Letters

Die Komödie des Despotismus, die mit uns aufgeführt wird … Der Staat ist ein zu ernstes Ding, um zu einer Harlekinade gemacht zu werden. Man könnte vielleicht ein Schiff voll Narren eine gute Weile vor dem Winde treiben lassen; aber seinem Schicksal trieb’ es entgegen eben darum, weil die Narren dies nicht glaubten. Dieses Schicksal ist die Revolution, die uns bevorsteht (Marx in March, 1843 – letter to Ruge in the Deutsch Französische Jahrbücher) MEGA III(1) 1975: 47)

The comedy of despotism is dangerous … state power is a serious thing, and we cannot leave it as a game for clowns. A ship of fools might drift in the wind a while, but these fools do not know which way the wind blows. Their fate is the revolution, which stands just ahead us.- Marx’s critique of cartoon politicos.

Please check my loose translation (I know there is already an English trans I can check, but later, as I don’t have it handy): (This letter to Ruge was written 4 years before the 1848 revolution was thwarted by Boneparte’s bribes and corruption).

OK, looked it up and here is the Marxists.org version – they keep ‘haliquinade’ which is fair enough:

“The comedy of despotism that is being played out … is … dangerous … The state is too serious a thing to be turned into a kind of harlequinade. A ship full of fools could perhaps be allowed to drift for quite a time at the mercy of the wind, but it would be driven to meet its fate precisely because the fools would not believe this. This fate is the impending revolution.”

But I think ‘impending’ is a bit cold for ‘die uns bevorsteht’ – which awaits us. Maybe omitting the self-reference erases revolutionary involvement and urgency?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s