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Today I’d like to talk about finvenkismo, one of the many ideological undercurrents of Esperanto. It doesn’t have a straightforward, single-term English translation, but a quick glance at its roots will give you an idea of what it means. The suffix -ismo is exactly like -ism in English, denoting a movement or school of thought [existentialism, capitalism, etc.]. The first part, fin-, denotes the end of something [fino, end/conclusion; fina, final/concluding]. The second component, venko, means “victory” [from roughly the same Latin root that gives us “vanquish” in English]. Consequently, finvenkismo is the belief in, or pursuit of, the “final victory” of Esperanto. A finvenkisto either expects Esperanto to someday attain its primary goal, or does his/her best to ensure that goal is reached.
What does a “final victory” for Esperanto look like? For starters, it denotes the moment when Esperanto achieves Zamenhof’s original project of being the world’s most widely-spoken second language. (In this regard, finvenkismo has existed about as long as Esperanto has!) Esperanto was designed to become a global second language, after all, so if enough people adopt it as their second language, Esperanto has succeeded. Yet this moment of worldwide acceptance is only half of the project. Remember that Zamenhof has a particular end in mind with Esperanto. He didn’t simply want to install a new way of speaking in the world, but rather, he wanted to facilitate communication in an effort to ensure global peace. Consequently, the other “final victory” of the Esperanto language is when the world no longer sees war, ultranationalism, chauvinism, oppression, or any of the other maladies that plague our era and the many before it – because the widespread adoption of Esperanto has halted them all.
To this end, there’s a definite teleological bent to Esperanto, which places it in interesting company. Marx, for instance, was convinced that history would effectively end once communism spread throughout the world, because history in his model was basically a record of conflict, and the universal equality of a communist society would preclude any future conflict. Christianity posits that an end to global suffering will occur when (or if) Jesus returns to Earth. Finvenkismo occupies much the same territory as these ideologies, envisioning a specific moment that will effectively bring an end to history as we know it.
Since Esperanto doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there have been a few efforts over the years to reign in it, or change its labeling. Some Esperantists are uncomfortable with the term “finvenkismo” itself, since it bears an unfortunate linguistic resemblance to certain concepts from Hitler’s doctrines, like the “final solution” or “endzieg” [ultimate victory]. Given that Esperanto is diametrically opposed to those ideas, some Esperantists would like to distance their terminology from them, proposing that we use the terms “fina sukceso” [final success] or “finsukcesismo” instead. In a similar vein, certain Esperantists dislike the use of the term “victory” in the movement’s name, since it connotes a competitive or combative mindset that stands at odds with the peaceful aims Zamenhof sought.