No, not Covid, although God knows that’s deadly enough.
The blight in question is the three-month celebration of the Paris Commune, lauded by Marx, Engels and Lenin as a nascent “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The source of the contagion is Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor.
Actually, all the mainstream parties in France are socialist. The one that actually bears that name would be considered communist in many other places, with ample justification.
And Miss Hidalgo is on the left of even that party, which explains her affection for the 1871 attempt to turn Paris into an abattoir first and a charnel house second. It also explains why all my Parisian friends, admittedly a pre-selected group, loathe her.
Facilitated by the country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the Commune prefigured every subsequent communist takeover, successful or otherwise. The revolutions in Russia (both of 1905 and 1917), Hungary, Germany and China all traced their genealogy to the Paris bloodbath in the spring of 1871.
Hidalgo and her Communist allies correctly detect a link between the Commune and the gilets jaunes riots, not to say the whole modern ethos. Laurence Patrice, her Communist deputy mayor, said the city was celebrating “the values that were embraced in 1871 and which hold good today.” The blighter has a point.
The Commune is an essential chapter in the communist canon. When I was a little tot in Moscow, I hadn’t yet heard of the American Revolution but I knew quite a bit about the Commune. Adolphe Tiers, the great historian turned statesman, who suppressed the revolt, was my mother’s bête noire, and she always referred to him by his nickname, Bloody Dog. (“Somebody had to be,” commented Thiers after order was restored.)
Like all revolutions, the Commune issued a full complement of bien pensant slogans, along the socialist, feminist and anarchist lines. But that was mere PR. In reality, they took over Paris and embarked on an orgy of murder, looting, arson and general mayhem.
Presaging the common practice of today’s terrorists, the Communards took hundreds of hostages, many of them clergy. Presaging the common practice of today’s governments, Tiers said: “We don’t negotiate with murderers”.
The Communards immediately murdered dozens of priests, including the Archbishop of Paris, and, for good measure, quite a few policemen. They then methodically proceeded to torch public buildings, starting with the Tuileries Palace and the Hôtel de Ville (unlike the Palace, it has since been restored, but don’t try to book a room there). The Richelieu Library of the Louvre was reduced to cinders.
Also destroyed was the Palais de Justice, while firemen managed to put out the flames engulfing the Sainte-Chapelle, the Church of Saint-Eustache, the Louvre and Notre-Dame. Revolutionary conscience is indeed fiery.
The government’s cause was indirectly helped by the Prussians, who released captured French soldiers from the POW camps in the nick of time. Tiers assembled a force of some 250,000 in Versailles and marched on Paris.
Members of the National Guard who were in cahoots with the Communards instantly dispersed, leaving the firebugs to fend for themselves. In short order they discovered that fighting a regular army was harder than shooting unarmed priests.
About 6,000-7,000 Communards were either killed in the clashes or later executed by order of the military tribunals. That’s what earned Tiers the sobriquet so favoured by my late mother, God bless her.
Some Parisians see these shameful festivities as Hidalgo’s attempt to curry favour with the Left in the hope of becoming the Socialist candidate in the upcoming presidential election and, Marx willing, the next president. Such politicking doubtless plays a role, but the real significance runs deeper.
The very fact that the capital of a core Western nation can be made to celebrate that Walpurgisnacht means that its inspiring ideas are socially and intellectually acceptable in the sense in which, say, Nazi ideas aren’t.
For example, I doubt that, should Berlin acquire an AfD mayor by 2023, he’d be able to decorate the city with swastikas to mark the centenary of the Beer Hall Putsch. The underlying spirit is beyond the pale, as it were.
By contrast, the spirit that animated the Commune is a spectre that’s indeed haunting Europe, in the enduring words of Marx and Engels. That’s why Paris is flying red flags, whose colour reflects the oceans of blood spilled around the world by Anne Hidalgo’s ideological brethren.
And that’s why a subversive, incompetent creature like her can harbour presidential ambitions in a country I love so much. God spare us.