May 9, 1873: Gründerkrach and the Long Depression

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

On this day in 1873 the Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse) crashed, setting off ripples that would lead to the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression. Since it began shorty after the founding of the German Empire (aka the Second Reich) it became known as the “Founder’s Crash” or Gründerkrach.

Some theorize that it all kind of starts with Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Prussia’s quick victory at the Battle of Königgrätz/Sandowa in Bohemia ticked off the French public who had backed Austria. The French cries for “Revanche pour Sadová” would eventually help lead to the Franco-Prussia War of 1871. Both events allowed Otto von Bismarck to consolidate and finalize the Unification of Germany under the Prussian Crown without the rival powers from Habsburg Austria. This would turn Austria’s attention away from German affairs and toward Balkan and Slavic ones within its own empire. Soon they would occupy Bosnia and before you know it WWI gets underway (there are a lot more parts in between, but those are for other posts).

Battle of Königgrätz by Gegorg Bleibtreu

Battle of Königgrätz by Georg Bleibtreu

Although Austria was left out of Germany, many Germans still invested at the powerful Vienna Stock Exchange. The influx of capital into Germany from Austrian and French war reparations fueled wild speculation in the hot hi-tech items of the day like railways, factories, and steamships. America also had “irrational exuberance” in those same industries.

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

On this day in 1873, the bubble burst and things were not very good for a lot of people for a long time. Both European and American history are genuinely lacking in the amount of scholarship devoted to the Long Depression. The granddaddiest one of them all the Great Depression has overshadowed it. As a result I think we sometimes lose a little perspective when we only have one example to to go on.

The Burdens of the Long Depression on Pres. U.S. Grant's Shoulders

The Burdens of the Long Depression on President U.S. Grant's Shoulders

So in these down economic days of the late millenial aughts, I challenge my colleagues to pick it up a little and give us some perspect on the 1870s. From what I gather, those days seem more appropriately juxtaposed to what is going on today than the Great Depression. Please feel free to email or write any comments if you have a book that covers the Long Depression well. And happy gathering.

Update: Reading through the H-Net sites I found this call for articles from the Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. They are putting together a special issue on “Crises and Depression.” The due date is December 1st.

It was 20 years ago today…

Tiananmen Square


Well, actually, May 4, 1989 was a major day of escalation in the Tiananmen Square protests. On that day 100,000 people gathered seeking greater press freedoms and a direct open dialogue with the communist government.


Contrary to popular belief, the protests were not about bringing down the government. Although often unfocused in their message, most of the student groups and others sought greater openness from the existing government and an implementation within that government of the democratic principles inherent in Marxist theory.

Little did they know that they were kicking off a process that would bring tanks down upon them on June 4th and inspire the people of Eastern Europe to throw off the governments imposed on them at the end of WWII.

I plan on chronicling the time points of that history—many of which make up my earliest civic-minded memories—in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned.

Execution by Yue Minjun (1995)

Execution by Yue Minjun (1995)

Be Young and Shut Up


France mai 68 Poster

I love how the faces in the video below all convey a certain sort of ’68-er angst, especially Lennon’s seething intensity that’s so critical of revolutionary methods in general, yet imbued with that wandering ambivalence:

“Don’t you know that you can count me out/in…”:

Convincing Structuralist Argument

The final lines of one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long time, Götz Aly & Susanne Heim’s Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction:


Our study has shown that the modern praxis-oriented social sciences and the reception of their findings in the seats of political power played a significant part in the decisions that led to systematic mass murder. If the links between Auschwitz and visionary German projects of the time for a modernized and pacified Europe are denied or ignored, then Germany’s crimes appear as a descent into barbarism and a break with Western civilization—rather than a potentiality inherent within it…

…External circumstance changed profoundly in 1945. But that change was by no means irreversible. The particular historical constellation in which such murderous plans could be carried out is no longer in place—not here, not now. Perhaps it [the Holocaust] was unique—in every sense of the word. But the calculating, expediency-driven thinking in which mass murder became a ‘useful’ instrument of structural planning and development policy—that remains very much of the present.

A Song for You

Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles, but the song really gets goin’ when Ray hits the mic.

People make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please in circumstances of their own choosing, rather they make it in the present circumstance, given and inherited.


The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte – Karl Marx 1852

Section I, paragraph 2

Die Menschen machen ihre eigene Geschichte, aber sie machen sie nicht aus freien Stücken, nicht unter selbstgewählten, sondern unter unmittelbar vorgefundenen, gegebenen und überlieferten Umständen. Die Tradition aller toten Geschlechter lastet wie ein Alp auf dem Gehirne der Lebenden. Und wenn sie eben damit beschäftigt scheinen, sich und die Dinge umzuwälzen, noch nicht Dagewesenes zu schaffen, gerade in solchen Epochen revolutionärer Krise beschwören sie ängstlich die Geister der Vergangenheit zu ihrem Dienste herauf, entlehnen ihnen Namen, Schlachtparole, Kostüm, um in dieser altehrwürdigen Verkleidung und mit dieser erborgten Sprache die neuen Weltgeschichtsszene aufzuführen.

People make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please in circumstances of their own choosing, rather they make it in the present circumstance, given and inherited. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare upon the minds of the living. And just when they appear to be revolutionizing themselves and their circumstances, in creating something unprecedented, in just such epochs of revolutionary crisis, that is when they nervously summon up the spirits of the past, borrowing from them their names, marching orders, uniforms, in order to enact new scenes in world history, but in this time-honored guise and with this borrowed language.

VII: Summary

Die soziale Republik erschien als Phrase, als Prophezeiung an der Schwelle der Februarrevolution. In den Junitagen 1848 wurde sie im Blute des Pariser Proletariats erstickt, aber sie geht in den folgenden Akten des Dramas als Gespenst um. Die demokratische Republik kündigte sich an. Sie verpufft am 13. Juni 1849 mit ihren davongelaufenen Kleinbürgern, aber im Fliehen wirft sie doppelt renommierende Reklamen hinter sich. Die parlamentarische Republik mit der Bourgeoisie bemächtigt sich der ganzen Bühne, sie lebt sich aus in der vollen Breite ihrer Existenz, aber der 2. Dezember 1851 begräbt sie unter dem Angstgeschrei der koalisierten Royalisten: „Es lebe die Republik!“

The social republic appeared as a phrase, as a prophecy, on the threshold of the February Revolution. In the June days of 1848, it was drowned in the blood of the Paris proletariat, but it haunts the subsequent acts of the drama like a ghost. The democratic republic announces its appearance. It is dissipated on June 13, 1849, together with its deserting petty bourgeois, but in its flight it redoubles its boastfulness. The parliamentary republic together with the bourgeoisie takes possession of the entire state; it enjoys its existence to the full, but December 2, 1851, buries it to the accompaniment of the anguished cry of the coalesced royalists: “Long live the Republic!”

…and France was Napoleonic once again. See Marx’s “follow-up” The Civil War in France (1871) for insight into how all of this continues on, and on, and on, and…

Shudders of 1848 Always Quaking Through

Of course, they ripple back and forth.

I mean, c’mon, 1848 was no 1789.

Ah…1789, what a twist!

But it’s not the only one. Lately I’ve been looking into how the European Revolutions of 1848 are relevant as a dialectical pivot in European social, political, and cultural critique.

In honor of a weekend spent with my head in that captivating year, I dedicate this Sunday morning’s videos to the nation that started the marde rolling: beloved France!

Sometimes the insanity of the world around you boils over into everything you see. Daft Punk with “Technologic”:

In our annoyingly monikered “Golbalized World,” political and social critiques necessarily cut across cultures. Rule of thumb: have respect for me when I critique your ways and I’ll promise the same in return. We should be able to learn a lot by sifting through the inconsistencies in each other’s analysis.

MC Solaar with “Le Nouveau Western”:

It’s especially intriguing when the tough ribbing is accompanied by a visible—or slightly below the surface—fascination of and love for the “other.” The previous clip exemplifies that feeling as much as this next one.

Yesterday I also experienced a “Belleville Rendez-vous” Mine was in Illinois, but ah, as I said, the shudders!:

And it’s nice when we can sculpt that love into something wholly new:

Ah, le pastiche!

Here’s Cassius letting “1999” ripple:

Dimtri From Paris with:

“Une very stylish fille”:

and “Sacré Français”:

Finishing up with transcontinental trust vis-à-vis Air.

Some sort of ingenious mash-up of Japanese TV series smash Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon )(美少女戦士セーラームーンand Air’s “Clouds Up”:

Air with Sofia Coppala on visuals. From The Virgin Suicides. “Playground Love”: