Friday, August 31, 2018

King Arnold stood by the lofty mast

"Crises in European History" is a short book by Danish Marxist Gustav Bang. It was translated to English by Danish-American Marxist Arnold Petersen, and serialized in the Daily People in 1909-10. The Daily People was the organ of the Socialist Labor Party (SLP). In 1916, the SLP published Bang's text in a book-length version. I have SLP's 1974 edition of "Crises", but it seems to exist in an almost bewildering array of independent reprints. This is one of them.

Bang's book is intended as a popularized outline of the materialist theory of history. It discusses the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, and the French Revolution. The material is relatively uninteresting. We heard it all before. However, Bang's analysis of the French Revolution does have one curious trait. It completely omits the Jacobins and the Terror! Bang goes straight from the Girondists to Thermidor. It's not clear why. Bang was a member of the Danish Social Democratic Party, and perhaps less revolutionary in his Marxism than Petersen wants us to believe. Another possibility is fear of censorship. I'm not familiar with the political situation in tiny little Denmark circa 1910.

"Crises in European History" also contain two comments by the translator that made me laugh out load. Yeah, Arnold Petersen was Danish, alright! In one footnote, he refers to the 14th century Swedish king Magnus Eriksson (who fought several wars against Denmark) as "Magnus Smek", literally Magnus Caress. This happens to be an insult against the king, made by his adversaries who claimed that he was a homosexual. The early 16th century Danish king Christian (who waged a war against Sweden) is referred to as Christian II. Of course, Swedes call him Christian the Tyrant...

It sure is funny that a die hard Marxist like Petersen lets us in on his ethnic prerogatives. Or as the Danes would say: "De er deilig" (It is lovely).

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