Sound familiar?

June 10th, 2008

I finished rereading selections of “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” by Marx today. This text features an application of Marx’s materialist conception of history  to actual historical events – those preparing the ground for the coup d’etat of Napoleon III in France.

This tract contains two of Marx’s most famous quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

This showing the role of the individual in history and refuting determinist accusations.

And: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Haha Marx. And no doubt.

But this quote also leaped out at me:

“Society is saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts, as a more exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most shallow democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an ‘attempt on society’ and stigmatized as ’socialism.’”

How often have we heard a similar refrain in contemporary politics or in what passes for political commentary in the mainstream press? Though the above quote was written in 1852 about the ongoing French revolution, it applies to the increasingly conservative political landscape in contemporary Canada. As we are increasingly encouraged to bow to one master only – the god of consumerism – we slowly find our options reducing and our potential moves narrowing. Any inclinations that transgress the edicts of capitalism are sharply rebuked and restrained. As in revolutionary France of the mid-nineteenth century, ideas not bounded by profit and authenticated by minority elite control are called impractical, if not dangerous. Even socialist.

Marx’s prophecy?

June 6th, 2008

I had to laugh when I read this… Marx is too funny! He’s talking about proletarian revolutions but I think it’s an accurate depiction of the Left, post-60s.

“[They] criticize themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses and paltrinesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, recoil even and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims…”

More people oughta read Marx; it’s profoundly amazing how prescient he was and how relevant he remains.

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