After the coup of 1851, in the early years of the coming to power of Louis Bonaparte, the French revolutionary and labor movement was in a state of decay. First, the revolutionary asset was either physically destroyed or sent to prison and exile. France established a military regime that controlled society through bureaucracy, the police, and the church. The free press was stifled, the right of assemblies and unions was liquidated, political, professional and cooperative organizations were crushed. The only legal organizations of workers at that time were mutual aid societies, which limited their activities to the distribution of benefits to sick and needy members, who were under the “tutelage” of local authorities and the church. The peasant uprisings and riots, which covered a large part of the country, mainly the southern and central regions, were reprimanded by the authorities with raids, mass arrests and references.
Secondly, the defeat of the 1848 revolution caused a completely understandable decline in revolutionary activity. Many intellectuals and the working class were disappointed in political activities. Thirdly, the December 2 coup d'état of 1851, which led to the liquidation of the Second Republic and the establishment of the Second Empire, coincided with the beginning of an industrial boom in France, which replaced the economic crisis and the depression of previous years. There was a temporary improvement in the economic situation of the workers, which ensured the passivity of the workers.
At this time, the theory of Proudhon, that it was necessary not to destroy capitalism, but to “clean” it, became widespread. The teachings of Proudhon preached anarchism and class collaboration. Proudhon even expressed the opinion that Napoleon III would open the era of social transformations and carry out a social revolution in France that would change the whole of Europe and the world.
However, not everything went smoothly in 50-s. Reports from prosecutors general reported on strikes in Lyon, as well as in Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Amiens, Dijon, Colmar, Toulon, Nancy, Nimes, Nantes, Rennes, at Anzenne’s mines and in other minor industrial centers. Hunger riots were noted in the reports, for example, in Bourges and in Poitiers. The difficult living conditions of workers and artisans were complicated by the crop failures of the early years of the empire. Crop failures 1853, 1854, 1855 caused a strong rise in price of bread. The price of a hectoliter of wheat from 12 francs rose in 1855 to 30 francs and above. Strikes were mostly economic in nature. Responsibility for the harsh conditions of their existence, the workers in this period, in most cases, assigned to entrepreneurs, without extending it to the regime of Napoleon III.
The regime of Napoleon III, in order to divert society from internal problems, went to the Crimean adventure - to get involved in a war with Russia. France and Russia had no fundamental contradictions and common borders, but Paris went to an alliance with England and started a war with the Russian Empire. France gained no benefit from this war, only lost thousands of the best soldiers and spent the resources necessary for the development of the country. Therefore, Louis Napoleon himself activated the political process in order to end the war with Russia, refusing further pressure on Petersburg, as England and Austria wanted.
Economic crisis 1857 — 1858 opened a new stage in the development of the internal political life of France. The crisis has had a devastating effect on French industry, agriculture, trade, finance. He showed the weakness of the economy of the Second Empire and displeased the Bonapartist regime among almost all segments of the French population, including the bourgeoisie. Entrepreneurs began to "optimize" their costs, which was reflected in the reduction of workers' wages. This led to a series of strikes in various branches of industry in Paris and in the provinces. Deep discontent was growing among the peasantry. It manifested itself in numerous arsons of landlords' estates.
Significant strata of the bourgeoisie began to penetrate opposition sentiments due to reduced profits in various industries, depreciation of securities, shares of the “Movable Credit”, French Bank, railway and other companies, rents, etc. , as well as numerous small rentiers who suffered from constant fluctuations on the stock exchange. The authorities responded with numerous arrests.
During the election campaign of 1857, the French bourgeoisie, with the support of the workers, led five right-wing or so-called "moderate" Republicans to the Legislative Corps. They constituted the left faction of the Legislative Corps. They were loyal to the regime of Napoleon III, but the fact that the republican opposition appeared in the Bonapartist chamber was a serious step, which showed that the government no longer enjoys the full support of the well-off part of society. The bourgeoisie began to lose faith in the ability of Napoleon III to ensure its material interests. Republican candidates were also supported in the provinces: in Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Avignon, Montpellier, and in many other cities in various departments.
This made a strong impression on the government. The emperor began to think about a new war to divert public opinion and internal reform in order to expand the rights of the Legislative Corps. So was born the idea of the Italian war. 1858 began the year with the assassination attempt on Napoleon III, perpetrated on January 14 in Paris by the Italian Orsini. Orsini and his comrades threw three bombs at the imperial carriage, in which the French emperor and his wife drove up to the theater gates on Peletie street. The first bomb exploded among the cab drivers. The second one tore the horses apart and broke the glass of the carriage, the third one fell under the carriage. As a result, the assassination killed eight people, injured dozens of people. Oddly enough, the imperial couple remained completely unharmed. Later it turned out that the Italian terrorist was associated with the British, and the bombs were made in England. This dramatically worsened and so bad relations with England. French newspapers raised a terrible hype about this. Palmerston resigned.
In France itself, the government responded by issuing public safety laws against so-called “suspicious persons”. 27 February 1858 These laws were approved by the Legislative Corps. Arrests and exiles attacked activists of the labor movement, “suspicious” artisans, peasants, representatives of the intelligentsia, representatives of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie who supported the idea of the republic. Including those who, after December 1851, moved away from active political life. In February, 1858 was appointed General Espinas, one of the active participants in the Bonapartist coup d'état, as Minister of the Interior and Public Security. The country was divided into five military governorships. Authorities picked up old lists of people who, after the unrest of 1848 and 1851, were deemed dangerous. Mass arrests began both in Paris and in the departments.
However, at the end of the 50s in France, there was still no mass revolutionary movement, the opposition was still in its infancy. Only in the first and especially in the second half of 60, as a result of the further crisis of capitalism and the mistakes of the government’s domestic and foreign policy, did the real revolutionary situation arise when both the bourgeoisie and the working class came out for the revival of the republic.
Not brought success Italian campaign. The French emperor Napoleon III planned to expand his influence in Italy, ousting the Austrians from there. Austria at this time kept Lombardy and the Venetian region and, like France, sought to prevent the unification of Italy. France and Austria fought for supremacy over Italy. At the same time, the French government wanted to divert public attention from internal problems, having achieved decisive success in foreign policy. Sardinia entered into an alliance with France. Prussia fought with Austria for leadership in Germany, Russia was hostile to Austria after the Crimean War, and England was distracted by the insurrection of the coastal forces in India. France got free hand. The war began in the spring of 1859 and the Austrians suffered a complete defeat from the combined forces of France and the Sardinian kingdom. However, the victory over Austria led to the fact that increased Sardinia, which was on the path of unification of Italy. Tuscany, Parma and Modena were about to unite in one state with Sardinia. Napoleon, of course, did not want this. Napoleon III did not want to strengthen Sardinia, and especially education near France in a new, large, independent state. He needed a "pocket" and politically fragmented Italy, within the sphere of influence of the Second Empire.
After the victory at Solferino, where 24 was on June 1859, where the Austrians, led by their emperor Franz Joseph, suffered a crushing defeat and fled from Lombardy, Napoleon III realized that he was making a mistake. Sardinia is very strong. Napoleon offered the world to Franz Joseph. Franz Joseph gladly accepted the offer. Europe did not have time to come to its senses, as 11 July, peace was signed between France and Austria. Sardinian king Victor Emmanuel, like all of Italy, fell into great despondency. One on one with Austria, Sardinia could not fight. The Italian press called Napoleon III a traitor. Austria ceded Lombardy along the Po and Mincio rivers to France, and then Napoleon III handed it over to the King, Sardinian Victor Emmanuel, in exchange for Nice and Savoy, who had departed to France. Venice remained under Austria.
However, the unification of Italy could no longer be stopped. In 1859-1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi overthrew the rulers of Tuscany, Parma, Modena from the thrones. These Italian states soon merged with Sardinia. Then Sardinia made an anti-Austrian alliance with Prussia. In 1866, Austria was again crushed and left Italy. Thus, soon France received a new large independent state at its side. The Italian adventure of Napoleon III left France sideways. Small territorial acquisitions were not worth the fact that relations with the Italians and Austrians were spoiled. The policy of the Bonapartist government led to the international isolation of France, which ultimately led to the 1870-1871 catastrophe. In addition, the Italian policy of Napoleon III caused the strongest annoyance of the pope and clerics.
The Mexican adventure has failed. In 1861, France embarked on a Mexican adventure. In Mexico, after the civil war, the liberals won. The conservatives were looking for external forces to begin the struggle for power again and put forward plans for the restoration of the monarchy. In addition, Mexico refused to pay the bills, which angered England. The British wanted to restore and strengthen their economic positions in the region, as well as isolate the northern states. Napoleon III intended to create a vassal state and strengthen his shaken authority within France with the help of an easy victorious war. Spain wanted to establish its protectorate over Mexico. The first to land in Mexico were Spanish troops, then Anglo-French forces landed.
However, due to the yellow fever epidemic, due to the lack of ammunition and lack of transport, as well as problems with the food supply, the interventionist troops were not able to take a hike inland. As a result, first England, France and Spain went to a truce, and then London and Madrid withdrew their troops from Mexico. By this time, England no longer needed joint action against Mexico and abandoned its plans to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States. And Spain was convinced that it was impossible to establish a protectorate in the country because of the strong resistance of the Mexicans and the intentions of France.
France was left alone, but Paris continued to persist. Started a bitter struggle. The French have greatly increased their land and naval forces in the region. The French created the Second Mexican Empire, led by Maximilian I. However, the collapse of French intervention soon became apparent. France could not single-handedly wage such a war, which placed a great burden on the country. Expedition costs exceeded 300 million francs. The French army lost a quarter of its composition. Most losses were from disease. Defeat has become widespread. In France itself, the French public opinion and the opposition of Napoleon III opposed the war. The United States, which initially did not dare to strongly oppose intervention in Mexico, in December 1865, they demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. The embargo was lifted from the sale weapons and recruiting volunteers to fight the interventionists and troops of the Second Mexican Empire was allowed. The United States issued a loan to the government of Juarez. There was a threat of war between France and the USA. In addition, the situation in Europe deteriorated sharply, with the threat of war with Prussia. In 1866, the withdrawal of French troops from the country was announced. In 1867, all forces were withdrawn. The Second Mexican Empire was defeated, Maximilian I was shot. Thus, the military adventure of the regime of Napoleon III in Mexico suffered a complete collapse.
Strengthening the opposition
At the beginning of 1860, the government of Napoleon III set itself up against a large part of the big bourgeoisie, which was previously one of the most powerful pillars of the regime. An Anglo-French trade agreement was concluded, which lowered the protective duties on a number of British goods and placed many owners of textile enterprises, steel mills, and coal mines before the fact of English competition in the domestic market. To counter this competition, French entrepreneurs were forced to upgrade their fixed capital and retool their enterprises in accordance with the latest technology requirements. This required large investments. In addition, the industrial stagnation of the beginning of the 60-ies, complicated by the events of the American Civil War (the French economy had strong ties with the American), further aggravated the opposition sentiments of the big bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie was also dissatisfied with the government’s attempts to flirt with the workers. According to the big bourgeoisie, such a policy only intensified the revolutionary ferment in society.
As a result, the imperial government took the path of liberal transformations in order to restore its position among wealthy citizens. The decrees of 24 in November 1860, the Legislative Corps and the Senate were given the right to discuss government policy, in response to the emperor's annual speech to the opening of the session of the Legislative Corps, and taking the address with its assessment. Bonapartist chambers also received the right to publish official records of their meetings.
The bourgeoisie, however, did not satisfy these formal and minor concessions. It demanded more radical political reforms and “necessary freedoms”, freedom of speech, the press, the empowerment of municipalities, etc. During the election campaign of 1863 — 1864. an opposition political bloc was formed under the name of a “liberal union”, which formed the core of the future “third party”. It consisted mainly of right-wing bourgeois Republicans and Orleanists. At 1865, at a congress in Nancy, participants in this movement adopted a program that outlined the requirements for decentralizing the state apparatus of the empire.
To be continued ...