Days Into Which 20 Years Are Compressed

Vladimir Lenin? Karl Marx? Louis C. Fraina? Homero Aridjis? Carlos Fuentes? Saint Peter? George Galloway? Liz Smith? Steve Bannon? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many societal changes do not follow smooth trajectories. Instead, change occurs via irregular starts and stops. Here are two versions of this notion:

  • There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.
  • There are centuries in which nothing happens and years in which centuries pass.

The first saying has been ascribed to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, but I am skeptical because I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Vladimir Lenin died in 1924; however, the earliest citation located by QI that attributed the remark to him appeared in 2001. This long delay greatly reduced the credibility of the ascription to Lenin.

A biblical precursor mentioning the compression and decompression of time appeared in the second epistle of St. Peter. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (New International Version)

Karl Marx wrote a letter dated April 9, 1863 that included a passage expressing a similar idea in which the changes occurring during twenty years were compressed into days. The following English translation was published in 1985: 2

How soon the English workers will throw off what seems to be a bourgeois contagion remains to be seen. So far as the main theses in your book are concerned, by the by, they have been corroborated down to the very last detail by developments subsequent to 1844. For I have again been comparing the book with the notes I made on the ensuing period. Only your small-minded German philistine who measures world history by the ell and by what he happens to think are ‘interesting news items’, could regard 20 years as more than a day where major developments of this kind are concerned, though these may be again succeeded by days into which 20 years are compressed.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Days Into Which 20 Years Are Compressed

Notes:

  1. Website: BibleHub, Second Epistle of Peter, 2 Peter 3. Lines 8 and 9, Translation: New International Version (NIV), Website description: Online Bible Study Suite; Bible Hub is a production of the Online Parallel Bible Project. (Accessed BibleHub.com on August 7, 2019) link
  2. 1985, Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 41: Marx and Engels: 1860-64, Letter Number: 281, Description: From Marx to Engels in Manchester, Date: April 9, 1863, Start Page 466, Quote Page 468, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Russia. (Verified with scans from Internet Archive)

The Capitalists Will Sell Us the Rope with Which We Will Hang Them

Vladimir Lenin? Joseph Stalin? Karl Marx? George Racey Jordan? Samuel E. Keeble? S. Dmitrijewski? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A quotation about imprudent greed and near-sightedness has been attributed to three prominent communists: Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. Here are three versions of the statement:

  • The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.
  • When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope.
  • The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in 1955 within a periodical called “The Commonwealth: Official Journal of the Commonwealth Club of California”. The club is a non-profit public affairs organization. The quotation appeared as a filler item. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Lenin wrote, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.”
—Major George Racey Jordan

Jordan was a U.S. military officer who became a fierce anti-communist. Lenin had died in 1924; hence, the 1955 date was quite late. No documentary source was specified, and multiple researchers have been unable to find a match in Lenin’s writings. The Congressional Research Service did report a thematically pertinent passage ascribed to Lenin. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Capitalists Will Sell Us the Rope with Which We Will Hang Them

Notes:

  1. 1955 October 31, The Commonwealth: Official Journal of the Commonwealth Club of California, Volume 31, Number 44, (Freestanding quotation), Page 268, Column 2, Published by Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, California. (Verified with scans; thanks to John McChesney-Young and the University of California, Berkeley library system)

There Is No God, and Harriet Martineau Is His Prophet

Prophet: Harriet Martineau? William Tweed? John Tyndall? Auguste Comte? Robert G. Ingersoll? Karl Marx? Charles Darwin? Herbert Spencer? Henry George Atkinson? Paul Dirac? Felix Adler?
Critic: Mark Twain? Douglas William Jerrold? George Grote? J. P. Jacobsen? Isaac M. Wise? Wolfgang Pauli?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent physicist Paul Dirac was hostile toward religion, and sometimes he would lecture his colleagues on the topic. One fellow scientist responded with a humorous summary of Dirac’s metaphysical position:

There is no God and Dirac is His prophet.

Do you know who crafted this expression? Would you please explore its history?

Quote Investigator: Substantive evidence indicates that physicist Wolfgang Pauli coined the statement above, but this template has an extensive history, and many different names have appeared in analogous phrases in the past.

The earliest template matches located by QI referred to Harriet Martineau and Henry George Atkinson who together published a controversial work titled “Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development” in 1851. 1 Contemporaries believed that the duo was espousing atheism, and both faced tremendous criticism; in April 1851 a periodical about mesmerism printed a statement referring to Atkinson. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

A celebrated wit declares the great religious view of the book to be, There is no God, and Mr. Atkinson is his prophet.—Zoist.

In July 1851 a piece in “The Worcestershire Chronicle” of Worcestershire, England discussed an essay that analyzed the pair’s book. The following jest was aimed at Martineau: 3

Two valuable essays on “The History of Logic” and “Primitive Alphabets” are followed by one on “Materialism,” in which Miss Martineau and her tutor, “Henry George Atkinson, F.G.S.,” are treated to a little commonsense criticism. Her theory—so ably epitomised by a popular writer of the present day—”that there is no God, and that Miss Martineau is his prophet,” finds no quarter at the hands of the talented reviewer…

The “popular writer” was probably the dramatist Douglas William Jerrold as stated in a September 1851 newspaper item. Additional selected citations in chronological order appear below. Continue reading There Is No God, and Harriet Martineau Is His Prophet

Notes:

  1. 1851, Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development by Henry George Atkinson and Harriet Martineau, Published by Josiah P. Mendum, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1851 April, The Zoist: A Journal of Cerebral Physiology & Mesmerism and Their Applications to Human Welfare, Number 33, XVII: The Fire-away Style of Philosophy briefly Examined and Illustrated by Anti-Glorioso, Footnote, Start Page 65, Quote Page 67, Hippolyte Bailliere, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1851 July 23, Worcestershire Chronicle, Literary Notices: The Church of England Quarterly Review, Quote Page 6, Column 2, Worcestershire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)