The lust of privileges guides the instigators of revolutions
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FRANCE AND GOD

Texts written in a color other than that of this one are quotations whose origin is communicated in bibliography.


CHAPTER 4








The revolutions



I do not know whether we must say fortunately or unfortunately, but by its membership, its size, and its position in old Europe, probably also by its temperate climate and advantageous physical geography, France was often used as an example for many peoples. It is enough to look at how much today, international tourism is visiting our country, to perceive without drawing from it the pride, the interest that it symbolizes in the world. For a majority of those who are looking for cultural bases, their interest for the whole of Europe is very natural, but we must remain concrete and ask ourselves why is France more visited than our neighbors like Germany or England?

After the gradual disappearance of the Roman Empire, and the subsequent fall for a majority of Europe, it was from the Frankish kingdom, and in particular by Charlemagne, that stable Christian structures were born which would last until nowadays over a large part of Europe. In more recent pass, however, but no less perceptible to our immediate neighbors, as well as a large part of the world colonized by this old Europe, was the revolution of 1789.

It is indeed indisputable, "it is the French Revolution which was to see formulating, for the first time, the idea of a social revolution of a communist nature, within the framework of the Conspiracy of the Equals 1". Precursor of so many other movements around the world, it allowed the synthesis of a certain Karl Marx, main instigator of the Soviet revolution of 1917. That is why we will try to define the context of analysis of this man so to use it as a reflection guide.


1) Conspiracy of the Equals: Conjuration led by Babeuf against the Directory in 1796 and 1797, in a context of social exasperation due to the expensive life. The plot was denounced and its instigators were guillotined.


Unlike our neighbor England, whose monarchy had begun for several centuries to make concessions to a parliamentary monarchy, the French monarchy had locked itself into absolutism, of which Louis XIV was the apogee. After the revolution, this absolutism certainly declined from 1790 to 1792 then from 1815 to 1848 in favor of a constitutional monarchy, but never made the complete step towards parliamentarianism which leads to the evolution "From the sovereign king to the sovereign people".

Parliamentary monarchies are the fruit of a long mutation during which the absolute power of the monarch is gradually conquered by the bourgeoisie. Initiated by the latter, which sets up parliaments to limit the royal power, this political system, created in England, served as a model for all European monarchies. Today, the king has only a more or less symbolic role, it is the emanation of the popular power which fixes its destiny.

In England, a country considered as the cradle of parliamentarianism and the reference of parliamentary monarchies, the mutation began as early as the fourteenth century. The incessant and sometimes violent struggles between the royal powers and this of the parliament finally benefited the latter. The transfer of the sovereign's powers to the people was gradual, thus ensuring the durability of the system in which the royal power is reduced to its simplest expression.

This stability made England the most advanced state of all European nations in the "industrial revolution", but what was the benefit for the working classes? From the countryside where they lived badly because exploited by landowners on whom they depended directly, these suffering classes had passed to the city, in an element even more hostile to the poor. From the little land from which they had previously obtained a minimum of survival in the event of famines, they had become entirely dependent on the one who gave them work in a nascent capitalism, more organized to defend profit than social actions.

The problem posed by the rapidity of urban growth in England was dramatically underlined by a cholera epidemic in 1832, although the epidemic was sometimes just as deadly in the countryside. The new industrial cities were concentrated in very small areas, because everyone was going to work on foot. In town, the surface available to each was a function of its economic situation. The very small fraction of the population that owned land, probably less than five percent in a cotton town, often occupied fifty percent of the total area. The working population lived where factories, roads, canals, then railroads, permitted it.

The result was sordid: in the nineteenth century, cities were only smoke and stink, and expensive in rents and human lives for their inhabitants. A decent house could cost a semiskilled worker a quarter of his income, and few families was able ever afford it. Also, slums multiplied in the center of the cities, "crows' nests" of London, Liverpool and Manchester cellars, "China" of Merthyr Tydfil, or new types of "regional" dwellings according to the imagination of the owners and speculators, from Yorkshire "back-to-back" accommodations to tiny "kitchen rooms" and "gut apartments", which housed 70 percent of Glasgow families around 1870.

The housing conditions were bad, the sanitation system still worse. The better-off city-dwellers could create commissions for water supply, sewers, street lighting and roads network, but to the detriment of their poorer neighbors. In many cases, the sewage from a new middle-class neighborhood drained into the water points used by the working population.

The living conditions there were very hard and very unequal, for a large majority of the population, and this made the contemporaries of Toynbee agree, with Karl marks, that until 1848, the capitalist industrialization had not improved the condition of Working classes.

This progress would not have existed if the British bourgeoisie been perfectly upright and had used its power to establish parliamentarianism, in order to benefit all social strata. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and the ruling classes behaved like the monarchy, which they were fighting, against the working classes they were exploiting.

This was also the case in France, because in our country as in every other part of the West, the burghers were already active, rich and powerful in the Middle-Ages. Although in our predominantly Catholic country, the Counter-Reformation had stifled the bourgeoisie for nearly two centuries, the eighteenth century was limited to revive it, waiting for its complete resurrection in the nineteenth century. But the bourgeois of that time was a very diverse being, and it is good to distinguish several types. First there was the one for whom the bourgeoisie was a title and not a function: the person of independent means, the "bourgeois of Paris" for example, whose economic activity remained zero. It was paradoxical to note that the two formulas "live nobly" and live "with bourgeois manner", which seemed to oppose, both meant living without working.

Then there was the bourgeoisie of offices (ecclesiastical or civil), owners of offices, which was one of the clientele of the monarchy and was alienated from the system. These bourgeois, "officers" were gladly motionless and conservative, numbed in the past also in love with their privileges and they did not tolerate any movement other than that of opinions.

A third category included doctors, lawyers, all the liberal professions. Those were supporting relatively little on institutions and on the money. They distinguished themselves differently: by their independence and their skills. It was among them that Diderot gathered to recruit his "Encyclopedic Bourgeoisie".

Finally, the fourth group was that of the commercial professions: the masters and the merchants, those who manufactured and those who sold, but whom were confused most often, not exceeding the framework of the small enterprise; those who produced on a larger scale, and especially the merchants, who were really connected to the circuit of exchange, formed a more dynamic and already conquering bourgeoisie, but where we must see with precaution the ancestors of our capitalists.

Of these four bourgeois categories, the first two were inactive, and only the last played an essential role in the economy.

Unlike its powerful English counterpart, who had been able to fight alone against the monarchy, the luck of the "weak" French bourgeoisie was not to be alone. If it found complicities despite antagonisms, on the side of the privileged persons, it possessed (despite other antagonisms) a "clientele" in the town's people.

The working world of the eighteenth century did not even have indeed a rudimentary unity, nor a touch of class consciousness. The least free among the workers were the "companions", who were bound by the regulations of the corporation and who lived under the roof of their boss, in a proximity that quickly became a solidarity, if not a dependence. The workers who worked in the manufactories of the big cities might perhaps begin to get, by the mere virtue of their gathering, a vague proletarian conscience. But the most independent and well-armed were the artisans, who worked for them on the merchant's or wholesaler's behalf, and who sometimes appeared as little bosses, gathering around them some companions. The craftsman was none the less subject to the "capitalists" on whom he depended both for the raw material and for the commercial outlet. Only his tools belonged exclusively to him.

Hatred and struggle would have been possible between the worker and the bourgeois, for while during the century the bourgeois income rose, the popular purchasing power continued to decline. But the nature and causes of such a contrast prevented it from degenerating and changed the virtual conflict into another conflict.

The difficulties or miseries of the workman were not so much due to low wages as to the price of the foodstuffs. For many years, the wage rate remained a constant, and the worker forgot it to be fascinated by the variable whose rise or fall commanded the vicissitudes of its existence: the price curve, and in particular that of the price of bread. It was the primary expense that, at it alone, consumed half of the worker's income. The consequence was that many have much less thought was given to claiming an increase in wages (a claim that would have opposed the worker to his bourgeois employer) than to demanding a taxation of prices, which diverted the popular anger towards the aristocrat possessor of the lands, beneficiary of feudal rent and hoarder of grain.

The lack of unity and collective consciousness of the townspeople was a boon to the bourgeoisie. The very people whose work it exploited paradoxically became its allies. The aristocrat thus became the common enemy: an enemy of the peasant he despoiled, an enemy of the bourgeois, whose ascension and consecration he prevented, an enemy finally of the city worker, who made him responsible for explosion in prices. So that the contrast was absolute between the structures of society, which was all at the service of the aristocracy, and the social dynamic, where all the forces converged, directly or indirectly, towards a bourgeois progression.

In contrast to the English bourgeoisie, which was persevering since long in leveraging all its weight between the different upper classes to find its place in the sun, the newly revived French bourgeoisie was confronted in the international market by its big sister from across the Channel. It was envious of the privileges obtained by it, but remained nonetheless too weak to obtain the same prerogatives quickly.

Thus even if the bourgeois conscience condemned the aristocratic lifestyle for its sterility, its ostentatious expenditure, there was also an aristocratic consciousness to decide that the bourgeois were the most routine beings in the world, attached to their traditions and their prejudices, deprived at the same time of activity, sensibility and imagination. And when the bourgeois "achieved" or was ennobled, it was to immediately forbid to others the step he had just crossed. No one was then more uncompromising than he to show that the inequality of conditions was required by the progress or existence of any society.

In 1789, in order to achieve its aims, this bourgeoisie having still too little power in itself, just like Archimedes said, give me a fulcrum and I will raise the earth, was going to take support on the people to move the all-powerful kingship. However, this fulcrum was going to turn against it, because of a pre-revolutionary movement in which the "Cahiers de Doléances 1" did not claim in any way the abolition of the kingship, this bourgeoisie will be found, in the first following day, facing a popular revolution that it will have all the trouble in the world to manage in its favor.


1) Cahiers de Doléances: Under the Ancient Régime, documents in which the various assemblies recorded the claims and the wishes that their representatives had to assert during the Estates General.

ut forward.

The people, whom, by effect of group, let himself go to justify his more low instincts towards his persecutors, stoop to reproduce what he condemned at the others!

From the philosophical current born of another part of itself, had already appeared a beginning of collective consciousness of the people, and in particular in some "sans-culottes 1" Parisians, although these remained minority in number compared to a very large part of the peasantry. This peasantry of whom Michelet 2 speaks to us when he evokes the French peasant in his misery ("lying on his manure, poor Job ..."), he was probably no wrong to attract of each one attention to the precariousness of the fate of the majority of the French peasants: those who, from the landless laborer to the parcel laborer or the mediocre sharecropper, fell into the category of what is called the "consumer" peasantry. For these, the eighteenth century had nothing glorious, and the rise in prices that benefited the "seller" peasantry weighed heavily on this world of consumers.


1) Sans-culottes: Revolutionary who belonged to the most popular layers and who wore at that time striped trousers and not the traditional culottes (short pants) of the ancient regime.


2) Michelet: Great French Historian (Paris 1798 - Hyeres 1874).


The philosophical current of the eighteenth century had not only reached the bourgeois classes, for the nobility, eager at the same time to preserve the privileges related to the absolutism of the monarchy, would, however, have liked to acquire the rights that parliamentarianism would have brought to it, without any good sure to lose any of its benefits. Thus the Revolution was the result of the "privileged people" nobility and bourgeoisie, whose political consciousness had sharpened in contact with philosophy, now close enough to the government to know its weaknesses and to wish to participate.

Until 1788, when there was a great divorce between the competing ambitions of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, the struggle against absolutism was carried out by the "Bodies 1", supported at the court by the cabals and led to the opinion by the great hybrid body of parliaments, all united in a common opposition to "ministerial despotism", the opponent in principle almighty, but in fact solitary.

In the struggle against absolutism, the action of the privileged persons had found a paradoxical ally in the philosophy of the Lumières 2 (Enlightenment), yet mortal enemy of "Bodies". As much as religious "tradition", philosophers were, in fact, opposed to "privileges" political and social, "precedents", "traditions", "uses", but especially as "distinctions" and unjustified advantages and abusive. But they were no less to the arbitrary power; and their declamations, besides the climate of revolt which they contributed to create, furnished to each group the proper arms to defend their particular interests. The number and power of privileges was such that no partial action seemed to be able to reduce their number or harmfulness.


1) Bodies: Parts of the State whose members aren’t elected, such as senior civil servants recruited through the “Prestigious University-level College” prestigious university-level college preparing students for senior posts in the civil service and public management, Court of Auditors, administrations, justice...


2) Philosophy of the Lumières: Partisan philosophy against totalitarian religious and political oppressions, appearing from the second half of the seventeenth century and the eighteenth, motor current of many reflections generating the revolution of 1789.


The indispensable reorganization could not therefore come from the "corps" themselves, for which the advantage of each was related with the existence of analogous advantages for the others, whatever were the jealousies and contempt which were existing reciprocally. The very nature of absolute power prevented it from destroying these "Bodies", since it was through them that it ruled over the whole population.

In the powerlessness of traditional authority and the impossibility to arrive at a broad consensus, the regime proved itself incapable of reforming itself by legal and peaceful means. This absolute monarchy buried in the slump of colonial wars had also led the state coffers over-indebtedness, but was supported in this dimension by the head of the church which kept it in the idolatry of the ideas-forces of the ancient monarchy, the divine right was in a certain way, I quote: the keystone; Anointed of the Lord, thaumaturge king, the king is a sacred person, an image of the God the Father.

As everyone knows, this detonating set was going to find the spark that would fire the powders, to give 1789; 1789 and its revolution. A revolution which, for the majority of today a few years after their graduation from school remains only a vague memory of July 14 and the Storming of the Bastille, have nevertheless lasted ten years. Ten years in which, beyond the failure of the system, important changes in society were to emerge, and according to the observer was going to give different currents of thought throughout the world in the following generations, until today.

After the declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the destruction of feudalism both accomplished in 1789, the sale of national property confiscated to the clergy, allowed the bourgeois revolution by this massive expropriation which touched nearly one tenth of the territory national, to attach by extremely strong links the group of those whom we saw, at the fire of the auctions in 1790 and 1791, to benefit from "the windfall".

Consolidation on one side, break-up on the other: the nationalization of ecclesiastical property was inseparable from the functionalized by the civil Constitution of the clergy, passed on July 12, 1790.

In these same days in Paris, despite the rain and unpreparedness (palliated by the voluntary work of thousands of citizens) and especially the oath without heat of Louis XVI 1, the feast of the Federation (July 14, 1790) was the ultimate manifestation of a Revolution which still wished to believe in its perfect unanimity.


1) Louis XVI (sixteenth) (1754-1793) Last French absolute monarch (1774-1789), then King of the French (1789-1792) was guillotined on 21 January 1793.  The young king will appear indecisive, subjected to the influences of his entourage, particularly to that of the queen.


By this new civil Constitution of the clergy, bishops and parish priests who had become elected officials within the framework of the new administrative divisions, had to take the civic oath, which did not help the cohesion. The hostility of Pope Pius VI, his formal condemnation of "Jurors 1" in April 1791, introduced an irremediable flaw in a revolutionary world that tried to preserve the myth of national unanimity. This break in the coming months and years would be of great importance in a popular opinion whose religious factor was an element of polarization.


1) Jurors or intruders: Appellation of the priests (less than 50%) and the totality of the bishops except five, who had taken oath to the civil Constitution of the clergy.  


A year later, the scene had changed: what the revolutionary iconography presents to us on July 17, 1791 with a grim reminder of the Federation is the shooting of the Champ de Mars. Prompted by the Cordeliers club 1, the Parisian petitioners demanded the king's deposition. Bailly, mayor of Paris, La Fayette, commander of the National Guard, had martial law proclaimed and fired against the demonstrators (revolutionaries on another side): the break was going to prove definitive between the popular revolution and a certain bourgeois revolution.


1) Club des Cordeliers: Revolutionary club founded in April 1790 had for leaders Danton, Marat, Camille Desmoulins, Hébert, Chaumette. He played a decisive role in the removal of the monarchy and disappeared in March 1794, during the elimination of his partisans by Robespierre.


This division hitherto masked by the will of everyone to use the credulity of others for its benefit, was going then generate a counter-revolution led by the forces supporting the monarchy and the clergy on the one hand, and by the other, by the a hardening of the communist tendency of the process, in what we might call the "inevitable skid" of manipulation towards its author. The bourgeoisie, who had taken the people as a fulcrum, was going therefore verify that to lift a load, any fulcrum must be more powerful than the load itself, and would necessarily generate a popular revolution if one used the people. This was the case!

Beyond the mutation that the bourgeois revolution was about to undergo, the most important for the history of France, and of many other civilizations perhaps, was at this moment at the very level of the people. From a population that was not yet aware of itself a few years, to see for some, few months before, the people was going acquire a notion of importance that was going built by the most motivated leaders.

All the renewed popular dynamism found, in fact, in the context of 1791 and 92, contexts where to be inserted: the rise of clubs and fraternal societies then covered France with a sometimes surprisingly dense network of popular societies. In Paris, the club of Cordeliers, where Danton and Marat spoke, overflowed, by its more popular recruitment, the club of Jacobins 3, which remained, then, more closed. At this date, we can say that already a whole part of the most politicized urban masses, demystified, had entered into the struggle: what we will call the "sans-culotterie" was thus elaborated between these years 1791 and 1792.


1) Club of the Jacobins: First formed in Versailles by the deputies of the region, it settled in the convent of the Jacobins in Paris. Deprived then of its moderate members such as La Fayette and Sieyes, this organization passed into the hands of the most radical revolutionaries called Montagnards (mountaineer), because sitting on the highest tiers, and was dominated by the personality of Robespierre. These Montagnards, masters of power in 1793, imposed a policy of public safety called the Terror. Divided into three main periods, this "Terror" resulted in the incarceration of about 500,000 suspects, about 40,000 of whom were guillotined. It was the main political period of dechristianization, state economic controls and the redistribution of property from the suspects to the poor. In its last weeks of power, it abolished the judicial guarantees to the accused, and ended with the fall of Robespierre, 9 Thermidor (July 28, 1794).

In the revolution that interests us, a manipulation other than that of the bourgeoisie was at the same time foiled, that of the king. In spite of his oath made to the people on July 14, 1790, and the example which he then had of England, much more in advance than France with regard to the constitutional monarchy then parliamentary, this was not going to prevent Louis XVI to persist in a resolution of the conflict by the strong way. He secretly organized an escape from France with the aim to restructure an army from a large number of officers already emigrated abroad. This escape was stopped at Varennes-en-Argone on June 20 and 21, 1791, and nearly two years after the first conflicts, was the carrier of the first overtures to the republican spirit.

The pitiful fearful behavior of this king, more attracted by locksmithing than by the management of the state, was indeed going produce an inversion of revolutionary motives towards the deposition of kingship for the benefit of the republic, which until then was not even considered. These new facts were accentuated during the summer of 1791 by the intervention of the foreign sovereigns, Emperor and King of Prussia, who launched an appeal to the monarchical coalition to restore Louis XVI in his sovereignty on the one hand, to go further in forming a covenant of alliance in February 1792.

During several months the convention was divided on its capacity to make war, but the king then gave in the politics of the worst hoping that the foreign princes would restore it in his first functions, and used his influence so that the Convention engages in this war. On the 20th of April the war was declared to the King of Bohemia and Hungary. The first engagements were disastrous for a French army in the process of change, disorganized by the emigration of its officers, which seemed to give reason to the king.

Less expected, at least in its form, its extent and its maturity, was the popular reaction to this new situation. Half-improvised, the day of June 20, when the Paris demonstrators unsuccessfully invaded the Tuileries, was the prelude to a more serious mobilization. From the province arrived "sections" demanding the decay of the king, including the famous Marseillais came to defend the capital and the homeland, which the Assembly proclaimed "in danger" on July 11.

These conditions then gave rise to a counter-revolutionary impulse, which was joined to the general-in-chief of the Prussian and Austrian armies, Charles of Brunswick. The latter published his famous ultimatum on July 25, threatening to deliver Paris to a military execution and a total subversion in case of attack on the family of Louis XVI, which had the opposite effect and produced the fall of monarchy.

We often keep the image of the Storming of the Bastille as the key image of the proletarian revolution or the barricades of Faubourg Saint-Antoine. We forget then the crucial moment that was the awareness of the challenge against this Prussian army, coming from a people who had suffered many defeats in the previous fifty years, in hostilities led by yet seasoned troops.

At this crucial moment when trouble was everywhere, the front of the revolutionary bourgeoisie split in contact with a popular movement. From secondary force that it was, the most populist movement passed to the forefront of revolutionary dynamism. On August 10, these later stormed the Tuileries Palace, deserted by the royal family, after a deadly battle against the Swiss guards who defended it. The assembly voted the suspension of the king, the meeting of a new Constituent Assembly, a "Convention", the election of which will be by universal suffrage: symbolic prelude to a democratic revolution.

We must not seek to dissociate the two images on which this phase of the Revolution ended: Valmy and the massacres of September, which are there as to show that nothing really good and balanced can come out of a revolution.

The battle of Valmy, September 20, 1792, broke the Prussian offensive in Champagne: unexpected recovery after the first defeats, mediocre engagement it said, if we stick to the number of deaths; but the young French army, half improvised, without experience of fire, had compelled to the formidable Prussian troops to the retreat; at the level of ideas-forces, it was the Revolution which had just beaten the Old European Regime.

To give dates, let us recall then that on September 21, 1792 the monarchy is abolished, the 22 the republic is proclaimed.

Oh! It is obvious that it did not yet have a good look, this very controversial republic, which was far from it as nowadays in the heart of all the French or almost, because it was for the poorest, words that they understood only half, as for the richest they already saw all the loss of their privileges.

In the active participants count, the Revolution remained indeed an active minority phenomenon. In the Marseilles sections, for example, the most massive increases of popular participation never brought more than a quarter of the male adults in the neighborhood to section assemblies, either in the summer of '92 or in the federalist spring of 93. If one were to count actual "militants", the active group would shrink even more. From these revolutionary elite, however, physiognomies began to detach themselves, a revolutionary mentality emerged, and then the gap was filled up between the revolutionary masses and the heroes of the drama.

In its majority of the French people was not yet ready to assume a political role, but a first stone was laid, and the important thing is certainly the value that this first stone represented in the hearts of the most humble. The one who began to make them aware of their dimension of man, of "Monsieur", that they were all, because all called "Citizens".

All progression, especially in the field of collective behavior, is not usually done in a day, and "Nothing that results from human progress, can be obtained with the consent of all. Those who see the light before others are condemned to pursue it in spite of others "as it seems to me, said Christopher Columbus and why not Jesus, the Christ. If a part of the bourgeois was motivated only by their own covetousness, others were led by a great sincerity, which can nowadays seem puerile to some.

The image given by Mathiez of the Franciscan forge master Louvot, a Jacobin manufacturer who took his workers to vote for the Mountain at the sound of the clarinet during the Convention elections, would easily find many counterparts. There were, for example, the Duval brothers, glassmakers of Montmirail, who rode a horse the markets at the head of their workers to tax the grain. This taxation of the price of foodstuffs, and in particular that of bread, was one of the major themes of the Enragés1 claim of 1792, which best expressed popular aspirations. This is why we must not confine ourselves to an unequivocal condemnation of the bourgeois class, because many of them were sincere and motivated for the good of all. Nevertheless, the conditions of a modern class struggle were not carried out in a largely pre-capitalist world.


1) The Enraged (rabid): Factions of the most extremist Parisian militants of the sans-culottes.

Beyond that, in the course of the rise of revolutionary dynamism until 1794, there was growing aggressiveness against the rich, both in the city and in the countryside, judged in their egoism during the "Terror". Therefore, we must remember that: "Revolutions are only parentheses of history, and generally recreate after a more or less long time systems similar to those from which they precipitated the fall". Everyone in his fanaticism, born of covetousness too often justified because of the bad behavior of the dominant persons, found himself reproducing what he had fought.

Counter-revolution or popular revolution, therefore, this may not be of real importance, because the consequence is quite different, and it is probably what makes it all the value still today in the world. The people, the small people, at least its most advanced part, began to realize that each one was important, that it weighed in the social balance but especially to the eyes of God, even if it was only its exodus of Egypt.

Until then, each one of this small people had lived only in the great men shadow whom he often idolized as "superior" people, but he began to measure the notion of his existence. We will not say, however, that this idolatry of the "superior" man has not existed since then, but it then received the first true arrow, because the idea making its way, more and more the "superior" man was called for only govern and not to dominate. This is fortunately what we find more and more in the stimulus of our current governments, but also what we have to expect for the future, without being content with "great men" with great "appearances", as God had put it in place in the time of the Judges on Israel and that He would have wished it to continue.

What has changed, and what we must remember as the most important with the hindsight that we have, is the birth of this new look on themselves that were able to receive all these millions of men within the people at that time and those to come.

Without this recoil, and if we deepen a little more, we would risk drawing a synthesis identical to that of a certain Karl Marx on whom our eyes will soon look at.

Many of the agricultural day laborers who had put all their savings into the purchase a small amount of land, often of poor quality, began to realize that they had fallen into a trap. Each had wanted to be a proprietor, and most of them had run after independence and happiness, abandoning the sure gain which their work from the farmers gave them, but found only misery. For others by contrast, the rich bourgeois who had "equipped themselves" with the purchase of abundant land (clergy, then national property 1789 to end 1793), we were going find them few year later in 1799, at the eve of 18 Brumaire (November 9), who was going to see the coup d’état of a Bonaparte First Consul, gather under the slogan "I must have a king, because I am owner."

Madame de Stael noted it without tenderness, but not without humor: "The great strength of the heads of state in France is the prodigious taste that one has for occupying places [...]. Everything that is distinguishing one man from another is particularly pleasing to the French, there is no nation to which equality is less suitable, they have proclaimed it to take the place of the former superiors, they wanted to change from inequality... ".

This revolution that was not ending any, was going to find in Bonaparte the one which it was needing to it to conclude. But, what a conclusion for those who were going to analyse the results! Let's have a look!

The Bonapartism indeed created through the personal power, an amalgam of monarchical tradition and sham of democratic. The First Consul governed and reigned in the manner of an enlightened sovereign who conceded to the accomplished fact of the Revolution, to surround himself with republican forms, but thus created a very ambiguous situation. The progressively monarchical attitude of his power, the reestablishment of a life of court, from the Consulate to the proclamation of the hereditary Empire and the coronation, all of course was the materialization of a dream of absolute power going up to assume the forms of a universal domination, and to resurrect archaisms; Napoleon taking himself for a new Charlemagne.

The proclamation of the Empire and the perpetual reinforcement of personal power, were however all manners of consolidating the achievements of the Revolution in France and defying the European Counterrevolution. The coronation and anointment, in this perspective, is interpreted less as a masquerade around an parvenu, than as a singularly daring political act by which the Revolution was going to take again from its adversaries their own weapons.

Many freedoms were however taken again, the freedom of expression was brutally reduced; from the beginning of 1800, 60 out of 73 Parisian newspapers were suppressed, and the survivors did not have to publish articles "contrary to the social pact, to the sovereignty of the people and to the glory of the armies," and many of them "the Moniteur" or "Journal des débats" were sheets "inspired" by the imperial power.

But Napoleon, very quickly, went much further. He cared about to define a social and political elite on a basis that was not that of the feudal nobility "not on the distinctions of the blood, which is an imaginary nobility, since there is only one race of men, he said! Nor that of wealth, "of which one cannot make a title, of all aristocracies, that one seemed to me the worst," will say the Emperor at St. Helena, having always considered, or pretended to considered, that the various forms of fortune, whether movable or immovable, arose from their origins in robbery and rapine.

The genius of the workman being nevertheless to know how to use the materials he has at hand, the families of the former nobility entered however, because of their "ready-made fortunes" and their influence had to be put to the service of the government, which was not rich enough to pay everyone.

The foundations of the imperial aristocracy were thus the personal merit and the "service" provided to the state. Thus he proclaimed, "Our epoch is that of merit; we must let the sons of the peasants go up with talents and services in the first rank... Wherever I found talent and courage, I raised and put it in its place. My principle was to keep the career open to talent. Thus will be born a "historical" and "national" nobility, substituting to the parchments the "beautiful actions, and to the private interests the interests of the fatherland".

Napoleon therefore saw in the creation of an aristocracy of a new type, just as in the institution of a hereditary Empire, not a reaction or treason towards the Revolution, but, on the contrary, a consolidation of the new order. "The institution of a national nobility was not contrary to equality" for him; it was "eminently liberal and at one and the same time able to consolidate the social order and to annihilate the vain pride of the nobility". It was one of those "masses of granite" which he intended to throw on the soil of France to definitively establish the republic. In a mixture, which was quite in his authoritarian manner, in the affirmation of the principles and the cynicism of their execution, he found in the temperament of the French the justification for a new scale of titles: "They need distinctions because it is with rattles that men are led."

From 1804 until 1808, that is to say from the proclamation of the empire until the decree on the organization of the imperial nobility, Napoleon's social policy developed with greater complexity, including the Legion of Honor itself in a meticulously hierarchical system. At the top: The family of Napoleon Bonaparte. Around her: "an organization of the imperial palace in conformity to the dignity of the throne and the greatness of the nation." A Court to which Napoleon assigned as a function, however very badly fulfilled, to set the tone for French society by setting an example, at the top of the fusion of the elites. In the first rank of the great officers, eighteen marshals whose promotion meant both, firstly all the price attached by the Emperor to titles acquired on the field of honor, and secondly the importance he gave to the army. as an instrument of social elevation.

At the time of the creation of the first noble titles in 1807, he made Marshal Lefebvre, duke of Gdańsk on purpose, because he said: "This marshal had been a simple soldier, and everyone in Paris had known him sergeant at the French guards ". The mere fact of belonging to the Legion of Honor conferred the title of Knight, the lowest in the ladder. The civil services found just as much their place and their rewards, in the 1500 or so holders, excluded knights, created in eight years: Talleyrand became prince of Benevento alongside a Berthier prince of Neuchâtel; Fouche was Duke of Otranto, or Gaudin, Duke of Gaeta, among so many marshals-dukes; At the ranks of count and baron, the prefects, mayors, general councilors, and high officials mingled with the generals.

It was at the level of imperial nobility's organization that the most equivocal aspects of Napoleonic social legislation were located. Being very preoccupied, indeed, with putting "his" nobility in a state of maintaining as regards appearances the competition of the old aristocracy and of resulting in a fusion of the elements, the Emperor incontestably transgressed the principle of civil equality and reintroduced into France the features of feudalism identical to the preceding ones. This was particularly the case with the inheritance of nobiliary titles (Royal and noble ranks), the creation of large hereditary fiefdoms with substitution of the domain and transmission of the title to the eldest son, the distribution of annuity endowments, the institution of majorats over the on the initiative of the government or at the request of private individuals, in other words, of inalienable family property intended to guarantee to the heir of a title of nobility a fortune sufficient to honor this title, & c. It should also be noted that the most abundantly awarded title of "Baron" was not hereditary; That this of Chevalier could be attributed on simple justification of an income of 3 000 francs a year; that the fiefs and endowments were most often confiscated on the vassal kingdoms, therefore in foreign land.

The fate of the population had in opposite not really changed. As the rural exodus was not yet begun, as was the case in England, the population of the cities was only fifteen to twenty per cent. The eighty-five percent, therefore, continued to pile up in the plains and mountains. The misery of some crowded rural districts was more important phenomenon than that of the urban misery of the workers, at a time when the industrial Revolution was only in its infancy.

The peasants had wished, with passion and sometimes with fury, to free themselves from the feudal and seigniorial exploitation, from the burden of the tithe, the champart (the amount due varied between 1⁄6 and 1⁄12, and typically 1⁄8 of the cereal crop) and other taxes. On this point, some of them had obtained only a purely verbal satisfaction. The appellation of taxes had indeed disappeared from the vocabulary, but not from the economic reality for all those sharecroppers and farmers who were obliged to take leased land. The revolutionary legislation, from the Constituent Assembly to the Convention and then to the Directory, had, in effect, left the owner-lessor free to introduce into the contracts, mark-up clauses transferring to his profit the burden represented by the royalties quoted. This situation having been combined with a continuous increase in rents whose value was linked to the grain prices movement, only the owner, and not the farmer, had thus benefited from their abolition. The historian Albert Soboul (1914-1982), emphasized those facts in which the bourgeoisie of the owners, urban or rural, consolidated feudalism in its economic form, the consequences of the support of the wealthy elements of  estates of the Third Estate, who still conceived , consciously or not, the Revolution as a transfer or extension of privileges to new privileged people.

Let's add to this that, under the Consulate and the Empire, the return of a certain number of emigrants to what remained of their lands and the restoration of the prestige of the clergy developed in the countryside, particularly in the West and the Southwest, an atmosphere of reaction, a deaf threat of re-feudalization, a moral pressure from the lord of the manor and the parish priest. They kept, in campaigns which asked only to live under a conservative regime, a ferment of revolutionary agitation, which the only appearances of Napoleonic authority did not suffice to appease. Other elements of discontent, of which the regime was itself the source, came also to sour the small owners such as the tax inquisition which was the source of local troubles, in the vineyard regions by the perception of the new rights on drinks, as well as a total hardness of the collector in the recovery of the land contribution. It was customary for him to be paid in services or in kind for the interests of delays in the payment of dues, or that he recalls, by sending of military detachments, the worst memories of the Ancient regime.

It's evident that the image of the French  Revolution and its direct evolution towards the more or less well-disguised dictatorship of the first Napoleonic Empire that one receives on school benches, resembles only weakly the summary of the very a good book referenced in the bibliography, which highlights the social repercussions, beyond the perpetual wars. In this way, we find again the currents of thought that certain contemporary observers of this period, attached to hasty and concrete results, were able to bring out prematurely. We have certainly already touched on the basic awareness of the people and their human dignity, in relation to that of the simple "domestic" ever more domestic, but it was largely covered up by the aims of a bourgeoisie more concerned to equip itself , than to liberate the people.

The philosophy already rich in the eighteenth century of utopian ideas, was therefore  not going to remain indifferent from the analyzes and conclusions to be drawn from this great lesson in history and civilization. If there had been nothing particularly concrete for centuries to sustain these currents of thought, there was now matter to great reflections.

The philosopher's peculiarity being his idealistic character of the developed theory, he becomes with fragility above average, if he feels an implementation in opposition to his ideals, going so far as to justify the limits of his own theory. I do not say so beforehand in order to be able to accuse the various philosophers that we will quote from too much haste to analyze, but on the contrary, so that no one judges them in their ideals, and burden them with the full responsibility of the revolutions that this synthesis was going bring about. Conflicts such as they had lived themselves were perhaps not without having marked them, as to the poor results obtained compared with the daily suffering lived by all the populations in the world for the only wellbeing of a few. Probably many of our contemporaries, confronted almost daily by their activities, in contact with such human misery, would easily dream that all this will one day stop. But is not this the proper of the man to seek the improvement of his living conditions? Is not it a little for this purpose that we are together? Yet, not being able to change itself, and each being different from the other, can man really build himself an ideal universe to his own dimension?

To name but a few of these philosophers, they called themselves Saint Simon 1 or Hegel 2. The first, although of a somewhat distant ideology, was to give birth to our current French socialist party, as for the second, his work was going to be one of the most important in the current of ideas to which a certain Karl Marx 3 was going adhere as well as His friend and work companion less known Engel 4.


1) Saint-Simon: (Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Earl of Saint-Simon), philosopher and French economist (Paris 1760-1825). He took part in the war of American independence and from the beginning of the French revolution; he broke with his nobility state. Basing himself on a religion of science and the constitution of a new class of industrialists, he sought to define a planning and technocratic socialism [Catéchisme des Industriels (Industrialists) 1823-24], which had a great influence on certain industrialists of the Second Empire.


2) Hegel (Friedrich), German philosopher (Stuttgart 1770-Berlin 1831). His philosophy identifies being and thought in a single principle, the concept; of the latter, Hegel describes development by means of dialectic, of which he makes not only a rational method of thought, but the very life of the concept and its history. We owe him: The Phenomenology of Spirit or the phenomenology of the mind (1807), The Science of Logic (1812-1816), Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821).


3) Marx (Karl), philosopher, economist and theorist of the German Socialist (Trier 1818-London 1883) born of a Jewish lawyer father, converted to Protestantism to practice his profession of lawyer. Inspired by Hegel's dialectic, while criticizing his philosophy of history, he discovered Feuerbach's critique of religion, Saint-Simon's socialism, and Adam Smith's economy. He thus progressively elaborates "Historical Materialism", that is to say the scientific theory of all social science (Thesis on Feuerbach, 1845, German Ideology, 1846, Misery of Philosophy, 1847). In contact with the working class, he wrote with Friedrich Engels The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848). Expelled from Germany then from France, he fled to Great Britain, where he wrote Class Struggles in France (1850), Foundations of Criticism of Political Economy (written in 1858, published in 1939-1941) and published in 1867 the first of the three volumes of his great work, Capital. In 1864, he was one of the leading leaders of the First International and gave him his objective: the abolition of capitalism. For Karl Marx, human history is based on the class struggle: the proletariat, if it wants to eliminate the exploitation of which it is the victim, must organize itself at the international level, seize power and, at during this phase (dictatorship of the proletariat), abolish the classes themselves, which will lead to the ultimate phase, in which the state will extinguish itself (The communism). The doctrine of Marx was baptized against his will Marxism.


4) Engels (Friedrich), German socialist theorist (Barmen, now integrated in Wuppertal, 1820 - London 1895), friend of Karl Marx. He wrote the Situation of the Working Class in England (1845), where some ideas-forces of Marxism were elaborated. He writes together with Marx, The Holy Family (1845), the German ideology (1845-46) where he lays the foundations of Historical Materialism, and the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848).

He attacks the theses of E. Dühring in the Anti-Dühring (1878), and analyzes dialectical materialism (the Dialectic of Nature, 1873-1883, published in 1925). He ensures the publication of Capital after the death of Marx. He continues the historical reflection of Marxism in the Origin of the Family, State Property, (1884). He is at the center of the creation of the Second International.

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