Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bush, Blair and Machiavelli

In 1864, Maurice Joly, an exiled French republican published a book called Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, 'The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu', a satirical attack on the regime of Napoleon III, the 'Second Empire' which was banned by the regime and put Joly into prison for 15 months. According to Wikipedia, 'In the book Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu engage in dialectical argument, with Machiavelli taking the case for the power of the state as ultimate authority and Montesquieu putting forth a contrasting liberal thesis.'

At one point, 'Machiavelli' makes the following advice to any would-be tyrants:

'Seperate morality from politics, substitute force and astuteness for law, paralyse the individual intelligence, mislead the people with appearances, consent to liberty only under the weight of terror, pander to national prejudices, keep concealed from the country what is happening in the world and likewise from the capital what is happening in the provinces, transform the instruments of thought into instruments of power, remorselessly inflict executions without trials and administrative deportations, exact a perpetual apology for every act, teach the history of your reign yourself, employ the police as the keystone of the regime, create faithful followers by means of ribbons and baubles, build up the cult of the usurper into a kind of religion, create a void around you thus making yourself indispensable, weaken public opinion until it subsides in apathy, impress your name everywhere as drops of water hollow out granite, profit by the ease with which men turn informers, manipulate society by means of its vices, speak as little as possible, say the opposite of what you think, and change the very meaning of words...'

Boris Souvarine, in his fine biography, Stalin (1939) (p. 583) quoted the above lines and then wrote 'all of this appears to have been written for Stalin...he has followed by instinct the line of conduct traced in this ironical manual of cheating and duplicity'. Those of us living under the tyrannical regimes of Bush and Blair might also find the lines of interest...

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