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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Advancing by return? An interview with Spencer A. Leonard

Advancing by return? An interview with Spencer A. Leonard

Pamela C. Nogales C. and Andreas Wintersperger

Platypus Review 164 | March 2024

On March 12, 2023, for episode 56 of the podcast Sh*t Platypus Says,[1] Platypus Affiliated Society members Pamela C. Nogales C. and Andreas Wintersperger interviewed Spencer A. Leonard about the two volumes of Marx and Engels’s journalism that he has edited and written introductions for: Marx and Engels on Imperialism: Selected Journalism, 1856–62 and Marx and Engels on Bonapartism: Selected Journalism, 1851–59. Both volumes were published in 2023 by Lexington Books. Leonard is a founding member of the Platypus Affiliated Society. He teaches sociology at James Madison University. An edited transcript follows.

Andreas Wintersperger: Was there a specific event or tendency in recent history that motivated you to publish and curate Marx and Engels’s journalistic works now?

Spencer A. Leonard: Not really. This is a product of long years of reflection. I was deeply engaged with Marx before the foundation of Platypus. Already, as a student of Moishe Postone and a failed recruit to an American sectarian Leftist organization (the ISO[2]), I felt the opposition between political Marxism and Marxism as a kind of sociology or social theory. I was Postone’s research assistant even as I was studying with Indian ex-Maoists, Subaltern School historians, for whom Marx’s journalism on India was a major touchstone. They had a more political conception of Marxism filtered through Marxism-Leninism or Maoism, whether as Naxalites or as members of the mainstream parliamentary party.[3] The way I received Marx was confused, and I wanted clarity.

The lack of clarity that I experienced had roots stretching back into the history of Marxism, ultimately back into the Second International, where Marx’s critique of political economy was taken as a kind of license to liquidate orthodox Marxism politically. Eduard Bernstein would have understood himself as “revising,” bringing up to date, the Marx of Das Kapital (1867), in order to abandon a political Marxism rooted in the writings on the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune, which would have been the loci classici of revolutionary Marxism (which, of course, never disclaimed Das Kapital).

That is all deep background. To answer your question more plainly, this project was conceived of in the aftermath of Occupy. At that time, we hadn’t quite reached the liquidation of the Millennial Left into capitalist politics, but the party question loomed, as in the debates around SYRIZA and Podemos. Occupy represented a kind of discontent with the Democrats and the Labour Party, etc., i.e., with inherited social democracy and what passes for that in the United States. In Platypus, we were developing a deeper sense of the significance of the Second International and the “class line,” in the sense of what it meant historically to independently organize a working-class party for socialism, a working-class politics that is critical of, distanced from, and deliberate in its relationship to capitalist politics. The question of capitalist politics raised the history and the meaning of Bonapartism.

One of my favorite phrases from Marx’s English-language journalism that I’ve published is “imperial socialism,” i.e., socialism as capitalist state policy. French socialists attempted to realize their aspirations through Louis Bonaparte’s regime. That is what capitalist politics does. “Leftists” think they are advancing their purposes, when, in fact, they are supplying the content of capitalist politics.

The roots of this project are there. I really dug into the work after 2017 and the complete liquidation of the American Left, as I had known it my entire life, into the Democratic Party —  the liquidation of the sectarian Left. The meaning of the Millennial Left, which had emerged in the antiwar movement, proved to be the reconstitution of the Democratic Party, and they took the old sectarian Left down with them.

Pamela C. Nogales C.: In your introduction to Marx and Engels on Bonapartism, you trace Marx and Engels’s political transformation in and through the 1848 Revolutions. You characterize this change as leaving behind their “neo-Jacobin” politics — bound up in the legacy of François-Noël Babeuf and the Constitution of 1793 — in favor of what you describe as a “working-class politics.” You write:

Class independence was necessary to adequately prosecute the democratic revolution alongside other social classes, to work to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat, the political rule of the working class and of those whom they led—a revolutionary political transition necessary to overcome and realize the potential of proletarianized, which is to say self-contradictory, society.[4]

Could you say more about the discontinuities and continuities in Marx and Engels’s political evolution?

SL: There is a widespread mischaracterization of Marx and Engels’s early development as essentially philosophical. That misses the fact that they were engaged with socialism and politics from the beginning. It also mischaracterizes what philosophy was or had become. Young Hegelianism was engaged with socialism; it was not only an attempt to advance the thought of Hegel despite the anxiety of influence. There were new circumstances that registered even in backward Germany in the form of Young Hegelian engagements with socialism, as, for instance, with Moses Hess and Bruno Bauer. That engagement with socialism really is a constitutive element of Marx and Engels’s development from 1839 onward, that is, from when they were 19 or 20 years old. They knew about that year’s Chartist uprising in Wales as well as the Blanquist uprising in Paris, which the Communist League, which included German workers, participated in. There is a neo-Jacobinism at the core of that, which you can see in, for instance, Marx’s notes on Philippe Buonarroti, the political legatee of Babeuf, as well as in so-called “physical force” Chartism with figures like James Bronterre O’Brien. These were the beating heart of neo-Jacobinism in the 1840s. I believe that Marx first addresses the Chartists in 1845 on the anniversary of the adoption of the Jacobin Constitution. There is a self-conscious neo-Jacobinism in Britain.

Which brings me to the statement that Marx makes in his 1852 letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, his close comrade in the Communist League and one of the few members who could be viewed as a kind of intellectual extension of Marx and Engels, alongside Wilhelm Wolff and Marx’s wife, Jenny. When Marx writes to Weydemeyer saying, “I did not develop the concept of class struggle. French liberal historians did that. My only contribution is the recognition of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat,”[5] he is educating Weydemeyer, because the Communist League had not been entirely clear about that. They knew that the French Revolution was not over and that the revolution of 1830 in France was aborted and that revolution was returning in the 1840s. Their entire young adulthood had been lived in a period of revolutionary ferment. They went into 1848 with the idea that they would be the working-class wing of the democratic revolution, in the way they thought the Jacobins represented a culmination of a process that began in 1789, reached steadily into deeper and deeper layers of Parisian society, and drove forward a dynamic of radicalization, from the Tennis Court Oath to the reign of the Committee of Public Safety under the Jacobins. This process was viewed as one of democratization. Marx and Engels thought that the working class was going to propel forward the new democratic revolution. To do this it did not require a separate organization and party form. As they wrote in the Manifesto (1848), communism simply represented “the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class. . . that section which pushes forward all others.”[6]

There is a historical debate as to whether the Communist League was dissolved at the outbreak of the revolution in favor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which was really the only organized expression of Marx and Engels’s politics in 1848. But the question is somewhat idle, as, quite obviously, the League was not a party in the Marxist sense. It did not function as a party in the Revolution of 1848.

In the period from 1850 to 1852 — from the end of the Revolution, Marx and Engels’s entrance into exile, and the “Address to the Communist League” (1850) to the drafting of the Eighteenth Brumaire (1851–52) and the letter to Weydemeyer — Marx and Engels distilled the lessons of 1848: the recurrence of the bourgeois revolution in the context of capital might be a repetition and regression at the same time. As Marx put it in the opening paragraphs of the Eighteenth Brumaire, revolution in the age of capital might conquer no new ground.[7] That was in their experience quite literally, geographically true: the bourgeois revolution failed to expand into Germany. It is hard for people to imagine today, but the expectation was that the bourgeois revolution would expand: what had begun in Holland, England, America, and France was the inheritance of the whole world and would spread to the whole world. But the revolution would also deepen so as to address the needs of the core of the Third Estate, the working class. It would address working concerns, and working people would become politically central to it. It was thought that the revolution would conquer both new geographical and historical ground. The dynamic would be to address more thoroughly the needs of labor, a process that had just begun with, for instance, the sans-culottes’ support for the Jacobins. But Marx and Engels’s experience in 1848–49 belied this expectation.

The bourgeoisie proved inadequate to the task of revolution, showing itself to be beholden to the aristocracy. Any Marxist can recite this point on the basis of Marx’s writings on Germany. But what it expressed was the crisis of the entire modern revolution and its self-consciousness as expressed through the Enlightenment or liberal-ism (which was thereby becoming an “ism”). The inheritance of the 18th century was inadequate to the task of the 19th, and the crisis took the form of Bonapartist democracy.

By this process Marx and Engels became (more fully) aware that they faced new circumstances, that they were tasked, as Louis Menand put it, with being “philosophes of a second Enlightenment.”[8] They were forced to re-pose the questions: what is the task of our time? Why can we not just advance the bourgeois revolution?

Marx and Engels alone learned the lessons of 1848. As such, they fully represented the self-consciousness of the age of proletarian socialism. Their problem was akin to the crisis of Hegelian philosophy, but, after 1848, that original problem deepened, transformed, and became more intensely political. The historical process had reached its crucial culmination and crisis in the experience of 1848. That was the defining experience for Marx and Engels. In State and Revolution (1917), Lenin distilled the essence of Marxism, tracing it from the Manifesto, through the experience of the Revolution of 1848, to the recognition of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat — and on through the experience of the repetition of the Revolution of 1848 in the Paris Commune (1871), where the Left itself showed that, in some crucial sense, it had learned the lesson of 1848. There the working class demonstrated its recognition of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat precisely by working through and discarding the empty shells of earlier socialisms, specifically Blanquism and Proudhonism.

To summarize, what orthodox Marxism recognized as Marx’s great insight arose from the experience of 1848. The elaboration of that insight is what I trace through the journalism of the 1850s. In this sense, I deliberately disavow forming an independent judgment, feeling that this would inevitably be to fall below the level set by the past. Instead, I have tried to pursue, elaborate, or test the perspective of Marxist orthodoxy. I elaborate what Marxists understood by Marxism with reference to materials that they had no access to. Marx and Engels reflected upon the actual historical experience of their time, grasping it as an age of Bonapartism and capital (pointing towards the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism). The question my books are intended to provoke is, are we still living in the age of proletarian socialism? Are Marx and Engels still our contemporaries?

PN: The democratic revolution reached its height in the American and French Revolutions, but, as you write in the introduction, the task of the “democratic revolution” became “self-contradictory” under the conditions of a capitalist society.[9] You seem to depart here from the formulation by Left historians like Domenico Losurdo, who argued in an interview with the Platypus Review that the freedom gained in 1776 and 1789 was hardly universal, meaning that it was not emancipatory in the radical sense.[10] Losurdo quibbled with Marx, who “spoke of the bourgeois revolutions as providing political emancipation,” noting that, “perhaps Marx didn’t see the aspect of de-emancipation.” You argue that Marx and Engels did not reject the earlier democratic revolution or its gains, but rather that “the society [it created] was transformed by its very realization, as its freedom grew self-contradictory.”[11] Could you elaborate on this issue of the self-contradiction of society and how it differs from Losurdo’s “emancipation / de-emancipation” argument?

SL: When we think about something like “liberal democracy,” in the era up to the French Revolution there is a relationship between democratizing and liberalizing, but the revolutionary project is liberal. Democracy is a means to that. For instance, in the American Revolution — or the crisis of the British Revolution, which is really what the American Revolution is — the inadequacy of society’s representation in Parliament was an issue. Growing out of the Wilkesite movement[12] of the 1760s, demands for universal suffrage were raised in Britain in 1775–76, as, most famously, in John Cartwright’s Take Your Choice! But, whether in Britain or America, the American Revolution was not just about representation in colonial legislatures but about the liberal self-transformation of society per se. That took on heightened salience in the French Revolution, where the suffrage was expanded in concert with the deepening of the revolution, perhaps even provoking a certain confusion of democracy with revolution. I’ve already mentioned the Jacobin or Montagnard Constitution of 1792. Even there, the aspiration was not democratization for its own sake, but the self-emancipation of society. The revolutionaries sought to give scope to social freedom, society’s capacity to transform itself in history. The self-emancipation of society means giving free play to society’s capacity for the exercise of public reason, and thus self-legislation and self-transformation. That goal is not democratic, but liberal. An expanded or universal suffrage may or may not advance it.

Domenico Losurdo is hostile to liberalism. He is a vulgar Marxist who views the bourgeois revolution as undertaken by or on behalf of the bourgeoisie. But, really, the bourgeoisie as such — propertied merchants or owners of firms — were never particularly revolutionary. Indeed, unsurprisingly, property owners of all sorts (and not just feudal lords) tend to be conservative in the face of radical social change. At no time did the bourgeoisie especially propel forward any of what we call the bourgeois revolutions. That goes for the English Revolution in the 17th century, in which revolutionary aristocrats were certainly found among the Roundheads and Whigs, as was the case in the French Revolution. There were figures like John Hampden, John Locke’s patron Lord Shaftesbury, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Count Mirabeau, to name a few. They were not revolutionary as aristocrats anymore than revolutionary bourgeois were revolutionary as bourgeois. They were gripped by the fervor of the revolution, as in the great moment in the French Revolution, August 4, 1789, when the aristocracy deliberately renounces its feudal privileges. The project of the Third Estate’s self-emancipation was universal.

By “bourgeois revolution,” Marxists refer to the emancipation of the new form of urban sociality, and here there is a strong contrast with socialism. Socialism is not developing in the womb of capitalism. At best, the capacity for socialist revolution might develop within the womb of capital. But for centuries before the actual age of bourgeois revolution, bourgeois society was emerging within feudalism. As it grew, it increasingly came up against the inadequacy to itself of the law and of the state order generally. This is what propelled forward the bourgeois revolution, a process and project of adequating the state to society. The state was subordinated to the needs of society, something clearly expressed by, for instance, parliamentary supremacy in Britain. The King is sovereign in Parliament assembled and thereby is the King transformed into the monarch, the bearer of the crown, i.e., a symbol and embodiment of society’s freedom, of its subordination to the law that it gives itself.

Losurdo thinks that this is all just a project of creating a new ruling class, trading in one form of exploitation for another, one ruling class for another, feudal for bourgeois lords. We might reply (with Marx) that there never was exploitation before bourgeois society. Are the peasants exploited by the feudal lords? One might just as well say that an antelope is exploited by a cheetah.

You hear this all the time: the bourgeois revolution declared the aspiration to the emancipation of labor, but was betrayed by the bourgeoisie. The revolution expressed universal values, but those proved to be partial, a mask for the selfish interests of the bourgeoisie. But this is not how Marxism, certainly not how Marx and Engels, understood the matter. They understood that the free development of society in history — as dialectical unfolding of “unsocial sociability”[13] in history giving rise to new forms and then transforming, overcoming, and realizing those to generate still newer forms — that that bourgeois dialectic of freedom had grown contradictory. Capitalism emerged with the self-realization of bourgeois society, as the freedom expressed by the commodity form of labor was generalized to the whole of society, with, for instance, even women and children becoming wage laborers. The people demanded the Industrial Revolution, and, when they got it, were faced with a new freedom problem. A Marxist understanding of the Industrial Revolution is not that it was the result of James Watt or some other inventor applying science to production. Rather, the Industrial Revolution was demanded by the emerging working class. Women want to be freed from patriarchy. Children likewise want to be free from the rule of their families. Everyone wants to be free from unfree labor, from being serfs and slaves. The wage-labor revolution demanded that the mysteries of guild production be shattered, that they be published in the Encyclopédie.[14] Work had to be made available to labor, which is to say, to unskilled humanity, to the raw capacity for labor, to labor power. That is what industrial labor is — a McJob.

It is precisely at that moment that the freedom of the working class comes into contradiction with itself. When the commodity form of labor is generalized across society and thereby grows self-contradictory, Marx calls that condition “capital.” A new problem presents itself: the working class mastering its new-found freedom. That is entirely different from simple class exploitation, as Losurdo’s perspective has it. The Marxist perspective understands class, and the exploitation that underlies it, as a phenomenal expression of an underlying historical contradiction. Of course, at a phenomenal level it is how we experience the crisis of capitalism, as when somebody in the HR department tells us that we have to be fired so that other people can keep their jobs and capital be preserved. Leftists like Losurdo have no way of grasping how capital is a problem that ultimately transcends class.

That is really what is at issue in a category like Bonapartism. Bonapartism, as the capitalist state, will sacrifice the interests of capitalists. Many a ruler today has had to kill off “his” oligarchs. As Marx says in the Eighteenth Brumaire, bourgeois fanatics for order can be shot down on their balconies by Bonaparte’s drunken soldiers,[15] because the issue is the preservation of capitalist society, not the interests of private capitalists.

PN: You wrote, “Marx and Engels’s recognition was that, so long as the proletariat could not yet rule, revolution could only reconstitute bonapartism. It would meet the necessity that socialism could not.”[16] Insofar as the Bolsheviks were unable to realize the task of socialism, does this mean that “the political party for socialism [was] just a form of Bonapartism?”[17] How do we make sense of this impasse in the history of the Left, that is, the impasse of perpetually reconstituting a Bonapartist politics?

SL: Without going too far afield, let’s say that it is useful to confront the impasse as an impasse. Certainly Platypus is dedicated to that. We take the Bolsheviks at their word. We allow that they are Marxists, that their politics (and, indeed, the politics of the Second International) were a good faith attempt to bring Marxism to bear on history (by advancing the crisis of Marxism). We don’t wish to evade that question by assuming that, say, Lenin is an authoritarian or his project was to create state capitalism. We read and engage what they wrote, asking ourselves the question, what kind of students of Marx and Engels were the Bolsheviks? That study itself dispels many mythologies on the Left, including respecting the originality and genius (or the evil genius) of Lenin. The brilliance of Lenin was, in an important way, expressed through his unoriginality, or, rather, his ability to see the relevance of Marx and Engels’s legacy for the workers’ movement for socialism in the much-altered circumstances of his own day. He brought Marx and Engels to bear on the circumstance of dual power in the Provisional Government of Russia in 1917. To see in the circumstances of 1917 a repetition of 1848 was beyond almost everyone but Lenin. As it happened, his dedication to Marxism provoked a crisis in his own party.

We should ask ourselves, what if Marxism failed? What if the Bolsheviks (and the Second International generally) were unable to realize the task of socialism? What if it were not because they did not read or understand Marx’s Das Kapital? Maybe they were able to develop Marx beyond Marx. And yet, the Revolution in Germany fails, Lenin dies, there is a crisis of leadership, the leaders in the wake of Lenin and Luxemburg are somehow not of the same caliber, etc. Why was that? Why could those parties not learn from experience? Why could they not go beyond Lenin and Luxemburg? We in Platypus want to open those questions up. Usually what you get is, “Marx is still relevant regardless of the 20th century. He is still a great critic of capitalism.” But the Marx that actually haunts the present is the Marx of Marxism. Otherwise, he is just another great thinker of the 19th century. But there were a lot of interesting socialists then, just as there were a lot of interesting liberals too. The question is, is world history done with Marxism or is the failure of Marxism a kind of suppurating wound on the health of the present? How does the specter of Marxism haunt the present?

AW: In your introduction to Marx and Engels on Imperialism you quote from Leon Trotsky’s “Stalinism and Bolshevism” (1937):

Does the slogan “Back to Marxism” then mean a leap over the periods of the Second and Third Internationals... to the First International? But it too broke down in its time. Thus, in the last analysis, it is a question of returning to the collected works of Marx and Engels. One can accomplish this historic leap without leaving one’s study and even without taking off one’s slippers. But how are we going to go from our classics (Marx died in 1883, Engels in 1895) to the tasks of a new epoch. . . [Studying Marx] did not however prevent the degeneration of the Soviet state and the staging of the Moscow trials. So what is to be done?[18]

You write that “we cannot proceed, against this background of the multiply compounded defeat of socialism, as if editing Marx did not place us, whether we will or no, within a history of struggle over orthodoxy, of repeated returns to Marx, threatening always to degenerate into the bibliographical quisquilia they have long since become.”[19] How did you deal with that situation, with the utter irrelevance of Marxism as a political force today, in your editing of Marx and Engels’s journalistic works?

SL: These are academic books. I published them this way because the Leftist press was or at least seemed closed to me, for whatever reason. At the same time, these books were not peer reviewed. I stipulated that. I knew that that would just result in demands that I clip the books’ wings. So, these books are, so to speak, illegitimate, though this may be the only way to publish Marx today. You can scarcely get someone to copy edit Marxism anymore, because they want to rewrite every line. They won’t let authors be authoritative. The whole attempt to publish Marxism in today’s world is deeply fraught.

So, these books are not academically respectable. What are the authorities that I quote? What is the literature I engage? A respectable academic publication deals with the field as constituted by contemporary scholars, or, in the case of more obscure fields (such as my own South Asian history), at least of the most recently published works. One might be in a field or subfield in which nobody publishes except every 20 or 30 years. This is what much of South Asian history is like, because there are just too few historians to cover such a vast field. But the authorities that I quote here are people like Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Lukács, Adorno, and Benjamin. That is, of course, intended to provoke. I will not benefit professionally from publishing these books. I am not even sure that they will find a market. In short, there is at present a struggle over publishing. We find Millennial or post-Millennial expressions of this crisis of publishing in Cosmonaut and Sublation.

To get to the substance of the question more directly: Trotsky was acknowledging that Marxism has proceeded in a curious way, as Korsch says (though I doubt that Trotsky had read Korsch’s Marxism and Philosophy (1923)), through a return to Marx. Marxism advances in the face of new circumstances by returning to Marx. This is why Marxism feels like religion quoting scripture. You would not do that with anything else. Why would one go back to this “outdated scholarship on capitalism”? Why would one return to writings that are unaware of the circumstances we are currently facing?

Nevertheless, there is Marx-ism. There is this phenomenon of the return to Marx and the struggle over orthodoxy, the struggle with revisionism, which pose the question of what it means to be adequate to present tasks. Trotsky is invoking that legacy of the revisionist dispute, that history of bringing Marx to bear on the crisis within Marxism.

Accordingly, in the introduction you mention, I specifically discuss the publication history of Marx’s journalism, from the Old to the New Left. To the extent that they were engaged at all in the 20th century, the writings I have edited here were basically deployed by Stalinists to show that Marx was a good anti-imperialist, as they understood that. But, eventually, people read them and said, “actually, Marx was not such a good anti-imperialist. See, here he says the British are an unconscious tool of history, etc.” Edward Said boiled it down saying, “Marx was an orientalist.” Still, there was a last (and now seemingly interminable) return to Marx on the part of the New Left, which at least glimpsed the problem that Trotsky identified in coming to terms with the question of Stalinism.

Trotsky and the Frankfurt School stand in for that problem and the way it was reckoned with in the 1930s and, to the extent that there was a reckoning, in the post-war period — between, say, 1956 and 1976. Beyond that there is academic Leftism. It imitates the gesture of a return to Marx or of a new Marx as an academic marketing gimmick, as a means to get grants. Now we have a new ecological Marx and Marx as an ally of Black Lives Matter — Karl Marx wants you to vote for Joe Biden!

In my introductions I have tried neither to isolate the Marx of the 19th century, as if we could strip away the history of Marxism, nor to present Marx as perennially relevant, standing ready to inform our practice today. Rather, I acknowledge that the publication of Marx is and should be political, even if there is no longer politics. It has to be haunted by Marx’s irrelevance or the spectral nature of his relevance.

I embraced the question: what if these publications had been brought to bear on the dispute over orthodoxy? In the 1850s journalism, that would mean seeing them as concerned with Bonapartism, seeing in it a kind of antithesis and anticipation of the dictatorship of the proletariat: the Bonapartist state as a symptom and index of the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte was an analysis of Bonapartism as meeting a crisis of the revolution that cannot otherwise be resolved, not even by counterrevolution, because Bonapartism is not simply counterrevolutionary. A lot of what I selected shows Marx writing about the Bonaparte dynasty in the age of capitalism. What does it mean that they are a kind of royal dynasty in Europe, given that, as such, the Bonapartes are associated with modern freedom, with modern revolution? As a dynasty, the Bonapartes have their roots in 1789 and 1792. What does it mean that the rule of the Bonapartes, itself rooted in universal suffrage democracy, is (again) the legacy of the revolution? In that sense, the journalism I have selected is a vast elaboration of the Eighteenth Brumaire.

I have tried to establish that Marx’s concern didn’t change. He didn’t write about Bonapartism in 1852 and then forgot about it as he wrote the Grundrisse (1857–58)and Das Kapital. But you can read biographies today that do that. For instance, one recent biography of Marx simply skips over the revolution of 1848 in order to save space! Everything other than the writing of Das Kapital is treated as a distraction. People want from Marx an analysis of capitalism, rather than a self-criticism of socialism. Even when Marx had no party and no political outlet, that self-consciousness of socialism took the form of a meditation on the unfolding of Bonapartism across the globe through the reactionary decade of the 1850s. The volumes conclude with the American Civil War, which bookends the coup d’état, serving as it does as the occasion for the formation of the First International. | P

[1] Available online at <>.

[2] International Socialist Organization, dissolved in 2019.

[3] Communist Party of India (Marxist).

[4] Spencer A. Leonard, “Introduction: 1848 and the Consolidation of Marx and Engels’ Marxism,” in Marx and Engels on Bonapartism: Selected Journalism, 1851–59, ed. Spencer A. Leonard(New York: Lexington Books, 2023), 9.

[5] See Karl Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer (March 5, 1852), in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker, second ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978), 220, available online at <>.

[6] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Proletarians and Communists,” in The Manifesto of the Communist Party, in The Marx-Engels Reader, 484, available online at <>.

[7] Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in The Marx-Engels Reader, 597, available online at <>.

[8] Louis Menand, “Foreword: The Historical Romance,” in Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (New York: New York Review Books, 2003), xviii.

[9]  Leonard, “Introduction,” in Bonapartism, 9.

[10] See Pam C. Nogales C. and Ross Wolfe, “Liberalism and Marx: An interview with Domenico Losurdo,” Platypus Review 46 (May 2012), available at <>.

[11] Leonard, “Introduction,” in Bonapartism, 25.

[12] After John Wilkes.

[13] See Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784), available online at <>.

[14] Published in France between 1751 and 1772, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert.

[15] Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire, 603.

[16] Leonard, “Introduction,” in Bonapartism, 33.

[17] Chris Cutrone, in Chris Cutrone, Mike Macnair, Adolph Reed, Jr., Tom Riley, “What is political party for the Left?,” Platypus Review 78 (July–August 2015), available online at <>.

[18] Leon Trotsky, “Stalinism and Bolshevism,” Socialist Appeal 1, no. 7 (September 25, 1937), 4–5, available online at <>.

[19] Spencer A. Leonard, “Introduction: Beyond Dispute? Editing Marx After Marxism,” in Marx and Engels on Imperialism: Selected Journalism, 1856–62, ed. Spencer A. Leonard (New York: Lexington Books), 21–22.