Flesh of Flesh and Bone of Bone: Engels on the First Bourgeois Statesman

I am thoroughly enjoying the study of Engels’s many important – but often ignored – works on the state from the 1880s. The most insightful is ‘The Role of Force in History’, which offers a worthy companion to Marx’s ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’. While Marx focused on France and Louis Napoleon, Engels deals with Bismarck and Germany’s belated dialectical leap. But Engels also has some wonderful insights into Louis Napoleon, such as the following:

Louis Napoleon was now the idol of the European bourgeoisie. Not only because he had ‘saved society’ on December 2, 1851, when he destroyed the political rule of the bourgeoisie, it is true, but only to save its social rule. Not only because he showed that, under favourable circumstances, universal suffrage could be turned into an instrument for the oppression of the masses. Not only because, under his rule, industry and trade and notably speculation and stock exchange machinations advanced to a degree previously unknown. But, first and foremost, because the bourgeoisie saw in him the first ‘great statesman’, who was flesh of their flesh, and bone of their bone. He was an upstart like every true bourgeois. ‘A dyed in the wool’ Carbonari conspirator in Italy, an artillery officer in Switzerland, a debt-burdened tramp of distinction and special constable in England, yet constantly and everywhere a pretender to the throne, he had prepared himself by his adventurous past and moral failings in all countries for the role of Emperor of the French and ruler of the destinies of Europe, as the exemplary bourgeois, the American, prepares himself by a series of bankruptcies, genuine and fraudulent, for the role of millionaire.

‘The Role of Force in History’ (MECW 26: 461-62).

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