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This book redefines the relationship between Marxism and history. At its roots, Marxism was aimed at analyzing society in order to change it, reflecting on the past to create the ‘poetry of the future.’ No single event of the past was as important to early Marxists as the French Revolution of 1789. Studying the varying uses of the history of that past event among Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and prominent European Marxists before 1914 (Karl Kautsky, V.I. Lenin, and others), this book argues that we should take the historiography of concrete past events seriously. It was not only an auxiliary element of Marxism, but a core constitutive element in its formation. Thus, this book calls for transcending traditional approaches to Marxism as a fixed set of social theories combined with strategies for the present and future. Important to students of Marxism, the labor movement, and the French Revolution alike, this study contains refreshing perspectives on the interplay between past, present, and future and on the role of states, social classes, socio-economic determination, and political organization in history.
Bertel Nygaard is Associate Professor in the History and Classical Studies Department at Aarhus University, Denmark. He has written extensively on social revolutions and political thought in modern Europe.