Colin Powell as Bonapartist

Adam Rose adam at
Wed Feb 14 06:54:55 MST 1996

A repost. Sorry for duplicates, if they occur

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>From adam Wed Feb  7 12:16:24 1996
To: marxism at
Subject: Re: Colin Powell as Bonapartist
Content-Length: 2081

I'm very wary of using the word Bonapartist, because more often
than not, it means "some military regime I don't like" , and
therefore isn't very useful.

It isn't after all such a rare event that the political core of
the capitalist class looks to outside this central core to
other parts of the bourgeoisie for political leadership.

For instance, was Eisenhower really "bonapartist" ? I don't
even think the label fits MacArthur.

Also, capitalism extracts Labour mainly by fraud most of the time.
The payment of a wage seems like an exchange of equal quantities,
but is in fact exploitation. The politcal reflection of this
formal but not actual freedom is that capitalist politicians
never say "we rule in the interests of the rich" but "we rule
in the interests of the nation" , never answering the question
"but who owns the nation ?". So the particular ideologies of
of Buchannan, Perot or Powell aren't so exceptional.

Nevertheless, there is an international phenomenon, represented
by people like Perot and Berlusconi ( and Yeltsin ) which does
seem more prevelent than before. There is an ongoing underlying
economic crisis, which has discredited both the usual rulers and
their traditional alternatives. It isn't particular rulers or parties
that are discredited, it's the whole political system. So people
look for someone outside that system, and the capitalist class
itself requires someone like that. So Berlusconi or Perot can
win support from both rulers and ruled.

I think the problem is that "Bonapartist" doesn't tell us much.
If classes are balancing each other out, then the precise
way they are doing this and the particular causes of the
instability need analysing. When Trotsky used the term to describe
the two regimes just before Hitler's, he immediately went on to qualify
exactly what he meant ( and the differences between the two ).
For instance, describing Israel as an Apartheid state tells us more
than describing Perot as Bonapartist.


Adam Rose


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