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29 March 2010

Stereotypes

Frederich Engels, co-author with Karl Marx of the core texts outlining the prospects of communism, offers one stereotype of American Indians:
Everything runs smoothly without soldiers, gendarmes, or police, without nobles, kings, governors, prefects or judges; without prisons, without trials. All quarrels and disputes are settled by the whole body of those concerned. . . . The household is run communistically by a number of families; the land is tribal property, only the small gardens being temporarily assigned to the households -- still, not a bit of our extensive and complicated machinery of administration is required. . . . There are no poor and needy. The communistic household and the gens know their responsibility toward the aged, the sick and the disabled in war. All are free and equal -- including the women.
Frederich Engels, The Origin of the Family (1884)

Chief Justice John Marshal of the United States Supreme Court, writing a half century earlier, offered a more negative assessment:
But the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country was to leave the country a wilderness.
Chief Justice John Marshall, Johnson v. McIntosh (1823)

Both men were wrong.

2 comments:

Mark in Spokane said...

Alas, one of the tragedies of how the Indians were/have been treated is to look at the various native societies through the lens of one's own expectations and ideology. Hence, the "noble savage" or "brutal barbarian" stories become commonplace, and the real complexity of the differing native American cultures is lost. That complexity is sacrificed in order to fit a narrative crafted by the author to fit an ideological vision. And whenever ideology is in the driver's seat, truth is soon abandoned.

DPirate said...

Well, Engels may very well be considered to have been a proponent of marxism, I don't know much about him. However, Marx himself denied Marxism. Marx was an economist or philosopher, and that's about it. His theories were no more about communism than Adam Smith's were about Neoliberalism. They just get twisted to fit someone's objective of obtaining power.

Marx' and Smith's ideas are more similar than different, I believe.

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