karl marx:the second as farce

…The spectacle of the great Napoleon’s nephew stepping into his uncle’s boots offered opportunities that Marx was not the man to miss. The note is stuck in the first sentence: “Hegel’s remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” This tone, sometimes of polished irony, sometimes sheer vaudeville, is maintained throughout.

---Andrei Mylnikov: In Peaceful Fields (1950)---click image for source...

—Andrei Mylnikov: In Peaceful Fields (1950)—click image for source…

As an example of the first, take Marx’s dismissal of French liberal’s excuses for Napoleon III’s success: “It is not enough to say, as the French do, that their nation was taken unawares. A nation and a woman are not forgiven the unguarded hour in which the first adventurer that came along could violate them.”

The essay on Louis Napoleon is not only the work of a profound and original historical and sociological intelligence; it is also the verve and impact of first class journalism. It was a talent Marx was to need in his exile, not merely as a political weapon but as a means of staying alive. One of the many ironies in Marx’s career is that he quarried his indictment of capitalism from the British government’s reports in the ¬†scholarly security of the British Museum Reading Room, but another is that in the 1850’s he saved himself and his family from destitution partly by becoming the respected London correspondent of the New York tribune. ( to be continued)…

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