Andrew Johnson impeachment and the Nation Magazine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Aug 7 07:49:18 MDT 2003

>By that standard, wouldn't you end up concluding that not only has there
>never been a "bourgeois-democratic" revolution in the United States but
>also there has been no such thing as a _successful_ instance of
>"bourgeois-democratic" revolution in the West, except perhaps the SCAP
>land reforms?

Most of us probably assume that the following passage from the Communist
Manifesto reflects some special new insight from Marx and Engels:

"The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display
of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its
fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to
show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far
surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it
has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of
nations and crusades."

In the chapter "Bourgeois Revolution: A Liberal Concept" (Rethinking the
French Revolution, Verso, 1987), George Comninel argues that nothing could
be further from the truth. Marx and Engels were simply repeating what
liberal historians had been saying all along. The notion of a "bourgeois
revolution" was commonplace in France (Thierry, Mignet, Guizot) as well as
England (David Hume).
Thierry, for example, wrote, "One could say that the rallying cry of the
two armies were, on one side, idleness and power, and on the other,
industry and liberty: because the idlers, those who wanted no other
occupation in life than pleasure without pains, of whichever caste,
enlisted with the royalist troops, to defend interests conforming to their
own; whereas those families from the caste of the former conquerors that
had been won over to industry joined the party of the commons."

The notion that the French Revolution was the outcome of a protracted
struggle over conflicting property relations is not an innovation either.
Three decades prior to the Communist Manifesto, Guizot wrote, "In order to
understand political institutions, we must study the various strata
existing in society and their mutual relationships. In order to understand
these various social strata, we must know the nature and the relations of
landed property."


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