Louis Auguste Blanqui, nicknamed “l”Enfermé,” was born on 19 Pluviôse Year 13 of the Republic (February 8, 1805) in Puget-Théniers (Alpes-Maritimes) and died on January 1, 1881 in Paris. He defends essentially the same ideas as the socialist movement of the nineteenth century and is part of the non-Marxist socialists. The historian Michel Winock classifies him as one of the founders of the French extreme left, which opposes democratic elections as “bourgeois” and aspires to “real social equality.
After 1830, while still a student, Blanqui realized that the revolution could only express the will of the people through violence: “political prohibition”, which left the people without any guarantee, without any defense, in front of “the odious domination of the privileged”, inevitably led to the struggle. As a consequence of his insurrectionary attempts, he was imprisoned for a large part of his life, which gave him the nickname of “the Locked-Up”. He is at the origin of Blanquism.
In 1880, he published the newspaper Ni Dieu ni Maître (Neither God nor Master) whose title became a reference for the anarchist movement.
“Yes, gentlemen, there is a war between the rich and the poor: the rich have wanted it that way; they are indeed the aggressors. Only they consider it an evil action if the poor resist. They would gladly say, speaking of the people: this animal is so ferocious that it defends itself when attacked.”
– Excerpt from the defense of Auguste Blanqui in the Court of Assizes, 1832
Louis Auguste Blanqui was born in Puget-Théniers (Alpes-Maritimes) on February 8, 1805. Of Italian origin, his family had been naturalized French by the annexation of the county of Nice in 1792. His father Jean Dominique Blanqui, a member of the Convention, had himself been imprisoned in 1793 (an experience recounted in his book L”Agonie de dix mois), before being appointed sub-prefect under the First Empire (in Puget-Théniers) until 1814. Auguste Blanqui had an older brother, Adolphe Blanqui, a liberal theorist and economist, in favor of free trade and the disengagement of the state from the economy. Family relations were very conflictual. His father, Jean-Dominique, married his mother, Sophie, when she was very young: she was sixteen years old, he thirty-eight. He is marked by a great jealousy and the marital relations deteriorate. In addition, financial resources are very low. The fall of Napoleon and the Restoration brought additional difficulties. Jean-Dominique managed to get the support of his eldest son, Adolphe, who hated his mother, saying in his memories that she was spendthrift and violent, while she and Auguste maintained a mutual affection. Adolphe then claims that Sophie is instigating discord between her children. A harsh conflict broke out between Sophie on the one hand and Jean-Dominique and Adolphe on the other: as Sophie had inherited the estate of an aunt, the castle of Grandmont, she considered herself the sole manager of her property. Her husband and her eldest son reproach her for mismanaging her money; her husband now thinks she is “contemptible”.
Although Auguste was sometimes reluctant to accept the authority his brother claimed to have over him and did not have the same relationship with his parents, it must be recognized that their relationship was not fundamentally bad in their youth. Adolphe wanted Auguste, as well as the rest of his siblings, to have an adequate education. As he became a teacher and began to support himself, he demanded to pay half of Augustus” education costs. He was even forced to pay for everything out of his own pocket, as his aunt and father did not want to contribute to the costs. He even says that he considered August as his child, that he even “gave him more care as a child”.
At the age of thirteen, Auguste went to Paris. He attended the Massin institution where his brother Adolphe (a future liberal economist) was teaching, seven years older than him. He then studied law and medicine. But he soon became involved in politics, championing revolutionary republicanism during the reigns of Charles X, Louis-Philippe I and Napoleon III. His youthful opinions were marked by hostility to the Restoration, and consequently by Bonapartism, the republican current being then really in the minority. He became an atheist. He met Jean-Baptiste Say, whose son he knew from high school and whose disciple Adolphe became. At the age of seventeen, he actively campaigned against the trial of the four sergeants of La Rochelle, sentenced to death for having joined the secret society of the Charbonnerie and fomented unrest in their regiment. Decaux explains that “his political doctrine, according to which a small but determined group of revolutionaries can seize power, was certainly born from there.
Against Charles X and Louis-Philippe
Carbonaro since 1824, within this secret organization fighting against the monarchic restoration, Auguste Blanqui is involved in all the republican conspiracies of his time. From then on, he was involved in a succession of plots, failed coups de force and imprisonment.
In 1825-1826, he participated in the Saint-Simonian journal Le Producteur founded by Olinde Rodrigues and Prosper Enfantin.
In 1827, he was wounded three times during student demonstrations in the Latin Quarter, including a neck injury.
In 1828, he planned an expedition to Morée to help the insurgent Greece. He left with his friend and fellow student Alexandre Plocque. The trip ended in Puget-Théniers, for lack of a passport.
He joined Pierre Leroux”s liberal opposition newspaper Le Globe in late 1829. In 1830, he was a member of the most seditious republican association, known as the La Fayette Conspiracy, which played an important role in the preparation of the 1830 Revolution, in which he actively participated. After the revolution, he joined the Society of the Friends of the People; he made friends with other opponents of the Orleanist regime: Buonarrotti (1761-1837), Raspail (1794-1878) and Barbès (1809-1870), among others.
In January 1831, in the name of the “Committee of Schools”, he wrote a threatening proclamation. Following demonstrations, he was imprisoned at the Grande Force for three weeks. But, as a recidivist and still preaching violence, he was again arrested and charged with conspiracy against the security of the state. At the end of 1831, a trial took place during which he and fourteen comrades were accused of press offenses. Blanqui testified to his revolutionary character, demanding universal suffrage, accusing the bourgeoisie of being “privileged” and declaring himself to be a proletarian. He uses a formula that testifies to his socialist ideal: “To tax the necessary is to steal; to tax the superfluous is to give back. And he then says: “Any revolution is a progress”. Aggravating his case in front of the judges, he was sentenced to one year in prison.
After another stay in prison, he resumed his revolutionary activities in the “Society of Families”, which was continued in 1837 as the “Society of Seasons”.
On March 6, 1836, he was arrested, spent eight months in prison, and then was placed on probation in Pontoise.
On May 12, 1839, back in Paris, with Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard, he took part in the insurrection that seized the Palais de Justice, failed to take the Prefecture of Police, and occupied the Hôtel de Ville for a while. On the insurgent side, 77 people were killed and at least 51 wounded, and 28 dead and 62 wounded on the military side. After the failure of the riot, he remained hidden for five months, but was arrested on October 14.
On January 14, 1840, he was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was locked up in Mont-Saint-Michel. His wife, Amélie-Suzanne Serre, died while he was imprisoned in 1841; they had married in 1833. He had been Amélie”s teacher when she was eleven years old. Amélie”s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Serre, had initially been very sympathetic to Blanqui, who was hostile to Legitimism. But then they were very reluctant to accept the marriage of their daughter to Auguste. The latter seemed to them miserable. Moreover, he was imprisoned, having shown himself on many occasions completely unfavorable to the regime of Louis-Philippe. They had a rather good opinion of the July monarchy. For these reasons, the marriage of Amélie to Auguste was displeasing to them, and they accepted it only reluctantly, because of Amélie”s insistence.
In 1844, his state of health led to his transfer to the prison-hospital of Tours, where he remained until April 1847. Following an appeal for Blanqui”s release by the newspaper La Réforme (which included republicans and socialists such as Louis Blanc, Arago, Cavaignac, Pierre Leroux, etc.), Louis-Philippe pardoned Blanqui. Blanqui refused his release: he asked that it be said that he “claimed any solidarity with accomplices”; the letter of his refusal was published in La Réforme. The boy born of his union with Amélie, Estève (born in 1834), is educated by the Serre parents (Amélie”s parents) and by Auguste Jacquemart, the tutor. He sensed that his son would be educated in a way that did not conform to his wishes (Blanqui disapproved of his son being baptized, for example), perhaps even “against” them. Amélie feared that her parents would make Estève hate his father.
Once freed, he joined all the Parisian demonstrations from March to May during the 1848 Revolution, which gave birth to the Second Republic. He soon became disillusioned with the regime that was put in place. He wanted a revolutionary government and, even if he liked some measures such as the recognition of the right to work, he realized the conservative character of the government. He disapproved of Lamartine”s ideas, finding it absurd to keep the tricolor flag which represented the Republic and the Empire, but was discredited by its use as a symbol of the July Monarchy. He pleads for the adoption of the red flag, symbol of the “generous blood shed by the people and the national guard”. He asks Raspail and Caussidière in particular to do everything possible to prevent a reactionary policy from being conducted. He also asks that the date of the planned elections is shifted towards later – he calls for that the government of Lamartine on March 7, 1848. He wants that there is a campaign of persuasion of the people during a few months, before the elections, so that the French people are acquired to the revolutionary ideas. But Lamartine does not want to prolong for a long time the exercise of his power held without popular suffrage, and leaves the date as it is. Blanqui tries to form a pressure group with Louis Blanc and Cabet. But these, along with the demonstrators of March 17, are too timid for Blanqui”s taste: the elections originally planned for April 9 are only postponed to April 23. The use of violence by the Central Republican Society, which he had founded to demand a change in government, brought him into conflict with the moderate Republicans. Arrested after May 26, following his intervention at the Corps Législatif with demonstrators invading the room to defend the Polish cause, he was locked up in Vincennes. The trial opened before the High Court of Justice of Bourges on March 7, 1849. The prosecutor was Baroche, future minister of the Second Empire. He was judged with his fellow socialists and revolutionaries, notably Raspail, Barbès, Louis Blanc, … He said that he tried to pacify the popular movement, to avoid violence. An incident led to an argument before the judges between Barbès and Blanqui about the veracity of the Tascherau document. The accusations made by Barbès against Blanqui outraged the latter as well as Benjamin Flotte, one of his friends. Blanqui is sentenced to ten years in prison, and sent to Doullens. Blanqui”s mother is very devoted to her son during his imprisonment, as well as during his previous incarcerations. She was concerned about his health and successfully lobbied the administration to have him transferred to Belle-Île as his pre-trial detention in the Mazas prison had a negative impact on Auguste Blanqui”s health. In October 1850, he was incarcerated in Belle-Île-en-Mer; in December 1857, in Corte; then, in 1859, he was “transported” to Mascara, in Algeria, until August 16, 1859, the date of his release.
The Taschereau document
On March 31, 1848, a publication called Revue Rétrospective (Secret Archives of the Last Government) appeared. It contained a “Declaration made by xxx before the Minister of the Interior” in which an informer gave the police the names of the leaders of the secret societies plotting against the government in 1839. The informer, who was not named, but who received the Minister of the Interior Duchâtel in his prison cell, could only be Blanqui, who denied these accusations on April 1, 1848, and replied at greater length on April 14, 1848, in a tract entitled Réponse du citoyen Auguste Blanqui. The Taschereau document, named after its author, Jules Taschereau, a former lawyer who became secretary general of the Prefecture of the Seine under Louis Philippe, and then a deputy in the Constituent Assembly, was used throughout Blanqui”s life by his opponents, and in particular the most virulent of them, Armand Barbès. Barbès said that only he, Blanqui and Lamieussens had knowledge of such data on the society of the seasons. Blanqui, for his part, said that there was slander and that he would find the creators of such a lie. He writes that there is no proof of the authenticity of the document (no signature) and that Taschereau is a “dynastic”, that this invention, this “piece” comes from the “cabinet of Guizot”. It is thus according to him a way of instilling suspicion against him from his conservative enemies. Blanqui also points out the inconsistency of denouncing his comrades and showing panache in front of the judges, and notes that he was not given any special treatment during his detention. This had a strong impact on the future perception of him by his former relatives and supporters, even if some remained loyal to him. Barbès and Lamieussens were constant detractors, claiming to believe in his guilt. Raspail, on the other hand, was convinced by Blanqui”s defense. Alain Decaux raises the hypothesis of a forgery conceived in the police headquarters, finding inconsistencies in the text and in the fact that there was a denunciation of the members of the secret society, all of whose leaders had been arrested. A testimony denounces Lamieussens as being the informer (Geffroy, trying to investigate the affair had found a testimony, by a letter of Victor Bouton, going in this direction). This document would have been intended to harm him, and was judged not very credible by a good part of the former members of the Society of Seasons, even if some members were bitterly convinced of its truth, notably Barbès. Alain Decaux evokes the hypothesis put forward by Maurice Dommanget; the latter, an admirer of Blanqui, thinks in 1924 that the latter may have had a moment of weakness due to “his sickly state”, but does not question Blanqui”s character as a “great revolutionary”, saying that Bakounine too may have experienced such weakness. But Dommanget retracts his statement much later, and writes in Un drame politique en 1848 that he believes in Blanqui”s innocence, saying that the style of the document does not conform to Blanqui”s literary style. He thinks that the republicans would not have believed in his guilt without the hateful insistence of Barbès and that all the members of the secret society knew the data transmitted in the document. He is convinced of the presence of false testimony. The reality of Blanqui”s “treason” continues to be debated by historians.
This affair caused great harm to his popularity a few months later, and Blanqui asked, while he and Barbès were imprisoned in Belle-Île, that there be a sort of trial so that their fellow prisoners could decide between them, in December 1850. He suspects Barbès of corruption. And Barbès was reluctant to have the debate take place only between him and Blanqui. It is probably because he has more supporters than Blanqui that he wants the spectators to be able to participate, which would probably harm Blanqui. Barbès refused the debate with the modalities that Blanqui would have wanted, so it did not take place in the end.
Blanqui was released following the amnesty of 1859. He was still under surveillance. His mother and his brother Adolphe died during his detention. He can still count on his son Estève. But Estève, having been influenced more by his maternal grandparents than by his parents, wants Auguste to give up all political involvement. Estève wants to welcome Auguste to his property in the country, on the condition that Auguste gives up the political fight. Auguste does not want to accept this, and therefore loses contact with Estève. Still a revolutionary, as soon as he was released he resumed his fight against the Empire. On June 14, 1861, he was arrested, sentenced to four years in prison, and locked up in Sainte-Pélagie. He escaped in August 1865 to Belgium, and continued his propaganda campaign against the government from his exile, until the general amnesty of 1869 allowed him to return to France. It was during these years that a Blanquist party was born and organized into sections. Blanqui acquired a few followers; he had a strong influence in the student youth. Among the Blanquists were Paul Lafargue and Charles Longuet (both French socialists, future sons-in-law of Marx) and Georges Clemenceau (there was an early rift in their relationship because Clemenceau became close to Delescluze, a revolutionary socialist hated by Blanqui. But the admiration that each has for the other remains).
Blanqui”s penchant for violent action was illustrated in 1870 with two aborted attempts at insurrection: the first on January 12 during the funeral of Victor Noir (a journalist killed by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, who was nothing less than the son of Lucien Bonaparte, and therefore nephew of Napoleon I and cousin of Napoleon III). The second one took place on August 14, when he tried to seize an arms depot in a fire station. He only led a hundred men, including Vallès; he was the one who decided on the plan of action, he was the real leader and refused the plan that was submitted to him, that of taking the castle of Vincennes. He counted on the rallying of the people, the barracks being located in the working class district of La Villette. This happened after the resignation of Ollivier following the military defeats of France against Prussia in 1870; Blanqui was disappointed that the Republic had not been established and wanted to depose the regent empress. He failed to rally the Parisians to his cause. He knows that he cannot hope to face the forces of order with so few men. Disappointed, resigned, he disperses the small group of insurgents. Some of them were arrested, but not Blanqui. The moderate republicans, notably Gambetta and Favre, condemned this attempted insurrection. Helped by George Sand, by Michelet, by Ranc and by Gambetta, Blanqui managed to obtain a reprieve for the convicts. They are released with the proclamation of the Republic.
The disastrous beginnings of the Third Republic in the war against Prussia
The Blanquists helped found the Republic on September 4, 1870; they wanted France, thanks to the Republic, to win the war. Blanqui did not agree with the Republican leaders such as Ferry, Favre, Gambetta, Arago, Garnier-Pagès. But he supports them, wants the national unity of the republicans against Prussia. On September 7, Blanqui created a club and a newspaper, La patrie en danger, which supported Gambetta”s resistance, but ceased publication on December 8 for lack of funds. Jules Vallès participates in this club. But Blanqui realized that the president of the government of National Defense, General Trochu, a former Orleanist, was not so confident in the French victory. Trochu does not want to arm the people, preferring to leave the weapons to the professional army. He wants to resolve to surrender, while Blanqui does not want “the comedy of war” to lead to “an ignominious peace”. Blanqui”s distrust proves to be lucid. He was elected chief of the 169th battalion of the Paris National Guard with the support of Clemenceau. The battalion chiefs sent a delegation, including Blanqui, to the Hôtel de Ville. Vallès recounts: “One morning, I saw the entire government of the National Defense wading in nonsense and lies under the clear eye of Blanqui. With a small voice, with calm gestures, he showed them the danger, he indicated the remedy, he gave them a course in political and military strategy. And Garnier-Pagès, in his false collar, Ferry between his chops, Pelletan, in the depths of his beard, looked like schoolboys caught in the act of ignorance”. The sacred union was thus broken, with the Blanquists scolding the moderate Republicans. Blanqui was insulted, treated as a Prussian in an absurd way by the supporters of the government. Trochu had new elections held for the 169th battalion. Blanqui was not allowed to explain himself. He lost his position as an officer during the election. Clemenceau, like Blanqui and Gambetta, refused to consider surrender: as mayor of the 18th arrondissement of Paris, he put up posters declaring that “the government could not accept an armistice without treason”. The Parisians, bourgeois as well as workers, refused to conclude an armistice.
On October 31, 1870, Flourens, a journalist, called for the establishment of a provisional committee to replace the government of national defense, before elections were held. In this committee, he wished to sit with Victor Hugo, Blanqui, Dorian (a rather popular industrialist), Henri Rochefort (a left-wing journalist opposed to the Second Empire, participating in the government of national defense), Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin, Raspail (all three former unsuccessful left-wing candidates in the presidential elections against Louis-Napoleon). They were left-wing personalities, hostile to the surrender to Prussia. The Parisian crowd cheered the names of the candidates presented, including Blanqui. Blanqui then went to the Hôtel de Ville, hoping to take a place in the government. It seems that Crisenoy, a conservative commander of the 17th battalion of carabiniers, tried to have Blanqui arrested, but gave up, fearing the reaction of the National Guards, with whom Blanqui was popular. The National Guards, who were in favor of the committee, invaded the Paris City Hall. The committee in place conciliates with the hostages of the government of the National Defense of which Favre to proceed to elections on November 2. But as not all the government of national defense was present (in particular its chief Trochu was absent), the decision taken by the hostages and the committee did not convince Blanqui, who wanted all the members of the government of national defense to sign. While he was trying to obtain the signatures, the police of the mobile guard intervened against the Blanquist national guards. The committee and the government of National Defense then decide on a peaceful solution, leaving the building and displaying concord. Blanqui only stayed in the government for ten hours, as Decaux points out.
The government of National Defense did not respect its commitments to the provisional committee. It took conservative measures and appointed a reactionary as head of the National Guard. In a plebiscite asking the Parisians if they accept the maintenance of the government of the National Defense, they accept (557,976 yes against 68,638 no). They then disavowed Blanqui, who sensed that voting yes would lead to capitulation. Thiers then negotiated the conditions of the capitulation with Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian chancellor. Blanqui, in his newspaper La Patrie en danger, continued to write fiercely to denounce the actions of the government. Thus, on November 11, he protests: “When one thinks that the Hôtel de ville has never believed for a minute in the possible success of the resistance, that it has made two months of this horrible war without any hope, only to keep the authority, to remain in government! And when one still thinks that this preconceived certainty of the defeat was the only cause of it, that serious preparations, made in time, assured us the victory, and that one crossed the arms, by conviction of their uselessness, how not to remain annihilated of pain and rage in front of the fatherland which sinks by the ineptitude, the egoism and the flat ambition of some men? He was incensed by the fact that Trochu had been chosen to organize the defense of Paris. But Blanqui does not have sufficient resources to keep his newspaper alive, and soon, on December 8, he is forced to abandon it: La Patrie en danger disappears.
The food shortage was severe in Paris, where citizens were forced to eat horses, cats, dogs, and even rats. On January 5, 1871, the Prussians bombarded the left bank of the Seine. But the Parisians were tenacious: they seemed determined, for the most part, not to surrender, while the government was resigned to it. The government, in order to convince the population that the surrender was inevitable, made the army make a disastrous sortie, the battle of Buzenval on January 19, 1871, which ended in failure. The National Guards of Paris delivered the political prisoners at Mazas on January 21 and wanted to retake the Hôtel de Ville on January 22. Blanqui tried to dissuade the insurgents from attempting to take the Hôtel de Ville, believing it would fail, but he joined them, since they were determined and he wanted to take part in this revolutionary action, even though he thought it would fail. There is indeed failure, the mobile guard represses in blood the revolutionary action. Jules Favre intends to negotiate with Bismarck an armistice of 21 days, after which a newly elected National Assembly will decide on peace or war. Gambetta, Minister of the Interior, disagreed with Favre and wanted to continue the war. But he resigned because many prefects announced that the departments were in favor of surrender. On February 8, 1871, the National Assembly was elected; Blanqui was not elected. In a pamphlet entitled Un dernier mot (A Last Word), he accuses the government (described as the dictatorship of the Hôtel de Ville) of “high treason and an attack on the very existence of the nation.
The Commune (March 18-May 28, 1871)
Blanqui leaves Paris for Bordeaux, and then for Loulié. On March 9, he was sentenced to death in absentia. Adolphe Thiers, head of the government, aware of Blanqui”s influence on the Parisian social movement, had him arrested on March 17, 1871, while he was ill and resting at the home of a doctor friend in Bretenoux, in the Lot region. He was taken to the hospital in Figeac, and from there to Cahors. He was unable to participate in the events of the Paris Commune, which was launched on March 18, an uprising against the government of Thiers and against the Prussian invaders in which many Blanquists participated. He could not communicate with anyone, it seems, and was not even made aware of the events taking place. On March 18, Thiers tried to seize the cannons on the Butte Montmartre, but the population opposed: these events led to the proclamation of the Paris Commune, of which Blanqui was elected as head of the list in many districts, even though he remained detained outside Paris. A majority of “Communards” recognized themselves in Blanqui. Would he have changed the course of history if he had been in Paris? Karl Marx was convinced that Blanqui was the leader who had failed the Commune. Moreover, the elected officials of the Commune (out of 92 city councilors, 44 were neo-Jacobins and Blanquists) wanted, for many, the return of Blanqui. Flotte, Blanqui”s old friend, told Monseigneur Darboy, a hostage, that he wanted Blanqui freed in exchange for the Communards freeing the hostages (religious and a senator). Abbé Lagarde is sent as an emissary by Mgr Darboy to Thiers, in order to obtain this transaction. Thiers refuses to subscribe to this proposal. Lagarde, in spite of his engagement to return to be constituted as hostage if the exchange failed, does not return to Paris. Mgr Darboy assuring that Flotte is an upright man and that he must be able to negotiate the exchange, Flotte has an interview with Thiers. Flotte tells the latter that he does not want to resolve to kill the 74 hostages, but that it is necessary to deliver Blanqui and that the exactions of the Versailles generals towards the communards cease. Thiers persisted in his refusals, and made the killing of the hostages inevitable. To the Abbé Deguerry who said to him “this man lacks heart”, Mgr Darboy replied: “Better to say that this man has no heart”. The hostages were therefore killed. And on May 21, Bloody Week began, the bloody repression of the Communards by the Versaillais. On May 22, Blanqui was released from his prison and transferred to Morlaix on May 24, to the gaols of the Château du Taureau, where his living conditions were deplorable (permanent surveillance, solitude, incessant noise, etc.). There he became interested in astronomy (writing L”Éternité par les astres), reflecting on the immensity of the universe, thinking that somewhere there was probably a population with the characteristics of the human race.
After the Commune
Brought back to Paris, he was judged on February 15, 1872, and condemned (for his actions on October 31, 1870) along with other communards, to deportation, a sentence that was commuted to life imprisonment, given his state of health. Despite the fact that Dorian had come to support the idea that the government of national defense had pledged not to condemn those who had participated in the events of October 31, Blanqui was condemned. In his defense, Blanqui told the judge, “I represent here the Republic, dragged to the bar of your court by the monarchy. The government commissioner condemned the Revolution of 1789, that of 1830, that of 1848 and that of September 4: it is in the name of monarchical ideas, of the old law in opposition to the new law, as he says, that I am being judged and that, under the republic, I will be condemned. He is interned in Clairvaux. He was terribly ill (heart edema) in 1877 but, despite medical prognosis, he managed to survive a few months. More and more voices (notably the newspaper L”Égalité) spoke out against his imprisonment, joining that of Mrs. Antoine, one of his sisters, who said: “He is still sequestered today in the prisons of the republic after having devoted his life to founding and defending it. He acquired a certain popularity. On February 21, 1879, Clemenceau intervened in the assembly to have the amnesty extended to him, saying that Blanqui was a “firm republican”. Blanqui was grateful for this. Throughout France, at each election, Blanqui”s friends put forward his candidacy in order to raise public awareness in his favor. After a few failures, he was elected in Roanne and then, thanks to the Girondins Ernest Roche and Antoine Jourde who campaigned for him, he managed to be elected on April 20, 1879 as deputy of Bordeaux against André Lavertujon, director of the newspaper La Gironde (Garibaldi called for a vote for him, saying that he was a “heroic martyr of human freedom”). The question of his eligibility is raised; on the left, Louis Blanc and Clemenceau support the thesis of the validity of the election and the necessity of Blanqui”s release. But his election was invalidated by the National Assembly on June 1 by 354 to 33. Blanqui was nevertheless released on the 10th, pardoned by a presidential decree of Jules Grévy; pardoned but not amnestied, therefore still ineligible.
He is happy to find his sisters, Mmes Barellier and Antoine, and his friend Clemenceau. Lafargue, Marx”s son-in-law, congratulates him on his release and invites him to London; Blanqui prefers to devote himself to a new election in Bordeaux and will not go to London. Lafargue, Marx and Pierre Denis admired Blanqui, seeing in him the creator of the idea of class struggle. It seems that it is not reciprocal: Blanqui shows a severe reprobation when a journalist, Gabriel Deville, develops in front of him his Marxist ideas. Blanqui fails in the election, defeated by the Republican candidate Antoine Achard, probably because of the virulent attacks against him, repeating the accusations of the Taschereau document. He then devoted himself to the fight for the amnesty of his fellow communards. He travels through France and spreads his ideas in his newspaper Ni Dieu ni maître. Shocked that it was republicans who were deported and imprisoned while monarchists and bonapartists lived on without being bothered, he gathered crowds, especially in Lyon, to take up the cause of amnesty. He met Garibaldi and Rochefort. Just after the death of his sister, Mme Barellier, for which he was inconsolable, he was defeated in the second round of the legislative elections in Lyon, his opponents having once again joined forces against him and having used the Taschereau document. But his campaign having been well conducted (he had succeeded in being first in the first round), he contributed in a consequent way to the adoption of the law of July 11, 1880 of amnesty for the communards. After the death of Mme Barellier, he went to live with Ernest Granger, a disciple. On December 27, while discussing with Granger, Blanqui had a cerebral congestion; he felt faint and fell. His friends, notably Clemenceau and Vaillant, came to his bedside. He died on the evening of January 1, 1881 at 25 boulevard Auguste-Blanqui. His funeral was attended by one hundred thousand people. He was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. His disciple, Eudes, and Louise Michel pay him homage.
Following the socialist current of the time, Blanqui was in favor of the redistribution of capital and the collectivization of the means of production, as he indicated in his text Whoever makes the soup must drink it. But Blanquism was different in several respects from the other socialist currents of his time. It cannot be assimilated to Marxism. On the one hand, unlike Karl Marx, Blanqui did not believe in the preponderant role of the working class, nor in the movements of the masses: he thought, on the contrary, that the revolution should be the work of a small number of people, establishing by force a temporary dictatorship. This period of transitional tyranny should allow the foundations of a new order to be laid, and then hand over power to the people. On the other hand, Blanqui was more concerned with the revolution than with the future of society after it: although his thought was based on precise socialist principles, it rarely went so far as to imagine a purely and truly socialist society. He differs in this respect from the utopians. For the Blanquists, the overthrow of an order seen as “bourgeois” and the revolution are ends that are sufficient in themselves, at least at first. He was one of the non-Marxist socialists of his time. Already as a young man, he was in favor of the advent of the Republic, because he believed that it would be quick to see the advent of socialism.
In his newspaper, Le Libérateur, founded in 1834, whose motto was “Unity, equality, fraternity”, he wrote in the first issue of February 2, 1834: “If, in fact, we call ourselves republicans, it is because we hope for a social overhaul from the republic, which France imperiously demands and which is in its destiny. If the republic were to deceive this hope, we would cease to be republicans, because in our eyes a form of government is not a goal, but a means and we desire a political reform only as a way to a social reform”. It is necessary to point out that, later, he will show the idea of a kind of dictatorship of the proletariat; in the society of the seasons of which he is the founder, it is said during the oath of enthronement: “The social state being gangrenous, to pass to a healthy state, heroic remedies are necessary; the people will need for some time a revolutionary power”.
It should be noted that Blanqui was a follower of Hébert”s thought; he rejected Robespierre”s ideas, which he felt were too religious (in fact, Blanqui was the founder of the newspaper Ni Dieu ni maître). Alain Decaux considers that Blanqui”s behavior is comparable to that of Robespierre: he opposes the behavior of Barbès, more similar to that of a Danton. Blanqui is marked by “austerity” and “rigidity”. Blanqui and Barbès were opposed to each other because of the Taschereau affair, after having been allies. In particular, they sought to take the Paris City Hall together in 1839. Barbès and Blanqui were “antinomian” revolutionaries: “Blanqui wanted a social republic, the republic of Barbès was more lukewarm”. Alain Decaux finds that the accusation of extreme violence made to Blanqui is exaggerated; he finds Hugo severe and unfair when he compares Blanqui to Marat. According to him, Blanqui accepts the debates, is not a guillotineur, does not ask for example -as Hugo accuses him- that Lamartine”s head be knocked off. He is much more peaceful than what one could claim.
He is uncompromising. He does not want progressive reforms marked by concessions. He has a formula: “one must marry without dowry”. He does not want to join the more moderate left of Ledru-Rollin or the socialist Louis Blanc. He is firmly revolutionary, writing to some of his supporters while imprisoned in 1851: “Who has iron has bread… France bristling with armed workers, here is the advent of socialism. In the presence of armed proletarians, obstacles, resistances, impossibilities, everything will disappear. But for the proletarians who allow themselves to be amused by ridiculous walks in the streets, by planting trees of liberty, by the sonorous phrases of lawyers, there will be holy water first, then insults, finally machine-gun fire, finally machine-gun fire, always misery. Let the people choose!”
Blanqui seems to have no sympathy for the First International. Blanqui, moreover, seems to dislike Proudhon, who is quite popular among the members of the International. Blanqui cannot be linked to any of the major socialist currents of thought of his time. He did not show much admiration for Marx, except for his Misère de la philosophie, a work of criticism of Proudhon. According to Decaux, “Blanqui did not tolerate any alliance”. An attempt of alliance with partisans of Bakounine is for example failed.
Blanqui is similar to the so-called “metaphysical” socialism. In his work L”Éternité par les astres (1872), written, it is true, at the end of his life, when he was once again imprisoned, he explains that the combination of atoms from which we result reproduces itself an infinite number of times (in the infinity of space and time), so that each of us has an infinite number of look-alikes. However, Blanqui”s last writings are minimal compared to what he was before all: a strategist of insurrection who did not hesitate to pay with his person.
In his collection of texts entitled Social Criticism, published in 1886, Blanqui expounds three theses:
A tribute to Blanqui was made by Aristide Maillol, on the request of Georges Clemenceau. Three statues were made, under the name “L”Action enchaînée”. One of these statues was installed on the seafront of Banyuls-sur-Mer. Another is in Puget-Théniers.
Michel Onfray signs an open letter in homage to Blanqui under the title Quarante-trois camélias pour Blanqui (Forty-three camellias for Blanqui) in his book Politique du rebelle, traité de résistance et d”insoumission (1997)