The machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie isn't the expression of an anachronism or a perversion of its ideals about ‘democracy'. It is in conformity with its being, its true nature. This isn't a ‘novelty' of history -- merely one of its more sinister banalities. Although all exploiting classes have expressed this at different levels, the bourgeoisie has taken it onto a qualitatively new stage. By shattering the ideological framework of feudal domination -- religion -- the bourgeoisie emancipated politics from religion, as well as law, science, and art. Now it could use all these things as conscious instruments of its rule. Here we can see both the tremendous advance made by the bourgeoisie, as well as its limits.

Marxism & Conspiracy Theories

The article below, published in 2012, complements the new article "The fuel for conspiracy theories is the decomposition of capitalism" which looks at the proliferation of conspiracy theories about the origin or role of the Covid-19 crisis. It is striking how in the intervening period, the acceleration of capitalist decomposition, and particularly the rise of populist parties and governments, has brought these distorted visions into the mainstream. But it remains as necessary as ever for marxists to show why such approaches are a significant barrier to understanding the real workings of this system.

Beyond Machiavelli: the conspiratorial nature of the capitalist class

The capitalist ruling class, the bourgeoisie, is often called “Machiavellian” after the Florentine writer, philosopher and republican diplomat of that name who lived around the turn of the sixteenth century. The word is used as shorthand to describe elements, in this case a class, that knowingly plots and intrigues against its enemy or enemies. In fact, Machiavellianism, shorthand though it is, doesn’t even begin to describe the scheming, conspiratorial nature of the bourgeoisie, a class that has gone well beyond the works of Niccolo Machiavelli and whose actions leave his works looking quite insipid and dated.

Pearl Harbor 1941, Twin Towers 2001: Machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie

From the very first moments, American bourgeois propaganda has likened the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. This comparison is laden with considerable psychological, historical and political impact, since it was Pearl Harbor that marked American imperialism's direct entry into the Second World War. According to the current ideological campaign presented by the American bourgeoisie, especially its mass media, the parallels are simple, direct, and self-evident:

International correspondence: Consciousness and strategy of the bourgeoisie

‘Strategy' means forward planning, a serious capacity to weigh up contending forces and to foresee possible futures. To a large extent, and especially in the epoch of decadence, the bourgeoisie has understood (again, in its own mystified way - though we should take it as a rule of thumb that the bourgeoisie always tells less than it knows) that the defense of its most basic requirements cannot be entrusted to any one ‘faction' of capital, which is why it has developed huge state and bloc structures to ensure that this job gets done whatever the vagaries of this or that faction or party.

Machiavellianism, and the consciousness and unity of the bourgeoisie

The two articles that follow are the product of discussion that has been animating the ICC: their main aim is to investigate the bourgeoisie's level of consciousness and capacity for maneuvering in the period of decadence. This is part of the debate on the Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie, which was one of the issues which gave rise to the ‘tendency' which left the ICC in 1981, forming a number of groups which have all since disappeared. All of them made the same critique of the ICC: we have a Machiavellian view of the bourgeoisie and a conspiratorial views of history. 

But this discussion isn't simply about the concrete question of how the bourgeoisie maneuver in its decadent period: it is also poses the more general question of what the bourgeoisie is, and what this implies for the proletariat.

Subscribe to RSS - Machiavellianism