My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This third and final book of the Engels-Lafargue correspondence is proof that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. So much of the book is reminiscent of the splintered factions of Occupy and their disruptions and disagreements. It starts right in with the planning of May Day 1891 and which Leftist organization should be in control. Lafargue and Engels are against the Possibilists under Henry Hyndman, the Opportunists, and, of course, the anarchists. Often the correspondence reminded me of e-mails and texts between me and fellow Occupiers, many of whom feel that the anarchists have destroyed the movement. Today we are fighting for an increased minimum wage and increased rights for workers. Back then, they were fighting for an eight hour work day. In Fourmies, France, the army massacred demonstrators who wanted an eight hour work day. The army shot into crowd of demonstrators wanting an eight-hour work day. The 84th Regiment refused. 145th regiment did other than Private Lebon, who was concerned that his mother might be in the crowd (Paul Lafargue, 68). The only thing that seems to have changed is the severity, but now we have the Black Lives Matter movement to tie in, since no one is shooting us over the Fight for 15.
The afterword to the book was the foreword to the French edition, giving the historical background that would have been quite helpful in understanding the first volume. The reader’s only anchor if they are a newbie to the period is that it starts with Engels as the intermediary in the courtship between Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx. Unfortunately, this book was published (in English) in the USSR, and the Leninist editors have a strong bias throughout, and is no more boldly apparent than when they insist on importance of dictatorship of the proletariat even though Engels and Lafargue don’t care about it (524). Marx was very insistent, at least in the small amount of Marx that I’ve read, that this was a brief, transitional phase, of no particular importance, so Lafargue and Engels being faulted is incredibly biased, if not all-out ludicrous. Leninism runs very much contrary to Engels. He attacks Jean Jaurès for advocating State socialism, “which represents one of the infantile diseases of proletarian socialism, a disease which they went through in Germany, for example, more than a dozen years ago, under the regime of the Anti-Socialist Laws. when that was the only form tolerated by the government (and even protected by it). And even then only a negligible minority of the Party was caught in that snare for a short while; after the Wyden Congress, the whole thing petered out completely” (325). Unfortunately, Leninism got caught up right in that, and even some of my allies in Occupy are Leninist, so… Marx and Engels were not expecting Russia to become communist any time soon because it was always intended as a corrective for capitalism, when Russia was still very much in feudalism. The authors of the afterword/introduction seem clearly caught up in this ignorance, to the point that they feel the need to find fault in two people with close ties to Marx.
Indeed, Paul Lafargue states that in the movement, “There is no place for murder, loot, or any act of individual violence” (80).
Paul Lafargue’s letter to Engels on October 24, 1891 is particularly interesting in terms of the bank failures in the 2007-8 crisis:
I believe that in a short while the entente between Russia and France will no longer be so cordial; the chauvins will begin to realise that the tsar is bamboozling them and extracting hundreds of millions from them while giving them nothing but fine words. the success of the 500 million loan perhaps conceals a gigantic failure. It was not subscribed by the public; but by a dozen or so big banks: the Crédit Foncier alone took over two and a half million shares. As the Russian Government granted a so-called “counter” commission for every share subscribed, the banks had an interest in swelling the number of their subscriptions in order to draw a higher bonus and inspire confidence in their credit: all their brokers and agents who share with them in the discount have subscribed far beyond the needs of their clients. The day after the loan they began selling in order to unload their holdings. The number of shares thrown on the market was so great that they lost ½ percent, according to the financial report in Le Temps. If public confidence is shaken the banks may only be able to dispose of their shares at a loss; and as the money will have to be given to Russia things will become very intricate; the more so since the Rothschilds are playing the market for a fall in the value of Russian bonds. A month before the loan it was estimated that there were 4,500 million Russian bills in France; this figure must have increased, for Germany and England have unloaded part of their Russian loans in Paris. If the patriots lose their money over Russia, their ardent love for the tsar will not last long and they would soon start calling him a hangman and flogger of women, as they did a few years ago. And in that case the political situation could take a new turn.
Another example of history repeating itself comes in the appendix, in an April 6, 1892 L’Éclair interview with Engels that deserves quoting en masse so much that I recited this passage from the steps of Federal Hall:
“Russia would very much like to make war but could not. She has at the moment to combat a more formidable enemy than any other: famine.
“This scourge is not the result of a temporary shortage due to climactic or other hazards: it is the result of the new organisation of Russian society.
“Since the Crimean War, during which whole regiments perished in the snow, the situation has not changed much. that war marked the beginning of a great crisis in Russian history. When defeat was complete, when Russia’s impotence had been demonstrated to the whole of Europe, the Emperor Nicholas, desperate on realising the deplorable condition in which his Empire found itself, did not hesitate to take poison. Hence Alexander II, on ascending the throne, found himself obliged to try and do something to remedy his country’s appalling situation.”
THE CAUSES OF THE FAMINE IN RUSSIA
“It was then that the Tsar proceeded to the emancipation of the serfs, an emancipation which served as a pretext for a new redistribution of land between the aristocrats and the peasants. The aristocrats were given the best land, as also water and forests. The peasants were given only land of poor quality and even that distribution was made in an inadequate fashion and averaging a sum payable by annuities over 49 years! What was the result?
“The peasants were unable to pay the rent to the State and were forced to borrow: they had too much to die and not enough to live. A bunch of kulaks (money-lenders) battened on these tillers of the soil and bit by bit they were indebted to the point of losing all hope of ever freeing themselves. When the usurers refused to make further advances, the peasants were forced to sell their crops to obtain money, and they sold not only the corn necessary for their own consumption, but even the corn essential for sowing, so that future harvests were jeopardised.
“In these circumstances, the first bad harvest inevitably led to a real famine. this famine in its turn struck the last blow at agricultural production in Russia. In fact, the peasant, no longer able to feed his cattle, was obliged to either kill or sell it. But, without farm animals, you can neither work nor manure the land. So agricultural production was suspended for years at a stretch.
“The emancipation of the peasants was only one aspect of the economic revolution which occurred in Russia; another aspect was the artificial creation of a manufacturing bourgeoisie intended to become an intermediate class. To achieve this more quickly, a real prohibitive system was introduced which encouraged and developed Russian industry in a most remarkable way; but as that industry could not export, it needed a home market. Now, the Russian peasant hardly buys anything, accustomed as he is to making everything himself: houses, implements, clothes, etc.; hitherto he had even produced many wood, iron and leather goods which he had sold in the markets. But once the wood had been taken from the peasant, by giving the forests to the aristocrats, rural industry was endangered. Manufacturing industry came to finish it off and the peasants had to turn to it. At the moment when that form of industry would have succeeded, famine arrived to give it its death blow: the peasants could no longer buy anything from it and the ruin of the one led to the ruin of the other.” (383-385)
This reminds me of so many current events, particularly in Spain, Greece, and the United States, The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism, but also of my own personal situation. Having lost my apartment in 2012, my belongings are in storage while I live in the New York City shelter system. Cyberbullies have told me I should have (or should still) sell my belongings to pay the rent (the city currently pays my storage bill, although I have to pay the tax and insurance each month out of pocket–only liars say that the poor and homeless do not pay taxes), even telling me to sell my computer, when it is primarily via computer (short of being a Luddite with a notebook) that I can do any productive labor, and rent is, of course, a bottomless pit. They are essentially telling me to lose everything to line the wallets of rich people. They have listened too long to the demonization of socialism by the media. In an interview with Le Figaro, Engels specifically defines communism as community control of the means of production (393), and that anything else they do would be driven by factors of social evolution that they cannot foresee (392). I don’t understand how that can be considered evil by any rational person, particularly in comparison to a fat cat owning the means of production and giving the poor no alternative but to work for him for subsistence wages. I established above that community control is not government control in the eyes of true Marxists.
Right-wingers blame government for not enforcing the laws they break, or for deregulating things they know should have been regulated. Laura Lafargue’s letter to Engels of February 10, 1893:
[quoting “The Impression of Paris” in Le Figaro the same day] “When all is said and done are not the deeds of which they are accused common usage, openly practised under the benevolent eye of the government? Did not the authorities have some responsibility for the mistakes committed and for the laws violated? Did not the Chambers have some part in the misappropriations?… there has been some surprise at the severity of the sentences imposed on engineers and on a contractor, whilst the judges acquitted with such eagerness the influential political figures who were accused of bribery and corruption. The political world has been saved by the very people who attack the world of finance and business.”–And the Figaro goes on to speak of Eiffel and his “councours [co-operation] loyal.” It might as well have said désintérressé, after all, l’homme de tous les tours [the man of all the towers] only pocketed a trifle of 27 millions for his pains.–It is indisputable that the “gogos” make lighter of the 1,300 millions of francs gulped down by the Lesseps and Co. than of the few millions gobbled up by the ministers and members of Parliament with votes and consciences to sell.
“Business is business”, they say, but the government! They believed in the government. And they cannot understand why “la Justice”, with such an assortment of weights and measures at her command, should make no distinction between the ex- “grand français” and the small fry of the Cottus and the Fontanes.–They had taken such pride in the glory of Suez-Lesseps–“une gloire française!”(233)
This reminds me of how the only bank that got punished for the financial crisis was a little bank in Chinatown. (Cottu and Fontane were each imprisoned for two years.)
After the incident at Fourmies, Paul Lafargue was elected a deputy of Parliament in the Socialist party to replace one who had died. He was unlawfully imprisoned for incitement to murder, even though French law considered what he actually said, that employers should be exterminated like vermin with insecticide, too vague to be considered as such (88). He was accused of saying worse things, though no evidence ever turned up. another man even tried to take the fall for him, but Paul rejected this. Eventually, his sentence was suspended, although he would be expected to serve it once his term ended. No letters indicate that he returned to prison, though. In his letter of September 9, he recounts a birther argument against him, accused of being Prussian, causing reactionaries to go crazy (133).
Engels’s letter of May 19, 1892 describes an anti-socialist conglomerate, “Lassalle’s ‘one single, compact reactionary mass'” (174) which again speaks to the way the reactionaries today are so easily able to unite against causes that aid anyone who is not a rich, white, straight, male.
In the first volume, when Paul Lafargue went to Spain, we only get bits and pieces of information. A series of letters from this period is included between the final letter, in which Engels describes in detail the symptoms that will lead to his death shortly thereafter, and the appendix. The most interesting element to me here is Paul Lafargue’s letter of June 5, 1872, when the Federal Council demands an expulsion of all the editors of La Emancipación because the demanded an investigation into the private fortunes of politicians and the sources thereof (457).
The book also contains a valuable index of books, journals, periodicals, and people mentioned throughout the three volumes that would have been useful to have had from the beginning.
As the afterword states, not all the letters are of equal value, but there is a drama and continuity to them that make them a compelling read. The portions emphasized here are simply what seem particularly enlightening in 2015 based on the events of the past right years. Surely different letters will seem more significant read in different periods of time. Unfortunately, these letters are long out of print, in three volumes that I struggled to obtain through interlibrary loan. The copy I read came from Vassar College. I don’t know when they stopped using stamp cards to handle circulation, but the only date due stamp on the card that remained in the pocket was “May 13 ’64.” As the above quotations suggest, even though this material was not written for publication, it most certainly needs to be read and discussed much more widely than it currently is.
Originally posted on Petersen Voice Studio:
A blog by a voice teacher was recently posted (and since retracted) on why students shouldn’t study classical singing. Needless to say the article received a tremendous amount of vitriol from many classical singers and teachers, and caused the author to finally remove his post.
It got me thinking: What IS classical singing?
Is it a technique or is it a style of singing?
I don’t presume to be able to answer those questions definitively, but I’d like to explore both ideas.
The first thing to do in any argument is to define TERMS, so we can have a productive argument. We have to agree on what it is we are talking about when we argue so that we don’t become derailed by personal biases, cognitive distortions, and logical fallacies.
Firstly, classical ‘technique.’
What does classical technique mean?
There has never been a consensus from teachers on what actually constitutes a…
View original 1,179 more words
This is why I am homeless, not any personal failing on my part.
Originally posted on A Matter of Scale:
Economic prosperity has been engineered out of our society except for the top .01% during the Lost Decade.
This article was written in response to this series of articles on Medium. You can follow the link for the main article thread. I took umbrage at this last assumption:
“The free market has lifted more billions out of poverty than any thing done by anyone in the past two thousand years. Governments, usually autocratic, sometimes despotic and occasionally democratic (see Greece, Venezuela etc) have caused far more harm to working people than supposedly evil capitalism.”
Yes, the “free markets” have lifted more billions (of dollars) out of “poverty that they created” than any other form of government in the history of the world. Yes, the engine of capitalism is only too happy to:
- Destroy millions of lives to claim the land of early America in order to gain economic strength against the…
View original 953 more words
Never experienced this, because I never got to go home, but love the points.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that once you start college, you begin to wonder how you ever lived at home and didn’t frequent the mental hospital. College kids, you’re not alone. These are the 6 things that every college student goes through while living at home for the summer.
1. Free labor
– It seems that although your parents missed you while you were gone, they seemed to miss your free labor a lot more. Since parents have the idea that college is more vacation than studying, they think you’re ready to get back to work upon arrival. Sure Mom, I can mow the lawn and paint the fence and sacrifice my happiness so you can have expertly sorted mail, not like I had any plans or anything.
2. The Free Time Paradox
– Option 1: You stay home all day, binge watching Netflix and…
View original 232 more words
I started at Forbidden Planet, since it’s right near the bus line I have to take nearly anywhere, and they tend to give out a lot. Everyone stood in line and received a packet, which was alphabetized and seemed to contain everything that the store had gotten in, except maybe some all-ages comics:
I next went to Mysterious Time Machine. I had been in the previous day, and had bought all the following, most at a discount (I believe I spent $23):
Roger, who wasn’t going to be there because he loves the Kentucky Derby, which is on the same day, said that he’d save the “good stuff” for the regular customers. I guess I don’t count, because they had a small selection, of which we were allowed to take two. I took these:
|52.||Transformers Robots In Disguise Free Comic Book Day (2015) #0|
|53.||Savage Dragon Legacy FCBD (2015) #1|
Next I went to JHU Comic books, which typically has both a good selection and some of the more indie-oriented titles, but a limit of five. They also had a “buy two, get one free” sale, and I took advantage, spending $12 in addition to my free comic books:
I next went to Joe Koch Collectables. Joe wasn’t there, but Peter and the Jamaican guy who hates Brian Michael Bendis and doesn’t care about Star Trek (although Peter was making fun of him for watching Guardians of the Galaxy, which sounded to him like an insipid comedy–“I’d rather see Donald Duck than Rocket Raccoon”) were. I had $20 in store credit, and was able to get all these for $12. They weren’t participating in Free Comic Book Day (they are the warehouse for Forbidden Planet), but did have some free comic books, most in terrible condition. They let us take up to five. I didn’t take Morbius: the Living Vampire #28, because I thought it was absent from my want list, meaning it was already in my collection, but maybe I would have been disappointed if I had: the copy I got of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #22, which was not on my wish list, seemed OK, but the backing board in the middle was glued to the facing page. I’m not sure if it was a story page because I discovered the problem after I took it but before attempting to read it, and didn’t look too carefully, but I think it was.
Following this, I went to Galaxy Comics, but since they had nothing left except Divergence, I went to Desert Island, which always has unique indie comics for Free Comic Book Day, such as Dan Quayl (Sparkplug Comic Books, Gazeta Comics, Teenage Dinosaur, and Revival House Press, 2011), and Barrio Mothers (Sparkplug Comics, 2014). They had only the following left, from Chicago:
|2.||Handout Comics (2012) #4|
I also picked up issues 19-21 of Smoke Signal, an in-house publication in folio newspaper format, but Comic Book Database removed them (they do list the series) because I didn’t have them with me and didn’t include enough information when I submitted the data to the site for it to be considered acceptable, and no warning that I saw.
At this point, I was getting hungry, since I had not had lunch, and dinner was over at the shelter. The L line was not in service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, so I took a shuttle bus through Williamsburg to the FMJZ line at Marcy Avenue. Normally, I would have gotten off at Delancey/Essex and walked back, but my legs were in pretty severe pain from all the waiting (only at the Joe Koch warehouse did I have a chance to sit down other than on the train and bus), and something inside kept telling me, even though I couldn’t get there directly via the L line to go to Dairy Queen, even though I had no specific craving for any particular food item (the last time I had had the fish sandwich, I felt sick the next day and the morning of the following (the day of the shoot for the Hopes & Fears article, but perhaps it was the food at St. Francis Xavier soup kitchen I had had for lunch). The first train that arrived at Marcy was the M, so I decided to ride it all the way to 14th Street and go to Dairy Queen, where I did order the fish sandwich, since I don’t eat red meat if I’m paying for it, or if there is a vegetarian option (the only soup kitchens I know that do this are Xavier (although Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends, they don’t always in favor of hot dogs and hamburgers) and All Souls–the shelter certainly doesn’t do this). I was really concerned that I was spending too much money. After all, when I got my pay from my temp jobs, I had ordered these from CheapGraphicNovels.com, for a total of about $50:
|79.||The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (1999) OGN SC|
|80.||Flex Mentallo (1996) TPB|
|81.||Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (2007) Omnibus HC vol. 01|
I then spent even more money on dessert–a large cotton candy Blizzard. I lingered for a while before I ordered it, and while I was waiting, a guy a table over started talking to his two friends about how ridiculous homelessness is in New York City, since you can walk by so many buildings where there is a storefront with boarded-up housing above it. He then started telling his friends that he had visited a family shelter in Jamaica, Queens, and how disgusting it was. He found it dehumanizing that they make you go through airport-level security just to get in the building, and that the facility itself was filthy and far below code. He’s lucky he never visited a singles shelter. At Picture the Homeless two weeks later, we discussed a couple of articles in which Mayor De Blasio visited a family shelter in Queens (although not in Jamaica), and the photos, both in the same room, looked beatific compared to what one finds in singles shelters, but since homeless children tug at the heartstrings more than homeless adults, singles are left in filth beyond most people’s imagining. I broke with my normal introverted inclinations and told the three of them about the article I had just written for Hopes & Fears. He didn’t seem too interested, but the couple at the table to the right of me was.
I told them how I had come to New York as a graduate student and entered the emergency room two weeks later with diagnoses of long-term unchecked conditions, my attempt to retrain as a web designer through the city being too inadequate to lead anywhere, the circumstances under which Amit Kumar had let me go, and how I had been in the shelter system for three years as of May 25, which has no ability to help someone who can’t do physical labor for the duration of a shift, and the slavery of the Work Experience Program. I also told him about my interview with Coffee with the Homeless and how Justyna’s initial version of the article had criticized me for not taking the blame for my homelessness until I objected and cited the example of Rochester, where homelessness exploded as a result of Kodak’s appropriation by Instagram and if she would tell them to blame themselves, which she did not answer, and Rochester’s abuse of people to abuse animals with its annual reindeer run, which Nikita Price and Marcus Moore reported back when they were invited to visit as representatives of Picture the Homeless (Nikita is currently homeless even though he is paid staff at Picture the Homeless). Arden had spent some time in Indiana as well, which is how he became familiar with Dairy Queen, and we could reminisce about how Blizzards used to be available with Nerds candy and they used Hydrox instead of Oreo. His name was Arden McWilliams, and he gave me his card, in addition to writing down my blog URL and info about my Hopes & Fears article (he also subsequently gave me permission to use his name). The woman accompanying him told me that the firm where she worked was about to hire a large number of new copy editors, and asked me if I would be interested in applying. I said that I was. Two days later, Arden received links and a copy of my unabridged resume to see if he could help me with it. As he was leaving, he told me that he was so impressed with how I was able to articulate my story that he wanted to give me all the cash that he had with him, $68, more than covering my meal and all I had spent in the Free Comic Book Day sales and the day before. I accepted it happily, remembering that Reverend Paul Tenaglia’s advice that refusing money or a gift that you want is rejecting God’s good. Every Unity minister I’ve heard for any duration has said the same thing. My godparents, also from a Unity church, were annoyed when my mother made me return the money that they had given me when she got so angry that she kicked me out of the house and I saw the horrible Good News Men’s [Conversion-to-American-Baptist-Church] Shelter in Indianapolis after she took me back in, saying she didn’t understand Unity after all those years, either in her treatment of me or in demanding that I reject the money. The money Arden gave me, except for the ones, went into my savings account, so it hasn’t even been touched.
In spite of the physical pain of standing in line for so long without my cane to lean on, this was easily a reverse on any negative vibes I had had about Free Comic Book Day since Kumar firing me on that day in 2012, not only the first and only time he had ever wanted me to work on a Saturday, but also having failed to tell me so in advance. I haven’t heard back from Arden about my resume yet, and his companion would have to get my contact information from him about the copy editing jobs, but he told me he did plan to read it carefully so that he could be of the utmost help.
Long-time readers of my blog will be familiar with much of what is found in this article, but I got paid to write this, and hopefully it will bring my story to a wider audience: