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The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte was written by Karl Marx. This book is a logical continuation of his previous works that examined the history of the 1848 Revolution in France. The chronotope of the writing reveals the periodization of the history of this event, and the author considers the political occurrences that led to the takeover (Sperber 101). Notably, the issues raised in this reading are of an existential nature. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the main idea of the book by Karl Marx as well as the argumentation provided by the writer in proving his claims.
In general, the book is devoted to explaining the origin of the state turnover in France as well as its causes. However, the main idea of the work could be concluded to an understanding that the historical person standing at the center of this event was not distinguished by any outstanding opportunities and did not possess such influence to provoke the unfolding of events of such a historical scale (Broers 71). In particular, the author of the book emphasized that the capabilities of Bonaparte did not coincide with the actions that he had been able to perform in 1851. In this discrepancy, there were certain historical contradictions, which Marx tried to explicate.
Marx justified his position regarding the contradictory nature of Bonaparte’s role in initiating the revolution by considering the main aspects of this event. He argued that the revolution was the result of an aggravation of class antagonisms (Marx 63). Also, the intensification of the counter-revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie was of great importance in the emergence of this process. The class renounced the form of their domination because of the fear they had in relation to the proletariat. In order to preserve their exploitative capabilities, the bourgeoisie was ready to give up their power to Bonaparte.
Marx also described the course of Bonaparte’s political action in order to explain that he supported the counterrevolutionary elements solely. For instance, the writer argued that the populist alliance encouraged by Bonaparte was distinguished by such traits as maneuvering between the classes and demagoguery. In addition, Marx characterized his activities as corrupted and noted that the leader used the tools of the criminal world (for example, blackmail, bribery, and so on) (Marx 45). Moreover, Bonapartism lobbied the interests of the bourgeoisie and resorted to terror. In particular, having analyzed the first months of this regime, the author had already noted these characteristics and contradictions in the Bonaparte’s course of action.
In addition, Marx reviewed the situation of the peasantry during this period. The group encompassed numerous amounts of people, which suggested great political opportunities for Bonaparte if he enlisted the support of this population group (Marx 6). Despite the fact that the peasants supported a conservative position, they also experienced revolutionary moods. People wanted to move from the conditions in which they were living and thought that they could solve their problems by giving their votes to Bonaparte. The peasantry believed that Bonaparte could achieve the overthrow of the bourgeois order.
A significant part of the book was also devoted to the analysis of the personality of Bonaparte from the point of view of philosophy (Ryan 101). Marx believed that this individual was a usurper in full measure. According to the author, Bonaparte could not be perceived as a decent person from the position of a philosophical understanding of this notion. Bonaparte did not possess the most important traits of character that could make up a skillful leader capable of initiating a revolution (Hazareesingh 121). In particular, Marx asserted that this man had no self-consciousness, responsibility for his convictions or conscience. Therefore, Bonaparte should not be regarded as an individual whose capabilities could provoke the unfolding of the events of such a large historical scale.
In his book, Marx performed as a critic arguing against the perception of Bonaparte as of a historical figure who contributed to the emergence of the 1848 Revolution in France. The author suggested that Bonaparte should be regarded as a small-scale swindler who managed to get to the top of the state power. However, apart from these arguments, the writer emphasized the influence of the proletarian revolution on the bourgeois regime (Bideleux 211). He put forward a proposition that the proletariat did not break the existing military-bureaucratic machine but perfected it. Consequently, the role of Bonaparte’s personality in the history of France was strongly overestimated.
Thus, it can be concluded that the book The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte belongs to the scientific communism. The author analyzed the historical events and made crucial generalizations in order to explain the causes of the events of 1848 and 1851. This book is a remarkable example of revolutionary journalism. Due to the use of dialectics, the author was able to analyze the class struggle characteristic of this period, explain the causes of the revolution, and outline the true role of Bonaparte in the emergence of the counter-revolutionary event.
Bideleux, Robert. Communism and Development. Routledge, 2014.
Broers, Michael. Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny. Pegasus Books LLC, 2015.
Hazareesingh, Sudhir. The Legend of Napoleon. Granta Books, 2014.
Marx, Karl. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Cosimo, 2008.
Ryan, Alan. On Marx: Revolutionary and Utopian. W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
Sperber, Jonathan. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.