[Classics] The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte


On May 28, 1849, the Legislative National Assembly met. On December 2, 1851, it was dispersed. This period covers the span of life of the constitutional, or parliamentary, republic.

In the first French Revolution the rule of the Constitutionalists is followed by the rule of the Girondists and the rule of the Girondists by the rule of the Jacobins. Each of these parties relies on the more progressive party for support. As soon as it has brought the revolution far enough to be unable to follow it further, still less to go ahead of it, it is thrust aside by the bolder ally that stands behind it and sent to the guillotine. The revolution thus moves along an ascending line.

It is the reverse with the Revolution of 1848. The proletarian party appears as an appendage of the petty-bourgeois-democratic party. It is betrayed and dropped by the latter on April 16, May 15,[90] and in the June days. The democratic party, in its turn, leans on the shoulders of the bourgeois-republican party. The bourgeois republicans no sooner believe themselves well established than they shake off the troublesome comrade and support themselves on the shoulders of the party of Order. The party of Order hunches its shoulders, lets the bourgeois republicans tumble, and throws itself on the shoulders of armed force. It fancies it is still sitting on those shoulders when one fine morning it perceives that the shoulders have transformed themselves into bayonets. Each party kicks from behind at the one driving forward, and leans over in front toward the party which presses backward. No wonder that in this ridiculous posture it loses its balance and, having made the inevitable grimaces, collapses with curious gyrations. The revolution thus moves in a descending line. It finds itself in this state of retrogressive motion before the last February barricade has been cleared away and the first revolutionary authority constituted.

The period that we have before us comprises the most motley mixture of crying contradictions: constitutionalists who conspire openly against the constitution; revolutionists who are confessedly constitutional; a National Assembly that wants to be omnipotent and always remains parliamentary; a Montagne that finds its vocation in patience and counters its present defeats by prophesying future victories; royalists who form the patres conscripti [elders] of the republic and are forced by the situation to keep the hostile royal houses they adhere to abroad, and the republic, which they hate, in France; an executive power that finds its strength in its very weakness and its respectability in the contempt that it calls forth; a republic that is nothing but the combined infamy of two monarchies, the Restoration and the July Monarchy, with an imperial label – alliances whose first proviso is separation; struggles whose first law is indecision; wild, inane agitation in the name of tranquillity, most solemn preaching of tranquillity in the name of revolution – passions without truth, truths without passion; heroes without heroic deeds, history without events; development, whose sole driving force seems to be the calendar, wearying with constant repetition of the same tensions and relaxations; antagonisms that periodically seem to work themselves up to a climax only to lose their sharpness and fall away without being able to resolve themselves; pretentiously paraded exertions and philistine terror at the danger of the world’s coming to an end, and at the same time the pettiest intrigues and court comedies played by the world redeemers, who in their laisser aller [letting things go] remind us less of the Day of Judgment than of the times of the Fronde [An anti-royalist movement of 1648-53][91] – the official collective genius of France brought to naught by the artful stupidity of a single individual; the collective will of the nation, as often as it speaks through universal suffrage, seeking its appropriate expression through the inveterate enemies of the interests of the masses, until at length it finds it in the self-will of a filibuster. If any section of history has been painted gray on gray, it is this. Men and events appear as reverse Schlemihls, as shadows that have lost their bodies.[91a] The revolution itself paralyzes its own bearers and endows only its adversaries with passionate forcefulness. When the “red specter,” continually conjured up and exercised by the counterrevolutionaries[92] finally appears, it appears not with the Phrygian cap of anarchy on its head, but in the uniform of order, in red breeches.

We have seen that the ministry which Bonaparte installed on December 20, 1848, on his Ascension Day, was a ministry of the party of Order, of the Legitimist and Orleanist coalition. This Barrot-Falloux Ministry had outlived the republican Constituent Assembly, whose term of life it had more or less violently cut short, and found itself still at the helm. Changarnier, the general of the allied royalists, continued to unite in his person the general command of the First Army Division and of the National Guard of Paris. Finally, the general elections had secured the party of Order a large majority in the National Assembly. Here the deputies and peers of Louis Philippe encountered a hallowed host of Legitimists, for whom many of the nation’s ballots had become transformed into admission cards to the political stage. The Bonapartist representatives of the people were too sparse to be able to form an independent parliamentary party. They appeared merely as the mauvaise queue [evil appendage] of the party of Order. Thus the party of Order was in possession of the governmental power, the army and the legislative body, in short, of the whole of the state power; it had been morally strengthened by the general elections, which made its rule appear as the will of the people, and by the simultaneous triumph of the counterrevolution on the whole continent of Europe.

Never did a party open its campaign with greater resources or under more favorable auspices.

The shipwrecked pure republicans found that they had melted down to a clique of about fifty men in the Legislative National Assembly, the African generals Cavaignac, Lamoriciere, and Bedeau at their head. The great opposition party, however, was formed by the Montagne. The social-democratic party had given itself this parliamentary baptismal name. It commanded more than two hundred of the seven hundred and fifty votes of the National Assembly and was consequently at least as powerful as any one of the three factions of the party of Order taken by itself. Its numerical inferiority compared with the entire royalist coalition seemed compensated by special circumstances. Not only did the elections in the departments show that it had gained a considerable following among the rural population. It counted in its ranks almost all the deputies from Paris; the army had made a confession of democratic faith by the election of three noncommissioned officers; and the leader of the Montagne, Ledru-Rollin, in contradistinction to all the representatives of the party of Order, had been raised to the parliamentary peerage by five departments, which had pooled their votes for him. In view of the inevitable clashes of the royalists among themselves and of the whole party of Order with Bonaparte, the Montagne thus seemed to have all the elements of success before it on May 28, 1849. A fortnight later it had lost everything, honor included.

Before we pursue parliamentary history further, some remarks are necessary to avoid common misconceptions regarding the whole character of the epoch that lies before us. Looked at with the eyes of democrats, the period of the Legislative National Assembly is concerned with what the period of the Constituent Assembly was concerned with: the simple struggle between republicans and royalists. The movement itself, however, they sum up in the one shibboleth: “reaction” – night, in which all cats are gray and which permits them to reel off their night watchman’s commonplaces. And to be sure, at first sight the party of Order reveals a maze of different royalist factions which not only intrigue against each other – each seeking to elevate its own pretender to the throne and exclude the pretender of the opposing faction – but also all unite in common hatred of, and common onslaughts on, the “republic.” In opposition to this royalist conspiracy the Montagne, for its part, appears as the representative of the “republic.” The party of Order appears to be perpetually engaged in a “reaction,” directed against press, association, and the like, neither more nor less than in Prussia, and, as in Prussia, carried out in the form of brutal police intervention by the bureaucracy, the gendarmerie, and the law courts. The Montagne, for its part, is just as continually occupied in warding off these attacks and thus defending the “eternal rights of man” as every so-called people’s party has done, more or less, for a century and a half. If one looks at the situation and the parties more closely, however, this superficial appearance, which veils the class struggle and the peculiar physiognomy of this period, disappears.

Legitimists and Orleanists, as we have said, formed the two great factions of the party of Order. Was what held these factions fast to their pretenders and kept them apart from each other nothing but fleur-de-lis and tricolor, House of Bourbon and House of Orleans, different shades of royalism – was it at all the confession of faith of royalism? Under the Bourbons, big landed property had governed, with its priests and lackeys; under Orleans, high finance, large-scale industry, large-scale trade, that is, capital, with its retinue of lawyers, professors, and smooth-tongued orators. The Legitimate Monarchy was merely the political expression of the hereditary rule of the lords of the soil, as the July Monarchy was only the political expression of the usurped rule of the bourgeois parvenus. What kept the two factions apart, therefore, was not any so-called principles, it was their material conditions of existence, two different kinds of property; it was the old contrast between town and country, the rivalry between capital and landed property. That at the same time old memories, personal enmities, fears and hopes, prejudices and illusions, sympathies and antipathies, convictions, articles of faith and principles bound them to one or the other royal house, who denies this? Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence, rises an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought, and views of life. The entire class creates and forms them out of its material foundations and out of the corresponding social relations. The single individual, who derives them through tradition and upbringing, may imagine that they form the real motives and the starting point of his activity. While each faction, Orleanists and Legitimists, sought to make itself and the other believe that it was loyalty to the two royal houses which separated them, facts later proved that it was rather their divided interests which forbade the uniting of the two royal houses. And as in private life one differentiates between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, so in historical struggles one must distinguish still more the phrases and fancies of parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality. Orleanists and Legitimists found themselves side by side in the republic, with equal claims. If each side wished to effect the restoration of its own royal house against the other, that merely signified that each of the two great interests into which the bourgeoisie is split – landed property and capital - sought to restore its own supremacy and the subordination of the other. We speak of two interests of the bourgeoisie, for large landed property, despite its feudal coquetry and pride of race, has been rendered thoroughly bourgeois by the development of modern society. Thus the Tories in England long imagined that they were enthusiastic about monarchy, the church, and the beauties of the old English Constitution, until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are enthusiastic only about ground rent.

The royalists in coalition carried on their intrigues against one another in the press, in Ems, in Claremont,[93] outside parliament. Behind the scenes they donned their old Orleanist and Legitimist liveries again and once more engaged in their old tourneys. But on the public stage, in their grand performances of state[94] as a great parliamentary party, they put off their respective royal houses with mere obeisances and adjourn the restoration of the monarchy in infinitum. They do their real business as the party of Order, that is, under a social, not under a political title; as representatives of the bourgeois world order, not as knights of errant princesses; as the bourgeois class against other classes, not as royalists against the republicans. And as the party of Order they exercised more unrestricted and sterner domination over the other classes of society than ever previously under the Restoration or under the July Monarchy, a domination which, in general, was possible only under the form of the parliamentary republic, for only under this form could the two great divisions of the French bourgeoisie unite, and thus put the rule of their class instead of the regime of a privileged faction of it on the order of the day. If they nevertheless, as the party of Order, also insulted the republic and expressed their repugnance to it, this happened not merely from royalist memories. Instinct taught them that the republic, true enough, makes their political rule complete, but at the same time undermines its social foundation, since they must now confront the subjugated classes and contend against them without mediation, without the concealment afforded by the crown, without being able to divert the national interest by their subordinate struggles among themselves and with the monarchy. It was a feeling of weakness that caused them to recoil from the pure conditions of their own class rule and to yearn for the former more incomplete, more undeveloped, and precisely on that account less dangerous forms of this rule. On the other hand, every time the royalists in coalition come in conflict with the pretender who confronts them, with Bonaparte, every time they believe their parliamentary omnipotence endangered by the executive power – every time, therefore, that they must produce their political title to their rule – they come forward as republicans and not as royalists, from the Orleanist Thiers, who warns the National Assembly that the republic divides them least, to the Legitimist Berryer, who on December 2, 1851, as a tribune swathed in a tricolored sash, harangues the people assembled before the town hall of the Tenth Arrondissement in the name of the republic. To be sure, a mocking echo calls back to him: Henry V! Henry V!

As against the coalesced bourgeoisie, a coalition between petty bourgeois and workers had been formed, the so-called Social-Democratic party. The petty bourgeois saw that they were badly rewarded after the June days of 1848, that their material interests were imperiled, and that the democratic guarantees which were to insure the effectuation of these interests were called in question by the counterrevolution. Accordingly they came closer to the workers. On the other hand, their parliamentary representation, the Montagne, thrust aside during the dictatorship of the bourgeois republicans, had in the last half of the life of the Constituent Assembly reconquered its lost popularity through the struggle with Bonaparte and the royalist ministers. It had concluded an alliance with the socialist leaders. In February, 1849, banquets celebrated the reconciliation. A joint program was drafted, joint election committees were set up and joint candidates put forward. The revolutionary point was broken off and a democratic turn given to the social demands of the proletariat; the purely political form was stripped off the democratic claims of the petty bourgeoisie and their socialist point thrust forward. Thus arose social-democracy. The new Montagne, the result of this combination, contained, apart from some supernumeraries from the working class and some socialist sectarians, the same elements as the old Montagne, but numerically stronger. However, in the course of development it had changed with the class that it represented. The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labor, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only one must not get the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.

After this analysis it is obvious that if the Montagne continually contends with the party of Order for the republic and the so-called rights of man, neither the republic nor the rights of man are its final end, any more than an army which one wants to deprive of its weapons and which resists has taken the field in order to remain in possession of its own weapons.

Immediately, as soon as the National Assembly met, the party of Order provoked the Montagne. The bourgeoisie now felt the necessity of making an end of the democratic petty bourgeois, just as a year before it had realized the necessity of settling with the revolutionary proletariat. But the situation of the adversary was different. The strength of the proletarian party lay in the streets, that of the petty bourgeois in the National Assembly itself. It was therefore a question of decoying them out of the National Assembly into the streets and causing them to smash their parliamentary power themselves, before time and circumstances could consolidate it. The Montagne rushed headlong into the trap.

The bombardment of Rome by the French troops was the bait that was thrown. It violated Article 5 of the constitution, which forbids the French Republic to employ its military forces against the freedom of another people.[95] In addition to this, Article 54 prohibited any declaration of war by the executive power without the assent of the National Assembly, and by its resolution of May 8 the Constituent Assembly had disapproved of the Roman expedition. On these grounds Ledru-Rollin brought in a bill of impeachment against Bonaparte and his ministers on June 11, 1849. Exasperated by the wasp stings of Thiers, he actually let himself be carried away to the point of threatening that he would defend the constitution by every means, even with arms in hand. The Montagne rose to a man and repeated this call to arms. On June 12 the National Assembly rejected the bill of impeachment, and the Montagne left the parliament. The events of June 13 are known: the proclamation issued by a section of the Montagne declaring Bonaparte and his ministers “outside the constitution”; the street procession of the democratic National Guard, who, unarmed as they were, dispersed on encountering the troops of Changarnier, etc., etc. A part of the Montagne fled abroad; another part was arraigned before the High Court at Bourges;[96] and a parliamentary regulation subjected the remainder to the schoolmasterly surveillance of the President of the National Assembly. Paris was again declared in a state of siege and the democratic part of its National Guard dissolved. Thus the influence of the Montagne in parliament and the power of the petty bourgeois in Paris were broken.

Lyon, where June 13 had given the signal for a bloody insurrection of the workers,[97] was, along with the five surrounding departments, likewise declared in a state of siege, a condition that has continued up to the present moment.

The bulk of the Montagne had left its vanguard in the lurch, having refused to subscribe to its proclamation. The press had deserted, only two journals having dared to publish the pronunciamento. The petty bourgeois betrayed their representatives in that the National Guard either stayed away or, where they appeared, hindered the building of barricades. The representatives had duped the petty bourgeois in that the alleged allies from the army were nowhere to be seen. Finally, instead of gaining an accession of strength from it, the democratic party had infected the proletariat with its own weakness and, as usual with the great deeds of democrats, the leaders had the satisfaction of being able to charge their “people” with desertion, and the people the satisfaction of being able to charge its leaders with humbugging it.

Seldom had an action been announced with more noise than the impending campaign of the Montagne, seldom had an event been trumpeted with greater certainty or longer in advance than the inevitable victory of the democracy. Most assuredly the democrats believe in the trumpets before whose blasts the walls of Jericho fell down. And as often as they stand before the ramparts of despotism, they seek to imitate the miracle. If the Montagne wished to triumph in parliament it should not have called to arms. If it called to arms in parliament it should not have acted in parliamentary fashion in the streets. If the peaceful demonstration was meant seriously, then it was folly not to foresee that it would be given a warlike reception. If a real struggle was intended, then it was a queer idea to lay down the weapons with which it would have to be waged. But the revolutionary threats of the petty bourgeois and their democratic representatives are mere attempts to intimidate the antagonist. And when they have run into a blind alley, when they have sufficiently compromised themselves to make it necessary to activate their threats, then this is done in an ambiguous fashion that avoids nothing so much as the means to the end and tries to find excuses for succumbing. The blaring overture that announced the contest dies away in a pusillanimous snarl as soon as the struggle has to begin, the actors cease to take themselves au sorieux, and the action collapses completely, like a pricked bubble.

No party exaggerates its means more than the democratic, none deludes itself more light-mindedly over the situation. Since a section of the army had voted for it, the Montagne was now convinced that the army would revolt for it. And on what occasion? On an occasion which, from the standpoint of the troops, had no other meaning than that the revolutionists took the side of the Roman soldiers against the French soldiers. On the other hand, the recollections of June, 1848, were still too fresh to allow of anything but a profound aversion on the part of the proletariat toward the National Guard and a thoroughgoing mistrust of the democratic chiefs on the part of the chiefs of the secret societies. To iron out these differences, it was necessary for great common interests to be at stake. The violation of an abstract paragraph of the constitution could not provide these interests. Had not the constitution been repeatedly violated, according to the assurance of the democrats themselves? Had not the most popular journals branded it as counterrevolutionary botchwork? But the democrat, because he represents the petty bourgeoisie – that is, a transition class, in which the interests of two classes are simultaneously mutually blunted – imagines himself elevated above class antagonism generally. The democrats concede that a privileged class confronts them, but they, along with all the rest of the nation, form the people. What they represent is the people’s rights; what interests them is the people’s interests. Accordingly, when a struggle is impending they do not need to examine the interests and positions of the different classes. They do not need to weigh their own resources too critically. They have merely to give the signal and the people, with all its inexhaustible resources, will fall upon the oppressors. Now if in the performance their interests prove to be uninteresting and their potency impotence, then either the fault lies with pernicious sophists, who split the indivisible people into different hostile camps, or the army was too brutalized and blinded to comprehend that the pure aims of democracy are the best thing for it, or the whole thing has been wrecked by a detail in its execution, or else an unforeseen accident has this time spoiled the game. In any case, the democrat comes out of the most disgraceful defeat just as immaculate as he was innocent when he went into it, with the newly won conviction that he is bound to win, not that he himself and his party have to give up the old standpoint, but, on the contrary, that conditions have to ripen to suit him.

Therefore one must not imagine the Montagne, decimated and broken though it was, and humiliated by the new parliamentary regulation, as being particularly miserable. If June 13 had removed its chiefs, it made room, on the other hand, for men of lesser caliber, whom this new position flattered. If their impotence in parliament could no longer be doubted, they were entitled now to confine their actions to outbursts of moral indignation and blustering declamation. If the party of Order affected to see embodied in them, as the last official representatives of the revolution, all the terrors of anarchy, they could in reality be all the more insipid and modest. They consoled themselves, however, for June 13 with the profound utterance: but if they dare to attack universal suffrage, well then – then we’ll show them what we are made of! Nous verrons! [We shall see!]

So far as the Montagnards who fled abroad are concerned, it is sufficient to remark here that Ledru-Rollin, because in barely a fortnight he had succeeded in ruining irretrievably the powerful party at whose head he stood, now found himself called upon to form a French government in partibus; that to the extent that the level of the revolution sank and the official bigwigs of official France became more dwarf-like, his figure in the distance, removed from the scene of action, seemed to grow in stature; that he could figure as the republican pretender for 1852, and that he issued periodical circulars to the Wallachians and other peoples in which the despots of the Continent were threatened with the deeds of himself and his confederates. Was Proudhon altogether wrong when he cried to these gentlemen: “Vous n’etes que des blagueurs” ["you are nothing but windbags"]?

On June 13 the party of Order had not only broken the Montagne, it had effected the subordination of the constitution to the majority decisions of the National Assembly. And it understood the republic thus: that the bourgeoisie rules here in parliamentary forms, without, as in a monarchy, encountering any barrier such as the veto power of the executive or the right to dissolve parliament. This was a parliamentary republic, as Thiers termed it. But whereas on June 13 the bourgeoisie secured its omnipotence within the house of parliament, did it not afflict parliament itself, as against the executive authority and the people, with incurable weakness by expelling its most popular part? By surrendering numerous deputies without further ado on the demand of the courts, it abolished its own parliamentary immunity. The humiliating regulations to which it subjected the Montagne exalted the President of the Republic in the same measure as it degraded the individual representatives of the people. By branding an insurrection for the protection of the constitutional charter an anarchic act aiming at the subversion of society, it precluded the possibility of its appealing to insurrection should the executive authority violate the constitution in relation to it. And by the irony of history, the general who on Bonaparte’s instructions bombarded Rome and thus provided the immediate occasion for the constitutional revolt of June 13, that very Oudinot had to be the man offered by the party of Order imploringly and unfailingly to the people as general on behalf of the constitution against Bonaparte on December 2, 1851. Another hero of June 13, Vieyra, who was lauded from the tribune of the National Assembly for the brutalities he committed in the democratic newspaper offices at the head of a gang of National Guards belonging to high finance circles – this same Vieyra had been initiated into Bonaparte’s conspiracy and he contributed substantially to depriving the National Assembly in the hour of its death of any protection by the National Guard.

June 13 had still another meaning. The Montagne had wanted to force the impeachment of Bonaparte. Its defeat was therefore a direct victory for Bonaparte, his personal triumph over his democratic enemies. The party of Order gained the victory; Bonaparte had only to cash in on it. He did so. On June 14 a proclamation could be read on the walls of Paris in which the President, reluctantly, against his will, compelled as it were by the sheer force of events, comes forth from his cloistered seclusion and, posing as misunderstood virtue, complains of the calumnies of his opponents and, while he seems to identify his person with the cause of order, rather identifies the cause of order with his person. Moreover, the National Assembly had, it is true, subsequently approved the expedition against Rome, but Bonaparte had taken the initiative in the matter. After having reinstalled the High Priest Samuel in the Vatican, he could hope to enter the Tuileries as King David.[98] He had won the priests over to his side.

The revolt of June 13 was confined, as we have seen, to a peaceful street procession. No war laurels were therefore to be won against it. Nevertheless, at a time as poor as this in heroes and events, the party of Order transformed this bloodless battle into a second Austerlitz.[99] Platform and press praised the army as the power of order, in contrast to the popular masses representing the impotence of anarchy, and extolled Changarnier as the “bulwark of society,” a deception in which he himself finally came to believe. Surreptitiously, however, the corps that seemed doubtful were transferred from Paris, the regiments which had shown the most democratic sentiments in the elections were banished from France to Algiers; the turbulent spirits among the troops were relegated to penal detachments; and finally the isolation of the press from the barracks and of the barracks from bourgeois society was systematically carried out.

Here we have reached the decisive turning point in the history of the French National Guard. In 1830 it was decisive in the overthrow of the Restoration. Under Louis Philippe every rebellion miscarried in which the National Guard stood on the side of the troops. When in the February days of 1848 it evinced a passive attitude toward the insurrection and an equivocal one toward Louis Philippe, he gave himself up for lost and actually was lost. Thus the conviction took root that the revolution could not be victorious without the National Guard, nor the army against it. This was the superstition of the army in regard to civilian omnipotence. The June days of 1848, when the entire National Guard, with the troops of the line, put down the insurrection, had strengthened the superstition. After Bonaparte’s assumption of office, the position of the National Guard was to some extent weakened by the unconstitutional union, in the person of Changarnier, of the command of its forces with the command of the First Army Division.

Just as the command of the National Guard appeared here as an attribute of the military commander in chief, so the National Guard itself appeared as only an appendage of the troops of the line. Finally, on June 13 its power was broken, and not only by its partial disbandment, which from this time on was periodically repeated all over France, until mere fragments of it were left behind. The demonstration of June 13 was, above all, a demonstration of the democratic National Guards. They had not, to be sure, borne their arms, but had worn their uniforms against the army; precisely in this uniform, however, lay the talisman. The army convinced itself that this uniform was a piece of woolen cloth like any other. The spell was broken. In the June days of 1848, bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie had united as the National Guard with the army against the proletariat; on June 13, 1849, the bourgeoisie let the petty-bourgeois National Guard be dispersed by the army; on December 2, 1851, the National Guard of the bourgeoisie itself had vanished, and Bonaparte merely registered this fact when he subsequently signed the decree for its disbandment, Thus the bourgeoisie had itself smashed its last weapon against the army; the moment the petty bourgeoisie no longer stood behind it as a vassal, but before it as a rebel, it had to smash it as in general it was bound to destroy all its means of defense against absolutism with its own hand as soon as it had itself become absolute.

Meanwhile, the party of Order celebrated the reconquest of a power that seemed lost in 1848 only to be found again, freed from its restraints, in 1849, celebrated by means of invectives against the republic and the constitution, of curses on all future, present, and past revolutions, including that which its own leaders had made, and in laws by which the press was muzzled, association destroyed, and the state of siege regulated as an organic institution. The National Assembly then adjourned from the middle of August to the middle of October, after having appointed a permanent commission for the period of its absence. During this recess the Legitimists intrigued with Ems, the Orleanists with Claremont, Bonaparte by means of princely tours, and the Departmental Councils in deliberations on a revision of the constitution: incidents which regularly recur in the periodic recesses of the National Assembly and which I propose to discuss only when they become events. Here it may merely be remarked, in addition, that it was impolitic for the National Assembly to disappear from the stage for considerable intervals and leave only a single, albeit a sorry, figure to be seen at the head of the republic, that of Louis Bonaparte, while to the scandal of the public the party of Order fell asunder into its royalist component parts and followed its conflicting desires for restoration. As often as the confused noise of parliament grew silent during these recesses and its body dissolved into the nation, it became unmistakably clear that only one thing was still lacking to complete the true form of this republic: to make the former’s recess permanent and replace the latter’s inscription, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, with the unambiguous words: infantry, cavalry, artillery!


90. On April 16, 1848 a peaceful procession of Paris workers marched towards the Town Hall to present a petition to the Provisional Government for “organisation of labour” and “abolition of the exploitation of man by man.” The workers encountered battalions of the bourgeois national guard and were forced to retreat.

On May 15, 1848 Paris workers led by Blanqui, Barbès and others took revolutionary action against the anti-labour and anti-democratic policy of the bourgeois Constituent Assembly which had opened on May 4. The participants in the mass demonstration forced their way into the Assembly, demanded the formation of a Ministry of Labour and presented a number of other demands. An attempt was made to form a revolutionary government. National guards from the bourgeois quarters and regular troops succeeded, however, in restoring the power of the Constituent Assembly. The leaders of the movement were arrested and put on trial.

91. The Fronde – a movement in France against the absolutist regime and its prop, the government of Cardinal Mazarin. It was active from 1648 to 1653 and invoked various social sections, which in marry cases pursued opposite aims, from radical peasant and plebeian elements and oppositional bourgeoisie, to high-ranking officials who sought to maintain their privileges, and aristocrats seeking lucrative posts, pensions and allowances. The defeat of the Fronde led to the strengthening of absolutism.

91a. Marx refers here to a Fairy Tale of Hans Christian Andersen, 'The Shadow', published in 1847, which was influenced by Chamisso's 'Peter Schlemihl'. There is a good treatment of the story on Wikipedia. In the Andersen story, the character has 'lost' his shadow, as in Marx's reference; in Chamisso's story, he has sold it to the devil.

92. The ruling Bonapartist circles acid the counter-revolutionary the press, preparing coup d’état of December 2, 1851, did everything they could to scare all timid and law-abiding citizens by the prospect of anarchy, revolutionary plots, a new Jacquerie and encroachments on property, during the presidential election, scheduled for May 1852. A special roMle in this campaign was played by the pamphlet Le spectre rouge de 1852 (Brussels, 1851) by A. Romieu, a former prefect of police.

93. Ems – a health resort in Germany where a Legitimist conference was held in August 1849; it was attended by the Count de Chambord, pretender to the French throne under the name of Henry V.

Claremont – a house near London, residence of Louis Philippe after his flight from France.

94. Marx uses the term “Haupt- und Staatsaktionen” (“principal and spectacular actions”), which has several meanings. In the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century, it denoted plays performed by, German touring companies. The plays, which were rather formless, presented tragic historical events in a bombastic and at the same time coarse and farcical way.

Secondly, this term can denote major political events. It was used in this sense by a trend in German historical science known as “objective historiography” Leopold Ranke was one of its chief representatives. He regarded Haupt- und Staatsaktionen as the main subject-matter of history.

95. The expeditionary corps under General Oudinot, sent to Italy by decision of President Louis Bonaparte and the French Government, was driven back from Rome by the troops of the Roman Republic on April 30, 1849. But, in violation of the terms of the armistice signed by the French, Oudinot launched a new offensive on June 3. Throughout the siege of Rome until the fall of the Republic on July 3, 1849 the city was repeatedly subjected to heavy bombardment.

Article V belongs to the introductory part of the French Constitution of 1848: the articles of the main part of the Constitution are numbered in Arabic numerals.

96. On August 10, 1849 the Legislative Assembly adopted a law under which “instigators and supporters of the conspiracy, and the attempt of June 13” were liable to trial by the High Court. Thirty-four deputies of the Montagne (Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, Felix Pyat and Victor Considerant among them) were deprived of their mandates and put on trial (those who had emigrated were tried by default).

On June 13 the editorial offices of democratic and socialist newspapers were raided and many of these papers were banned.

97. The events in Paris sparked off an armed uprising of Lyons workers and artisans on June 15, 1849. The insurgents occupied the Croix-Rousse district and erected barricades there, but were overcome by troops after several hours of stubborn fighting.

98. An ironical allusion to the plans of Louis Napoleon, who expected to receive the French Crown from the hands of Pius IX, whose temporal power he helped restore. According to the Bible, David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel in opposition to the Hebrew king Saul (1 Samuel 16 : 13).

99. The battle of Austerlitz between the Russo-Austrian and the French armies on December 2, 1805 ended in victory for the French commanded by Napoleon I.

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