The Paris Commune, and them and us

Fighting Over the Paris Commune | The New Yorker 

Raoul Rigault
Right on my subject. All the contradictions that Adam Gopnik mentions are themes of my novel in progress. I'd quibble with some of his characterizations — Raoul Rigault and others were no angels, communeux or communards (they themselves generally used the first term) were far less inclined to annihilate their enemies than were the Versaillais commanders, “well-dressed ladies” really did do some of those horrible things after the massacre (we have ample newspaper accounts, by foreign and presumably objective reporters). And and then there's this remark,
There are many instances in Merriman’s account of people being saved by accident or by the act of a charitable and decent individual. But there is scarcely an incident of a principled humanity, where one side or the other refused to massacre captured civilian prisoners or hostages on the ground that it was the wrong thing to do, rather than impolitic at that moment.
Yes, there were such instances, not only but mostly by "communards" — the most vivid testimony is in Vuillaume's "Red Notebooks"(also the best source on the crazed self-importance of Vuillaume's one-time friend Rigault). But in the last days and hours, the desperation of the Commune's defenders led to uncontrollable, mad rage on the last remaining, eastern streets of Paris. Eugène Varlin, draped in his official Commune sash, tried mightily but failed to save a group of hostages on the rue Haxo (image right).

A bloody mess, and it's true that the "Communards" were hardly united, except in their anticlericalism, and had they "won" or at least held out for a longer time, it's not at all clear that the progressive, democratic and humanitarian leaders among them would have ruled. Well, all this is rich material for my novel "The Bookbinder" (working title), which will be not only about the Paris Commune of 1871 but about us and our world today.