148 years after–better late than never

The story of the arsonists who during the final days of the Commune went to destroy Notre-Dame, only to find it defended by an armed battalion of Commune artists, is a richly provocative example of direct democracy. It gives an idea of the kind of problems that will need to be resolved in the perspective of the power of the councils. Were those artists right to defend a cathedral in the name of eternal aesthetic values–and in the final analysis, in the name of museum culture–while other people wanted to express themselves then and there by making this destruction symbolize their absolute defiance of a society that, in its moment of triumph, was about to consign their entire lives to silence and oblivion? The artist partisans of the Commune, acting as specialists, already found themselves in conflict with an extremist form of struggle against alienation. The Communards must be criticized for not having dared to answer the totalitarian terror of power with the use of the totality of their weapons. Everything indicates that the poets who at that moment actually expressed the Commune’s inherent poetry were simply wiped out. The Commune’s mass of unaccomplished acts enabled its tentative actions to be turned into “atrocities” and their memory to be censored. Saint-Just’s remark, “Those who make revolution half way only dig their own graves,” also explains his own silence.

from Sur la commune (1962), by Guy Debord, Attila Kotányi and Raoul Vaneigem. A complete English translation available here.


1 thought on “148 years after–better late than never

  1. A fantastical structure should be constructed to replace Notre Dame cathedral. The citizens of Paris should all be welcome to plan and contribute to the structure, secure in the knowledge that any results will be their’s and that no governments or commercial interests will have a stake.

    Some suggestions could be a temple to the cosmic energies that humans experience through sexuality, or experiments with colloid substances so that the new building may be made of slime. Large Piranesi spaces could be constructed underneath, and include libraries of obscure or specialised books and special rooms for quantum physicists. A maze is another possibility. Also perhaps a room full of dirt, that toddlers entering the room are permitted by parents and guardians to eat. Obviously graff would be freely permitted, and graff artists would be important contributors to the plans. The new building could incorporate mobility. The building should also be the site of experiments in solar and other alternative forms of power generation.

    While the new structure is not religious in the traditional sense, arrangements should be made so that Jah can be praised.


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