Monthly Archives: March 2016

Rebel Lives: Louise Michel/Edited by Nic Maclellan


Ahem. On with the show.

There are truly few books written in English about the Paris Commune, the world’s first (and short lived) radical democracy. I’ve written a few reviews that dealt with the Commune, but sadly I believe I have missed the human element, the actual face of the Commune. I intend to redress that fact with a bizarre “biography”(?) of Louise Michel, one of the firebrands of the Commune, dedicated feminist, and anarchist.

Michel has been declared a heroine for (and therefore property of) socialists, anarchists, and even liberal democrats; the same process has unfortunately been shared by other radicals such as Rosa Luxembourg, Victor Serge, and Bertolt Brecht. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand that some people are just good people, above and beyond political schematics. Rebel Lives‘ strange bio reflects that basic truth.

When I say “strange”, it is because this bio is actually a handful of printed material either written by Michel herself, or more general commentary of the Paris Commune. And this polyglot works – the reader gets the sense of who Michel might have been from this kaleidoscope of differing writings.

Michel was largely responsible for setting up women’s committees during the siege of Paris by Versailles’s reactionary army. Michel made sure that women shared the work, and physically defend the city, as much as their male counterparts. Michel raised the consciousness of every woman she met, due to her egalitarian values and the belief that men (capitalists etc) were largely responsible for the evils that plagued women. She wanted equality in the Commune, and she was largely successful at this.

It should be noted that as Michel was a loud and proud anarchist, some of the commentary in this bio unfortunately emanate from armchair anarchists. The latter really don’t care for Marxists, or socialists, or anybody that’s not them, and this vanguard sensibility comes across in the articles; jabs are continually made against those gosh-darned Reds, despite the complete lack of spite generated towards said anarchists. It’s a little petty, and it does take away from the sheer amount of work and progressive politics that Michel represented.

A word should be made about the period after the fall of the Commune: Michel demanded to be tried in court, out of camaraderie with her fellow fighters.. She spent 8 years in external deportation, and upon returning to Paris, she continued rabble-rousing and raising hell. Michel stood stock-still in the court rooms of France, willing to die (and become a martyr) for the left. She remained stalwart until her death.

This is a volume for feminists, in case they were curious about what kind of hell-raising has to take place for the ancien regime to fall into oblivion. This latter topic should be interesting for similarly violent, chaotic anarchists (the majority of whom are still men, who should take a look at feminism before hurtling into the whirlwind). But this also an ode to egalitarianism, and the fact that the aims of the Paris Commune still resonate today.

In solidarity, Louise Michel.



Trump, Berlosconi, Mussolini: The Lineage of Il Duce

There was an interesting interview with an Italian journalist on CBC News, wherein the Italian journalist was asked about the connections between Italy’s own populist buffoon, Silvio Berlosconi, and Donald Trump. It was a conversation that was prompted by Trump quoting Mussolini in a recent tweet. The conversation with the Italian journalist revealed plenty of links between the two barely verbal embarrassments. And of course, we need not stop at Berlosconi when we’re looking at right-wing populists. Mussolini, Il Duce himself, had no problem with stirring up hornet nests without presenting a single real policy.

Trump is a product of the Republican Party and the formerly non-voting libertarians who have opted to vote for their master of the universe. Ever since Obama won that first term in 2008, there has been an element within the Republican Party who felt that they had lost against Obama because they were not right-wing enough. This was the beginning of the Tea Party group within Republican crowds, a group that can best be described as right wing hippies. It was the full expectation of every non-Republican that the GOP might become some sort of ultra right wing cult, and in many ways, that describes the Trump phenomenon.

The lunatics are now running the asylum. Many conservative insiders, people who have been voting/supporting the Republican party for as long as they have been physically capable of doing so, are disgusted. There is now talk of a major split within the Republican inner circles, as people come to grips with the fact that there are two radically different groups who constitute the GOP now.

Both the Democrats and these aforementioned scared Republican insiders have made a major mistake over the past six months. They have all underestimated the power of right wing populism, where a “Washington outsider” (i.e. a person who has never dabbled in electoral politics before) speaks out for the Little Guy and the underdogs of America, And speech is essentially what Trump does: he’ll appear in a debate, during a primary, and any other public space, say some disgusting, terrifying things as if he was some kind of insult comic, then disappear for a few days.

The defense that Trump followers make is that Trump is just saying what a lot of people only think about (which is a grim condemnation of humanity, if true). But when Trump supporters are drilled about Trump’s actual policies, and what exactly he plans to implement once he’s president, the followers will go silent. This is due to the fact that Trump does not have any major policies, other than bigotry literally made concrete (i.e. the building of a wall between Mexico and the US, or forbidding Muslims to enter the country). As hateful, prejudiced, and bigoted as Trump is, he’s also a windbag. Trump really is a fascist stand up comedian, along the lines of Anne Coulter.

Canadians started making jokes about Americans fleeing the US for the north should Trump get elected as President. Now those jokes are becoming more and more serious; Americans are actually worried about living in a state run by a right-wing strongman. And Canadians are well aware of the ripple effect on Canadian policy should Trump become President.

This is an analysis and commentary about the way things stand NOW, in March 2016. Trump is not a foregone conclusion even within his own party, to say nothing of the Presidency. Also, the very idea of someone as deluded as Donald Trump becoming president might spur on hundreds of thousands of protest votes in favor of the Democrats – this is in fact what the Clinton camp are depending upon. There is also a chance of people not going to the polls at all, which is a very bleak concept (and one that the Republicans are also banking on).

But let’s also not forget about the power of stupidity. Bush Jr may have stolen an election in 2000, but there was a wide swath of idiots who really, genuinely supported George W. And let’s not forget novelty appeal -this is the same country which gave elected office to Schwarzenegger and Sonny Bono.

The rest of the world waits with bated breath to see who will be the new monarch of the West. This a sad state of affairs, but no one outside of the US wants to go down the rabbit-hole with Trump.