Struggle, vol. 11, #4, winter 1995-6

Editorial: Letters and Controversies

Aristocrat of Ideas Tells Struggle to Shut Up

by Tim Hall


. The last issue of Struggle featured an editorial by myself criticizing a group of college professors led by Roger Shattuck of Boston University who want to elminate political issues from the writing, enjoyment and judgment of literature. I said that this move would make literature a lie and also boring, because major political issues, such as racism or an aggressive war like Viet Nam, provide the concrete subject matter for the greatest social and individual conflicts of our time. Revolutionary literature, in particular, should penetrate to the heart of politics -- the class struggle which lies behind the particular issues of the day and which, alone, leads to their resolution in the workers' revolution.

. My editorial went on to discuss and make a friendly criticism of the treatment of some political issues in the poem "Only Chiapas?" by Tamar Diana Wilson de García, which opened the issue. I criticized García's title and last line, which pointed to the Zapatista uprising as the road to liberation for the Mexican working people. While supporting the uprising, I stated that its program of land reform, improved rural cooperatives and general democratization of the country, though helpful, would neither prevent the growth of capitalist class differentiation in the countryside nor offer over-all liberation to the Mexican working class and peasantry.

. My editorial elicited letters from Shattuck and García (see below). But, strange to say, it fell to a "Marxist," Oleg of the Chicago Workers' Voice group, to demand the elimination of such political discussion from the pages of Struggle. Here is Oleg's letter:

Chicago Workers' Voice, 11-22-95
Dear Tim,
. Got the Struggle magazines. Enclosed is a check. Glad you are still coming out.
. am somewhat concerned by the editorial comments in the beginning of this current issue. I don't really think it is a good idea to make Struggle into a polemical journal. I think you are also incomplete in your assessment of the Zapatistas. I think it is important to notice the fact that the Zapatista uprising provided a political opening for all types of oppositional political activity including by those who criticize the Zapatistas. I also think you should cite the source for your claims as to what the Zapatista program is. I don't think your summary is correct.
. Anyway I think this discussion is better carried on in the journals that each of us have established for this purpose. If you want to have polemics in Struggle, I think you would do better to deal with issues relating to culture which is where you started your editorial.
. It's your magazine. You can do with it what you think best. I'm glad you have been able to keep it going.
. In Struggle,

. Oleg, meet Roger Shattuck! Certainly we do not intend to convert Struggle into a journal of polemical articles; its main purpose will remain to print a range of revolutionary and anti-establishment creative literature and art. Communist Voice will be the main vehicle for polemics of the trend which I support. But creative writers and their readers, in their work and life, express and defend political and theoretical views, no matter how much some of them deny it. (The ones who deny politics usually express in their work the conventional political ideas of the big-money--dominated society around them; the commonplace nature of these views is what makes them seem non-political. These people accuse communists of "introducing" politics "into" literature, while we radicals are actually criticizing the bourgeois politics already there and working to replace them with socialist politics. )

. Creative writers who wish to help revolutionize society cannot be satisfied only with experiments in form and technique. They also need to revolutionize their political and theoretical thinking so that their art can penetrate into and illuminate social and individual conflicts more deeply. Struggle is opposed the view that has been widespread since the Romantics that literature, metaphor and creativity are governed mainly by intuition and feeling; we hold that the rational, intellectual or theoretical side of thinking is completely intertwined with the subjective and intuitive side in the creation of art and literature and that literature must be judged on both accounts.

. At times, people create seemingly non-political literature as a rebellion against the demand of the dominant class for political values which are repulsive to them; most of the time, however, apparently non-political literature is simply following the bourgeois beaten track without saying so. In any case, there is always a world-view of some sort expressed. So in judging literary works, this view must be recognized and analyzed. And, since this is a view about society, matters of politics existing outside the literary work itself must be addressed. After all, literature is about life, isn't it?

. But Oleg, the aristocrat of ideas, would banish this discussion from the pages of Struggle and limit it to what he apparently sees as the rarified atmosphere of the theoretical journals. Well, that's his view of theoretical controversy. The Communist Voice journal doesn't see it that way, nor do I. We want ideas clarified wherever possible. We will never agree to keep politics away from the writer and the reader of revolutionary literature. We are not aristocrats but proletarians, plebeians, ordinary working people and students, the people who, when enough of us become class-conscious, will overthrow the bourgeoisie and their heartless capitalist system. And our creative writers will be right there with the rest of us, debating, theorizing, opening eyes and inspiring our emotions in the midst of the struggle.

. Note: Oleg complains that we do not summarize the Zapatistas' demands correctly, but he does not tell us what was wrong with our summary. I thought he was witholding that nugget for his exalted journal, the Chicago Workers' Voice Theoretical Journal (available from PO Box 11542, Chicago, IL 60611, $3 per copy, see especially issues #7, 8 and 9 for their views on Mexico), but #9 is just out, dated January 29, 1996, two months after Oleg's letter, and it says nothing about Struggle's editorial. Our aristocrat is just blowing smoke; he doesn't want the discussion at all.The views of our trend, the anti-revisionist communists, on the Zapatistas are elaborated in Vol.1, Nos. 2 & 5 of Communist Voice, also $3 per copy from PO Box 13261, Detroit, MI 48213-0261.

Criticized Professor Responds More Warmly
than "Marxist" Oleg

. Interestingly, Roger Shattuck, the professor who is pushing against politics in literature, responded to my editorial more warmly that the "Marxist" Oleg. Here is his letter:

Association of Literary Scholars and Critics

Boston, MA, 12-21-95

Dear Tim Hall,
. You find literature a worn out refrain deserving only your laughter, yet you publish 70 pages of engaged fiction & poetry. I enclose our first newsletter containing my XIX Theses. You may approve of the form if not the content. We don't exclude political-economic considerations. We just don't cede them first place in all circumstances.
. Your authors convey powerfully a sense of dedication to a cause.
. Thank you, really, for sending Struggle.
Roger Shattuck

. Well, despite his friendly tone, Roger Shattuck remains as opposed to the recognition of the unavoidable presence of politics and ideology in all literature as the former Marxist Oleg. He thinks he has caught Struggle in a contradiction: he says we print literature and yet we laugh at it.But there is no contradiction. We only laughed at that boring and false literature that attempts to hide its political nature by dealing with the "eternal verities" of life, death, love and butterflies without penetrating into the political and economic realities which give the "verities" their actual life. Shattuck calls our literature "engaged. " Excuse me? And what, pray tell, is the other kind of literature -- "disengaged"? Bull! It's all engaged, but many who uphold the values of this exploitative society want us to believe that their literature is "non-political," "non-ideological. " They're happy with things as they are, so we are upsetting their applecart and that gets them mad and they throw a tantrum and demand that we stop "introducing" those nasty politics. The 1990's politics of slaughtering Iraqi workers with "smart bombs" is just fine, yessirree! Shattuck's term "engaged" for our literature isolates full-bodied, rebellious literature as some peculiar, sideline creature, suggesting that among the many varieties of literary activity there would be allowed (oh thank you!) a smidgeon of political literature. And the rest of literature would go unjudged on political grounds. . This view is especially evident in Shattuck's "XIX Theses on Literature" in his organization's newsletter. He speaks of a "fairly stable" "human nature" evolved over millions of years and containing an aspiration for freedom, but he does not speak of forms of society which deny this spark; he gives you no basis whatsoever for understanding why one section of society would deny freedom to another section. You would think that a writer who has the "full humanist" outlook Shattuck praises would want to know the answer to that (and that answer is unavoidably political and ideological). But the writer can only find such an explanation in a genuine Marxism, which is not a dogma but is a theory which analyzes life more clearly and deeply than any other. And then he or she might judge literature "by applying an ideology. . . to a cultural 'text'" -- actually, by applying this ideology, which meets more deeply the basic criterion of life. And this, Shattuck cries, would "eliminate the experience and the love of literature. " No, Roger, it would eliminate the love for some of the literature that you love. It would turn that love toward a literature that looks deeper into reality and embodies aspirations for a higher society than capitalism, a society with freedom for the working majority, not merely for a handful of bloodsuckers. Shattuck doesn't want people to lose their love for the old literature because freedom for the small minority satisfies him. Revealingly, he closes his "Theses" with a diatribe on how "education" (in which literature plays a major part -- T. H. ) "should remain primarily a conservative institution", adding that "the university need not provide the principal home for political, social, and artistic dissidents. " Well, there the cat is out of the bag! Pushing politics out of literature involves running the radicals out of the university. Hallelujah! The spirit of the 60's does live! The ivory-tower professors are still sweating!

Criticized Author Makes Political Response

. Amidst all this hullabaloo of political criticism, you might think that the author of the work in question would throw up her hands and cry, "Oh, you nasty Marxists, leave my work of pure literature alone!" Sorry, Roger and Oleg, but Tamar Diana Wilson de García possesses the revolutionary backbone that Oleg lacks and Roger Shattuck does not claim to have. She responds to a criticism of the political side of her work with a political answer. Here is her letter:

Cabo San Lucas, BCS
Mexico, fall 95
Dear Tim,
. Thank you and Struggle for publishing my poem "Only Chiapas". I did not mind your criticisms at all. (And I thank you for your suggestions to make it better, and who to read for inspiration!) May I say in my own defense, however, that Marx did expect that under capitalism there would be great advances in systems of production and of products available (to some only, but to many more than previously) for consumption, although such consumption would be bitterly unequal. Mexicans can consume more now that in pre-Revolutionary times, more people have electricity and running water, less children are dying before the age of five, and more people can buy clothing and shoes (despite the fact that a pair of blue jeans costs almost a week's factory wages) than the time prior to the 1910 Revolution. That does not mean, of course, that capitalist exploitation is not occurring, or that laborers have a decent standard of living, given the array of goods on the market, and given how "los ricos" live. Case in point: the 84 million dollars stolen by Salinas de Gortari's brother represents only one of six banked accounts he and his wife had in Europe. A factory worker earns approximately $25 a week with the recent devaluations of the peso, a skilled construction worker only about $65 a week, and groceries cost about the same as they do in the United States. Your point about Chiapas is also well-taken: it is more of a populist revolt -- probably destined to be coopted by some power seeker or another -- than an emergent socialist revolution, or so it is beginning to seem. But are all protests against misery necessarily informed by alternative and sophisticated philosophies? Historically speaking haven't most social movements aimed at removing oppression simply been coopted when they have not simply been smashed?. . . .
. Best of luck with everything and thanks for your always kind assessments.
. Tamar Diana Wilson de García

. What a pleasure to return to the company of those who hate the status quo and are not afraid to think! What Tamar says about rising consumption as capitalism matures is indeed true; I only stressed that it is the working-class struggle that forces the capitalists to cough up a few crumbs and introduce a more open brand of capitalism. This, then, sooner or later facilitates the further organization of the workers' struggle. Oleg is right that the Zapatista rebellion has also played this role, and in fact Marxists support this rebellion with enthus- iasm; what we criticize is the picture of the Zapatista program as a road to the liberation of Mexican workers and peasants from capitalism. Tamar's next comments point to a phenomenon analyzed by Marx: even where the workers momentarily improve their condition in absolute terms, relative to the wealth and power of the capitalists they still fall further and further behind, and this increases class tensions towards revolution. Tamar is also quite right that few revolts are originally guided by a scientific revolutionary theory; many times this is a cause of their defeat. All the more reason for the liberation-minded to struggle with all their might to develop, clarify and spread such a philosophy, both in theoretical controversy and in creative literature and art. Keep working, revolutionary writer! It is people like yourself who inspire us to continue publishing this magazine.

Is Principled Criticism "Factionalism"?

. Here is a letter from Al Marcowitz, author of several powerful pro-worker poems that have appeared in recent issues of Struggle:

Norfolk, VA (undated -- summer 1995)
. Thanks again for the publishing, great issue! It's good to know there are so many class-conscious proletarian writers out there. I have considered doing a magazine called "The Blue Collar Review" but I haven't had much time to work on it recently. I am working on a new chapbook called "In this House. " As per your request, enclosed are my last two collections. My books go for $10 each but consider the second one a gift of appreciation for the publishing. Hope you enjoy them. Not all my poetry is political. I am influenced by jazz and by my work in mental health and substance abuse. As for "commentary," I do feel uncomfortable with some of your political opinions. I am a Marxist-Leninist to the core and a member of the Communist Party CPUSA but I am not a stalinist or a blind apologist for the problems and deviations of Soviet history. I support the Cuban revolution but am able to criticize some of their policies. As you correctly point out, the science of dialectic materialism requires criticism. I also understand that socialist development is hindered and warped by the necessities arising from existing in a constant state of siege. The bourgeoisie don't care what kind of Communist you are. Neither do they need your help to demonize countries which try to build Socialism ( or for that matter comrades with petty differences). As for us, our petty differences are insignificant compared to what we agree on. We need each other in the struggle for a sane, Socialist future. The trotskyites and ultra-lefts on the other hand only alienate the masses and demoralize themselves and are thus counter revolutionary. Anyway I feel we are in general agreement so tell it like it is, tell it like it ought to be, and ease up on your factionalism. We are all in the struggle together.
. I would enjoy hearing from you on this and would like to maintain contact. What issues are you working on in your area? This area is a bastion of militarism and reaction and sane contacts are always welcome. I work with a few comrades as well as with N. O. W. , the "Greens," the Catholic Workers and some "peace people" but it is a struggle! I have organized many actions in the past and hope to get things going some more but it is tough to overcome people's demoralization and proletarian problems. Hope to hear from you soon, let me know what you think of the chapbooks, use what you like.
Al Marcowitz

. But if, as Al says, dialectical materialism requires criticism, why am I a factionalist to criticize people? It would seem that criticism is OK as long as it involves petty differences, but as soon as it becomes serious, then it's another matter altogether; then certain things become out of bounds.As soon as anti-revisionist communists like myself and the Com- munist Voice Organization declare that what fell in the Soviet Union was not communism, that the Soviet Union departed from the revolutionary road in the early 1920's and never reached socialism but became a state-capitalist, imperialist state, then we are helping the capitalists. Please. In fact, the betrayal of socialism by Stalin and the later Soviet revisionists is what helped the capitalists. A bloated, brutal state bureaucracy, with a limited safety net, collapsing into private capitalism -- -- is this a dream to lay down your life for? Is this the socialism so many earlier generations of workers bled for, is this the socialism envisioned by Marx, Engels and Lenin? Certainly not! And it is about time for a new generation of communists to arise and say this to all the world. You see, while some of the clashes among left groups are unprincipled, many, such as this one, involve fundamental principles. . People who differ on these matters, like me and Al, can work together on certain immediate issues. I can print poems of his which encourage the workers to stand up.We could go on strike together. But these issues of principle should be openly discussed among the masses. I do not doubt Al's sincerity, but sincerity is not the issue here; basic political positions are.

A Question Facing the Black Liberation Struggle

. We have a letter from a good friend, which I have been very derelict in answering, as you can see by the date. This is Norm R. Allen, Jr. , who edits a journal, the AAH Examiner, which courageously stands up against the role of religion in obscuring the sources of and solutions to the oppression of African-Americans. Here is his letter:

African-Americans for Humanism
PO Box 664, Buffalo, NY 14226
Dear Tim,
. How are you? I devoured the Spring 1995 issue of Struggle as soon as it arrived today.The picture of Lucy Parsons on the front cover is a nice touch.
. I am reading The Black Panthers Speak, edited by Philip S. Foner. I don't know what you thought of the Panthers, but I learned of them when I was about 11 years old, and they rapidly became my heroes, heroines and role models. Anyway, I mention them because I read your editorial "What is Revolutionary Literature?" I believe that though the Panthers had criminal elements, their stated goals and many of their actions were revolutionary. On that point, Huey Newton made a profound yet little understood distinction between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism. The former is reactionary and the latter is necessarily socialist and progressive, and part of a world-wide socialist movement. I believe that if more Blacks had this view, they would shun reactionary Black nationalism, like that found in the Nation of Islam. But most young people in particular are not intellectually sophisticated enough to make the distinction, or to critically examine reactionary Black nationalism in its entirety. . . . .
. Keep up the great work on Struggle, and I can hardly wait for the next issue. By the way, I am glad that you are receiving letters to the editor. If you care to, you may include this one.
Norm R. Allen, Jr.

. I believe that most of the Panthers intended the phrase "revolutionary nationalism" to mean conducting the anti-racist struggle in a revolutionary way ("by any means necessary" -- in Malcolm's phrase, as opposed to King's turn-the-other cheek) and to mean solving the problem of racism by some kind of revolutionary transformation of society. I fully support the first meaning of the phrase, but the second meaning always remained vague, in spite of the Panther's unquestioned heroism and sincerity. The issue today is to remain true to this indomitable fighting spirit while hammering out a scientific program for the liberation of Black and all oppressed people. This is what I think Norm intends. Racism is inextricably bound up with the capitalist system. The big bankers and CEOs laugh all the way to the bank as they exploit all working people, seize extra profits by underpaying minorities and women, super-exploit the working people of the poorer countries, and enforce their dom- ination by inciting white workers against people of color, American workers against so-called foreign workers, etc. We must constantly combat racism under capitalism, but it will take an anti-capitalist revolution to open the way to getting rid of it altogether. And that revolution will be fought against a definite enemy, the capitalist class or bourgeoisie, most of whom are white but who include a definite set of minority junior partners, who also feast off the wealth stolen from working people, including those of their own color. To over- throw this beast requires not just a series of "identity groups" but the welding of the unity of a revolutionary class, the working class of all races and nationalities, the very class which daily creates and is robbed of all the means of life, is abused, degraded and then tossed aside when no longer productive for the great lords of the dollar. A glimpse of the strength of that class was seen in the Labor Day weekend blockades of the Detroit newspaper plant by workers of all backgrounds. Marxism alone, genuine Marxism as opposed to the recent Soviet and Chinese caricatures, provides a scientific analysis of the conditions which lead the working class to this revolution and of the tactics necessary to win it.

. Now, does nationalism of any sort lead towards that revolution? Today the term means many things to many people; when people use it to indicate struggles for equality, socialists support those struggles, whether they are called nationalist or not. In fact, socialism is not an abstract struggle of simply workers against bosses; it is a series of battles over all the problems of capitalist society, culminating in the socialist revolution. The united workers' struggle can only come about if the struggle against racism is made one of the principal fronts of activity of the whole working class, not left to minorities to fight alone. With regard to the struggle against American slavery Marx wrote that "labor in the white skin cannot be emancipated where in the black it is branded," and the class struggle has repeatedly proven this truth since then. But this does not mean inscribing nationalism on the banner of the workers' movement, because nationalism in the full sense of the word always means splitting up the workers according to nationality, encouraging each nationality of workers to support the rapacious business deals and government rip-offs which are the main life activity of the bourgeois big shots of "their own" color. Socialism opposes nationalism not by ignoring racial oppression and sweeping it under the rug, but by calling for united struggle against it; socialism stands for internationalism, not nationalism. Only united struggle can successfully combat racism and bring down capital. This unity must be voluntary and be based on complete equality; only by combating racism can the entire workers' movement break completely which the racism of the white bosses, convince minority workers that the movement truly stands for equality, and forge a united struggle.

. Some nationalists justify their program by claiming that Blacks constitute an oppressed nation in the full sense of the word. But even if that were true, if there was a definite land mass where Blacks were the majority and could form a separate country, this does not mean that socialists would be in favor of nationalism. We support the right of any nation to secede, and if the majority wanted to, we would agree to it, even under socialism, because all unity must be voluntary for it to be genuine. In the case of revolutionary national liberation movements, such as the Vietnamese people's struggle, we would be "socialist" colonialists, not socialists at all, if we did not vigorously support such movements, despite the fact that they carry no guarantee that they will proceed to socialism. But we would do all this, not in the interest of nationalism, but of breaking down nationalism, breaking down distrust between nationalities and building genuine unity of the proletariat. We always encourage workers of all nations to work together, not to unite with "their" bourgeoisies.

. The liberation struggle of Blacks in the U. S. , as Malcolm frequently pointed out, is also a revolutionary movement, and Marxists fully support it. This movement is aimed at the aboliton of racism, but could it also aim at forming a separate Black country? Do blacks in the U.S.actually constitute a nation in the full sense of the word? I don't think so; in a certain sense they have gone beyond that. Under slavery and into the 20th century, Blacks formed into a nation in the plantation area of the rural South, but the great migrations after the two World Wars dispersed that nation into the northern and western cities and the bigger southern cities. To be a nation that could secede and declare itself a separate country, there must be not only a common language, history and culture, which Blacks certainly possess, but a common land mass where they form a majority, over which a flag could be raised. The fact that the Nation of Islam and various nationalist groups cannot say exactly where this exists shows that the nationalism of today has no nation to fight for. Unless major migrations take place to reverse these population trends, Blacks today, I think, constitute an oppressed nationality dispersed to and concentrated in urban areas throughout the country. Rather than weaken the anti-racist fight, this has actually strengthened it, by breaking the isolation of the plantation South and bringing Blacks into contact with working people of other backgrounds, many of whom, for example, participated in the civil rights movement. The dispersal of the Black nation actually strengthens the Black liberation and workers' struggles of the future.

. So, in answer to Norm's question, a socialist must oppose nationalism as a program for the workers' movement, but can only do so on the basis of a firm anti-racist, anti-capitalist fight. And a socialist will not attack everyone who calls themselves nationalists, but will maintain that only an internationalist program can defeat racism and capitalism.

. Note: the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA, which I supported for many years until its dissolution in 1993, produced several very informative studies of the Panthers, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and of the development and dispersion of the Black nation. I will xerox and send these to anyone who mails me a couple of dollars.

A Question of the Future

. We have a letter from another friend, John A. McCloskey, whose brief story, "The Skin off my Knuckles," appeared in a recent Struggle.

North Attleboro, MA, 11-20-95
Dear Mr. Hall,
. First of all, excuse me for the title. I'm sure your skin crawls as much at being referred to as a Mister as mine does -- but that's another matter entirely.
. Now I wanted to write to you for a couple of reasons. Number one, I would like to tell you how much I appreciate your encouragement. For what it's worth, your publication is the first one with a national circulation to print anything I've written. That means quite a bit to me.
. I also wanted to ask you to pass on my words of admiration to the author of "You Deserve a Break Today. " That sort of gallows humor has always appealed to me, and it's good to see that it appeals to you too. There's no other more effective way of communicating a message than good old-fashioned satire, don't you agree?
. Which brings me to my next point. I hope it doesn't make you groan. And I hope it doesn't cause you to lose respect for me -- I think the magazine could use some levity. I don't mean that you should turn it into "Struggle Lite!" or anything along those lines, I do suggest that rather than focusing on the evils of capitalism all the time, you might think about portraying the possible beauty of a Marxist society.
. Everybody knows that innocent people get ground under the wheels of a fast-rolling market economy. I haven't heard anyone dispute this fact since before glasnost. Americans have always accepted it though because they could not conceive of any other way of organizing society. Now that the Soviet example -- the sole example for many people -- has been thoroughly exposed for the corrupt system that it was, communists and socialists around the world are turning in their membership cards and saying, "Oh well, I guess it's the horrors of capitalism then. "
. What is needed is a more contemporary version of "What Is To Be done" (the Chernyechevsky novel, not the tract by Lenin). Effective propaganda should pose solutions to the problems of society, vivid, detailed solutions. The problems have already been enumerated so many times that no one cares any more, the chanting of the list of societal woes has become like the constant drone of a refrigerator pump or air-conditioning fan. At first it's infuriating, but after years of subjugation to it, most people won't even notice it when it's pointed out to them.
. I know what you're thinking now, or at least what I hope you're thinking: "All right then, John, go to it. Write me some literature inspired by the vision of a utopian society. " And I wish I could do it. The problem is that I don't fully believe in it any longer. I'm sorry. I spent several months on a collective farm in Israel and I discovered that even there inequities flourish. And I have to say that it's a much more dangerous sort of inequity, the tyranny of democracy that De Tocqueville wrote about.
. Unfortunately, fifty-one per cent of the people are not always correct and just in their decisions. Frequently, they are petty in the way that only a mob can be. They will cut down their brothers and sisters one way or another if only because they stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with a gang of like-minded, ill-informed malcontents.
. And this is in a situation where there is no Man Behind the Curtain, pulling all the strings and pitting people against one another so that he can freely go about his sinister business, whatever that may be. From this I have deduced that people are not prepared for socialism or communism yet. We are still children, incapable of lifting ourselves above a certain point.
. I, for the time being at least, prefer to take the blows of the Man on the chin from time to time, rather than risk the more vicious tearing of the mob.
. I wish you the best of luck in your fight to educate people on the values of a classless society. Someone has to do it, and I wish it could be me, but I have not received the calling.
John A. McCloskey

. Yes, John, we would certainly like to have some literature of the type that you describe. More humor too. So all you humorous believers in a classless future out there, go to work!

. John raises quite an intriguing point when he questions the readiness of the masses of people for a higher form of society. We Marxists do not believe that the working people are entirely ready for such a change, but only that the horrors of capitalism will sooner or later force them to launch the struggle for this change, and the struggle itself, with the heroism and creativity that it will bring forth, will transform them into a higher sort of humans. This already happened, to a degree, to many people who participated in the mass move- ments of the 60's. Who would have thought, in 1959, that the Blackboard Jungle/Ozzie and Harriet society of that time would produce the fighters who risked and laid down their lives against racism and aggressive war in the following ten years? And those people who participated deeply in the 60's movements found their entire lives changed; many left the mainstream fast track for long periods of time or permanently to fight for the masses. But they were transformed only because they were engaged in a bitter struggle against the institutions and values of the old, exploitative, racist capitalist society; only in this struggle were new values forged. John's example of a kibbutz in Israel is irrelevant to this possibility, because that collective farm was cooperating with a rapacious capitalist society, one which exists on the basis of the suppression of the Palestinian nation. Despite the possible good intentions of some of its members, such a collective could not help but be permeated by the selfish values of the old society. Only by engaging in a radical anti-capitalist struggle can a group of people create new ideals and relationships.

An Eloquent Call

. I will close this lengthy discussion with an eloquent letter from a poet in Indiana:

Bloomington, IN, 1-17-96
Mr. Tim Hall,
. Beyond the threshold -- the threshold of work, also known as the realm where dignity is luxury, I move within their machine. In a world where there is a cost on every part, nothing is free. The laws of who I am do not apply in the physics of capitalism. An hour of my life is worth the price of two cigarette packs. It is what I do to survive; this working poverty, it is the worst of both worlds and the world has become a prison. What kind of life is this, a life that can be bought by the hour, worth living?
. I believe in the struggle. I have endured rituals of humiliation for the benefit of others' production and prosperity so that I could attain material survival. Capitalism and compulsory heterosexuality continually try to frighten me into becoming what I am not.Long live revolution.
Mike Bode

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