My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Death-bringing Parasitic Ivy

Wilhelm Liebknecht was a leader of the German workers' party, the SPD, and a frequent writer for its enormous range of newspapers (by which he made a quite incredibly huge amount of money). After fighting in the 1848 Revolution, he lived in exile in England for a good number of years, before returning to Germany in the 1860s. He was very close to Marx and Engels.  The latter were pretty scornful of Liebknecht in their private correspondence (as was their wont), but there was probably no one more important in implanting Marxism in Germany.

In the early 1870s, he occasionally intimated that the party was there to prepare for a violent social revolution. However, particularly as time went on, Liebknecht's line was that the SPD needed to complete the 'bourgeois revolution' - i.e. subordinating the executive government by making it responsible to the representative parliament - and then to win the 'battle of democracy': protecting universal suffrage against counter-coup, and having a workers' government elected. This was different from Britain and France, where constitutionalism was already established.

Here he is looking back on the circumstances of German unification in 1899:

In Germany where Capitalism was developed later than in England and France, and where it was not preceded, as in those two countries, by an era of economic prosperity for the bourgeoisie as well as of political supremacy by it, the whole political development was obliged to take on a different character. There [Britain and France] a soil cleared of medieval mould and undergrowth; here [Germany], the most modern of modern conditions, as modern as in France and England, in between medieval mould and undergrowth; the healthy growth entwined with ivy, which sucks the life out of everything that it clasps with its tendrils; which only lives from death and rottenness and which must be torn off and grubbed up to prevent the healthy and growing from being sacrificed to the dead.
The German bourgeoisie, which was sleeping the sleep of impotence at the time when in other lands the bourgeoisie impressed upon the state its bourgeois character, does not even now possess the strength to tear away and extirpate the romantic and death-bringing parasitic ivy of landlordism and medieval semi-barbarism.
The political impotence of the German citizenry in past and present is what distinguishes the political life of Germany from that of the other advanced countries, and has assigned to the German proletariat the mission not only of solving its own strictly proletarian problem, but also of accomplishing the work left undone by our bourgeoisie.
[Excerpted in William A. Pelz (ed.). Wilhelm Liebknecht and German Social Democracy: A Documentary History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), p. 189.]

It has elements of the theory of Sonderweg, but perhaps without the suggestion that Germany was entirely unique.

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