Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology

Recalling events that happened on this day in history.
Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

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May 21 - 28, 1871
“Bloody Week” ends with defeat of Paris Commune. The Commune – the first working-class-led revolution to hold power anywhere in the world – began on March 18 when the citizens of Paris rose up to create a democratic commune in defiance of the national government, which had led the country to defeat in an unnecessary war with Prussia.

In the two months of its life the Commune takes a series of radical measures, including:
– The abolition of conscription and the standing army;
– The abolition of the ‘morality police’ which polices the morals of women;
– The separation of church and state and the abolition of all state payments for religious purposes;
– The removal of church influence from the schools;
– The confirmation of the right of foreigners to be elected to the Commune Council because the red flag of the Commune “is the flag of the World Republic;”
– The abolition of night work in the bakeries;
– The closing down of pawnshops;
– The cancelling of interest on debts;
– The right of workers to take over factories abandoned by their owners.

The Commune takes over the provision of public services for the whole city, as well as the defense of the city, and makes plans for a series of further reforms, including publicly funded continuing education and technical training.

The Commune terrifies both the French and Prussian ruling classes. They forget about their war, and unite to crush the Commune. The Prussians release the French troops they are holding as prisoners of war, and return them to the command of the Thiers government to use against Paris. The Commune resists heroically, but after a week of fighting the Paris Commune is crushed by overwhelming military force and its defenders are massacred. An estimated 50,000 people are killed, including many who are slaughtered in mass executions after the defeat of the Commune.
May 21, 1969
University student groups and secondary school students in Rosario, Argentina, along with the CGT labour federation, organize a silent march, which gathers 4,000 people. Police attack the march, and kill a 15-year-old student, Luis Blanco. The protest later becomes known as the first Rosariazo.
May 21, 1998  
Mass protests force the Indonesian dictator Suharto to resign. His 31 years of power, with strong U.S. support, were marked by the murder of an estimated one million Indonesians and the genocidal invasion and occupation of East Timor, as well as his embezzlement of between 15 and 30 billion dollars.

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For more information about people and events in Seeds of Fire, explore these pages: