Defenestrations of Prague,
Demands of the Communist
Party in Germany, The
Dictionnaire des Athées
Divine Right of Kings,
Dual Perspective, the
Dustbin of History, the
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In Russian, Dall's Porpoise goes by
the rather splendid name of the "white-winged sea pig", or
belokrylaia morskaia svin'ia. The Big Soviet Encyclopaedia
goes on to say that it lives in the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan
and the Bering Sea, and sometimes even visits the Sea of Chukotsk (3rd
ed., English version, v.3 p.665-6).
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of Prague, the
A peculiar tradition in Bohemia whereby
people fall out of windows at crucial conjunctures in Central European
history. The first defenestration of Prague occurred in 1419, when a
group of Catholic town councillors were tossed out of the window of
the town hall in Prague, and this served as the signal for the beginning
of the Hussite wars. The second defenstration came in 1618, when unlucky
Habsburg officials were flung from the Bohemian Chancellery of Prague
Castle. The Thirty Years' War that followed devastated much of Europe.
And the third defenestration (although it is not always called this)
took place in 1948, when the liberal foreign minister Jan Masaryk (who
was also the son of the founder of the Czechoslovak democracy, T. G.
Masaryk) fell to his death out of the window of his ministry in the
aftermath of the Communist takeover.
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of the Communist Party in Germany, The
The Communist Manifesto was published
in February 1848. In March, as revolution swept across the continent
in that dramatic year, Marx and Engels drew up the following Demands
of the Communist Party in Germany:
Proletarians of all countries,
The whole of Germany shall be declared a single and indivisible
2. Every German over 21 years of age shall be able to vote
and be elected, provided he has no criminal record.
3. Representatives of the people shall be paid, so that workers,
too, will be able to sit in the parliament of the German people.
4. The whole population shall be armed. In future, the armed
forces are to be forces of workers as well, so that the army will
not be merely a consumer, as it was in the past, but will produce
even more than the cost of its upkeep. Furthermore, this will be
a means of organising labour.
5. The exercise of justice shall be free of charge.
6. All the feudal dues, tributes, duties, tithes, etc., which
have oppressed the rural population until now, shall be abolished,
with no compensation whatsoever.
7. The estates of princes and other feudal lords, and all
mines and pits, etc., shall become state property. On these estates,
large-scale agriculture is to be introduced for the benefit of all
and using the most modern scientific aids.
8. Mortgages on peasant lands shall be declared state property.
The peasants are to pay the interest on these mortgages to the state.
9. In those regions where there is a developed system of
lease-holding, the ground rent or the 'lease shilling' shall be
paid to the state as tax.
All the measures listed in 6, 7, 8
and 9 are designed to reduce public and other burdens on peasants
and small tenant farmers, without reducing the requisite means for
paying the expenses of the state and without endangering production
The real landowner, who is neither a peasant nor a tenant, has no
part in production. His consumption is therefore nothing but misuse.
10. One state bank shall replace all the private banks, and
its note issue shall be legal tender. This measure will make it
possible to regulate credit in the interests of the whole population
and thus undermine the domination of the big money-men. The gradual
replacement of gold and silver by paper money will reduce the cost
of the indispensable instrument of bourgeois commerce, the universal
means of exchange, and reserve gold and silver for effective use
abroad. Finally, this measure is needed in order to bind the interests
of the conservative bourgeois to the revolution.
11. All means of transport: railways, canals, steamships,
roads, stations, etc., shall be taken over by the state. They are
to be transformed into state property and put at the free service
of the needy.
12. All civil servants shall receive the same pay, without
any distinction other than that those with a family, i.e. with more
needs, will also receive a higher salary than the rest.
13. The complete separation of Church and State. Ministers
of all confessions are to be paid only by their congregations.
14. Restriction of the right of inheritance.
15. The introduction of severely progressive taxation and
the abolition of taxes on consumption.
16. The establishment of national workshops. The state is
to guarantee all workers their existence and care for those unable
17. Universal and free education for the people.
It is in the interests of the German
proletariat, petty bourgeoisie and peasantry to work energetically
for the implementation of the above measures. Through their realisation
alone can the millions of German people, who have up till now been
exploited by a small handful, and whom some will attempt to maintain
in a renewed oppression, get their rights, and the power that they
are due as the producers of all wealth.
Karl Marx, F. Engels, Karl Schapper, J. Moll, H. Bauer, W. Wolff.
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Late in January 1948, a plane crashed
in Los Gatos, California, killing twenty-eight Mexican agricultural
workers en route from Oakland to the El Centro Deportation Center.
Woody Guthrie wrote the words to "Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)",
which he performed as a kind of chant; Martin Hoffman later supplied
a fine tune, and the song was made famous by Pete Seeger, later being
covered by (among others) the Whiskey Hill Singers, Dolly Parton, Bob
Dylan and Joan Baez, Billy Bragg and the Dubliners.
The crops are all in and the peaches
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps.
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again.
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big aeroplane,
All they will call you will be Deportees.
My father's own father, he waded that
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.
Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.
We died in your hills and we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.
The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just Deportees"
Is this the best way we can grow our
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except Deportees?
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Astonishingly active, dauntless and
almost indestructible socialist activist. Despard was born in Kent in
1844. Following her husband's death, and after a period as a writer
of romance novels in the 1870s and 1880s, she became one of the most
wide-ranging social activists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. In rough chronological order, Mrs Despard was a radical Poor
Law Guardian in Lambeth, an in-at-the-inception member of the Independent
Labour Party, and a Suffragette who campaigned for more democratic control
within the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and against the
movement's declaration of a pause in its activities during the Great
War. (Oddly enough, Despard's brother, General Sir John French, was
Chief of Staff of the British Army at the outset of the war, and leader
of the Expeditionary Force.) Having stood for Battersea in 1918 as a
Labour Candidate, and found herself -- as a pacifist -- roundly defeated,
Despard turned her energies towards Ireland. A significant part of the
early 1920's were spent, to her great credit, in Cork and Kerry, with
Maude Gonne, collecting evidence of police and Black-and-Tan brutalities.
Deepening her involvement in the cause of Irish freedom, Mrs Despard
(with Gonne) founded the Women's Prisoners' Defence League in support
of republican prisoners. Relocating to Ireland, Despard was active in
Sinn Fein, and after the Civil War in the Irish Workers' Party. At one
point, she opened a jam factory to provide work for Dublin's unemployed.
She died in 1939 in Ireland, having been dissuaded from joining the
Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, on the altogether sensible
grounds that 92 year olds rarely make the best combat troops.
Despard remained a pacifist, teetotal vegetarian throughout her long
career, such that the Turtle can only wonder at the source of her energy
and ongoing radical commitment. Perhaps the strangest episode in her eventful
life was an attempt, after the Great War, to open a teetotal pub in London,
called the Despard Arms. Predictably enough, it floundered through lack
of interest. Naturally, the Turtle -- being fond of a tipple -- is shocked
to its core by the prospect of a teetoal pub, but can forgive such a strange
enthusiasm in someone who did so much else to compensate for this one
Stalin provides us with a helpful elucidation
of this philosophical world-view in his 1938 essay on Dialectical and
"Dialectical materialism is the
world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical
materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method
of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation
of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory,
"When describing their dialectical method, Marx and Engels usually
refer to Hegel as the philosopher who formulated the main features of
dialectics. This, however, does not mean that the dialectics of Marx
and Engels is identical with the dialectics of Hegel. As a matter of
fact, Marx and Engels took from the Hegelian dialectics only its "rational
kernel", casting aside its Hegelian idealistic shell, and developed
dialectics further so as to lend it a modern scientific form...
"Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse,
to debate. In ancient times dialectics was the art of arriving at the
truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent
and overcoming these contradictions. There were philosophersin ancient
times who believed that the disclosure of contradictions in thought
and the clash of opposite opinions was the best method of arriving at
the truth. This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the
phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending
nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement
and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the
result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result
of the interaction of opposed forces in nature.
"In its essence, dialectics is the direct opposite of metaphysics."
Leon Trotsky's brief account of "materialist
dialectics" from 1939 can be read on the world wide web here.
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Dialectics is not the latest all-over
slimming fad, but a revolutionary way to understand the world. Taking
its origins from Ancient Greek philosophy, and developed by the reactionary
Prussian court-philosopher Hegel (boo) and the friend of the Turtle Karl
Marx (hooray!), dialectical thought involves using three broad rules.
1. The world is a totality. Next time
you look at the news, notice how the same story is broken up, until it
seems to make no overall sense. In Britain, at the moment, most politicians
are horrified by the rise of ethnic killing in Albania. Plucky Kosovans
are praised on the news for standing up to the might of Yugoslav terror.
Yet two items later, the same Kosovans have become thieving refugees,
stealing British jobs and homes.
2. Things are contradictory. According
to UN figures, the richest four hundred people in the world own more wealth
than the poorest three thousand million.
3. Things change. Look at the world, and
it can seem to be made up by static 'things' - yet all these things are
processes, subject to patterns of change. Rain falling on rocks wears
a mountain down to the ground. Thatcher lost. In these processes of change,
small additions of quantity make a qualitatively different outcome. The
cumulative effect of small changes can be something different and new.
Heat water and it becomes steam. Out of a movement of strikes and protests
can come a revolution.
For Alexander Herzen, dialectics was the
'algebra of revolution': a way of understanding that enabled revolutionaries
to change the world. That's true, but dialectics can also be used as a
form of logic, or as a very general way of thinking about the world. It's
revolutionary, and it's fun. So do try it at home, fellow Turtles, because
dialectics is better than drugs.
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In 1800 (or an 8) Sylvain Maréchal
struck a blow for Enlightenment with the publication of his Dictionary
of Atheists, Ancient and Modern. The scholarship wasn't terribly exciting,
and the book courted controversy with its claims that Augustine
of Hippo and a handful of other saints did not, in fact, believe in
God. They were joined by a cast of more usual suspects, including Montaigne,
Montesquieu, Grotius, virtually every philosophy of antiquity, and --
more surprisingly -- Pascal. A robust foreword presented a strikingly
sympathetic portrait of "the Atheist", in a valiant attempt
to reverse centuries of odium.
Maréchal himself was born in Paris
in 1750. He dabbled with poetry and philosophy, but never achieved a great
deal in these fields. He fell in with "Gracchus" Babeuf's plot,
and was the author of the famous 1796 Manifesto of the Equals,
which called for a second French Revolution to create a genuinely egalitarian
Republic. Although Babeuf and eight other Babouvists were sentenced to
death or deportation, Maréchal was never arrested for his part
in the conspiracy. He died in 1803.
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Right of Kings, the
A widespread doctrine in seventeenth-century
Europe, popularised in works like Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha,
the "divine right of kings" held that kings' authority came
directly from God, and that no resistance their rule -- whether from the
people or from the churches -- could possibly be justified. It is a doctrine
with no obvious progressive implications and is almost certainly false.
Reasonably clear statements of this position circulated towards the end
of the French wars of religion. Pierre de Belloy, for example, argued
in his Apologie Catholique (1585) and De l'autorité du
roi (1587) that the pope's excommunication of Henry of Navarre did
not affect his right to succeed to the French throne as Henry IV. The
crown comes to a man through the workings of divine providence, and the
right of God's chosen heir cannot be taken away by any human action. As
God's lieutenant on earth, the king is answerable only to God, and certainly
not to representative Estates. Any kind of rebellion against the king
is also rebellion against God. The theoretical buttressing for the doctrine
was provided by a claim that God ordained practices of primogeniture after
Adam's fall. The right to rule had to come from God, since (contra
the later contractarians) mere force, or even voluntary submission to
the rule of a prince, cannot create an obligation to obey.
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In his Prison
Notebooks, Gramsci wrote this:
"The dual perspective can present
itself on various levels, from the most elementary to the most complex;
but these can all theoretically be reduced to two fundamental levels,
corresponding to the dual nature of Machiavelli's Centaur - half-animal
and half-human. They are the levels of force and of consent, authority
and hegemony, violence and civilisation, of the individual moment and
of the universal moment ("Church" and "State"),
of agitation and of propaganda, of tactics and of strategy, etc. Some
have reduced the theory of the "dual perspective" to something
trivial and banal, to nothing but two forms of "immediacy"
which succeed each other mechanically in time, with greater or less
"proximity". In actual fact, it often happens that the more
the first "perspective" is "immediate" and elementary,
the more the second has to be "distant" (not in time, but
as a dialectical relation), complex and ambitious. In other words, it
may happen as in human life, that the more an individual is compelled
to defend his own immediate physical existence, the more will he uphold
and identify with the highest values of civilisation and of humanity,
in all their complexity."
[From: Antonio Gramsci, Selections
from the Prison Notebooks, p.170.]
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of History, the
A handy phrase made famous by Leon Trotsky.
The Second Congress of Soviets was being held in Petrograd when news of
Bolshevik seizure of power was announced on 25 October (7 November, New
Style) 1917. With this decisive turn of events, the Mensheviks and other
left groups decided not to participate in the Congress, and as they were
leaving the room where the Congress was being held, Trotsky taunted them
by proclaiming -- truthfully, as it turned out -- that they were well
on their way into the dustbin of history.
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