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Related to Bonapartism: Caesarism


(MARXISM) a form of government in capitalist society in which the executive is controlled by a dictator, who in turn controls other institutions of the state and society. For MARX, in his The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, this form represented a stalemate in class relations with the capitalist class unable to rule through parliamentary means and the working class unable to achieve dominance. The example Marx analysed was of Louis Bonaparte in France, who became Napoleon III in 1851 after a coup d'état. Marx argued that the regime still sought the development of capitalism.

Subsequent writers have seen this as an example of the RELATIVE AUTONOMY (OF THE STATE). Various examples have been claimed in the 20th century especially in THIRD WORLD societies where the relatively weak social class formations may underlie the frequency of military dictatorships stepping in to resolve political conflicts where no one social class is strong enough to dominate over others. Such examples may be distinguished from FASCISM, since mass parties are not used either to come to power or to sustain the dictatorship in power, and there may be no articulated fascist ideology. However, the concept may be too broad to account adequately for all the various circumstances in which dictatorships emerge and hence there is debate about its precise applicability

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a term that was originally applied to the military dictatorship established by Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I) in France in 1799 after the Great French Revolution and to the dictatorship of Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon III), who came to power in 1851 after the defeat of the Revolution of 1848. Subsequently, the term “Bonapartism” was extended to any counterrevolutionary dictatorship of the upper bourgeoisie that is based on militarism, has the support of the reactionaryminded strata of the backward peasantry, and maneuvers between antagonistic classes in conditions of an unstable balance of class forces. Thus, for example, Lenin characterized the policy of the bourgeoisie in Russia after the July crisis of 1917 as Bonapartist.

In connection with this policy he wrote: “Bonapartism is a form of government that grows out of the counterrevolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie in conditions of democratic reforms and democratic revolution” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34, p. 83).

Bonapartism combines social demagoguery with active chauvinistic propaganda and aggression and a policy of suppressing democratic freedoms and the revolutionary movement through extensive use of the police, bureaucratic machinery, and church. The rule of Bismarck inGermany a nd P. A. Stolypin in Russia had elements of Bonapartism.


Marx, K. “Vosemnadtsatoe briumera Lui Bonaparta.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Engels, F. “Deistvitel’nye prichiny otnositel’noi passivnosti frantsuzskikh proletariev v dekabre proshlogo goda. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Engels, F. “Rol’ nasiliia v istorii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Ob otsenke tekushchego momenta.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “Nachalo bonapartizma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34.
Lenin, V. I. “Za derev’iami ne vidiat lesa.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Fairly clearly, this comment situates hope in the unfolding postwar life; any praise or blame for Bonapartism would in fact be a counterproductive discursion (as in Byron's "Napoleon's Farewell," where the violet is a pledge of the emperor's eventual return).
Having themselves gained power by force, Soviet leaders were always wary of Bonapartism, the prospect that a popular general would take over, and like Stalin, Khrushchev feared Zhukov's popularity.
Together they referred to a horizon of the commons in 1803, despite the nights of carnage and in the midst of repressive terror by the British Empire, French Bonapartism, and American expansionism.
Putin wants to stop the Magnitsky Act, which is supported by Russia's democratic opposition and which shows Putin that the American people also oppose his Bonapartism.
Her topics include the invasion of Algeria and the revolution of 1830, Bonapartism and the popular culture of conquest, colonialism in the age of abolition, and speculation and the colonial landscape.
Excluded by his unreconstructed Bonapartism from military life during the Restoration, Giroudeau wallows for years in a Parisian demimonde of carousing, stage girls, and petty crime.
Given the background of military takeovers, the constitution in 1973 furnished an article with a view to check the military Bonapartism. It decided that any person who abrogated or conspired to abrogate, subverted or conspired to subvert the constitution by force or by any other unconstitutional means should be guilty of high treason.
student, but it is an excellent read for the specialist of the French Revolution as well as the specialist in Bonapartism. Dwyer's work has a number of excellent portraits and other illustrations, each of which would be more commanding if they were in color instead of a grainy black and white.
The book under review has many other issues deliberated upon, like the capitalist tsunami, October Revolution, the role of the socialist system, Pakistan and Bonapartism, the Marxist view of the state, etc.