Karl Marx on the Weight of History

“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. […]
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. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. […]
The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.”

Marx, Karl. 1852. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. (Chapter 1).

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One comment

  1. True, past is part of us. But not true that there’s no choice to make change . The French revolution, the EU , democracy and so on are the result of choosing. The problem is that smooth change without disasters are possible only when majority of the people agree to that change. As we see more clearly today that the wealthy and elite are not interested in change since they live good life and they use their power and abilities to prevent real change. That’s why ideas for the benefit of majority are slow and mostly occur after disasters.

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