Parliamentarism: Dangers and Opportunities

  • Michael Levin


In a speech on parliamentary reform in May 1865 Benjamin Disraeli referred to ‘that spirit of compromise which is the principal characteristic of our political system’.1 For him that was one of its advantages. For Marx and Engels, on the other hand, politics as compromise, as give-and-take, was precisely what they hoped to avoid, for the whole mentality of compromise, coalition and alliance was fraught with danger. Aggregation of diverse numbers threatened to produce a dilution of purpose. This was not merely a matter of parliamentary politics, though perhaps there it attained its clearest expression, but of extra-parliamentary tactics as well.


Labour Movement French Revolution Labour Leader German Worker Universal Suffrage 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    B. Disraeli, Selected Speeches of the Late Right Honourable The Earl of Beaconsfield, ed. T. E. Kebbel (London, 1887) vol. 1, p. 539.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Quoted in E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth, 1968) p. 864.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    W. Liebknecht, Briefwechsel mit Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels, ed. G. Eckert (The Hague, 1963) p. 98.Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    Marx and Engels, Über Deutschland und die deutsche Arbeiterbewegung, vol. 3 (Berlin, 1980) p. 628.Google Scholar
  5. 29.
    Marx and Engels, Werke, vol. 37 (Berlin, 1967) p. 357.Google Scholar
  6. 32.
    J. S. Mill ‘On Liberty’ in Utilitarianism, Liberty, Representative Government (London, 1962) p. 73.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    G. Duncan, Marx and Mill (Cambridge, 1973) p. 281.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in C. B. Macpherson, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (Oxford, 1977) p. 42.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in J. Saville, ‘The Ideology of Labourism’ in R. Benewick, R. N. Berki and B. Parekh (eds) Knowledge and Belief in Politics (London, 1973) p. 214.Google Scholar
  10. 51.
    Quoted in S. H. Beer, Modern British Politics (London, 1965) p. 255.Google Scholar
  11. 58.
    S. Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (Cambridge, 1971) p. 213.Google Scholar
  12. 59.
    W. Bagehot, Introduction to the 1872 second edition of The English Constitution (London, 1961) p. 260.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in H. J. Hanham, Elections and Party Management. Politics in the time of Disraeli and Gladstone (Hassocks, Sussex, 1978) p. 320.Google Scholar
  14. 72.
    R. P. Morgan, The German Social Democrats and the First International 1864–1872 (Cambridge, 1965) p. x.Google Scholar
  15. 73.
    See for example Marx and Engels, Werke, vol. 22 (Berlin, 1970) pp. 243, 249; ‘We in Germany’ in MESW, vol. 1, p. 473.Google Scholar
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    O. Pflanze, ‘Das Deutsche Gleichgewicht’ in H. Böhme (ed.) Probleme der Reichsgründungszeit 1848–1879 (Köln, 1972) p. 257.Google Scholar
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    See A. Bebel, Aus meinem Leben, ed. W. G. Oschilewski (Berlin, Bonn and Bad-Godesberg, 1976) pp. 103, 208, and Liebknecht, Briefwechsel, p. 185, fn. 10.Google Scholar
  19. 88.
    Marx and Engels, Werke, vol. 22 (Berlin, 1970) p. 233; also see p. 252.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in D. McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx. Interviews and Recollections (London and Basingstoke, 1981) pp. 108–9.Google Scholar
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    D. McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx. Selected Writings (Oxford, 1977) pp. 594–5; emphasis added. See Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx, pp. 48–9, on the connection between political tactics and the regime’s level of bureaucratisation.Google Scholar
  22. 98.
    T. S. Hamerow, The Social Foundations of German Unification, 1858–1871 (Princeton, N.J., 1974) p. 297.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael Levin 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Levin
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths’ CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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