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the party of moderate progress within the bounds of the law

Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek is of course best known for his immortal satire, 'The Good Soldier Švejk'. But he also wrote an astonishing number of stories - reputedly some 1500 - displaying the same anarchistic wit and dark satire, relentlessly exposing the hypocrisy and absurdity of politics, bureaucracy and war.

Only a few of Hašek's stories show up online. But in English a couple of collections of his stories have been published, while in Dutch the collection 'De mensenhandelaar van Amsterdam' ('The Human Trafficker of Amsterdam') is still available.

Anyway, an interesting story from Hašek's own life is the history of the Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of the Law, a political party that he and some friends started in 1911, and which despite (or because of) its satirical aims did surprisingly well in the Austro-Hungarian elections of that year.

There is a great booklet (PDF) collecting available sources on the party. It includes an account by playwright František Langer, taken from his book 'They Were and It Was' (1963), as well as the surviving part of 'The Political and Social History of the Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of the Law', which Hašek wrote and compiled at the time. It also records the official hymn for the Party:

A million candidates rose up
To hoodwink honest people.
The electorate would give them votes
And they would gladly take them.
Let others call for violent progress,
By force world order overturn.
Moderate progress is our aim
And Jaroslav Hašek is our man.

Of course the whole idea of a political party, let alone its pretentiously titled annals, was a) an excuse for raucous nights of drinking and b) a deliberate mocking of the election process. This was half a century before the Situationists and before the invention of happenings, but the whole venture resembled a kind of public theatre using Hašek's satirical and storytelling talents.

Hašek's speeches, which make up the bulk of 'The Political and Social History' are long, rambling and no doubt improvised affairs, often with complete stories mixed in, like when he recounts a series of completely irrelevant adventures of the party treasury. At other times his speeches are interrupted by worried calls that the inn's bar is closing, prompting Hašek to seamlessly address the situation:

Because one of the first precursors of our Party, Mr. Galileo Galilei, said as I do, "But, all the same, it goes round," Miss Boženka, please serve one more round...

the good soldier švejk

' The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War ' is the full title of Jaroslav Hašek 's satirical masterpiece, left incomplete by his premature death in 1923. A precursor to ' Catch-22 ', the novel … Read the full post »

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