But he still keeps up the fight (Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner)

For some reason, this song came back to me recently. It is ‘Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner’ by Warren Zevon. As I pointed out some time ago, I like the line, ‘The deal was done in Denmark, on a dark and stormy day’.

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But as a friend in China pointed out recently, the relevant line now is: ‘Now it’s ten years later, but he still keeps up the fight’. What should be added here is China, since I think it is great that the communist party is the government of China. As a recent application to the Tiananmen management committee’s propaganda department put it (for filming in relation to Chinese Marxism), I am a friend of China and especially the CPC. Which is a long way of saying that I simply claim this song as my own.

 

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Denmark proposes to rob refugees of jewellery and cash

Is this a new low in efforts to demonise refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere? The Danish minority government, run by Venstre and supported by the Danish People’s Party, has proposed that the bags and clothes of refugees be searched for money and valuables such as jewellery so as to be confiscated for the ‘cost’ of travelling through Denmark. Mind you, the government has thus far refused to accept refugees, although it generously allows them to travel through Denmark to Sweden. Indeed, the government is trying to claim that it is exceedingly generous – by allowing people to keep their phones and wedding rings. Of course, the underlying assumption is that they are not ‘genuine’ refugees but supposedly rich ‘economic’ refugees.

Not only are such minor items easily transportable for an emergency (like food), but the next step is to remove gold teeth. Further, my experience from a recent rail journey across Europe on trains full of refugees is that they have only a small bag with the absolute basics.

The ‘fat profits’ of Denmark

Lenin spent a good deal of time in Finland (which he loved), Sweden (where the socialists had their conferences from time to time) and Denmark (where he spoke on occasion). Not that he was so fond of the latter place:

Who says that in our day there is no trade in human beings? There is quite a brisk trade. Denmark is selling to America for so many millions (not yet agreed upon) three islands, all populated, of course.

In addition, a specific feature of Danish imperialism is the superprofits it obtains from its monopolistically advantageous position in the meat and dairy produce market: using cheap maritime transport, she supplies the world’s biggest market, London. As a result, the Danish bourgeoisie and the rich Danish peasants (bourgeois of the purest type, in spite of the fables of the Russian Narodniks) have become “prosperous” satellites of the British imperialist bourgeoisie, sharing their particularly easy and particularly fat profits.

Why so negative? Denmark was the Scandinavian empire par excellence, so much so that Lenin finds the talk at the time of a Danish identity or need to guard the state a bit of a joke. May well apply to its restrictive and xenophobic policies these days:

The masses of the Danish people passed through the bourgeois liberation movement long ago. More than 96 per cent of the population are Danes. This alone proves what a crude bourgeois deception is the talk of the Danish bourgeoisie about an “independent national state” being the task of the day! This is being said in the twentieth century by the bourgeoisie and the monarchists of Denmark, who possess colonies with a population nearly equal to the number of Danes in Germany.

Collected Works, vol 23, p. 135

Margarine, butter and class conflict

Almost nothing escapes Lenin’s critical gaze, not even margarine:

Margarine is cheaper than real butter. Butter is too costly for the vast majority of the population in the capitalist countries. The workers earn so little that they have to buy cheap, low-grade, substitute food products. And yet the workers are the chief consumers. There are millions of workers, and only hundreds of capitalists. And so the output of cheap substitutes is growing daily and hourly, along with the unheard-of luxury of a handful of millionaires.

K’noath! Even margarine is a signal of class conflict. And where is the conflict the sharpest? Denmark:

It appears that the greatest consumer of margarine is Denmark—16,4 kilograms (about one pood) a year per in habitant. Next comes Norway—15 pounds, Germany—7.5 pounds, etc.

Denmark is the richest country for butter output. Danish butter—real butter—ranks among the finest grades. The world’s biggest and richest city, London (population, including that of the suburbs, about six million), prefers Danish butter to any other, and pays the highest price for it.

Danish well-to-do peasants, but above all the Danish capitalists, make a good deal of money from the butter trade. And yet Denmark is the world’s biggest consumer of substitute butter, margarine!

What is the explanation?

It is very simple. The vast majority of the Danish population, like that of any other capitalist country, consists of workers and propertyless peasants. They cannot afford real butter. Even the middle peasants in Denmark, being in need of money, sell abroad the butter they produce on their farms and buy the cheap margarine for themselves.

Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 18, pp. 224-5.

Next time you consume butter or margarine, think about it: you can’t escape class conflict!

How important is the Bible? A snippet from my reply to Niels Peter Lemche

From my longer reply to Niels Peter Lemche, due out tomorrow in Bible and Interpretation. Biblical scholars like to claim that the Bible is vitally important in the modern world, Lemche included, which of course inflates their own importance. I have been guilty of the same, especially when pitching for some cash. Not quite as important as we like to think, it seems:

Let me offer a few sobering statistics from a country close in demographics to Denmark (where Lemche teaches), namely, the Netherlands. If the Bible is read at all, it is by a highly educated, Protestant minority. (By contrast, if the poor read any scripture, it is the Qur’an.) Both possession and use of the Bible continue to decline sharply in what has been termed “Bible fatigue.” A paltry 13 percent of the Dutch population read the Bible on a regular basis. Further, 87 percent of those who do not read the Bible want to have nothing more to do with it. Of the dwindling group of those who read the Bible, only a quarter regard it as offering moral guidelines as to how one should live and act, and even fewer see it as a source of inspiration. And if we focus on that even smaller group of those who do seek inspiration, then they simply do not see the Bible’s central message as either world domination or transformation, a call to end inequality or poverty. Instead, they are interested in personal security, salvation, Jesus as the truth, Jesus as the light in the world, a handhold and a lesson for life.

Assuming we can extrapolate the Dutch results to Denmark, then Lemche is a scholar of a text that has appeal to a rapidly shrinking minority of wealthy Protestant individuals. Not quite the superstitious hordes rushing from the jungle to seize the world that Lemche imagines.

O Danish churches of little faith

Danish churches (Lutheran) are a fascinating refit of pre-Reformation churches. The images might have largely gone, but in their place are endless texts from the Bible. But at Jesuskirken, in Valby, Copenhagen, one enters the church and encounters these:

Apart from the surpise at finding out that Tacitus and Suetonius wrote in Danish, these texts are the two external references to earliest Christianity. But I can’t help wondering why a church needs needs external evidence for such a thing. Is not the Bible, if not faith itself, enough?