Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter II: Marx and Engels on the German Question: Bonapartism and the Bismarckian Legacy

The recapture of Berlin by monarchist forces in October 1848, and the final defeat of the republican forces in the spring of 1849, set the stage for the piecemeal unification of Germany under the hegemony of Prussian Junkerdom – the so-called Bismarckian ‘revolution from above’. This, the transition of Germany from the brief period in which it attempted a plebeian solution to its problems of backwardness and fragmentation, to the dictatorship of ‘blood and iron’, occupied a central place in the theoretical, historical and political writings of both Marx and Engels.

And in attempting to lay bare the social and economic forces beneath the governmental forms in Germany, they evolved concepts which are of enormous value in grappling with the theoretical problems posed by the rise of fascism during the last years of the Weimar Republic.

For if Marx and Engels, as committed proletarian revolutionaries, were to map out a realistic road of struggle for the German working class, they were obliged to fill out their general theoretical abstractions on the basic laws of motion of capitalism and the role, nature and origin of the state, with a concrete, historical content; and to apply them to the living and contradictory reality of post-1848, Prussia-dominated Germany. Thus we return once more to the central problem of method, which in its turn revolves around the antagonistic yet unified relationship between the abstract and the concrete, the general and the particular, between theory and practice. Marx said this about the method he was seeking to apply in his study of previous schools of political economy:

The economists of the seventeenth century... always started out with the living aggregate: population, nation, state, several states, etc, but in the end they invariably arrived by means of analysis at certain leading abstract general principles such as division of labour, money value, etc. As soon as these separate elements had been more or less established by abstract reasoning, there arose the systems of political economy which start from simple conceptions such as labour, division of labour, demand, exchange value and world market. The latter is manifestly the scientifically correct method. The concrete is concrete because it is a combination of many determinations, that is, a unity of diverse elements. In our thoughts it therefore appears as a process of synthesis, as a result, and not as a starting point and, therefore, also the starting point of observation and conception. By the former method the complete conception passes into an abstract definition; by the latter the abstract definitions lead to the reproduction of the concrete subject in the course of reasoning. [1]

Thus an abstraction, while being an opposite of concrete reality from which it is distilled, is at the very same time an integral part of this reality, and serves to illuminate it to the degree that this relationship – one of the mutual interpenetration of opposites – is understood.

Applied to history and politics, this methodological principle demands of the investigator that, in applying his abstract concepts to the problems of a particular nation, he takes care to avoid the twin pitfalls of either failing to explain why the development of nation ‘A’ differs so radically from that of nations ‘B’ and ‘C’ – and in so doing simply remains at the level of abstraction – or becomes so immersed in the concrete and the particular that he obscures the workings of those general laws which govern the development of society as a whole.

The many writings of Marx and Engels on Germany are exemplars of how to surmount this double obstacle.

On the plane of pure theory, after 1848 there emerged an ever-widening gap between the schema presented in the Communist Manifesto of an aggressive and confident bourgeoisie seizing the machinery of state power and refashioning the world in its own image, and the living, if pitiful, reality of a Germany, where the bourgeoisie had voluntarily surrendered the state power to the Prussian aristocracy and yet, despite this, entered upon an epoch of unprecedented industrial and technological expansion.

Marx himself was acutely aware of this contradiction, for in the wake of the Berlin counter-revolution, he attempted to concretise the general propositions in the Manifesto about the historical role of the bourgeoisie by drawing attention to the uneven way in which the bourgeois revolution had unfolded in the various major European nations. In the Germany of 1848, the bourgeoisie:

... was hurled to the height of state power... not in the manner it desired, by a peaceful bargain with the crown, but by a revolution. It was to defend not its own interests but the interests of the people, versus the crown, that is, against itself, for a popular movement had paved the way for the bourgeoisie... hence the ecstatic fondness of the German and especially the Prussian bourgeoisie for constitutional monarchy. [2]

The great English and French bourgeois revolutions also passed through phases where advocates of a constitutional monarchy held the upper hand amongst the leadership of the revolution. But in both cases, when repeated attempts at compromise had failed, the most resolute wing of the bourgeoisie were pushed by the plebeians along the road of republicanism. This transition was marked in England by Cromwell’s victory over the Presbyterians in the period of the second civil war, and in France, by the expulsion of the Girondins from the Convention in June 1793. Marx was therefore correct in saying that, in both these revolutions, ‘the bourgeoisie was the class that really formed the van of the movement’ and that even when the plebeians clashed with the bourgeoisie:

... they fought only for the realisation of the interests of the bourgeoisie, even if not in the fashion of the bourgeoisie. The whole French terrorism was nothing but a plebeian manner of settling accounts with the enemies of the bourgeoisie... [3]

This was the universal character of the two revolutions. They:

... were not English and French revolutions; they were revolutions of a European pattern. They were not the victory of a definite class of society over the old political order; they were the proclamation of political order for the new European society.

The Revolutions of 1789 and 1848 heralded:

... the victory of the bourgeoisie over feudal property, of nationality over provincialism, of competition over the guild, of partition over primogeniture, of the owner of the land over the domination of the owner by the land, of enlightenment over superstition, of the family over the family name, of industry over heroic laziness, of civil law over medieval privilege. [4]

It is at this point that Marx modifies and concretises the perspective which, with Engels, he evolved a year earlier in relation to Germany. Then, he had anticipated that the approaching bourgeois revolution would be more thoroughgoing than either the English or the French because of Germany’s more advanced state of industrialisation. Now, in the light of the living experience of the revolution, Marx quickly saw that events had taken an opposite course for precisely that reason:

The German bourgeoisie had developed so slothfully, cravenly and slowly that at the moment when it menacingly faced feudalism and absolutism it saw itself menacingly faced by the proletariat and all those factions of the burghers whose interests and ideas were akin to those of the proletariat. And it saw inimically arrayed not only a class behind it but all of Europe before it. [5]

Marx concludes this short article on the German Revolution with a savage onslaught on the class which betrayed it, branding it with such epithets as could only come from one who had only recently severed the political umbilical cord with this self-same German bourgeoisie:

... no energy in any respect, plagiarism in every respect; common because it lacked originality, original in its commonness, dickering with its own desires, without initiative, without faith in itself, without faith in the people, without a world history calling; an execrable old man, who saw himself doomed to guide and deflect the first youthful impulses of a robust people in its own senile interests – sans eyes, sans ears, sans teeth, sans everything – such was the Prussian bourgeoisie that found itself at the helm of the Prussian state after the March Revolution. [6]

It is completely legitimate to ask: but did not the political supineness of this class invalidate one of the most fundamental propositions of historical materialism? Did not the failure of the German bourgeoisie to rise to the abstract or generalised norms ascribed to it in the Communist Manifesto overthrow the entire theoretical basis from which Marx and Engels had derived this norm? This was possibly the first, but most certainly not the last, occasion on which this problem was to confront the revolutionary movement. Trotsky had to deal with it in his last theoretical struggle, against the Shachtman – Burnham opposition in the American Socialist Workers Party. They declared that the Stalin – Hitler pact of August 1939 offered proof that the USSR had so degenerated from the ‘abstract norm’ of a healthy workers’ state that Marxists were no longer obliged to defend it against the attacks of imperialism. Trotsky replied in the following way:

In the question of the social character of the USSR, mistakes commonly flow... from replacing the historical fact with the programmatic norm. Concrete fact departs from the norm. This does not signify, however, that it has overthrown the norm; on the contrary, it has reaffirmed it, from the negative side... The contradiction between concrete fact and the norm constrains us not to reject the norm but, on the contrary, to fight for it by means of the revolutionary road... we do not say: ‘Everything is lost. We must begin all over again.’ We clearly indicate those elements of the workers’ state which at the given stage can be salvaged, preserved and further developed. [7]

And this – with the important proviso that Marx was concerned with the degeneration of a bourgeoisie, and Trotsky with the bureaucratic decline of a state established by a proletarian revolution – was precisely the methodological approach of Marx and Engels to post-1848 Germany. They did not permit their political perspectives to be distorted ‘by opposing a good programmatic norm to a miserable, mean and even repugnant reality’, [8] no more than Trotsky did the ‘bureaucratic collectivists’ with their cynical references to the USSR as a ‘counter-revolutionary workers’ state’. The German bourgeoisie – not the generalised, abstract and supra-national bourgeoisie of the Communist Manifesto, but the one subjected to Marx’s withering contempt after its betrayal of the March Revolution – still remained a bourgeoisie. All its political sins did not negate its historical role as the vehicle in Germany of a revolutionary mode of production. The political failings of the German capitalist class certainly undermined its ability to carry through this task in the way that the French and English bourgeoisies had done before it, but this did not mean at all that Germany’s economy would go into decline as a result of the defeat of the 1848 Revolution.

What the setback of 1848 did mean was that the economic development of the bourgeoisie in Germany would now take on forms not previously experienced by the class, and that, in turn, this would create new political forms arising on the foundations of this unique combination of social and economic forces. Again we must stress: the deviation of Germany from the classic ‘European’ norm in no way invalidates that norm, it dialectically complements it, just as the June insurrection of the Parisian workers entered into and helped shape the course of the revolution across the Rhine. Historical materialism does not ‘provide the answers’; it is a theoretical and methodological key – and an inexact one at that – for unlocking the doors which conceal the mysteries of the past and forces which have gone to shaping the present.

For it would be the height of anti-Marxism to suppose that Marx and Engels either took their world outlook and method ready-made from the pinnacles of bourgeois culture (that is, German idealist philosophy, French utopian socialism and English political economy) without recasting it in a new mould, or that they were confronted with no problems or experiences which demanded its amendment and enrichment. Opponents of Marxism seize on this ever-present contradiction between abstraction and reality to challenge the need for any form of theory. Trotsky answered these sceptics by taking their arguments to their logical conclusion:

Inasmuch as the economic basis determines events in the superstructure not immediately; inasmuch as the mere class characterisation of the state is not enough to solve the practical tasks, therefore... therefore we can get along without examining economics and the class nature of the state... But why stop there? Since the law of labour value determines prices not ‘directly’ and not ‘immediately’; since the laws of natural selection determine not ‘directly’ and not ‘immediately’ the birth of a suckling pig; since the laws of gravity determine not ‘directly’ and not ‘immediately’ the tumble of a drunken policeman down a flight of stairs, therefore... let us leave Marx, Darwin, Newton and all the other lovers of ‘abstractions’ to collect dust on a shelf. This is nothing less than the solemn burial of science for, after all, the entire course of the development of the sciences proceeds from ‘direct’ and ‘immediate’ causes to the more remote, and profoundness from multiple varieties and kaleidoscopic events – to the unity of the driving forces. [9]

Trotsky was compelled, by the unfavourable course of events in the Soviet Union after 1923, to explain the contradiction between the Bolshevik ‘norm’ of 1917 and the bureaucratised reality of a Stalin-ruled USSR. Marx and Engels, also working in conditions of political reaction after the defeat of a whole series of European revolutions, likewise were confronted with similar theoretical and political problems in Germany. At first, the course of German development was unclear. The Prussian nobility, the real power behind the Hohenzollern throne, in turn rested on the rich farmers or Junkers of the East. This class of landowners stood in a highly contradictory relationship to the German industrial bourgeoisie. Many of them, while imbibing the values and political outlook of the Prussian monarchy, were at the same time highly competitive and profit-conscious producers and exporters of rye and wheat. There was therefore the possibility of a ‘bloc’ with the defeated industrial bourgeoisie in which the Junkers continued to hold the main levers of state power through their control of the army and government bureaucracy, while permitting and even encouraging the industrialists and bankers to expand Germany’s economic wealth in such a way that would not undermine the predominance of the old ruling élites.

Of course, such a combination could not unfold immediately in the wake of the revolution, no more than it could be from the very outset a consciously evolved strategy on the part of its major participants.

The ‘pact of steel and rye’, as the bloc between the Ruhr and East Prussia became known in the last years of Bismarckian Germany, only came to fruition after a long process of improvisation and adaptation.

Indeed, in the wake of the defeated revolution, when the Junkers were seeking every possible means to batten down the political hatches on a still-restless proletariat, Bismarck tended to side with those who preferred an economically stunted Germany to one which, alongside a flourishing industry, would be at the mercy of a large and radical proletariat:

Factories enrich the individual, but they also breed a mass of proletarians, a mass of undernourished workers who are a menace to the state because of the insecurity of their livelihood. Handicraftsmen, on the other hand, constitute the backbone of the burgher class, of an element whose survival is essential to a healthy national life... It is true that industrial freedom may offer the public man advantages. It produces inexpensive goods. But to this inexpensiveness the misery and sorrow of the artisan are poisonously bound, and I believe that the inexpensive garments from the clothing shop may after all lie uneasily on our backs, when those who make them must despair of earning their daily bread honestly. [10]

Not that the young Bismarck had any real sympathy for the plight of the German artisan, threatened with ruin by the onward march of industrialisation. The future ‘Iron Chancellor’ was, in his characteristically shrewd fashion, casting around for points of support for the Junker regime, to balance against the emergent bourgeoisie and industrial working class. And the pro-Junker economist Hermann Wagener argued very much along the same lines when he declared in the Prussian legislature:

I believe that the events of the years 1848 and 1849 have taught us that the artisan class desires not political but social improvements. If we want to wean the artisans from the political theory of subversion, then we can do so only by improving their social condition in accordance with the proper theory.

Advocates of such a policy clearly had the sympathetic ears of ruling government circles, because in the year that followed the defeat of the revolution, most anti-guild legislation enacted in the previous period of economic liberalism was reversed. And while government edicts could at most retard the tempo of Germany’s industrialisation, it certainly did much to create a political climate of support for Junker rule amongst those either organised in, or influenced by the guilds.

And it without doubt engendered, after years of traumatic uncertainties, the utterly false hope that the artisan would be permitted to perform this role of ‘backbone’ of the Prussian state into the indefinite future. The shattering of this illusion in the period of imperialism and post-world-war economic crisis unleashed a ferocious despair within this economically impotent, but numerically large class, and provided fascism with just the disoriented social material it required to hurl against the organisations of the German proletariat. The role – and art – of National Socialism lay in setting in motion on behalf of monopoly capital precisely those classes which it dooms to economic strangulation. The basis for this petit-bourgeois ‘backlash’ had been created in the period of deep political reaction after the defeat of the 1848 Revolution. So, too, had the seeds been sown, in the same social classes, of deep contempt for the most modest forms of democracy and individual freedom. These had been demagogically lumped together with capitalist free trade, and denounced by the Junkers as an alien importation from France. This strategy, directed as much against the bourgeoisie as the proletariat, drew heavily on the historical fact that bourgeois democracy and economic reform had been brought to Germany on the bayonets of Napoleon’s army, and that for this reason had provoked hostility in quarters which might, in other circumstances, have been sympathetic to the ideals of the French Revolution. But because of the already-discussed uneven development of the bourgeois revolution in Europe, its concrete juxtaposition led to the national cause becoming identified with political reaction in Germany, and support for democracy with treason. In France, ironically, the reverse was the case. Patriotism and 1789 became interwoven to such an extent in the French body politic that the bourgeoisie was able, through the leaders of French socialism and syndicalism, to march the proletariat off to the trenches without the slightest organised resistance from within the ranks of the French labour movement.

Unevenness and combination – here is one of the most vital keys to grasping the contradictory development of European, and especially German history. We have repeatedly stressed the unique role of the guilds in providing Junker reaction with a counter-weight to the working class and bourgeoisie. But, in the case of England, the artisans played a leading part in spearheading Chartism. They were to be found, not in the ranks of the reaction, or even as sympathisers of the London-based moderates, those who followed Lovett’s philosophy and political strategy of ‘moral force’.

In complete contradiction to the majority of their German counterparts, they fought as partisans of the most militant, ‘physical force’ wing of Chartism, under the leadership of its northern leader, Fergus O'Connor. And this can only partly be explained by their different economic circumstances. It is true that the power of the guilds had long been in decline since the onset of the industrial revolution nearly a century before, and that the consequent process of the separation of the individual artisan from his own instruments of production was nearer completion. These factors would help to account for the English artisan’s readiness to identify his own cause with that of the industrial proletariat. But we must also take into consideration the question of political tradition which also played such an important part in the behaviour of the German guilds during 1848. Two centuries before Chartism reached its apogee, feudal institutions had been dealt a death blow by the military and political defeat of the Stuart monarchy. This single act did more to cleanse England of rural and guild idiocies than any amount of radical pamphleteering and agitation. The millions-strong supporters of Chartism trod, however dimly they perceived it, in the footsteps of their victorious revolutionary ancestors. This is what gave them their great strength, and this is what the German revolutionaries lacked. The role of tradition in politics can never be given too much attention, and this applies as much to movements of reaction as to those with a revolutionary goal. Prussia’s ruling Junker caste, once under the astute leadership of Bismarck, based itself on a very real, if distortedly perceived, tradition of reaction in Germany which reached back over three centuries to the epoch of Luther. And within this Junker-bureaucratic-monarchist shell, the bourgeoisie was still able to develop Germany’s productive forces at an unprecedented tempo. Far from relapsing into a rural European backwater, those German states organised in the ‘Zollverein’, or customs union, enjoyed over the decade which followed the bourgeoisie’s political defeat a threefold increase in pig iron production, and an even greater expansion in coal mining. Already the basic outlines of the German economy – and its bourgeoisie – were becoming well-defined. And Junkers like Bismarck who had in the immediate post-revolutionary period tended to look askance at these developments, began to revise their opinions.

It was one thing to lecture the German bourgeoisie on the moral necessity of paying through the nose for their Sunday finery, but something entirely different when it came to equipping an army for war. The Prussian sword – or rather cannon – could hardly see the light of day in a dingy guild master’s workshop. Prussia’s wars of German unification could only be fought with weapons forged in the furnaces of Krupp, Stinnes and Mannesmann.

This thought may well have lurked at the back of the mind of the future victor at Sedowa and Sedan when he confided to Hermann Wagener in 1853 that his faith in the efficacy of the guilds was being undermined:

... we are spared none of the disadvantages which it brings, that is, excessive prices for manufactured articles [including, presumably, those offensive ‘inexpensive garments from clothing shops’ – RB], indifference to customers and therefore careless workmanship, long delays on orders, late beginning, early stopping and protracted lunch hours when work is done at home, little choice in ready-made wares, backwardness in technical training, and many other deficiencies... [11]

Repudiation of the guilds, save as a demagogic ploy to retain their political loyalty, drove Junkerdom willy-nilly towards an alliance with the industrial and financial bourgeoisie. The content of this combination with its implications for the German labour movement engrossed Marx and especially Engels for the next two decades.

After four years of Bismarck’s rule (he was appointed Chancellor in 1862) Engels undertook an important, if partial, revision of their conception of the European bourgeoisie as enunciated in the Communist Manifesto:

It is becoming ever clearer to me that the bourgeoisie has not the stuff in it for ruling directly itself, and that therefore where there is no oligarchy, as there is in England, to take over, for good pay, the manning of the state and society in the interests of the bourgeoisie, a Bonapartist semi-dictatorship is the normal form. It upholds the big material interests of the bourgeoisie even against the will of the bourgeoisie, but allows the bourgeoisie no share in the power of government. The dictatorship in its turn is forced against its will to adopt these material interests of the bourgeoisie as its own. [12]

As a species of state power, Bonapartism derives its name from the military dictatorship established by Napoleon Bonaparte after his coup of 9 November 1799, this being 18 Brumaire of the year VIII by the French revolutionary calendar. It brought to a close a decade of political conflict and social tension in which the state power had oscillated – often violently – between a multiplicity of parties, factions and individual leaders. The exhaustion of the plebeians, and the yearning of the big bourgeoisie for political stability to enjoy the fruits of victory created the conditions for the entry of the army, with Napoleon as its most illustrious and politically astute leader, as the supreme arbiter of the nation. His rear consolidated and made secure from either fresh revolutions or attempts at feudal restoration, Napoleon felt free to embark on his wars of conquest. Marx and Engels were the first to see that within certain historically conditioned limits, the original Bonapartist model could be employed to unravel the complexities of later episodes in European history where state forms deviated sharply from the classic bourgeois-democratic ‘norm’. And this was to prove the case not only with France, where Bonapartism reappeared in the guise of Napoleon’s nephew Louis, but in Bismarckian Germany. [13]

This is the first occasion, to the author’s knowledge, on which either Marx or Engels sought to explain the unique political development of Germany by reference to Bonapartism. However, the one-sided, politically stunted evolution of the German bourgeoisie had been commented on by Engels some seven years earlier, in his review of Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, where he points out that the defeat of 1848 forced the capitalist class to concentrate its energies along lines most directly related to productive techniques:

Germany... applied itself with quite extraordinary energy to the natural sciences, in accordance with the immense bourgeois development setting in after 1848; with the coming into fashion of these sciences, in which the speculative trend had never achieved anything of real importance, the old metaphysical mode of thinking... gained ground rapidly. Hegel was forgotten and a new materialism arose in the natural sciences; it differed in principle very little from the materialism of the eighteenth century... [14]

This passage is highly significant in that it once again refines earlier formulations made by Marx and Engels on the bourgeois revolution in Germany. After its defeat, Marx’s initial reaction was to denounce the German bourgeoisie as incapable of any progressive work – ‘sans eyes, sans ears, sans teeth, sans everything’ – and yet here is Engels, 10 years later, writing of ‘the immense bourgeois development setting in after 1848’, which included important advances in the field of natural science.

A large part of the problem lay not with the German bourgeoisie, but with their half-protectors, half-tormentors, the Prussian Junkers. This class was particularly well suited to its role of mediator between rising industrial capitalism and the old, declining rural Germany, as it had much in common with both. Long before the 1848 Revolution, it had begun to adapt the forms of feudal tenure and peasant bondage to a market economy, and after 1848 showed an equal capacity for directing Germany’s industrial and financial bourgeoisie into channels which aggrandised its own power and made possible the realisation of its dynastic and military goals.

In inheriting the social and political situation bequeathed to him by the defeat of 1848 (Bismarck had been among the revolution’s most fanatical enemies), the ‘Iron Chancellor’ exploited this unique balance of class forces to the maximum. And here the limitations of historical analogies become all too obvious, since the two periods of Bonapartist rule in France arose on bourgeois state foundations, and under conditions where the role of feudal residues, either in the form of a politically active aristocracy or monarchist peasantry, was virtually non-existent. German Bonapartism followed the defeat of the bourgeois revolution, and herein lies its unique feature, one which posed so many political problems for both Marx and Engels. Engels especially, since Marx throughout this period, though of course active in the work of the First International, was deeply involved in the production of his Das Kapital, and tended to leave to Engels the task of following the day-to-day events and broader political trends in Germany. [15]

Thus, of Bismarck’s early attempts to secure his domestic rear before undertaking his wars of German unification, he writes:

Politically, Bismarck will be compelled to rely on the bourgeoisie, because he needs them against the Princes... as soon as he wants to secure from parliament the conditions necessary for central governmental power, he will have to make concessions to the bourgeois. And the natural course of events will compel him or his successors to appeal to the bourgeoisie again and again. This means that even if for the moment Bismarck does not make more concessions than he absolutely must, he will nevertheless be driven more and more into a bourgeois direction... [16]

But Bismarck proved to be a driver of hard bargains – harder even than Engels had anticipated. He still believed that because of the bourgeoisie’s indispensable economic role in Prussia’s unification of Germany, its parliamentary leaders would exploit their strong position by extracting political concessions from the Junkers. In fact, nothing of the kind happened. They were permitted to cheer Bismarck’s military victories – after all, they had supplied the arms that alone made them possible. Neither could they complain of their share in the loot. Bismarck’s wars were the making of many an industrial fortune, and many were the firms launched on the proceeds of French war reparations, which amounted to the astronomical sum of five milliard francs. But as for a share in the guidance of the sacred Prussian State – never.

Nevertheless, Engels had grasped an essential element of Bismarck’s strategy. In dealing with the petty-minded princes, whose particularist tradition and outlook made the cause of German unity anathema for them, Bismarck most certainly did lean for support on the more ‘national-minded’ bourgeoisie. But leaning did not – at this stage at least – necessarily involve sharing. For Bismarck also had his answer ready for those amongst the bourgeoisie who might exploit this alliance to their own advantage. This consummate tactician did not hesitate to lean, however fleetingly, even on the German proletariat if this ruse could have the effect of bringing the more adventurous elements of the bourgeoisie to order.

Certainly at this time, the bourgeoisie was beginning to flex its rather flabby political muscles. The year of 1867 saw the foundation of the National Liberal Party, a right-wing breakaway from the more democratically-oriented Progressives, and it was this party, based on the coal and iron interests of the Ruhr and Germany’s other industrial regions, which allied itself with Bismarck in the latter’s struggle for a strong central state overruling both provincial and religious particularism.

(This coalescence of the Prussian Protestant bourgeoisie with Bismarck resulted, three years later, in the formation of the exclusively Catholic Centre Party, which at once identified itself politically with provincial centres of resistance to rule from Prussian Berlin. Thus the religious question – yet another historical ‘residue’ from the defeat of the sixteenth-century revolution – became a further element in the Bonapartist structure of German politics. In this sense, too, it differed from both varieties of French Bonapartism.)

Bismarck had the measure of his bourgeois allies-cum-opponents from the very outset of his political career. He well understood their inbred fear of thoroughgoing democracy, and their distaste for any reliance on the poor of town and country. This was one of the central political lessons of 1848. Bismarck now applied it in his Bonapartist strategy after the victory over France. It was he, and not the timid bourgeois democrats, who introduced manhood suffrage, converting it into a bulwark of Junker rule. [17]

Bismarck had been attempting to convert the Prussian king to this policy for some time before the adoption of the German constitution in 1871. In 1866, he confided to Kaiser William I that he believed that far from undermining the foundations of the Prussian monarchy, as many Junkers feared, it would ‘raise the kin high up on a rock which the waters of revolution would never touch’.

Engels undertook a lengthy study of these problems of German politics in his uncompleted work The Role of Force in History, written in the winter of 1888-89. But he also touched on them in his voluminous correspondence with Marx, and his 1874 Preface to The Peasant War in Germany.

Here we find him recoiling in disgust from the pusillanimous conduct of the German bourgeoisie in the newly-created Reichstag:

I do not want to blame the poor National-Liberals in the Chamber more than they deserve. I know they have been left in the lurch by those who stand behind them, by the mass of the bourgeoisie. This mass does not want to rule. It has 1848 still in its bones.

Engels explained this previously unknown phenomenon in the following way:

It is the misfortune of the German bourgeoisie to have arrived too late, as is the favourite German manner. The period of its florescence occurs at a time when the bourgeoisie of the other Western European countries is already politically in decline. In England, the bourgeoisie could get its real representative, Bright [a leading advocate of free trade – RB], into the government only by an extension of the franchise... In France, where the bourgeoisie as such, as a class in its entirety, held power for only two years, 1849 and 1850, under the republic, it was able to continue its social existence only by abdicating its political power to Louis Bonaparte and the army. And on account of this enormously increased interaction of the three most advanced European countries, it is today no longer possible for the bourgeoisie to settle down to a comfortable political rule when this rule has already outlived its usefulness in England and France.

Engels, employing the concept of uneven and combined development, [18] then reaches the nub of his argument:

It is a peculiarity of precisely the bourgeoisie, in contrast to all former ruling classes, that there is a turning point in its development after which every further increase in its agencies of power, hence primarily its capitals, only tends to incapacitate it more and more for political rule. ‘Behind the big bourgeois stand the proletarians.’ ... At a certain point – which need not be reached everywhere at the same time or at the same stage of development – it [the bourgeoisie] begins to notice that this, its proletarian double, is outgrowing it. From that moment on, it loses the strength required for exclusive political rule, it looks around for allies, with whom it shares its rule, or to whom it cedes the whole of its rule, as circumstances may require. In Germany, this turning point came for the bourgeoisie as early as 1848. [19]

Then we have, dating from a year earlier, Engels’ equally perceptive analysis of the ‘social’ side of Bismarck’s Bonapartism, namely, his flirtations with the so-called ‘state socialism’. To those social reformers who argued that the Bismarck regime could solve the ‘social question’ because it did not rest directly on any single exploiting class, Engels replied:

That is the language of reactionaries... the state as it exists in Germany is... the necessary product of the social basis out of which it has developed... there exists side by side with a landowning aristocracy, which is still powerful, a comparatively young and extremely cowardly bourgeoisie, which up to the present has not won either direct political domination, as in France, or more or less indirect domination, as in England. [20]

Engels then points out how the growth of the industrial proletariat introduced a third prop into the Bonapartist state structure:

Side by side with these two classes... there exists a rapidly increasing proletariat which is intellectually highly developed and which is becoming more and more organised every day. We therefore find here, alongside of the basic condition of the old absolute monarchy – an equilibrium between the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie [21] – the basic condition of modern Bonapartism – an equilibrium between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But both in the old absolute monarchy and in the modern Bonapartist monarchy the real governmental authority lies in the hands of a special caste of army officers and state officials. In Prussia this caste is replenished partly from its own ranks, partly from the lesser primogenitary (hereditary) aristocracy, more rarely from the higher aristocracy, and least of all from the bourgeoisie. The independence of this caste, which appears to occupy a position outside and, so to speak, above society, gives the state the semblance of independence in relation to society. [22]

Here Engels at last concretises in relation to Germany the general theory of the state which both he and Marx had been evolving over the previous 20 years. It was by no means the rule for the bourgeoisie to exercise direct state power, in the sense of holding all or most of the key governmental and departmental posts in a particular country where the capitalist mode of production had become dominant. In fact Engels could only point to France – and for brief period of two years at that – where the entire bourgeoisie had held the reins of state power firmly in its own hands. In every other case, capitalist class rule had been, to one degree or another, exercised by proxy, had been mediated either through a faction of the bourgeoisie itself, or through a caste selected and trained for this task from other social classes. This caste, which has as its sole or central task the exercising of direct state power, can be drawn from the most varied layers of society, according to both immediate circumstance and political tradition.

In Bismarck’s Germany, it was the Junkers who provided this governing stratum, thus at the same time extending the historical life of a class that would otherwise have ossified and withered away as an economic anachronism. They did not simply and mechanically occupy a political vacuum that the bourgeoisie was unable to fill. They actively fought to defend their role as the sole wielders of state and military power. The Junkers sensed that, in post-1848 Germany, they had no other right to existence save as this.

And it is no mere coincidence that Germany – only on this occasion Hitler’s Germany – provides us with the reverse case of a bourgeoisie being ruled not ‘from above’, by the landed aristocracy, but ‘from below’ by the petit-bourgeois Nazi leadership. Invoking the aid of other classes or layers of classes to ward off the threat of proletarian revolution – for such was the basis of its pact with both Bismarck and Hitler – is therefore very much an integral part of the political make-up of the German bourgeoisie. And we may, with the reservations that are necessary with all such parallels, also point to the early days and months of the German Republic as proof that this same bourgeoisie was even prepared to delegate power to the leaders of its old enemy, the Social Democrats, if that was the only means of averting the socialist revolution.

None of these cases is unique to Germany. Marx shows in his Eighteenth Brumaire how Louis Bonaparte’s coup d'état of 2 December 1851 became possible through the mobilisation of the ‘lumpen-proletariat’ against the institutions of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, and also how once firmly in power, Louis Bonaparte secured the mass support of the French peasantry by exploiting the heroic aura around the name of his dead uncle:

The French bourgeoisie balked at the domination of the working proletariat; it had brought the lumpen-proletariat to domination, with the chief of the Society of 10 December at the head... A bunch of blokes push their way forward into the court, into the ministries, to the head of the administration and the army, a crowd of the best of whom it must be said that no one knows whence he comes, a noisy, disreputable, rapacious boheme that crawls into gallooned coats with the same grotesque dignity as the high dignitaries of Soulouque. [23]

The political rule of the monarch, the aristocrat, the labour bureaucrat, the gutter – or even the priest – these are some of the forms which the dictatorship of capital can assume at various periods of its rise and decline. In fact, as a general rule, it is true to say that the greater the political crisis facing the bourgeoisie, the more ready it will be to cede its power to these strata, and the more necessary it becomes for other social groups to screen the bourgeoisie’s own rule. And the tenacity with which these governing castes defend the rule of capital hinges to a large degree on the extent of their own stake – material as well as ‘moral’ – in the existing system.

Hence the acquiescence of the German bourgeoisie in the penetration of their own élites by the top Nazi cliques, and their readiness to accept a considerable degree of graft and self-aggrandisement by the upper circles of the party leadership and bureaucracy. It was not, as some historians claim, ‘protection money’, but more a means of ensuring Nazi loyalty to their own class goals and interests by integrating them into the capitalist system of property ownership. Leaders such as Goering, Hitler and Goebbels became capitalists in their own right, as did many hundreds of lesser party officials beneath them.

Engels noted this process of fusion and mutual interpenetration of classes in Bismarckian Germany. Industrialists aped the mores and manners of the aristocracy, and hunted titles that would prefix their surname with the almost holy ‘von’; while, on the other hand, ‘the nobility, who have been industrialists for a long time as manufacturers of beet sugar and distillers of brandy, have long left the old respectable days behind and their names now swell the lists of directors of all sorts of sound and unsound joint-stock companies... [24] This process of the ‘bourgeoisification’ of an aristocracy had of course been noted by Marx and Engels in the case of Britain, but here it took place on a solidly capitalist state foundation, and under conditions where the bourgeoisie was not lacking in either political experience or aggression.

In Germany, despite the impression created by Engels of the two classes meeting in mid-stream, the political initiative remained with the Junkers, for the reasons already alluded to. Engels was quite correct when he insisted that ‘the transition from the absolute monarchy to the Bonapartist monarchy is in full swing’, but more than a little over-optimistic when he added ‘with the next big business and industrial crisis not only will the present swindle collapse [25] but the old Prussian state as well’. [26]

This he acknowledged in a note to the 1887 edition of the work in question, where he stated that the bourgeois-Junker alliance had remained intact chiefly by virtue of ‘fear of the proletariat, which has grown tremendously in numbers and class consciousness since 1872’. Nevertheless, Engels’ hatred for the Junker caste, which stifled German politics and gravely hindered the unfolding of an open struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, often led him either to exaggerate the tempo of its political demise, or detect oppositional trends within the German bourgeoisie where there were none. For example, in 1886 he wrote to August Bebel, joint founder with Wilhelm Liebknecht of the German Social Democratic Party, that he had again detected signs ‘that the German bourgeois was once more being compelled to do his political duty, to oppose the present system, so that at long last there will be some progress again’. [27]

Bebel had the doleful duty of reporting that this was not so, and that in fact the bourgeoisie remained loyal almost to a man behind Bismarck’s programme of anti-socialist persecution. [28]

Not that Engels had any illusions in the possibility of a bourgeois political renaissance in Germany. Far from it. Rather he understood that in the context of Bismarckian Germany, there was absolutely no likelihood of a successful proletarian bid for power. [29] So while consolidating its own positions and preparing for a future period when the struggle for power was on the agenda, the German workers’ movement searched for chinks in the armour of its enemy. Engels considered a fully bourgeois government not only inevitable but, as far as the political education of the German working class was concerned, necessary: ‘Our turn can only come when the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties have openly and in practice proved their inability to govern.’ [30]

How could Engels have anticipated that 32 years later, when this situation did arise, the main instrument in handing state power back to the bourgeoisie would be the now utterly degenerated party of Bebel?

Engels never lived to see even the most theatrical of revolts by the German bourgeoisie against its Junker overlords. Bismarck’s decision in the mid-1880s to go over to an aggressive colonial policy, coupled with his support for protectionism, cemented the ‘pact of steel and rye’. In turn, it hardened their united resolve to ward off at all costs the threat posed by the irresistible growth of Social Democracy. To a certain extent, this clearly minimised the Bonapartist manoeuvres which the regime could undertake, as the two warring factions based on private property were now beginning to sink their differences. There still remained, however, the ‘proletarian’ card, and on occasions Bismarck – and even the young William II – were not averse to playing it. It was not so much the content of Bismarck’s social policy that was significant – the reforms were in themselves trifling and did very little to alleviate the plight of the proletariat – but the political thinking behind them:

... if legislation in the economic field since 1866 has not been even more to the interests of the bourgeoisie than has actually been the case, whose fault is that? The bourgeoisie itself is chiefly responsible, first because it is too cowardly to press its own demands energetically, and secondly because it resists every concession if the latter simultaneously provides the menacing proletariat with new weapons. And if the political power, that is, Bismarck, is attempting to organise its own bodyguard proletariat to keep the political activity of the bourgeoisie in check, what else is that if not a necessary and quite familiar Bonapartist recipe which pledges the state to nothing more, as far as the workers are concerned, than a few benevolent phrases and at the utmost to a minimum of state assistance for building societies ŕ la Bonaparte? [31]

Engels undertakes his most thoroughgoing analysis of Bismarck’s policy in The Role of Force in History, a work which makes extensive use of analogies between Bonapartist France and Prussia-dominated Germany: ‘Bismarck is Louis Napoleon translated from the French adventurist Pretender to the Throne into the Prussian Junker squire and German cadet officer.’ But he scored over his French counterpart in that he was not only ‘a man of great practical understanding and immense cunning’, but a statesman capable of restraining his ambition within the limits of what was realisable. Unlike so many would-be Bonapartes, he spurned adventures, and when the going was hard ‘his willpower never deserted him. Rather was it the case that it was often suddenly translated into open brutality.’ [32] And this, stresses Engels, ‘was the secret of his success’:

All the ruling classes in Germany, Junkers and bourgeois alike, had so lost all traces of energy, spinelessness had become so much the custom in ‘educated’ Germany, that the one man amongst them who still had the willpower thereby became their greatest personality and a tyrant over them. [33]

So how, then, are we to describe the Germany of Prince Otto von Bismarck, and how should we evaluate the political legacy bequeathed to the bourgeoisie he both ruled for and over? Confronted by the contradictory and still-evolving phenomenon of Stalinist Russia, Trotsky found that the Soviet Union could not be accurately depicted in a phrase. In his Revolution Betrayed (1937) he found it necessary to devote more than half a page to the apparently simple task of defining the Soviet state and economy. To those who demanded a clear cut ‘yes-no’ formula, Trotsky replied:

Sociological problems would certainly be simpler, if social phenomena had always a finished character. There is nothing more dangerous, however, than to throw out of reality, for the sake of logical completeness, elements which today violate your scheme and tomorrow may wholly overturn it. [34]

And despite their occasional lapses into unfounded optimism – which always had as its basis an irrepressible revolutionary spirit, and not any lack of scientific objectivity – Marx and Engels employed precisely this method in their analysis of Germany. Engels always approached the Germany of Bismarck as a contradictory whole (which in turn was part of a greater whole) whose development was determined by the perpetual conflict between its antagonistic parts. The real theoretical complexities which arose in the case of Germany (reflected in the extreme hazardous nature of any predictions concerning its future political development) were due to the superimposing of one historical epoch, together with its constituent classes, institutions and ideologies, over another, rather than the new driving out the old. Thus the three-fold nature of Bismarckian Bonapartism, and the two-fronted war which each class waged against the others – Junkers against bourgeois and proletariat, proletariat against Junkers and bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie against Junker and proletariat.

Like Trotsky, who was grappling with an entirely new historical process – the degeneration of the first successful workers’ revolution, and the political usurpation of the proletariat by a ruthless and rapacious bureaucracy – Marx and Engels could have legitimately claimed that in Junker Germany, they were faced with ‘dynamic social formations which have no precedent and have no analogies’. [35]

But that did not deter either Trotsky or Engels and Marx from searching for them. France, the nation where the class battles were ‘fought to finish’, so rich in its violent political oscillations from revolution to counter-revolution and back again, provided the best available models from which to work. In the case of Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union, he sought an historical parallel for the degeneration of the October Revolution in the period of bourgeois reaction which followed the overthrow of the ‘Committee of Public Safety’ headed by Robespierre and Saint Juste. They were guillotined on 27 July 1794 – 9 Thermidor by the revolutionary calendar – and it is this month which has given its name to the process of reaction which sets in after the period when a revolution is in the ascendant and then reaches its peak of radicalism.

Trotsky transposed this ‘model’ to the Soviet Union of the period immediately following the end of the Civil War, the illness and death of Lenin, and the aborting of the 1923 revolutionary situation in Germany.

But while making the all-important distinction between the predominant property forms in Napoleonic France and the Soviet Union, he depicted as the Russian equivalent of Thermidor the restoration of bourgeois property forms, whereas in the case of France, the fall of the Jacobins did not mark the beginning of a reversion to feudalism, but the consolidation of the newly-established state on political lines more amenable to the big bourgeoisie. Thus for a time Trotsky was tending to equate a social counter-revolution in Russia (that is, the overthrow of the proletariat as the ruling class, and the restoration of capitalist forms of property ownership) with a political counter-revolution in France, where power shifted between segments of the bourgeoisie (in this case from the middle bourgeoisie and its petit-bourgeois allies) into the hands of the biggest capitalists and bankers. Every shift in power under the Thermidorians, the Directorate and finally Napoleon himself took place upon the capitalist property relations established in the course of the first years of the revolution.

The flaws in this analogy soon became evident to Trotsky, and he revised it in 1935, when he wrote:

We can and must admit that the analogy of Thermidor served to becloud rather than clarify the question... In the internal controversies of the Russian and the international Opposition we conditionally understood by Thermidor, the first stage of the bourgeois counter-revolution, aimed against the social basis of the workers’ state... the historical analogy became invested with a purely conditional, and not realistic character, and this comes into ever increasing contradiction with the demands for an analysis of the most recent evolution of the Soviet state. [36]

For if Stalin had assumed the mantle of a Soviet Bonaparte, and ‘since there has been no Soviet “Thermidor” [37] as yet, whence could Bonapartism have arisen'? [38] By ‘radically revising’ his analogy, Trotsky was able to come to the conclusion that the real ‘Thermidor’, a political reaction corresponding to the anti-Jacobin coup of July 1794, was already more than 10 years old:

The smashing of the Left Opposition implied in the most direct and immediate sense the transfer of power from the hands of the revolutionary vanguard into the hands of the more conservative elements among the bureaucracy and the upper crust of the working class. The year 1924 – that was the beginning of the Soviet Thermidor. [39]

This brief survey of Trotsky’s employment and re-evaluation of the ‘Thermidorian’ and ‘Bonapartist’ episodes of the French and Russian Revolutions is by no means a diversion from our main theme, as it may indeed appear at first sight. Trotsky paid such close attention to the complexities of Soviet reality, amending and revising his concepts and conclusions where and when the facts demanded it, because he was constantly seeking a correct political orientation for the Left Opposition, and after 1933, the Fourth International. That is why he could not remain content with bald abstractions and banal generalities, with categories that allowed for only a clear-cut black or white, a yes or no. Along this methodological line lay the path to capitulation either to Stalinism (that is, totally identifying the Stalinist bureaucracy with the progressive nationalised property relations on which it rests) or capitulation to imperialism, that is, since Stalin has strangled the last remnants of Soviet democracy, the USSR is no longer a workers’ state and therefore should not be defended against imperialism). [40]

Now this was precisely the motive which guided Marx and Engels in their theoretical work on the German question. At stake was the future of the SPD and, with it, the outcome of the struggle for socialism not only in Germany but throughout the continent of Europe. Any tendency to ignore the concrete and highly peculiar state forms and social structures engendered by Germany’s past development could have either thrown the working class into the arms of the bourgeoisie in an unprincipled bloc against the Junkers, or led to the equally suicidal course of allowing the proletariat to serve as a bargaining counter in Bismarck’s Bonapartist manoeuvres with the bourgeoisie.

Both these strategies were canvassed and even employed during the lifetime of Engels. Thus a section of the SPD leadership sought to placate the wrath of the German bourgeoisie during the initial period of Bismarck’s anti-socialist laws by playing down the party’s proletarian basis and programme, and emphasising in its stead the necessity of winning ‘the so-called upper strata of society’. This opportunist trend occasioned an angry rebuff from both Marx and Engels in their famous Circular Letter to the SPD leadership.

But Marx and Engels were equally opposed to the type of backstairs dealing engaged in by Ferdinand Lassalle – one of the great pioneers of the German labour movement – with Bismarck on the basis of their mutual hostility to the bourgeoisie. Lassalle also had illusions in the socialist character of Bismarck’s programme of social reform, a mistake which flowed from his idealisation of the Prussian state. Their negotiations – cut short by Lassalle’s tragic death in a duel in 1864 – revolved around a deal whereby Lassalle would attempt to rally the workers behind Bismarck’s policy of a Prussian-dominated greater Germany, while in return, the Chancellor would introduce manhood suffrage and a programme of social legislation protecting the workers against the profit-hungry German bourgeoisie.

And one of Engels’ last disputes with the leadership of the German party arose over this same vexed question of the nature of the German state and the attitude the working class should adopt to the more liberal elements among the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie.

Engels strongly objected to the use of the phrase ‘one reactionary mass’ to describe all the other political parties in Germany. This term, which appeared in the draft of the SPD’s 1891 Erfurt Programme (it was excluded from the final version), Engels considered to be ‘extremely one-sided... and hence entirely wrong in the apodictically absolute form in which alone it rings true’. [41] And very much in the same way as Trotsky warned against regarding the Soviet Union of the middle 1930s as a finished social formation, Engels went on:

Wrong because it enunciates an historical tendency correct in itself as an accomplished fact. The moment the social revolution starts all other parties appear to be a reactionary mass vis-ŕ-vis us. Possibly they already are such, have lost all capacity for any progressive action whatsoever, although not necessarily so. But at the present moment we cannot say so... [42]

So right up to the end, Engels refused to state categorically that the German bourgeoisie had exhausted its meagre revolutionary energies:

Even in Germany, conditions may arise under which the left (bourgeois) parties, despite their miserableness, may be forced to sweep away part of the colossal anti-bourgeois, bureaucratic and feudal rubbish that is still lying there. And in that event they are simply no reactionary mass. [43]

So much for the peculiarities of Bismarckian Germany, which if we wished to paraphrase a formulation employed by Trotsky to describe the Soviet Union, could be termed variously a ‘Junkerised bourgeois state’ or a ‘bourgeoisified Junker state’ according to its stage of evolution.

The impact of the Bismarck era on the consciousness of Germany’s main classes, and the ways in which it influenced the political strategy of the bourgeoisie under the Weimar Republic, will be constantly recurring themes in this work.


1. K Marx, Grundrisse (London, 1971), pp 34-35.

2. K Marx, ‘The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution’ (Cologne, 11 December 1849), Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1962), p 66.

3. Marx, ‘The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 67.

4. Marx, ‘The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 67-68.

5. Marx, ‘The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 68-69.

6. Marx, ‘The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 69.

7. LD Trotsky, ‘The USSR in War’, In Defence of Marxism (London 1966), p 3.

8. LD Trotsky, ‘Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR’, In Defence of Marxism, p 30.

9. LD Trotsky, ‘From a Scratch – To the Danger of Gangrene’, In Defence of Marxism, pp 146-47.

10. Speech to Prussian Parliament, 18 October 1849.

11. Letter to H Wagener, Frankfurt, 27 April 1853.

12. F Engels, letters to K Marx, 13 April 1866, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow, nd), p 214, emphasis added.

13. Marx’s immortal study of this second edition of French Bonapartism, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and his complementary work The Class Struggles in France are absolutely essential reading for an understanding of Bismarckian Germany, not to speak of the role of the semi and full Bonapartist regimes of Brüning, von Papen and Schleicher which preceded Hitler’s assumption of power in January 1933.

14. F Engels, Review of K Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Das Volk, 6 August 1859.

15. In fact this had been the case for some time. It was Engels who wrote a history of both the German revolutions: his The Peasant War in Germany (1850) and Revolution and Counter-Revolution (1852). But these must be balanced by Marx’s brilliant and profound studies of French revolutionary history.

16. F Engels, ‘Preface’, The Peasant War in Germany (Moscow, 1956), p 18.

17. While making sure that in his own Prussia, the cornerstone of the new Germany, the votes of the propertied classes outweighed the far more numerous votes of the workers and rural poor. This was the infamous system of the Prussian ‘Three-Tier Franchise’, only demolished by the Revolution of November 1918.

18. This passage alone renders absurd Stalin’s claim that it was Lenin who ‘discovered’ the ‘law of uneven development’ (JV Stalin, ‘The Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party’, being a report delivered to the Fifteenth Conference of the CPSU, 1 November 1926, Works, Volume 8, p 261). In defending his nationalist and reformist theory of ‘socialism in one country’, against the attacks of Trotsky, Stalin was obliged to declare as ‘no longer correct’ the unequivocal statement by Engels in his Principles of Communism (1847) that the socialist revolution could not triumph in a single country. Stalin argued that uneven development was unique to the monopolist, imperialist stage of capitalism, and that therefore, ‘in these conditions the old formula of Engels becomes incorrect and must inevitably be replaced by another formula, one that affirms the possibility of the victory of socialism in one country’ (p 261). How much sympathy Lenin had for this ‘formula’ can be seen from the comprehensive selection of Lenin’s writings and speeches on world revolution reproduced in the author’s Stalinism in Britain (London, 1970), pp 41-50.

19. Engels, ‘Preface’, The Peasant War in Germany, pp 21-22.

>20. F Engels, ‘The Housing Question’ (1872-73), Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 605.

21. The classic form of Bonapartism under the absolute monarchy evolved first in England under the Tudors, which leaned for support alternately or even simultaneously upon the old aristocracy and the rising commercial classes, and later in France under the Bourbons.

22. Engels, ‘The Housing Question’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 605.

23. K Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 330-43.

24. Engels, ‘The Housing Question’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 606.

25. Engels refers here to the involvement of the more avaricious layers of the government bureaucracy in dubious stock exchange dealings.

26. Engels, ‘The Housing Question’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, p 606.

27. Letter to A Bebel, 13 September 1886.

28. This was of course the period of Bismarck’s anti-socialist law, which ran from 1878 to 1890. It secured the eager support of the National Liberals in the Reichstag.

29. In the 1884 Reichstag elections, the outlawed SPD secured 549 990 votes and 12 deputies; Bismarck’s parliamentary allies, the Conservatives, 861 063 votes and 78 deputies; the right-wing ‘Reichspartei’ 387 687 votes and 78 deputies; the National Liberals 997 033 votes and 51 deputies; the Progressives 1 092 895 votes and 74 deputies; and the Centre Party, 1 282 006 votes and 99 deputies. The balance of power as refracted through the parliamentary prism was overwhelmingly tilted against the SPD, and the party leaders adjusted their tactics accordingly.

30. Letter to A Bebel, 13 September 1886.

31. Engels, ‘The Housing Question’, Marx-Engels Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 606-07.

32. F Engels, The Role of Force in History (1887-88) (London, 1968), pp 56-57.

33. Engels, The Role of Force in History, p 57.

34. LD Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (London, 1967), p 255.

35. Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, p 255.

36. LD Trotsky, The Workers’ State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism (1935) (London, 1968), p 41.

37. This is, Thermidor as conceived under the old and faulty schema, in which it represented a capitalist restoration.

38. Trotsky, The Workers’ State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism, p 48.

39. Trotsky, The Workers’ State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism, p 49.

40. This is the position held by the ‘International Socialism’ group, which publishes the weekly Socialist Worker.

41. F Engels to K Kautsky, London, 14 October 1891, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p 514.

42. Engels to Kautsky, 14 October 1891, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p 514.

43. Engels to Kautsky, 14 October 1891, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, p 514. Yet only a year later, Engels was to concede the point, if not the method employed to argue it. In a letter to Paul Lafargue, he noted that ‘in France too, Lassalle’s “one single, compact reactionary mass,” the coalition of all the anti-socialist parties, is beginning to form. In Germany we have had that for years... The whole of official history in Germany, apart from the very heterogeneous camarilla which surrounds young Wilhelm and leads him a dance, is made, on the one hand, by socialist action which causes all the bourgeois parties to merge into one large party of straightforward resistance, and, on the other, by the play of the divergent interests within these parties themselves, which drives them apart from each other. Reichstag legislation is nothing but the product, the outcome of the conflict of these two opposing trends of which the secondary, the tendency to split up, grows weaker and weaker...’ (F Engels to Paul Lafargue, London, 19 May 1892, Frederick Engels, Paul Lafargue and Laura Lafargue, Correspondence, Volume 3 (Moscow, nd), p 173) Here Engels still speaks of a ‘tendency and not a completed, cut and dried state of affairs’. And this, the method, is what is most important.