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“History repeats … first as tragedy, then as farce”


From the  Eighteenth Brumaire.

 There was more socialism in Paul Flynn`s little toe  than the entir being of the Seven Dawrves of the @Independent Group. As Adlai Stevenson commented ..the independent is the guy who wants to take the politics out of politics…oh well back to Hegel and MarxThis book is the source of one of Marx’s most quoted  statements, that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”, referring respectively to Napoleon I and to his nephew Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III):

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. Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.

Marx’s sentiment echoed an observation made by Friedrich Engels at exactly the same time Marx began work on this book. In a letter to Marx of 3 December 1851, Engels wrote from Manchester:

…. it really seems as though old Hegel, in the guise of the World Spirit, were directing history from the grave and, with the greatest conscientiousness, causing everything to be re-enacted twice over, once as grand tragedy and the second time as rotten farce, Caussidière for Danton, L. Blanc for Robespierre, Barthélemy for Saint-Just, Flocon for Carnot, and the moon-calf together with the first available dozen debt-encumbered lieutenants for the little corporal and his band of marshals. Thus the 18th Brumaire would already be upon us.[8]

Yet this motif appeared even earlier, in Marx’s 1837 unpublished novel Scorpion and Felix, this time with a comparison between the first Napoleon and King Louis Philippe:

Every giant … presupposes a dwarf, every genius a hidebound philistine…. The first are too great for this world, and so they are thrown out. But the latter strike root in it and remain…. Caesar the hero leaves behind him the play-acting Octavianus, Emperor Napoleon the bourgeois king Louis Philippe….