many of the revolutionary grievances of 1789 had been re-invigorated by the conservative constitutions imposed on France by the European powers, with Metternich at their head. [9]

One major sign of this was the revolution of 1830 in France. The hated Bourbon dynasty was overthrown once again, and the scion of the rival Orleanist dynasty, Louis-Phillipe, was raised to the throne in the now famous 'July Monarchy'. His regime was little more popular than his predecessors had been. Republican sentiment remained strong in France, and there were many who wished to see the constitution of 1793 restored, while others wanted to see an even more liberal constitution adopted. As history often happens, it was somewhat by accident that a revolution was touched-off in Paris, which then spread like wildfire throughout Europe, but particularly Eastern Euopre. This would become the largest, fastest-spreading, most spontaneous, farthest reaching, and most successful wave of revolution Europe had ever seen. And yet, within six months of its triumphs, most of these revolutions had been crushed, and their political gains reversed.

Throughout the spring of 1848, what would become known later as the 'Springtime of Peoples', in the wake of the Paris revolution, regimes were toppled in quick succession. A new, or second, republic was proclaimed in Paris on 24 February. The wave of revolution then spread swiftly. As Hobsbawn writes, "By 2 March revolution had gained south-west Germany, by 6 March Bavaria, by 11 March Berlin, by 13 March Vienna and almost immediately Hungary, by 18 March Milan and therefore Italy". [10] In response to urban uprisings many imperial leaders fled their capitals to more secure locations, leaving cities like Berlin and Vienna to the rebels. These rebels, notwithstanding the variations due to national circumstances, were largely untied in what they were demanding. First on the list, especially for the Eastern Europeans, were formal constitutions, and the formal guarantees of social, political, and economic rights. This goes without saying would have limited the power of the monarch, which also goes without saying was anathema to the kinds of absolute monarchs that ruled these Eastern European empires. These constitutions would commonly include provisions abolishing the legal bases of serfdom and feudal domination. They also typically accorded a set of rights meant to lay the foundation for a more liberal future economically, and more democratic future politically.

However, due to a host of complex reasons, by the fall the deposed regimes had regained their strength, confidence, and initiative. By the winter of 1848 only the Hungarians and the Venetians still maintained revolutionary regimes. The revolution was finally defeated in August of 1849 when the Hungarians and Venetians surrendered. This reversal of fortunes was due to some factors affecting the revolutionary regimes, for instance the large degree of internal dis-organization, and factional in-fighting. However, the fall of the revolutionary regimes, who had dared to demand constitutions, was achieved through the liberal use of military force. Brutal street fighting was required for imperial troops to re-take cities dominated by rebels. The 1848 wave of revolution was still the age of the iconic barricades. But these were no match for the cannons wielded by the soldiers sent by absolute monarchs to clear the rebels out. After violently suppressing the rebels, executing many in the aftermath, most of the political reforms - modest by our standards today - were rolled back by the newly restored monarchies.

The fighting was more and less intense and bloody in various places. Berlin and Vienna saw some of the most devastating urban street fighting. In October of 1848, in Vienna alone, two thousand were killed just in the fighting during the re-conquest of the city, and two thousand more rebels were arrested after the fighting. Berlin was, "the scene of the most grisly of all the revolutionary outbursts of March 1848" [11]. The fighting in an around Budapest was also extremely brutal, as the Austrian empire tried its best to repress Hungarian nationalism. The same can be said of the Austrians' response to rebellions in Northern Italy, where Italian nationalism was strong. Much violence was required before Hapsburg preeminence was restored to these territories. That the Hungarian and Italian rebellions were not subdued until the fall of 1849 shows just how strong these movements were, and thus, how much violent repression was needed to pacify them. Enormous populations were displaced as partisans of revolutionary or reactionary regimes fled from their homes to one safe haven or another, and back, perhaps more than once. The restored conservative political regimes in the aftermath of the 1848-1849 revolution also caused an increase in the number of emigrants, many of whom were leaving for political reasons; in particular, many Germans came to the Unites States and helped lay the foundations of the socialist movement in America, which blossomed in the 1870s and 1880s.

The Slaughter of the Communards

Fear often leads humans to distorted perceptions of events, whether they are direct participants or more removed observers. No single word better describes the entire atmosphere of the now famous Paris Commune. The deep fear pervading many of the parties has led to a silence about the Commune and its fate in official bourgeois histories. On the other extreme is Marx, whose praise of the Commune did much to bolster its legend; as well as add further fuel for fear in the minds of conservatives and reactionaries. Trying to achieve an accurate image of the events of the Paris Commune of 1871 means eschewing both the over optimism of some radicals and the irrational fear of most reactionaries. After a severe outburst of revolution in 1848, deposing the widely loathed Louis-Phillipe, inaugurating the short-lived Second Republic, the then current representatives of the Second Empire were quick to react with violence when insurrection broke out again in Paris in 1871.[12]

The 1870 Franco-Prussian War was a disaster for France, to say the least. The war ended in January of 1871 after a devastating four month siege of Paris itself. By the time the siege was lifted Paris and its population was in a pitiable state. After a blunderous miscalculation by the government, on the day of France's surrender to Prussia, Paris had no more than one week's worth of food. Sensing the urgency of the situation countries like the Unites States and Great Britain quickly sent shipments of aid to France, even the victorious Prussians sent food aid, in the form of army rations, to help alleviate the suffering of Paris, which they judged could easily spark riots. By early February the aid had started to arrive. And by the second week of the month, the crisis had been averted and the starvation and malnutrition which characterized the end stages of the siege began to recede. This was to be just the first crisis Paris was to confront in 1871, and in hindsight, the easiest to resolve.

On 8 February 1871 France voted for a new government, as was stipulated in the armistice with Prussia. The results provided another spark for the March uprising which installed the Commune regime. For the elections the government reverted to an electoral law from 1849. This had the practical effect of over-representing rural constituencies at the expense of urban ones, particularly Paris. It has been allotted only 43 of 768 seats in the new Assembly, greatly diminishing both the real and the perceived supremacy of Paris within France. A second spark came in the form of the mass exodus from Paris in the aftermath of the siege. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the city in order to get away from the devastated, fetid, starving city they had been trapped in for months. This exodus was of particular importance because those who left were largely of the bourgeoisie, people who were also members of the National Guards. This tipped the balance of forces within Paris decisively in favor of the radicals; a group that had felt betrayed by the revolutions of 1830, and 1848, who thought the loss in the war as well as the surrender terms were outrageous and humiliating, who thought the patrimony of 1792 was being taken from them once again.

The third spark came in the form of the surrender terms themselves, which the French government was forced to accept. The armistice was set to expire on 19 February, and at the deadline there was no treaty. An extension was granted by the Prussians until the 24th, and when a treaty still had not been agreed, they granted another extension to the 26th. When, on the 26th, the French were still reluctant to accept the terms on offer, Bismarck threatened to resume the fighting. Thus, on the night of the 26th, Thiers, as leader of new French government, signed the treaty. On the 28th he submitted it to the Assembly for ratification. Despite widespread outrage and indignation the treaty was ratified by a 546 to 107 vote. The steep war reparations aside, the most galling of the peace terms for the French was the Prussians being allowed a victory parade in Paris, and a two-day military occupation. This violated the sensibilities of many Parisians to such an extent that after the Prussian troops withdrew they are reputed to have set to work scrubbing the streets of Paris to expunge the odious stain caused by the presence of Prussian boots.

The atmosphere in Paris in February and March of 1871 was thus highly charged. The same day Prime Minister Theirs signed the peace treaty so many Frenchmen, and especially Parisians, found utterly humiliating, a group of National Guards took the initiative to seize some cannons from positions the Prussians were to come to occupy under the terms of the peace treaty. These cannons were removed to one of the fortresses of the radicals, the neighborhood of Montamarte. These cannons had been paid for with subscriptions from the people, and so the radical battalions of the National Guards thought the cannons belonged to them, and would not allow them to fall into Prussian hands. This happened amidst a city rife with civil disorder and disturbance. Huge protests were taking place led by groups of the National Guards, who refused to be disarmed and disbanded by a measure proposed by the new government. In one event, 300,000 Parisians took part in a protest parade led by radical Nation Guard battalions. It was the taking of the cannons that led Thiers to direct the army to retrieve the cannons on 8 March.

The operation of 8 March was a pathetic failure by the French regular troops. Bismarck, as part of the armistice, had reduced the French army to a single division, and this one division was not a terribly effective fighting force. The failure of the first operation is the reason Theirs had to order another attempt to re-take the cannon from the rebellious National Guards. On March 18th this operation began, and in its failure, it proved to be the beginning of the Commune's existence. The inattention to detail that had characterized much of the French military effort during the war continued after the war. On the 18th, regular troops had succeeded in capturing the cannons which were their objective, but had neglected to bring any horses or carriages with which to transport them. It was while waiting for these to be delivered that the tides turned against the regulars. National Guardsmen, as all too common, were disorganized and sloppy, and were quite easily overpowered by the regulars. However, the regular army's lackadaisical attitude gave the radical National Guards critical time to muster their forces, and raise the population of Paris. Before long, the regulars who were babysitting the captured cannon were enveloped within a massive and agitated crowd.

Before that day was over the Paris commune had been declared. The life of the Commune itself was pervaded by disorganization, factionalism, anti-Commune propaganda, hysterical fear of social revolution by elites, and over-aggrandizement by sympathetic observers like Marx. The reality of the Commune must be teased out from behind these strands. The radical nature of the Commune has been over-played by both its supporters and detractors. In fact, the Commune regime was more a desperate attempt at municipal government for Paris, than any attempt at a new revolutionary national government of France. The siege had only recently been lifted, the threat of mass starvation only narrowly averted, a mass exodus of Parisians followed, then Paris' dignity was slighted by the provincial elites during the election of a new government. So when the events of the 18th turned against the pro-government regular troops, the Thiers government fled the city. Taking his cues from the lessons he learned in 1848, Theirs ordered the entire government to relocate to Versailles. Thus, after the flight of the newly elected government, the people who remained in Paris had little choice but to try to organize themselves.

The Commune became notorious because of its revolutionary image. Again, some of this was the hysterical fear of social revolution that led elites in France, as well as abroad, to spread all manner of rumor and gossip about the life of the Commune and it various tawdry, atheistic, socialistic, and other immoral practices. Some of this perception was enhanced by Commune supporters who idealized the life of the Commune and perhaps read more into it than was really there. Indeed, the truly revolutionary period of the Commune, when much of the radical legislation for which it became known was passed, were in the final days of the Commune after Versailles' forces had entered the city, thrusting the Commune into a desperate situation. Marx's gushing support of the Commune also fueled rampant speculation by capitalist elites that the Paris Commune was a plot orchestrated by the International. Though there were indeed Internationalists, and other socialists, within the ranks of the Commune, the allegation of the Commune as plot by international socialists is simply not accurate. Even its connection to communism is largely over-stated. Its title harkens back to the French tradition of calling independent, self-governing towns, "communes". Though the ranks of the Communards contained many radical proletarians, some even members of Marx's International, their aim was much more the self-government of Paris than international socialist revolution; the true sentiments or proclamations of some actual Communards notwithstanding.

The life of the Commune played out over the interval between when the Theirs government fled the city, and when it re-entered the city with its re-organized and enlarged national army. Out-gunned almost from the start the Commune's military activities were entirely defensive. More evidence that there was no international socialist plot to ignite a pan-European social revolution. Despite being out-gunned and out-numbered, the Communards put up a truly valiant defense of the city. As the battle wore on and the losses mounted, it became clear the Commune was in a fight for its life. Moreover, given the disposition of the pro-government troops, it was clear the Communards were fighting not just for the Commune's existence, but also for their own. Once this reality became apparent, the desperate, self-less, and heroic actions of the Communards in the defense of the Commune's last strong-holds was what its legend became built on. In the end, tens of thousands of Communards were killed in the battle for the city, many thousands executed after surrendering during battle, and many thousands more after the fighting had ceased. The low end of estimates are set by the Theirs government's own statistics, which admit to 17,000 killed and executed. The upper end of estimate for Communards killed is around 50,000.The real number is certainly much higher than the officially acknowledged 17,000, very likely at least double. A final and full tally will never be possible.

Gould's Half

Jason "Jay" Gould, who was in his day one of America's most reviled speculators, is reputed to have once quipped that he could, "hire one half the working class to kill the other half". If we think, this tells us much. It testifies to the arrogance of the rising bourgeois, especially at the apex of power, the now infamous Robber Barons. Their rapidly rising incomes and increasing concentration of firms in America's major industries, and the control of the economy that brought, made the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Morgans, Goulds, and Cookes, the captains of industry, feel much superior to others. That Gould could be so glibly confident in his boast also testifies to how desperate the material situation of the greater part of the working class in America really was. Though this era is often called the 'gilded age', it certainly was not so for workers, unionists, women, socialists, or immigrants; and especially bad if one was black, and even worse if one was black in addition to any of the foregoing. Gould ended up being quite prophetic with his quip. It was working people who were hired as Pinkertons and strike-breakers, who composed the Army and National Guard units, that used their weapons and numbers, and near legal immunity, to bloodily disperse nearly any action of workers to challenge their bosses.

Between Reconstruction and the Great Depression American capitalism came into its own. It did so, with much help from the state and the courts, on the backs and with the blood of workers. America could not escape the "social question" that dominated the 19th century, and during this period it came very much to the fore. Only with much violence and repression were American elites able to quell the successive waves of strikes and worker militancy which recurred throughout the era between the end of the Civil War and onset of the Great Depression. In part, these recurring waves of labor unrest were highly related to the ups and, more often, downs of the periodic depressions that characterized the last quarter of the 19th century; a period we now call the Long Depression. During this era the Robber Barons created the monopolistic corporations that preyed so mercilessly and relentlessly upon working people; and almost always with the sanction, if not aid, of the "democratic" state. During this era workers, labor organizers, socialists and anarchists, working to advance the interests of working people in America were routinely arrested, beaten, and often killed, almost always with the sanction, if not the aid, of the "democratic" state.[13]

If we look to several important episodes of this era, we will notice recurrent themes of employer-initiated, state-backed repression of workers' movements. From decade to decade, from industry to industry, from locality to locality, the problematic conditions remained largely the same, and thus the impetus for worker militancy remained. In the wake of the Civil War the economy slowed down, as the war boom was over, and more and more was learned by the public about the peculations of war profiteers, and the railroad firms building the transcontinental railroad. Into this offensive mix was then added, what would turn out to be, a multi-decade recurring economic depression beginning with the Panic 1873, and ending with the Panic of 1893. These factors all did much to contribute to worker unrest and militancy.

To more and more Americans it began to look like that when there were good times the majority of the wealth created by economic prosperity went to the elites, and that when the bad times came the sufferings and deprivations were foisted largely on the poor to save the wealth of the rich. During this era events like the Great Strike of 1877, 1892 Homestead strike, and 1894 Pullman strike; the massacres at Thibodaux Louisiana in 1887, at Coeur d'Alene Idaho in 1892, and at Ludlow Colorado in 1914; the 1875-1876 execution of the 'Molly Maguires"; the controversy surrounding the 1876 Presidential election; the 1886 Haymarket Affair; the 1903 Immigration Act, also called the Anarchist Exclusion Act; the 1921 conviction and 1927 execution of Sacco and Vanzetti; the prosecution of Eugene Debs in 1918, all contributed to the building anger of the working classes, their revulsion against the excesses of capitalism, and their attraction to socialist ideas. The popularity of Edward Bellamy's 1888 socialist science-fiction novel, Looking Backwards: 2000-1887, as well as the short-lived 'Nationalist clubs' that sprang up in response, testifies to the strength of this attraction. Indeed, with Uncle Tom's Cabin & Ben Hur, Looking Backward was one of the three best-selling novels of the era.

In a kind of prelude to the Great Strike of 1877, at the end of 1874, beginning of 1875, a strike on the Reading railroad threatened to shut-down coal production during peak demand season. The workers wanted safer working conditions, higher wages and benefits, shorter working days, union representation and collective bargaining, an end to the hated "yellow-dog" contracts and blacklists, and a system of formal recourse against the tyranny of abusive foremen. In response the management of the Reading railroad refused to budge, and decided to wait-out the workers. Workers on strike would typically be evicted from their company-owned housing, have little to no savings, and be black-listed from future employment as 'agitators'; not to mention subject to physical attack. Homeless and destitute, the defiant workers held out for six months, in an era where most strikes lasted on the order of weeks. In the end, most of them were forced back to work by imminent starvation, and on the bosses' terms. This was a very common way for strikes to end. Other times scabs would be brought in to coerce strikers back to work; and with thousands and thousands of desperately poor immigrants flooding into the country, scabs were not hard to find. It was methods such as these, so callously applied to workers very reasonable demands that ended up giving birth to the infamous 'Molly Maguires'.

The Great Strike of 1877 was spawned, as so many strikes and disturbances of this era were, as a result of wage cuts imposed by the bosses of the railroad firms. In April of 1877 workers on the Reading railroad went out on strike once again. The strike was broken through being dissipated as public opinion moved against it. In response to the strike the railroad's owner Franklin Gowen delivered orders to the remaining workers that caused several derailments. These were blamed on the workers, and newspapers friendly to Gowen popularized the lie. It was later on, in July, when the much larger Penn railroad network also imposed wage cuts that its workers went out on strike, thus igniting the Great Strike of 1877. When striking railroad workers on the Baltimore & Ohio line in Martinsburg, West Virginia stopped train traffic, and seized company property, the police were immediately called out. Thanks to the solidarity of the local population the police were thwarted.

The companies' owners appealed to the governor for help protecting their property. The governor responded by making the fateful decision to send in state troops to "restore order", i.e. suppress and disburse the strikers. A striker trying to derail the train car loaded with state troops was killed, and a riot broke out. News of the killing spread quickly via the telegraph lines that followed the tracks. Fearful of a greater conflagration the governor appealed for federal help, and federal troops. These latter succeeded in pacifying the Martinsburg strikers. However, the strike had spread to Baltimore, where the population was also sympathetic to the strikers. When federal troops were once again called in to suppress the strike, workers again defended themselves, and Baltimore was engulfed in a day-long city-wide riot. This pattern of strike, repression, and violence spread to Pittsburg, Buffalo, Chicago, and St. Louis, all of which experienced large-scale riots and civil unrest. With the exaggerated image of the Paris Commune haunting their dreams American capitalists were quick to respond to outbreaks of workers militancy with immediate and violent repression. It must have been quite frightening to American capitalists indeed when a Commune was briefly declared by workers in St. Louis. Railroads continued to be an important center of worker organizing, with a major strike wave erupting again in 1894 with the Pullman Strike in Chicago Illinois.

This pattern of strike and repression also characterized labor-management relations in other important industries, like the steel industry. The Homestead Strike of 1892 in Homestead, Pennsylvania is a prime example. On July 6th in Homestead, the Pinkertons were employed by Carnegie and Frick to break the strike, and due to their reputation and tactics the situation quickly escalated to a gun battle in which about a dozen workers were killed. The next day four thousand troops were brought to Homestead and positioned surrounding the factory. The strikers were then dispersed, and the company hired new workers. Henry Clay Frick had used brutal tactics to suppress workers his whole career, and yet the violence at Homestead seemed much worse. So much worse that it provoked Alexander Berkman into attempting to assassinate Frick in his office.

Violence and repression were also used in the sugar industry. In response to a three week strike by black sugar workers, the owners appealed to the governor for troops, and he quickly assented. The troops, using over-powering force, broke the strike. Striking workers concentrated in Thibodaux were boxed in by local militia, who -after a couple of weeks of rising tensions- used the pre-text of the wounding of a couple militiamen to embark on a three-day campaign of extra-judicial murder and execution. This pattern emerges in the mining industry as well, as the murder of more than two dozen strikers at Ludlow Colorado in 1914 demonstrates. There, state militia troops fired machine guns into the tent-city erected by the miners and their families before setting fire to the tents. Two women and eleven children were burned alive, in addition to those killed and wounded by gunfire.

In addition to the violent repression of strikes, and other worker actions, political persecution and social prejudice also worked to suppress radical dissent, and radical action. Though, one must point out that the latter two, and physical violence and abuse often went hand in hand. As organized labour and socialist organizations gained momentum and adherents through their actions so too did anti-labor propaganda flourish. Near legal sanction to commit acts of violence against unionists and radicals combined with anti-labor prejudice routinely resulted in clashes, violence, and killings. One prominent example of this is the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. At a pro-labor mass meeting -called in response to police killings of workers the previous day- a bomb was thrown by members of the Chicago Police Department into the midst of a force of police who had been ordered to break-up the meeting. The police subsequently blamed the attack on a group of local anarchists they had rounded up almost at random; in fact, only two of the arrested were even in the vicinity of Haymarket Square on the day of the bombing. In the end, eight men were falsely arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and executed for the incident, which counted several policemen among those killed.[14]

This same anti- radical prejudice combined with anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1921 trial, and 1927 execution of Nicola Sacco & Bartolomeo Vanzetti, as well as in the 1903 Immigration Act, also known as the Anarchist Exclusion Act. Fear of radicals, and the radicalization of the working classes, also spurred President Woodrow Wilson to prosecute and jail one of America's then leading socialist organizers, Eugene Victor Debs; merely one aspect of the "Red scare" Wilson oversaw. One cannot fail to mention here all the now nameless, forgotten, or ill-remembered socialists, activists, organizers, unionists, and other 'agitators' who were extra-judicially murdered by local police, or others, who resented their presence in town. The stories of these now largely forgotten murders, is not dissimilar from the story of the 1964 murder of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.

Containing Domestic Dissent: From Kent State to Zuccotti Park

Thanks to clever marketing, and the penchant for nostalgia, many remember "the 60s" as the era of the flower-children and hippies; Woodstock and free love; the Beatles and Mo-town; tie dye and bell-bottoms. And though there remains a strong rebellious political ethos associated with "the 60s", the focus has been on the non-violent elements of the civil rights movement, as well as the non-violent elements of the largely student-led anti-war movement. What gets down-played, or passed-over in many histories of that era is the violence used against even the most peaceful protestors. One need only point to the COINTELPRO program to evidence the paranoia engendered in some quarters of the American elite by the rebellious 1960s, and the social, political, and cultural movements it spawned. Years of radicalization, peaceful protests, demonstrations, and a host of other actions, largely sparked by outrage over the war in Vietnam abroad, as well as racism and poverty at home, had divided American society.

This deep cultural and political divide is why when four students were killed by National Guard troops during a peaceful demonstration on campus at Kent State University in May 1970 many Americans blamed the protestors for their own murder; some folks only regretted that more of those "bums", as Nixon called them, were not killed. The killings at Kent State were perhaps the death blow to the student movement, and the anti-war movement. It demonstrated to many Americans that when pushed too far, the elite was willing to kill you. This sentiment did much to blunt the revolutionary energy that existed at this time, and to divert it into non-political projects, or to "safe" forms of political action in support of reforms short of social revolution, e.g. the women's movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, or the animal rights movement. But the Kent State killings were by no means the first blow. American elites did much over the 1960s to demonstrate the limits of their tolerance for radical social change. Kent State took on an added importance in the minds of many, perhaps because as is all too often the case, it unleashed the violence usually reserved for the marginalized on "middle class" white kids; just like the events at the 1968 democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the subsequent prosecution of the "Chicago Eight".

Yet, as the revolutionary momentum of the 1960s built, reaching its crescendo in 1968, violent repression began. I suppose this is fitting given that the radicalization of many came early on in the decade, with a shocking act of violence, the assassination of President Kennedy, and then of Lee Harvey Oswald. Though the unnecessary use of deadly force against white kids did much to change public opinion, violence had been used against racial and political minorities long before. In 1961, the Freedom Riders were harassed, beaten, and almost killed on more than one occasion during their protest rides. The Black Nationalist firebrand Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. The now iconic leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in 1968, just as he was expanding his message of racial justice to include important economic components. This latter event touched off intense riots in major cities across the nation. In 1969, Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton was murdered in his sleep by the Chicago Police.

Even closer to our own time we can observe the treatment of the anti-Globalization movement of the late 1990s, the high-point of which were the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle, or the 2011 Occupy movement. The story of the "battle of Seattle" is now well known. The main features of this were massive police repression of peaceful protestors, based on exaggerated allegations of "anarchist"-led violence against property. Many protestors who had only exercised their rights as citizens were injured by police in retaliation for some windows being smashed. After the initial Occupy Wall-Street protests, and then many subsequent weeks of peaceful protests and demonstrations, teach-ins and general assemblies, the protest movement that had spread across the nation-and indeed the world- came to be symbolically embodied in the encampments that formed the locus of the movement.

As winter set in, the Occupy encampments across the country were cleared out by police in municipality after municipality, beginning with the original encampment at Zuccotti Park in New York City in November. Many injuries, in Occupy encampments around the country, resulted from these police actions, the most famous of which is perhaps the near fatal wounding of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by police during the break-up of the Occupy Oakland encampment. In the end more Occupy protestors were prosecuted for actions taken during the protests, some for actions taken defending themselves from police attacks, than police charged for those attacks.


The left today lives in an ideological hangover from the mid-twentieth century. The impressive victories of the movements lead by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. based on non-violent civil disobedience have become the dominant conception of how to achieve social change in a democracy. In the US in particular, the legacy of social unrest and political protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s have caged the thinking of many "radicals". As impressive as the victories of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are, as important as the anti-war movement was, their triumphs have led the left to somewhat slavishly demand that social change only be accomplished via broad-based social protest movements, focused on the ballot box, and based on total non-violence.

Militancy is the specter haunting the left. And it has been since 1848, and especially after 1871. The ghost of political violence looms large still, even as it is consistently eschewed by "progressive liberals". Many forget that part of what made movements like Gandhi's and MLK's ultimately successful was that the ruling elites, the establishment, saw them as more acceptable than the radical and revolutionary alternatives that existed alongside them. Gandhi was for non-violence and civil disobedience. Many of his followers, as well as other non-followers were very prepared to, and indeed preferred, armed insurrectionary tactics. MLK's movement was likewise helped to gain mainstream acceptance by the existence of people like Malcolm X, and groups like the Black Panthers. Even the student movement, headed by the Students for a Democratic Society group, had a moderate wing that was legitimized to some degree by the existence of a militant wing, e.g. the Weathermen.

In 1848 many 'progressives' ended up being co-opted by reactionary regimes because these regimes preferred to make small reforms in the direction advocated by their domestic bourgeoisie, instead of that advocated by Marx, or Bakunin, or the armed masses on the streets. The same is true of the social and political movements of the 1960s and 1970s. After the anti-war movement began to splinter in the wake of the defeats of '68, and then Kent State, activists began to take on smaller goals short of bringing on a social revolution, others tried the "change the system from within" approach. 20th century elites were likewise cognizant that small concessions might preserve and stabilize the greater whole. In this spirit one should see much of the civil rights victories of this era; e.g. Johnson's Great Society program, the Voting Rights Act, the Roe vs. Wade decision, the Civil Rights Acts of 1960 & 1964, the Miranda vs. Arizona decision, et cetera. Grudging and hard won, but piecemeal reform has been the norm since then, with large changes coming more and more from the judicial branch, especially the Supreme Court, instead of the legislative branch. A great example of this is the movement for marriage equality.

In the wake of 1848 and 1871 mass social and political movements for working-class liberation that advocated, and acted upon, insurrectionary ideologies had to be aware that the stakes would be victory or death. The thousands upon thousands of communards who were slaughtered by government troops testified to that reality. Even the 'republican' government of France at the time was not interested in radical reforms. France, the country that exported anti-monarchical revolution in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, would punish with death the members of any further insurrectionary social movements who acted on their beliefs. The suppression of the Occupy Wall-Street movement in our own century shows that that even lawful and peaceful protest in a democratic society will not be tolerated by elites who have no patience for disruption, even in the non-revolutionary form of words and marches.


[1] See Thucydides.460-400 B.C.. History of the Peloponnesian War. Bk.V. "The Melian Dialogue".

[2] See Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morality. 1887.

[3] See de St. Croix, G.E.M.. The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. 1981.

[4] Parenti, Michael. The Assassination of Julius Caesar. 2003: 65.

[5] For an understanding of Greek warfare see, Hanson, V.D.. Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece. 1998.

[6] Pericles, towards the end of his life, had to order the removal the gold plates of the statue of Athena on the Acropolis, both of which he had commissioned, and overseen the building of, in order to me melted down for coinage. See; Kagan, Donald. Pericles of Athens & the Birth of Democracy. The Free Press, 1991.

[7] See Parenti, 2003.

[8] Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Random House, 2013.

[9] For informative sources on the 1848 revolutions see; Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Revolution. 1962. & The Age of Capital. 1975. Vintage Books, 1996. Also see; Rapport, Mike. 1848: Year of Revolution. Basic Books, 2008.

[10] Hobsbawm (1975), 10.

[11] Rapport (2008), 72.

[12] For an excellent work on the Commune see; Horne, Alistair. The Fall of Paris. 1965. Penguin, 2007. Also see; Merriman, John. Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune. Basic Books, 2014. Also see; Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Capital. 1975. Vintage, 1996: 167-169.

[13] For excellent resources on the evens of this period see; Brands, H.W.. American Colossus. Anchor, 2010: ch.4 & 18; also see, Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. 1980. Harper Perennial, 2003: ch.11 & 13; Kindleberger, Charles P. Manias, Panics, & Crashes. Basic Books; 1989.; Also see, Ginger, Ray. The Bending Cross. 1949. Haymarket Books, 2007.

[14] See Green, James. Death in the Haymarket. Anchor Books, 2007.