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The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Bonaparte Paperback – June 28, 2008
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But this is also an excellent introduction to Marx's social theories: how the interplay of economic developments, class interests and conflicts, high politics and ideological cleavages produced the circumstances in which Louis Bonaparte, nephew of the famous General/Emperor, became the democratically elected President of France in 1848, then moved in 1851 to suppress democratic politics with the backing of the petty and upper bourgeoisie when these classes concluded that democracy could not secure their control over the state. There is no better demonstration of Marxian social analysis in action.
This essay is also worth reading for what it can suggest about more recent history. From the advent of Mussolini in Italy 1922 to Pinochet in Chile in 1973 to the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002 and beyond, bourgeoisies and allied classes have repeatedly acted to suppress democratic regimes if and when these regimes spin out of their control. This essay will help you understand why.
This book was first published in 1852. (The "18th Brumaire" simply means the date, which was November 9, 1799 on our calendars.) In it, Karl Marx (1818-1888) gives a detailed and specific application of his "historical materialism" to a concrete subject. Marx begins by saying that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please... but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past." (Pg. 15)
He charges that in the then-current situation, the inscription of the French Revolution (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) should be replaced by "the unambiguous words: Infantry, Calvary, Artillery!" (Pg. 59)
He comments that "The bourgeois (i.e., capitalists, the ruling class) and, above all, the bourgeois inflated into a statesman, supplements his practical meanness by theoretical extravagance." (Pg. 85) He charges that France seems "to have escaped the despotism of a class only to fall back beneath the despotism of an individual," and that "all classes, equally impotent and equally mute, fall on their knees before the rifle butt." (Pg. 121)
With pretended modesty, he says that what he did that was "new" was to prove (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and (3) that this dictatorship only constitutes the transition to the "abolition of all classes and to a classless society." (Pg. 139)
This book is an important one in the development of Marxist thought.