Marx and Engels on the bourgeois revolution

Richard Fidler rfidler at
Thu Apr 4 08:12:12 MST 2002

Charles Brown wrote (April 2):

>>This hardly sounds like the "classical Marxist model of bourgeois
revolution" as defined by Ed. I think it is safe to say that neither Marx
nor Engels can be accurately cited as authority for the popular frontism
that characterized the later Stalinist caricature of the revolutionary or
(more accurately) "progressive" bourgeoisie.

Richard Fidler


 CB: This is an interesting essay. However, at the time of the Popular
Front, the bourgeoisie were much more fully and exclusively in state power
in France and Germany, than in the periods in the 1800's analyzed in Engels
essays quoted.  How is it that the Popular Front analysis was not correct
for the 1930's ? Engels discussion of the 1800's seems an anachronism for
the 1930's. <<


The reference to the Popular Front in my closing paragraph was a bit
cryptic, I'll agree. It is there because I was responding to Edward George's
argument that the model of the "classical bourgeois revolution" he was
discussing, which predicated the existence of a "revolutionary" bourgeoisie
that had led the great upsurges marking the political (state) transition
from feudalism to capitalism in Europe, had been used "to justify all manner
of popular frontists apologias...."

Ed argued that the schema could not be supported by reference to Marx's
writings. I agreed with him, while disagreeing with some aspects of his
argument. I also attempted, however, to rebut Ed's claim that some support
for this schema could be found in Engels.

The point remains that if the bourgeoisie as a class were firmly in the camp
of the counter-revolution by the end of the 19th century, the workers'
movement _a fortiori_ had no interest in allying with that class politically
or organizationally in the imperialist countries in the 20th century. In
this sense, Engels' conclusions on the role of the bourgeoisie in the
"bourgeois revolutions", far from being anachronistic, were highly relevant
to the Comintern's policy of Popular Front, adopted after the debacle in
Germany in 1932. In a nutshell, a very strong case can be made (and was made
most compellingly by Trotsky) that by limiting the workers' movement to the
defence of bourgeois "democracy" and subordinating the workers' parties to
the program of their bourgeois partners in such fronts, the policy resulted
(inter alia) in the defeat of the Spanish revolution and a lost opportunity
for socialist revolution in France, thereby helping to pave the way toward
the Second (Imperialist) World War.

Richard Fidler

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