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The Hypnosis of Patriotism
by Leo Tolstoy
Monday Dec 23rd, 2019 2:57 PM
Patriotism is an unnatural, unreasonable, harmful feeling for our times, which causes much of the evil from which mankind suffers.
The hypnosis of patriotism

Seven excerpts

by Leo Tolstoy


I have already had the opportunity on several occasions to express the thought that patriotism is an unnatural, unreasonable, harmful feeling for our times, which causes much of the evil from which mankind suffers, and that therefore this feeling should not be nurtured and brought up as it is happening now; on the contrary, it should be suppressed and destroyed by all means available to reasonable people.


Patriotism is the feeling of an exclusive love for one's own people and, as the doctrine of the heroism of sacrificing one's peace, possessions and even one's own life to protect the weak from being raped and destroyed by the enemy - was the highest idea of that time when each nation considered it possible and just to plunder and murder the people of another nation for the benefit of its own power and welfare.


The small oppressed peoples who have fallen victim to the power of the great States, who are Poles, Irish, Czechs, Finns, Armenians, by reacting to the patriotism of the victors, who have been so infected by their oppressors by this surviving, useless, senseless and harmful feeling of patriotism that all their activity is concentrated on this patriotism. And they, who themselves suffer from the patriotism of the powerful peoples, are ready to do to the other peoples, for the sake of this patriotism, what their victors have done and are doing to them.


The ruling classes of Germany had inflamed the patriotism of their popular masses to such an extent that in the second half of the XIXth century a law was presented to the people according to which all people without exception had to become soldiers. All sons, husbands and fathers were taught how to kill, had to become submissive slaves of every higher superior and inevitably be ready to kill those they were ordered to kill. As long as the government and armies will exist, it will not be possible to stop armaments and wars.


All peoples of the so-called Christian world have been brought to such a degree of brutalization by patriotism that not only those people who are forced by circumstances to murder and be murdered wish to be murdered and rejoice in murder; no, also the people who live quietly in their homes, yes, all the people of Europe and America, thanks to the fast and easy means of transport and thanks to the press, are in the position of the spectators in the Roman circus at every war, rejoice like these people at the murder and shout out their 'Pollice verso!‘“


For the liberation of people from the terrible evil of armaments and wars, from which they are currently suffering and which is growing more and more, it is not conferences, treatises and arbitration tribunals that are needed, but the destruction of that violence called government, from which the greatest sufferings of humanity originate.

For the destruction of governments, only one thing is needed: people must understand that that sense of patriotism which alone supports this tool of rape is a raw, harmful, shameful and bad feeling, but above all it is immoral.


Now there are people who are specially educated and prepared to kill and rape other people, people who have the right to rape and who have a well-ordered organization for this purpose.

But then no more people will be educated, no one will have the right to rape, there will be no more organization of rape, and, as it is peculiar to the people of our time, rape and murder will always and with regard to everyone be regarded as something bad.

The annihilation of governments will only destroy the traditional useless organization of rape and deny any rape its justification.

out: Leo Tolstoy, Patriotosimus and Government (1900); Translated by Eugen Diederichs; in: Leo Tolstoy, Speech against the war. Political pamphlets. Edited by Peter Urban, Insel Verlag 1968.

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Review of "The Great Transformation" by Karl Polanyi in Falter

Review from FALTER 18/2018

"We live in a capitalism that's broken.

The world-famous Viennese social scientist Karl Polanyi is one of the most important interpreters of the prevailing market mechanisms. His 94-year-old daughter Kari Polanyi on his rediscovered work and her childhood in Red Vienna

With his book "The Great Transformation" Karl Polanyi created a standard work. In it, he traces how the idea of the self-regulating market had become dominant in the 19th century and explains why the catastrophes of the 20th century are a consequence of the failure of this idea. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Polanyi's writing has been rediscovered.

Karl Polanyi, born as the son of a Jewish couple in Vienna in 1886, died in Canada in 1964, emigrated to England in 1933. His only daughter, Kari Polanyi, is an economist herself and looks after her father's legacy. She will also participate in the conference at the Vienna Chamber of Labour where the International Karl Polanyi Society (IKPS) will be founded on 8 and 9 May. The 94-year-old spoke to the butterfly in advance in English-dyed Viennese.


I have many memories of my childhood in Vienna. Where there are now many large houses along Vorgartenstraße, there used to be a reserve garden of the city of Vienna - a huge, green place. And at the front of the sidewalk was a permanent market with small huts. In the Vienna of my childhood there were many cultural and sporting activities for the working class. The children's friends organized summer camps, I remember that we went to Bad Aussee - a wonderful place.

I was in the children's section of a workers' gymnastics club. There I learned all kinds of things, for example how to fall well - in Montreal, where I was to live later as an adult, we had hard winters and lots of ice on the road. You have to know how to fall without breaking your bones.

The Vienna of my childhood was the Red Vienna. The Vienna I had to leave as a child was an open and lively city. My father, for example, had a journalistic debate with Ludwig von Mises in the same scientific journal, he had written a reply to one of his articles, to which he in turn had replied, and then came another reply from my father, and so on. Such a thing would have been unthinkable in England, where we later lived. After all, my father was only a simple editor. Nevertheless, he could compete with someone like Mises, who was a big shot in those days.

My father had taught workers at adult education centers in Vienna. He did the same later in England for the Workers Educational Association. Among them were mainly older people who wanted to continue their education in evening classes. The cultural life of the workers in London was quite lousy in comparison to that of the workers in Red Vienna - although Vienna and Austria were much poorer than London and England, the richest country in Europe, if not the whole world at that time.

My father had loved giving lectures for the workers. He prepared himself for it as if he was teaching in Cambridge or Oxford; I saw that myself when he took me there once, when I was perhaps 15 years old. At that time he read a lot about the history of the early industrial revolution and studied it intensively. I am convinced that he has already taught much of what is in "The Great Transformation" in his evening class for workers on English social and economic history.

Manuscripts of his 1940 lecture at Bennington College in the USA have only recently surfaced. At that time he had not even begun to write "The Great Transformation", but even then he was already talking about things that are important again now: that the modern nationalism of the 1930s was a protective reaction to international interdependence.

I see strong parallels to the situation today. In the USA it is easy to see why the Democrats lost this presidential election: Hillary stood for the status quo. I understand that many did not want things to continue as before, because many had lost status - globalization meant that the old working class experienced a decline. Hillary also called people who voted for Trump deplorable. She had no respect for these people. I think perhaps the left in Europe has a similar problem.

For some time there had been little difference between the Social Democratic and the Conservative line. The Social Democrats have by and large accepted the neo-liberal premises: they have not really questioned austerity policy; they have not really questioned the premise that the private sector is fundamentally more efficient; they have not questioned the fact that citizens have become more and more customers - on the contrary, the Left has even gone along with this.

I don't think my father could have imagined that things would turn out this way. My father believed in the 1940s, when he wrote "The Great Transformation", that what he was describing was all over. He had no idea that it could all come back.

I think my father would be surprised at the market friendliness that had come back with neoliberalism. It was a reaction to inflation and the oil crisis in the 1970s, but also to unions that had become too strong. The capitalist class felt that too much of its power had been lost.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the question has been whether it is possible for humanity to come to terms with the machines - Polanyi has thought a lot about this. I believe that this question is much more urgent now than it was then.

In the 1940s up to the 1960s things were still going quite well. There was a good compromise between capital and labour. But now we are seeing what is possible with technologies, with information technologies, and that is quite dangerous. But the machines are not the real problem. Nor is it the trade, but the finance - that is also how the UN Trade and Development Report sees it. The financial sector is bigger and stronger than it was before the crisis of 2008. The problem with the banks and the problem of the financial crisis have not been solved. Yields are rising without a real background.

If you look at how, for example, property prices continue to rise and at the same time there is hardly any growth in the real economy, you understand what is happening: We live in a capitalism that has broken down and become obsolete. We know that a crisis is looming that will be much bigger than the one in 2008, and from it either something quite wonderful will emerge or something quite terrible like a dictatorship.

We must imagine a new kind of human civilisation. Yes, one that is really quite different from what we have now. One where we really live in harmony with reality. It is a fact that we can produce everything without the whole population having to work. That is the truth. For the rich countries we have to imagine a society that does not need to grow. Because that is the reality.

Marx said that when the power of production is developed to the point where machines can produce everything, there is no need for capitalism. Now we have arrived exactly there - the machines can produce everything that we humans need. But the problem is that we don't know how to organize an inclusive society where little work is needed.

I experienced Red Vienna as a child. It was something special, a unique phase in history. But it is still a good model.

Nina Brnada in FALTER 18/2018 of 04.05.2018 (p. 20)

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