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

Friday, October 21, 2011

"To the Finland Station": "Reading" History Has Its Problems

   This conflict has been productive of more paradoxes and absurdities perhaps than any other aspect of radical thought--Shaw's defense of the British policy in South Africa on the basis of the backwardness of the Boers; the position of those American socialists who approved the participation of the United States in the World War on the ground that in order to achieve socialism it was necessary to save capitalism first; and the contention of their former critics, the Communists of the Soviet Union, that the alliance desired by the Kremlin would somehow contribute to the proletarian revolution which the Kremlin was sabotaging in Spain. So that in contrast to much that has happened since, the handling by Marx and Engels of these problems--and especially in view of the fact that they were pioneers in international thinking--seems remarkably conscientious and sagacious. They did, however, land themselves in some conspicuous contradictions. They denounced the imperialistic designs of Russia and the exploitation of Ireland by England; yet their own attitude toward the Danes and the Czechs was much like that of the English toward the Irish: they tended to regard them as troublesome little peoples whose pretensions to civilizations of their own were not to be taken seriously. The unification of Germany at that time was an essential part of their revolutionary program, and unification led to making short shrift of the claims of non-German neighbors in regions where Germans, too, were involved. The only submerged neighbors of Germany to whose demands they paid attention were the Poles, because they were afraid of the domination of Poland by Russia; and even here their public championship of the Poles against the exploitation of the Prussians in the days of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung did not a little later prevent Engels from writing to Marx--on May 23, 1851--a letter proposing a hair-raising policy of German Realpolitik in Poland, according to which, "under the pretext of defending them," the Germans were to "occupy their fortresses, especially Posen," and "take away from the Poles of the West everything that we can." "The more I reflect upon history, the more clearly I see that the Poles are completely foutu as a nation and that they can only be useful as a means to an end up to the time when Russia herself is drawn into the agrarian revolution. From that moment Poland will no longer have any raison d'etre whatever. The Poles have never done anything in history except commit courageous quarrelsome stupidities. It would be impossible to cite a single occasion when Poland, even as against Russia, has successfully represented progress or done anything whatever of historical significance. Russia, on the other hand, has shown herself genuinely progressive against the East," etc. Engels also approved when the "energetic Yankees" took California away from the "lazy Mexicans," because he believed that the former were better fitted to work the country and open up the Pacific.
Post a Comment