Harry Frankel

Bourgeoisie Fears Study of
Its Own Revolutionary Past

(March 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 11, 15 March 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Among the “revelations” made at last week’s sessions of the Rapp-Coudert committee on education was the story of a “plot” on the part of Communists to rewrite history with the intention of picturing “American patriots, such as Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln, as the forerunners of present day Marxists.” This disclosure, embellished with the garish details of conspiratorial conferences, threw the committee into a state of outraged palpitation, and had a similar effect on the bourgeois press, which gave it feature billing.

It is characteristic of the senile and decrepit bourgeoisie that its sensitivity about the youthful revolutionary origins of the bourgeoisie increases the more its reactionary bestiality of today is exposed. More and more, the actual facts about the first and second American revolutions of 1776 and 1861 become so many skeletons in today’s bourgeois closets.

There is a wonderful sequence in the Russian revolutionary film, Ten Days That Shook the World which portrays the bourgeois, Kerensky, as he strides through the halls of the Winter Palace, stopping every so often in front of a statue of Napoleon and, striking an attitude, places his hand in his coat front. And this was the very Kerensky who was at that moment working to betray the workers and peasants of Russia into the hands of the white guard agents of foreign imperialism. It is not at all surprising that he had to seek moral justification for his otherwise unsupportable regime in the previous deeds of a bourgeois-revolutionary conqueror.

It would not be too much to believe that Henry Ford, passionate antiquarian that he is, sometimes takes tea in the uniform of a revolutionary General, taken from his extensive collection of early Americana. Or perhaps rereads reverently a rare manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence, while outside at River Rouge, Ford “service” men smash the heads of union organizers.

The most amazing recent manifestation along these lines was the speech made by Mussolini only the other week, in which he appeals to the Italian heritage of revolutionary democracy while at the same time excoriating the institution of democracy. The desertion of Caesar for Mazzini and Garibaldi, which is important and unmistakable testimony to the awakened mood of the Italian masses, signifies at the same time the need on the part of the Italian bourgeoisie for a more adequate prop of self-justification during their present crisis.

Stalinist Confusion Here as Everywhere

The attitude of Marxists towards the early bourgeois revolutionists is absolutely clear. The work of Ben Franklin and Lincoln is continued by the revolutionary proletariat, in the sense that the revolutionary and equalitarian slogans, with which the bourgeoisie awakened the masses and freed themselves from the hand of Britain and the slavocracy, can be realized today only through the socialist revolution. It would, however, be folly to imagine that a program for the working class can be found in such documents as the Emancipation Proclamation or the American Constitution.

But this is precisely the illusion which the Stalinists create with their ridiculous obeisance to the traditions of American bourgeois democracy, a form of posturing which has outlived the Popular Front period of the Stalinists and continues unabated today.

As for the committee of Rapp-Coudert, of course, no conceivable machinations on its part will ever make it appear that the sentiments of the Emancipation Proclamation find their modern expression in the lynch, Jim Crow rule of Roosevelt’s Democratic Party and its Bourbon backers in the South today.

In their shocked reaction to this “plan” to rewrite American history, the Senators unwittingly disclosed the real nature of the school system. They value it as an instrument for the teaching of a bourgeois view of history and for the education solely of props for the decayed social order. This type of teaching in the interest of a class is known as “liberal education.” When it is carried on in the interest of the proletariat, it becomes “immoral Bolshevik propaganda.”

Last updated on 2 October 2015