Background notes on Marx's "18th Brumaire"

Submitted by martin on 25 January, 2012 - 8:01

Timeline of events

Since 1830 France had been ruled by the Orleanist faction of the monarchy. It was more liberal than the Bourbons; but "it was not the French bourgeoisie as a whole which ruled but only one fraction of it - bankers, stock-market barons, railway barons, owners of coal and iron mines and forests, a section of landed proprietors... the so-called financial aristocracy" (Marx).

January 1848: street protests in Palermo against the autocratic rule of the king of Naples, followed by similar upheavals in other Italian cities, including those of the north, ruled by Austria.

22 February 1848: the people of Paris come onto the streets and erect barricades in protest against the banning of a liberal banquet. The National Guard turns against the king.

24 February: the king abdicates. Provisional government set up by the previous liberal opposition (around Le National: Lamartine, etc.) It includes some socialistic democrats (whose paper has been La Réforme: Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc).

Social reforms, including National Workshops to create jobs for the unemployed.

March: liberal revolution in Austria. Upheavals in the German states: creation of the Frankfurt Parliament as an all-German counterweight to the existing states.

23 April: elections to Constituent Assembly in France. Conservative rural votes give a majority to more conservative factions. When the assembly meets on 4 May 1848 the conservatives take control of the government and exclude Louis Blanc and other leftists.

15 May: Blanqui and Barbès lead an attempt to dissolve the assembly by force and establish a new emergency government. They are jailed and civil liberties are restricted.

21 June: The conservative-republican government shuts the National Workshops. Workers' protests; street-fighting; suppressed by the new Mobile Guards under the command of Cavaignac; over 3,000 killed, and 15,000 exiled.

(A week earlier an Austrian general has crushed an uprising in Prague. In July another general will re-establish Austrian rule in northern Italy; in October the army will re-establish firm control in Vienna. However, in November the Pope will flee Rome, and a Roman Republic will be established, until the Pope is restored, with the help of the French army, in June 1849).

10 December: elections for president of France: Bonaparte wins thanks to peasant votes.

28 May 1849: elections for National Assembly, to replace Constituent Assembly. Large victory for coalition "Party of Order"; the "Mountain", calling themselves "democratic socialists", come second.

13 June 1849: bourgeois radicals ("The Mountain", led by Ledru-Rollin) stage a protest, especially against the French army's intervention in Rome. They are suppressed, and Ledru-Rollin flees.

10 March 1850: by-elections for National Assembly, to replace left-wing members banned for walking out in protest over the bombardment of Rome. Some leftists, including an outright communist, Paul-Louis de Flotte, are elected.

May 1850: right to vote restricted to householders.

19 July 1851: law put to Assembly to enable president to continue after two-year term specified in November 1848 constitution.

2 December 1851: Bonaparte carries out his coup - dismisses Assembly, restores universal male suffrage. After street protests are suppressed, on 20-21 December a referendum endorses the coup.

7 November 1852: another referendum makes Bonaparte Emperor rather than President, and replaces Second Republic by Second Empire.