Showing posts with label revolutionary conspiracies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revolutionary conspiracies. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the great European revolutionary man of action, Louis Auguste Blanqui.


If you are familiar with left terminology or if you ever wondered where the terms Blanquist or Blanquism came from Louis Auguste Blanqui is the 19th century man of revolutionary socialist action from which the terms derive. The terms connote a particular notion of revolutionary strategy- essentially the belief that a small cohesive vanguard of kindred revolutionary soldiers acting under cover of a conspiracy was all that was necessary to overthrow the existing regime and usher in a better, more just society. Marxists basing themselves on historical materialism and massive transformations to create historical change have always fought against such a strategy admiring the fortitude of Blanqui as a revolutionary. Basically, Blanquism represents a pre-industrial theory more suitable to an artisan and peasant based society. The theory’s history stretches back to the defeat of the Conspiracy of Equals led by Babeuf after the Themidorian Reaction of 1794 had signaled the degeneration of the French Revolution. While rejecting Blanqui’s theory one should note that such devoted militants are all too rare in the history of the left and therefore one must honor such an exemplary revolutionary.

Although the Marxist movement, beginning with Marx himself, has mercilessly fought against the substitution list notion that a small band of well-armed revolutionaries can overturn the old regime and bring a more just society the charge of Blanquism has always hovered around the surface of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Many historians and political commentators have declared the Bolshevik seizure of power in October a coup d’etat. That is facile commentary. If one wants to do harm to the notion of a coup d’etat in the classic sense of a closed military conspiracy a la Blanqui this cannot stand up to examination.

First, the Bolsheviks were an urban civilian party with at best tenuous ties to military knowledge and resources. Even simple military operations like the famous bank expropriations after the 1905 Revolution were mainly botched and gave them nothing but headaches with the leadership of pre-World War I international social democracy. Secondly, and decisively, Bolshevik influence over the garrison in Petrograd and eventually elsewhere precluded such a necessity. Although, as Trotsky noted, conspiracy is an element of any insurrection this was in fact an ‘open’ conspiracy that even the Kerensky government had to realize was taking place. The Bosheviks relied on the masses just as we should.

The following is a thumbnail sketch of the trials and tribulations of Blanqui throughout his revolutionary career. Just to detail the number of insurrections and revolutionary actions Blanqui was involved in, as well as the amount of time he spent in prison shows why he, justifiably, was considered a dangerous man when on the loose by every bourgeois government.

Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was a French revoluionary socialist famous for his devotion to the cause despite repeated imprisonments and for his tactic of the revolutionary seizure of power by a well-trained body of armed men. He joined an unsuccessful Paris insurrection in 1827 and was thereafter connected with every revolutionary attempt until his death. He played an active role in the July Revolution of 1830; he was sentenced to prison for articles in the paper he edited; he was sentenced again in 1836, but pardoned in 1837.

He was condemned to death for leading an unsuccessful insurrec­tion in 1839, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment; he was freed by the February Revolution of 1848, but given a ten-year sentence in 1849 as reaction gained the upper hand. Amnestied in 1859, he was reimprisoned in 1861 but escaped in 1865 and continued his propaganda against the Second Empire government from exile. Returning to France under the general amnesty of 1869, he led two armed demonstrations against the government of Louis Napoleon in Paris in 1870 and temporarily seized power on October 31, 1870. He was condemned to death on March 17, 1871.

The Paris Commune broke out a few days later. Blanqui was elected a member of the revolutionary government, but he was unable to take his seat since he was in the prison of the counterrevolutionary Versailles regime, which had a well-grounded fear that, with his energy and military ability, he might lead the Commune to military victory. He was kept in prison until 1879, when he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies by the workers of Bordeaux. Although the government declared his election invalid, it released him from prison, broken in health. He immediately resumed his agitation. At the end of 1880, he had a stroke after giving a speech at a meeting in Paris, and he died New Year's Day, 1881.