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New Left Review 4, July-August 2000

Jonathan Rée on Malcolm Bull, Seeing Things Hidden. The metaphysics and politics of hiding—apocalyptic visions, sanguine or saturnine.



It is hard to define his mood exactly, but Karl Marx was certainly elated around the time of his twenty-sixth birthday in May 1844. He was living in Paris, newly married; his daughter, Jenny, was just a few days old; and he was filling page after page of his notebooks with hectic hopes for the dawning of a communist new age. He knew that the proletariat had endured fearful poverty and humiliation under capitalism, or ‘the system of private property’ as he then called it. But he was convinced that the workers were not suffering in vain: human nature needed to be ‘reduced to absolute poverty in order to give birth to its inner riches.’ The first glimmerings of the new day might still be stained with ‘politics’ but, before long, the conflicts associated with private property would be healed in ‘the completed naturalism of man and the completed humanism of nature.’ Communism was the self-conscious fulfilment of the entirety of history, both human and natural: ‘it is the solution to the riddle of history,’ Marx wrote, ‘and knows itself to be the solution.’

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Jonathan Ree, ‘Apocalypse Unbound’, NLR 4: £3

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