Saturday, February 14, 2015

Esperanto Correspondence for Socialists

John M. Work
John M. Work, the Socialist activist was also an energetic advocate of Esperanto.[1] He not only substituted for Arthur Baker when Baker wasn’t able to make a Salt Lake City speaking engagement, but also put forth a proposal for the Socialists to use Esperanto. That proposal was opposed by John Spago and ultimately failed, but that didn’t stop Mr. Work.

In the February 14, 1909 New York Sun[2] we see Mr. Work again. The Iowa Socialist may have had his proposal that the Socialist Party use Esperanto at their meetings knocked down, but he wasn’t going to give up. Maybe he viewed it as an incremental thing. Start with a little Esperanto and before long, who knows? Maybe he figured that he could get the Socialists to slowly move into using Esperanto.

The New York Sun doesn’t tell what the fate of Mr. Work’s proposal was (perhaps it shows up later), but it’s easy to guess.
Esperanto for Socialists’ Letters.
John H. Work, an Iowa member of the national executive committee of the Socialist party, notified the New York section of the party yesterday that he has presented a request backed up by arguments to the national committee to issue an order making Esperanto the international correspondence language of Socialists. The national committee has already voted down a proposition to make Esperanto the international spoken language at congresses of the Socialists, but Work contends that a universal correspondence language is now necessary.
The New York member was John Spago, whose opposition to Esperanto I’ve already noted. It would be my guess that just as the national committee of the Socialist Party concluded that there was no need to go to Socialist Party conventions in Europe ready to speak Esperanto, likewise there was no need to send them letters.

We don’t have Mr. Work’s specific arguments, but unless he could establish that correspondence in Esperanto would get a faster and more thorough hearing than it would if it were written in Esperanto, his proposal was likely doomed. Although it’s clear that during this period there were socialist groups in Europe using Esperanto, it’s not clear that Esperanto would be all that useful at an socialist congress.

The article in the New York Times makes it clear that it would not be useful and that there was not some mass of Esperanto-speaking European socialists, rather that Mr. Work hoped that if the American Socialists adopted Esperanto, others would follow.
J. H. Work Wants It Adopted for the Party’s Correspondence.
Socialists in this and other cities were notified yesterday by John H. Work, an Iowa member of the National Committee of the Socialist Party, that he had made a request of the National Committee to order that Esperanto be made the universal correspondence language of the party. The National Committee is now voting on the subject.

Work holds that it is necessary to have a universal correspondence language because the Socialists are found in so many nations. Those opposed to this idea say that to make this plan effective it would be necessary to be able to bring pressure on the Socialist groups of all other countries to make Esperanto the universal correspondence language, and they do not believe this can be done.

The proposition to make Esperanto the official universal language of Socialism at international congresses was voted down a week ago by the National Committee.

  1. Leaving the mystery as why of this date (14 February 2015) the Wikipedia article about him makes no reference to Esperanto.
  2. Clearly the New York newspaper to cover Esperanto and other international languages.  ↩

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