Archive for the 'leftwingery' Category

Harriet Martineau explains why socialism will come to America before it comes to England

August 24th, 2014
From Society in America (1837), vol. 2, pp. 127-8:
In England, the prevalent dissatisfaction must subsist a long time before anything effectual can be done to relieve it. The English are hampered with institutions in which the rights of individual property are involved in almost hopeless intricacy. Though clear-sighted persons perceive that property is the great harbourage of crime and misery, the adversary of knowledge, the corrupter of peace, the extinguisher of faith and charity; though they perceive that institutions for the regulation of outward affairs all follow the same course, being first necessary, then useful, then useless, pernicious, and finally intolerable,— that property is thus following the same course as slavery, which was once necessary, and is now intolerable, — as monarchy, which was once necessary, and is now useless, if not pernicious: though all this is clearly perceived by many far-seeing persons in England, they can do nothing but wait till the rest of society sees it too. They must be and are well content to wait; since no changes are desirable but those which proceed from the ripened mind and enlightened will of society. Thus it is in England. In America the process will be more rapid. The democratic principles of their social arrangements, operating already to such an equalisation of property as has never before been witnessed, are favourable to changes which are inched necessary to the full carrying out of the principles adopted. When the people become tired of their universal servitude to worldly anxiety, — when they have fully meditated and discussed the fact that ninety-nine hundredths of social offences arise directly out of property; that the largest proportion of human faults bear a relation to selfish possession; that the most formidable classes of diseases are caused by over or under toil, and by satiety of mind; they will be ready for the inquiry whether this tremendous incubus be indeed irremovable; and whether any difficulties attending its removal can be comparable to the evils it inflicts. In England, the people have not only to rectify the false principles of barbarous policy, but to surmount the accumulation of abuses which they have given out: a work, perhaps, of ages. In America, the people have not much more to do (the will being once ripe) than to retrace the false steps which their imitation of the old world has led them to take. Their accumulation of abuses is too small to be a serious obstacle in the way of the united will of a nation.

Harriet Martineau on Robert Owen

August 23rd, 2014
From the Autobiography (US ed., vol. 1, pp. 174-5):
From the time of my settlement in London, there was no fear of any dearth of information on any subject which I wished to treat. Every party, and every body who desired to push any object, forwarded to me all the information they held. It was, in fact, rather ridiculous to see the onset on my acquaintances made by riders of hobbies. One acquaintance of mine told me, as I was going to his house to dinner, that three gentlemen had been at his office that morning;— one beseeching him to get me to write a number on the navigable rivers of Ireland; second on (I think) the Hamiltonian (or other) system of Education; and a third, who was confident that the welfare of the nation depended on it, on the encouragement of flax-growing in the interior of Guiana. Among such applicants, the Socialists were sure to be found; and Mr. Owen was presently at my ear, laying down the law in the way which he calls “proof,” and really interesting me by the candour and cheerfulness, the benevolence and charming manners which would make him the most popular man in England if he could but distinguish between assertion and argument, and abstain from wearying his friends with his monotonous doctrine.

Marx contra Parsons (Protestant, not Talcott)

August 2nd, 2014
This week I've been reading a bit of Malthus (hence the earlier post about ostriches), and some of the nineteenth-century replies to Malthus, and this footnote from Capital is quite something. It's long, so I've stuck it over the fold.

If the reader reminds me of Malthus, whose “Essay on Population” appeared in 1798, I remind him that this work in its first form is nothing more than a schoolboyish, superficial plagiary of De Poe, Sir James Steuart, Townsend, Franklin, Wallace, &c., and does not contain a single sentence thought out by himself. The great sensation this pamphlet caused, was due solely to party interest. The French Revolution had found passionate defenders in the United Kingdom; the “principle of population,” slowly worked out in the eighteenth century, and then, in the midst of a great social crisis, proclaimed with drums and trumpets as the infallible antidote to the teachings of Condorcet, &c., was greeted with jubilance by the English oligarchy as the great destroyer of all hankerings after human development. Malthus, hugely astonished at his success, gave himself to stuffing into his book materials superficially compiled, and adding to it new matter, not discovered but annexed by him. Note further: Although Malthus was a parson of the English State Church, he had taken the monastic vow of celibacy — one of the conditions of holding a Fellowship in Protestant Cambridge University: “Socios collegiorum maritos esse non permittimus, sed statim postquam quis uxorem duxerit socius collegii desinat esse.” (“Reports of Cambridge University Commission,” p. 172.) This circumstance favourably distinguishes Malthus from the other Protestant parsons, who have shuffled off the command enjoining celibacy of the priesthood and have taken, “Be fruitful and multiply,” as their special Biblical mission in such a degree that they generally contribute to the increase of population to a really unbecoming extent, whilst they preach at the same time to the labourers the “principle of population.” It is characteristic that the economic fall of man, the Adam’s apple, the urgent appetite, “the checks which tend to blunt the shafts of Cupid,” as Parson Townsend waggishly puts it, that this delicate question was and is monopolised by the Reverends of Protestant Theology, or rather of the Protestant Church. With the exception of the Venetian monk, Ortes, an original and clever writer, most of the population theory teachers are Protestant parsons. For instance, Bruckner, “Théorie du Système animal,” Leyde, 1767, in which the whole subject of the modern population theory is exhausted, and to which the passing quarrel between Quesnay and his pupil, the elder Mirabeau, furnished ideas on the same topic; then Parson Wallace, Parson Townsend, Parson Malthus and his pupil, the arch-Parson Thomas Chalmers, to say nothing of lesser reverend scribblers in this line. Originally, Political Economy was studied by philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, Hume; by businessmen and statesmen, like Thomas More, Temple, Sully, De Witt, North, Law, Vanderlint, Cantillon, Franklin; and especially, and with the greatest success, by medical men like Petty, Barbon, Mandeville, Quesnay. Even in the middle of the eighteenth century, the Rev. Mr. Tucker, a notable economist of his time, excused himself for meddling with the things of Mammon. Later on, and in truth with this very “Principle of population,” struck the hour of the Protestant parsons. Petty, who regarded the population as the basis of wealth, and was, like Adam Smith, an outspoken foe to parsons, says, as if he had a presentiment of their bungling interference, “that Religion best flourishes when the Priests are most mortified, as was before said of the Law, which best flourisheth when lawyers have least to do.” He advises the Protestant priests, therefore, if they, once for all, will not follow the Apostle Paul and “mortify” themselves by celibacy, “not to breed more Churchmen than the Benefices, as they now stand shared out, will receive, that is to say, if there be places for about twelve thousand in England and Wales, it will not be safe to breed up 24,000 ministers, for then the twelve thousand which are unprovided for, will seek ways how to get themselves a livelihood, which they cannot do more easily than by persuading the people that the twelve thousand incumbents do poison or starve their souls, and misguide them in their way to Heaven.” (Petty: “A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions,” London, 1667, p. 57.) Adam Smith’s position with the Protestant priesthood of his time is shown by the following. In “A Letter to A. Smith, L.L.D. On the Life, Death, and Philosophy of his Friend, David Hume. By one of the People called Christians,” 4th Edition, Oxford, 1784, Dr. Horne, Bishop of Norwich, reproves Adam Smith, because in a published letter to Mr. Strahan, he “embalmed his friend David” (sc. Hume); because he told the world how “Hume amused himself on his deathbed with Lucian and Whist,” and because he even had the impudence to write of Hume: “I have always considered him, both in his life-time and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as, perhaps, the nature of human frailty will permit.” The bishop cries out, in a passion: “Is it right in you, Sir, to hold up to our view as ‘perfectly wise and virtuous,’ the character and conduct of one, who seems to have been possessed with an incurable antipathy to all that is called Religion; and who strained every nerve to explode, suppress and extirpate the spirit of it among men, that its very name, if he could effect it, might no more be had in remembrance?” (l. c., p. 8.) “But let not the lovers of truth be discouraged. Atheism cannot be of long continuance.” (P. 17.) Adam Smith, “had the atrocious wickedness to propagate atheism through the land (viz., by his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”). Upon the whole, Doctor, your meaning is good; but I think you will not succeed this time. You would persuade us, by the example of David Hume, Esq., that atheism is the only cordial for low spirits, and the proper antidote against the fear of death.... You may smile over Babylon in ruins and congratulate the hardened Pharaoh on his overthrow in the Red Sea.” (l. c., pp. 21, 22.) One orthodox individual, amongst Adam Smith’s college friends, writes after his death: “Smith’s well-placed affection for Hume ... hindered him from being a Christian.... When he met with honest men whom he liked ... he would believe almost anything they said. Had he been a friend of the worthy ingenious Horrox he would have believed that the moon some times disappeared in a clear sky without the interposition of a cloud.... He approached to republicanism in his political principles.” (“The Bee.” By James Anderson, 18 Vols., Vol. 3, pp. 166, 165, Edinburgh, 1791-93.) Parson Thomas Chalmers has his suspicions as to Adam Smith having invented the category of “unproductive labourers,” solely for the Protestant parsons, in spite of their blessed work in the vineyard of the Lord.

[Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, part vii, ch. 25, fn. 3]

Dead Socialist Watch: Special Centenary Edition

July 31st, 2014
It's a long time since I kept the Dead Socialist Watch up to date. But today marks a special, and a sombre, anniversary, being the centenary of the murder of Jean Jaurès in Paris. Here's a piece in today's NY Times; here's a cracking 1913 photo from today's tehgraun; here's a link to some of his political writings, in English translation; Le Huffington Post (!) has some pics of the café where he was killed; and there's some bloggage (and more links) from Andrew Coates here. In other socialists-and-the-First-World-War-related news, this should link to a new article--forthcoming in The Historical Journal--by one of the oldest friends of this blog, Marc Mulholland, on the split in the Second International, and jolly good it is, too.

One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade

October 18th, 2013
Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) -- Marxism -- The war in Iraq -- The case the British government made for the war in Iraq -- Media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) -- Favourite novels -- University admissions -- Boycotts of Israelis -- Blog technology issues -- The paradox of democracy -- Paul “The Thinker” Richards -- Defamation law -- French headscarves laws -- International rugby partisanship -- New Zealand and whether it is a dull country -- Amnesty International -- Italian anti-war demonstrations -- Christopher Hitchens -- The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL -- My Normblog Profile -- The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles -- Where the Wild Things Are -- Bob Dylan -- Favourite films -- A Mighty Wind -- Nashville -- Joan Baez -- George W. Bush -- The Hutton Inquiry -- Lucio Colletti -- Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible -- The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- Mobile telephones -- Cricket -- The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” -- Rock stars -- Exam marking -- Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales -- The Butler report -- The Campo de' Fiori in Rome -- Shakespeare plays -- Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) -- American airport security checks -- Terrorist threats -- Socialist Register -- The 2004 US Presidential election -- Baseball -- Visiting Oxford -- Thomas Hobbes -- Roman libraries -- Classical composers (especially Schubert) -- Jokes about rational choice theorists -- The Tour de France -- Etienne Balibar -- Favourite actors -- The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) -- American street names -- Wendy Cope -- Footnotes in Capital -- Umpiring -- Passport applications -- Margaret Thatcher’s resignation -- Margaret Thatcher's poetry --  Jews for Justice for Palestinians -- Chavez and anti-Semitism -- Academic plagiarism -- David Aaronovitch as marathon runner -- x-RCP front organisations -- Robert Wokler -- Academic jobs -- Musicals -- Australia -- The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford -- Tony Judt -- Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” -- American practices of memorialization on campus -- Flooding in Oxford -- The Beatles -- Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture -- The New Left Review -- Loyalty oaths -- A Dance to the Music of Time -- Merton College, Oxford -- Visiting Manchester -- Critical opinions about America -- Puzzles involving marbles -- Traffic robots -- The Beach Boys -- Tony Blair’s relationship with God -- Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs -- Authorisations to use military force -- John Stuart Mill on international intervention -- The Eurovision Song Contest  -- Adam Smith -- Nick Cohen's views about torture -- Alfred Hitchcock films -- The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs -- The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge. Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, "Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?", and I never took him up on the suggestion. His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: "My own care from the NHS has been exemplary."

Vigilante Man

July 14th, 2012
Happy birthday, Woody Guthrie, 100 years old today. Since private security men are back in the news--as well as economic Depression--I thought we might have "Vigilante Man" to mark the occasion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyUagbsg-HI

The film's from the 1975 documentary, "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?", and Mike Davis has a long essay [77 pp.], 'What is a Vigilante Man?: White Violence in California History' over here [pdf], in case you want to read more.

Dead Socialist

May 30th, 2011
Ann McPherson, RIP.

May Day Greetings to the Workers of the World!

May 1st, 2011
Here's the Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Choir singing Those Were The Days (part of the Total Balalaika Show): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEORJ3_EQ_A

Shaw on Sidgwick

March 27th, 2011
From 'On the history of Fabian economics':
As late as 1888 Henry Sidgwick, a follower of Mill, rose indignantly at the meeting of the British Association in Bath, to which I had just read the paper on The Transition to Social-Democracy, which was subsequently published; as one of the Fabian Essays, and declared that I had advocated nationalisation of land; that nationalisation of land was a crime; and that he would not take part in a discussion of a criminal proposal. With that he left the platform, all the more impressively as his apparently mild and judicial temperament made the incident so unexpected that his friends who had not actually witnessed it were with difficulty persuaded that it had really happened.
Hat-tip, NK.

Sidgwick on Shaw

March 27th, 2011
From his Diary, 8 September 1888:
September 8. — Back from a very pleasant two days at Bath. The town revived wonderfully my childish recollections, with its villas picturesquely climbing upwards from the basin where the town lies. But forty years ago archaeology was less advanced; now one can see from the street an old Roman bath 60 or 80 feet long, forming part, as it were, of the modern baths, and impressively illustrating the historic continuity of the "health resort." The most interesting thing at my Section (Economic Science) was the field-day on Socialism which we had yesterday. The Committee had invited a live Socialist, red-hot "from the Streets," as he told us, who sketched in a really brilliant address the rapid series of steps by which modern society is to pass peacefully into social democracy. The node of the transition was supplied by urban ground-rents (it is interesting to observe that the old picture of the agricultural landlord-drone, battening on social prosperity to which he contributes nothing, is withdrawn for the present as too ludicrously out of accordance with the facts). It is now urban ground-rent that the municipal governments will have to seize, to meet the ever-growing necessity of providing work and wages for the unemployed. How exactly this seizure of urban rents was to develop into a complete nationalisation of industry I could not remember afterwards, but it seemed to go very naturally at the time. There was a peroration rhetorically effective as well as daring, in which he explained that the bliss of perfected socialism would only come by slow degrees, with lingering step and long delays, and claimed our sympathy for the noble-hearted men whose ardent philanthropy had led them to desire to cut these delays short by immediate revolution and spoliation. It was, indeed, a mistake on their part; the laws of social development did not admit of it; but if we were not quite lost in complacent selfishness we should join him in regretting that this shorter way with property was impossible. Altogether a noteworthy performance: — the man's name is Bernard Shaw: Myers says he has written books worth reading.
Hat-tip, NK.

The Webbs on the Show Trials

February 23rd, 2011
In honour of Anthony Giddens' fine essay from the New Statesman in 2006 on "The Colonel and his Third Way", I repost my favourite passage from the second edition of the Webbs' Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation -- the edition for which, famously, the question-mark was removed from the book's original title:
"To many people in Great Britain, the outstanding feature of the record since 1934 is the series of trials of highly-placed Soviet citizens for high treason. That so many men in high official positions, mostly active participants in the revolution of 1917 and some of them companions of Lenin, should have committed such crimes has seemed to Western observers almost incredible. That in the course of the customary private investigations prior to the judicial trials the defendants should one and all have made full and detailed confessions unreservedly repeated in open court of the guilt not only of themselves but also of their fellow criminals seemed to raise the tragic story to the fantastic madness of a nightmare; it seemed that the confessions must have been forced on the prisoners by torture or the threat of torture. "A distinguished Irishman hints that what needs explanation is the British procedure in criminal prosecutions, which differs so remarkably from that of all the other nations of Europe. In his view, the conduct of the prisoners in these Russian trials is in full accord with the Russian character. In England, our friend remarks, a prisoner indicted for treason is practically forced to go through a legal routine of defence. He pleads not guilty; his counsel assumes for him an attitude of injured innocence, demanding legitimate proof of every statement and setting up a hypothesis as to what actually happened which is consistent with the prisoner's innocence. The judge compliments the counsel on the brilliant ability with which he has conducted his case. He points out to the jury that the hypothesis is manifestly fictitious and the prisoner obviously guilty. The jury finds the necessary verdict. The judge then, congratulating the prisoner on having been so ably defended and fairly tried, sentences him to death and commends him to the mercy of his God. "May not this procedure, which seems so natural and inevitable to us, very intelligibly strike a Russian as a farce tolerated because our rules of evidence and forms of trial have never been systematically revised on rational lines? Why should a conspirator who is caught out by the Government, and who knows that he is caught out and that no denials or hypothetical fairy tales will help him to escape - why should he degrade himself uselessly by a mock defence, instead of at once facing the facts and discussing his part in them quite candidly with his captors? There is a possibility of moving them by such a friendly course: in a mock defence there is none. Our candid friend submits that the Russian prisoners simply behave naturally and sensibly, as Englishmen would were they not virtually compelled not to by their highly artificial legal system. What possible good could it do them to behave otherwise? Why should they waste the time of the court and disgrace themselves by prevaricating like pickpockets merely to employ the barristers? Our friend suggests that some of us are so obsessed with our national routine that the candour of the Russian conspirators seems grotesque and insane. Which of the two courses, viewed by an impartial visitor from Mars, would appear the saner? "Nevertheless the staging of the successive trials, and the summary executions in which they ended appeared strangely inconsistent with the other actions of the Soviet Government. It must have been foreseen that this whole series of trials, the numerous shootings to which they led, the publicity and popular absue of the defendants which the Government apparently organised and encouraged, and especially the malignity with which Leon Trotsky, safe in far-off Mexico, was assailed, would produce a set-back in the international appreciation which the Soviet Union was increasingly receiving. The Soviet Government must have had strong grounds for the action, which has involved such unwelcome consequences."
Source: Soviet Communism - A New Civilisation by Sidney and Beatrice Webb (Victor Gollancz, 1937), Postscript to the second edition.

Karl Marx, not a cat person

February 7th, 2011
From Value, Price and Profit (1865), with emphasis added:
It is perfectly true that, considered as a whole, the working class spends, and must spend, its income upon necessaries. A general rise in the rate of wages would, therefore, produce a rise in the demand for, and consequently in the market prices of necessaries. The capitalists who produce these necessaries would be compensated for the risen wages by the rising market prices of their commodities. But how with the other capitalists who do not produce necessaries? And you must not fancy them a small body. If you consider that two-thirds of the national produce are consumed by one-fifth of the population — a member of the House of Commons stated it recently to be but one-seventh of the population — you will understand what an immense proportion of the national produce must be produced in the shape of luxuries, or be exchanged for luxuries, and what an immense amount of the necessaries themselves must be wasted upon flunkeys, horses, cats, and so forth, a waste we know from experience to become always much limited with the rising prices of necessaries.
Via [fn3], h/t ejh.
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