By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
“The peasant was a Bonapartist because the Great Revolution, with all its benefits to him, was, in his eyes, personified in Napoleon.” – Karl Marx
(This is the third chapter in a new book, France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. Please click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)
To be against Napoleon Bonaparte in the 19th century was to totally reject grassroots, democratic French opinion, and thus to be against the French Revolution itself. It was to cede the view of Napoleon Bonaparte to his enemies: the English snob, an in-bred Austrian king, a colluding and traitorous Italian noble, a Hungarian aristocrat, etc.
Modern Western political history simply makes no sense – it loses the thread of expanding power away from the absolute ruler – if we do not take the view that Napoleon Bonaparte was a leftist, as his citizen contemporaries did. Making Napoleon a demon of bloodlust and ambition, just another fascistic military man, a secret reactionary, etc. – all is designed to obscure the importance of 1789 and to reverse it.
The willing desire to lose the thread of progressive history was especially evident in the awful reporting surrounding the 200th anniversary of his death, in 2021. The coverage in France was surprising sparse and can be summed up with three words: “tyrant” and “controversial legacy”. A fake-leftist, and thus totally deluded, view was routinely proffered, typified by state media France24’s article: “Napoleon: Military genius or sexist, slaving autocrat?”
The official anti-Napoleon smokescreen was personified by President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on the bicentenary, which ended with: “I have no intention to say if Napoleon realised or instead betrayed revolutionary values. I will of course steer clear of such territory.” Of course he will steer clear – Western Liberal Democrats always do, because they are the ones who work to ensure that the revolutionary values of 1789 are never realised.
Here is your simplest retort to those who accuse “tyrant”: Napoleon was voted First Consul for life and then emperor by millions of people, and the “voted” part is what made it these appointments spectacular political advances for its era. The other monarchs of this era were merely more unelected dictators. Secondly, his constitutions were also ratified by many millions – another spectacular leftist advance. These things simply cannot be dismissed because it would be more than a century before they would be emulated in most of Europe. The number of referendums on monarchy in global history only total a few dozen, and nearly all were after 1950.
Simply ask if the king of Saudi Arabia, Morocco or the behind-the-scenes monarchs of Europe would ever put themselves to a public vote? When it comes to the schism between the Muslim and Western worlds perhaps the single largest problem is that the latter totally forgets the violent threat, the crude insult, the perpetual crime which is hereditary monarchy. Because the West forgets this they also fatally misunderstand their own European history since 1789, and they fail to see Napoleon Bonaparte as a leftist hero.
Making Napoleon Bonaparte worse than his absolute monarch peers is a preposterous revision of history and totally excludes the political view of the European peasant and working class. Ask a subject who never voted for his monarch: There is no “controversial legacy”.
Yellow Vest: “We are here to protest against the abusive government and this kingship-presidency of Emmanuel Macron. The Yellow Vests are here to promote a true vision of democracy and to redistribute our nation’s wealth. Every election there is more and more abstention because people don’t believe in mainstream politics anymore.”
(Note: this book intersperses over 100 quotations taken from actual, marching Yellow Vests which were originally published in news reports on PressTV.)
What an objective view reveals is this: Revolutionary France saw not just one but seven “Coalition Wars” to restore monarchy, privilege, feudalism, torture, inequality, racism and the oppression of an aristocratic elite. From 1792-1815 Europe’s elite refused to make peace with the socio-political advances of the French Revolution, which the French people democratically chose again and again and again. England was the only nation which participated in every war, and it repeatedly paid off other nations to join them.
The simplest retort to those who call the French Revolution “imperialist” is this: The French Revolutionary Empire at its greatest height – in 1808 – was the result of defensive wars which it won. All the Empire’s territory was gained as punishment for aggressive wars against France or lost by rebelling populaces choosing to side with France, with the sole exception of Portugal. All seven Coalition Wars were attacks on France, all to prevent democracy from spreading across autocratic Europe.
The “Napoleonic Wars” have absolutely no reason to be set off from the more accurate “European Wars Against the French Revolution” unless that reason is obfuscation. This 23-year period must be looked at as a whole, because it wouldn’t have mattered if it was Napoleon in charge or not as long as the ideals of the French Revolution were being employed – the Revolution would have always been aggressed. Like Iran, Cuba and the USSR know, 23 years of military invention by royalists or Western Liberal Democrats to stifle progressive, anti-elite political systems is simply de rigeur.
This chapter is not a whitewashing of Napoleon Bonaparte, but a refusal to say that his entire revolutionary career from 1789 to 1815 should be judged on the basis of the last few years. Napoleon’s primary leftist and anti-revolutionary failure was his development of dynastic intentions. However, we are not taking about this turn to personal gain until 1810, when he married Marie-Louise, a princess of the Austrian Hapsburgs, the corrupt and wasteful absolute monarch ruler of most of the continent. In Napoleon: The Myth of the Savior, Jean Tulard, perhaps the pre-eminent French historian of this era (and not a pro-Napoleon one in my estimation) wrote, “On St. Helena, Napoleon, ‘brutally awakened from his dream of monarchic legitimacy’ confided that he should have married a French woman and, above all, not a princess. He saw clearly, but too late.” Napoleon’s error was in forgetting that he already enjoyed more leftist legitimacy than any monarch ever – he was the first to be voted in. The counter-revolutionary monarchs of everywhere else would never accept that because the French Revolution was – above all – against unsanctioned autocracy. Similarly, putting his brothers in charge of countries which willingly joined France was another leftist error in line with dynastic intentions, but this wasn’t really unpopular until the imposition of Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain, who replaced the feudal Bourbons, in 1808. Napoleon himself said that one of his greatest mistakes was reintroducing the ranks of the nobility, also in 1808. The three criticisms here are all related – the restoration of elite privilege and hereditary oligarchy – but we would be inaccurate and unfair to not emphasise that this trend occurred two decades into Napoleon’s spectacularly successful revolutionary career!
Was Napoleon’s vision of the French Revolution that of the left of the Revolution, epitomised by Robespierre and the Jacobins? No, but calling a lifelong revolutionary soldier like Napoleon Bonaparte a “non-revolutionary” because he was not completely on the left side of the revolutionary spectrum is to absurdly say there is no “revolutionary political spectrum”. It is to say that the “revolutionary political spectrum” is the same as the non-revolutionary, typical “political spectrum”, in a total falsehood. It is to undemocratically excise the revolutionary viewpoints of his millions of comrades, and also of the democratic majority of his time. What is certain is that it is to reveal essentially no first-hand experience with any real revolution at all, as such a view of revolution is a fool’s fairy tale of pure idealism.
By distorting Napoleon – by saying that Elvis was always “fat Elvis” and never the king of rock and roll who shook the world – today’s 1% can keep 1789 totally dead. Napoleon is the key to keeping 1789 alive and continuing to implement its most progressive, leftist ideals.
It is simply astounding that the left doesn’t find so much to embrace in Napoleon Bonaparte. As much as I would like to write 10,000 words about Napoleon’s career in order to give a modern leftist appraisal, I simply do not want to alienate readers (and translators, LOL). I promise that I could. What I list before the conclusion section is only the absolutely critical facts of his political career which demonstrate his leftism.
The 1790s: Napoleon’s leftism was vetted over and over by the revolution
Prior to the Revolution Napoleon was born a minor noble in Corsica, putting him in the top 2% of France. However, being a minor noble in poor Corsica was to have title and little property – it’s not Burgundy. When half of France’s nobles exiled themselves over the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen Napoleon was already in the 1%. Napoleon Bonaparte – like Mao, Castro and others – was another leftist hero who defied the dominant view of his elite class.
Napoleon grew up in the aftermath of the repression of Corsica’s independence movement. The incredibly progressive Corsican Republic (1755-69) included a liberal constitution, the first implementation of female suffrage and was the first-ever practical application of the modern political ideas of people like Voltaire and Rousseau. France took control of the island, and they were a big improvement from the previous landlord, Genoa. When the French Revolution began Napoleon saw it as capable of bringing even more progress to Corsica. Thus Napoleon was one of the very first of many “foreigners” (he was born shortly after France took control of the island, and thus was truly French) to seek domination not by France but by the ideals of the French Revolution.
As the 1790s went by Napoleon was obviously vetted over and over by the Revolution. In 1793, Napoleon was friendly with none other than Augustin Robespierre, Maximilien “The Irreproachable” Robespierre’s brother, who surely would have sniffed out someone not committed to the ideals of 1789. When the brothers were executed in 1794, marking the end of the leftist Jacobin era and the start of the Directorate era (1794-99), the Directorate tried to get him to quit by downgrading him to the infantry.
Lucky for them Napoleon refused to leave: in Paris on October 5, 1795, he would save the Revolution from a major royalist revolt using what was the undoubted foundation of his military genius – his knowledge of new artillery technology.
He became a national hero, and thus the Directorate spied on him to check for dangerous traits. Their spying general wrote back to the Directorate: “It is a mistake to think he is a party man. He belongs neither to the royalists, who slander him, nor to the anarchists, whom he dislikes. He has only one guide – the Constitution.” Facts: Robespierre was anything but an anarchist, and being a constitutionalist in Europe in 1796 made one a revolutionary. Failure to accept this will create misperceptions which will extend to misunderstandings of our present day.
Confidence renewed, the Directorate gave Napoleon command of the Army of the Alps. He started by immediately court-martialling two of his soldiers for shouting “long live the king”.
Of course the Italians and others embraced the revolution being offered by France’s peasant army! In liberated lands we find the same actions of the French Revolutionaries: feudal dues and tithes abolished, Jews not forced to wear the star of David and Muslims no longer second-class citizens, the first uncensored newspapers allowed to open, slavery abolished, the first constitutions legalised. Keep all that in mind the next time you read of how Napoleon “enslaved Europe” – such total reversals of reality are only used for the truly great leftist leaders. It was so popular ex-Papal states petitioned to join the new Cisalpine Republic. “In annexed countries teaching was allowed to keep its own identity; French did not become an obligatory second language, there was no attempt to destroy the soul of conquered provinces,” writes Tulard. The French Revolution, itself intensely patriotic, fostered patriotism elsewhere – this would be called “nationalism” and is part of the reason the French were eventually forced out in annexed countries, ironically.
The great man-ism inherent in Western Liberal Democracy wants to talk about Napoleon’s military genius in things such as issuing bold flanking orders. It’s foolish: We can credit Napoleon’s military genius for doing something without precedent – storming a bridge under heavy fire – or we can credit the revolutionary inspiration of the actual troops that did the storming. Napoleon’s ability to inspire (well-known, and real) is still not at all the same as the zeal inspired by revolutionary principles.
Napoleon biographer Vincent Cronin writes in Napoleon Bonaparte: An Intimate Biography: “In analysing why Napoleon won battles in Italy, one is also analysing why he always – or nearly always – emerged successful from a battlefield. The first quality was discipline. Napoleon, with his legal forbears, was a great person for law and order. He insisted that officers issue a receipt for everything requisitioned, be it a box of candles or a sack of flour. … In letter after angry letter he condemned sharp practice by army suppliers…. Napoleon was merciless towards these men and when one of them made him a gift of fine saddle horses, hoping that would close his eyes to embezzlement, Napoleon snapped: ‘Have him arrested. Imprison him for six months. He owes us 500,000 ecus in taxes.’” Here we see the moral legitimacy which won him followers in the army, and that is better than issuing bold flanking orders.
Egypt: After examining and giving up the idea of invading England, invasion of Egypt was
the best way of striking always counter-revolutionary England, and not mere adventurism. Napoleon read the Koran on the way to Egypt and declared it “sublime”. He was inspired enough to say in his first declaration, “Cadis, sheiks, imams – tell the people that we too are true Muslims.” The French Revolution was universal in scope, like Islam, and Napoleon did not believe in the Trinitarianism of Roman Catholicism, like Islam. The muftis found Napoleon sincere as a person but not actually willing to become a Muslim – they proclaimed Napoleon’s God messenger and a friend of the Prophet. With humanitarian ideals and actions, and replete with the famed scientific corps, it is thus totally different from France’s imperialist invasion of Algeria in 1830.
In August 1799 he got his first news from Europe (due to the British blockade) that the 2nd European War Against the French Revolution had begun and that France was collapsing: Russian-Anglo forces in the Netherlands (which had joined the Revolution willingly), Austro-Russian forces in Switzerland (joined willingly as well) and Italy (joined willingly as well), Turco-Russian force in Corfu, Greece. Napoleon waded into that for personal glory, some say – to save the Revolution, say the less cynical.
As First Consul: Good leaders get elected and then re-elected – this truly all started with Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon made a political alliance with none other than Abbot Emmanuel Sieyès, the same “abbé Sieyès” whose 1789 manifesto What is the Third Estate became the manifesto of the French Revolution and the literal groundwork for the entry of the lower class into politics. (The pamphlet begins, famously: “What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been hitherto in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire to be? Something.”) Still not leftist enough for some, though…?
The undoubtedly revolutionary principle of constitutionalism upon which Napoleon rested is reflected in the poster put up after his participation in the coup of 1799 (Coup of 18 Brumaire) and the start of the Consulate era (1799-1804): “THEY HAVE ACTED IN SUCH A WAY that there is no longer a Constitution.”
Was constitutionalism the only demand of the French Revolution from 1789-1799? No, it was simultaneously revolutionary and “middle-of-the-road”. Napoleon never did side with the royalists – that would have been undeniable betrayal of the Revolution – nor with the Jacobins, nor with their executors the less-leftist Thermidorians who ran the 5-man Directorate (one of whom was currently asking for 12 million francs to restore the Bourbons). Instead, Napoleon placed himself above party politics and alongside the concept of constitutionalism which, along with his repeated military defences of France and the Revolution, won him popular acclaim. Of course Napoleon embraced many other primary political ideals of the Revolution: an end to feudalism, an end to absolute monarchy, the division of common land, civil equality, the suppression of tithes and seigniorial rights, and nationalisation of the property of the Roman Catholic Church. What’s vital to recognise is that the social aspects of the revolution – free education, health care, food – weren’t even much discussed until 1796, via leftist hero Gracchus Babeuf, the continuer of the Robespierreian left. Faulting Napoleon for not holding out for free education for the masses is to critically forget that these social questions were in the infancy of political expression, and certainly were limited to the progressive vanguard of an already unprecedentedly progressive revolution.
In 1800 his coup and his constitution were both overwhelmingly approved by millions in a vote – a vote totally unprecedented in scope, reach and political progress. People who wish to ignore these votes are simply baffling, and biased. The coup was bloodless, as well. Napoleon – the alleged new dictator – is credited with giving the new constitution the idea of universal male suffrage and not just for property owners.
France won the Second European War Against the French Revolution – a bit of peace, finally. Napoleon the general became Napoleon the elected public servant. His administrative energy was as amazing as his martial energy: “The ox has been harnessed – now it must plow,” he said.
Napoleon took great interest in consolidating the best of Roman, custom/precedent and Revolutionary laws into the new Code Civil: equality before the law, end to feudal rights and duties, right to choose one’s work, inviolability of property, right to divorce and freedom of conscience. All were unprecedented leftist advances. The Code Civil is not at all the “Napoleonic Code” but more accurately the “French Revolutionary Code”. It was “an instrument of war against feudalism,” to quote Tulard, and its influence is inestimable and global.
Napoleon curbed widespread brigandage and pacified rebellions which had lasted years. He brought peace to France after a decade of civil war, and yet he did not give the army a privileged position. He even forbade them from getting involved in civil matters, something he considered “madness”.
He declared an amnesty for those living abroad, which anyone personally familiar with revolution knows has an inestimable positive effect, but also some negative ones.
Napoleon ended yet another war in 1801, when French churches finally reopened after the signing of the Concordat. The agreement okayed French nationalisation of Church lands (the sales of which did the most to effectuate the economic revolution downwards), maintained religious freedom, did not declare Roman Catholicism the official religion of the state, allowed the French state to pay clerical salaries (giving them a decent standard of living), had the clergy swear an oath of allegiance to the state, and banned nearly all the monasteries (viewed as parasitical and useless in France, whereas the useful teaching nun orders would soon be doubled). Of course, this recently-installed Pope would ultimately side with the monarchists against the Revolution, but there’s no doubt that Napoleon secured the Revolution’s aim in neutering the Church’s power in France, a major goal.
On only two occasions did he involve himself in local governance of the prefects: one of them was to stop a prefect from forcing vaccinations. Draw your own inference regarding the coronavirus epidemic of 2020-22.
The currency never had to be devalued, the cost of living became stable, he spent more on education than anything else, built three great roads, canals and ports each, attained full employment, stable prices, positive trade balance, increasing population, and presided over a 180-degree shift in public spirit after a decade of civil violence.
So of course he was popular – he was making the principles of the French Revolution law, which broke with the absolute monarchy which reigned essentially everywhere else.
Elected emperor: Democracy combines old forms with new ideas – conservatives are overdramatic
By 1802 Napoleon had committed the crime of making the Revolution workable, peaceful and – worst of all – attractive. A Third Coalition was declared; at home royalists keep trying to assassinate him.
“Thus the need to establish monarchical power in France for the sake of permanent peace was put forward. The word ‘form’ was essential. The spirit of the Revolution would be respected but the outwards appearances of executive power would need changing; it required a a title which would fit in with those of other European countries,” writes Tulard.
In 1802 he was was voted Consul-for-life by 3.5 million people (against 0.008 million opposed), a staggeringly progressive occurrence for the time – ignoring this is to lose the entire thread and principles of the French Revolution! However, it’s easy to lose this thread when one ignores the constant attacks on your country’s revolution, which is not allowed to evolve in peace.
“It was in fact precipitated by the renewal of conflict with England (in 1803). … Rather, there was a tendency to increase his power in order to ensure the defence of the land. A dictatorship of public safety was needed. How could it be entrusted to anyone other than Bonaparte? At this moment the Royalists inopportunely chose to renew their plotting…. The revolutionaries saw in the consolidation of the First Consul’s power… the only bulwark against attempts to restore the monarchy.”
It is with this lifetime appointment in 1802 that many Republicans were dismayed and many leftists say the Revolution ended. If one wants to call it “despotism”, it’s false: it’s “elected despotism”. It’s a paradox, it’s revolutionary, it’s provoked by foreign aggression, it’s better than anyone else’s around, it’s an emperor and empire but it’s still leftist! “It seemed, above all, to be the surest means of maintaining a stable government putting an end to intrigue and plotting. This in no way represented the acceptance of a Bourbon-style dynasty. The Empire was first and foremost a dictatorship of public safety, designed to preserve the achievements of the Revolution.” Again, that’s from an author who is not strongly pro-Napoleon – he is, however, a Frenchman who understands his country’s history.
Napoleon has still not betrayed the revolution at this point in any serious way! In a move which was preceded by much discussion, he took the crown of Emperor from the Pope’s hands in a public coronation (another first) not because of the bosh about how it was his own arrogant and usurping personal power which won the crown, but because it was the people which had crowned him, and no one else. This is all a huge difference from the divine, theocratic right of kings, which Prussia, Russia, Austria and countless other local kings would insist on in total autocratic form until 1914.
If the French Revolutionary Emperorship was a typical emperorship – and thus no ideological threat – why did it not cause the European Wars Against the French Revolution to stop? The answer is obvious to those who are objective.
In 1806 the Fourth Coalition saw Prussia and Russia attack – France wins again and Prussia is compelled to finally renounce serfdom.
In 1808, popular revolt against the Spanish king in the “Tumult of Aranjuez”, which is still celebrated today, ended the Bourbon dynasty. The overthrow of the Bourbons, and the sheltering of the new ideals of the French Revolution, allowed Latin America to win their independence.
The French Revolution has spread to the New World. It had already spread to the oldest of the Old World: Mohammad Ali founded modern Egypt in 1805 after France had defeated the Mamluks.
The French Revolution starts to topple – revolutionary zeal starts to wane following decades of foreign attacks
This is where things start to turn badly: 1808 Spain is not yet at the point of 1789 France. Proof? After 1815 Spain is the only place where feudalism would actually be restored. The guerrilla war saps France, which is supported by Spain’s progressives, abolished the Inquisition and ended feudal rights – hardly a terrible legacy.
The war in Spain coincides with when Napoleon starts to let the emperorship go to his head and thinks more of preserving his dynasty than of the Revolution – he is always thinking of France, however. His Continental Blockade against England would have bankrupted them… if France didn’t also have to fight in Spain and Russia, too. The French Revolution is always attacked from all autocratic sides – this must be remembered because it so greatly shapes their possible choices. After a few years the Continental Blockade turns into pro-French economic imperialism, in a non-leftist mistake. Spain, the Blockade, dynasty – these are the three key mistakes Napoleon made. However, he does not deserve a permanent “Ogre” caricature for these three because two of them are fights against autocracy.
The Fifth Coalition of 1809 saw the awful Hapsburgs’ last stand, the arrival of huge modern wars of attrition, conscripted armies, and the growth of nationalist movements which Revolutionary France had expressly fostered.
Tsar Alexander refuses to allow Napoleon to marry into the royal family, so he marries into the Hapsburgs instead. The marriage did not cement an alliance for peace – which was entirely the aim – because Austrian royalty, like the simply awful Metternich, were not only Teutonic racists but completely aware that France represented revolutionary change which was incompatible with autocracy. It was Metternich (who takes the mantle from France’s Talleyrand as the most dreadful and shameless politician of his generation) who is credited with the propaganda theme of “Napoleon as mere personal ambition”.
France invades Russia because Moscow refused to end their threats to the revolution – first Russia, then England, then peace, finally, was the plan.
Why didn’t the French Revolution free the serfs? Certainly leftists today would have acclaimed Napoleon more. He said: “They wanted me to free the serfs. I refused. They would have massacred everyone; it would have been frightful. I warred against Tsar Alexander according to the rules; who would have thought they’d ever burn Moscow?” Such objections miss the entire point of the French invasion of Russia – to force the Tsar to accept peace towards the French Revolution, and there would have been no peace if the serfs had been freed. France was already trying to administer the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and other places – how could they administer huge Russia as well?
Indeed, who could have guessed that the Tsar would defeat his own peoples in order to defeat Napoleon, i.e. the scorched earth tactic, which Clausewitz proved “were only applied accidentally by headquarters,” per Tulard. Say slaver monarchs defeated Napoleon – it makes fools of Russian serfs to say that their sacrifices were correct instead of manipulated; they would get their revenge against such misguided, brutal managers a century later.
Napoleon was keeping 250,000 seasoned troops in Spain at this time, let’s recall. He said his two main mistakes were not wintering in Vitebsk, Belarus, and and instead going to Poland. He ignores the original option – staying in Moscow – which had plenty of noble-abandoned supplies to live off of. The second was in trying to get peace from the Russian monarchists, who never wanted peace, like all monarchists. “I thought that I should be able to make peace, and that the Russians were anxious for it. I was deceived and I deceived myself.” The Tsars liked their autocracy, old Nap!
After the disastrous retreat the monarchs of Europe jumped on Revolutionary France in 1813 with the immediate Sixth Coalition, the first knockdown blow to the French Revolution after 20 years of trying. Not far from Paris Napoleon resolved to die in battle – to pass the throne on to his son – and though he went where fire was thickest and his uniform was tattered by shot he was not killed.
The fall of Paris was shocking: Paris, which hadn’t seen a foreign invader since Joan of Arc 400 years earlier, spectacularly fell without even a full day of fighting because the re-propertied nobles had spread defeatism, paid for subversion and colluded to reverse the French Revolution, which of course they still hated. The elitist concept of royalism would still play a major role in French politics for another 65 years, keep in mind.
After decades of fighting not only were his marshals old and worn out, but so was the original revolutionary generation. What Napoleon needed was a Cultural Revolution to refresh the ideals of the French Revolution, but of course such a thing had not been invented yet. Such a leftist idea would have led to more civil war in France, which was only able to end its civil war with the moderate Napoleon adopting many of the forms of monarchism, after all.
Banished to Elba, he famously returned. When France saw that the Bourbons wanted to push the clock back to 1788 this did have the immediate effect of a Cultural Revolution, restoring the vitality of the ideals of the French Revolution. Napoleon landed and dared people to fire on him all alone, ever the anti-civil war patriot. He was literally pushed all the way to Paris by the peasants and urban proletariat – the army would only rally to him later. He entered like a hero and totally avoided bloodshed – all it took was the sight of him in his overcoat and bicorne hat. It’s really rather stunning, and something only a leftist – a man of the people – could have ever done.
The Bourbons fled, of course. The “Additional Act” was added on to the Constitution, which added checks to the power of Napoleon, granted total freedom of expression, an enlarged electoral college (Napoleon again oversees a broadening of democracy), the right to elect mayors in towns less than 5,000 inhabitants, trial by jury and was approved by 1.6 million voters. It wouldn’t be until 1867 that Britain’s electorate would reach that size.
The vote enraged royalist autocrats continent-wide, and they resolved to immediately overturn the progressive democratic will of France, again. Metternich spread the fiction of Napoleon as ambition personified and rejecting peace.
Above all, what France needed was a period of peace to consolidate these changes – Napoleon’s aura was not the same, liberal ideas were taking further root and France had been awakened to the fact that their revolution was powerful but not invincible. They almost had it: Wellington declared Waterloo “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life”, but instead of wiping out Wellington the next day Napoleon spent the morning visiting the wounded – Napoleon the quick had become a sentimental old soldier. The Coalition refused to make peace – of course. Instead of dissolving the National Assembly, as a dictator would, he trusted it and asked for full powers: they told Napoleon to abdicate or be deposed.
Now the French Revolution was truly over. It would be 33 years until there would be another vote.
The defeat of Napoleon – tyrant, slaver, sexist – heralds not a left-wing renaissance, but a right-wing one, really?
Just as Napoleon and the French had warned for decades, the clock was wound back across Europe: Poland was re-wiped off the map by Russia and Prussia, Hapsburgs in north Italy, Bourbons in Naples and Spain, Pope Pius VII restored the Inquisition and the Jewish ghettoes, England responded to calls for parliamentary reform with the massacre at Peterloo – vicious counter-revolution everywhere. The censorship imposed by Metternich is total, with spies everywhere – Europe is a true police state for the benefits of monarchs and aristocrats… again. The French Revolution was truly over because a monarchical oligarchy conspired to stop it.
In 1821, living in cruel imprisonment imposed by Britain on the island of St. Helena, Napoleon died of stomach cancer, like his father, at the age of 51. His last words: “France – army – head of the army – Josephine”.
They act as if Napoleon waged wars on the peoples of Europe, instead of on the autocrats of Europe?
They act as if he won his royalty by birth, marriage or violence, instead of by vote?
They act as if his administration was marked by corruption instead of revolutionary ideas, progress and domestic unity?
Bah… the haters of Napoleon – what can be done? He deserves the longest chapter in this book, because to smear Napoleon Bonaparte is to smear the French Revolution. The two are not synonymous, as Napoleon once claimed – but now, I think, you know what he meant.
In 1823 his memoirs, The Memorial of Saint Helena, would become the 19th century’s best-selling book, moulding the worldview of several generations.
It is truly amazing how relatively few things there are in France named after Napoleon. However, his stunning tomb at Invalides is – thankfully – not a military shrine but a monument to his 10 greatest achievements as a domestic revolutionary politician. It’s truly amazing: comparing the negative view which so many have Napoleon, and the 10 progressive political advances etched in marble at Invalides.
The common leftist criticism that Napoleon Bonaparte used foreign war to liquidate the revolution, domestic conflict and class conflict completely ignores the fact that the Seven European Wars Against the French Revolution were defensive and not initiated by France.
The criticism which equates Bonaparte with Bourbon – calling them two absolutist systems, with the former merely being more allied with the nouveau riche bourgeois class – completely ignores the historic votes, constitutions, and the quality of governance. It also totally ignores the peasant gains stemming from the French Revolution’s ending of feudalism.
The claim that the French Revolution was “imperialist” totally ignores the fact that the French Revolution wasn’t even “French”: Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium – these are just the countries where the people were able to join the Revolution, and certainly many more wanted to.
All great revolutions are always externalised – ideas do not know national boundaries. The 1979 Iranian Revolution, for example, both spread and was a part of an idea that spread: in 1978 the Saur Revolution in Afghanistan established the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan; in 1979 the Grand Mosque of Mecca was under siege for two months to oppose the House of Saud monarchy; in 1982 Saddam Hussein committed the massacre of the Islamic Dawa Party, the crime for which he would be ultimately sentenced to death. Where does Iran 1979 fit in this, who can say with total precision? France, Haiti, the Cisalpine Republic, the Batavian Republic (Netherlands 1795-1806) even the USA and League of Iroquois – where does 1789 France fit, precisely? What makes France and Iran different is that their revolutions succeeded and lasted, and thus they must be celebrated and learned from.
In a quote of Trotsky’s which sounded the death knell of capitalism entirely too early, Napoleon Bonaparte represented “the bourgeoisie’s impetuous youth”. We must, therefore, look at the “impetuous youth” of Bonaparte’s bourgeois victory as a victory for the people precisely because it was the only victory which could be permanently extracted in that awful autocratic era – the liberal rights which 1789 fought for were advancements; bourgeois rights were advancements; peasants, not nobles, getting land should not be derided as a “bourgeois revolution” but were advancements. It is the West’s total blind spot regarding the social evil of monarchy – which is the only accurate standard of comparison Napoleon and the French Revolution can be compared to: their peers – which blinds them to the obvious historical truth.
We can expect the right to paint Napoleon poorly, but what the left seems to ignore is that what every historian eventually admits is that the peasants and the working class – the mass of the people – wanted, trusted, elected and re-elected Napoleon Bonaparte as the French Revolution’s chief. This makes Napoleon Bonaparte just like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Khomeini, etc.
Now we grasp the Western Liberal Democratic campaign against Napoleon’s legacy: he was a true, beloved leftist.
Napoleon truly must be reclassed with those figures along the left. We cannot allow reactionaries to say that Napoleon, the dominant personage of that 26-year era – somehow did not embody it, but rather embodied its negation. What an absurdity!
Perhaps the whole point of this chapter – to fellow leftists – is to prove: We can admire Robespierre, Danton, Marat and Babeuf while also admiring Napoleon. Napoleon certainly must be reclaimed from today’s aristocratic bourgeoisie – this chapter should make it clear why they would never even want a leftist like him.
Gaining the trust of the democratic mass explains – more than any other factor – how Napoleon was able to lead France to stability in 1799 and beyond. Western Liberal Democrats haven’t been able to do either – gain the trust of the masses or provide stability for them – from its very conception. As de Tocqueville observed:
“On coming to power Bonaparte imposed an additional 25 centimes of tax and nothing is said. The people do not turn against him; on the whole what he did was popular. The Provisional Government was to take the same measures in 1848 and was to be cursed immediately. The former was making a much-desired revolution, the second was making an unwanted one.”
What was unwanted across Europe in 1848 was the success of the counter-revolutions, which successfully refused to implement the ideals of 1789. In France, however, what was quickly unwanted was the first implementation of Western Liberal Democracy.
Upcoming chapter list of the brand-new content in France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. The book will also include previous writings from 2018 through the 2022 election in order to provide the most complete historical record of the Yellow Vests anywhere. What value! Publication date: June 1, 2022.
Pre-orders of the paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the Kindle version may be made here.
Pre-orders of the French paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the French Kindle version may be made here.
Chapter List of the new content
- New book announcement – ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s best values’ – March 15, 2022
- Introduction: A Yellow Vests’ history must rewrite both recent & past French history – March 20, 2022
- The UK’s endless reaction: 1789 & feudalism’s end creates modern conservatism – March 25, 2022
- Glorious Revolution of 1688: England declares ‘death to all other revolutions’ – March 29, 2022
- Modern political history makes no sense if Napoleon is not a leftist revolutionary
- The Revolutions of 1848: Because Liberalism can’t say the ‘Counter-Revolutions of 1848’
- Louis-Napoleon: The revolutionary differences between Bonapartism & Western Liberal Democracy
- The Paris Commune: The true birth of neoliberalism and EU neo-imperialism
- Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the ‘fascism’ of the 2020s
- On ‘Leon Trotsky on France’ in order to reclaim Trotsky from Trotskyists
- The Yellow Vests’ childhood: Seeing French elites, only, swayed by neoliberalism
- No one here is actually in charge: How the EU empire forced the Yellow Vests
- The radicalisation by Europe’s ongoing Lost Decade: the Great Recession changes France
- To Yellow Vests he’s the radical: Macron and ‘Neither Right nor Left but the Bourgeois Bloc’
- Yellow Vests: At worst, the most important French movement for a century
- Who are they, really? Ask a reporter whose seen a million Yellow Vest faces
- Yellow Vest Win: Ending the West’s slandering of all popular movements as far-right xenophobes
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western anarcho-syndicalism & unions as leftism’s hereditary kings
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western parliamentarianism as the most progressive government
- Yellow Vest Win: Reminding us of the link between fascist violence & Western democracy
- What the Yellow Vests can be: a group which can protect liberalism’s rights, at least
- The 2022 vote: The approach needed for ‘Before’- what came ‘After’ polls closed
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.
Does it change the story if Napolean was Jewish? Have you looked into this?
Napoleon was a chameleon. When he was in France he was a Roman Catholic, and in Egypt a Muslim, but in reality he was an atheist.
I’ve only read one or two biographies of Napoleon and I sort of admired him at a distance. I thank you for accurately showing him as a man of the left yet not an ideologue. And I’m glad you stressed that the wars that France fought after 1789 were to defend the revolution.
Saker: if this is part of Mazaheri’s series related to his yellow vest series…or just a series in general….can you number it chronologically as it appears?
What a brilliant essay, the chapter on Bonaparte that surpasses all other portrayals.
I sometimes forget what a socialist champion you are yourself, Ramin Mazaheri. I’m grateful beyond words for this true picture of the French Revolution and Bonaparte’s relation to it.
Many thanks for your kind words – too kind!
And I’m very glad others like it too. I could have written double about this great unsung leftist!
Napoleon always draws a crowd – but I hope everyone keeps tuning in because Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, featuring in the next 2 chapters, is such a key historical figure. He’s not his uncle, sure, but he’s similarly misunderstood by the left and covered in false opprobrium by the right.
A good chapter overall, mr Mazaheri, and a fine rehabilitation in some respects of Napoleon. But Russia was a mistake on so many levels for him, and Spain too. I understand his philo Islamic tendencies endear him to Muslims, but still not sure why you again went out of your way to be critical of Trinitarian belief among Christians, considering that I am (and the Saker is) an Orthodox Christian. At any rate, a decent exposition of your main thesis concerning Napoleon and his genuine revolutionary roots.
I didn’t try to be overly critical of Trinitarian belief – I just wanted to relate that:
Napoleon was not a believer in the Trinity, and neither is Islam, and thus his very positive view of the Koran and respect for Islam was probably sincere. That was the main point I was trying to convey. If he was a believer in the Trinity then he wouldn’t have cared much for the doctrines of Islam, but he sincerely appeared to.
And I was trying to do that as succinctly as possible, to keep this chapter from being too long! I had much, much more to say about the French Revolution and religion, but I just had to cut it. There is so much there to discuss! So I was trying to relate as much as possible in as short a space as possible – hope this explanation helps. And glad you liked this chapter!
I understand, thank you sir, and I agree with you on Napoleon, explicitly.
Ramin is a person I genuinely admire.
He has the courage to share truth as he sincerely sees it and he is clearly very perceptive.
You are entirely too kind, sir. But thank you, and I hope the rest of the book meets this standard.
Whew! Here is a fresh take on history. I suspected some of this when I looked at the history of those times awhile back. I might read this whole book but there is just too much to read these days.
Excellent work Ramin; Thank you for liberating my view of Napoleon. For me It just goes to prove the saying that those who control the narrative control the world. This being an agenda which the English Ruling Class have consciously taken upon themselves to perfect and hone to a finely tuned degree. So we only know of Napoleon what the English Ruling Class wants us to know. They are very very good at this and always on the case. It amazes me how cleverly and successfully the English constantly drive home their self serving propagandist interpretation of history.
My take is that the English are very adapted to, and skilled at, employing (and distorting) the legitimate aspects of aristocratic culture as a psychologically compelling formula for denying revolutionary struggle. The ruling class writes the history books. They are the only ones who have the time and resources. This inconvenient reality has also destroyed the reputation of another great historical figure, who, in my estimation, does merit some comparison with Napoleon. That being the beloved Tribune of the people Julius Caesar.
All of European class driven political policy since Napoleon has been “no more French revolutions.” And NATO is primarily an international agreement to invade any European country that succeeds at its own domestic liberation. How deeply did Napoleon terrify them.
I understand… I thought the French election would increase interest in this book on past and recent French history, but the unrest in Ukraine is just providing so much news every day. The best laid plans often go awry, eh?
But the book is there – hopefully you and others can return to it. Hoping this book answers more about France than a couple or three on the same subject.
I’ll go back and read this, as it looks interesting. But first, I want to tell a story.
At one point, I went back and tried to look up at about when it was that my ancestors were freed from forced labor. Of course, it is one of those things that nobody talks about is that most European-heritage people are descended from forced laborers, known generally by the French word ‘serfs’.
The answer I got surprised me a bit. The answer was that my Central European ancestors had ‘serfdom’ end officially at the time that Napoleon’s Armies got there and brought with them the Napoleonic Code which included the idea that people owning people as forced labor was done and gone.
It surprised me, because growing up in the English sphere, and by default reading the English versions of history, Napoleon was a dictator and a tyrant. So, it was interesting to learn that the man who set my people free was no one other than Napoleon himself.
Actually, it wasn’t all that surprising if you have read enough English history. Because if Napoleon was really a Tyrant and a Dictator, then the English would not have fought him for two decades or longer. The English have no problems with Dictators or Tyrants … they are some of their best friends. But, the English did spend the 18th and 19th centuries fighting hard against Democracy and ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’, and fighting for the Divine Right of the Inbred to Rule.
I always imagined to be Napoleon an anti-christ and the French Revolution as the first instance of totalitarian mass murder, but I guess that is just my imagination.
No, it’s not your imagination. Well, I would rather qualify this sort of scum as a cynical bloody gangster at the most upscale level, absolutely devoid of moral sense, and with a bit of Corsican mentality that is — as Corleone would say — “all for the family and friends”. But this flamboyant sort of psychopath has always been highly attractive for the naive, especially male children playing with little lead soldiers.
I wanted to like this article because I have always thought that Napoleon was a Leftist.
The article takes the form: “Do not believe the ones that say that Napoleon was a tyrant: he was a Leftist”. As if these two were exclusive categories: the most important tyrants in history were Leftists: Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.
“the violent threat, the crude insult, the perpetual crime which is hereditary monarchy.”
I stopped reading after that. Hereditary monarchy is the default political system of civilization. It has existed for millennia. Democracies or republics only last a few hundred years. If you want crimes, you can find them in every political system, but you find more crimes in republics than in monarchy (see Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s URSS and so on). And even the most absolute of absolute monarchs could not dream in his wildest dreams of the oppression of current democracies.
Besides that, the previous sentence uses 100% rhetoric and 0% dialectic. Why is monarchy a crude insult? When someone turns off his rational brain and starts ranting and emoting, it is time to stop wasting time.
You, sir, are 100% correct.
I may add that a common mistake of nowadays historians is that of using contingent/incidental terms (like “leftist”) as if they were univarsal and eternal (like “Columbus was a nazi”, as if the word “nazi” already existed at his time). That always leads to theoretical inconsistency.
As the great history theoretician Otto Brunner taught us, every historian should explain one specific time’s categories with that specific time’s words. If that is not possible, a proper translation is needed. If that translation is not provided, then again… theoretical inconsistency.
The categories “left” and “right” first appeared in the French National Assembly in 1789. On the left side sat the progressives who defended the ideals of the revolution and on the right side the conservatives and reactionaries. So using the term “leftist” for Napoleon I is quite appropriate.
It is… only if you use that word with the meaning it had at the time. If you use it with the stratification of meanings it acquired over time, then it becomes inappropriate. That is the reason why the terminology has to be renovated from time to time, and the exact reason why “left” and “right”, being over two-century old and almost rotten categories, should be discarded: their meaning ceased to be precise enough (as it was when those terms were created).
That’s right, Ramin: Modern Political History Makes No Sense. Or rather, it makes the same sense as 18th and 19th century political history does. The French Revolution started with the slogan of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: it ended with Emperor Napoleon, the so-called military genius, committing the most elementary strategic blunder: Never march on Moscow.
“So he is only an ordinary fellow after all” — Beethoven, on hearing that Nappie Lion had crowned himself Emperor.
Same thing happened to a 20th Century military genius Leader of the People:
“The rotten no-good cowardly German People are unworthy of my genius. I should have become Fuhrer of the Russians, they are the Supermen” — Adolph Hitler.
“The only thing we ever learn from History is that nobody ever learnt anything from History” — Hegel
History is full of contradictions and unfulfilled expectations.
“Hope is the fuel that drives the human engine” — attributed to a Nazi concentration camp commander when asked why so few of his inmates commit suicide; but the saying is probably much older.
“Faith, Hope and Charity; and the greatest of these is Charity” — New Testament
Hitler got it right – in Paris at Napoleon’s mausoleum he said Mein Vorgänger – my predecessor.
Then Hitler attacked Russia, just as Napoleon did with his Grand Armee.
Hegel identified Napoleon as the Weltgeist, World Spirit, the second following Kant’s Zeitgeist – Spirit of the Times, leading straight to Hitler’s Volksgeist – Spirit of the Folk. We know where that led – look at Azov.
So Napoleon was merely the second in degeneration leading to today’s conflict, and Russia again has to deal with it.
It takes a Poet :
by Heinrich Heine
To France the two grenadiers were bound,
From prison in Russia on furlough,
And when they passed into Germany’s ground
They hung their heads in sorrow
To hear what they heard there, the terrible tale
Of their France, forsaken and fallen,
Her great host broken and beaten all,
And the Emperor, the Emperor taken!
They wept there together, these grenadiers,
They wept for this news so dire;
One cried, “O, my sorrow to death, my tears,
My old wounds are burning like fire!”
The other said, “The song is done,
And I, too, wish only for dying;
But I have a wife and a child at home,
My death would be all their undoing.”
“What do they matter, your wife and your child?
Far better the wish that I’ve chosen;
Let them go beg if they’re hungry and cold—
My Emperor, my Emperor’s in prison!
Promise me, brother, one thing you’ll do:
If now to my death I am hurried,
You’ll take my body to France with you,
And in French soil let me be buried.
The Honor Cross with its scarlet band
Across the heart you’ll lay me;
Then put my musket into my hand,
And girt my sword around me.
So will I lie and listen there
In my grave still like a sentry,
Til once more I hear the cannon roar
And the neighing steeds above me.
Then my Emperor will ride right over my grave,
Many swords will flash and they’ll clatter;
And I’ll rise in arms out of the grave
To defend the Emperor, the Emperor!”
A fine poem about such a rare thing – an elected emperor!
I’m sure you have seen Napoleon’s crypt at Invalides. Such a stunning, wonderful tribute to his political successes. Whenever I’ve been there lots of school groups are there. Hope they’re paying attention to the 10 great domestic political achievements surrounding his tomb….
I find it very odd that in an article which is basically a glorification of Napoleon, the French invasion of Russia of 1812 under Napolean’s leadership goes without even a mention. Napolean did not wage war against the peoples of Europe but on the autocrats of Europe? Some would say similar things about Hitler, some do, he did not invade Russia or mass murder the Russian people, Hitler attacked Communists. Yes. Of course. What is worse here is the overall context & placing Napolean’s legacy within an ideological framework of leftism, which is wat self-described leftists tend to do. Napolean’s rise to power in France was a culmination in the Anglo-French imperial contest for global domination, which the Anglo’s won when they booted the French out of North America – for which the French kindly repaid them by supporting the American revolution, for which the British repayed them by organizing the French revolution. Etc. etc.
I stand corrected, for some reason, I originally missed this: “France invades Russia because Moscow refused to end their threats to the revolution – first Russia, then England, then peace, finally, was the plan.”
Well, everyone is entitled to their point of view, of course, but when espousing one’s view as historical truth, well, you must be prepared to be challenged. In what way, I would like to know, did Russia threaten the French revolution? What, because Russia exercised its right to trade with who it wished, including Britain in this instance? This sounds strangely familiar. So Russia was somehow obliged by some law of historic morality to support the French revolution, an entirely Masonic & finance capital inspired affair – or what? Face invasion. Uphold French latter sanctions or? Be invaded. And this is justified, as the author implies in his apologia for Napoleon? One finds this kind of hypocrisy from self-describe leftists a hell of a lot, lofty claims to be anti-imperialist until the state they like, or the ideology they like acts imperialistic, & then, some lofty ideal has to be at work. The French revolution, as I said, was a finance capital inspired affair, organised through Anglo leaning Masonic lodges. There was nothing progressive about it at all, because in the name of the rights of man, enlightenment & all that, finance capital was looking for a new form of slavery & tyranny – namely the one we have now. Essentially, what finance capital sought was a powerful state with a weak political system, this is why parliamentary democracy was introduced, & why at the same time the rule of law is also espoused, not because the law is equal, but because finance needs it to be that way, enforceable. But they need to be able to overthrow governments as well, at the drop of a hat. This is the legacy of the French revolution, neoliberalism, the IMF, the World Bank, the Washington Consensus, the French revolution brought us this, it also brought an invasion of Russia intended to destroy her. So much for Napoleon, a latter day Hitler.
This claim made that Napoleon was a leftist was wholly without merit. The mere fact of Napoleon attempting to re-establish slavery in Hispaniola in the early 19th century should completely put the narrative of the author claiming Napoleon was a leftist to rest.
Well done! I love Napoleon, but he DID bring slavery into the law books!
He was quixotic and a genius but no Saint and no Devil either. Just a man.
Slavery was not anti-leftist in Napoleon’s time. Napoleon would not be a leftist in our time but it was a leftist in his time. Leftism has evolved and, in fact, it is continuously evolving.
Wasn’t Stalin a leftist because he recriminalized sex between men? He did not approve of LGBTI like modern leftists.
Slavery was not anti-leftist in Napoleon’s time. Rather the opposite. Leftism is not static, it is continuously evolving. Napoleon would not have been a leftist in our time but it was a leftist in his time.
Wasn’t Stalin a leftist because he recriminalized sex between men? Today every leftist approves LGBTI.
Very good article which puts into context Bonaparte’s contribution . “le code civile” is in my opinion the most important achievement. Reminds me that Gengis Khan was also a great visionary ruler and administrator, not only a “merciless conqueror”. Looking back in time we should never neglect context and the mindset of the epoch. Moral grandstanding has become our blindfolds.
“always counter-revolutionary England ” the author proclaims.
But NO, England has been behind almost every known revolution including that which eventually brought Napoleon to power.
And one may wonder whether they didnt actually let him win in the early battles long before he rose to power.
Those wars were profitable for the british empire and weakened the rivals.
The ‘English snobb’s’ were not simply conceited but much smarter than their rivals. Playing both sides and Napoleon just like Charles XII and Hitler were all encouraged and funded to fight Russia!
And then in all cases betrayed by that same England.
The idea that Napoleon was a tyrant and a monster is typically *english*: in most european countries he is remembered as the person who brought (even if by conquest) the values of modernity (“liberté, fraternité, egalité”) to backward feudal countries, plus a code of laws, modern sanitation, impartial administration, a well organized state.
All horrifying abuses in the view of the english elites, who for example fought hard against the building of sewers in London, arguing that nobody should be force to pay taxes and to be denied their right to live in filth in their own property.
And here we are again, with the american-english elites eager to bring back the good old days, when employees were servants or serfs, and rentiers ruled over them as they pleased.
Here in Italy nobody thinks that Napoleon brought values of modernity, because 1) he brought here no modernity whatsoever; 2) those are no values, only rhetoric; 3) he acted as a plunderer.
We just never really cared about French Revolution: we already knew it was a fraud from the start.
Thanks Ramin! My opinion on Napoleon was formed by some rants by my dear Dostojevsky, who considered him a mere criminal (“forgetting an army in Egypt”) and normal history books and encyclopedias, which conveniently forget to mention the referendums.
Most “facts” I believe in turn out to be propaganda from a certain class.
Invading Russia was completely wrong, of course, but comparing Napoleon to Hitler is absurd, as Hitler was instrumentalised by the Empire to crush the Soviet Union and the millions standing behind him were dollars and not people. I guess Napoleon didn’t have much of a chance, because the autocrats would continue to wage war against France ad infinitum, i.e. until they got their restoration.
A left-wing revolutionary who was crowned emperor in the presence of Pope Pius VII?
Napoleon took advantage of the revolutionary wave to fulfill his political ambitions of becoming the emperor of all Europe. And he almost succeeded. From a certain point of view, Napoleon had the same imperialist ambitions as Adolf Hitler.
Fortunately, the Russians blocked his path.
France has a word for this – Synarchism, a name adopted during the Twentieth Century for an occult free-masonic sect, known as the Martinists, based on worship of the tradition of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
It makes no sense to try a left-right Anglo-kaleidescope . WWII US Military Intel. roughly said nazi-communist.
One devastating side effect of the leftism that was introduced into France by the revolution was a century-long decrease in birth rate. Even worse was that it happened at the same time England and Germany had huge increases in population. It explains why France lost three straight wars to Germany (and I count WWI as a loss, as they certainly would have been outright conquered without great assistance from other powers).
Napoleon used conscription of 80,000 youths per year into his armies to conquer Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia. The invasions of Egypt, Russia and Spain were disasters.
The British Navy sank all his ships at anchor in Egypt and also at the Battle of Trafalgar.
His planned invasion of England had to be aborted after having spent millions on preparation.
Half of all the recruits were likely killed in these wars of aggression.
The use of conscription didn’t start until the 5th European Coalition Against the French Revolution, in 1809.
Shortly after Traflagar Napoleon won at Austerlitz, his greatest victory, which secured Revolutionary France the European land mass and ended the 3rd European Coalition Against the French Revolution.
France never could invade England simply because their shipbuilding was too limited. Even at it’s narrowest distance France didn’t have time to catch up in this industry while also being attacked by the rest of Europe’s autocrats.
Above all, these are definitely not wars of aggression.
It’s indisputable that Napoleon did more to improve the situation of Jews than any European ruler up to that point.
I know nothing of him being Jewish. He was Corsican and thus “Italian”. His own father was a rebel against the French.
His roots from central Italy,also lead to him being part Greek. He claimed to be allied with the Medicis,and there were many Medicis over in Laconia(Sparta) called (Medicus =Iatrocos) in Greek. Many of them came over to Italy when that part of Greece was taken over by the Turks both in the 1400s and when the Venetians lost the Morea( Peloponnese where Laconia is) in the 1600s.
His education in France was paid for by a wealthy nobleman (Greek) of Corsica namely Mr Stephanopoulos. A noblewoman said Napoleon was Greek and could even speak some Greek . Napoleon even said” the blood of oitylo” runs through my veins “. Oitylo is a major mountain near Sparta ,where many Medicis as above once lived, and even other Greeks who had come to Corsica. Look up the Greeks of Corsica on the net for detail.
Napoleon would have been possibly 4th generation Italian by then but obviously was proud of his Greek roots.
Such Corsican Greeks also were the first foreigners to ever partner with the
US Marines to win a battle overseas . See Battle of Derna with O’Bannion and his Greeks. The Greeks also stopped a very premature 9/11 of the time when Muslim mercenaries of the Americans were going to kill them all.
Such Corsican Greeks were also the first British ie read “American” colonists of Florida once Spain lost The area. Smyrna Beach! See Turnbull in Florida.
Myself being from the Rhineland, where Napoleon is held dear by the people for all the advances he brought, I still needed an Iranian jounalist to write about so many things that are still unmentionable where the brownshirts once marched…
How Napoleon screwed up was the Asignats were easy to counterfeit. Let’s hope Brazil, Russia, India, China & S. Africa have learned that important lesson.
By coincidence I am just in the middle of plowing through a biography of “Napoleon Bonaparte”by Alan Schom 1997, that is replete with factual details of both the Emperor and his military generals, whom he had shrewdly hand picked, who were essential to his military victories across Europe. There are illustrative maps of battles and photographs of the main protagonists.
This book paints Napoleon as a military genius, who planned his battles down to the last detail, but also as a megalomaniac intent on world domination, who caused death and destruction in his wake. His invasion of Egypt was disaster and cost the lives of 40,000 French. Russia was an even bigger mistake with around 400,000 dead by the time they straggled back from Moscow, having been outmaneuvered by the Tzar.
In my view Napoleon was no socialist, although his legal Code Napoleon, and his interest in science and technology was ahead of its time. I thinks his wars were driven against the established royal families of Europe and his armies mercilessly looted every country he conquered. He made the mistake of making all his brothers new Kings and his Marshals into Princes.
N was indeed a very smart military, but, yes, megalomaniac. His obsession of imposing a blocus over the UK, led to the stupid conquest of Europe, and Egypt was in this logic. All this AR the expense of the French blood. At that time, France was named La grande nation, for it was the most polulated country. Lots of men to spend in bloody wars. Napoleon benefited from the so called ancient regime, with regard to military structures (excellent staff system) and armament (especially artillery). He did not create vey much. He utilized and spent. And all Europe hated France afterwards. Ask the Austrian, the Spanish,…
Hola, Ramin. Saludos desde México. Desde la entrega pasada te quería escribir y mencionarte la Revolución Mexicana, que también fue una revolución social. Pero no soy el indicado para explicarla, pues me falta aun leer. Solo escribo para agradecerte y decirte que disfruto mucho esta entrega de capítulos. Muchas gracias, y abrazo.
Hi, Ramin. Greetings from Mexico. Since the last installment I wanted to write to you and mention the Mexican Revolution, which was also a social revolution. But I’m not the one to explain it, because I still have to read. I’m just writing to thank you and tell you that I really enjoy this installment of chapters. Thank you very much, and hug.
Are you French?
In France today, 95% of the people have no clue of their country’s history, except the clichés they are taught at school. Guess what? The republic (ie a leftist regime in the real sense) established state controlled school (just like in communist countries), aiming at brainwashing children. It still works today, very well.
As a matter of fact, Napoleon consolidated the French revolution results and exported them all over Europe. When the Grande Armée retreated, it left back the masonic lodges, as a gift.
Napoleon was backed by the ploutocrats, whom business and money he did not dispute.
Napoléon caused the unification of Germany under the Prussian rule, which earned us three bloddy wars, including two world wars. Vis-à-vis the European countries, Napoleon was no less than Hitler, except the Jewish question. He spread chaos everywhere. A genius in tactics and operational art, he was actually a poor strategist. And in 1815, France was back in her pre war borders, but after more than one million dead.
In 1918, 1,5 million more dead.
The Bolsheviks were the true inheritants of the French revolution. Not what lots of French are dreaming fot their country.
The French revolution was actually made not by the mob, nor by the people of France but by the ploutocrats who wanted to get rid of a system based on Christianity and the catholic church. It was in essence a totalitarian endeavor and the current system stills keeps alive its basic principles : no individual freedom, strict control from birth to death, via the social system (state run), school system (state run), omnipresent administration, bank system…
That some pseudo eilites denigrate Napoléon just reveal their cultural misery and their aversion to any kind of milaristic system, be it of leftist inspiration, and jingoistic. it is just a new sign of their ingratitude…
Napoleon was an opportunist. He backed any group who could further his personal interests.
He started out as a revolutionary, then became a republican and finally a royalist.
I often wonder if Russia should not have sought an arrangement with Napoleon I. According to Tolstoy’s historical novel “War and Peace” Napoleon expected the Russians to have an interest in the Code Civil, or as Ramin Mazaheri puts it, the “French Revolutionary Code”, which undoubtedly was an achievement and great progress. And in the light of the developments of the ensuing two centuries, it seems that England was the common existential enemy of the two nations. Therefore the continuing the continental blockade might have been beneficial to both.
From my unused notes, which may answer some of your questions:
The French invasion of Russia in 1812 was in direct response to Tsar Alexander’s (named by the expansionist Catherine the Great after the West’s favourite expansionist, Alexander the Great) Russian expansionism. Prussian and Russian expansionism during this era is always acceptable, but never for Revolutionary France, and this is never noted, of course. With justice France called the war the “Second Polish War”.
Napoleon had spent a lot of time trying to win Tsar Alexander II over. He had taken over in 1801 after Paul I was strangled in a palace coup. Paul I had had relented against France when Napoleon become First Consul and was starting to turn against the British. This was the end of any Francophiles in the Kremlin.
Alexander II wrote to Talleyrand of Napoleon: “No one understands the man’s character… No one realises how good he is.”
Should have put that in, but I can say that about a lot of Napoleon stuff, LOL.
Tsar Alexander fooled Napoleon into thinking that he was his friend, whereas in fact Russia was planning to destroy him.
I think it may be likewise to talk about “Ein Streit in der Hölle”, Maurice Joly. “The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu”, as these english name it.
You are far too kind in your assessment of Napoleon Bonaparte :-)
Socialism is ill defined in to day’s world and is often conflated with communism, the west’s bogeyman. It depends much on one’s background as to how one interprets history. My personal experience with socialism began with the election of the Labour Party in England in 1945, when free healthcare and free education were introduced.
I also seem to have inherited some socialist tendencies as one of my great great grandfathers named his son after Fergus O’Connor, and I am also distantly related to Richard Seddon, the socialist Prime Minister of New Zealand 1893 -1906. I am not a historian by any means, but I get the impression that the first stirrings towards socialism began in Germany under Bismarck.
“I get the impression that the first stirrings of socialism begin in Germany under Bismarck?”
Marx was working decades before he became chancellor.
You get the wrong impression.
Marx’s “Das Kapital” criticized capitalism in some detail, but whether or not this makes his a socialist, I am not convinced. In any case most people seem to unable to distinguish industrial capitalism and financial capitalism, where private banks create the money supply ex nihilo as interest bearing debt. What a scam !
If anything maybe Karl Marx was a communist.
Karl Marx was never Chancellor of Germany, he was just a philosopher exiled to London.
Ferdinand Lassalle 11 April 1825 – 31 August 1864 was a Prussian-German jurist, philosopher, socialist and political activist best remembered as the initiator of the social democratic movement in Germany. He was the first man in Germany, the first in Europe, who succeeded in organizing a party of socialist action or, as Rosa Luxemburg put it: “Lassalle managed to wrestle from history in two years of flaming agitation that needed many decades to come about.
What a confused, contradictory, mishmash of socialist gobblygook. Thank you for at least confirming that Napoleon was just another mass murdering leftist, straight from a socialist mouth. I’m not sure why that’s considered a good thing. “Equality before the law, end to feudal rights and duties, right to choose one’s work, inviolability of property, right to divorce and freedom of conscience.” – Leftists are against every one of these concepts. They claim to champion them, but that is just to deceive the masses as always. You couldn’t ever put these concepts into practice and still be a socialist.
The American Revolution was the only true revolution for the people. The Masonian concept of “All men are born equally free and independent” does much more for an individual than the empty slogan “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality”. Because in order to get the fraternity and equality, you must abolish individual liberty. In order to get fraternity and equality you must commit the mass murder and bloodshed and repression that is the hallmark of socialism and it’s inevitable evolution into communism. The French concept of equality is what has led to the death of the west, it is not is best feature, SMH. It is the death of the individual. It is also where “All pigs are equal, but some are more equal that others” is born.
The American revolution of 1776 kicked off with the Declaration of Independence that began with:
“We the People….” to convince the landless farm boys and the indentured servants to fight and die for George Washington, the richest man in the colonies at the time, who did not wish to pay taxes in silver to the British Crown.
When the war was won, the US Constitution was written the defend the landed gentry against the landless farm boys and indentured servants
Very insightful and well written. I like the global perspective on history linked with contemporary thought. I look forward to reading your book!