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The first edition of this translation was pub-
lished in New York in 1897. Ten years later we
purchased the plates and copyright and brought
out an edition in paper covers. The type was
small and the printing unattractive, but the
demand for the book continues, and we now offer
a new edition from new plates. The translation
is unchanged except for a few slight verbal cor-
rections, and we are reprinting the introduction
by the translator just as originally written. The
events of sixteen years have in many ways con-
firmed his forecast, and the spectacular figure
of Theodore Roosevelt now offers a striking-
parallel to that of Napoleon the Little.


March, 1913.


"The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bona-
parte" is one of Karl Marx' most profound and
most brilliant monographs. It may be con-
sidered the best work extant on the philosophy
of history, with an eye especially upon the his-
tory of the Movement of the Proletariat, together
with the bourgeois and other manifestations that
accompany the same, and the tactics that such
conditions dictate.

The recent populist uprising; the more
recent "Debs Movement"; the thousand and
one Utopian and chimerical notions that are
flaring up ; the capitalist manoeuvres ; the hope-
less, helpless grasping after straws, that char-
acterize the conduct of the bulk of the work-
ing class ; all of these, together with the empty-
headed, ominous figures that are springing
into notoriety for a time and have their day,
mark the present period of the Labor Move-
ment in the nation a critical one. The best
information acquirable, the best mental train-
ing obtainable are requisite to steer through
the existing chaos that the death-tainted social
system of today creates all around us. To aid
in this needed information and mental train-
ing, this instructive work is now made acces-
sible to English readers, and is commended to
the serious study of the serious.


The teachings contained in this work are
hung on an episode in recent French history.
With some this fact may detract of its value.
A pedantic, supercilious notion is extensively
abroad among us that we are an "Anglo-
Saxon" nation; and an equally pedantic, super-
cilious habit causes many to look to England
for inspiration, as from a racial birthplace.
Nevertheless, for weal or for woe, there is no
such thing extant as "Anglo-Saxon" of all
nations, said to be "Anglo-Saxon," in the
United States least. What we still have from
England, much as appearances may seem to
point the other way, is not of our bone-and-
marrow, so to speak, but rather partakes of the
nature of "importations." We are no more
English on account of them than we are
Chinese because we all drink tea.

Of all European nations, France is the one
to which we come nearest. Besides its repub-
lican form of government the directness of
its history, the unity of its actions, the sharp-
ness that marks its internal development, are
all characteristics that find their parallel here
best, and vice versa. In all essentials the study
of modern French history, particularly when
sketched by such a master hand as Marx', is
the most valuable one for the acquisition of
that historic, social and biologic insight that
our country stands particularly in need of, and
that will be inestimable during the approach-
ing critical days.

For the assistance of those who, unfamiliar
with the history of France, may be confused


by some of the terms used by Marx, the fol-
lowing explanations may prove aidful :

On the 18th Brumaire (Nov. 9th), the post-
revolutionary development of affairs in France
enabled the first Napoleon to take a step that
led with inevitable certainty to the imperial
throne. The circumstance that fifty and odd
years later similar events aided his nephew,
Louis Bonaparte, to take a similar step with a
similar result, gives the name to this work
"The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bona-

As to the other terms and allusions that oc-
cur, the following sketch will suffice:

Upon the overthrow of the first Napoleon
came the restoration of the Bourbon throne
(Louis XVIII, succeeded by Charles X). In
July, 1830, an uprising of the upper tier of the
bourgeoisie, or capitalist class the aristocracy
of finance , overthrew the Bourbon throne, or
landed aristocracy, and set up the throne of
Orleans, a younger branch of the house of
Bourbon, with Louis Philippe as king. From
the month in which this revolution occurred,
Louis Philippe's monarchy is called the "July
Monarchy." In February, 1848, a revolt of a
lower tier of the capitalist class the indus-
trial bourgeoisie , against the aristocracy of
finance, in turn dethroned Louis Philippe. This
affair, also named from the month in which it
took place, is the "February Revolution." The
"Eighteenth Brumaire" starts with that event.

Despite the inapplicableness to our own af-
fairs of the political names and political leader-
ship herein described, both these names and


leaderships are to such an extent the products
of an economic-social development that has
here too taken place with even greater sharp-
ness, and they have their present or threatened
counterparts here so completely, that, by the
light of this work of Marx', we are best en-
abled to understand our own history, to know
whence we come, whither we are going and
how to conduct ourselves.

D. D. L.
New York, Sept. 12, 1897.




Hegel says somewhere that all great historic
facts and personages recur twice. He forgot
to add : "Once as tragedy, and again as farce."
Caussidiere for Danton, Louis Blanc for
Robespierre, the "Mountain" of 1848-51 for the
"Mountain" of 1793-05, the Nephew for the
Uncle. The identical caricature marks also
the conditions under which the second edition
of the eighteenth Brumaire is issued.

Man makes his own history, but he does not
make it out of the whole cloth; he does not
make it out of conditions chosen by himself,
but out of such as he finds close at hand. The
tradition of all past generations weighs like an
alp upon the brain of the living. At the very
time when men appear engaged in revolution-
izing things and themselves, in bringing about
what never was before, at such very epochs of
revolutionary crisis do they anxiously conjure
up into their service the spirits of the past,
assume their names, their battle cries, their cos-
tumes to enact a new historic scene in such time-


honored disguise and with such borrowed lan-
guage. Thus did Luther masquerade as the
Apostle Paul; thus did the revolution of 1789-
1814 drape itself alternately as Roman Republic
and as Roman Empire ; nor did the revolution of
1848 know what better to do than to parody at
one time the year 1789, at another the revolution-
ary traditions of 1793-95. Thus does the begin-
ner, who has acquired a new language, keep on
translating it back into his own mother tongue;
only then has he grasped the spirit of the new
language and is able freely to express himself
therewith when he moves in it without recollec-
tions of the old, and has forgotten in its use his
own hereditary tongue.

When these historic conjurations of the dead
past are closely observed a striking difference is
forthwith noticeable. Camille Desmoulins, Dan-
ton, Robespierre, St. Juste, Napoleon, the heroes
as well as the parties and the masses of the old
French revolution, achieved in Roman costumes
and with Roman phrases the task of their time:
the emancipation and the establishment of mod-
ern bourgeois society. One set knocked to pieces
the old feudal groundwork and mowed down the
feudal heads that had grown upon it; Napoleon
brought about, within France, the conditions
under which alone free competition could de-
velop, the partitioned lands be exploited, the
nation's unshackled powers of industrial produc-
tion be utilized; while, beyond the French
frontier, he swept away everywhere the establish-
ments of feudality, so far as requisite, to furnish
the bourgeois social system of France with fit
surroundings of the European continent, and such


as were in keeping with the times. Once the new
social establishment was set on foot, the antedilu-
vian giants vanished, and, along with them, the
resuscitated Roman world the Brutuses,
Gracchi, Publicolas, the Tribunes, the Senators,
and Caesar himself. In its sober reality, bour-
geois society had produced its own true interpre-
ters in the Says, Cousins, Royer-Collards, Ben-
jamin Constants and Guizots; its real generals
sat behind the office desks; and the mutton-head
of Louis XVIII. was its political head. Wholly
absorbed in the production of wealth and in the
peaceful fight of competition, this society could
no longer understand that the ghosts of the days
of Rome had watched over its cradle. And yet,
lacking in heroism as bourgeois society is, it
nevertheless had stood in need of heroism, of
self-sacrifice, of terror, of civil war, and of
bloody battle fields to bring it into the world. Its
gladiators found in the stern classic traditions
of the Roman republic the ideals and the form,
the self-deceptions, that they needed in order to
conceal from themselves the narrow bourgeois
substance of their own struggles, and to keep
their passion up to the height of a great historic
tragedy. Thus, at another stage of development,
a century before, did Cromwell and the English
people draw from the Old Testament the lan-
guage, passions and illusions for their own
bourgeois revolution. When the real goal was
reached, when the remodeling of English society
was accomplished, Locke supplanted Habakuk.

Accordingly, the reviving of the dead in those
revolutions served the purpose of glorifying the
new struggles, not of parodying the old ; it served


the purpose of exaggerating to the imagination
the given task, not to recoil before its practical
solution; it served the purpose of rekindling the
revolutionary spirit, not to trot out its ghost.

In 1848-51 only the ghost of the old revo-
lution wandered about, from Marrast the "Re-
publicain en gaunts jaunes" 1 who disguised him-
self in old Bailly, down to the adventurer, who
hid his repulsively trivial features under the iron
death mask of Napoleon. A whole people, that
imagines it has imparted to itself accelerated
powers of motion through a revolution, suddenly
finds itself transferred back to a dead epoch, and,
lest there be any mistake possible on this head,
the old dates turn up again ; the old calendars ;
the old names; the old edicts, which long since
had sunk to the level of the antiquarian's learn-
ing; even the old bailiffs, who had long seemed
mouldering with decay. The nation takes on the
appearance of that crazy Englishman in Bedlam,
who imagines he is living in the days of the
Pharaohs, and daily laments the hard work that
he must do in the Ethiopian mines as gold dig-
ger, immured in a subterranean prison, with a
dim lamp fastened on his head, behind him the
slave overseer with a long whip, and, at the
mouths of the mine a mob of barbarous camp
servants who understand neither the convicts in
the mines nor one another, because they do not
speak a common language. "And all this," cries
the crazy Englishman, "is demanded of me, the
free-born Englishman, in order to make gold for
old Pharaoh." "In order to pay off the debts of
the Bonaparte family" sobs the French nation.

1 Silk-stocking republican.


The Englishman, so long as he was in his senses,
could not rid himself of the rooted thought of
making gold. The Frenchmen, so long as they
were busy with a revolution, could not rid them-
selves of the Napoleonic memory, as the election
of December 10th proved. They longed to
escape from the dangers of revolution back to
the flesh pots of Egypt; the 2d of December, 1851,
was the answer. They have not merely the cari-
cature of the old Napoleon, but the old Napoleon
himself caricatured as he needs must appear in
the middle of the nineteenth century.

The social revolution of the nineteenth century
can not draw its poetry from the past, it can draw
that only from the future. It cannot start upon
its work before it has stricken off all superstition
concerning the past. Former revolutions required
historic reminiscences ' in order to intoxicate
themselves with their own issues. The revolution
of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury
their dead in order to reach its issue. With the
former, the phrase surpasses the substance ; with
this one, the substance surpasses the phrase.

The February revolution was a surprisal; old
society was taken unawares ; and the people pro-
claimed this political stroke a great historic act
whereby the new era was opened. On the 2d of
December, the February revolution is jockeyed
by the trick of a false player, and what is seen
to be overthrown is no longer the monarchy, but
the liberal concessions which had been wrung
from it by centuries of struggles. Instead of
society itself having conquered a new point, only
the State appears to have returned to its oldest
form, to the simply brazen rule of the sword and


the club. Thus, upon the "coup de main" of
February, 1848, comes the response of the "coup
de tete" of December, 1851. So won, so lost.
Meanwhile, the interval did not go by unutilized.
During the years 1848-1851, French society re-
trieved in abbreviated, because revolutionary,
method the lessons and teachings, which if it
was to be more than a disturbance of the sur-
face should have preceded the February revo-
lution, had it developed in regular order, by rule,
so to say. Now French society seems to have
receded behind its point of departure; in fact,
however, it was compelled to first produce its
own revolutionary point of departure, the situa-
tion, circumstances, conditions, under which alone
the modern revolution is in earnest.

Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eigh-
teenth century, rush onward rapidly from suc-
cess to success, their stage effects outbid one an-
other, men and things seem to be set in flaming
brilliants, ecstasy is the prevailing spirit; but
they are short-lived, they reach their climax
speedily, then society relapses into a long fit of
nervous reaction before it learns how to appro-
priate the fruits of its period of feverish excite-
ment. Proletarian revolutions, on the contrary,
such as those of the nineteenth century, criticize
themselves constantly ; constantly interrupt them-
selves in their own course; come back to what
seems to have been accomplished, in order to
start over anew; scorn with cruel thoroughness
the Half measures, weaknesses and meannesses
of their first attempts ; seem to throw down their
adversary only in order to enable him to draw
fresh strength from the earth, and again to rise


up against them in more gigantic stature; con-
stantly recoil in fear before the undefined monster
magnitude of their own objects until finally that
situation is created which renders all retreat im-
possible, and the conditions themselves cry out:

"Hie Rhodus, hie salta !" 2
Every observer of average intelligence, even
if he failed to follow step by step the course of
French development, must have anticipated that
an unheard of fiasco was in store for the revolu-
tion. It was enough to hear the self-satisfied
yelpings of victory wherewith the Messieurs
Democrats mutually congratulated one another
upon the pardons of May 2d, 1852. Indeed, May
2d had become a fixed idea in their heads; it
had become a dogma with them something like
the day on which Christ was to reappear and the
Millennium to begin had formed in the heads of
the Chiliasts. Weakness had, as it ever does,
taken refuge in the wonderful ; it believed the
enemy was overcome if, in its imagination, it
hocus-pocused him away; and it lost all sense
of the present in the imaginary apotheosis of the
future, that was at hand, and of the deeds, that
it had "in petto," but which it did not yet want
to bring to the scratch. The heroes, who ever
seek to refute their established incompetence by
mutually bestowing their sympathy upon one an-
other and by pulling together, had packed their
satchels, taken their laurels in advance payments
and were just engaged in the work of getting dis-
counted "in partibus," on the stock exchange, the
republics for which, in the silence of their un-
assuming dispositions, they had carefully organ-

a.Here is Ehodes, leap here! An allusion to ^sop's Fables.


ized the government personel. The 3d of De-
cember struck them like a bolt from a clear sky ;
and the peoples, who, in periods of timid de-
spondency, gladly allow their hidden fears to be
drowned by the loudest screamers, will perhaps
have become convinced that the days are gone
by when the cackling of geese could save the

The constitution, the national assembly, the
dynastic parties, the blue and the red republicans,
the heroes from Africa, the thunder from the
tribune, the flash-lightnings from the daily press,
the whole literature, the political names and the
intellectual celebrities, the civil and the criminal
law, the "liberte, egalite, fraternite," together
with the 2d of May, 1852, all vanished like a
phantasmagoria before the ban of one man, whom
his enemies themselves do not pronounce an
adept at witchcraft. Universal suffrage seems to
have survived only for a moment, to the end that,
before the eyes of the whole world, it should
make its own testament with its own hands, and,
in the name of the people, declare : "All that ex-
ists deserves to perish."

It is not enough to say, as the Frenchmen do,
that their nation was taken by surprise. A nation,
no more than a woman, is excused for the un-
guarded hour when the first adventurer who
comes along can do violence to her. The riddle
is not solved by such shifts, it is only formula-
ted in other words. There remains to be ex-
plained how a nation of thirty-six millions can
be surprised by three swindlers, and taken to
prison without resistance.

Let us recapitulate in general outlines the


phases which the French revolution of February
24th, 1848, to December, 1851, ran through.

Three main periods are unmistakable:

First The February period;

Second The period of constituting the repub-
lic, or of the constitutive national assembly (May
4, 1848, to May 29th, 1849) ;

Third The period of the constitutional re-
public, or of the legislative national assembly
(May 29, 1849, to December 2, 1851).

The first period, from February 24, or the
downfall of Louis Philippe, to May 4, 1848, the
date of the assembling of the constitutive assem-
bly the February period proper may be desig-
nated as the prologue of the revolution. It offi-
cially expressed its own character in this, that
the government which it improvised declared
itself "provisional;" and, like the government,
everything that was broached, attempted or ut-
tered, pronounced itself provisional. Nobody
and nothing dared to assume the right of per-
manent existence and of an actual fact. All the
elements that had prepared or determined the
revolution dynastic opposition, republican bour-
geoise, democratic-republican small traders' class,
social-democratic labor element all found "pro-
visionally" their place in the February govern-

It could not be otherwise. The February days
contemplated originally a reform of the suffrage
laws, whereby the area of the politically privi-
leged among the property-holding class was to
be extended, while the exclusive rule of the aris-
tocracy of finance was to be overthrown. When,
however, it came to a real conflict, when the people


mounted the barricades, when the National Guard
stood passive, when the army offered no serious
resistance, and the kingdom ran away, then the
republic seemed self-understood. Each party in-
terpreted it in its own sense. Won, arms in hand,
by the proletariat, they put upon it the stamp of
their own class, and proclaimed the social republic.
Thus the general purpose of modern revolutions
was indicated, a purpose, however, that stood in
most singular contradiction to every thing that,
with the material at hand, with the stage of en-
lightenment that the masses had reached, and
under existing circumstances and conditions,
could be immediately used. On the other hand,
the claims of all the other elements, that had
co-operated in the revolution of February, were
recognized by the lion's share that they received
in the government. Hence, in no period do we
find a more motley mixture of high-sounding
phrases together with actual doubt and helpless-
ness ; of more enthusiastic reform aspirations, to-
gether with a more slavish adherence to the old
routine; more seeming harmony permeating the
whole of society together with a deeper alienation
of its several elements. While the Parisian pro-
letariat was still gloating over the sight of the
great perspective that had disclosed itself to their
view, and was indulging in seriously meant dis-
cussions over the social problems, the old powers
of society had groomed themselves, had gathered
together, had deliberated and found an unexpec-
ted support in the mass of the nation the peasants
and small traders all of whom threw themselves
on a sudden upon the political stage, after the
barriers of the July monarchy had fallen down.


The second period, from May 4, 1848, to the
end of May, 1849, is the period of the constitu-
tion, of the founding of the bourgeois republic.
Immediately after the February days, not only
was the dynastic opposition surprised by the re-
publicans, and the republicans by the Socialists,
but all France was surprised by Paris. The
national assembly, that met on May 4, 1848, to
frame a constitution, was the outcome of the na-
tional elections ; it represented the nation. It
was a living protest against the assumption of the
February days, and it was intended to bring the
results of the revolution back to the bourgeois
measure. In vain did the proletariat of Paris,
which forthwith understood the character of this
national assembly, endeavor, a few days after its
meeting, on May 15, to deny its existence by
force, to dissolve it, to disperse the organic ap-
parition, in which the reacting spirit of the na-
tion was threatening them, and thus reduce it
back to its separate component parts. As is
known, the 15th of May had no other result than
that of removing Blanqui and his associates, i. e.,
the real leaders of the proletarian party, from
the public scene for the whole period of the cycle
which we are here considering.

Upon the bourgeois monarchy of Louis
Philippe, only the bourgeois republic could fol-
low ; that is to say, a limited portion of the bour-
geoisie having ruled under the name of the king,
now the whole bourgeoisie was to rule under the
name of the people. The demands of the Parisian
proletariat are Utopian torn-fooleries that have to
be done away with. To this declaration of the
constitutional national assembly, the Paris pro-


letariat answers with the June insurrection, the
most colossal event in the history of European
civil wars. The bourgeois republic won. On its
side stood the aristocracy of finance, the indus-
trial bourgeoisie; the middle class; the small
traders' class; the army; the slums, organized
as Guarde Mobile ; the intellectual celebrities, the
parsons' class, and the rural population. On the
side of the Parisian proletariat stood none but
itself. Over 3,000 insurgents were massacred,
after the victory 15,000 were transported without
trial. With this defeat, the proletariat steps to
the background on the revolutionary stage. It
always seeks to crowd forward, so soon as the
movement seems to acquire new impetus, but

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