James Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sat Sep 12 13:48:36 PDT 1998

In _The German Ideology_ Marx wrote about the 'separation of powers' in terms of reflecting an equilibrium between contending classes or as he put it: "For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an "eternal law."" Here, Marx's analysis is pretty much in line with the analyses of classical political theorists ranging from Aristotle and Polybius to Enlightenment authors like Montesquieu except that Marx "historicized" what earlier authors took to be an eternal principle.

The "separation of powers" in the US Constitution was also justified by the Framers along similar lines drawing especially from Montesquieu's _The Spirit of the Laws_. However, its real function and purpose and function cannot be understood in those terms. Interestingly enough the Federalist Papers especially Paper #10 does direct us to its true purpose. There Madison discussed the necessity of protecting the interests of minorities from the tyranny of transient majorities. From a close reading of Madison's text it becomes apparent that the type of minority whose interests he was concerned with protecting was the wealthy classes -- i.e. the bourgeoisie, as Doug pointed out. At some point the overturning of this constitutional structure will have to become a priority for progressives if they are serious about pursuing radical change in the US.

Jim Farmelant On Sat, 12 Sep 1998 11:53:56 -0400 Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> writes:
>hoov wrote:
>>rightly or wrongly, M opposed separation of powers...he refers, in
>>*Crisis and Counter-Revolution*, to the 'worm-eaten theory of
>>division of powers'...moreover, he calls the theory 'old
>>constitutional folly' in *The Constitution of the French Republic*
>>and goes on to say that the 'condition of a free government is not
>>the division, but the unity of power.'
>And looking at the U.S., where the separation of powers is
>Marx is exactly right. That constitutional structure is one of the
>why there is no socialism in America, and the bourgeoisie rule with
>Except the bourgies seem in a mood to eat themselves right now...

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