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owner-marxism at owner-marxism at
Mon Oct 30 23:51:41 MST 1995

From=20lnp3 at
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 1995 13:22:27 -0500 (EST)
From: Louis N Proyect <lnp3 at>
To: marxism at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: 18th Brumaire
Sender: owner-marxism at
Precedence: bulk
Reply-To: marxism at

Louis: Thanks to the efforts of Zodiac, a list member, I was able to=20
download the first and final section of the 18th Brumaire from the WWW.=20
Zodiac has been involved in a long-term project to put all of Marx out on=
the internet in an electronic version. According to Robert Tucker,=20
an editor of Marx's collected writings, the 18th Brumaire is critical to=20
understanding 20th century fascism. As you read the 2 sections, the most=20
important for our purposes, see if you can figure out why.


                               Karl Marx's

                       THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE OF

                             LOUIS NAPOLEON



Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and
personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time
as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidiere for Danton, Louis
Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of
1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs
in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.
[The "eighteenth Brumaire" refers to November 9, 1799 in the French
Revolutionary Calendar -- the day Napoleon Bonaparte made himself
dictator by a coup d'etat. -- Ed.]

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please;
they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under
circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an Alp on the brains
of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with
revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not
exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they
anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service,
borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to
present this new scene in world history in this time-honored disguise
and this borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle
Paul, the Revolution of 1789-18I4 draped itself alternately in the
guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of
1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now I789, now the
revolutionary tradition of I793-95. In like manner, the beginner who
has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother
tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses
himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old
and when he forgets his native tongue.

When we think about this conjuring up of the dead of world history, a
salient difference reveals itself. Camille Desmoulins, Danton,
Robespierre, St. Just, Napoleon, the heroes as well as the parties and
the masses of the old French Revolution, performed the task of their
time -- that of unchaining and establishing modern bourgeois society --
in Roman costumes and with Roman phrases. The first one destroyed the
feudal foundation and cut off the feudal heads that had grown on it.
The other created inside France the only conditions under which free
competition could be developed, parceled-out land properly used, and
the unfettered productive power of the nation employed; and beyond the
French borders it swept away feudal institutions everywhere, to
provide, as far as necessary, bourgeois society in France with an
appropriate up-to-date environment on the European continent. Once the
new social formation was established, the antediluvian colossi
disappeared and with them also the resurrected Romanism -- the
Brutuses, the Gracchi, the publicolas, the tribunes, the senators, and
Caesar himself. Bourgeois society in its sober reality bred its own
true interpreters and spokesmen in the Says, Cousins, Royer-Collards,
Benjamin Constants, and Guizots; its real military leaders sat behind
the office desk and the hog-headcd Louis XVIII was its political chief.
Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful
competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the
Roman period had watched over its cradle. But unheroic though bourgeois
society is, it nevertheless needed heroism, sacrifice, terror, civil
war, and national wars to bring it into being. And in the austere
classical traditions of the Roman Republic the bourgeois gladiators
found the ideals and the art forms, the self-deceptions, that they
needed to conceal from themselves the bourgeois-limited content of
their struggles and to keep their passion on the high plane of great
historic tragedy.  Similarly, at another stage of development a century
earlier, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed from the Old
Testament the speech, emotions, and illusions for their bourgeois
revolution. When the real goal had been achieved and the bourgeois
transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke
supplanted Habakkuk.

Thus the awakening of the dead in those revolutions served the purpose
of glorifying the new struggles, not of parodying the old; of
magnifying the given task in the imagination, not recoiling from its
solution in reality; of finding once more the spirit of revolution, not
making its ghost walk again.

From=201848 to 1851, only the ghost of the old revolution circulated --
from Marrast, the republican in yellow [kid] gloves who disguised
himself as old Bailly, down to the adventurer who hides his trivial and
repulsive features behind the iron death mask of Napoleon. A whole
nation, which thought it had acquired an accelerated power of motion by
means of a revolution, suddenly finds itself set back into a defunct
epoch, and to remove any doubt about the relapse, the old dates arise
again -- the old chronology, the old names, the old edicts, which had
long since become a subject of antiquarian scholarship, and the old
minions of the law who had seemed long dead. The nation feels like the
mad Englishman in Bedlam who thinks he is living in the time of the old
Pharaohs and daily bewails the hard labor he must perform in the
Ethiopian gold mines, immured in this subterranean prison, a pale lamp
fastened to his head, the overseer of the slaves behind him with a long
whip, and at the exits a confused welter of barbarian war slaves who
understand neither the forced laborers nor each other, since they speak
no common language. "And all this," sighs the mad Englishman, "is
expected of me, a freeborn Briton, in order to make gold for the
Pharaohs." "In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family," sighs
the French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was not in his right
mind, could not get rid of his idee fixe of mining gold. The French, so
long as they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the
memory of Napoleon, as the election of December 10 proved. They longed
to return from the perils of revolution to the fleshpots of Egypt, and
December 2, 1851, was the answer. Now they have not only a caricature
of the old Napoleon, but the old Napoleon himself, caricatured as he
would have to be in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry
from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself
before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former
revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to
smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century
must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own
content.  There the phrase went beyond the content -- here the content
goes beyond the phrase.

The February Revolution was a surprise attack, a seizing of the old
society unawares, and the people proclaimed this unexpected stroke a
deed of world importance, ushering in a new epoch. On December 2 the
February Revolution is conjured away as a cardsharp's trick, and what
seems overthrown is no longer the monarchy but the liberal concessions
that had been wrung from it through centuries of struggle.  Instead of
society having conquered a new content for itself, it seems that the
state has only returned to its oldest form, to a shamelessly simple
rule by the sword and the monk's cowl. This is the answer to the coup
de main of February, 1848, given by the coup de tete of December, 1851.
Easy come, easy go.  Meantime, the interval did not pass unused. During
1848-51 French society, by an abbreviated because revolutionary method,
caught up with the studies and experiences which in a regular, so to
speak, textbook course of development would have preceded the February
Revolution, if the latter were to be more than a mere ruffling of the
surface. Society seems now to have retreated to behind its starting
point; in truth, it has first to create for itself the revolutionary
point of departure-the situation, the relations, the conditions under
which alone modern revolution becomes serious.

Bourgeois revolutions like those of the eighteenth century storm more
swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each
other, men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds, ecstasy is the
order of the day- but they are short-lived, soon they have reached
their zenith, and a long Katzenjammer [crapulence] takes hold of
society before it learns to assimilate the results of its
storm-and-stress period soberly. On the other hand, proletarian
revolutions like those of the nineteenth century constantly criticize
themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return
to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride
with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness
of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the
latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again
more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite
colossalness of their own goals -- until a situation is created which
makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call
out: Hic Rhodus, hic salta!=20

["Here is the rose, here dance!" From Aesop's fable, "The Swaggerer,"
referring to one who boasted that he had made a gigantic leap in Rhodes
(which also means "rose" in Greek) and was challenged: "Here is Rhodes,
here leap!" Marx's paraphrase, "Here is the rose, here dance," is from
the quotation used by Hegel in the preface to his book Outlines of the
Philosophy of Right (182I). -- Ed.]

For the rest, every fair observer, even if he had not followed the
course of French developments step by step, must have had a
presentiment of the imminence of an unheard-of disgrace for the
revolution. It was enough to hear the complacent yelps of victory with
which the democrats congratulated each other on the expectedly gracious
consequences of the second Sunday in May, 1852. In their minds that
second Sunday of May had become an idee fixe, a dogma, like the day of
Christ's reappearance and the beginning of the millennium in the minds
of the chiliasts. As always, weakness had taken refuge in a belief in
miracles, believed the enemy to be overcome when he was only conjured
away in imagination, and lost all understanding of the present in an
inactive glorification of the future that was in store for it and the
deeds it had in mind but did not want to carry out yet. Those heroes
who seek to disprove their demonstrated incapacity by offering each
other their sympathy and getting together in a crowd had tied up their
bundles, collected their laurel wreaths in advance, and occupied
themselves with discounting on the exchange market the republics in
partibus for which they had already providently organized the
government personnel with all the calm of their unassuming disposition.
December 2 struck them like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, and those
who in periods of petty depression gladly let their inner fears be
drowned by the loudest renters will perhaps have convinced themselves
that the times are past when the cackle of geese could save the

The constitution, the National Assembly, the dynastic parties, the blue
and red republicans, the heroes of Africa, the thunder from the
platform, the sheet lightning of the daily press, the entire
literature, the political names and the intellectual reputations, the
civil law and the penal code, liberti, egalite, fraternite, and the
second Sunday in May, 1852 -- all have vanished like a phantasmagoria
before the spell of a man whom even his enemies do not make out to be a
sorcerer. Universal suffrage seems to have survived only for the
moment, so that with its own hand it may make its last will and
testament before the eyes of all the world and declare in the name of
the people itself: "All that exists deserves to perish." [From Goethe's
Faust, Part One. -- Ed.]

It is not enough to say, as the French do, that their nation was taken
unawares. Nations and women are not forgiven the unguarded hour in
which the first adventurer who came along could violate them.  Such
turns of speech do not solve the riddle but only formulate it
differently. It remains to be explained how a nation of thirty-six
millions can be surprised and delivered without resistance into
captivity by three knights of industry.

Let us recapitulate in general outline the phases that the French
Revolution went through from February 24, 1848, to December, 1851.

Three main periods are unmistakable: the February period; the period of
the constitution of the republic or the Constituent National Assembly
-- May 1848, to May 28, 1849; and the period of the constitutional
republic or the Legislative National Assembly -- May 28, 1849, to
December 2, 1851.

The first period -- from February 24, the overthrow of Louis Philippe,
to May 4, 1848, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly -- the February
period proper, may be designated as the prologue of the revolution. Its
character was officially expressed in the fact that the government it
improvised itself declared that it was provisional, and like the
government, everything that was mentioned, attempted, or enunciated
during this period proclaimed itself to be only provisional. Nobody and
nothing ventured to lay any claim to the right of existence and of real
action. All the elements that had prepared or determined the
revolution -- the dynastic opposition, the republican bourgeoisie, the
democratic-republican petty bourgeoisie, and the social-democratic
workers, provisionally found their place in the February government.

It could not be otherwise. The February days originally intended an
electoral reform by which the circle of the politically privileged
among the possessing class itself was to be widened and the exclusive
domination of the aristocracy of finance overthrown. When it came to
the actual conflict, however -- when the people mounted the barricades,
the National Guard maintained a passive attitude, the army offered no
serious resistance, and the monarchy ran away -- the republic appeared
to be a matter of course.  Every party construed it in its own way.
Having secured it arms in hand, the proletariat impressed its stamp
upon it and proclaimed it to be a social republic. There was thus
indicated the general content of the modern revolution, a content which
was in most singular contradiction to everything that, with the
material available, with the degree of education attained by the
masses, under the given circumstances and relations, could be
immediately realized in practice. On the other hand, the claims of all
the remaining elements that had collaborated in the February Revolution
were recognized by the lion's share they obtained in the government. In
no period, therefore, do we find a more confused mixture of high-flown
phrases and actual uncertainty and clumsiness, of more enthusiastic
striving for innovation and more deeply rooted domination of the old
routine, of more apparent harmony of the whole of society; and more
profound estrangement of its elements. While the Paris proletariat
still reveled in the vision of the wide prospects that had opened
before it and indulged in seriously meant discussions of social
problems, the old powers of society had grouped themselves, assembled,
reflected, and found unexpected support in the mass of the nation, the
peasants and petty bourgeois, who all at once stormed onto the
political stage after the barriers of the July Monarchy had fallen.

The second period, from May 4, 1848, to the end of May, 1849, is the
period of the constitution, the foundation, of the bourgeois republic.
Immediately after the February days not only had the dynastic
opposition been surprised by the republicans and the republicans by the
socialists, but all France by Paris. The National Assembly, which met
on May 4, 1848, had emerged from the national elections and represented
the nation. It was a living protest against the pretensions of the
February days and was to reduce the results of the revolution to the
bourgeois scale.  In vain the Paris proletariat, which immediately
grasped the character of this National Assembly, attempted on May 15, a
few days after it met, to negate its existence forcibly, to dissolve
it, to disintegrate again into its constituent parts the organic form
in which the proletariat was threatened by the reacting spirit of the
nation. As is known, May 15 had no other result but that of removing
Blanqui and his comrades -- that is, the real leaders of the
proletarian party -- from the public stage for the entire duration of
the cycle we are considering.

The bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe can be followed only by a
bourgeois republic; that is to say, whereas a limited section of the
bourgeoisie ruled in the name of the king, the whole of the bourgeoisie
will now rule in the name of the people. The demands of the Paris
proletariat are utopian nonsense, to which an end must be put. To this
declaration of the Constituent National Assembly the Paris proletariat
replied with the June insurrection, the most colossal event in the
history of European civil wars. The bourgeois republic triumphed. On
its side stood the aristocracy of finance, the industrial bourgeoisie,
the middle class, the petty bourgeois, the army, the lumpen proletariat
organized as the Mobile Guard, the intellectual lights, the clergy, and
the rural population. On the side of the Paris proletariat stood none
but itself. More than three thousand insurgents were butchered after
the victory, and fifteen thousand were deported without trial. With
this defeat the proletariat passes into the background on the
revolutionary stage. It attempts to press forward again on every
occasion, as soon as the movement appears to make a fresh start, but
with ever decreased expenditure of strength and always slighter
results. As soon as one of the social strata above it gets into
revolutionary ferment, the proletariat enters into an alliance with it
and so shares all the defeats that the different parties suffer, one
after another. But these subsequent blows become the weaker, the
greater the surface of society over which they are distributed. The
more important leaders of the proletariat in the Assembly and in the
press successively fall victim to the courts, and ever more equivocal
figures come to head it. In part it throws itself into doctrinaire
experiments, exchange banks and workers' associations, hence into a
movement in which it renounces the revolutionizing of the old world by
means of the latter's own great, combined resources, and seeks, rather,
to achieve its salvation behind society's back, in private fashion,
within its limited conditions of existence, and hence necessarily
suffers shipwreck. It seems to be unable either to rediscover
revolutionary greatness in itself or to win new energy from the
connections newly entered into, until all classes with which it
contended in June themselves lie prostrate beside it. But at least it
succumbs with the honors of the great, world-historic struggle; not
only France, but all Europe trembles at the June earthquake, while the
ensuing defeats of the upper classes are so cheaply bought that they
require barefaced exaggeration by the victorious party to be able to
pass for events at au, and become the more ignominious the further the
defeated party is removed from the proletarian party.

The defeat of the June insurgents, to be sure, had now prepared, had
leveled the ground on which the bourgeois republic could be founded and
built, but it had shown at the same time that in Europe the questions
at issue are other than that of "republic or monarchy." It had revealed
that here "bourgeois republic" signifies the unlimited despotism of one
class over other classes. It had proved that in countries with an old
civilization, with a developed formation of classes, with modern
conditions of production, and with an intellectual consciousness in
which all traditional ideas have been dissolved by the work of
centuries, the republic signifies in general only the political form of
revolution of bourgeois society and not its conservative form of
life -- as, for example, in the United States of North America, where,
though classes already exist, they have not yet become fixed, but
continually change and interchange their elements in constant flux,
where the modern means of production, instead of coinciding with a
stagnant surplus population, rather compensate for the relative
deficiency of heads and hands, and where, finally, the feverish,
youthful movement of material production, which has to make a new world
of its own, has neither time nor opportunity left for abolishing the
old world of ghosts.

During the June days all classes and parties had united in the party of
Order against the proletarian class as the party of anarchy, of
socialism, of communism. They had "saved" society from "the enemies of
society." They had given out the watchwords of the old society,
"property, family, religion, order," to their army as passwords and had
proclaimed to the counterrevolutionary crusaders: "In this sign thou
shalt conquer! " From that moment, as soon as one of the numerous
parties which gathered under this sign against the June insurgents
seeks to hold the revolutionary battlefield in its own class interest,
it goes down before the cry: "Property, family, religion, order."
Society is saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts,
as a more exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every
demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary
liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most shallow
democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an "attempt on society" and
stigmatized as "socialism." And finally the high priests of "religion
and order" themselves are driven with kicks from their Pythian tripods,
hauled out of their beds in the darkness of night, put in prison vans,
thrown into dungeons or sent into exile; their temple is razed to the
ground, their mouths are sealed, their pens broken, their law torn to
pieces in the name of religion, of property, of the family, of order.
Bourgeois fanatics for order are shot down on their balconies by mobs
of drunken soldiers, their domestic sanctuaries profaned, their houses
bombarded for amusement -- in the name of property, of the family, of
religion, and of order. Finally, the scum of bourgeois society forms
the holy phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinski installs himself in
the Tuileries as the "savior of society."

                                      transcribed by zodiac at
                                           report errors to that address


                               Karl Marx's

                       THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE OF

                             LOUIS NAPOLEON



The social republic appeared as a phrase, as a prophecy, on the
threshold of the February Revolution. In the June days of 1848, it was
drowned in the blood of the Paris proletariat, but it haunts the
subsequent acts of the drama like a ghost. The democratic republic
announces its appearance. It is dissipated on June 13, 1849, together
with its deserting petty bourgeois, but in its flight it redoubles its
boastfulness. The parliamentary republic together with the bourgeoisie
takes possession of the entire state; it enjoys its existence to the
full, but December 2, 1851, buries it to the accompaniment of the
anguished cry of the coalesced royalists: "Long live the Republic!"

The French bourgeoisie balked at the domination of the working
proletariat; it has brought the lumpen proletariat to domination, with
the Chief of the Society of December 10 at the head. The bourgeoisie
kept France in breathless fear of the future terrors of red anarchy-
Bonaparte discounted this future for it when, on December 4, he had the
eminent bourgeois of the Boulevard Montmartre and the Boulevard des
Italiens shot down at their windows by the drunken army of law and
order. The bourgeoisie apotheosized the sword; the sword rules it. It
destroyed the revolutionary press; its own press is destroyed. It
placed popular meetings under police surveillance; its salons are
placed under police supervision. It disbanded the democratic National
Guard, its own National Guard is disbanded. It imposed a state of
siege; a state of siege is imposed upon it. It supplanted the juries by
military commissions; its juries are supplanted by military
commissions. It subjected public education to the sway of the priests;
the priests subject it to their own education. It jailed people without
trial, it is being jailed without trial. It suppressed every stirring
in society by means of state power; every stirring in its society is
suppressed by means of state power. Out of enthusiasm for its moneybags
it rebelled against its own politicians and literary men; its
politicians and literary men are swept aside, but its moneybag is being
plundered now that its mouth has been gagged and its pen broken. The
bourgeoisie never tired of crying out to the revolution what St.
Arsenius cried out to the Christians: "Fuge, tace, quiesce!" ["Flee, be
silent, keep still!"] Bonaparte cries to the bourgeoisie: "Fuge, tace,

The French bourgeoisie had long ago found the solution to Napoleon's
dilemma: "In fifty years Europe will be republican or Cossack." It
solved it in the "Cossack republic." No Circe using black magic has
distorted that work of art, the bourgeois republic, into a monstrous
shape. That republic has lost nothing but the semblance of
respectability. Present-day France was already contained in the
parliamentary republic. It required only a bayonet thrust for the
bubble to burst and the monster to leap forth before our eyes.

Why did the Paris proletariat not rise in revolt after December 2?

The overthrow of the bourgeoisie had as yet been only decreed; the
decree was not carried out. Any serious insurrection of the proletariat
would at once have put new life into the bourgeoisie, reconciled it
with the army, and insured a second June defeat for the workers.

On December 4 the proletariat was incited by bourgeois and shopkeeper
to fight. On the evening of that day several legions of the National
Guard promised to appear, armed and uniformed, on the scene of battle.
For the bourgeois and the shopkeeper had learned that in one of his
decrees of December 2 Bonaparte had abolished the secret ballot and had
ordered them to put a "yes" or "no" after their names on the official
registers. The resistance of December 4 intimidated Bonaparte. During
the night he had placards posted on all the street corners of Paris
announcing the restoration of the secret ballot. The bourgeois and the
shopkeeper believed they had gained their objective. Those who failed
to appear next morning were the bourgeois and the shopkeeper.

By a coup de main the night of December 1-2 Bonaparte had robbed the
Paris proletariat of its leaders, the barricade commanders. An army
without officers, averse to fighting under the banner of the
Montagnards because of the memories of June, 1848 and 1849, and May,
1850, it left to its vanguard, the secret societies, the task of saving
the insurrectionary honor of Paris, which the bourgeoisie had
surrendered to the military so unresistingly that, subsequently,
Bonaparte could disarm the National Guard with the sneering motive of
his fear that its weapons would be turned against it by the anarchists!

"This is the complete and final triumph of socialism!" Thus Guizot
characterized December 2. But if the overthrow of the parliamentary
republic contains within itself the germ of the triumph of the
proletarian revolution, its immediate and obvious result was
Bonaparte's victory over parliament, of the executive power over the
legislative power, of force without phrases over the force of phrases.
In parliament the nation made its general will the law; that is, it
made the law of the ruling class its general will. It renounces all
will of its own before the executive power and submits itself to the
superior command of an alien, of authority. The executive power, in
contrast to the legislative one, expresses the heteronomy of a nation
in contrast to its autonomy. France therefore seems to have escaped the
despotism of a class only to fall back under the despotism of an
individual, and what is more, under the authority of an individual
without authority. The struggle seems to be settled in such a way that
all classes, equally powerless and equally mute, fall on their knees
before the rifle butt.

But the revolution is thoroughgoing. It is still traveling through
purgatory. It does its work methodically. By December 2, 1851, it had
completed half of its preparatory work; now it is completing the other
half. It first completed the parliamentary power in order to be able to
overthrow it. Now that it has achieved this, it completes the executive
power, reduces it to its purest expression, isolates it, sets it up
against itself as the sole target, in order to concentrate all its
forces of destruction against it. And when it has accomplished this
second half of its preliminary work, Europe will leap from its seat and
exult: Well burrowed, old mole! [A paraphrase from Shakespeare's
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5: "Well said, old mole!" -- Ed.]

The executive power with its enormous bureaucratic and military
organization, with its wide-ranging and ingenious state machinery, with
a host of officials numbering half a million, besides an army of
another half million-this terrifying parasitic body which enmeshes the
body of French society and chokes all its pores sprang up in the time
of the absolute monarchy, with the decay of the feudal system which it
had helped to hasten. The seignorial privileges of the landowners and
towns became transformed into so many attributes of the state power,
the feudal dignitaries into paid officials, and the motley patterns of
conflicting medieval plenary powers into the regulated plan of a state
authority whose work is divided and centralized as in a factory.

The first French Revolution, with its task of breaking all separate
local, territorial, urban, and provincial powers in order to create the
civil unity of the nation, was bound to develop what the monarchy had
begun, centralization, but at the same time the limits, the attributes,
and the agents of the governmental power.  Napoleon completed this
state machinery. The Legitimate Monarchy and the July Monarchy added
nothing to it but a greater division of labor, increasing at the same
rate as the division of labor inside the bourgeois society created new
groups of interests, and therefore new material for the state
administration.  Every common interest was immediately severed from the
society, countered by a higher, general interest, snatched from the
activities of society's members themselves and made an object of
government activity -- from a bridge, a schoolhouse, and the communal
property of a village community, to the railroads, the national wealth,
and the national University of France. Finally the parliamentary
republic, in its struggle against the revolution, found itself
compelled to strengthen the means and the centralization of
governmental power with repressive measures. All revolutions perfected
this machine instead of breaking it. The parties, which alternately
contended for domination, regarded the possession of this huge state
structure as the chief spoils of the victor.

But under the absolute monarchy, during the first Revolution, and under
FTPNapoleon the bureaucracy was only the means of preparing the class rule
of the bourgeoisie. Under the Restoration, under Louis Philippe, under
the parliamentary republic, it was the instrument of the ruling class,
however much it strove for power of its own.

Only under the second Bonaparte does the state seem to have made itself
completely independent.  The state machinery has so strengthened itself
vis-=85-vis civil society that the Chief of the Society of December 10
suffices for its head -- an adventurer dropped in from abroad, raised
on the shoulders of a drunken soldiery which he bought with whisky and
sausages and to which he has to keep throwing more sausages. Hence the
low-spirited despair, the feeling of monstrous humiliation and
degradation that oppresses the breast of France and makes her gasp. She
feels dishonored.

And yet the state power is not suspended in the air. Bonaparte
represented a class, and the most numerous class of French society at
that, the small-holding peasants.

Just as the Bourbons were the dynasty of the big landed property and
the Orleans the dynasty of money, so the Bonapartes are the dynasty of
the peasants, that is, the French masses. The chosen of the peasantry
is not the Bonaparte who submitted to the bourgeois parliament but the
Bonaparte who dismissed the bourgeois parliament. For three years the
towns had succeeded in falsifying the meaning of the December 10
election and in cheating the peasants out of the restoration of the
Empire. The election of December 10, 1848, has been consummated only by
the coup d'etat of December 2, 1851.

The small-holding peasants form an enormous mass whose members live in
similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with
each other. Their mode of production isolates them from one another
instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse. The isolation is
furthered by France's poor means of communication and the poverty of
the peasants. Their field of production, the small holding, permits no
division of labor in its cultivation, no application of science, and
therefore no multifariousness of development, no diversity of talent,
no wealth of social relationships. Each individual peasant family is
almost self-sufficient, directly produces most of its consumer needs,
and thus acquires its means of life more through an exchange with
nature than in intercourse with society. A small holding, the peasant
and his family; beside it another small holding, another peasant and
another family. A few score of these constitute a village, and a few
score villages constitute a department. Thus the great mass of the
French nation is formed by the simple addition of homonymous
magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes. Insofar
as millions of families live under conditions of existence that
separate their mode of life, their interests, and their culture from
those of the other classes, and put them in hostile opposition to the
latter, they form a class. Insofar as there is merely a local
interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of
their interests forms no community, no national bond, and no political
organization among them, they do not constitute a class. They are
therefore incapable of asserting their class interest in their own
name, whether through a parliament or a convention. They cannot
represent themselves, they must be represented. Their representative
must at the same time appear as their master, as an authority over
them, an unlimited governmental power which protects them from the
other classes and sends them rain and sunshine from above. The
political influence of the small-holding peasants, therefore, finds its
final expression in the executive power which subordinates society to

Historical tradition gave rise to the French peasants' belief in the
miracle that a man named Napoleon would bring all glory back to them.
And there turned up an individual who claims to be that man because he
bears the name Napoleon, in consequence of the Code Napoleon, which
decrees: "Inquiry into paternity is forbidden." After a twenty-year
FTPvagabondage and a series of grotesque adventures the legend is
consummated, and the man becomes Emperor of the French. The idee fixe
of the nephew was realized because it coincided with the idee fixe of
the most numerous class of the French people.

But, it may be objected, what about the peasant uprisings in half of
France, the raids of the army on the peasants, the mass incarceration
and transportation of the peasants?

Since Louis XIV, France has experienced no similar persecution of the
peasants "on account of demagogic agitation."

But let us not misunderstand. The Bonaparte dynasty represents not the
revolutionary, but the conservative peasant; not the peasant who
strikes out beyond the condition of his social existence, the small
holding, but rather one who wants to consolidate his holding; not the
countryfolk who in alliance with the towns want to overthrow the old
order through their own energies, but on the contrary those who, in
solid seclusion within this old order, want to see themselves and their
small holdings saved and favored by the ghost of the Empire. It
represents not the enlightenment but the superstition of the peasant;
not his judgment but his prejudice; not his future but his past; not
his modern Cevennes [A peasant uprising in the Cevennes mountains in
1702-1705. -- Ed.] but his modern Vendee. [A peasant-backed uprising
against the French Revolution in the French province of Vendee, in
1793. -- Ed.]

The three years' stern rule of the parliamentary republic freed a part
of the French peasants from the Napoleonic illusion and revolutionized
them, even though superficially; but the bourgeoisie violently repulsed
them as often as they set themselves in motion. Under the parliamentary
republic the modern and the traditional consciousness of the French
peasant contended for mastery. The process took the form of an
incessant struggle between the schoolmasters and the priests. The
FTPbourgeoisie struck down the schoolmasters. The peasants for the first
time made efforts to behave independently vis-=85-vis the government.
This was shown in the continual conflict between the mayors and the
prefects. The bourgeoisie deposed the mayors. Finally, during the
period of the parliamentary republic, the peasants of different
localities rose against their own offspring, the army. The bourgeoisie
punished these peasants with sieges and executions. And this same
bourgeoisie now cries out against the stupidity of the masses, the vile
multitude that betrayed it to Bonaparte. The bourgeoisie itself has
violently strengthened the imperialism of the peasant class; it has
preserved the conditions that form the birthplaces of this species of
peasant religion. The bourgeoisie, in truth, is bound to fear the
stupidity of the masses so long as they remain conservative, and the
insight of the masses as soon as they become revolutionary.

In the uprisings after the coup d'etat, a part of the French peasants
protested, arms in hand, against their own vote of December 10, 1848.
The school they had gone to since 1848 had sharpened their wits. But
they had inscribed themselves in the historical underworld; history
held them to their word, and the majority was still so implicated that
precisely in the reddest departments the peasant population voted
openly for Bonaparte. In their view, the National Assembly had hindered
his progress. He has now merely broken the fetters that the towns had
imposed on the will of the countryside. In some parts the peasants even
entertained the grotesque notion of a convention with Napoleon.

After the first Revolution had transformed the semi-feudal peasants
into freeholders, Napoleon confirmed and regulated the conditions in
which they could exploit undisturbed the soil of France which they had
only just acquired, and could slake their youthful passion for
property. But what is now ruining the French peasant is his small
holding itself, the division of the land and the soil, the property
form which Napoleon consolidated in France. It is exactly these
material conditions which made the feudal peasant a small-holding
peasant and Napoleon an emperor.  Two generations sufficed to produce
the unavoidable result: progressive deterioration of agriculture and
progressive indebtedness of the agriculturist. The "Napoleonic"
property form, which at the beginning of the nineteenth century was the
condition of the emancipation and enrichment of the French countryfolk,
has developed in the course of this century into the law of their
enslavement and their pauperism. And just this law is the first of the
"Napoleonic ideas" which the second Bonaparte has to uphold. If he
still shares with the peasants the illusion that the cause of their
ruin is to be sought not in the small holdings themselves but outside
them -- in the influence of secondary circumstances -- his experiments
will shatter like soap bubbles when they come in contact with the
relations of production.

The economic development of small-holding property has radically
changed the peasants' relations with the other social classes. Under
Napoleon the fragmentation of the land in the countryside supplemented
free competition and the beginning of big industry in the towns. The
peasant class was the ubiquitous protest against the recently
overthrown landed aristocracy. The roots that small-holding property
struck in French soil deprived feudalism of all nourishment. The
landmarks of this property formed the natural fortification of the
bourgeoisie against any surprise attack by its old overlords. But in
the course of the nineteenth century the urban usurer replaced the
feudal one, the mortgage replaced the feudal obligation, bourgeois
capital replaced aristocratic landed property. The peasant's small
holding is now only the pretext that allows the capitalist to draw
profits, interest, and rent from the soil, while leaving it to the
agriculturist himself to see to it how he can extract his wages. The
mortgage debt burdening the soil of France imposes on the French
peasantry an amount of interest equal to the annual interest on the
entire British national debt. Small-holding property, in this
enslavement by capital toward which its development pushes it
unavoidably, has transformed the mass of the French nation into
troglodytes. Sixteen million peasants (including women and children)
dwell in caves, a large number of which have but one opening, others
only two and the most favored only three. Windows are to a house what
the five senses are to the head. The bourgeois order, which at the
beginning of the century set the state to stand guard over the newly
emerged small holdings and fertilized them with laurels, has become a
vampire that sucks the blood from their hearts and brains and casts
them into the alchemist's caldron of capital. The Code Napoleon is now
nothing but the codex of distraints, of forced sales and compulsory
auctions. To the four million (including children, etc.) officially
recognized paupers, vagabonds, criminals, and prostitutes in France
must be added another five million who hover on the margin of existence
and either have their haunts in the countryside itself or, with their
rags and their children, continually desert the countryside for the
towns and the towns for the countryside. Therefore the interests of the
peasants are no longer, as under Napoleon, in accord with, but are now
in opposition to bourgeois interests, to capital. Hence they find their
natural ally and leader in the urban proletariat, whose task it is to
overthrow the bourgeois order. But "strong and unlimited government" --
and this is the second "Napoleonic idea" that the second Napoleon has
to carry out -- is called upon to defend this "material order" by
force. This "material order" also serves, in all Bonaparte's
proclamations, as the slogan against the rebellious peasants.

In addition to the mortgage which capital imposes on it, the small
holding is burdened by taxes. Taxes are the life source of the
bureaucracy, the army, the priests, and the court -- in short, of the
entire apparatus of the executive power. Strong government and heavy
taxes are identical. By its very nature, small- holding property forms
a basis for an all-powerful and numberless bureaucracy. It creates a
uniform level of personal and economic relationships over the whole
extent of the country. Hence it also permits uniform action from a
supreme center on all points of this uniform mass. It destroys the
aristocratic intermediate steps between the mass of the people and the
power of the state. On all sides, therefore, it calls forth the direct
intrusion of this state power and the interposition of its immediate
organs. Finally, it produces an unemployed surplus population which can
find no place either on the land or in the towns and which perforce
reaches out for state offices as a sort of respectable alms, and
provokes the creation of additional state positions. By the new markets
which he opened with bayonets, and by the plundering of the Continent,
Napoleon repaid the compulsory taxes with interest. These taxes were a
spur to the industry of the peasant, whereas now they rob his industry
of its last resources and complete his defenselessness against
pauperism. An enormous bureaucracy, well gallooned and well fed, is the
"Napoleonic idea" which is most congenial to the second Bonaparte. How
could it be otherwise, considering that alongside the actual classes of
society, he is forced to create an artificial caste for which the
maintenance of his regime becomes a bread-and-butter question? Hence
one of his first financial operations was the raising of officials'
salaries to their old level and the creation of new sinecures.

Another "Napoleonic idea" is the domination of the priests as an
instrument of government. But while at the time of their emergence the
small-holding owners, in their accord with society, in their dependence
on natural forces and submission to the authority which protected them
from above, were naturally religious, now that they are ruined by
debts, at odds with society and authority, and driven beyond their own
limitations, they have become naturally irreligious.

Heaven was quite a pleasing addition to the narrow strip of land just
won, especially as it makes the weather; it becomes an insult as soon
as it is thrust forward as a substitute for the small holding. The
priest then appears as only the anointed bloodhound of the earthly
police -- another "Napoleonic idea." The expedition against Rome will
take place in France itself next time, but in a sense opposite from
that of M. de Montalembcrt.

Finally, the culminating "Napoleonic idea" is the ascendancy of the
army. The army was the "point of honor" of the small-holding peasants,
it was they themselves transformed into heroes, defending their new
possessions against the outer world, glorifying their recently won
nationhood, plundering and revolutionizing the world. The uniform was
their own state costume; war was their poetry; the small holding,
enlarged and rounded off in imagination, was their fatherland, and
patriotism the ideal form of the sense of property. But the enemies
whom the French peasant now has to defend his property against are not
the Cossacks; they are the huissiers [bailiffs] and the tax collectors.
The small holding no longer lies in the so-called fatherland but in the
registry of mortgages. The army itself is no longer the flower of the
peasant youth; it is the swamp flower of the peasant lumpen
proletariat. It consists largely of replacements, of substitutes, just
as the second Bonaparte is himself only a replacement, the substitute
for Napoleon. It now performs its deeds of valor by hounding the
peasants in masses like chamois, by doing gendarme duty; and if the
natural contradictions of his system chase the Chief of the Society of
December 10 across the French border, his army, after some acts of
brigandage, will reap, not laurels, but thrashings.

It is clear: All "Napoleonic ideas" are ideas of the undeveloped small
holding in the freshness of its youth; they are a contradiction to the
outlived holdings. They are only the hallucinations of its death
struggle, words transformed into phrases, spirits transformed into
ghosts. But the parody of imperialism was necessary to free the mass of
the French nation from the weight of tradition and to work out in pure
form the opposition between state power and society. With the
progressive deterioration of small-holding property, the state
structure erected upon it collapses. The centralization of the state
that modern society requires arises only on the ruins of the
military-bureaucratic government machinery which was forged in
opposition to feudalism.

The condition of the French peasants provides us with the answer to the
riddle of the general elections of December 2o and 2 1, which bore the
second Bonaparte up Mount Sinai, not to receive laws but to give them.

Obviously the bourgeoisie now had no choice but to elect Bonaparte.
When the Puritans of the Council of Constance [1414-18] complained of
the dissolute lives of the popes and wailed about the necessity for
moral reform, Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly thundered at them: "Only the
devil in person can still save the Catholic Church, and you ask for
angels." Similarly, after the coup d'etat the French bourgeoisie cried
out: Only the Chief of the Society of December 10 can still save
bourgeois society! Only theft can still save property; only perjury,
religion; bastardy, the family; disorder, order!

As the executive authority which has made itself independent, Bonaparte
feels it to be his task to safeguard "bourgeois order." But the
strength of this bourgeois order lies in the middle class. He poses,
therefore, as the representative of the middle class and issues decrees
in this sense. Nevertheless, he is somebody solely because he has
broken the power of that middle class, and keeps on breaking it daily.
He poses, therefore, as the opponent of the political and literary
power of the middle class. But by protecting its material power he
revives its political power.  Thus the cause must be kept alive, but
the effect, where it manifests itself, must be done away with. But this
cannot happen without small confusions of cause and effect, since in
their interaction both lose their distinguishing marks.  New decrees
obliterate the border line. Bonaparte knows how to pose at ,.he same
time as the representative of the peasants and of the people in
general, as a man who wants to make the lower classes happy within the
framework of bourgeois society. New decrees cheat the "true socialists"
of their governmental skill in advance. But above all, Bonaparte knows
how to pose as the Chief of the Society of December 10, as the
representative of the lumpen proletariat to which he himself, his
entourage, his government, and his army belong, and whose main object
is to benefit itself and draw California lottery prizes from the state
treasury. And he confirms himself as Chief of the Society of December
10 with decrees, without decrees, and despite decrees.

This contradictory task of the man explains the contradictions of his
government, the confused groping which tries now to win, now to
humiliate, first one class and then another, and uniformly arrays all
of them against him; whose uncertainty in practice forms a highly
comical contrast to the imperious, categorical style of the government
decrees, a style slavishly copied from the uncle.

Industry and commerce, hence the business affairs of the middle class,
are to prosper in hothouse fashion under the strong government: the
grant of innumerable railroad concessions. But the Bonapartist lumpen
proletariat is to enrich itself: those in the know play tripotage
[underhand dealings] on the Exchange with the railroad concessions. But
no capital is forthcoming for the railroads: obligation of the Bank to
make advances on railroad shares. But at the same time the Bank is to
be exploited for personal gain and therefore must be cajoled: release
the Bank from the obligation to publish its report weekly; leonine
[From Aesop's fable about the lion who made a contract in which one
partner got all the profits and the other all the disadvantages. --
Ed.] agreement of the Bank with the government. The people are to be
given employment: initiation of public works. But the public works
increase the people's tax obligations: hence reduction of taxes by an
attack on the rentiers, by conversion of the 5-percent bonds into 4
1/2-percent. But the middle class must again receive a sweetening:
hence a doubling of the wine tax for the people, who buy wine retail,
and a halving of the wine tax for the middle class, which drinks it
wholesale; dissolution of the actual workers' associations, but
promises of miraculous future associations. The peasants are to be
helped: mortgage banks which hasten their indebtedness and accelerate
the concentration of property. But these banks are to be used to make
money out of the confiscated estates of the House of Orleans; no
capitalist wants to agree to this condition, which is not in the
decree, and the mortgage bank remains a mere decree, etc., etc.

Bonaparte would like to appear as the patriarchal benefactor of all
classes. But he cannot give to one without taking from another. just as
it was said of the Duke de Guise in the time of the Fronde that he was
the most obliging man in France because he gave all his estates to his
followers, with feudal obligations to him, so Bonaparte would like to
be the most obliging man in France and turn all the property and all
the labor of France into a personal obligation to himself. He would
like to steal all of France in order to make a present of it to France,
or rather in order to buy France anew with French money, for as the
Chief of the Society of December 10 he must buy what ought to belong to
him. And to the Institution of Purchase belong all the state
institutions, the Senate, the Council of State, the Assembly, the
Legion of Honor, the military medals, the public laundries, the public
works, the railroads, the general staff, the officers of the National
Guard, the confiscated estates of the House of Orleans. The means of
purchase is obtained by selling every place in the army and the
government machinery. But the most important feature of this process,
by which France is taken in order to give to her, are the percentages
that find their way into the pockets of the head and the members of the
Society of December 10 during the turnover. The witticism with which
Countess L., the mistress of M. de Morny, characterized the
confiscation of the Orleans estates -- "It is the first vol [the word
means both "flight" and "theft"] of the eagle" -- is applicable to
every flight of this eagle, who is more like a raven. He and his
follower; call out to one another like that Italian Carthusian
admonishing the miser who ostentatiously counted the goods on which he
could still live for years: "Tu fai conto sopra 1 beni, bisogna prima
far il conto sopra gli anni" ["Thou countest thy goods, thou shouldst
first count thy years"]. In order not to make a mistake in the years,
they count the minutes. At the court, in the ministries, at the head of
the administration and the army, a gang of blokes of whom the best that
can be said is that one does not know whence they come -- these noisy,
disreputable, rapacious bohemians who crawl into gallooned coats with
the same grotesque dignity as the high dignitaries of Soulouque --
elbow their way forward. One can visualize clearly this upper stratum
of the Society of December 10 if one reflects that Veron-Crevel [A
dissolute philistine character in Balzac's novel Cousin Bette. -- Ed.]
is its preacher of morals and Granier de Cassagnac its thinker. When
Guizot, at the time of his ministry, turned this Granier of an obscure
newspaper into a dynastic opponent, he used to boast of him with the
quip: "C'est le roi des droles" ["He is the king of buffoons"]. It
would be wrong to recall either the Regency or Louis XV in connection
with Louis Bonaparte's court and clique. For "often before France has
experienced a government of mistresses, but never before a government
of kept men." [Quoted from Mme. de Girardin. -- Note by Karl Marx.]

Driven by the contradictory demands of his situation, and being at the
same time, like a juggler, under the necessity of keeping the public
gaze on himself, as Napoleon's successor, by springing constant
surprises -- that is to say, under the necessity of arranging a coup
d'etat in miniature every day -- Bonaparte throws the whole bourgeois
economy into confusion, violates everything that seemed inviolable to
the Revolution of 1848, makes some tolerant of revolution and makes
others lust for it, and produces anarchy in the name of order, while at
the same time stripping the entire state machinery of its halo,
profaning it and making it at once loathsome and ridiculous. The cult
of the Holy Tunic of Trier [A Catholic relic, allegedly taken from
Christ when he was dying, preserved in the cathedral of Marx's native
city -- Ed.] he duplicates in Paris in the cult of the Napoleonic
imperial mantle. But when the imperial mantle finally falls on the
shoulders of Louis Bonaparte, the bronze statue of Napoleon will come
crashing down from the top of the Vendome Column.

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