This article situates the French Communist Party’s birth in relation to the French mutinies stretching from the Black Sea to metropolitan port cities during 1919. Firstly, the article explores the new historiography of 1919 to explain the specific global conjuncture that helps to locate both the mutiny and the French Communist Party’s emergence. Secondly, the mutiny’s ‘afterlives’ reveal the uses to which the mutiny was put and its place in contentious politics. Specifically, the mutiny became a foundation myth of the party and then was displaced as such. Regarding contentious politics, the wave of unrest during 1919—of which the mutinies of the armed forces were the apogee—was that generation’s moment of revolutionary hope, crucially reshaping the French working class’ post-war composition and remaking the political currents of the French left later formalised at the Congress of Tours. Prominently referenced at the Congress of Tours, that experience remained a crucial signifier for the party thereafter.
By Matt Perry