Source: Fourth International, Vol.4 No.10, October 1943, pp.300-305.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.
Immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II, the Allied bourgeoisie, preparing ideologically for the impending conflict with the Axis powers and possibly the Soviet Union, opened up their heavy guns of propaganda in favor of the values and ideals of capitalist democracy. This barrage reached peak intensity upon the Red Army’s invasion of Finland.
The petty-bourgeois radicals, responding characteristically, turned their slingshots on Marxism.
We were inflicted with a series of probings into “ends and means,” dissections of “Bolshevik amorality,” and confessions of faith in the “democratic process” as opposed to the “Machiavellianism” of Lenin and Trotsky.
The war has now reached the stage where the program for “peace” begins to assume preponderance over all other questions. The blueprints of the Allied bourgeoisie, however, delineate not world democracy but a world police system. Their propaganda, accordingly, has been revised somewhat. The statesmen, columnists and anonymous editorial hacks now lay emphasis upon “hard-boiled,” “tough,” “realistic” power politics.
Among the petty-bourgeois radicals this shift in emphasis is having its effect. Niebuhr, for instance, reviewing Burnham’s book, The Machiavellians , in the May 1 Nation, while deploring the danger of falling into the “abyss of cynicism,” nevertheless believes “our whole bourgeois era ... has been so filled with political sentimentality that a realistic reaction was inevitable.” A new “discussion” magazine, Enquiry, supported by such a political weathervane as Lillian Symes, dwells on the “mythology of socialism” and the need of “taking into account the facts of social life.”
Burnham’s latest polemic probably foreshadows a new series of probings into the “myth” of industrial democracy, dissections of the “dream” of peace on earth and confessions of faith in the rise of a new ruling class as opposed to the “religion” that the workers can organize a classless society to free the world from capitalism in its death agony.
Burnham began with a rejection of materialist dialectics. His rejection of the Marxist method then led him include the class character of the Soviet Union. Was it really a degenerated workers’ state? The signing of the German-Soviet pact crystallized this doubt into conviction. A new class, he argued, had seized power in the USSR.
This theory Burnham developed to its next logical stage in his book of 1941, The Managerial Revolution. The “managers,” as distinct from the owners, are even now, he claimed, displacing the capitalist class. Their basis, he argued, is functional – the division of labor requires a highly skilled stratum to direct the complex industrial machine. Out of this stratum, in its “inevitable” drive for power, will develop, he predicted, the new rulers. Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, even the New Deal, he maintained, are basically identical, constituting but variant means by which the “managers” achieve state power.
Burnham’s own political position towards this “inevitable” new ruling class and its “inevitable” managerial revolution was only implicit. Now he has carried his theory further along the path of its logic. Burnham, we learn from his latest book, stands in the camp of what he terms the “Machiavellians,” that section of the budding ruling class most skilled in the science of unprincipled politics and public deception.
The key to understanding Burnham’s degeneration is his concept of what constitutes a class in society. The Marxist view, that classes can be determined in the final analysis – if we are to follow a scientific method – only by their relation to the economic system, he rejects as pure “myth.” For instance, on the law of surplus value, worked out by Marx in tracing down the economic source spring of the capitalist class, Burnham quotes Pareto approvingly: “... to know whether Marx’s theory of ‘surplus value’ is false or true is about as important as knowing whether and how baptism eradicates sin ...” Burnham regards society as if it were a cabbage. It is composed, he says, of “social forces.” By way of illustration he pulls the following leaves off his cabbage: war, religion, land, labor, money, education, science, “technological skill,” art, literature, commerce, industry, army, agriculture, finance, “liquid wealth,” the church, “industrial management,” “the state machine,” “the political bureaucracy.” This conglomeration constitutes “social forces” in our professor’s mental image of society. And he swears by Science!
This approach to society is not new. It was used by Masaryk, who in 1898 repudiated Marx’s theory of surplus value – the touchstone for determining the structure of society divided into classes – and adopted the political slogan of the “crisis in Marxism.” Sorel, one of Burnham’s “Machiavellians,” began with mild doubts: Wasn’t Marx’s theory “leading to fatalism”? and wound up as the prophet of Masaryk’s “crisis in Marxism” – all this long before the 1905 revolution.
Almost a half century ago Labriola called the doctrine of social factors “that old bore” and pointed out that Marx’s theory of surplus value, “the typical premise without which all the rest of the work is unthinkable,” is but the “perfection of an elaboration made by economic science for a century and a half”; whereas the typical premise of Sorel and Co. that society is a conglomeration of “social factors” (or “forces” as Burnham following Mosca terms this moldy stew) is the vaguest and most unreal of abstractions. The questions still remain: Why does one “social force” of a particular kind arise at a given period in history? Why does a “social force” like the “state machine” dominate, say, the social forces of “art” and “literature” at a particular stage of development?
Burnham’s collection of withered cabbage leaves was long ago tossed by the Marxists into the garbage can of history.
Here is an example of Burnham’s “vertical” approach in action:
“Social and political events of the very greatest scope and order,” he declares in contrasting his concept of society with that of Marxism, – the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islam – have occurred without any important correlated change in the mode of economic production; consequently, the mode of production cannot he the sole cause of social change.”
Burnham again repeats the old banalities. As a matter of fact, Marxism maintains that development of the mode of production is the “cause of social change” only in the final analysis. Secondly, one of the classics of Marxism, Kautsky’s The Foundations of Christianity, demonstrates with scientific exactitude that it is impossible to understand precisely the period cited by Burnham without understanding the profound “correlated” changes in the mode of production.
Kautsky’s work, written before his betrayal of Marxism, has long been available in an English translation.
Burnham, however, has a horizontal approach to society as well. There are at the bottom the masses – dumb driven cattle unfit to enter the pages of history – their fate “to submit to the dominion of a small minority” and to “be content to constitute the pedestal of an oligarchy.” In the strata above the herd are the “elite,” the clever ones expert in the use of “force and fraud,” predestined to enjoy the “advantages that power brings.” It is only the “elite,” Burnham maintains, who make history.
“Faith in the Historical Process,” declares Burnham, “does duty for faith in the God of our Fathers.” (p.175) This severe judgment, however, does not prevent our scientific Machiavellian from promulgating his own religious faith in a Historical Process. Progress is a “myth,” he holds. An “elite” arises, seizes power, degenerates, is replaced by a new “elite.” Under the manipulations of a cynical, sometimes “scientific” priesthood, society whirls around in an eternal “cycle.”
As ground for his contention, Burnham points to 2,500 years of written history. During this period, he insists, despite all revolutions, there has always been an “elite,” in its narrower sense, a ruling class. Therefore, there will always be a ruling class.
In deriding this kind of argumentation Hegel once remarked, “He must be a poor creature, who cannot advance a good ground for everything, even for what is worst and most depraved.” We suspect there were Burnhams in Hegel’s day.
The existence of the class struggle does not prove the existence of an absolute and eternal cycle. The class struggle itself develops, achieves new levels, nurtures the seeds of its own destruction, following the dialectical pattern of all processes in nature, society and the mind rather than the formal pattern of abstract identity which Burnham carries to absurdity.
Burnham falls into this characteristic fallacy because his method of analysis hobbles him to the drag-chain of isolated, raw facts.
Even Burnham’s petty-bourgeois colleagues are able to detect the fundamental weakness in his reasoning. Horace S. Fries of the University of Wisconsin, reviewing The Machiavellians in the Public Administration Review, Vol.III, No.3, concludes: “One way of stating the shortcoming in the Machiavellian idea of science is to point out that it commits the fallacy of crude empiricism.” Trotsky, of course, called attention to Burnham’s false ideas about scientific method as early as 1939.
Marx and Engels observed in a pamphlet in 1848: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” And they never claimed credit as the first to note this fact as Burnham suggests they did in his book. Their great contribution was to demonstrate that we are living in the epoch when society will finally emerge from this long development in the chrysalis of the class struggle, no longer divided internally but united on the basis of new production methods and an unprecedented expansion of the world’s production forces.
The absurdity of Burnham’s concept of a class can be demonstrated from an illustration taken from his own book.
“‘Members of a ruling minority regularly have some attribute, real or apparent, which is highly esteemed and very influential In the society in which they live.’ To mention simple examples: in a society which lives primarily by fishing, the expert fisherman has an advantage ... Considered as keys to rule, such qualities as these are variable; if the conditions of life change, they change, ... when fishing changes to agriculture, the fisherman naturally drops in the social scale.”
Presumably as a Machiavellian of the “fox” type, the fisherman baits his hooks for the suckers, seizes village power, and devotes his leisure to making history.
Since our profound savant finds it necessary to discover an “elite” even in a primitive fishing society, we can gather how imperative it was for the preservation of his theory to convert the Stalinist bureaucracy into a ruling class. We also gain fresh insight into the theoretical underpinnings of erstwhile Burnhamite Shachtman’s theory about a new class in the workers’ state, “hitherto unknown and unforeseen in history.” Burnham has another argument which he presents as ground for his faith in the rise of a new class: that the very structure of modern industrial society requires an “elite” to run it. In face of the fact that Marxism has proved theoretically (and partially in practice in the Soviet Union) that world economy, freed from die fetters of capitalism, will develop such prodigious productivity as to finally liquidate the age-old scarcity which has given rise to class divisions, what basis is there to believe that those who “manage” will be required to become a new oppressing class rather than what Engels defines as an administration over things? “Scientific” Machiavellianism has a ready answer.
Because, says Burnham, looking at his own navel, it’s “human nature.” It’s human nature to “seek power and privilege”; it’s human nature to form “elites” and new ruling classes. And as every spokesman of the capitalist class knows, “human nature” is an abstraction that neither god nor devil nor a planned economy of plenty can change.
Far from constituting the unique view peculiar to a limited and exclusive “elite,” Burnham’s theory boils down to the argument advanced by that run of the mill Machiavellian who heckles at socialist street meetings: “Why divide everything up? The smart guys would just get it back again. You can’t change human nature!”
Such are the profound depths of Burnham’s theory.
To whom is Burnham’s book addressed? He himself excludes the masses, recognizing quite correctly, we must admit, that it is “ludicrous for the authors of books like this one ... to pretend to speak to the people.” The total circulation, Burnham expects, will reach – and here he strikes the only note of optimism in the entire volume – maybe 2,000 of the “elite.” Certainly its argumentation is not directed to the Marxists whose ranks he deserted. For whom then is intended the camouflage in the title that Machiavellians are “defenders of freedom”? For whom is this Machiavellian hogwash that he believes it possible to gain an amount of “democracy” in the “managerial” society through a chart of checks and balances?
Is it too far-fetched to conclude that Burnham is speaking to possible cadres among the “elite” who might constitute the initial corps of a political party “hitherto unknown” in the United States?
If Burnham has not yet reached the stage where he is ready to draw the practical organizational conclusions now implicit in his views, it is possible nevertheless to determine with precision the direction in which he is moving.
For some obscure Machiavellian reason our cautious author does not mention that his fellow thinkers, Sorel, Michels, Mosca, Pareto, whose views he presents through liberal quotation, are widely considered as among the chief godfathers of fascist theory. Burnham no doubt holds this fact to be irrelevant, since truth in his eyes plays an indifferent role in the class struggle and he believes Machiavellianism far mightier than the truth.
But the point is, Burnham’s theory of society has evolved to the stage where it clearly merges with the main stream of pre-fascist ideology. This is what makes it necessary to still consider Burnham’s writings at all.
Let us emphasize, lest Burnham indignantly accuse us of Machiavellian skullduggery, that we are not accusing Burnham of being a conscious American fascist. We are simply stating that his thought belongs to that school of petty-bourgeois ideology which Germany in particular witnessed during the rise of Hitler.
In Germany in the face of the sharpening struggle between the two major classes, the petty bourgeoisie steadily disintegrated. Small-time government bureaucrats, jobless army officers, doctors, lawyers and dentists unable to meet the rent, snobbish professors smarting under curtailed budgets, all those with relatively fixed incomes who, filled with dreams of “success,” i.e., becoming Big Business men, felt the screws of inflation and unemployment steadily tightening, sought escape in day dreaming about themselves as supermen above the vulgar rabble, in visualizing themselves as a new class that, going against history, would seize power. They found their philosopher in socialist-hating Nietzsche, they found their political theories in the writings of soul-sick pedants of Burnham’s type. A whole literature grew up that reeked of blood and iron and “realism.” A frustrated petty bourgeois demands stern illusions when he takes vengeance even in day dreams upon Big Business for its baseness and upon the working class for its historic destiny denied the petty bourgeoisie.
In Germany when the demagogue came he found his path prepared by this Machiavellian literature. Large sections of the petty bourgeoisie were so morally corroded and decayed that it was not difficult to sweep them off their feet through adroit manipulation of the logical pattern to which they had become conditioned. They stampeded into the slaughter house like sheep behind a judas goat. They provided us with a classic pattern of the petty bourgeoisie driven to frenzy in the period of the death agony of capitalism.
In the United States, since the war started, the petty bourgeoisie have been going down like ripe wheat under the blade. The process is scarcely started but already a deep mood of pessimism has: seized a section of them. It is in such a mood that they respond to books like Burnham’s.
A simple test will determine at least what class Burnham is actually addressing; that test is his description of the fate of the petty bourgeoisie in his coming “managerial” revolution. Here a surprise is in store for us. Although this exacting Machiavellian claims to be a scientist engaged in dissecting society and determining its course, he manages not once to mention the existence of a class called the petty bourgeoisie. What happened to the petty bourgeoisie? Aren’t they part of capitalism which Burnham admits is doomed? Can it be that Burnham’s fancy name “managers” is really another synonym for the petty bourgeoisie? Is it the petty bourgeoisie who are going to rule the coming “managerial” society? Or is Burnham perhaps proving Trotsky wrong in calling him a petty-bourgeois politician by simply striking this class out of existence with a stroke of the pen?
The petty-bourgeois hacks who reviewed Burnham’s book did not fail to maintain the illusion. Not one of them noticed Burnham’s omission of the petty bourgeoisie in his “unorthodox” and “controversial” analysis. Like the audience of “elite” to whom he appeals, Burnham cannot bear to look at the reality revealed in his mirror. In order to be able to face himself, Sherwood Anderson’s character, John Webster, in Many Marriages puts a silver crown on his head, and thus crowns himself a man; Burnham apparently needs the crown of “manager.”
And this is the type that dares speak of the “irrationality” of the masses, of their corpse-like obedience and the ease with which they can be manipulated by foxy Machiavellians!
Burnham may not know where he is headed, but this only brings into prominent relief some of the darker sides of his present politics. Consider his attitude on war in the period of bourgeois decay:
“If our aim is peace, this does not entitle us, from the point of view of science, to falsify human nature and the facts of social life in order to pretend to prove that ‘all men naturally desire peace,’ which history so clearly tells us, they plainly do not.”
Again, “wars are a natural phase of the historical process.”
Our eminent crystal-gazer has discovered the ultimate cause of wars to lie in “human nature” and the disdained “historical process.” What is this but a brazen attempt to support the war on the ground that opposition is “meaningless”?
Here is another significant indication: He rejects the politics of Marxism. In its place he accepts the politics of whom? First, Machiavelli, characterized by Labriola as “the first great political writer of the capitalist epoch ... who did not invent Machiavellism, but who was its secretary and faithful and diligent editor.” Perhaps the politics of the bourgeois class in its rise has a magnetic attraction for Burnham as well as a theoretical interest. But he accepts the politics of the bourgeoisie not only in its rise but in its decline – the politics of Mussolini’s Pareto, et al. Burnham draws a straight line from the 16th century to the 20th in presenting his predilections, and this line traces the rise and decline of bourgeois politics.
Still another consideration: Thousands of times in the last decades Marxists have demonstrated that all society faces a crucial alternative: Fascism or Communism. This alternative faces not only the classes as a whole but each individual to the degree of his political consciousness. Burnham rejects communism as a “myth.” With what is he left?
Burnham of course argues that he is neutral. Just as truth in his eyes abstains from the class struggle so he seems to believe he can abstain from taking a position toward his “managerial” revolution.
But this too is fallacious. It is a typical petty-bourgeois view – instead of recognizing that they are being ground between the millstones of the capitalist class and the working class, they project themselves into a never-never world above the classes. At best they are taking a short reprieve before coming to a decision, at worst they are in a stage of transition toward the camp of blackest reaction.
The grave words of Engels, recalling Machiavelli’s epoch, aptly characterize Burnham’s delusion of neutrality: “In our stirring times, as in the 16th century, mere theorizers on public affairs are found only on the side of the reactionaries.”
One reviewer, Roucek of Hofstra College writing in the July issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, seems a bit uneasy. After remarking that Burnham dishes out a “quite unimpressive display of esoteric philosophical verbiage,” he concludes: “Burnham always seems to be shadowboxing but not delivering the full punch.” One wonders, as Roucek intends naturally, what might be the politics of this gymnastic Machiavellian if he uncorked his “full punch.”
The May 19, 1941, issue of Time magazine likewise served up a bit of food for thought when it reviewed Burnham’s second contribution to science, The Managerial Revolution:
“Readers ... may wonder whether author Burnham does not carry neutrality too far – not once in his brilliant exposition does he make a slip, write the word fascist instead of manager.”
A third reviewer is still more incisive. Huse of the University of North Carolina, analyzing Burnham’s latest book in The Southern Economic Journal, July 1943, writes the following as his final paragraph:
“One reproach that might be made against Mr. Burnham is his omission of Lawrence Dennis, a Machiavellian if there ever was one, to whose Dynamics of War and Revolution Mr. Burnham himself seems peculiarly indebted.”
Who is Lawrence Dennis? – a newcomer to politics might ask. Dennis is an avowed fascist, who advocates fascism for America and who is widely considered as the leading theoretician of self-acknowledged fascism in the United States.
The charge of Mr. Huse is, therefore, a very serious one. Is Huse perhaps committing a Machiavellian slander? Perhaps we can clear up Burnham’s “neutrality” if we go to the trouble of comparing his views with those of Dennis.
Dennis has written three books, Is Capitalism Doomed, The Coming American Fascism, and The Dynamics of War and Revolution. All of them appeared before Burnham’s writings. All of them were written from the viewpoint of a man anxious to set up a fascist dictatorship in the United States.
In his first book (1932) Dennis reached the conclusion that capitalism is doomed. He maintained, however, like Burnham that he was not seeking to make “converts to a new economic faith or plan.” Dennis was interested only in measures to make the “old age” of capitalism “long and pleasant.” His “only dogma” like Burnham’s “is that people must think realistically ... about the problems of the world depression.”
In his second book (1936) Dennis gave up hope of measures to preserve democratic capitalism and predicted the inevitable triumph of either communism or fascism, of which he chose the latter. Burnham during this same period chose communism only later to reject it.
On Marxism, Dennis declares:
“I am inclined to find in his (Marx’s) explanation of the existing system and its inevitable course to collapse many flaws in logic and science. (Isn’t this Burnham’s position? – J.H.) I find the idea of a classless, governmentless society of workers enjoying social order and material abundance fantastic and unattainable. (Burnham reached this view later than fascist Dennis – J.H.) It appears unattainable for the reason that social order requires government and administration by a ruling class or power-exercising class which must always be an aristocracy of management, however selected, operating through some set of mechanism of social control, economic as well as political.” (The Coming American Fascism, by Lawrence Dennis, p.7)
Some years after Dennis’s succinct conclusion, Burnham wrote a whole book to explain this same point of fascist theory.
“Incidentally, it is to be remarked and even stressed that Communist Russia, no less than the fascist countries, the billion-dollar capitalist corporation, or the efficient army in the field, meets with extreme thoroughness and rigor these universal imperatives of social order and administrative efficiency.” (Idem, p.7)
These “universal imperatives” have a familiar ring, especially in connection with the question of the class character of the Soviet Union.
Dennis, too, believes society is like a cabbage – only he uses the old-fashioned term “social factors” instead of the modern Machiavellian “forces.”
And here is our old friend human nature in his birthday clothes: According to Dennis, “Human nature has not changed materially under liberal capitalism. The masses have not the intelligence or the humanity, nor the winners the magnanimity, which liberal assumptions have postulated.” (Idem, p.100.) Where did Burnham go to school?
Fascist Dennis entitles one of his chapters, The Inevitability of the Leadership of the Elite. Here are some sample excerpts from this chapter: “Fascism says that the elite, or a small minority, call its members by any term you will, always rule under any system.” Seven years later, Burnham was to write this down as the claim of “Machiavellianism.”
The ground Dennis selects for his view is brutally frank – more frank than Burnham’s ground:
“The central point is that it is useful to think of government and management as being the function of a minority, and that it is not useful to any good social purpose to proceed on the theory that the people or the majority rule.” (Idem, pp.234-5.)
This view is “useful” of course for the establishment of fascism which Dennis advocates. Unlike Burnham, Dennis has a clear goal. For the means to this goal, it is clear he has made a close study of what was efficacious in Italy and Germany.
Dennis even presents Burnham’s arguments – in advance of the clever Burnham – as to why there will aways be a ruling class. First argument: “Civilizations come and go, but the elite go on forever” because of the “limitations and inequalities inherent in human personalities.” (Idem, p.236) Second argument: “The sheer mechanics of administration and management of large numbers of people and the complex instruments of modern civilization” require a ruling class. But in place of “Machiavellianism,” Dennis uses these arguments to advocate fascism.
If the reviewers of Burnham’s book would like a better insight into some of Burnham’s contentions about the Machiavellians as defenders of freedom let them check fascist Dennis. “The elite do rule” but this does not mean that the “elite are subject to no control by the people.” The majority may be organized by an “out-elite” and “replace one set of the elite in power by another.”
“The problem of order and welfare, in the light of the ... inevitability of the leadership of the elite or a minority, appears to be largely one of getting the right elite or minority in power...” (Idem, pp. 242-3)
Almost word for word this appears seven years later in Burnham’s book. We don’t believe Burnham consciously plagiarized from Dennis although at times the similarity is so striking as to require an effort of will to keep from becoming a convert to Burnham’s theory about the depravity of human nature.
Dennis continues: “It is one of the merits of fascism, and a part of its appeal, that its leaders do not dissimulate their rule or try to place responsibility for their rule on a phantom of definition and assumption – such as, the majority or the proletariat.” Burnham claims this to be the distinctive merit of “Machiavellianism.”
Dennis ends his book on the problem of the fascist party, its organization and its method of action. He believes the time not yet ripe (1936) and calls only for “preparatory thinking and discussion.”
It is only in this final chapter that we find the main difference between Dennis and Burnham. All other differences are at bottom differences of terminology.
In 1940, Lawrence Dennis published his third book. All his volumes thus precede Burnham’s and if credit is to be given for development of theory it is customary in the world of science to recognize the first in time. Let us see, therefore, what is rightfully Burnham’s and what Dennis’s – all the while keeping an eye out for any fascist or Machiavellian trickery.
Dennis starts out on a pessimistic note:
“This book is addressed not to the masses but to the elite or to the ruling groups, actual and potential ... it will never be read by the masses ... it is too rational to appeal to the masses.”
We rub our eyes and proceed.
Now we are in for a shock. Dennis, like Burnham, predicts a new system to replace capitalism. “I am prepared to record definitely and stand on the prediction that capitalism is doomed and socialism will triumph.” But what does Mr. Dennis mean by “socialism”?
“The terms communism (referring to the revolution in Russia), Fascism (referring to the revolution in Italy), Nazism (referring to the revolution in Germany) and the New Deal (referring to the revolution in America) now appear clearly to be each just a local ism. Looking at the entire world situation, one may now say that there is just one revolution and just one significant ism: socialism.”
Dennis’s “socialism” turns out to be identical with Burnham’s “managerial society.” Did Burnham expound this very same thesis with greater brilliance when he called it the “managerial revolution”?
Dennis even has in a nutshell Burnham’s description of the differences in the course followed by the “managerial revolution”:
“Fascism and Nazism, differ from communism mainly in the manner of coming into operation. A vital element of the Fascist and Nazi way of coming to power was the taking of the big business men and middle classes into the socialist camp without resistance and, even with enthusiasm ...”
Dennis speaking in the light of the German and Italian experiences explains a lot of things.
“The main purpose of a realistic approach to current problems must be to prepare the minds of the elite minority capable of leadership when the time comes for such leadership. The time is not yet ripe ...”
Thank God for that favor. But “The real leaders of the new American revolution will at some stage of the collapse have to sell themselves to a considerable number of people.”
Dennis even anticipated books of Burnham’s type. “As the world swaps revolutions and imperialisms” Americans will “take new bearings.” He recommends that they reject Karl Marx and turn to Machiavelli. Again,
“The present ins in the democracies are neither organized nor class conscious. The changed mechanics, after we go to war, will at once work for a clarification of thinking about power by the outs or marginal ins among the elite.”
Burnham began by rejecting the materialist dialectics. In the end he rejected Marxism completely and took a number of the more nervous rabbits along with him in his flight, penning them up in the Workers Party. But Burnham was in such a hurry to get some place that this Workers Party became irksome baggage. He discarded it the way a soldier of fortune discards a trophy of war when it stands in the way of richer loot. He has written feverishly – in his spare time producing two books
within two years, one of them creating quite a ripple among the “elite” of the petty bourgeoisie. The theories developed in these two books, while not plagiarized, we trust, from the works of the fascist Lawrence Dennis, at least provide a remarkable demonstration of how great minds run in similar channels.
1. THE MACHIAVELLIANS: Defenders of Freedom. James Burnham. John Day Co., 1943. $2.50.
Last updated on: 20.2.2006