Communism Fermented in Secret SocietiesFrance provided impetus for the 18th century revolutionary underground. Secret societies provided the organisational basis for revolutionary groups. The American scholar J H Billington, in his study on revolution as ‘faith’ states that ‘so great was the impact of freemasonry in the revolutionary era that some understanding of the Masonic milieu seems the essential starting point for any serious enquiry into the occult roots of the revolutionary tradition’.[1]

Philippe Buonarroti, the Italian exponent of the French Revolution, was initiated into Masonry in 1786. In 1808 he formed Les Sublimes Maîtres Parfaits. Like the Order of the Illuminati, grafted on to Freemasonry in 1776, within this was an inner circle organised to realise political aims. Dr J M Roberts believes Buonarroti might have joined an Illuminati-influenced lodge in 1786.[2] Buonarroti had a major influence on the revolutionist Auguste Blanqui, and through his book Conspiration pour l’Egalité dite de Babeuf, suivie du procès auquel elle donna lieu, was a seminal influence on the 1848 revolutions that swept Europe. Roberts describes Buonarroti as having established a ‘career as the Grand Old Man of secret societies, advising republican revolutionaries in Italy right down to a young Mazzini…’[3] With Francois Babeuf, Buonarroti had co-founded the Society of the Pantheon, one of the first of the revolutionary secret societies to emerge from the French Revolution. In 1796 the plan for a second revolution was discovered and two hundred arrests were made. Babeuf and a colleague were executed. Buonarroti was imprisoned in 1797.[4] Buonarroti organised a communistic group of Philadelphe Masonry within the Lodge Amis Sincères. Roberts states:

What may be termed the first international political secret society, the Sublimes Maîtres Parfaits, was founded by Buonarroti, perhaps in 1808. Only freemasons were admitted to it. The Elect were aware that they were to work for a republican form of government; only the Areopagites knew that the final aim of the society was social egalitarianism, and the means to it the abolition of private property. [5]

Regarding Napoleon as having ‘delivered the coup de grâce to the revolution’, as he termed it Buonarroti went to Geneva where,

The Masonic lodges provided the ambience in which Buonarroti formulated in 1811 his first full blueprint for a new society of revolutionary republicans: the Sublime Perfect Masters… Both the society’s name and the three levels of membership proposed for it had been adopted by Masonry. Indeed, Buonarroti sought to work through existing Masonic lodges… [6]

Buonarroti’s blueprint for the revolutionary conspiracy was ‘rich in Masonic symbolism’, and provided the ‘prototype for revolutionary organisation’.[7]


From the Illuminism that worked through Masonry, Jacobinism and the societies of Buonarroti, several major doctrinal strands merged that were designed to provide a ‘scientific’ doctrine for revolution: Communism and Anarchism.

Proudhon coined the term ‘anarchy’. He was initiated into Masonry in 1847 according to a biographer.[8] Masonry provided the basis for the revolutionary cells that were to organise the revolutionary outbreaks that spread throughout Europe in 1848:

Michael Bakunin (1814-1876) and Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), both Freemasons. When revolution again swept Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, it was the Masonic model of organization which provided an organizational blueprint for Bakunin’s International Brotherhood and the Revolutionary Alliance. [9]

Bakunin acknowledged the role of Masonry in the revolutionary events of the late 18th to mid 19th centuries:

Today, having sadly become a jabbering old intriguer, it is useless and worthless, sometimes malevolent and always ridiculous, whereas before 1830 and especially before 1793 it was active, powerful, and genuinely beneficent, uniting through its organizations the choicest minds and the most ardent hearts, the most fiery wills and the boldest personalities, with but a very few exceptions. We know that nearly all the main actors of the first Revolution were Freemasons and that when that Revolution erupted it found, thanks to Freemasonry, friends and powerful allies in every other country. This certainly contributed to its triumph…[10]

Marxism & the Order of Memphis

Marx’s Communist League and The Communist Manifesto did not emerge from a void. Communism was the culmination of several centuries of agitation, theorising and propaganda within secret societies.

Louis Blanqui, a follower of Buonarroti, organised the League of the Just. German émigrés in Paris formed their own branch called the League of Outlaws, which became the Communist League, and in 1847 asked Marx to write The Communist Manifesto. It is from Blanqui that the dictum now credited to Marx, the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, originated.[11]

In 1810 a revived Order of Memphis was established in France working 90°. It was recognised by the Grand Orient de France in 1826, and underwent a further revision in 1838 under Jacques Étienne Marconis, establishing lodges in Paris and Brussels and claiming adherents in England.

Prof. Mark Lause, a labour historian, offers an overview of this association in a paper entitled ‘Walking Like an Egyptian’.[12] Lause states of the years following the French Revolution and the rise of revolutionary secret societies:

Since the French Revolution, those eager to build political organization found freemasonry a ready model. Doubtlessly, some revolutionaries had always sought the protective appearance of freemasonry. An Italian participant in the French Revolution, Filippe Michele Buonarotti survived decades of repression, prison, and intense police scrutiny to launch a series of secret societies that remained viable well into the 1830s. Towards the close of this period, a student named Louis Auguste Blanqui entered this conspiratorial world, and remained influential within it as late as the 1870s. Blanqui’s Société des Saisons urged an ongoing revolutionary overthrow of ruling classes until the process left the working class alone to exercise power.[13]

Some of the German émigrés in Paris, founding the League of Outlaws, adopted the doctrines of Blanqui. The League was brought to Germany under the influence of Johann Hoeckering, who had been a protégé of Buonarroti. From here the League of the Just, which became the Communist League, was formed.

Among these secret societies was The Order of Memphis, which was part of an important Masonic current in France that included Mizraim, Martinism, the Scottish Rite and Grand Orient. The association between the Order and the revolutionists was apparent to the authorities, which considered banning it along with the League of Just and the Blanquists. In 1839 the authorities decided not to ban the Order, but it was declared dormant in 1841 to avoid a future possibility. The Order maintained its existence under its Paris organisation, Loge des Philadelphes, which had a leadership that ranged from Republicans to Blanquists. After the February 1848 Paris riots, the Order resurfaced but was banned and moved its headquarters to London. This Order was influential in the formation of the First International.

The revolutionary Provisional Government mobilised the Parisian workers into co-operative enterprises, the National Workshops. Fearing the empowerment of the workers, however, the Provisional Government shut down the workshop project. Lause states that Louis Blanc, spokesman for the National Workshops, was the ‘most prominent member’ of the Conseil Supreme de l’Ordre Maconnique de Memphis, which became the major revolutionary faction. Lause writes:

These radical masons rode the crest of radicalism into ‘the June Days’, when the government force of 40,000 moved against an indeterminate numbers of workers, leaving between 4,000 and 5,000 dead with an unknown number of wounded. The state of siege continued in October, and the dictatorship that emerged banned the Order of Memphis, which moved its Supreme Council to London.[14]

This outgrowth led directly to the founding of the First International. Lause states:

Over the next fourteen or fifteen years, the order eased the alliance with revolutionaries of other nations. It fostered what became the International Association in March 1855. The Order of Memphis provided almost all of the French members of the General Council of the later International Workingmen’s Association.[15]

Marx’s Lodge

Dr Bob James[16] draws similar conclusions to that of Nicolaevsky and Lause regarding Freemasonry and the rise of socialism: ‘It’s neither accidental nor an aberration that reformers Garibaldi, Mazzini, Charles Bradlaugh and Karl Marx were all Freemasons, as were many “labour movement” people in Australia’. James identifies the associations between the First Internationale and the Lodge of which Marx was an initiate, along with other influential revolutionists. Citing O York[17] on the ‘secret history of the First International’, James writes:

The IWMA [Industrial Working Men’s Association] in Geneva sought and found a temple worthy of their cult…a Masonic Temple…, which they [Marx, et al.] rented. They put the name of ‘Temple’ on their cards and bills.

Bradlaugh[18] acknowledges having been initiated into the Loge des Philadelphes which is believed to have been Marx’s lodge, his ‘brothers’ including Blanc, Garibaldi and Mazzini. Founded in London in 1850, its initial members were émigrés from recognised foreign Orders, which perceived Freemasonry as:

‘An institution essentially philanthrophical, philosophical and progressive. It has for its objects the amelioration of mankind without any distinction of class, colour or opinion, either philosophical, political or religious; for its unchangeable motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’.[19]

First International

While conspiracy theorists state that Marx was in the employ of the Illuminati through the League of the Just, which is referred to as an Illuminatist front this theory is usually conjectural.[20] It is, however, an example of the conjecture being justified, as the association of Marx with Illuminism can be established from reliable sources.

Mizraim Masonry had a direct association with the formation of the First International and with the emergence of Marxism. Lause, pointing out that ‘conspiracy theories’ have been ‘dismissively’ treated by historians, states,

Nevertheless, there was at least one kernel of truth in the shadows of suspicion. Certainly, the tangled history of freemasonry has largely mirrored the political and social views of those drawn to the craft, and some of those drawn to the more peculiar pseudo-Egyptian forms of the order reflected views that were accordingly distinctive.[21]

B I Nicolaevsky had been a member of the Social Democratic Party in Russia, and Director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow after the Bolshevik Revolution, but was deported from Russia in 1922. He then served as Director of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, and Curator of the Menshevik Collection at the Hoover Institute. He is therefore a source of rare authority. Nicolaevsky states of the Masonic role in forming the First International that there existed in France an ‘underground, revolutionary Masonry’ whose role in the forming of the First International was ‘enormous’.[22] Nicolaevsky is at pains to point out that these revolutionary lodges were not ‘real Masonry’, however, this is a matter that goes to the heart of the dispute between the English United Grand Lodge and the Grand Orient, Scottish Rite, et al. Certainly the Masonic connections with the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, the most prominent being Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government prior to the Bolshevik revolt in 1917, are well established. Nicolaevsky identifies this revolutionary Masonry with the Memphis Rite, which he states is that of the Philadelphe Lodge founded by Buonarroti:

The Lodge of the Philadelphians was formally part of an association that, at the beginning of the 1850’s, bore the name of the Order of Memphis. The history of this order is obscure. Historians of masonry do not accord it much attention or sympathy, and as a matter of fact, much of its history is contradictory and incomprehensible. An odd mixture of pseudo-Eastern mysticism and obvious leftist political sympathies on the part of the leaders of the order leaves a strange impression. As a rule, the left wing of Freemasonry tried to lead the movement away from mysticism in the name of rationalism and free thought, and insisted on simplification of the statutes. The Philadelphians had a completely different outlook. Not only did they trace their forebears to ancient Egyptian priests and to the legendary Chaldean magi who went to Bethlehem to pay tribute to the Christ child, but they preserved the 96 grades of initiation and the post of Le Grand Hierophante at their head. At the same time, almost from the moment the Philadelphians appeared on the scene during the July Monarchy, they tended to draw support from left-wing, even extreme-left-wing, elements. The historian is faced with the paradox that whereas Jean-Etienne Marconi, founder and head of the order for many years, was utterly indifferent to politics, the Supreme Council of the order for 1855 was composed entirely of Republicans and Socialists who sat with the extreme left in the National Assembly of 1848-49.[23]

The Philadelphians in London were established by French émigrés who also established La Commune Revolutionnaire. The Philadelphians, did not openly engage in political activities, unless one regards the banquets it organized as such activities. For political occasions it created special organizations, which formally led an independent existence but in fact were under the complete control of the Lodge, which used them as political instruments. [24]

Hence, the Lodge portrayed itself as a harmless society, in the manner of English United Grand Lodge Masonry, even assuming the name of ‘Grand Lodge’, but formed fronts for political purposes. Nicolaevsky refers to Young Europe, of which Mazzini’s Young Italy, and Young Germany, Young Hungary, etc. were national chapters, which instigated the 1848 revolutions throughout Europe, as being products of this crypto-Masonic underground, which laid the foundation for the Communist movement. The failure of the 1848 Revolution obliged a return to the previous cell structure of the secret societies.

Similar combinations of old forms of organizational structures and political activity were widespread in France during the Restoration and the July Monarchy, when revolutionaries generally belonged either to the Carbonari, Young Europe, and similar groups, or to groups of latter-day Babouvists; all these organizations were, to a greater or lesser extent, essentially conspiratorial in nature. It was only during the years immediately preceding the Revolution of 1848, principally under the influence of the English Chartist movement, that new forms of organizational structures as well as social and political activities began to emerge. The new organizations shifted their attention to the open propagation of Socialist and Communist ideas and to the building of mass organizations of laborers in the city and on the land. Throughout Western Europe, the general trend was away from relatively small groups of active revolutionary conspirators who were isolated from their environment, and toward mass political parties, political clubs, and labor unions. On the eve of the revolution of 1848, the new-style organizations increasingly tended to supplant the old, conspiratorial groups, which were under the influence of masonic principles of organization. The new-style organizations were thrown back two or three decades by the defeat of the 1848-49 revolution, and the old type of organization came once again to the fore. This trend was particularly marked among the French refugees from the Second Empire.[25]

The influence of the Commune Revolutionnaire, founded in 1852, under Louis Blanc, came to the fore. Blanc was a member of the Supreme Council of the Order of Memphis, whose operations were headquartered in London, after having been banned by the Paris police in 1852. Nicolaevsky states that ‘When the Supreme Council was transferred to London, Blanc, as the Council’s chief speechmaker, was able to direct its policy, and, at the same time, to influence the policy of the Lodge of the Philadelphians without officially becoming a member’. [26]

In 1855 the Philadelphian Lodge established the International Association to liase with revolutionary cells throughout the world. The Philadelphian focus was on both opposing Napoleon III, which included terrorist tactics, and on supporting Garibaldi’s revolutionary forces in Italy. Among these conspirators in the Philadelphian Lodge at this time was Charles Bradlaugh, the colleague of future Theosophical Society president Annie Besant. From out of these activities emerged an organisation to replace the International Association, which was created in the first instance under the name of Garibaldi, the founding Congress being held in Brussels in 1863. With new input from French socialist émigrés in alliance with English socialists the Philadelphian Lodge played ‘a great role’ in forming the First International. Lodge initiate Victor Le Lubez organised the inaugural congress in 1864 and selected the founding council in which there were many lodge members.[27] If the cell structure and the doctrines of Communism looked suspiciously like the Illuminati then it is likely to be the common milieu from which both arose.


[1] J H Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2011), 92.

[2] J M Roberts, The Mythology of the Secret Societies (London: Secker & Warburg,1972), 230.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 237.

[5] Ibid., 266.

[6] Ibid., 91.

[7] Ibid., 91-93.

[8] D W Brogan, Proudhon (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1934).

[9] C Goeringer, ‘The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The Illuminati, Part I – The Enlightenment’,

[10] M Bakunin, ‘Open Letter To Swiss Comrades Of The International’.

[11] D Conway, A Farewell to Marx, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987), 146.

[12] Lause specialises in the history of the labour movement. An associate professor of history at McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, University of Cincinnati, his faculty biography states that he ‘teaches specialized courses in American Labor History, Comparative Labor History, and the Age of Jackson… For years, he has presented his work or participated in panels at the Annual North American Labor History Conference at Detroit, and the centennial conferences on Eugene V. Debs and Henry George’.

[13] M A Lause, ‘Walking Like an Egyptian: The American Destinies of a Revolutionary French Secret Society’, – 81k

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16]. Dr Bob James is the Convenor and Co-ordinator of the Australian Centre for Fraternal Studies. He states of himself: ‘I make these claims on the basis of 25 years of research, of ten years or so as Secretary of the Hunter Labour History Society, and as organiser of a National Labour History Conference’.

[17] O Yorke, The Secret History of the International Working Men’s Association (Geneva, 1871).

[18] Charles Bradlaugh, the English radical and atheist, and collaborator with future Theosophist Annie Besant.

[19] James, op. cit.

[20] For example, Gary Allen, None Dare Call It Conspiracy (California: Concord Press, 1972), 30.

[21] Lause, op. cit.

[22] B I Nicolaevsky, ‘Secret Societies and the First International’, The Revolutionary Internationals, 1864-1943, Milorad M. Drachkovitch ed., (Stanford, Stanford University Press for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, 1966),

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.