Blanqui, Louis Auguste

Blanqui, Louis Auguste

(lwē ôgüst`), 1805–81, French revolutionary and radical thinker. While a student in Paris, he joined (1824) a branch of the Carbonari, a revolutionary secret society; thenceforth he was prominent in every revolutionary upheaval in France until his death. More than half his life was spent in prison. In 1847 he set up the Central Republican Society, which was powerful in the February Revolution of 1848. An exile in Brussels (1865–70), Blanqui organized the extremist opposition against Napoleon III, in whose deposition (Sept. 4, 1870) he was instrumental. The crucial role played by Blanqui and his followers in the expulsion (Oct., 1870) of the moderate government of Paris led his opponents to compromise on a government headed by Adolphe Thiers, and shortly before the proclamation of the Commune of ParisCommune of Paris,
insurrectionary governments in Paris formed during (1792) the French Revolution and at the end (1871) of the Franco-Prussian War. In the French Revolution, the Revolutionary commune, representing urban workers, tradespeople, and radical bourgeois, engineered
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, Thiers had Blanqui arrested. The commune, whose temporary success was largely Blanqui's work, vainly offered its hostages in exchange for Blanqui. He was released in 1879 and was elected a deputy from Bordeaux, although the government did not allow him to serve. His followers, the Blanquists, were eventually absorbed into the unified socialist party. Advocating direct revolutionary action, Blanqui was among the first to conceive of the professional revolutionary.


See R. W. Postgate, Revolution from 1789–1906 (1920) and study by A. Spitzer (1957, repr. 1970).

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Blanqui, Louis Auguste


Born Feb. 1, 1805, in Puget-Théniers, near Nice; died Jan. 1, 1881, in Paris. French revolutionary, a Utopian Communist. Born into the family of a subprefect.

Blanqui was an active participant in the republican and democratic movement during the period of the Bourbon restoration (1814–30), the July Revolution of 1830, and the July Monarchy. Being under the strong influence of Babeuvist ideas, he came to Communist convictions in 1832–34. In 1835–39 he organized and led the secret republican societies the Society of Families and the Society of the Seasons. After the suppression of the uprising of May 12, 1839, in Paris, Blanqui was condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Released by the Revolution of 1848, Blanqui founded the club the Central Republican Society and led the most revolutionary proletarian elements, who fought against the bourgeois policy of the provisional government and the illusions of Louis Blanc. After the demonstration of May 15, 1848, in Paris, Blanqui was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison. Amnestied in 1859, he returned to Paris. From 1861 to 1865 he was again imprisoned. In 1865 he escaped from prison and settled in Brussels. On Aug. 14, 1870, with the defeat of the French army in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, Blanqui, who had secretly arrived in Paris, made an attempt to stage an uprising, which ended in failure. After the September 4 Revolution and the fall of the Second Empire, Blanqui published the newspaper Patrie en Danger, in which he called for a most vigorous struggle against the Prussians. After he became convinced of the treasonable policy of the “government of national defense,” Blanqui actively participated in the uprising of Oct. 31,1870, for which he was again sentenced to life imprisonment. During the Paris Commune of 1871, Blanqui was elected member of the Commune in absentia, but the attempts of the Commune to have the Versailles government release him were not successful; Blanqui remained in prison until 1879. In his last years, Blanqui continued his socialist and democratic propaganda and tried to rally his partisans (Blanquists) into a party organization.

While he was a follower of the 18th-century French materialists, Blanqui was an idealist in the interpretation of history and believed that the decisive force of the historical progress is the enlightenment of the people. Blanqui recognized the class struggle and emphasized the antagonistic class interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but he did not single out the proletariat from the general mass of the exploited. Blanqui held that only a socialist revolution could abolish class exploitation. The success of the revolution, in his view, depended on a well-prepared conspiracy by a tightly knit organization of revolutionaries, who, supported at the decisive moment by the popular masses, would establish a revolutionary dictatorship. A revolutionary dictatorship in the transition period from capitalism to Communism would have the tasks, as Blanqui said, of disarming the counterrevolutionary classes, arming the proletariat, and defending the new system against attacks by its enemies. Blanqui attached an enormous importance to the organizational aspect of the preparation of the uprising, but he did not consider the social conditions under which it should take place. The classics of Marxism-Leninism, while expressing a high opinion of Blanqui as a revolutionary and an ardent partisan of socialism, nevertheless criticized Blanqui’s conspiratorial tactics and his failure to understand that an armed uprising can succeed only if the revolution is carried out by the masses of the working people under the leadership of the revolutionary party.


Marx, I. “Klassovaia bor’ba vo Frantsii s 1848 po 1850 g.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7.
Marx, K. “Grazhdanskaia voina vo Frantsii.” Ibid., vol. 17.
Engels, F. “Vvedenie k rabote K. Marksa ’Grazhdanskaia voina vo Frantsii.’” Ibid., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “Kitogams”ezda.” Poln. sobr.soch., 5th ed., vol. 13.
Lenin, V. I. “Uroki Kommuny.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Volgin, V. P. “Politicheskie i sotsial’nye idei Blanki.” Izv. AN SSSR: Ser. istorii ifilosofii, 1951, vol. 8, no. 6.
Kan, S. B. Istoriia sotsialisticheskikh idei (do vozniknoveniia marksizma), 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Geffroy, G. Zakliuchennyi: Zhizn’ i revoliutsionnaia deiatel’nost’ O. Blanki, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925. (Translated from French.)
Wassermann, S. Les Clubs de Barbes et de Blanqui en 1848. Paris, 1913.
Dommanget, M. Les Idées politiques et sociales d’Auguste Blanqui. Paris, 1957. (Bibliography.)
Dommanget, M. Auguste Blanqui. . . . Paris-The Hague, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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