Jan 222018
 

Today is the birthday (1891) of Antonio Francesco Gramsci, Sardinian-born, Italian social theorist best remembered for his concept of cultural hegemony. He is sometimes characterized as a Marxist, sometimes a neo-Marxist, because he accepted the historical reality of class struggle, and a need for a revolution for equality by the working class. But he did not accept Marx’s view of the inevitability of proletarian revolution, nor of Marx’s theory of economic determinism. He was arrested and imprisoned by Mussolini as a dangerous intellectual, and during his imprisonment he wrote more than 30 notebooks (over 3,000 pages), of history and social analysis. His Prison Notebooks are considered a major contribution to 20th century economic, social, and political theory.

Gramsci was born in Ales, on the island of Sardinia, the fourth of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci (1860–1937). Francesco was a low-level government official of Albanian descent who was always in financial difficulty, and was eventually imprisoned for embezzlement. Gramsci had to abandon schooling and work at various casual jobs until his father’s release in 1904. As a boy, Gramsci suffered from health problems, particularly a malformation of the spine that stunted his growth (his adult height was less than 5 feet) and left him seriously hunchbacked. Gramsci was also plagued by various internal disorders throughout his life.

Gramsci completed secondary school in Cagliari, where he lodged with his elder brother Gennaro, a former soldier whose time on the mainland had made him a militant socialist. However, Gramsci’s sympathies then did not lie with socialism, but rather with the grievances of impoverished Sardinian peasants and miners. They perceived their neglect as a result of privileges enjoyed by the rapidly industrializing North, and they tended to turn to a growing Sardinian nationalism which was brutally repressed by troops from the Italian mainland. In 1911, Gramsci won a scholarship to study at the University of Turin. He studied literature and took a keen interest in linguistics, which he studied under Matteo Bartoli. Gramsci was in Turin as it was going through industrialization, with the Fiat and Lancia factories recruiting workers from poorer regions. Trade unions became established, and the first industrial social conflicts started to emerge. Gramsci frequented socialist circles as well as associating with Sardinian emigrants on the Italian mainland. Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party in late 1913, where he later occupied a key position.

Although showing talent for his studies, Gramsci had financial problems and poor health. Together with his growing political commitment, these led to his abandoning his education in early 1915. From 1914 onward, Gramsci’s writings for socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earned him a reputation as a notable journalist. In 1916, he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of Avanti!, the Socialist Party official organ. An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci proved a formidable commentator, writing on all aspects of Turin’s social and political life. Gramsci was, at this time, also involved in the education and organization of Turin workers; he spoke in public for the first time in 1916 and gave talks on topics such as Romain Rolland, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, and the emancipation of women. In the wake of the arrest of Socialist Party leaders that followed the revolutionary riots of August 1917, Gramsci became one of Turin’s leading socialists when he was both elected to the party’s Provisional Committee and made editor of Il Grido del Popolo.

In April 1919, with Togliatti, Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini, Gramsci set up the weekly newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo. In October the same year, despite being divided into various hostile factions, the Socialist Party moved by a large majority to join the Third International. The L’Ordine Nuovo group was seen by Vladimir Lenin as closest in orientation to the Bolsheviks, and it received his backing against the anti-parliamentary programme of the communist Amadeo Bordiga.

Among tactical debates within the party, Gramsci’s group was mainly distinguished by its advocacy of workers’ councils, which had come into existence in Turin spontaneously during the large strikes of 1919 and 1920. For Gramsci, these councils were the proper means of enabling workers to take control of the task of organizing production. The failure of the workers’ councils to develop into a national movement convinced Gramsci that a Communist Party in the Leninist sense was needed. The group around L’Ordine Nuovo declaimed incessantly against the Italian Socialist Party’s centrist leadership and ultimately allied with Bordiga’s far larger “abstentionist” faction. On 21 January 1921, in the town of Livorno, the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d’Italia – PCI) was founded. Gramsci supported against Bordiga the Arditi del Popolo, a militant anti-fascist group which opposed Mussolini’s Blackshirts. Gramsci was a leader of the party from its inception but was subordinate to Bordiga, whose emphasis on discipline, centralism and purity of principles dominated the party’s program until he lost the leadership in 1924

In 1922, Gramsci traveled to Russia as a representative of the new party. Here, he met Julia Schucht, a young violinist whom he married in 1923 and by whom he had two sons, Delio (born 1924) and Giuliano (born 1926). Gramsci never saw his second son. The Russian mission coincided with the advent of fascism in Italy, and Gramsci returned with instructions to foster, against the wishes of the PCI leadership, a united front of leftist parties against fascism. Such a front would ideally have had the PCI at its center, through which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but others disputed this potential supremacy: socialists did have a certain tradition in Italy, too, while the Communist Party seemed relatively young and too radical. Many believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have functioned too remotely from political debate, and thus would have run the risk of isolation.

In late 1922 and early 1923, Benito Mussolini’s government embarked on a campaign of repression against the opposition parties, arresting most of the PCI leadership, including Bordiga. At the end of 1923, Gramsci travelled from Moscow to Vienna, where he tried to revive a party torn by factional strife. In 1924 Gramsci, now recognized as head of the PCI, gained election as a deputy for the Veneto. He started organizing the launch of the official newspaper of the party, called L’Unità, living in Rome while his family stayed in Moscow. At its Lyon Congress in January 1926, Gramsci’s theses calling for a united front to restore democracy to Italy were adopted by the party.

On 9th November 1926, the Fascist government enacted a new wave of emergency laws, taking as a pretext an alleged attempt on Mussolini’s life several days earlier. The fascist police arrested Gramsci, despite his parliamentary immunity, and brought him to the Roman prison Regina Coeli. At his trial, Gramsci’s prosecutor stated, “For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning.” He received an immediate sentence of five years in confinement on the island of Ustica and the following year he received a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment in Turi, near Bari. Over 11 years in prison, his health deteriorated. His teeth fell out, his digestive system collapsed so that he could not eat solid food. He had convulsions when he vomited blood, and suffered headaches so violent that he beat his head against the walls of his cell.

In 1933 he was moved from the prison at Turi to a clinic at Formia, but was still being denied adequate medical attention. Two years later he was moved to the Quisisana clinic in Rome. He was due for release on 21 April 1937 and planned to retire to Sardinia for convalescence, but a combination of arteriosclerosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, high blood pressure, angina, gout and acute gastric disorders meant that he was too ill to move. Gramsci died on 27 April 1937, at the age of 46. His ashes are buried in the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome.

Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view develops a hegemonic culture using ideology over and above violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.

Gramsci’s key point, as far as I am concerned, is that Marx’s conviction that the revolution of the working class against capitalism was an inevitable result of the forces of economic determinism, was in error. He believed that an intellectual revolution was an important precursor of social/economic revolution. To counter the notion that bourgeois values represented “natural” or “normal” values for society, the working class needed to develop a culture of its own. Lenin held that culture was “ancillary” to political objectives, but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. In Gramsci’s view, a class cannot dominate in modern conditions by merely advancing its own narrow economic interests; neither can it dominate purely through force and coercion. Rather, it must exert intellectual and moral leadership.

In my oh-so-humble opinion, Gramsci hit the nail squarely on the head, especially in light of affairs in the West these days. Without too much provocation I could launch into a long rant. I’ll try to keep it short. Right now, moneyed interests control the media which means that they control the discourse. Media do not just include news outlets, but also entertainment. All these outlets reinforce the “normal” values of society, which at present include a distrust of intellectuals, and a distrust of education. Consequently, information that benefits moneyed interests – including misinformation and disinformation – can be disseminated with little or no critical reception by the general public.

Gramsci’s native Sardinia has a cuisine that overlaps that of mainland Italy, but with a few idiosyncrasies. One of these is a distinctive pasta called fregola or fregula. Fregola are semolina dough that has been rolled into balls 2–3 mm in diameter and toasted in an oven. Fregola with clams is a common dish in Sardinia. It is usually served with pane carasau, a thin and crisp flatbread.

Fregola con Vongole

Ingredients

4 dozen littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups tomato, diced (either canned or fresh plum tomatoes)
hot red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 cup white wine
coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups fregola

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot.  Add the minced garlic and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 30 seconds.  Add the chopped tomatoes, plus hot pepper flakes and pepper to taste.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the wine and parsley and simmer for 5 for minutes.

Place the clams, in a single layer, on top of the mixture and cover tightly. Cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, probably about 5 mins.  Discard any clams that do not open.  As they open, scoop out the clams into a large bowl.  Repeat with a second batch, if required.

When all the clams are cooked, add 4 cups of chicken broth to the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add the fregola pasta.  Bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 15 minutes).

Taste, and adjust seasonings. Usually extra salt is not necessary. Return the clams to reheat for a minute or two, then serve garnished with chopped parsley. If you can find it, serve with Sardinian flatbread.

Oct 162017
 

Today is the birthday (1758) of Noah Webster Jr., whose name is synonymous with “dictionary” in the United States, and who was a significant force both in primary education and in the development of what is now called American English. Many of the spellings now current in the US came from Webster’s crusade to simplify the complexities of British orthography, and also to distance the US from British habits.

Webster was born in the Western Division of Hartford (which became West Hartford, Connecticut), to an established family. His father Noah Sr. (1722–1813) was a descendant of Connecticut Governor John Webster; his mother Mercy (Steele) Webster (1727–1794) was a descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony. His father was primarily a farmer, though he was also deacon of the local Congregational church, captain of the town’s militia, and a founder of a local book society (a precursor to the public library). After US independence, he was appointed a justice of the peace.

Webster’s father never attended college, but he was intellectually curious and prized education. Webster’s mother spent long hours teaching her children spelling, mathematics, and music. At age 6, Webster began attending a dilapidated one-room primary school built by West Hartford’s Ecclesiastical Society. Years later, he described the teachers as the “dregs of humanity” and complained that the instruction was mainly in religion. Webster’s experiences there motivated him to improve the educational experience of future generations.

At age 14, his church pastor began tutoring him in Latin and Greek to prepare him for entering Yale College. Webster enrolled at Yale just before his 16th birthday, studying during his senior year with Ezra Stiles, Yale’s president. His 4 years at Yale overlapped the American Revolutionary War, and Webster served in the Connecticut Militia. His father had mortgaged the farm to send Webster to Yale, but he was now on his own and had nothing more to do with his family.

Webster lacked career plans after graduating from Yale in 1778, later writing that a liberal arts education “disqualifies a man for business.” He taught school briefly in Glastonbury, but the working conditions were harsh and the pay low. He quit to study law. While studying law under future U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, Webster also taught full-time in Hartford—which was grueling, and ultimately impossible to continue. He stopped studying law for a year and lapsed into a depression. But eventually he found another practicing attorney to tutor him. He completed his studies and passed the bar examination in 1781. He could not find work as a lawyer, but after receiving a master’s degree from Yale by giving an oral dissertation to the Yale graduating class, he opened a small private school in western Connecticut that was a success. Nevertheless, he soon closed it and left town, probably because of a failed romance.

Turning to literary work as a way to overcome his losses and channel his ambitions, he began writing a series of well-received articles for a prominent New England newspaper justifying and praising the Revolution and arguing that the separation from Britain had to be permanent. He then founded a private school catering to wealthy parents in Goshen, New York and, by 1785, he had written his Speller, a grammar book and a reader for elementary schools. Proceeds from continuing sales of the popular “Blue-Backed Speller” enabled Webster to spend many years working on his dictionary.

Webster saw his Speller and Dictionary as providing an intellectual foundation for American nationalism. As a teacher, he had come to dislike American elementary schools. They could be overcrowded, with up to 70 children of all ages crammed into one-room schoolhouses. They had poor, underpaid staff, no desks, and unsatisfactory textbooks that came from England. Webster thought that US students should learn from US books, so he began writing the three-volume compendium A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The work consisted of a Speller (published in 1783), a Grammar (published in 1784), and a Reader (published in 1785). His goal was to provide a uniquely “American” approach to training children. His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue “our native tongue” from “the clamour of pedantry” that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation. He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling and pronunciation. Webster rejected the notion that the study of Greek and Latin must precede the study of English grammar. The appropriate standard for the American language, argued Webster, was “the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions.” This meant that the people-at-large must control the language; popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.

The Speller was arranged so that it was easy to teach to students, and it progressed by age. From his own experiences as a teacher, Webster thought that the Speller should be simple and give an orderly presentation of words and the rules of spelling and pronunciation. He believed that students learned most readily when he broke a complex problem into its component parts and had each pupil master one part before moving to the next. It has been argued that Webster anticipated some of the insights currently associated with Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, although his inspiration on the matter came from Rousseau. Webster argued that children pass through distinctive learning phases in which they master increasingly complex or abstract tasks. Therefore, teachers must not try to teach a 3 year old how to read, but start at age 5. He organized his Speller accordingly, beginning with the alphabet and moving systematically through the different sounds of vowels and consonants, then syllables, then simple words, then more complex words, then sentences.

The Speller was originally titled The First Part of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Over the course of 385 editions in his lifetime, the title was changed in 1786 to The American Spelling Book, and again in 1829 to The Elementary Spelling Book. Most people called it the “Blue-Backed Speller” because of its blue cover and, for the next 100 years, Webster’s book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular American book of its time; by 1837, it had sold 15 million copies, and 60 million by 1890—reaching the majority of young students in the nation’s first century. Its royalty of a half-cent per copy was enough to sustain Webster in his other projects. It also helped create the popular contests known as spelling bees.

Webster’s Speller was entirely secular by design, undoubtedly based on his dissatisfaction with his own schooling. There was no mention of God, the Bible, or sacred events. “Let sacred things be appropriated for sacred purposes,” he wrote. He was intensely religious, especially later in life, but sacred and secular were different realms for him.

Webster’s educational agenda concerned as much the creation of a unified American national culture that would stave off the decline of republican virtues and solidarity, as instilling good grammar and spelling. Following theorists such as Maupertuis, Michaelis, and Herder, Webster believed that a nation’s linguistic forms, and the thoughts correlated with them, shaped individuals’ behavior. Thus, the etymological clarification and reform of American English promised to improve citizens’ manners and thereby preserve republican purity and social stability. Lofty ideals !!

In 1806, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language. It took 26 years to complete. Webster hoped to standardize US speech, since citizens in different parts of the country used different dialects and languages. Consequently they spelled, pronounced, and used English words differently.

Webster completed his dictionary during a year abroad in January 1825 in a boarding house in Cambridge in England. The book contained 70,000 words, of which 12,000 had never appeared in a published dictionary before. As a spelling reformer, Webster preferred spellings that matched pronunciation. The spellings that now are characteristic of American English did not originate with Webster, but he made them standard and his dictionary became the general arbiter in the US. For example, the middle of something could be the “center” or “centre” in English; Webster made the former his preferred spelling because it emphasized pronunciation over etymology (which he considered pedantically British). He was able to make headway by replacing /-our/ with /-or/ (e.g. “color” over “colour”) and eliminating some double consonants (e.g. “traveled” for “travelled”); but he found little success with more radical changes (e.g. “tung” for “tongue”); and no luck with getting rid of silent letters whatsoever.   He once complained:

There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, stil exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proov that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.

Though it now has an honored place in the history of American English, Webster’s first dictionary sold only 2,500 copies. He was forced to mortgage his home to develop a second edition, and his life from then on was plagued with debt. The work was so poorly received at first because Webster, as was his wont in everyday life, managed to annoy everyone. Culturally conservative Jeffersonian Federalists (whom he allied with much of the time) denounced the work as radical—too inclusive in its lexicon and even bordering on vulgar, while his old foes, the Republicans, attacked the man, labeling him mad for such an undertaking. Even before he published the dictionary they called him “a pusillanimous, half-begotten, self-dubbed patriot,” “an incurable lunatic,” and “a deceitful newsmonger … Pedagogue and Quack.” But even Federalist rivals called him “a toad in the service of sans-cullottism,” “a prostitute wretch,” “a great fool, and a barefaced liar,” “a spiteful viper,” and “a maniacal pedant.” He certainly knew how to get up people’s noses.

On the other side of the coin, Emily Dickinson saw the 1844 Webster’s as essential reading. She once commented that the “Lexicon” was her “only companion” for years. As it happens, Webster was one of the founders of Amherst college along with Dickinson’s grandfather, and she went to college with Webster’s granddaughter.  Webster’s dictionaries helped redefine US national identity in an era of extreme cultural flexibility. Webster himself saw the dictionaries as a nationalizing device to separate the US from Britain, calling his project a “federal language” endeavor, with competing forces towards regularity on the one hand and innovation on the other.

American Cookery The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables etc (1796) by Amelia Simmons is a good source for a recipe for today’s anniversary because it was the first cookbook published in the US that deals with specifically American cooking, and because it was published in Hartford, Connecticut, Webster’s home town. Webster kept a daily diary but he does not mention food much. However, he does give this entry:

1784, September 29. Rode to West Division with Mrs. Fish to buy peaches. Returned and had dinner at Mr. Pratt’s. We ate Sea-Turtle.

I don’t know how the turtle was cooked, nor do I want to cook one myself, but here’s a recipe from Simmons.

To Dress a Turtle.

Fill a boiler or kettle, with a quantity of water sufficient to scald the callapach and Callapee, the fins, &c. and about 9 o’clock hang up your Turtle by the hind fins, cut of the head and save the blood, take a sharp pointed knife and separate the callapach from the callapee, or the back from the belly part, down to the shoulders, so as to come at the entrails which take out, and clean them, as you would those of any other animal, and throw them into a tub of clean water, taking great care not to break the gall, but to cut it off from the liver and throw it away, then separate each distinctly and put the guts into another vessel, open them with a small pen-knife end to end, wash them clean, and draw them through a woolen cloth, in warm water, to clear away the slime and then put them in clean cold water till they are used with the other part of the entrails, which must be cut up small to be mixed in the baking dishes with the meat; this done, separate the back and belly pieces, entirely cutting away the fore fins by the upper joint, which scald; peal off the loose skin and cut them into small pieces, laying them by themselves, either in another vessel, or on the table, ready to be seasoned; then cut off the meat from the belly part, and clean the back from the lungs, kidneys, &c. and that meat cut into pieces as small as a walnut, laying it likewise by itself; after this you are to scald the back, and belly pieces, pulling off the shell from the back, and the yellow skin from the belly, when all will be white and clean, and with the kitchen cleaver cut those up likewise into pieces about the bigness or breadth of a card; put those pieces into clean cold water, wash them and place them in a heap on the table, so that each part may lay by itself; the meat being thus prepared and laid separate for seasoning; mix two third parts of salt or rather more, and one third part of cyanne pepper, black pepper, and a nutmeg, and mace pounded fine, and mixt all together; the quantity, to be proportioned to the size of the Turtle, so that in each dish there may be about three spoonfuls of seasoning to every twelve pound of meat; your meat being thus seasoned, get some sweet herbs, such as thyme, savory, &c. let them be dryed an rub’d fine, and having provided some deep dishes to bake it in, which should be of the common brown ware, put in the coarsest part of the meat, put a quarter pound of butter at the bottom of each dish, and then put some of each of the several parcels of meat, so that the dishes may be all alike and have equal portions of the different parts of the Turtle, and between each laying of meat strew a little of the mixture of sweet herbs, fill your dishes within an inch an half, or two inches of the top; boil the blood of the Turtle, and put into it, then lay on forcemeat balls made of veal, highly seasoned with the same seasoning as the Turtle; put in each dish a gill of Madeira Wine, and as much water as it will conveniently hold, then break over it five or six eggs to keep the meat from scorching at the top, and over that shake a handful of shread parsley, to make it look green, when done put your dishes into an oven made hot enough to bake bread, and in an hour and half, or two hours (according to the size of the dishes) it will be sufficiently done.

Feb 212017
 

On this date in 1848 The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was first published (in German) in London. It is a much misunderstood document, as is much of Marx’s work in general. I don’t have the space here, nor time, to redress all the misunderstandings, but I’ll make a start. The Manifesto was itself written to correct misunderstandings of what communism is/was, but it was itself misinterpreted badly by European revolutionaries and in points beyond. Marx was not envisaging dictators such as Stalin and Mao, but that’s the model of Marxism that has stuck in the general consciousness in the West, largely as a result of the Cold War.  Marx was addressing the radical divide between the people with all the money (hence power) and the rest of the population that was the model in his day in Europe, and which continues unabated. In my opinion his analysis of the situation (then and now) is generally sound, but his historical analysis is not.  The most important misunderstanding is of the world Marx envisaged – not the oppressive regimes of the likes of 20th century Russia and China, but a world in which the common people (proletariat) were not controlled, mind and soul, by the desires of an oligarchy of very few, very rich people (bourgeoisie), but, instead, controlled their own destinies.

I should probably start with a critique of Marx (and Engels) to demonstrate that I am not some kind of doctrinaire Marxist myself. Marx wrote in an era when very general ideas of the evolution of things were just beginning to catch hold, undoubtedly because Europe was radically changing under the pressures of the Industrial Revolution. A world that had seen precious little in the way of technological change for almost a thousand years was gripped by rapid and constant change and this had an effect on the intellectual world because change was in the air. The Grimms, for example, developed hypotheses concerning the evolution of languages, Lewis Henry Morgan proposed a theory of cultural evolution, and, of course, Darwin was interested in biological evolution. Marx stepped in with his own theory of historical evolution. My “simple” task here will be to try to separate the wheat from the chaff in Marx’s thinking, and will, obviously, end up being simplistic.

Where Marx has proven to be most blatantly wrong is in his hypothesis that capitalism would collapse of its own weight. Over 150 years later it is still going strong, the ultra-rich still hold all the power, and there’s no sign of collapse even though the disparity between rich and the rest is, if anything, greater than it was in Marx’s time in developed countries. The two major countries where a simulacrum of Marx’s ideas led to violent revolution in the 20th century, Russia and China, were not capitalist cultures at the time of their revolutions, but experiencing the last vestiges of feudalism that were ripe to be overturned — and have since adopted capitalist ideals on a large scale (including the huge disparities between the rich and the rest).

What cannot be denied is that the vast majority of people living in contemporary capitalist cultures are, by and large, comfortable. Of course they are exploited and controlled by a tiny minority of very rich people, but their lives are comfortable enough that they are hesitant to seek change, and so they continue as is. We still have plenty of poor people living in horrendous conditions but the Western world does not look like the Victorian London or Manchester of Marx’s day. The bulk of the electorate in Western democracies have food on the table, drive cars, have stable (if tedious) jobs, and aspire to owning their own homes. They have the time and money to go on vacation to exotic places, and they wear decent clothes. Discontent these days centers on the evident slowing of what was once a steady improvement in these comforts, not in the system itself.  Hence the capitalist system will endure unscathed through the rest of my lifetime and beyond. I have no idea what will cause its ultimate demise, but it will end – one day.

1848 was the “Year of Revolutions” in Europe. No country emerged untouched, although not all participated in overt revolution. Marx certainly contributed to the general revolutionary fervor with the Manifesto. But the revolutions were fueled by a lot of forces, notably nationalism, apart from the desire for social change.  Marx’s rhetoric was inserted into the revolutions, but socialism of a different sort, led by social philosophers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, and Robert Owen, was also on the horizon, leading in a different, non violent, direction.  They were called “Utopian Socialists” by detractors (including Marxists) because their visions were viewed as naïve.  What is frequently missed is that Marx’s socialist aims were the same as theirs, only the vision of the methods of achieving it was different.

Beneath the revolutionary rhetoric Marx was a humanist. If you read his works prior to the Manifesto  you get a much clearer sense of his underlying humanistic social philosophy. He imagined a post-capitalist world in which farmers collectively owned the farms, workers collectively owned factories, and so forth, and they would inevitably benefit because they would keep all the profits and make all the decisions. We can argue about the validity of this hypothesis, but there is no question that Marx envisaged a brighter world for everyone when the workers were the masters. He did not imagine Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. Perhaps he should have. Revolution from the bottom up begets tyrants.  Marx should have known this; the French Revolution produced Napoleon. The American Revolution was different because it was not from the bottom up, but from the top down. The first rebels in the North American colonies were the rich who wanted less taxation and less regulation on their businesses (times don’t change much !!).

Marx was spot on when he pointed out that capitalism commodifies labor so that workers see themselves in terms of their earning power rather than in terms of their inherent human (and individual) traits. Workers thus take less pride in their work and more in their pay check. Work becomes a means to an end (house, car, vacations, etc) rather than an end in itself. In consequence all other social activities, such as education, are judged in terms of their ability to increase earning power and not for their intrinsic merits. I’m absolutely sick and tired of reading article upon article that charts the universities with the graduates who earn the most, the college majors with the best earnings potential, and the careers with the highest salaries.  So what????  I became an anthropologist, a teacher, and a writer because I love doing that work. I can look back on a long career with pride and happiness because my jobs have made me happy, not because I have stacked away piles of money. My riposte to the ages old barbed question, “If you are so smart why aren’t you rich?” is simple. “I am not rich because I am smart; I have other goals in life.”

I am not a doctrinaire Marxist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am enough of a Marxist to believe that people should live in a society where they are free to choose their own destinies, and not shackled by the dictates of the system.

Some apt quotes from the Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.

The bourgeoisie . . . has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The proletarians have nothing to loose but their chains. They have a world to win.

 

I’ve never wanted to be a chef because I’ve never wanted to debase my cooking via the profit motive.  I cook because I love to cook – end of story.  I hope this blog makes that point loud and clear. Today of all days you should cook something that you most love to cook, and cook with passion – not with an eye to time, cost, or any other variable other than devotion to the task itself. That means that you should choose today what recipe best suits you.  You are the master. For lunch today I had braised rabbit with wild mushrooms in a sauce seasoned with red pepper, garlic, onions, allspice, and ginger, with boiled new potatoes and broad beans on the side.  I’m not going to give you a recipe because (a) I invented the dish as I went along, and (b) today is your day to cook what you choose, not what I have decided for you. My braised rabbit took me 2 days to prepare because I like my dishes to rest overnight when they have complex sauces. I loved the preparation – and it was delicious.

Here’s a small gallery of things I have cooked recently.  In each case I cooked what I wanted without any recipe, just following my heart’s pleasure:

Mar 152016
 

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The Hungarian revolution against the Habsburg monarchy and the Austrian empire began on this date in 1848.The date is now a major national holiday in Hungary. The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was one of the many European Revolutions of 1848, and closely linked to other revolutions of the time against Habsburg rulers. The revolution in the kingdom of Hungary grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire which was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

The kingdom of Hungary had always maintained a separate parliament, the Diet of Hungary, even after the Austrian Empire was created in 1804. The administration and government of the kingdom of Hungary (until 1848) remained largely untouched by the government structure of the overarching Austrian Empire. Hungary’s central government structures remained well separated from the imperial government. The country was governed by the Council of Lieutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium), located first in Pressburg and later in Pest (now a constituent part of Budapest), and by the Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna.

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By the 1820s the Diet of Hungary had not convened since 1811. The frequent diets held in the early years were occupied with war subsidies and little else. After 1811 they ceased to be summoned. In the latter years of Francis I, Metternich’s iron policy of “stability” was paramount in Hungary, and the forces of reactionary absolutism were completely dominant. But beneath the surface, a strong popular current was beginning to run in a contrary direction. Hungarian society, affected by western Liberalism, but without any direct help from abroad, was gearing up for emancipation. Writers, poets, artists, noble and plebeian, layman and cleric, without any previous connexion, were working towards that ideal of political liberty which was to unite all the Magyars (ethnic majority). Mihály Vörösmarty, Ferenc Kölcsey, Ferencz Kazinczy, and many others were, consciously or unconsciously, as the representatives of the renascent national literature, accomplishing a political mission with the pen, where their ancestors had used the sword. The pen was a supremely effective weapon.

In 1825, Emperor Francis II convened the Diet in response to growing concerns amongst the Hungarian nobility about taxes and the diminishing economy, after the Napoleonic wars. This – and the reaction to the reforms of Joseph II – started what is known as the Reform Period (reformkor). But the Nobles still retained their privileges of paying no taxes and not giving the vote to the masses. Hungarian politician Count István Széchenyi recognized the need to bring the country in line with the more developed West European countries, such as Britain – where political reform and industrialism were beginning to crank up.

There had begun in Hungary a movement which, according to István Széchenyi, “startled the nation out of its sickly drowsiness”. In 1823, when the reactionary powers were considering joint action to suppress revolution in Spain, the government, without consulting the diet, imposed a war-tax and called out the recruits. The county assemblies instantly protested against this illegal act, and Francis I was obliged, at the diet of 1823, to repudiate the action of his ministers. But the estates felt that the maintenance of their liberties demanded more substantial guarantees than the largely obsolete ancient laws still in force. Széchenyi, who had lived abroad and studied Western institutions, was the recognized leader of all those who wished to create a new Hungary out of the old. For years he and his friends educated public opinion by issuing innumerable pamphlets in which the new Liberalism was eloquently expounded. In particular Széchenyi insisted that the people must not look exclusively to the government, or even to the diet, for the necessary reforms. Society itself must take the initiative by breaking down the barriers of class exclusiveness and reviving a healthy public spirit. The effect of this teaching was manifest at the diet of 1832, when the Liberals in the Lower Chamber had a large majority, prominent among whom were Ferenc Deák and Ödön Beothy. In the Upper House, however, the magnates united with the government to form a conservative party obstinately opposed to any project of reform, which frustrated all the efforts of the Liberals.

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The alarm of the government at the power and popularity of the Liberal party induced it, soon after the accession of the new king, the emperor Ferdinand I (1835–1848), to attempt to crush the reform movement by arresting and imprisoning the most active agitators among them, Louis Kossuth and Miklos Wesselenyi. But the nation was no longer to be cowed. The diet of 1839 refused to proceed to business until the political prisoners had been released, and, while in the Lower Chamber the reforming majority was larger than ever, a Liberal party was now also formed in the Upper House under the leadership of Count Louis Batthyány and Baron Joseph Eotvos. From 1000 to 1844, Latin was the official language of administration, legislation and schooling in Hungary. Two progressive measures of the highest importance were passed by this diet, one making Magyar the official language of Hungary, the other freeing the peasants’ holdings from all feudal obligations.

The results of the diet of 1839 did not satisfy the advanced Liberals, while the opposition of the government and of the Upper House still further fueled the general discontent. The chief exponent of this temper was Pesti Hirlap, Hungary’s first political newspaper, founded in 1841 by Kossuth, whose articles, advocating armed reprisals if necessary, inflamed the extremists but alienated Széchenyi, who openly attacked Kossuth’s opinions. The polemic on both sides was violent,and on the assembling of the diet of 1843 Kossuth was more popular than ever, while the influence of Széchenyi had declined. The tone of this diet was passionate, and the government was fiercely attacked for interfering with the elections. Fresh triumphs were won by the Liberals. Magyar was now declared to be the language of the schools and the law-courts as well as of the legislature; mixed marriages were legalized; and official positions were thrown open to non-nobles.

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The interval between the diet of 1843 and that of 1847 saw a complete disintegration and transformation of the various political parties. Széchenyi openly joined the government, while the moderate Liberals separated from the extremists and formed a new party, the Centralists. Immediately before the elections, however, Deák succeeded in reuniting all the Liberals on the common platform of “The Ten Points”.

  1. Responsible ministries,
  2. Freedom of the Press
  3. Popular representation (by parliamentary elections),
  4. The reincorporation of Transylvania,
  5. Right of public meeting, (Freedom of assembly and freedom of association)
  6. Absolute religious liberty, the abolition of the (Catholic) State Religion,
  7. Universal equality before the law,
  8. Universal and equal taxation, (abolition of the tax exemption of the aristocracy)
  9. The abolition of the Aviticum, an obsolete and anomalous land-tenure,
  10. The abolition of serfdom and bond service, with state financed compensation to the landlords.

The ensuing parliamentary elections resulted in a complete victory of the Progressives. All efforts to bring about an understanding between the government and the opposition were fruitless. Kossuth demanded not merely the redress of actual grievances, but a liberal reform which would make such grievances impossible in the future. In the highest circles a dissolution of the diet now seemed to be the sole remedy. But, before it could be carried out, news of the February revolution in Paris reached Pressburg on the 1st of March, and on the 3rd of March Kossuth’s motion for the appointment of an independent, responsible ministry was accepted by the Lower House. The moderates, alarmed not so much by the motion itself as by its tone, again tried to intervene. But on the 13th of March the Vienna revolution broke out, and the Emperor, yielding to pressure or panic, appointed Count Louis Batthyány premier of the first Hungarian responsible ministry, which included Kossuth, Széchenyi and Deák.

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The Hungarian revolution started in the Pilvax coffee palace at Pest, which was a favorite meeting point of the young extra-parliamentary radical liberal intellectuals in the 1840s. On the morning of March 15, 1848, revolutionaries marched around the city of Pest, reading Sándor Petőfi’s Nemzeti dal (National Song) and the 12 points (expansion of the 10 points) to the crowd (which swelled to thousands). Declaring an end to all forms of censorship, they visited the printing presses of Landerer and Heckenast and printed Petőfi’s poem together with the demands. A mass demonstration was held in front of the newly built National Museum, after which the group left for the Buda Chancellery (the Office of the Governor-General) on the other bank of the Danube. The bloodless mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda forced the Imperial governor to accept the people’s demands. Thus the war for independence began.

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I suggest the dish fatányéros to celebrate. It is a classic Hungarian festive dish originally from Transylvania. When I was last in Budapest with friends, two of them ordered fatányéros at a restaurant for lunch. It looked innocent enough – “Transylvanian meat platter for 2.” When it came we all fell on the floor laughing. It was gigantic – enough meat for 6, at least. The selection of meats for a fatányéros can vary tremendously according to tastes, wallet, and season. Best simple translation is “mixed grill.” It should be served on a wooden platter, and is most festive and communal if the meats are whole with a large ornamented knife stuck in the biggest piece.

A good platter will include grilled veal, beefsteak, and pork cutlets, with a goose liver and some bacon. It is normal to add fried potatoes, thickly sliced, to the platter, and either a mixed salad on the side or a garnish of lettuce and tomatoes.

Oct 192015
 

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Today is the anniversary of the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781 which ended the Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, or the German Battle. This was a decisive victory by a combined force of American Continental Army troops led by General George Washington and French Army troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by British lord and Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. The siege proved to be the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War in the North American theater, as the surrender by Cornwallis, and the capture of both him and his army, prompted the British government to negotiate an end to the conflict. The battle boosted faltering American morale and revived French enthusiasm for the war, as well as undermining popular support for the conflict in Great Britain.

This date is not especially noted in the United States where 4th July 1776 and the Declaration of Independence are considered symbolically much more important for the nation than the ending of the war. The fact that the actual declaration was no more than a hollow gesture until the war had been won never comes up. History is written in hindsight. If the surrender at Yorktown had not occurred and the Revolutionary War had been won by the British, 4th July would not now be celebrated. Yet, also in hindsight, today’s date is of critical importance to U.S. history.

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In 1780, 5,500 French soldiers landed in Rhode Island to assist their American allies in operations against British-controlled New York City. Following the arrival of dispatches from France that included the possibility of support from the French West Indies fleet of the Comte de Grasse, Washington and Rochambeau decided to ask de Grasse for assistance either in besieging New York, or in military operations against a British army operating in Virginia. On the advice of Rochambeau, de Grasse informed them of his intent to sail to the Chesapeake Bay, where Cornwallis had taken command of the army. Cornwallis, at first given confusing orders by his superior officer, Henry Clinton, was eventually ordered to make a defensible deep-water port, which he began to do at Yorktown, Virginia. Cornwallis’ movements in Virginia were shadowed by a Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette.

The French and American armies united north of New York City during the summer of 1781. When word of de Grasse’s decision arrived, the combined armies began moving south toward Virginia, engaging in tactics of deception to lead the British to believe a siege of New York was planned. De Grasse sailed from the West Indies and arrived at the Chesapeake Bay at the end of August, bringing additional troops and providing a naval blockade of Yorktown. He was transporting 500,000 silver pesos collected from the citizens of Havana, Cuba, to fund supplies for the siege and payroll for the Continental Army. While in Santo Domingo, de Grasse met with Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, an agent of Carlos III of Spain. De Grasse had planned to leave several of his warships in Santo Domingo. Saavedra promised the assistance of the Spanish navy to protect the French merchant fleet, enabling de Grasse to sail north with all of his warships. In the beginning of September, he defeated a British fleet led by Sir Thomas Graves that came to relieve Cornwallis at the Battle of the Chesapeake. As a result of this victory, de Grasse blocked any escape by sea for Cornwallis. By late September Washington and Rochambeau arrived, and the army and naval forces completely surrounded Cornwallis.

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After initial preparations, the Americans and French built their first parallel and began the bombardment. With the British defense weakened, Washington on October 14, 1781 sent two columns to attack the last major remaining British outer defenses. A French column took redoubt #9 and an American column redoubt #10. With these defenses taken, the allies were able to finish their second parallel. With the American artillery closer and more intense than ever, the British situation began to deteriorate rapidly and Cornwallis asked for capitulation terms on the 17th. After two days of negotiation, the surrender ceremony took place on the 19th; Lord Cornwallis, claiming to be ill, was absent from the ceremony. With the capture of over 7,000 British soldiers, negotiations between the United States and Great Britain began, resulting in the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Yorktown was not the final armed conflict of the Revolutionary War. In the year between it and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, more American patriots died than in the first year of the Revolution.

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The Chesapeake Bay region where Yorktown is located is famous for seafood, particularly crabs. Here is an old recipe from Yorktown for crab soup, modified slightly for modern kitchens.

Yorktown Crab Soup

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
salt
½ tsp red pepper
½ tsp mace
½ tsp nutmeg
fresh parsley chopped (optional)
½ pint milk
2 cups crabmeat
¾ pint cream
¼ cup dry sherry

Instructions

Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler. Add the flour and whisk together to make a roux. Do not let the roux take on color.

Add the milk a little at a time whisking continuously until the milk and roux are well blended. Add the seasonings with salt to taste, and stir until thick and creamy.

Add the crabmeat and cream, and let the mixture heat through.

Add the sherry at the last minute and serve immediately in bowls with a parsley garnish if you wish.

Jul 232015
 

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Today is the birthday (1864) of Apolinario Mabini y Maranan, a Filipino revolutionary leader, educator, lawyer, and statesman who served as the first Prime Minister of the Philippines, serving first under the Revolutionary Government, and then under the First Philippine Republic. Mabini performed all his revolutionary and governmental activities despite having lost the use of both his legs to polio shortly before the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

Mabini’s role in Philippine history saw him confronting first Spanish Colonial Rule in the opening days of the Philippine Revolution, and then American colonial rule in the days of the Philippine–American War. The latter saw Mabini captured and exiled to Guam by American colonial authorities, allowed to return only two months before his eventual death in May, 1903.

I want to make a polemical point here before I continue. Among the many reasons I write this blog is to draw attention to people and events that don’t make it into standard Western textbooks. When I mention to people that I am Argentino, the most common response is to the effect that Argentina is good at football. Some sing a snatch from “Don’t cry for me Argentina” but they rarely know who Evita was or why she was important. The Philippines suffer the same fate on the international stage. Among other things the colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century by the Spanish played a vital role in Euro-Chinese relations for several hundred years. You’d never know this reading a Western history textbook.

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Mabini was born on July 23, 1864 in Barangay Talaga in Tanauan, Batangas. He was the second of eight children of Dionisia Maranan, a vendor in the Tanauan market, and Inocencio Mabini, an illiterate peasant. Mabini began informal studies under the guidance of Maestro Agustin Santiesteban III his mother (being illiterate does not make you stupid). Because he demonstrated uncommon intelligence, he was transferred to a regular school owned by Simplicio Avelino, where he worked as a houseboy, and also took odd jobs from a local tailor – all in exchange for board and lodging. He later transferred to a school conducted by Fray Valerio Malabanan, whose fame as an educator merited a mention in José Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo.

In 1881 Mabini received a scholarship to go to the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila. An anecdote about his stay there says that a professor decided to pick on him because his shabby clothing clearly showed he was poor. Mabini amazed the professor by answering a series of very difficult questions with ease. His studies at Letran were periodically interrupted by a chronic lack of funds, and he earned money for his board and lodging by teaching children.

Mabini’s mother had wanted him to take up the priesthood, but his desire to defend the poor made him decide to take up law instead.He wrote:

I am convinced that the true minister of God is not one who wears a cassock, but everyone who proclaims His glory by good works of service to the greatest possible number of His creatures.

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A year after receiving his Bachilles en Artes with highest honors and the title Professor of Latin from Letran, he moved on to the University of Santo Tomas, where he received his law degree in 1894.Comparing Mabini’s generation of Filipino intellectuals to the previous one of José Rizal and the other members of the propagandista movement, journalist and artist Nick Joaquin describes Mabini’s generation as the next iteration in the evolution of Filipino intellectual development:

Europe had been a necessary catalyst for the generation of Rizal. By the time of Mabini, the Filipino intellectual had advanced beyond the need for enlightenment abroad[….] The very point of Mabini’s accomplishment is that all his schooling, all his training, was done right here in his own country. The argument of Rizal’s generation was that Filipinos were not yet ready for self-government because they had too little education and could not aspire for more in their own country. The evidence of Mabini’s generation was that it could handle the affairs of government with only the education it had acquired locally. It no longer needed Europe; it had imbibed all it needed of Europe.

Mabini joined the Guild of Lawyers after graduation, but he did not choose to practice law in a professional capacity. He did not set up his own law office, and instead continued to work in the office of a notary public. Instead, Mabini put his knowledge of law to much use during the days of the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American war. Joaquin notes that all his contributions to Philippine history somehow involved the law:

His was a legal mind. He was interested in law as an idea, as an ideal[…] whenever he appears in our history he is arguing a question of legality.

Mabini joined the fraternity of Freemasonry in September 1892, affiliating with lodge Balagtas, and taking on the name “Katabay”. The following year, 1893, Mabini became a member of La Liga Filipina, which was being resuscitated after the arrest of its founder José Rizal in 1892. Mabini was made secretary of its new Supreme Council This was Mabini’s first time to join an explicitly patriotic organization.

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Mabini, who advocated for the reformist movement, pushed for the organization to continue its goals of supporting La Solidaridad and the reforms it advocated. When more revolutionary members of La Liga indicated that they did not think the reform movement was getting results and wanted to more openly support revolution, La Liga Filipina split into two factions: the moderate Cuerpo de Compromisarios, which wanted simply to continue to support the revolution, and the explicitly revolutionary Katipunan.

When José Rizal, part of La Liga Filipina, was executed in December that year, however, Mabini changed his mind and gave the revolution his wholehearted support. Mabini was struck by polio in 1895, and the disease gradually incapacitated him until January 1896, when he finally lost the use of both his legs. When the plans of the Katipunan were discovered by Spanish authorities, and the first active phase of the 1896 Philippine Revolution began in earnest, Mabini, still ill, was arrested along with numerous other members of La Liga.

Thirteen patriots arrested in Cavite were tried and eventually executed, earning them the title of “Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite”. José Rizal himself was accused of being party to the revolution, and would eventually be executed in December that year. When the Spanish authorities saw that Mabini was paralyzed, however, they decided to release him.

Sent to the hospital after his arrest, Mabini remained in ill health for a considerable time. He was seeking the curative properties of the hot springs in Los Baños, Laguna in 1898 when Emilio Aguinaldo sent for him, asking him to serve as advisor to the revolution. During this convalescent period, Mabini wrote the pamphlets “El Verdadero Decalogo” and “Ordenanzas de la Revolucion.” Aguinaldo was impressed by these works and by Mabini’s role as a leading figure in La Liga Filipina, and made arrangements for Mabini to be brought from Los Baños to Kawit, Cavite. It took hundreds of men taking turns carrying his hammock to portage Mabini to Kawit.

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He continued to serve as the chief adviser for General Aguinaldo after the Philippine Declaration of Independence on June 12. He drafted decrees and edited the first ever constitution in Asia (the Malolos Constitution) for the First Philippine Republic, including the framework of the revolutionary government which was implemented in Malolos in 1899.

Mabini was appointed prime minister and was also foreign minister of the newly independent dictatorial government of Aguinaldo on January 2, 1899. Eventually, the government declared the first Philippine republic in appropriate ceremonies on January 23, 1899. Mabini then led the first cabinet of the republic.

Mabini found himself in the center of the most critical period in the new country’s history, grappling with problems until then unimagined. Most notable of these were his negotiations with the United States, which began on March 6, 1899. The United States and the Philippine Republic were embroiled in extremely contentious and eventually violent confrontations. During the negotiations for peace, the U.S. offered Mabini autonomy for Aguinaldo’s new government, but the talks failed because Mabini’s conditions included a ceasefire, which was rejected. Mabini negotiated once again, seeking for an armistice instead, but the talks failed yet again. Eventually, feeling that the Americans were not negotiating in good faith, he forswore the Americans and supported war. He resigned from government on May 7, 1899.

The Philippine–American War saw Mabini taken more seriously as a threat by the Americans than he was under the Spanish: F. Sionil José writes:

The Spaniards underestimated Mabini primarily because he was a cripple. Had they known of his intellectual perspicacity, they would have killed him earlier. The Americans did not. They were aware of his superior intelligence, his tenacity when he faced them in negotiations for autonomy and ceasefire.

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On December 10, 1899, he was captured by U.S. troops at Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, but granted leave to meet with W.H. Taft.In 1901, he was exiled to Guam, along with scores of revolutionaries, whom Americans referred to as ‘insurrectos’ and who refused to swear fealty to imperialist America. When Brig. Gen. Arthur C. MacArthur, Jr. was asked by the U.S. Senate to explain why Mabini had to be deported, he cabled:

Mabini deported: a most active agitator; persistently and defiantly refusing amnesty, and maintaining correspondence with insurgents in the field while living in Manila, Luzon.

Mabini returned home to the Philippines in February 1903 after agreeing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States on February 26, 1903 before the Collector of Customs. On the day he sailed, he issued this statement to the press:

After two long years I am returning, so to speak, completely disoriented and, what is worse, almost overcome by disease and sufferings. Nevertheless, I hope, after some time of rest and study, still to be of some use, unless I have returned to the Islands for the sole purpose of dying.

To the chagrin of the American colonial officials, however, Mabini resumed his work of agitating for independence for the Philippines soon after he was back home from exile. Not long after his return, Mabini died of cholera in Manila on May 13, 1903 at the age of 38.  He is often known now by two epithets — The Brains of the Revolution and The Sublime Paralytic.

Rice is a staple in the Philippines, of course, and I have chosen sinangag (garlic fried rice) as my recipe du jour for several reasons. First because I am a big fan of properly cooked fried rice (which I get in abundance at street stalls in China). Second, because it is, among other things, a cheap peasant dish indicative of Mabini’s roots. Third, because I like garlic. In fact, just today I bought 50 cloves of peeled garlic (for about 50 cents) and have been chucking it in everything. You are best using non-sticky long grained rice, jasmine rice is excellent, that was cooked the day before. Sinangag is often served as a breakfast dish, either on its own or with some meat and vegetables. It can also be used as a side dish for regular meals. Kissing immediately afterwards is not recommended.

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Sinangag

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok over medium-low heat.

Add 10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, and cook slowly. If the oil is too hot the garlic will become bitter. Let it sauté, stirring now and again, until it is golden brown.

Turn up the heat and add 4 cups of day-old, cooked rice. Fry stirring constantly until the rice is heated through and the garlic flavored oil has coated the rice grains.

Serve immediately.