|A street of Paris in May 1871: The Commune by Maximilien Luce (painted 1903-05)|
Karl Marx announced in his 1848 manifesto the arrival of communism in Europe in the midst of ongoing revolutions. There were multiple reasons for the unrest: poor grain harvests, blight in potato crops, and depressed economies across Europe over the previous three years and conditions were ripe for revolt and radical new doctrines to be well received. Conservatives in Europe, following the disastrous French Revolution of 1789 and the continent wide blood bath of the Napoleonic wars, organized against revolution creating a conservative order. In the United Kingdom, conservatism was manifested in the writings of Edmund Burke and his critical reflection on the French Revolution. Policies of reform successfully countered revolutionary impulse.
Visiting France once is confronted with a different conservative tradition. On the European continent the conservative ideas of Joseph de Maistre held sway. De Maistre represented a counter-revolutionary and authoritarian strain of conservatism that rejected the French Enlightenment and the social contract theories of Hobbes and Locke. Having suffered the effects of the Revolution of 1789 in France de Maistre "argued for the restoration of hereditary monarchy," and "for the indirect authority of the Pope over temporal matters as a prerequisite for stability in Europe." Unlike Burke, his writings are a reaction to the destruction of his way of life in the French Revolution. Nevertheless his ideas would have a profound impact on French conservatives. De Maistre died 27 years before Marx's Communist Manifesto, but his ideas lived on to resist the bolsheviks.
Joseph de Maistre in Les soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg wrote in 1821: "False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing." This can still be seen today by those who continue to circulate the writings of Karl Marx, despite the disastrous human cost this theory has exacted upon the world.
Marx and the communists organized into revolutionary transnational networks to overthrow the existing order but following the French revolution, a conservative counter-revolutionary network already existed to resist the new threat.
|Édouard Dubufe (1819-1883), The Congress of Paris, 1856, Musée national du château de Versailles|
|"Lamartine, rejects the Red Flag," Feb 25, 1848. By Henri Felix Emmanuel Philippoteaux|
|Barricades in Paris in 1848|
"I spoke as a citizen earlier, well! Now listen to me, your Foreign Minister. If I remove the tricolor, know it, you will remove me half the external force of France! Because Europe knows the flag of his defeats and of our victories in the flag of the Republic and of the Empire. By seeing the red flag, they'll see the flag of a party! This is the flag of France, it is the flag of our victorious armies, it is the flag of our triumphs that must be addressed before Europe. France and the tricolor is the same thought, the same prestige, even terror, if necessary, for our enemies! Consider how much blood you would have to make for another flag fame! Citizens, for me, the red flag, I am not adopting it, and I'll tell you why I'm against with all the strength of my patriotism. It's that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire with your freedoms and your glory, and the red flag was that around the Champ-de-Mars, dragged into the people's blood."The painting by Emmanuel Philippoteaux, depicting the moment Lamartine rejects the red flag is on display at the Museum Carnavalet in Paris. This "revolution" brought General Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, to power. He was the President of France from 1848 to 1852. The French Constitution barred him from running for re-election so he organized a coup d'état in 1851 and became Napoleon III, the Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. His rule ended due to his defeat in the Franco - Prussian war.
In 1853 Napoleon III ordered Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann to transform Paris from a city of a dense network of streets, overcrowded, dingy, dirty, riddled with disease and lacking an effective sewage system. What today makes Paris so distinctive, "the grand, wide boulevards that march in straight lines through the city, lined with bustling cafés and tempting patisseries" is Haussmann's creation.
"Conceived and executed in three phases, the plan involved the demolition of 19,730 historic buildings and the construction of 34,000 new ones. Old streets gave way to long, wide avenues characterised by rows of regularly aligned and generously proportioned neo-classical apartment blocks faced in creamy stone."It also made it more difficult for the revolutionaries to set up barricades and made it easier for the military to move quickly to crush any uprisings with the wide boulevards. However the Franco-Prussian war that brought an end to the Second Republic and the rule of Napoleon III gave an opportunity for the communists to take hold of Paris and set up a commune that survived two months from March 1871 to May 1871 before the French Army crushed the communist project and restored order.
|Barricade boulevard Voltaire and Richard-Lenoir1871|
However, thanks to conservative statesmen in Europe the 19th century offered a space of peace and prosperity for seven decades that led to a great out pouring of art, technology, and also the remaking of Paris into the remarkable city that it is today. This would not have existed if the communists had triumphed in 1848 or 1871.
There are important lessons for statesmen to learn from this period of time for the 21st century.