The brutality of the European expansion, the Inquisition, the Renaissance, the opulence of the Ottoman Empire challenged the understanding of the Universe as Scholasticism taught it (see 12.3). Aquinas had developed in 21 bundles a superb Somma that established the authority of Reason over Faith. According to Aquinas, the finality of Man is the conquest of the Truth on this earth and, in the next, the vision of this Truth in God. Man committed an original sin by disobeying God, and the incarnated Son of God allows his redemption. The duty of the rulers is to provide happiness to their subjects but they are submitted to the Pope, who punishes secular governors who impose to their subjects avoidable sufferings and guides man toward eternal bliss.
The Scholasticism brought to perfection by Aquinas was never questioned again when facing either other civilizations or the changes occurring in the West itself. Christianity favored the appearance of reason and logical thought but did not favor the idea of historical evolvement because the Truth was already revealed. One proceeded from the known to the known and the path that led to Christ was already reconnoitered (see 12.2). As long as human history was perceived as a perpetual renewal, historians saw no reason to attempt to predict future events on the basis of past experiences, since these will per force occur again. As late as the 14th century, Montaigne rejected progress because he was not intellectually equipped to accept this concept (see 12.4).
In those days, history was factual. The historians were at the service of patrons, be these kings, dukes, emperors or Church princes, whose conviction was that they made history, an opinion shared only by themselves, and the duty of the chroniclers was to magnify and embellish their deeds. Pierre Bayle, a French historian exiled in Holland, underlined, in a requisition established to the confusion and shame of the historians (Dictionnaire historique et critique, 1695-1697, meaning Historical and critical dictionary), the crimes, errors and lies of these kings, popes, princes and philosophers who generated wars, spoliations and massacres for the fulfilling of their ambition. Bayle heralded the skepticism of Voltaire (see 16.6).
The historical phenomenon remains unintelligible as long as the denounced errancies remain without analysis: how can vice triumph for so long over virtue, law, intelligence and liberty without revolt? By reducing history to the history of individuals (Cesar, Alexander, Napoleon, Stalin, Mussolini, etc), historians attribute to these individuals an extraordinary power that is unwarranted since most of them are outstanding for their mediocrity (see chapter 9). An adequate theory of power must be elaborated that explains the relation between individuals and historical circumstances.
The first modern philosophy of history drew on the positivism (see 14.2.4 and 14.4) of the free-masons (see 17.1). The historian sets out to scholarly write the objective history of the causes that lead to the observed outcome, with the purpose to establish their necessity. In this view, the present history appears as the purpose of past history, and the past history appears as the means for the concretization of the purposes of Providence: France became France because it had to be so; England annexed Scotland because it was written; Bismarck created the first German Reich because it needed to come into existence, etc. This rationalist conception of history (see 17.1) glorifies the past by making it ineluctable. This teleological concept of history is the history of the winners, is written by worshippers of accomplished facts. All the atrocities, massacres, and crimes committed by the victor to reach his goal are transformed in an ineluctable, regular, useful, legitimate, indispensable evolution: it is the apology of crime under the pretext of scientific objectivity. The latest historical exercise in this repugnant apology of crime I am aware off is the work written by E. Zemmour in 2010 (La mélancholie française. Eds Fayard. ISBN: 978-2-213-65450-8). Marx criticized this constraining power of circumstances, this unavoidability that fails to perceive the historical moment not as the unraveling of an already written text but as a battlefield where conflicting forces influence the outcome, one way or the other way.
For Hegel and Marx, the Truth is quested: one proceeds from the known to discover the unknown. According to them, History obeys laws that allow foreseeing it and orienting it. This drive culminated in 2006 with the French thinker Jacques Attali, who endeavored to think the future, understand from where it comes and see how mankind will be able to mend it and curb it so as to make the future world a place still worth to live in (Une brève histoire de l’avenir, (A brief history of the future) ; eds. Fayard ISBN 2-213-63130-1).
While Hegel was a German who lived and worked in romantic Germany, Marx founded his philosophy of history on events that occurred in France. In France, a conservative revolution took place in February 1848, followed in June by a proletarian revolution that was pitilessly repressed in blood. Marx analyzed this event thoroughly, evaluating the political situation, the forces in presence, the intellectual and political tendencies of that period, all essential elements needed to define the course of action that will promote the ultimate victory of the proletariat. On this basis, he developed his concept of the “Fight of the Classes”, which was a philosophy of History superseding the philosophical view of History developed by Hegel in the years 1810.
Hegel proposed that history is the progressive and dialectic (see 18.4.4) realization of the Spirit, of the Idea. This move would attain its apotheosis by the reaching of self-consciousness of the Universal Spirit that animates the world. Hegel thus asserted the sovereignty of the Spirit in history by separating the ideas elaborated by specific human beings (Abelard, Newton, Galileo, Christ, Spinosa, you and me, etc.) from these men and giving autonomy to these ideas, as did Kant. These ideas, elaborated in the course of history, follow a logical order corresponding to different moments of a concept. For Hegel, the universal history is unified by the internal coherency of a concept. This boils down to the claim that the various phases of the development of mankind are commanded by the logic of a concept that unfolds in time.
Marx waved away this spiritualist, pantheistic philosophy of history and opposed to it a materialistic concept based on conflicts and open antagonisms. History does not advance by the ineluctable and autonomous diffusion of an Enlightenment, be this enlightenment that of the Revelation or that of Reason. To him, the universal history is the result of the real, concrete universalization of exchanges, transports and markets. History, according to Marx, moves forward neither by the deceit of reason nor by Providence, but by antagonism. The problem he faced is the pertinence of the categories of intelligibility available at that time to comprehend the reality of that moment. Marx had to choose the antagonisms that would meaningfully sustain his thesis but he made an error of judgment in this choice: he based his philosophy of history on the history of France.
Engels, his friend, remembered in 1895 that Marx and himself were haunted by the historical experience of France, which dominated all the history of Europe. The concept of the fight of the classes is linked to the history of the political and social conflicts in France. Marx was, according to Engels, forced to make this choice and he choose as foundation for his philosophy the two revolts of 1848 and the proclamation of the second French empire in 1851, which he was able to personally follow, but these events were themselves the result of complex memories, which Marx neglected to take into account.
The past is altogether finished and non-achieved: “The past is never dead, it is even never past” said Faulkner. The “duty of memory” called the survivors of the extermination camps of WWII to testify in order to surmount incredulity. This injunction became a cult that invites each of us to nurture piously the memory of past catastrophes. But the remembrance of past persecutions serves essentially to maintain open the wounds. Memory induces resentment. One type of memory revels in a narcissistic maceration that no compensation will ever soothe while a second type of memory increases our allergy to present-day infamies.
The contrary of memory is not oblivion but history. Memory commands the identification to a group, to a class while history replaces past events within a continuity, and forbids judging the past centuries from the tribunal of the present. We must work to the enlargement of the human family, not to the sanctification of past miseries, as said by Bruckner (La tyrannie de la penitence, Grasset, 2006. ISBN/ 978-2-346-64161-2).The curse of the French people, which is also the curse of many other nations, is their inability to transform stories and memories into history. E. Renan said: “He who writes history must forget the story”. In France, memories of past injustices and humiliations, inflicted already by Clovis, prevail over history.
The Germanic Merovingian Franks invaded Gaul in 350 A.D. and dominated and exploited the Celtic population (see 16.2).The Carolingians, whose administrative and martial elite soon transformed their charges into hereditary benefits, replaced the Merovingians in 751 A.D.. Hugues Capet was elected by his peers king of the Isle de France in 987 but he was not of imperial lineage and the Carolingian elite despised him. These events remain vivid in the memory of the French. Nothing of this has ever been forgotten. As a result, the Capetian Crown could not rely on the great vassals for the administration of the kingdom and was forced to create its own blood lineage after the Salic law of the Franks (see 16.6), and promote its own administrators, i.e. the legists (see 16.5). A wall of despise separated during centuries the feudal nobility from the legists and bankers that the Crown imposed to them with the purpose to control them and even despoil them in 1307 (see the Templars, 16.5). The Crown also built its own professional army, a policy that was opposite to the martial policy of the Carolingians that had allowed their status and their fortune (see 16.2).
The opposition of the great feoffees to the Crown flared up during the youth of Louis XIV, motivated by the ferocious fiscal policy of Richelieu and Mazarin (see fig. 16.11). The Old Fronde, the most virulent because the populace of Paris drew up barricades, occurred in 1648, and the Young Fronde, led by the Princes, lasted until 1653. The resentment and antagonism of the diverse classes that compose the French society popped up again in the XVIIIth century: witnessing the disastrous path taken by the monarchy toward absolutism, the aristocrats challenged it in the name of the conquest of Gaul by the Franks, their forefathers: “Liberty is born in the forests of Franconia” proclaimed Montesqieu (1689-1755). No great feudal vassal would demean himself by becoming a courtesan (see fig. 16.1 and 16. 11) and Louis XIV, who complained that he never saw them, refused them his patronage. The aristocratic revolt resurged during the crucial year 1789 but floundered in the turmoil of the Revolution.
French politicians drew the conclusion, as early as 1814 before the end of the first Empire, and more vigorously during the Restoration that followed the fall of Napoleon, that the slogan “liberty, equality and Fraternity” is unwarranted. The conclusion drawn was that two races (Gallo-roman and Germanic) occupy the land, which oppose each other since time immemorial, and that the various classes that compose the nation are engaged in a battle to the death. Marx analyzed this awkward history of antagonisms in the years 1840. He waved away the racial origin of the opposition between the various classes that composed the French nation and claimed that it is the contemporary economic exploitation that sustains the social antagonism, not a biological genealogy. The conflict that splits the spurious unity of the French population is not that of two bloods but that of two classes within a single society. Marx was evidently right: the Napoleonic nightmare had left the country ruined. Balzac described, in the human comedy (1842-1850) a society of persecuted righteousness and of newly rich scoundrels (see 17.7). The cynical agnostic rulers of a people stupefied with misery enriched themselves wantonly. In the absence and even interdiction of a spirit of enterprise, it was marriage, stealing, lying and the service of the powerful that acquired wealth and social stature. The contemporary behavior of bankers, politicians and insurance companies in France and Belgium demonstrates that the mentality has not changed since. Marx was evidently mistaken: the concept of the fight of the classes he developed on the basis of the French experience, denounced the unity of any nation as a spurious unity. The conflict of the classes was claimed by Marx to be transnational: he opposed the common interest of the exploited of any country to the presumed spurious unity of a so-called “national interest”. The error of Marx was to extend to all nations the local situation he observed in France (see 18.4) and assumed France to be a paradigm for all developed nations, unaware that the history of France is an unending addition of resentful memories, with people and classes distrustful of each other, living side by side in the rivalry of repugnant passions.
Lenin and followers enforced the philosophy of Marx in its pristine form on about one half of the world (18.4.4). Schikelgruber espoused the philosophy of Marx but maintained the concepts of race and struggle for life (see 14; 14.6; 14.7 and 14.8) and imposed this philosophy of history on Germany and its political satellites. Both brought horrible sorrow to humanity.
Frantz Fanon perceived the ancestral animosity perfusing the life of the French nation and wrote in 1971 ( Peaux noires, masques blancs. Ed. Seuil), at a time when the de-colonization was far from achieved: “Will be de-alienated the Blacks and Whites who have refused to be enclosed in the Tower of the Past. I am a human being and it is all the past of the world that I must assume. …I do not wish to sing the Past at the expense of my present and future… I do not have the right, me a colored, to wish the crystallization by the White of culpability toward the past of my race… I have neither the right nor the duty to demand reparation for my enslaved ancestors. I am not the slave of the slavery that dehumanized my fathers”. Modern Israel is the epitome of the State cursed with a memory of ancient wounds it is unable to shed. Its irruption in 1947 in the Near-East has been dramatic and murderously disruptive. All British soldiers who went to Palestine before 1947 were favorable to the Jewish enterprise. All British soldiers who left Israel after the proclamation of the Jewish State in 1947, wished the victory of the Palestinians (see 18.6).
We must work to the enlargement of the human family, not to the sanctification of past miseries (Bruckner: La tyrannie de la penitence, Grasset, 2006. ISBN/ 978-2-346-64161-2). Few nations have transcended memories and reached the plenitude of historical understanding and forgiveness. Great Britain did so with America; South Africa did so with the Apartheid; India and China did with Great Britain. History is the abolition of the blood debts contracted by societies