Louis Blanc

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Blanc, Louis


Born Oct. 29,1811, in Madrid; died Dec. 6, 1882, in Cannes. French Utopian socialist; historian; journalist; figure in the Revolution of 1848. Born into a noble family.

During the 1830’s, Blanc became a well-known journalist in Paris. He based his views on the development of the historical process on the ideas of Saint-Simon. Blanc’s work The Organization of Labor (1839; Russian translation, 1926), which gave a plan for social reform, made him popular. Beginning in 1843 he contributed to the petit bourgeois newspaper La Réforme (Reform). Between 1841 and 1844 he published The History of Ten Years, which was directed against the July Monarchy. In 1847 he published the first volume of his 12-volume History of the French Revolution (Russian translation, vols. 1–12, 1907–09), in which he presented a positive evaluation of the Jacobin period of the Revolution.

Blanc’s reputation as a social reformer, his connections with bourgeois democratic circles, and his negative attitude toward the class struggle of the proletariat made him a “representative of the workers” who was useful to the bourgeois majority in the provisional government, which he had joined during the Revolution of 1848. Heading the so-called Luxembourg Commission, Blanc attempted to avert revolutionary action by the proletariat. Although Blanc did not participate in the June Uprising of 1848, the bourgeoisie, which came to power, prosecuted him. In August 1848 he emigrated to England. There he wrote the work The History of the Revolution of 1848 (1870; Russian translation, vols. 1–2, 1907), in which he attempted to justify his policy of compromise. Blanc returned to France in 1870. Elected to the National Assembly in 1871, Blanc was among the enemies of the Paris Commune of 1871 at Versailles.

In the development of society Blanc saw a succession of three principles: authority, which was dominant during the Middle Ages; individualism, which became firmly established in bourgeois society; and fraternity, which would become a reality under socialism. According to Blanc, insofar as competition was inevitable in a social system based on the principle of individualism, it was pernicious not only for the workers but also for the bourgeoisie, who risked being ruined. Proceeding from this point, Blanc believed that social reform could be brought about by the common efforts of the people and the bourgeoisie. According to Blanc’s concept, the state should undertake the organization of “social workshops” which would attract the participation of the bourgeoisie. In Blanc’s opinion, these social associations would be victorious in the competitive struggle against private enterprises because of the greater productivity of their labor. Blanc’s Utopian plan spread the illusion of the possibility of resolving peacefully the contradictions between labor and capital. Blanc took his place in the history of socialism and the workers’ movement as the forefather of opportunism and reformism (Luiblanovshchina, or Louis Blancism).


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