Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No Esperanto for Socialists

Yeah, but they voted in English
This was the headline in the Sun on February 4, 1909. Not front page news; the article was tucked beneath an advertisement for pianos on page 2. Nor is it a particularly prominent item, as several articles have larger headlines. Still, the Sun did feel it was necessary to follow up on their article of January 14, 1909 in which it was written that the Socialists were considering making Esperanto “the party’s official language.”[1]

An article in the Montana News reported that the proposal had been put forth by the national committee member of the Socialist Party for Iowa, John M. Work, but it was vigorously opposed by the member for New York, John Spargo.

And that brings us to the final report (with the result already given away) on February 4, 1909.

To Much Time and Trouble to Learn the Language.
The national committee of the Socialist party, to which had been referred the question whether or not Esperanto should be made the universal language for Socialists, and the delegates to the coming International Socialist Congress in Europe should learn it first, reported yesterday that the Esperanto proposition had been overwhelmingly voted down.

The reason given was that it would take too much time and trouble and that Esperanto seemed easy until you tried to learn it. Those in favor of the proposition held that the result would be worth the trouble and that nothing could be accomplished without time and trouble.
There are two problems here. Presumably, American socialists had no problem communicating with each other, although some members of the party might minimal English. As a national thing, there would be little need for Esperanto. Yet the proposal would make Esperanto not the universal language for socialists, but just that for socialists in the United States. Then what if the international organization rejected Esperanto? What use would there be of American socialists learning Esperanto to talk to European socialists if those European socialists did not, in fact, speak Esperanto?

Beyond that, while Esperantists have been known to think wistfully about the various proposals that were made and rejected or made and not followed through, this is one that probably would have been for the worse for Esperanto in the United States. Though the Esperanto movement is politically neutral, adoption of Esperanto by one political party would compromise the appearance of neutrality. For any organization to choose Esperanto as its working language, a political party would be the worst for the Esperanto movement.[2]

Further, with that 20/20 hindsight that comes from looking at articles that have past the century mark, identification of Esperanto with socialism in particular would have probably hurt the Esperanto movement in the 1950s. Although if the language had already acquired a connection with left-wing politics, George Alan Connor might have never joined the movement, risen to the presidency of EANA, and then sought a world-wide purge of left-wing Esperantists.

Update: I don't know why this line didn't pop out at me before:
 it would take too much time and trouble and that Esperanto seemed easy until you tried to learn it
What a bunch of whiners. "Too much time and trouble" to learn Esperanto? Never have so many complained so loudly about such a little fuss. Given how quickly and easily Esperanto can be learned, what's amazing is that so few actually try it. "Oh, it's going to be hard." Give me a break. I know people who have learned Esperanto in a little as three months.

  1. That article was headlined “Esperanto for Socialists.”  ↩
  2. Conversely, the Esperanto movement as a whole could make no objection to this, since it exists to promote the use of Esperanto. Someone who wanted to publish lengthy diatribes in Esperanto on how the language was corrosive to the soul would be acting in keeping with the principles of the movement.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. "George Alan Connor might have never joined the movement, risen to the presidency of EANA, and then sought a world-wide purge of left-wing Esperantists."

    Now there's a story I'd like to hear.


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