Louis Blanc: His Life and His Contribution to the Rise of French Jacobin-Socialism

Louis Blanc: His Life and His Contribution to the Rise of French Jacobin-Socialism

Louis Blanc: His Life and His Contribution to the Rise of French Jacobin-Socialism

Louis Blanc: His Life and His Contribution to the Rise of French Jacobin-Socialism

Excerpt

This book is a presentation of the life and the thoughts of Louis Blanc. Both are important, and as far as possible I have striven to avoid the weaknesses of his earlier biographers who tended to emphasize his ideas while ignoring his daily activities. An exception to this generalization was Edouard Renard. His work marked a considerable improvement over that of his predecessors; however, his study is limited by its purely descriptive rather than analytical approach.

Attempting to combine description and interpretation, I have felt it necessary to keep in mind two major considerations. Blanc was the first socialist to enter a French government -- or any government -- in the nineteenth century. This precipitate rise to power was the major action of his public career. A study of his life, therefore, must determine to what extent he prepared for power and how his exercise of it influenced his activity after 1848. As for his thought, he was the true exponent of Jacobin-socialism. A biography, therefore, must explain his combination of Jacobin politics and socialist economics, and assess the extent to which it influenced French history.

My description of Blanc's life will deal chiefly with his public activities. Very little is known about his private affairs. Many of his papers were destroyed during the Commune of 1871, and a great deal of his preserved correspondence has been sold and scattered. But even if we possessed more of his letters it is doubtful that they would throw much new light on his private existence. The documents that remain suggest that he rarely included personal information in them and his letters were short and limited in interest.

Perhaps it will seem to some readers that I devote an excessive amount of space to Blanc's ideas. The modern romantic biography dwells on a man's career, or his love affairs, or his intrigues and diversions. This approach would violate a certain mystique of my subject. Blanc refused to see a distinction between an idea and a deed, contending that an idea was an act in itself. As for the importance of the man he wrote, "Eh! what did it matter that the man was overthrown, that he was trodden underfoot, if his work survived, if the furrow was ploughed?" Now his major contribution was intellectual: he was a far more skillful thinker than a politician, and a dismal failure as an organizer. Consequently, his . . .

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