The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850

Part II
From June 1848 to June 13, 1849

February 25, 1848, granted the republic to France, June 25 thrust the revolution upon her. And revolution, after June, meant: overthrow of bourgeois society, whereas before February it meant: overthrow of the form of government.

The June fight was led by the republican faction of the bourgeoisie; with victory political power necessarily fell to its share. The state of siege laid, gagged Paris, unresisting, at its feet, and in the provinces there prevailed a moral state of siege, the threatening, brutal arrogance of victorious bourgeoisie and the unleashed property fanaticism of the peasants. No danger, therefore, from below!

The crash of the revolutionary might of the workers was simultaneously a crash of the political influence of the democratic republicans; that is, of the republicans in the sense of the petty bourgeoisie, represented in the Executive Commission by Ledru-Rollin, in the Constituent National Assembly by the part of the Montagne and in the press by the “Réforme.” Together with the bourgeois republicans, they had conspired on April 16 against the proletariat, together with them they had warred against it in the June days. Thus they themselves blasted the background against which their party stood out as a power, for the petty bourgeoisie can preserve a revolutionary attitude toward the bourgeoisie only as long as the proletariat stands behind it. The proletarians were dismissed. The sham alliance which the bourgeois republicans, reluctantly and with reservations, concluded with them during the epoch of the Provisional Government and the Executive Commission was openly broken by the bourgeois republicans. Spurned and repulsed as allies, they sank down to subordinate henchmen of the tricolor men, from whom they could not wring any concessions but whose domination they had to support whenever it, and with it the republic, seemed to be put in jeopardy by the anti-republican bourgeois factions. Lastly, these factions, the Orléanists and the Legitimists, were from the very beginning in a minority in the Constituent National Assembly. Before the June days they dared to react only under the mask of bourgeois republicanism – the June victory allowed for a moment the whole of bourgeois France to greet its savior in Cavaignac; and when, shortly after the June days, the anti-republican party regained independence, the military dictatorship and the state of siege in Paris permitted it to put out its antennae only very timidly and cautiously.

Since 1830 the bourgeois republican faction, in the person of its writers, its spokesmen, its men of talent and ambition, its deputies, generals, bankers, and lawyers, had grouped itself around a Parisian journal, the National. In the provinces this journal had its branch newspapers. The coterie of the National was the dynasty of the tricolor republic. It immediately took possession of all state offices – of the ministries, the prefecture of police, the post-office directorship, the prefectures, the higher army officer posts – which had now become vacant. At the head of the executive power stood its general, Cavaignac; its editor in chief, Marrast, became permanent president of the Constituent National Assembly. As master of ceremonies he at the same time did the honors, in his salons, of the respectable republic.

Even revolutionary French writers, awed, as it were, by the republican tradition, have strengthened the mistaken belief that the royalists dominated the Constituent National Assembly. On the contrary, after the June days, the Constituent Assembly remained the exclusive representative of bourgeois republicanism, and it emphasized this aspect all the more resolutely, the more the influence of the tricolor republicans collapsed outside the Assembly. If the question was one of maintaining the form of the bourgeois republic, then the Assembly had the votes of the democratic republicans at its disposal; if one of maintaining the content, then even its mode of speech no longer separated it from the royalist bourgeois factions, for it is the interests of the bourgeoisie, the material conditions of its class rule and class exploitation, that form the content of the bourgeois republic.

Thus it was not royalism but bourgeois republicanism that was realized in the life and work of this Constituent Assembly, which in the end did not die, nor was killed, but decayed.

For the entire duration of its rule, for as long as it gave its grand performance of state on the proscenium,[83] an unbroken sacrificial feast was being staged in the background – the continual sentencing by courts–martial of the captured June insurgents or their deportation without trial. The Constituent Assembly had the tact to admit that in the June insurgents it was not judging criminals but wiping out enemies.

The first act of the Constituent National Assembly was to set up a commission of inquiry into the events of June and of May 15, and into the part played by the socialist and democratic party leaders during these days. The inquiry was directly aimed at Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, and Caussidière. The bourgeois republicans burned with impatience to rid themselves of these rivals. They could have entrusted the venting of their spleen to no more suitable object than M. Odilon Barrot, the former chief of the dynastic opposition, the incarnation of liberalism, the nullité grave [self-important non-entity], the thoroughly shallow person who not only had a dynasty to revenge, but even had to settle accounts with the revolutionists for thwarting his premiership. A sure guarantee of his relentlessness. This Barrot was therefore appointed chairman of the commission of inquiry, and he constructed a complete legal process against the February Revolution which may be summarized thus: March 17, demonstration; April 16, conspiracy; May 15, attempt; June 23, civil war! Why did he not stretch his erudite criminologist’s researches as far back as February 24? The Journal des Débats inquired – that is, to the foundation of Rome. The origin of states gets lost in a myth that one may believe but may not discuss. Louis Blanc and Caussidière were handed over to the courts. The National Assembly completed the work of purging itself which it had begun on May 15.

The plan formed by the Provisional Government, and again taken up by Goudchaux, of taxing capital – in the form of a mortgage tax was rejected by the Constituent Assembly; the law that limited the working day to ten hours was repealed; imprisonment for debt was once more introduced; the large section of the French population that can neither read nor write was excluded from jury service. Why not from the franchise also? Journals again had to deposit caution money. The right of association was restricted.

No one had fought more fanatically in the June days for the salvation of property and the restoration of credit than the Parisian petty bourgeois – keepers of cafes and restaurants, marchands de vins [wine merchants], small traders, shopkeepers, handicraftsman, etc. The shopkeeper had pulled himself together and marched against the barricades in order to restore the traffic which leads from the streets into the shop. But behind the barricade stood the customers and the debtors; before it the creditors of the shop. And when the barricades were thrown down and the workers were crushed and the shopkeepers, drunk with victory, rushed back to their shops, they found the entrance barred by a savior of property, an official agent of credit, who presented them with threatening notices: Overdue promissory note! Overdue house rent! Overdue bond! Doomed shop! Doomed shopkeeper!

Salvation of property! But the house they lived in was not their property; the shop they kept was not their property; the commodities they dealt in were not their property. Neither their business, nor the plate they ate from, nor the bed they slept on belonged to them any longer. It was precisely from them that this property had to be saved – for the house-owner who let the house, for the banker who discounted the promissory note, for the capitalist who made the advances in cash, for the manufacturer who entrusted the sale of his commodities to these retailers, for the wholesale dealer who had credited the raw materials to these handicraftsman. Restoration of credit! But credit, having regained strength, proved itself a vigorous and jealous god; it turned the debtor who could not pay out of his four walls, together with wife and child, surrendered his sham property to capital, and threw the man himself into the debtors’ prison, which had once more reared its head threateningly over the corpses of the June insurgents.

The petty bourgeois saw with horror that by striking down the workers they had delivered themselves without resistance into the hands of their creditors. Their bankruptcy, which since February had been dragging on in chronic fashion and had apparently been ignored, was openly declared after June.

Their nominal property had been left unassailed as long as it was of consequence to drive them to the battlefield in the name of property. Now that the great issue with the proletariat had been settled, the small matter of the épicier could in turn be settled. In Paris the mass of overdue paper amounted to over 21,000,000 francs; in the provinces to over 1,000,000. The proprietors of more than 7,000 Paris firms had not paid their rent since February.

While the National Assembly had instituted an inquiry into political guilt, going as far back as the end of February, the petty bourgeois on their part now demanded an inquiry into civil debts up to February 24. They assembled en masse in the Bourse hall and threateningly demanded, on behalf of every businessman who could prove that his insolvency was due solely to the stagnation caused by the revolution and that his business had been in good condition on February 24, an extension of the term of payment by order of a commerce court and the compulsory liquidation of creditors claims in consideration of a moderate percentage payment. As a legislative proposal, this question was dealt with in the National Assembly in the form of concordats à l’amiable [amicable agreements]. The Assembly vacillated; then it suddenly learned that at the same time, at the Porte St. Denis, thousands of wives and children of the insurgents had prepared an amnesty petition.

In the presence of the resurrected specter of June, the petty bourgeoisie trembled and the National Assembly retrieved its implacability. The concordats à l’amiable, the amicable settlements between debtor and creditor, were rejected in their most essential points.

Thus long after the democratic representatives of the petty bourgeois had been repulsed within the National Assembly by the republican representatives of the bourgeoisie, this parliamentary breach received its civil, its real economic meaning by the petty bourgeois as debtors being handed over to the bourgeois as creditors. A large part of the former were completely ruined and the remainder were allowed to continue their businesses only under conditions which made them absolute serfs of capital. On August 22, 1848, the National Assembly rejected the concordats à l’amiable; on September 19, 1848, in the midst of the state of siege, Prince Louis Bonaparte and the prisoner of Vincennes, the Communist Raspail, were elected representatives of Paris.[84] The bourgeoisie, however, elected the usurious moneychanger and Orléanist Fould. From all sides at once, therefore, open declaration of war against the Constituent National Assembly, against bourgeois republicanism, against Cavaignac.

It needs no argument to show how the mass bankruptcy of the Paris petty bourgeois was bound to produce aftereffects far transcending the circle of its immediate victims, and to convulse bourgeois commerce once more, while the state deficit was swollen anew by the costs of the June insurrection, and state revenues sank continuously through the hold-up of production, the restricted consumption, and the decreasing imports. Cavaignac and the National Assembly could have recourse to no other expedient than a new loan, which forced them still further under the yoke of the finance aristocracy.

While the petty bourgeois had harvested bankruptcy and liquidation by order of court as the fruit of the June victory, Cavaignac’s Janisseries, the Mobile Guards, found their reward in the soft arms of the courtesans, and as “the youthful saviors of society” they received all kinds of homage in the salons of Marrast, the knight of the tricolor, who served simultaneously as the Amphitryon and the troubadour of the respectable republic. Meantime, this social favoritism and the disproportionately higher pay of the Mobile Guard embittered the army, while all those national illusions with which bourgeois republicanism, through its journal, the National, had been able to attach to itself a part of the army and peasant class under Louis Philippe vanished at the same time. The role of mediator which Cavaignac and the National Assembly played in North Italy in order, together with England, to betray it to Austria – this one day of rule destroyed eighteen years of opposition on the part of the National. No government was less national than that of the National, none more dependent on England, and, under Louis Philippe, the National lived by paraphrasing daily Cato’s dictum: Carthaginem esse delendam [Carthage must be destroyed], none was more servile toward the Holy Alliance, and from a Guizot the National had demanded the tearing up of the Treaties of Vienna.[85] The irony of history made Bastide, the ex-editor for foreign affairs of the National, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, so that he might refute every one of his articles in every one of his dispatches.

For a moment, the army and the peasant class had believed that, simultaneously with the military dictatorship, war abroad and gloire had been placed on the order of the day in France. But Cavaignac was not the dictatorship of the saber over bourgeois society; he was the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie by the saber. And of the soldier they now required only the gendarme. Under the stern features of antique-republican resignation Cavaignac concealed humdrum submission to the humiliating conditions of his bourgeois office. L’argent n’a pas de maître! Money has no master! He, as well as the Constituent Assembly in general, idealized this old election cry of the Third Estate by translating it into political speech: The bourgeoisie has no king; the true form of its rule is the republic.

And the “great organic work” of the Constituent National Assembly consisted in working out this form, in producing a republican constitution. The rechristening of the Christian calendar as a republican one, of the saintly Bartholomew as the saintly Robespierre, made no more change in the wind and weather than this constitution made or was supposed to make in bourgeois society. Where it went beyond a change of costume, it put on record the existing facts. Thus it solemnly registered the fact of the republic, the fact of universal suffrage, the fact of a single sovereign National Assembly in place of two limited constitutional chambers. Thus it registered and regulated the fact of the dictatorship of Cavaignac by replacing the stationary, irresponsible hereditary monarchy with an ambulatory, responsible, elective monarchy, with a quadrennial presidency. Thus it elevated no less to an organic law the fact of the extraordinary powers with which the National Assembly, after the horrors of May 15 and June 25, had prudently invested its president in the interest of its own security. The remainder of the constitution was a work of terminology. The royalist labels were torn off the mechanism of the old monarchy and republican labels stuck on. Marrast, former editor in chief of the National, now editor in chief of the constitution, acquitted himself of this academic task not without talent.

The Constituent Assembly resembled the Chilean official who wanted to regulate property relations in land more firmly by a cadastral survey just at the moment when subterranean rumblings announced the volcanic eruption that was to hurl away the land from under his very feet. While in theory it accurately marked off the forms in which the rule of the bourgeoisie found republican expression, in reality it held its own only by the abolition of all formulas, by force sans phrase [without any exceptions], by the state of siege. Two days before it began its work on the constitution, it proclaimed an extension of the state of siege. Formerly constitutions had been made and adopted as soon as the social process of revolution had reached a point of rest, the newly formed class relationships had established themselves, and the contending factions of the ruling class had had recourse to a compromise which allowed them to continue the struggle among themselves and at the same time to keep the exhausted masses of the people out of it. This constitution, on the contrary, did not sanction any social revolution – it sanctioned the momentary victory of the old society over the revolution.

The first draft of the constitution,[86] made before the June days, still contained the droit au travail, the right to work, the first clumsy formula wherein the revolutionary demands of the proletariat are summarized. It was transformed into the droit à l’assistance, the right to public relief, and what modern state does not feed its paupers in some form or other? The right to work is, in the bourgeois sense, an absurdity, a miserable, pious wish. But behind the right to work stands the power over capital; behind the power over capital, the appropriation of the means of production, their subjection to the associated working class, and therefore the abolition of wage labor, of capital, and of their mutual relations. Behind the “right to work” stood the June insurrection. The Constituent Assembly, which in fact put the revolutionary proletariat hors la loi, outside the law, had on principle to throw the proletariat’s formula out of the constitution, the law of laws; had to pronounce its anathema upon the “right to work.” But it did not stop there. As Plato banned the poets from his republic, so it banished forever from its republic the progressive tax. And the progressive tax is not only a bourgeois measure, which can be carried out within the existing relations of production to a greater or less degree, it was the only means of binding the middle strata of bourgeois society to the “respectable” republic, of reducing the state debt, of holding the anti-republican majority of the bourgeoisie in check.

In the matter of the concordats  à l’amiable, the tricolor republicans had actually sacrificed the petty bourgeoisie to the big bourgeoisie. They elevated this isolated fact to a principle by the legal prohibition of a progressive tax. They put bourgeois reform on the same level as proletarian revolution. But what class then remained as the mainstay of their republic? The big bourgeoisie. And its mass was anti-republican. While it exploited the republicans of the National in order to consolidate again the old relations of economic life, it thought, on the other hand, of exploiting the once more consolidated social relations in order to restore the political forms that corresponded to them. As early as the beginning of October, Cavaignac felt compelled to make Dufaure and Vivien, previously ministers of Louis Philippe, ministers of the republic, however much the brainless puritans of his own party growled and blustered.

While the tricolor constitution rejected every compromise with the petty bourgeoisie and was unable to win the attachment of any new social element to the new form of government, it hastened, on the other hand, to restore its traditional inviolability to a body that constituted the most hard–bitten and fanatical defender of the old state. It raised the irremovability of judges, which had been questioned by the Provisional Government, to an organic law. The one king whom it had removed rose again, by the score, in these irremovable inquisitors of legality.

The French press has analyzed from numerous aspects the contradictions of M. Marrast’s constitution, for example, the coexistence of two sovereigns, the National Assembly and the President, etc., etc.

The comprehensive contradiction of this constitution, however, consists in the following: The classes whose social slavery the constitution is to perpetuate – proletariat, peasantry, petty bourgeoisie – it puts in possession of political power through universal suffrage. And from the class whose old social power it sanctions, the bourgeoisie, it withdraws the political guarantees of this power. It forces the political rule of the bourgeoisie into democratic conditions, which at every moment help the hostile classes to victory and jeopardize the very foundations of bourgeois society. From the first group it demands that they should not go forward from political to social emancipation; from the others that they should not go back from social to political restoration.

These contradictions perturbed the bourgeois republicans little. To the extent that they ceased to be indispensable – and they were indispensable only as the protagonists of the old society against the revolutionary proletariat – they fell, a few weeks after their victory, from the position of a party to that of a coterie. And they treated the constitution as a big intrigue. What was to be constituted in it was, above all, the rule of the coterie. The President was to be a protracted Cavaignac; the Legislative Assembly a protracted Constituent Assembly. They hoped to reduce the political power of the masses of the people to a semblance of power, and to be able to make sufficient play with this sham power itself to keep continually hanging over the majority of the bourgeoisie the dilemma of the June days: realm of the National or realm of anarchy.

The work on the constitution, which was begun on September 4, was finished on October 23. On September 2 the Constituent Assembly had decided not to dissolve until the organic laws supplementing the constitution were enacted. Nonetheless, it now decided to bring to life the creation that was most peculiarly its own, the President, on December 4, long before the circle of its own activity was closed. So sure was it of hailing, in the homunculus of the constitution, the son of his mother. As a precaution it was provided that if none of the candidates received two million votes, the election should pass over from the nation to the Constituent Assembly.

Futile provisions! The first day of the realization of the constitution was the last day of the rule of the Constituent Assembly. In the abyss of the ballot box lay its sentence of death. It sought the “son of his mother” and found the “nephew of his uncle”. Saul Cavaignac slew one million votes, but David Napoleon slew six million. Saul Cavaignac was beaten six times over.

December 10, 1848, was the day of the peasant insurrection. Only from this day does the February of the French peasants date. The symbol that expressed their entry into the revolutionary movement, clumsily cunning, knavishly naive, doltishly sublime, a calculated superstition, a pathetic burlesque, a cleverly stupid anachronism, a world-historic piece of buffoonery and an indecipherable hieroglyphic for the understanding of the civilized – this symbol bore the unmistakable physiognomy of the class that represents barbarism within civilization. The republic had announced itself to this class with the tax collector; it announced itself to the republic with the emperor. Napoleon was the only man who had exhaustively represented the interests and the imagination of the peasant class, newly created in 1789. By writing his name on the frontispiece of the republic, it declared war abroad and the enforcing of its class interests at home. Napoleon was to the peasants not a person but a program. With banners, with beat of drums and blare of trumpets, they marched to the polling booths shouting: Plus d’impôts, à bas les riches, à bas la république, vive l’Empereur! No more taxes, down with the rich, down with the republic, long live the emperor! Behind the emperor was hidden the peasant war. The republic that they voted down was the republic of the rich.

December 10 was the coup d’état of the peasants, which overthrew the existing government. And from that day on, when they had taken a government from France and given a government to her, their eyes were fixed steadily on Paris. For a moment active heroes of the revolutionary drama, they could no longer be forced back into the inactive and spineless role of the chorus.

The other classes helped to complete the election victory of the peasants. To the proletariat, the election of Napoleon meant the deposition of Cavaignac, the overthrow of the Constituent Assembly, the dismissal of bourgeois republicanism, the cessation of the June victory. To the petty bourgeoisie, Napoleon meant the rule of the debtor over the creditor. For the majority of the big bourgeoisie, the election of Napoleon meant an open breach with the faction of which it had had to make use, for a moment, against the revolution, but which became intolerable to it as soon as this faction sought to consolidate the position of the moment into a constitutional position. Napoleon in place of Cavaignac meant to this majority the monarch, in place of the republic, the beginning of the royalist restoration, a sly hint at Orléans, the fleur-de-lis hidden beneath the violets.[87] Lastly, the army voted for Napoleon against the Mobile Guard, against the peace idyll, for war.

Thus it happened, as the Neue Rheinische Zeitung stated, that the most simple-minded man in France acquired the most multifarious significance. Just because he was nothing, he could signify everything save himself. Meanwhile, different as the meaning of the name Napoleon might be in the mouths of the different classes, with this name each wrote on his ballot: Down with the party of the National, down with Caivaignac, down with the Constituent Assembly, down with the bourgeois republic. Minister Dufaure publicly declared in the Constituent Assembly: December 10 is a second February 24.

Petty bourgeoisie and proletariat had voted en bloc for Napoleon, in order to vote against Cavaignac and, by pooling their votes, to wrest the final decision from the Constituent Assembly. The more advanced sections of the two classes, however, put forward their own candidates. Napoleon was the collective name of all parties in coalition against the bourgeois republic; Ledru-Rollin and Raspail were the proper names, the former of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, the latter of the revolutionary proletariat. The votes for Raspail – the proletarians and their socialist spokesmen declared it loudly – were to be merely a demonstration, so many protests against any presidency, that is, against the constitution itself, so many votes against Ledru-Rollin, the first act by which the proletariat, as an independent political party, declared its separation from the democratic party. This party, on the other hand – the democratic petty bourgeoisie and its parliamentary representative, the Montagne[6] – treated the candidature of Ledru-Rollin with all the seriousness with which it is in the habit of solemnly duping itself. For the rest, this was its last attempt to set itself up as an independent party, as against the proletariat. Not only the republican bourgeois party, but also the democratic petty bourgeoisie and its Montagne were beaten on December 10.

France now possessed a Napoleon side by side with a Montagne, proof that both were only the lifeless caricatures of the great realities whose names they bore. Louis Napoleon, with the emperor’s hat and the eagle, parodied the old Napoleon no more miserably than the Montagne, with its phrases borrowed from 1793 and its demagogic poses, parodied the old Montagne. Thus the traditional 1793 superstition was stripped off at the same time as the traditional Napoleon superstition. The revolution had come into its own only when it had won its own, its original name, and it could do that only when the modern revolutionary class, the industrial proletariat, came dominatingly into its foreground. One can say that December 10 dumbfounded the Montagne and caused it to grow confused in its own mind, if for no other reason than because that day laughingly cut short with a contemptuous peasant jest the classical analogy to the old revolution.

On December 20 Cavaignac laid down his office and the Constituent Assembly proclaimed Louis Napoleon President of the Republic, On December 19, the last day of its sole rule, it rejected the proposal for amnesty for the June insurgents. Would revoking the decree of June 27, under which it had condemned 15,000 insurgents to deportation without judicial sentence, not have meant revoking the June battle itself.

Odilon Barrot, the last minister of Louis Philippe, became the first minister of Louis Napoleon. Just as Louis Napoleon dated his rule, not from December 10, but from a decree of the Senate of 1804, so he found a prime minister who did not date his ministry from December 20, but from a royal decree of February 24.[88] As the legitimate heir of Louis Philippe, Louis Napoleon mollified the change of government by retaining the old ministry, which, moreover, had not had time to be worn out, since it had not found time to embark upon life.

The leaders of the royalist bourgeois factions advised him in this choice. The head of the old dynastic opposition, who had unconsciously constituted the transition to the republicans of the National, was still more fitted to constitute with full consciousness the transition from the bourgeois republic to the monarchy.

Odilon Barrot was the leader of the one old opposition party which, always fruitlessly struggling for ministerial portfolios, had not yet been used up. In rapid succession the revolution hurled all the old opposition parties to the top of the state, so that they would have to deny, to repudiate their old phrases not only in deeds but even in words, and might finally be flung all together, combined in a repulsive commixture, on the dung heap of history by the people. And no apostasy was spared this Barrot, this incarnation of bourgeois liberalism, who for eighteen years had hidden the rascally vacuity of his mind behind the serious demeanor of his body. If at certain moments the far too striking contrast between the thistles of the present and the laurels of the past startled the man himself, one glance in the mirror gave him back his ministerial composure and human self-admiration. What beamed at him from the mirror was Guizot, whom he had always envied, who had always mastered him, Guizot himself, but Guizot with the Olympian forehead of Odilon. What he overlooked were the ears of Midas.

The Barrot of February 24 first became manifest in the Barrot of December 20. Associated with him, the Orléanist and Voltairean, was the Legitimist and Jesuit Falloux, as Minister of Public Worship.

A few days later, the Ministry of Home Affairs was given to Léon Faucher, the Malthusian. Law, religion, and political economy! The ministry of Barrot contained all this and, in addition, a combination of Legitimists and Orléanists. Only the Bonapartist was lacking. Bonaparte still hid his longing to signify Napoleon, for Soulouque did not yet play Toussaint Louverture.

The party of the National was immediately relieved of all the higher posts, where it had entrenched itself. The prefecture of police, the post-office directorship, the procuratorship general, the mairie [mayor’s office] of Paris were all filled with old creatures of the monarchy. Changarnier, the Legitimist, received the unified supreme command of the National Guard of the Department of the Seine, of the Mobile Guard and the troops of the line of the first military division; Bugeaud, the Orléanist, was appointed commander in chief of the Alpine Army. This change of officials continued uninterrupted under the Barrot government. The first act of his ministry was the restoration of the old royalist administration. The official scene was at once transformed – scenery, costumes, speech, actors, supers, mutes, prompters, the position of the parties, the theme of the drama, the content of the conflict, the whole situation. Only the premundane Constituent Assembly remained in its place. But from the hour when the National Assembly had installed Bonaparte, Bonaparte Barrot, and Barrot Changarnier, France stepped out of the period of republican constitution into the period of the constituted republic. And what place was there for a Constituent Assembly in a constituted republic? After the earth had been created, there was nothing else for its creator to do but flee to heaven. The Constituent Assembly was determined not to follow his example; the National Assembly was the last asylum of the party of the bourgeois republicans. If all levers of executive power had been wrested from it, was there not left to it constituent omnipotence? Its first thought was to hold under all circumstances the position of sovereignty it occupied, and thence to reconquer the lost ground. Once the Barrot Ministry was displaced by a ministry of the National, the royalist personnel would have to vacate the palaces of the administration forthwith and the tricolor personnel would triumphantly move in again. The National Assembly resolved on the overthrow of the ministry and the ministry itself offered an opportunity for the attack, a better one than the Constituent Assembly itself could have invented.

It will be remembered that for the peasants Louis Bonaparte signified: No more taxes! Six days he sat in the President’s chair, and on the seventh, on December 27, his ministry proposed the retention of the salt tax, whose abolition the Provisional Government had decreed. The salt tax shares with the wine tax the privilege of being the scapegoat of the old French financial system, particularly in the eyes of the country folk. The Barrot Ministry could not have put into the mouth of the peasants’ choice a more mordant epigram on his electors than the words: Restoration of the salt tax! With the salt tax, Bonaparte lost his revolutionary salt – the Napoleon of the peasant insurrection dissolved like an apparition, and nothing remained but the great unknown of royalist bourgeois intrigue. And not without intention did the Barrot Ministry make this act of tactlessly rude disillusionment the first governmental act of the President.

The Constituent Assembly, for its part, eagerly seized the double opportunity of overthrowing the ministry and, as against the elected choice of the peasantry, setting itself up as the representative of peasant interests. It rejected the proposal of the finance minister, reduced the salt tax to a third of its former amount, thus increasing by sixty millions a state deficit of five hundred and sixty millions, and, after this vote of no confidence, calmly awaited the resignation of the ministry. So little did it comprehend the new world that surrounded it and its own changed position. Behind the ministry stood the President and behind the President stood six millions who had placed in the ballot box as many votes of no confidence in the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly gave the nation back its no-confidence vote. Absurd exchange! It forgot that its votes were no longer legal tender. The rejection of the salt tax only matured the decision of Bonaparte and his ministry to finish the Constituent Assembly. There began that long duel which lasted the entire latter half of the life of the Constituent Assembly. January 29, March 31, and May 8 are the journées, the great days of this crisis, just so many forerunners of June 13.

Frenchmen, for example Louis Blanc, have construed January 29 as the date of the emergence of a constitutional contradiction, the contradiction between a sovereign, indissoluble National Assembly born of universal suffrage and a President who, to go by the wording, was responsible to the Assembly, but who, to go by reality, was not only similarly sanctioned by universal suffrage and in addition united in his own person all the votes that were split up a hundred times and distributed among the individual members of the National Assembly, but who was also in full possession of the whole executive power, above which the National Assembly hovered as a merely moral force. This interpretation of January 29 confuses the language of the struggle on the platform, through the press, and in the clubs with its real content. Louis Bonaparte as against the Constituent National Assembly – that was not one unilateral constitutional power as against another; that was not the executive power as against the legislative. That was the constituted bourgeois republic itself as against the intrigues and ideological demands of the revolutionary faction of the bourgeoisie that had founded it and was now amazed to find that its constituted republic looked like a restored monarchy, and now desired forcibly to prolong the constituent period with its conditions, its illusions, its language, and its personages and to prevent the mature bourgeois republic from emerging in its complete and peculiar form. As the Constituent National Assembly represented Cavaignac, who had fallen back into its midst, so Bonaparte represented the Legislative National Assembly that had not yet been divorced from him, that is, the National Assembly of the constituted bourgeois republic.

The election of Bonaparte could become explicable only, by putting in the place of the one name its manifold meanings, by repeating itself in the election of the new National Assembly. The mandate of the old was annulled by December 10. Thus on January 29 it was not the President and the National Assembly of the same republic that were face to face; it was the National Assembly of the republic that was coming into being and the President of the republic that had come into being, two powers that embodied quite different periods in the life process of the republic; the one, the small republican faction of the bourgeoisie that alone could proclaim the republic, wrest it from the revolutionary proletariat by street fighting and a reign of terror, and draft its ideal basic features in the constitution; and the other, the whole royalist mass of the bourgeoisie that alone could rule in this constituted bourgeois republic, strip the constitution of its ideological trimmings, and realize by its legislation and administration the indispensable conditions for the subjugation of the proletariat.

The storm which broke on January 29 gathered its elements during the whole month of January. The Constituent Assembly wanted to drive the Barrot Ministry to resign by its no-confidence vote. The Barrot Ministry, on the other hand, proposed to the Constituent Assembly that it should give itself a definitive no-confidence vote, decide on suicide, and decree its own dissolution. On January 6, Rateau, one of the most obscure deputies, at the order of the ministry brought this motion before the Constituent Assembly that in August had determined not to dissolve until it had enacted a whole series of organic laws supplementing the constitution. Fould, the ministerialist, bluntly declared to it that its dissolution was necessary “for the restoration of the deranged credit.” And did it not derange credit when it prolonged the provisional stage and, with Barrot, again called Bonaparte in question, and, with Bonaparte, the constituted republic Barrot the Olympian became a raving Roland at the prospect of seeing the premiership he had finally pocketed, which the republicans had already withheld from him for ten months, again torn from him after scarcely two weeks’ enjoyment of it. Barrot, confronting this wretched Assembly, out–tyrannized the tyrant. His mildest words were, “No future is possible with it.” And actually it did represent only the past. “It is incapable,” he added ironically, “of providing the republic with the institutions which are necessary for its consolidation.” Incapable indeed! Its bourgeois energy was broken simultaneously with its exceptional antagonism to the proletariat, and with its antagonism to the royalists its republican exuberance lived anew. Thus it was doubly incapable of consolidating the bourgeois republic, which it no longer comprehended, by means of the corresponding institutions.

Simultaneously with Rateau’s motion the ministry evoked a storm of petitions throughout the land, and from all corners of France came flying daily at the head of the Constituent Assembly bundles of billets-doux [love-letters] in which it was more or less categorically requested to dissolve and make its will. The Constituent Assembly, on its side, called forth counter-petitions in which it caused itself to be requested to remain alive. The election struggle between Bonaparte and Cavaignac was renewed as a petition struggle for and against the dissolution of the National Assembly; the petitions were to be belated commentaries on December 10. This agitation continued during the whole of January.

In the conflict between the Constituent Assembly and the President, the former could not refer back to the general election as its origin, for the appeal was from the Assembly to universal suffrage. It could base itself on no regularly constituted power, for the issue was the struggle against the legal power. It could not overthrow the ministry by no-confidence votes, as it again essayed to do on January 6 and 26, for the ministry did not ask for its confidence. Only one possibility was left to it, that of insurrection. The fighting forces of the insurrection were the republican part of the National Guard, the Mobile Guard, and the centers of the revolutionary proletariat, the clubs. The Mobile Guard, those heroes of the June days, in December formed the organized fighting force of the republican faction of the bourgeoisie, just as before June the national ateliers had formed the organized fighting force of the revolutionary proletariat. As the Executive Commission of the Constituent Assembly directed its brutal attack on the national ateliers, when it had to put an end to the now unbearable pretensions of the proletariat, so the ministry of Bonaparte directed its attack on the Mobile Guard, when it had to put an end to the now unbearable pretensions of the republican faction of the bourgeoisie. It ordered the disbanding of the Mobile Guard. One half of it was dismissed and thrown on the street, the other was organized on monarchist instead of democratic lines, and its pay was reduced to the usual pay of troops of the line. The Mobile Guard found itself in the position of the June insurgents and every day the press carried public confessions in which it admitted its blame for June and implored the proletariat to forgive it.

And the clubs? From the moment when the Constituent Assembly in the person of Barrot called in question the President, and in the person of the President the constituted bourgeois republic, and in the person of the constituted bourgeois republic the bourgeois republic in general, all the constituent elements of the February Republic necessarily ranged themselves around it – all the parties that wished to overthrow the existing republic and by a violent retrograde process to transform it into a republic of their class interests and principles. The scrambled eggs were unscrambled, the crystallisations of the revolutionary movement had again become fluid, the republic that was being fought for was again the indefinite republic of the February days, the defining of which each party reserved to itself. For a moment the parties again took up their old February positions, without sharing the illusions of February. The tricolor republicans on the National again leaned on the democratic republicans of the Réforme and pushed them as protagonists into the foreground of the parliamentary struggle. The democratic republicans again leaned on the socialist republicans – on January 27 a public manifesto announced their reconciliation and union – and prepared their insurrectional background in the clubs. The ministerial press rightly treated the tricolor republicans of the National as the resurrected insurgents of June. In order to maintain themselves at the head of the bourgeois republic, they called in question the bourgeois republic itself. On January 26 Minister Faucher proposed a law on the right of association,[89] the first paragraph of which read: “Clubs are forbidden.” He moved that this bill immediately be discussed as urgent. The Constituent Assembly rejected the motion of urgency, and on January 27 Ledru-Rollin put forward a proposition, with 230 signatures appended to it, to impeach the ministry for violation of the constitution. The impeachment of the ministry at times when such an act was a tactless disclosure of the impotence of the judge, to wit, the majority of the Chamber, or an impotent protest of the accuser against this majority itself – that was the great revolutionary trump that the latter-day Montagne played from now on at each high spot of the crisis. Poor Montagne! crushed by the weight of its own name!

On May 15 Blanqui, Barbès, Raspall, etc., had attempted to break up the Constituent Assembly by forcing an entrance into its hall at the head of the Paris proletariat. Barrot prepared a moral May 15 for the same Assembly when he wanted to dictate its self-dissolution and close the hall. The same Assembly had commissioned Barrot to make the inquiry against the May accused, and now, at the moment when he appeared before it like a royalist Blanqui, when it sought for allies against him in the clubs, among the revolutionary proletarians, in the party of Blanqui – at this moment the relentless Barrot tormented it with the proposal to withdraw the May prisoners from the Court of Assizes with its jury and hand them over to the High Court, the haute cour devised by the party of the National. Remarkable how wild fear for a ministerial portfolio could pound out of the head of a Barrot points worthy of a Beaumarchais! After much vacillation the National Assembly accepted his proposal. As against the makers of the May attempt, it reverted to its normal character.

If the Constituent Assembly, as against the President and the ministers, was driven to insurrection, the President and the ministers, as against the Constituent Assembly, were driven to a coup d’etat, for they had no legal means of dissolving it. But the Constituent Assembly was the mother of the constitution and the constitution was the mother of the President. With the coup d’etat the President tore up the constitution and extinguished his republican legal title. He was then forced to pull out his imperial legal title, but the imperial legal title woke up the Orléanist legal title and both paled before the Legitimist legal title. The downfall of the legal republic could shoot to the top only its extreme antipode, the Legitimist monarchy, at a moment when the Orléanist party was still only the vanquished of February and Bonaparte was still only the victor of December 10, when both could oppose to republican usurpation only their likewise usurped monarchist titles. The Legitimists were aware of the propitiousness of the moment; they conspired openly. They could hope to find their Monk[90] in General Changarnier. The imminence of the white monarchy was as openly announced in their clubs as was that of the red republic in the proletarian clubs.

The ministry would have escaped all difficulties by a happily suppressed rising. “Legality is the death of us,” cried Odilon Barrot. A rising would have allowed it, under the pretext of salut public [public safety], to dissolve the Constituent Assembly, to violate the constitution in the interests of the constitution itself. The brutal behavior of Odilon Barrot in the National Assembly, the motion for the dissolution of the clubs, the tumultuous removal of fifty tricolor prefects and their replacement by royalists, the dissolution of the Mobile Guard, the ill treatment of their chiefs by Changarnier, the reinstatement of Lerminier, the professor who was impossible even under Guizot, the toleration of the Legitimist braggadocio – all these were just so many provocations to mutiny. But the mutiny remained mute. It expected its signal from the Constituent Assembly and not from the ministry.

Finally came January 29, the day the decision was to be taken on the motion of Mathieu (de la Drôme) for unconditional rejection of Rateau’s motion. Legitimists, Orléanists, Bonapartists, Mobile Guard, Montagne, clubs – all conspired on this day, each just as much against the ostensible enemy as against the ostensible ally. Bonaparte, on horseback, mustered a part of the troops on the Place de la Concorde; Changarnier play-acted with a display of strategic maneuvers; the Constituent Assembly found its building occupied by the military. This Assembly, the center of all the conflicting hopes, fears, expectations, ferments, tensions, and conspiracies, this lionhearted Assembly did not falter for a moment when it came nearer to the Weltgeist [world spirit] than ever. It was like the fighter who not only feared to make use of his own weapons but also felt himself obliged to maintain the weapons of his opponent unimpaired. Scorning death, it signed its own death warrant and rejected the unconditional rejection of the Rateau motion. Itself in a state of siege, it set limits to a constituent activity whose necessary frame had been the state of siege of Paris. It revenged itself worthily when on the following day it instituted an inquiry into the fright that the ministry had given it on January 29. In this great comedy of intrigues the Montagne showed its lack of revolutionary energy and political understanding by allowing itself to be used by the party of the National as the crier in the contest. The party of the National had made its last attempt to continue to maintain, in the constituted republic, the monopoly of rule it had possessed during the inchoate period of the bourgeois republic. It was shipwrecked.

While in the January crisis it was a question of the existence of the Constituent Assembly, in the crisis of March 21 it was a question of the existence of the constitution – there of the personnel of the National party, here of its ideal. There is no need to point out that the respectable republicans surrendered the exaltation of their ideology more cheaply than the worldly enjoyment of governmental power.

On March 21 Faucher’s bill against the right of association: the suppression of the clubs was on the order of the day in the National Assembly. Article 8 of the constitution guarantees to all Frenchmen the right to associate. The prohibition of the clubs was therefore an unequivocal violation of the constitution, and the Constituent Assembly itself was to canonize the profanation of its holy of holies. But the clubs – these were the gathering points, the conspiratorial seats of the revolutionary proletariat. The National Assembly had itself forbidden the coalition of the workers against its bourgeois. And the clubs – what were they but a coalition of the whole working class against the whole bourgeois class, the formation of a workers’ state against the bourgeois state? Were they not just so many constituent assemblies of the proletariat and just so many military detachments of revolt in fighting trim – what the constitution was to constitute above all else was the rule of the bourgeoisie. By the right of association the constitution, therefore, could manifestly mean only associations that harmonized with the rule of the bourgeoisie, that is, with bourgeois order. If for reasons of theoretical propriety it expressed itself in general terms, were not the government and the National Assembly there to interpret and apply it in a special case? And if in the primeval epoch of the republic the clubs actually were forbidden by the state of siege, had they not to be forbidden in the ordered, constituted republic by the law? The tri-color republicans had nothing to oppose to this prosaic interpretation of the constitution but the high-flown phraseology of the constitution. A section of them, Pagnerre, Duclerc, etc., voted for the ministry and thereby gave it a majority. The others, with the archangel Cavaignac and the father of the church Marrast at their head, retired, after the article on the prohibition of the clubs had gone through, to a special committee room, jointly with Ledru-Rollin and the Montagne – “and held a council.” The National Assembly was paralyzed; it no longer had a quorum. At the right time, M. Crémieux remembered in the committee room that the way from here led directly to the street and that it was no longer February, 1848, but March, 1849. The party of the National, suddenly enlightened, returned to the National Assembly’s hall of session, behind it the Montagne, duped once more. The latter, constantly tormented by revolutionary longings, just as constantly clutched at constitutional possibilities, and still felt itself more in place behind the bourgeois republicans than in front of the revolutionary proletariat. Thus the comedy was played. And the Constituent Assembly itself had decreed that the violation of the letter of the constitution was the only appropriate realization of its spirit.

There was only one point left to settle, the relation of the constituted republic to the European revolution, its foreign policy. On May 8, 1849, unwonted excitement prevailed in the Constituent Assembly, whose term of life was due to end in a few days. The attack of the French army on Rome, its repulse by the Romans,[91] its political infamy and military disgrace, the foul assassination of the Roman republic by the French republic – the first Italian campaign of the second Bonaparte – was on the order of the day. The Montagne had once more played its great trump; Ledru-Rollin had laid on the President’s table the inevitable bill of impeachment against the ministry, and this time also against Bonaparte, for violation of the constitution.

The motive of May 8 was repeated later as the motive of June 13. Let us get clear about the expedition to Rome.

As early as the middle of November, 1848, Cavaignac had sent a battle fleet to Civita Vecchia in order to protect the Pope, to take him on board and ship him over to France. The Pope was to consecrate the respectable republic, and to insure the election of Cavaignac as President. With the Pope, Cavaignac wanted to angle for the priests, with the priests for the peasants, and with the peasants for the presidency. The expedition of Cavaignac, an election advertisement in its immediate purpose, was at the same time a protest and a threat against the Roman revolution. It contained in embryo France’s intervention in favor of the Pope.

This intervention on behalf of the Pope, in association with Austria and Naples against the Roman republic, was decided at the first meeting of Bonaparte’s ministerial council, on December 23. Falloux in the ministry – that meant the Pope in Rome – and in the Rome of the Pope. Bonaparte no longer needed the Pope in order to become the President of the peasants; but he needed the conservation of the Pope in order to conserve the peasants of the President. Their credulity had made him President. With faith they would lose credulity, and with the Pope, faith. And the Orléanists and Legitimists in coalition, who ruled in Bonaparte’s name! Before the king was restored, the power that consecrates kings had to be restored. Apart from their royalism: without the old Rome, subject to his temporal rule, no Pope; without the Pope, no Catholicism; without Catholicism, no French religion, and without religion, what would become of the old French society? The mortgage the peasant has on heavenly possessions guarantees the mortgage the bourgeois has on peasant possessions. The Roman revolution was therefore an attack on property, on the bourgeois order, dreadful as the June Revolution. Reestablished bourgeois rule in France required the restoration of papal rule in Rome. Finally, to smite the Roman revolutionists was to smite the allies of the French revolutionists; the alliance of the counterrevolutionary classes in the constituted French republic was necessarily supplemented by the alliance of the French republic with the Holy Alliance, with Naples and Austria.

The decision of the ministerial council on December 23 was no secret to the Constituent Assembly. On January 8 Ledru-Rollin had interpellated the ministry about it; the ministry had denied it and the National Assembly had proceeded to the order of the day. Did it trust the word of the ministry? We know it spent the whole month of January giving the ministry no-confidence votes. But if it was part of the ministry’s role to lie, it was part of the National Assembly’s role to feign belief in its lie and thereby save republican dehors [face].

Meanwhile Piedmont was beaten, Charles-Albert had abdicated, and the Austrian army knocked at the gates of France.[92] Ledru-Rollin vehemently interpellated. The ministry proved that it had only continued in North Italy the policy of Cavaignac and Cavaignac only the policy of the Provisional Government, that is, of Ledru-Rollin. This time it even reaped a vote of confidence from the National Assembly and was authorized to occupy temporarily a suitable point in Upper Italy to give support to peaceful negotiations with Austria concerning the integrity of Sardinian territory and the question of Rome. It is known that the fate of Italy is decided on the battlefields of North Italy. Hence Rome would fall with Lombardy and Piedmont, or France would have to declare war on Austria and thereby on the European counterrevolution. Did the National Assembly suddenly take the Barrot Ministry for the old Committee of Public Safety?[93] Or itself for the Convention? Why, then, the military occupation of a point in Upper Italy? This transparent veil covered the expedition against Rome.

On April 14, 14,000 men sailed under Oudinot for Civita Vecchia; on April 16 the National Assembly voted the ministry a credit Of 1,200,000 francs for the maintenance of a fleet of intervention in the Mediterranean Sea for three months. Thus it gave the ministry every means of intervening against Rome, while it adopted the pose of letting it intervene against Austria. It did not see what the ministry did; it only heard what it said. Such faith was not found in Israel; the Constituent Assembly had fallen into the position of not daring to know what the constituted republic had to do.

Finally, on May 8, the last scene of the comedy was played; the Constituent Assembly urged the ministry to take swift measures to bring the Italian expedition back to the aim set for it. Bonaparte that same evening inserted a letter in the Moniteur in which he lavished the greatest appreciation on Oudinot. On May 11 the National Assembly rejected the bill of impeachment against this same Bonaparte and his ministry. And the Montagne, which instead of tearing this web of deceit to pieces took the parliamentary comedy tragically in order to play in it the role of Fouquier-Tinville, did not betray its natural petty bourgeois calf’s hide under the borrowed lion’s skin of the Convention!

The latter half of the life of the Constituent Assembly is summarized thus: on January 29 it admits that the royalist bourgeois factions are the natural superiors of the republic constituted by it; on March 21, that the violation of the constitution is its realization; and on May 11, that the bombastically proclaimed passive alliance of the French republic with the struggling peoples means its active alliance with the European counterrevolution.

This miserable Assembly left the stage after it had given itself the satisfaction, two days before its first birthday, May 4, of rejecting the motion of amnesty for the June insurgents. Its power shattered, held in deadly hatred by the people, repulsed, maltreated, contemptuously thrown aside by the bourgeoisie, whose tool it was, forced in the second half of its life to disavow the first, robbed of its republican illusions, without having created anything great in the past, without hope in the future, and with its living body dying bit by bit, it was able to galvanize its own corpse into life only by continually recalling and living through the June victory over and over again, affirming itself by constantly repeated damnation of the damned. A vampire living on the blood of the June insurgents!

It left behind a state deficit increased by the costs of the June insurrection, by the loss of the salt tax, by the compensation it paid the plantation owners for abolishing Negro slavery, by the costs of the Roman expedition, by the loss of the wine tax, whose abolition it resolved upon when already at its last gasp – a malicious old man, happy to impose on his laughing heir a compromising debt of honor.

With the beginning of March the agitation for the election of the Legislative National Assembly had commenced. Two main groups opposed each other, the party of Order and the democratic socialist, or Red, party; between the two stood the Friends of the Constitution, under which name the tricolor republicans of the National sought to put forward a party. The party of Order was formed directly after the June days; only after December 10 had allowed it to cast off the coterie of the National, of the bourgeois republicans, was the secret of its existence, the coalition of Orléanists and Legitimists into one party, disclosed. The bourgeois class fell apart into two big factions which alternately – the big landed proprietors under the restored monarchy and the finance aristocracy and the industrial bourgeoisie under the July Monarchy – had maintained a monopoly of power. Bourbon was the royal name for the predominant influence of the interests of the one faction, Orléans the royal name for the predominant influence of the interests of the other faction – the nameless realm of the republic was the only one in which both factions could maintain with equal power the common class interest without giving up their mutual rivalry. If the bourgeois republic could not be anything but the perfected and clearly expressed rule of the whole bourgeois class, could it be anything but the rule of the Orléanists supplemented by the Legitimists, and of the Legitimists supplemented by the Orléanists, the synthesis of the Restoration and the July Monarchy. The bourgeois republicans of the National did not represent any large faction of their class resting on economic foundations. They possessed only the importance and the historical claim of having asserted, under the monarchy, as against the two bourgeois factions that understood only their particular regime, the general regime of the bourgeois class, the nameless realm of the republic, which they idealized and embellished with antique arabesques, but in which above all they hailed the rule of their coterie. If the party of the National grew confused in its own mind when it descried the royalists in coalition at the top of the republic founded by it, these royalists deceived themselves no less concerning the fact of their united rule. They did not comprehend that if each of their factions, regarded separately, by itself, was royalist, the product of their chemical combination had necessarily to be republican, that the white and the blue monarchy had to neutralize each other in the tricolor republic. Forced by antagonism to the revolutionary proletariat and the transition classes thronging more and more around it as their center to summon their united strength and to conserve the organization of this united strength, each faction of the party of Order had to assert, as against the desire for restoration and the overweening presumption of the other, their joint rule, that is, the republican form of bourgeois rule. Thus we find these royalists in the beginning believing in an immediate restoration, later preserving the republican form with foaming rage and deadly invective against it on their lips, and finally confessing that they can endure each other only in the republic and postponing the restoration indefinitely. The enjoyment of the united rule itself strengthened each of the two factions, and made each of them still more unable and unwilling to subordinate itself to the other, that is, to restore the monarchy.

The party of Order directly proclaimed in its election program the rule of the bourgeois class, that is, the preservation of the life conditions of its rule: property, family, religion, order! Naturally it represented its class rule and the conditions of its class rule as the rule of civilization and as the necessary conditions of material production as well as of the relations of social intercourse arising from it. The party of Order had enormous money and resources at its command; it organized its branches throughout France – it had all the ideologists of the old society in its pay – it had the influence of the existing governmental power at its disposal; it possessed an army of unpaid vassals in the whole mass of petty bourgeois and peasants, who, still removed from the revolutionary movement, found in the high dignitaries of property the natural representatives of their petty prejudices. This party, represented throughout the country by countless petty kings, could punish the rejection of their candidates as insurrection, dismiss the rebellious workers, the recalcitrant farm hands, domestic servants, clerks, railway officials, copyists, all the functionaries civilly subordinate to it. Finally, here and there it could maintain the delusion that the republican Constituent Assembly had prevented the Bonaparte of December 10 from manifesting his wonderworking powers. We have not mentioned the Bonapartists in connection with the party of Order. They were not a serious faction of the bourgeois class, but a collection of old, superstitious invalids and young, unbelieving soldiers of fortune. The party of Order was victorious in the elections; it sent a large majority to the Legislative Assembly.

As against the coalesced counterrevolutionary bourgeois class, the sections of the petty bourgeoisie and peasant class already revolutionized naturally had to ally themselves with the high dignitary of revolutionary interests, the revolutionary proletariat. We have seen how the democratic spokesmen of the petty bourgeoisie in parliament, that is, the Montagne, were driven by parliamentary defeats to the socialist spokesmen of the proletariat, and how the actual petty bourgeoisie, outside of parliament, was driven by the concordats à l’amiable [friendly agreements], by the brutal enforcement of bourgeois interests, and by bankruptcy to the actual proletarians. On January 27 Montagne and the socialists had celebrated their reconciliation; at the great banquet of February, 1849, they repeated their act of union. The social and the democratic party, the party of the workers and that of the petty bourgeois, united to form the Social-Democratic party, that is, the Red party.

Paralyzed for a moment by the agony that followed the June days, the French republic had lived through a continuous series of feverish excitements since the raising of the state of siege, since October 14. First the struggle for the presidency, then the struggle between the President and the Constituent Assembly; the struggle for the clubs; the trial of Bourges which, in contrast with the petty figures of the President, the coalesced royalists, the respectable republicans, the democratic Montagne, and the socialist doctrines of the proletariat, caused the proletariat’s real revolutionists to appear as primordial monsters such as only a deluge leaves behind on the surface of society, or such as could only precede a social deluge; the election agitation; the execution of the Bréa murderers;[95] the continual proceedings against the press; the violent interference of the government with the banquets by police action; the insolent royalist provocations; the exhibition of the portraits of Louis Blanc and Caussidière on the pillory; the unbroken struggle between the constituted republic and the Constituent Assembly, which each moment drove the revolution back to its starting point, which each moment made the victors the vanquished and the vanquished the victors and in an instant changed around the positions of the parties and the classes, their separations and connections; the rapid march of the European counterrevolution; the glorious Hungarian fight; the armed uprisings in Germany;[96] the Roman expedition; the ignominious defeat of the French army before Rome – in this vortex of the movement, in this torment of historical unrest, in this dramatic ebb and flow of revolutionary passions, hopes, and disappointments, the different classes of French society had to count their epochs of development in weeks when they had previously counted them in half-centuries. A considerable part of the peasants and of the provinces was revolutionized. Not only were they disappointed in Napoleon, but the Red party offered them, instead of the name, the content, instead of illusory freedom from taxation, repayment of the milliard paid to the Legitimists, the adjustment of mortgages, and the abolition of usury.

The army itself was infected with the revolutionary fever. In voting for Bonaparte it had voted for victory, and he gave it defeat. In him it had voted for the Little Corporal [Napoleon] behind whom the great revolutionary general is concealed, and he once more gave it the great generals behind whom the pipe-clay corporal shelters himself. There was no doubt that the Red party, that is, the coalesced democratic party, was bound to celebrate, if not victory, still, great triumphs; that Paris, the army, and a great part of the provinces would vote for it. Ledru-Rollin, the leader of the Montagne, was elected by five departments; no leader of the party of Order carried off such a victory, no candidate belonging to the proletarian party proper. This election reveals to us the secret of the democratic-socialist party. If, on the one hand, the Montagne, the parliamentary champion of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, was forced to unite with the socialist doctrinaires of the proletariat – the proletariat, forced by the terrible material defeat of June to raise itself up again through intellectual victories and not yet enabled through the development of the remaining classes to seize the revolutionary dictatorship, had to throw itself into the arms of the doctrinaires of its emancipation, the founders of socialist sects – the revolutionary peasants, the army, and the provinces, on the other hand, ranged themselves behind the Montagne, which thus became lord and master in the revolutionary army camp and through the understanding with the socialists eliminated every antagonism in the revolutionary party. In the latter half of the life of the Constituent Assembly it represented the Assembly’s republican fervor and caused to be buried in oblivion its sins during the Provisional Government, during the Executive Commission, during the June days. In the same measure as the party of the National, in accordance with its half-and-half nature, had allowed itself to be put down by the royalist ministry, the party of the Mountain, which had been brushed aside during the omnipotence of the National, rose and asserted itself as the parliamentary representative of the revolution. In fact, the party of the National had nothing to oppose to the other, royalist factions but ambitious personalities and idealistic humbug. The party of the Mountain, on the contrary, represented a mass hovering between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, a mass whose material interests demanded democratic institutions. In comparison with the Cavaignacs and the Marrasts, Ledru-Rollin and the Montagne, therefore, represented the true revolution, and from the consciousness of this important situation they drew the greater courage the more the expression of revolutionary energy limited itself to parliamentary attacks, bringing in bills of impeachment, threats, raised voices, thundering speeches, and extremes which were pushed only as far as phrases. The peasants were in about the same position as the petty bourgeoisie; they had more or less the same social demands to put forward. All the middle strata of society, so far as they were driven into the revolutionary movement, were therefore bound to find their hero in Ledru-Rollin. Ledru-Rollin was the personage of the democratic petty bourgeoisie. As against the party of Order, the half-conservative, half-revolutionary, and wholly utopian reformers of this order had first to be pushed to the forefront.

The party of the National, “the Friends of the Constitution quand même [as is],” the républicains purs et simples [republicans pure and simple], were completely defeated in the elections. A tiny minority of them was sent into the Legislative Chamber; their most noted leaders vanished from the stage, even Marrast, the editor in chief and the Orpheus of the respectable republic.

On May 28 the Legislative Assembly convened; on June 11 the collision of May 8 was renewed and, in the name of the Montagne, Ledru-Rollin brought in a bill of impeachment against the President and the ministry for violation of the constitution, for the bombardment of Rome. On June 12 the Legislative Assembly rejected the bill of impeachment, just as the Constituent Assembly had rejected it on May 11, but the proletariat this time drove the Montagne onto the streets – not to a street battle, however, but only to a street procession. It is enough to say that the Montagne was at the head of this movement to know that the movement was defeated, and that June, 1849, was a caricature, as ridiculous as it was vile, of June, 1848. The great retreat of June 13 was eclipsed only by the still greater battle report of Changarnier, the great man that the party of Order improvised. Every social epoch needs its great men, and when it does not find them, it invents them, as Helvétius says.

On December 20 only one half of the constituted bourgeois republic was in existence: the President; on May 28 it was completed by the other half, the Legislative Assembly. In June, 1848, the constituent bourgeois republic, by an unspeakable battle against the proletariat, and in June, 1849, the constituted bourgeois republic, by an unutterable comedy with the petty bourgeoisie, engraved their names in the birth register of history. June, 1849, was the nemesis of June, 1848. In June, 1849, it was not the workers that were vanquished; it was the petty bourgeois, who stood between them and the revolution, that were felled. June, I849, was not a bloody tragedy between wage labor and capital, but a prison-filling and lamentable play of debtors and creditors. The party of Order had won, it was all-powerful; it had now to show what it was.



6. The Jacobins, who sat in the “Montagne,” or raised seats at the back, in the French National Convention, which met in Paris in September, 1792.