[Marxism] Re: Cyrillic vs. Latin alphabet

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Sun Mar 6 22:38:30 MST 2005

I’m not sure whether David sees himself as entirely disagreeing with me,
though his opening line seems to say so. He seems to agree with me that the
move to Latin/English has its bad sides. But perhaps we disagree in that he
can’t see anything good in it at all. I think that’s one-sided.

Thus he writes:
>>It represents a *sick* homogenization of the world culture for the
benefit of only one thing: imperialism, and US imperialism at that.<<

Really? I’ll stick to what I know best and take another Indonesian case.
The country is full of supermarkets, and everyone calls them that, using
the English word. But if you walk around Jakarta, you will see signs on
them saying “pasar swalayan”. Pasar is market (the source of our word
“bazaar”) and “swalayan” is a Sanskrit construction meaning self-service.
Yes Sanskrit. Indonesians have trouble constructing “indigenous” terms to
keep English at bay, because on some estimates 90% of their language is
“foreign” words. This makes it one of the world’s richest languages.

Anyway, are we for calling them supermarkets? Or should we favour the
anti-globalisation device of calling them pasar swalayan? Perhaps I should
add that the requirement to use the latter came from a certain General
Suharto, mass murderer of Communists and local henchman for US imperialism.

It’s a rhetorical question of course; the people have already spoken. A
Marxist who defended the Sanskrit term would look ridiculous.

David continues:

>>Who cares if Indonesians or Russians can understand English speakers

Quite a lot of ordinary Indonesians do. They want access to the global
culture for which English is the vehicle. And so they should. If their
English was better, there wouldn’t be so many dodgy Indonesian translations
of Marxist texts on the internet.
>>It will represent a cultural-class divide, just as sections of the Latin
American ruling class in 19th Century conversed in French rather than

>From my first post, it should be clear I share this concern. But only to a
point. The ruling classes often have a vested interest in bolstering the
national language. Certainly the Indonesian rulers do, as shown by my
example above. So at times, the use of English can also be an act of
cultural rebellion. For more than one reason, the Indonesian cultural
establishment surely does not approve of young internet chatters who have
incorporated the initials ML into their net-slang – not, alas, to mean
“Marxist Leninist” but rather to mean “making love”.  

By the way
 David’s Japanese example is interesting, but can we really talk
of “native kanji”? Kanji are Chinese characters, and their introduction
represented a form of cultural dependency.

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