One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, October 15, 2011

II: From "To the Finland Station"

In the Middle Ages in Germany, he [Marx] was to tell the English Chartists in a speech of 1856, there had existed a secret tribunal called the Vehmgericht "to take vengeance for the misdeeds of the ruling class. If a red cross was seen marked on a house, people knew that its owner was doomed by the Vehm. All the houses of Europe are now marked by the mysterious red cross. History is the judge; its executioner, the proletarian." There is then a higher tribunal for which the working class is only the hangman. There is a nonpersonal entity called "History" which accomplishes things on its own hook and which will make the human story come out right, no matter what you or your opponent may do.


Etymologically Vehmgericht has obscure origins:


The Vehmic courts, Vehmgericht, holy vehme, or just the Vehm, also spelt Feme, are names given to a "proto-vigilante" tribunal system of Westphalia active during the later Middle Ages, based on a fraternal organisation of lay judges called “free judges” (German: Freischöffen or French: francs-juges). The principal seat of the courts was in Dortmund. The proceedings were sometimes secret, leading to the alternative titles of “secret courts” (German: heimliches Gericht), “silent courts” (German: Stillgericht), or “forbidden courts” (German: verbotene Gerichte). The courts took jurisdiction over all crimes during the Late Middle Ages, and those condemned by the tribunal were done away with by secret means. After the execution of the death sentence, the corpse was hung on a tree to advertise the fact and deter others.
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