IN 1870, Napoleon III had led his nation into the disastrous Franco-Prussian War against the expansionist Prussian state. In spite of his pretensions to be a conqueror like his uncle, the first Napoleon, Napoleon III's army was woefully unprepared for modern warfare and Napoleon III himself was taken as a prisoner of war.

In the face of the Prussian Army, the people of Paris rose up against the invaders. Marx wrote in The Civil War in France, “But Paris armed was the revolution armed. A victory of Paris over the Prussian aggressor would have been a victory of the French workmen over the French capitalist and his state parasites.” A republic had been proclaimed in September 1870 in Paris, under Leon Gambetta.

Adolphe Thiers and his middle-class ...

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