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Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881) was one of the most important and controversial figures in nineteenth-century French revolutionary politics, and he played a major role in all of the great upheavals that punctuated his life—the insurrections of 1830, 1848 and 1870–71. Adamant that a just and egalitarian society can only be established by revolutionary means, he recognised that no insurrection can succeed if it fails to overcome the coercive resources of the state, and no revolutionary government can endure if it betrays the principles that alone earn and deserve mass support.
At odds with followers of Proudhon on the one hand and of Marx on the other, Blanqui commanded unrivalled authority in French revolutionary circles during parts of his own lifetime but was quickly forgotten (if not derided) after his death. This is the first collection of Blanqui’s writings ever published in English, and it includes new and complete translations of his best-known texts: Instructions for an Armed Uprising and Eternity by the Stars. With material drawn from all his most important publications and speeches, as well as from the full sweep of his voluminous manuscripts and correspondence, this wide-ranging anthology will enable anglophone readers and political activists to arrive at their own critical assessment of Blanqui’s thought and legacy for the first time.
“Auguste Blanqui believed that a well-organized and secretive revolutionary elite could succeed in taking power in nineteenth-century France and bring about a regime of social justice. Yet it did not work out that way. Spending much of his life in prison, he had lots of time to reflect and to write. This volume presents the best of the political writing of Blanqui, accompanied by the editors’ introduction. We see why Blanqui’s determined optimism and faith in education and ordinary people anticipated subsequent revolutionaries, including Lenin and Gramsci. And why what Blanqui has to say may be particularly relevant in our time.”
“Blanqui was one of the most important of the revolutionary leaders who helped to shape French politics from the Bourbon Restoration to the Third Republic. He was famous as an organizer, a conspirator and a would-be maker of insurrections. He was also a prolific writer, many of whose texts are practically unknown. Philippe Le Goff and Peter Hallward have now made a good selection of them available in English—a service to all interested in this dramatic period of history, in this strange and unyielding individual, and in the wider history of revolutionary ideologies.”
“Although his name is no longer mentioned, Blanqui’s particular brand of communism is the one that modern-day royalists still fear, that modern-day liberals still distance themselves from.”
“The editors Peter Hallward and Philippe Le Goff have done a great service for scholars and activists. The Blanqui Reader is an essential work in rescuing L’Enfermé from obscurity and rediscovering his relevance for today.”