Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tracked it down....

I have been told several times an anecdote about Marx despairing of ever seeing a revolution in Germany. He supposedly recalled an incident where German workers failed to attend a demonstration because they had trouble with their tickets.

The joke being, if you are going to start a revolution against capitalism, WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' TICKETS!

Well, I tracked down the reference. It was STALIN, not Marx, in an interview with an unctuous German writer in 1931. Here is the money quote:

Ludwig: Do you not think that among the Germans as a nation love of order is more highly developed than love of freedom?

Stalin: There was a time when people in Germany did indeed show great respect for the law. In 1907, when I happened to spend two or three months in Berlin, we Russian Bolsheviks often used to laugh at some of our German friends on account of their respect for the law. There was, for example, a story in circulation about an occasion when the Berlin Social-Democratic Executive fixed a definite day and hour for a demonstration that was to be attended by the members of all the suburban organizations. A group of about 200 from one of the suburbs arrived in the city punctually at the hour appointed, but failed to appear at the demonstration, the reason being that they had waited two hours on the station platform because the ticket collector at the exit had failed to make his appearance and there had been nobody to give their tickets to. It used to be said in jest that it took a Russian comrade to show the Germans a simple way out of their fix: to leave the platform without giving up their tickets.... But is there anything like that in Germany now? Is there respect for the law in Germany today? What about the National Socialists, who one would think ought to be the first to stand guard over bourgeois legality? Do they not break the law, wreck workers' clubs and assassinate workers with impunity? I make no mention of the workers, who, it seems to me, long ago lost all respect for bourgeois legality. Yes, the Germans have changed quite a bit lately.

Nic Tideman and I are working on our Public Choice paper, and are writing about meta-rules. And this passage is interesting, because it shows that the same group of people can be constrained, and not constrained. It's all about the meta-rules.

Old School Reference: J. V. Stalin, Talk With the German Author Emil Ludwig, December 13, 1931. First Published: Bolshevik, April 30, 1932, No. 8. Source: Works, J.V. Stalin, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1955, Volume 13, pp. 106-25.