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The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Bonaparte Notes

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The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

All the great events and characters of history occur twice, firstly as tragedy, secondly as farce
* Louis after Napoleon, democratic socialists (montagne) of 1848-51 after the Jacobin democrats of 1793-93
* Men make their own history, but not just as they please - they inherit circumstances, symbols and traditions
* Hence when they attempt to revolutionize themselves they inevitably draw upon spirits of the past, borrowing names, words, uniforms etc
* French Revolution draped itself alternately as Roman republic and Roman empire
* Cromwell borrowed Old Testament language, passions and delusions for a bourgeois revolution
* Men speak in the language of past revolutions as a substitute for understanding what is happening; when they understand the old symbols etc are jettisoned
* 'The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot create its poetry from the past but only from the future'


The revolution of 1848 began as a bourgeois attempt to widen the franchise and overthrow the financial aristocracy, but was radicalised by the proletariat
* Interpreted by the proletariat as having created a 'social republic', which stood in 'the most bizarre contradiction to everything that could be put into practice there and then, given the material available, the level of popular education, present circumstances and conditions' After each defeat the proletariat allied themselves with different champions from different strata, and 'ever more ambiguous figures' took up leadership
* the workers sought cooperative banks, workers' associations etc - choice to 'attain salvation behind society's back, privately, within its own limited conditions of existence' rather than attempting to overthrow the old world by means of its great resources, and hence 'necessarily coming to naught'


Summary of periods 1848-51

1. February-May 1848: February period. Prologue. Sham solidarity

2. Period of founding the republic and of the constituent assembly a. May-June 1848. Struggle of all classes against the proletariat. Defeat of proletariat in June days b. June - December. Dictatorship of pure bourgeoisie, drafting of constitution, imposition of state of siege in Paris. Bourgeois dictatorship supplanted by Bonaparte's election to presidency in December. c. December - May 1849. Struggle of constituent assembly with Bonaparte and party of order in alliance with him. End of constituent assembly. Fall of the republican bourgeoisie.

3. Period of the constitutional republic and legislative national assembly a. May - June 1849. Struggle of petty-bourgeois with bourgeoisie and with Bonaparte. Defeat of petty-bourgeois democrats. b. June - May 1850. Parliamentary dictatorship of the party of order. Completion of its

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