Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


What About the Workers? Part One: Pioneers

Author: David Poulson
Published on: November 20, 1998

Now that the Esperanto movement has spread to over a hundred different countries, it is difficult to make generalisations about the nature of its supporters. It's unlikely, for example that members of the Esperanto groups in Cuba have much in common with those in England, at least when considered in terms of their social background.

However, it is a fair assumption to make even now that many active Esperantists are middle class, in so far as that term still has any meaning. Perhaps I should use the phrase that George Orwell used to describe himself and call them "lower upper middle class."

(A brand new Web site has just been launched dealing with George Orwell: it's at http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/main.html. Not much there at the time of writing but it might be worth keeping an eye on.)

Recent presidents of the Australian Esperanto Association have included a High Court Judge and an Ambassador; recent presidents of the Universala Esperanto Asocio have included a Professor from London University and a the head of an American College. And certainly, the early history of the Esperanto is studded with names of people who, in the late nineteenth century, would most definitely have regarded themselves as middle class. For example, in previous articles I have already introduced Grabowski, an engineer; Kabe, an ophthalmologist; and Tolstoy, a Russian Count. From England, Zamenhof received generous moral and financial support from Colonel Pullen and (until his death on the Titanic) W. Stead, a wealthy publisher. The movement has consistently sought the support of "eminentuloj" - prominent people such as politicians, mayors, diplomats, and the like. For over forty years there have been very close ties between the UEA and UNESCO.

The very format of the Annual Conferences is stuffy and ultra-conservative, characterized by formalities, protocols and ending with enormously long and fairly pointless resolutions. And, of course, these "Kongesoj" are expensive affairs. Few young Africans, Cubans or Indians would have been able to get to Budapest or Beijing or Warsaw or Adelaide and pay a week's accommodation costs plus conference fees without being heavily subsidised.

Nevertheless, despite the predominance of middle-class supporters and activists, about fifteen years after Zamenhof published what has come to be known as La Unua Libro, "The First Book," in 1887, small groups of working men also began to take an interest in Esperanto. In every case, (I think), that interest developed out of a prior commitment to socialist ideas. Esperanto was seen as a means of providing a better means of communication among those members of the working class committed to the struggle between Labour and Capital.

Between 1905 and 1914 worker's Esperanto groups had been formed in a surprising number of countries: Great Britain, Bohemia, France, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Holland, Russia, Austria, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, Rumania and Sweden.

For the members of those groups, a number of small, ephemeral journals were published and also, after an attempt to set up an international organisation in 1905, a journal aimed at an international readership was launched: La Internacia Socia Revuo, which, by 1914 had about 600 subscribers and which was read in 22 different countries. The group associated with this journal also organized the publication of some interesting booklets in Esperanto translation. Authoritarian communism was represented by a translation of the Communist Manifesto, written mostly, I think by Engels, but carrying the name of Karl Marx as co-author. Libertarian communist texts included: The Pyramid of Tyranny and Wages, by the anarchist authors F. Domela Nieuwenhuis and Peter Kropotkin, respectively.

For an enormous collection of resources on libertarian socialism step, if you dare, into the Tiger's Den at:

http://www.tigerden.com/~berios/liberty.html

The First World War put an end to all of this activity as we have already discussed in a previous article, "Consolidation and Catastrophe," which you will find at http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/esperanto/10156. But, after the sacrifice of a generation of young Europeans, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, surviving Esperantists from the working class, embittered by the attitudes of their governments and generals, and encouraged by the successes of the Russian Bolsheviks, maintained both their interest in Esperanto and their socialist and internationalist idea.

It was against this background that Eugene Adam (whose wife was George Orwell's aunt) initiated a new organization: La Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, or S.A.T., as it is now usually called.

It was a great success, created another rift within the mainstream Esperanto movement, and I'll tell you lots more about it next week.

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PRI TUTKOMUNA LINGVO
PRI RUSA LINGVO
PRI ANGLA LINGVO
PRI ALIAJ NACIAJ LINGVOJ
BATALO DE LINGVOJ
ARTIKOLOJ PRI ESPERANTO
"" PRI "KONKURENTOJ" DE ESPERANTO
LECIONOJ DE ESPERANTO
.KONSULTOJ DE E-INSTRUISTOJ
ESPERANTOLOGIO KAJ INTERLINGVISTIKO
TRADUKO DE MALSIMPLAJ FRAZOJ
TRADUKOJ DE DIVERSAJ VERKOJ
FRAZEOLOGIO DE ESPERANTO
, . VERKOJ DE ZAMENHOF KAJ PRI LI
, PROKSIMAJ MOVADOJ
ELSTARAJ PERSONOJ KAJ ESPERANTO
PRI ELSTARAJ ESPERANTISTOJ
. EL HISTORIO DE RUSIA E-MOVADO
KION ONI SKRIBAS PRI ESPERANTO
ESPERANTO EN LITERATURO
. KIAL E-MOVADO NE PROGRESAS
HUMURO PRI KAJ EN ESPERANTO
- ESPERANTO POR INFANOJ
DIVERSAJHOJ
INTERESAJHOJ
PERSONAJHOJ
/ DEMANDARO / RESPONDARO
UTILAJ LIGILOJ
IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
PAGHOJ TUTE EN ESPERANTO
NIA BIBLIOTEKO


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