On building the polemic, continued

Marx’s “monstrous gnome,” Louis Adolphe Thiers

While reviewing one of Marx’s seminal works, The Civil War in France, I was reminded of his exceptional skill in in the art of polemical critique as I read his assessment of French “statesman” Louis Adolphe Thiers:

A master in small state roguery, a virtuoso in perjury and treason, a craftsman in all the petty strategems, cunning devices, and base perfidies of parliamentary warfare; never scrupling, when out of office, to fan a revolution, and to stifle it in blood when at the helm of the state; with class prejudices standing him in the place of ideas, and vanity in the place of a heart; his private life as infamous as his public life is odious – even now, when playing the part of a French Sulla, he cannot help setting off the abomination of his deeds by the ridicule of his ostentation.[1]

While it’s true that international politics generally tends to create an environment that is relatively rife with direct and substantive critique, it’s the realm of domestic politics  – especially in the midst of a partisan election cycle where disingenuous ambiguity and petty bickering are the very governing principles of the day – in which we see a drastic need of the kind of clarity and elucidation found in the writings of Marx and his fellow travelers.


[1] From Marx’s Third Address, dated May 1871.

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