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In London, Marx became more involved with the burgeoning Communist Movement. He was influential in the First Congress of the international, where he argued against the anarchist wing led by Mikhail Bakunin. Anarchists believed in a small state and power being decentralised. Marx’s version of Communism was a powerful state owning and managing the means of production. Another influential event was the Paris Commune uprising of 1871. Though defeated after two months, Marx enthusiastically supported this as being a forerunner of future Communist revolutions. Marx spent considerable time in the British Library researching political economy. This led to his deepest work — Das Capital — a dense and thorough examination of Capitalist society and economy. Born in Corsica and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France, he rose to prominence under the First French Republic. He distinguished himself as a military commander fighting in Italy. In 1799, Bonaparte staged a coup d’état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later he crowned himself Emperor of the French. Honey bee knowledge poster. In the first decade of the Nineteenth Century, he turned the armies of the French Empire against every major European power and dominated continental Europe, through a series of military victories epitomised in battles such as Austerlitz. He maintained France’s sphere of influence by the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states. It appeared that through Napoleon’s tactical genius, nothing could stop the French as they won a series of military victories.
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Marx predicted that in a capitalist society the working class would become ever poorer and the middle classes would become squeezed into either rich capitalists or poor workers. In reality, the opposite happened. The working class in western Europe and US saw rising living standards. Ironically, rising living standards and more education made workers more politically aware and this led to the birth of labour movements. However, in the west, Marxist inspired Communist parties generally struggled, with most workers preferring incremental change through the democratic process. The most successful Communist revolutions were in the Soviet Union and China — two countries with an under-developed industry and limited working class. These revolutions were not so much led by the working class, but middle-class agitators with support from workers, soldiers and peasants. Lenin, the architect of the Soviet revolution was a devotee of Karl Marx and read his writings closely. Therefore, the writings of Marx definitely contributed to the development of the early Soviet model. However, after Lenin’s death, the Soviet Union was steered more by the personality of Stalin than Marxist teachings. Some defenders of Marx argue the Soviet Union was a travesty of Marx’s vision. Others argue that his call for revolution and a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ gave the Communist Party a theoretical justification for using censorship and repression to gain control — making a totalitarian state almost inevitable.
However, in 1812, the French invasion of Russia led to a reversal of fortunes. His army succeeded in advancing to the outskirts of Moscow, but it was a hollow victory. The Russians had retreated into the interior, leaving a desolate and empty city. Cold and worn down with illness, his Grande Armée was forced into a long and painful retreat through the deep freeze of the Russian winter. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig, and the following year the Coalition invaded France, forcing Napoleon to abdicate and making him an exile in the island of Elba. However, less than a year later, Napoleon escaped Elba. After his escape, an army was sent by Louis XVIII to arrest Napoleon, but Napoleon was able to sway his former army and they dramatically joined up with Napoleon. On returning to Paris, Louis XVIII fled and Napoleon regained power. Almost straight away, eight European countries joined forces against him to make a coalition army led by the Duke of Wellington. Honey bee knowledge poster. It was at Waterloo, in June 1815, that the Duke of Wellington decided to turn and fight Napoleon. The Battle of Waterloo was a close-run affair, with the outcome uncertain at one stage. But, the arrival of the Prussian army helped to swing the battle against the French, and Napoleon was eventually decisively beaten and ousted from power.
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Napoleon was a colossal figure of nineteenth-century Europe. He had an unfettered conviction in his own destiny and that of Europe. He paved the way for a very impressive modern European Empire. In doing so, he swept away much of the old feudal systems and customs of Europe. Napoleon helped to usher in a new era of European politics. He established a Napoleonic code of religious tolerance, rational values and a degree of liberalism. Yet, he was a man of paradoxes: his naked ambition led to costly wars with 6 million dead across Europe. His liberalism and tolerance were imposed with ruthless efficiency and conquest of foreign lands. Sri Abindo later summed up the paradox of Napoleon by saying, “Napoleon was the despotic defender of democracy.” Eventually, his ambition outreached his ability, leading to his humiliation in the severe Russian winter and later against the British at Waterloo. Napoleon scored major victories with a modernised French army and drew his tactics from different sources. His campaigns are studied at military academies the world over, and he is regarded as one of history’s great commanders. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative and judicial foundations for much of Western Europe.