Struggle, vol. 13, #1-2, Spring-Summer 1997:


More Letters and Controversies

by Tim Hall

[The American Gulag, "Eternal" Values,

Anarchism, Factionalism and more]


. Here we are again with another double issue, trying to make up for lost time and to publish the works we have accepted. The flow of material to us has been gratifying and inspiring. Instead of -- as in years past -- coming up with just enough suitable materials for an issue, publishing it and hoping enough will come in for another, now we are running ahead and even having to turn down good pieces of writing for lack of space alone. I think that this shows that beneath the surface of an apparently info-mad, entertainment-choked society there runs a strong undercurrent of interest in the creation and experience of revolutionary literature and art. If the flow of material to us is any indication, we are seeing the beginning of an upswing for progressive creative work. And since poets can be the antennae for society, let us hope that this foretells an upsurge in the mass struggles of the working class and poor.

. We continue to receive a number of letters raising various interesting issues. The issues brought up in these latest dwell entirely on politics. Readers may remember that Oleg of Chicago wrote us some issues back protesting against political discussion per se in our pages. If we were to follow his misguided advice, we would not be able to respond in print to this latest crop of letters from our readers, only because they did not raise questions of literary technique as such. How silly! The very fact that we publish a literary magazine and people write in with political questions shows that politics and literature are intimately linked. To separate them is in fact a political choice, reflecting a certain kind of politics, one which opposes literature thinking about, or critiquing, the political and economic foundations of capitalist society. But why should literature ignore any subject? Only because certain people do not want to see capitalism attacked. These folks benefit from capitalism or have tired of the struggle for revolutionary ideas, like Oleg. The don't want literature to disturb their present comfort. Tough luck.

From within American Gulag Walls

. America is a capitalist society, ruled by a ruling class, a bourgeoisie composed of the wealthy and their direct administrators. Rarely does one of them go to jail yet they systematically loot the wealth created by the working people, both in violation of law and by the perfectly legal method that is the heart of capitalism: the purchase of the worker's labor-power (hiring her/him) and the extraction of surplus (extra -- above the cost of wages, raw materials and overhead) value from her/his labor, which results in profit. For the bourgeoisie, illegal crime is just another investment alternative while legal crime (which is crime only in the eyes of the proletariat) is its mother's milk. These big looters go free and are praised as "pillars of the community. "

. It is the opposite with the workers, the poor. Working-class violators of law are prosecuted with a vengeance, especially if they have trifled with capitalist property. The "criminal justice" machinery of the bourgeois state (government) is rife with error, shot through with racism and primed for violence. Innocent workers are warehoused, dungeonized; Black men are genocidally targeted; showboating repressive campaigns like the "War against Drugs" are incarcerating thousands of poor and Black users/dealers for the very crimes that get the rich and upper-middle class a slap on the wrist (the difference between the heavy penalties for crack possession and the light ones for cocaine -- the same drug used in different form by poor and rich). And in the cases where real perpetrators of reprehensible things are locked up, little or no effort is made at rehabilitation. The prison functions more as a training ground for further crime.

. This is why I call the prisons "gulags" in reference to the repressive institutions of the Stalinist Soviet Union. (The Soviet Union from the 1920's on was not really a communist or socialist state but an increasingly brutal dictatorship of a bourgeois class, one that used a parody of communist ideology to fool the masses. This "red" bourgeoisie came to power on the back of a genuine workers' revolution; it owned the means of production through a state that had slipped from the control of the workers after the Civil War and Lenin's death.)

. This is a lengthy introduction to a letter from a revolutionary imprisoned in the U. S. prison system, D. A. Sheldon, whose passionate poems appears on pp. 61 and 64.

December 19, 1996
Dear Tim,
. Thanks for the issue of Struggle, and pleased to say our newly discovered progressive 'zine is well-written and beyond impressive reaching to the pinnacle in the world of leftist publications! I really, really enjoyed the literature within side and was both surprised and delighted to learn such a publication existed that devoted its pages exclusively to proletarian poetry and fiction, a rare commodity in capitalist Amerikkka! I first would like to comment on some of the written work beginning with the poem "The New America" by Tuli Kupferberg on page 64. That of the many late nights or early mornings, as I try to wind down the day by gazing at the tube, now and then I come across a TV station ending its programming for the day, playing the tune: "America," promoting all its lies of freedom, etc. In a good majority of the time I sing along changing the words to depict what Amerikkka really is, but never complete the ballad. Well now I can with the knowledge I'm fully singing the truth. Next I would like to thank you for sharing J. D. Barrett, Sr. 's powerful work on pages 34-36. There's a saying that some of the best literature comes from behind the walls, though is usually ignored by mainstream avenues due to the political climate of our society. By giving a prisoner room to speak, you're giving that "person" a chance to expose the system for what it commits against humanity. That as a prisoner once said:
. In prison life is hard-edged and authority is capricious. Thoughts are contraband and writing is deadly serious business. Still they (prisoners) write. Not because writing is therapeutic or that it will help open the gates to freedom. Prisoners write for the same reason that writers everywhere write -- because it is life saving. ---Jerome Washington, Iron House (Stories from the Yard)
. Finally I appreciate your editorial decision to include excerpts from Real Time: a Japanese Utopian Romance. I have the hardest time locating revolutionary fiction and the few times I find it, I go crazy reading and dreaming of being in such a place as illustrated in Real Time, but I hope we don't have to wait until 2347!
. Enclosed are four poems for consideration. . . .
In solidarity,
D. A. Sheldon
Iowa State Penitentiary
PO Box 316
Ft. Madison, IA 52627

. We thank brother Sheldon for his kind comments. Struggle is free to prisoners. We have a number of prisoner subscribers and often publish writings by prisoners. To encourage correspondence with prisoners we include their full address following their published work.

Eternal Values or History

. Next we include a letter from Victor Roman, author and artist responsible for part of the materials on homelessness which make up the opening section of the present issue. Victor addresses a question discussed by one of our regular contributors, Tamar Diana Wilson de García, in last issue.

Yo Tim,
. Thanks for sending me issue #12. Especially enjoyed Tamar Diana Wilson de García's commentary concerning the relationship between politics and literature interesting. I do question her statement "all human creation is imbedded in a particular historical conjuncture and influenced by the particular social and economical configuration present at a given historical period. " I -- one of hell's children of the streets -- should be prone to such lofty idealism (a luxury often entertained in order to keep the mind off of being hungry) despite being a stout supporter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- by the Global Assembly. Somehow it appears poetry and literature in general often have certain recurring themes that are consistent in celebrating the human condition, i.e. = love and other human emotions. The time, circumstances and even approach may change but not the core emotion. In our age of improved efficiency, machinery, computers, space age and mad dash towards the year 2000 are we as a people still in search for a more accurate defining of the human experience or are we settling for a commercial hand-out ideal living and government-prescribed morality? Is God a t. v. set, money or political jargon or is God just us taking responsibility for our own future? Instead of finding easy scapegoats like illegal immigrants (was that not called with-hunting in Salem MA during the depression of that time period?). Anyway that's my two cents worth of rambling on a soapbox in all the English Hyde Parks of America. What I would like to see by the year 2000 is you still publishing and doing matter-of-fact editorials. Maybe by them we can both turn around and reflect on how in our own little way we contributed to a better world. Awesome challenge type of idea huh!!??
Victor Roman

. Well, it is obvious that there is a human race that is distinct from other forms of life and has certain features in common. But as for "core emotions," that is another matter. Whose "core emotions?" The rule-makers of the ruling classes which have existed for the past 6000 years or so since classes arose have never seen the oppressed classes as fully human and still don't; and they impose their viewpoint with partial success on the rest of society. Blacks only got the full right to vote in the U. S. , after much struggle, in the 1960's, nearly 200 years after "we hold all these truths to be self-evident" was proclaimed; women only got that right in the 1920's. To this day, if a Black person were to become a serial killer, the reference would be to a Black serial killer; but a white one would be just a serial killer. This means that all Blacks would be saddled with some of the blame for the serial killings, while no one blames whites in general for John Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer.

, The point is that what is considered human changes with history and is different for different classes of society. The employers and their supervisors think nothing of ordering the workers in their factories around like cattle, talking to them like children and depriving them of their livelihood at the slightest excuse. This is not sharing a "core emotion. " One of the "core" features of the socialist vision that I and my comrades adhere to is that of a day to come when there will be neither rich nor poor nor any discrimination based on race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Then, as Marx said, the pre-history of humanity will be over. Yes, Victor, this is lofty idealism, but its conceptualization -- and its realization -- are and will be embedded in history.

Forward -- to "Real Time"

. Alex Shishin, our novelist of socialist utopia (see p. 36), calls that future day "real time. " That's quite an inversion of the criticism many people make of utopias, that they are not "real. " But on the day when capitalist exploitation and its attendant oppressions are gone, it is they which will seem unreal. Is that "really" so far-fetched? Today the CEO of an auto conglomerate -- whose talents lie merely in planning business trends and closing deals -- often makes a hundred times the pay of the laborer who builds the cars and many times the pay of the engineer who designs them. Won't that seem unreal someday? What about homelessness in the richest country on earth, or the selling of South Asian children into slavery, the enslavement and brutalization of African-Americans, the Holocaust of the Jews. . . ? A future generation will find it as difficult to understand how these crimes could have been committed as we have in understanding cannibalism. Here's Alex:

306-801 Okubo-machi, Okubo-cho, Akashi-shi, Hyogo-ken 674, Japan
January 23. 1997
Dear Tim,
. First, so many, many thanks for publishing the chapters from Real Time and for your very kind and generous editorial. Gosh! I felt like I'd gone to heaven -- or Real Time. The journal arrived on Jan. 21 and I've been reading it slowly and appreciating the very good writing that I've found. I especially liked Namrata Patel's "The Duty of a Woman. " Much of the poetry reminds me of working class songs by folks like Joe Hill, Ralph Chaplain, and Woody Guthrie, as well as those whose authors are unknown or too numerous to mention. What I liked is that issues of sexism and racism are addressed through a working class perspective, as they should be. There is a vitality here that I find very much missing in the usual literary quarterlies.
. I was so moved by all the nice things your editorial said about Real Time -- but I was even more moved by the open spirit that wrote it. Real Time is such a hodgepodge of philosophical schools -- Marx, Kropotkin, De Leon, Proudhon, Fourier, Chomsky, Martin Luther King, Orwell, plus a lot of my own modest thoughts -- that I thought no Left publication would feel comfortable with it. . . . .
. I particularly appreciated your comments on Real Time's approach to multiculturalism. And your remarks on the professional academic division-makers is right on. I think people in the next century will seek unity as this half of our century has (for important reasons) sought diversity. Ronald Takaki at U. C. Berkeley has also sought unity in multicultural studies. Listening and reading him I think multicultural studies is really working class studies.
. You were right about Real Time not directly confronting the core of modern Japan by only looking at an attempted take over of a university. Universities aren't Nissan or Sony. They are rest stops between secondary school hell and work hell for a few lucky working class kids (35% of all Japanese go to college). The sort of private university I described is typical of the many mom n' pop private schools in Japan. There is the dumb founder to whom everyone must pay homage, the lack of unionization, the corruption, the hierarchies with all the ass kissers and idiots on top. As such, the mom n' pop private schools -- which get public money -- are living exaggerations of Japanese capitalism today. That is what I tried to show in Real Time.
. What Real Time says about professors being workers applies to middle managers in companies. (Recently companies have been trying to bully out their over 45-year-old managers. Lo and behold these chaps, who thought of their company as a family and looked down their educated noses at the rest of the working class, are now forming unions.)
. The backwardness of Japan would surprise you. Feudalistic attitudes and open drainage gutters exist alongside hi tech. It's no exaggeration to say that Japan is a third world country with a first world economy.
. About mass insurrection. This is really a something that requires more than a few words in a letter. I've always advocated peaceful revolution -- locking out the capitalists and electing as many of our people to office as possible. In my youth I was with the old Socialist Labor Party (sympathizer at 15, member at 18, kicked out along with most of section Palo Alto at 19) and I know much of what I learned there stuck. I see now that Daniel De Leon was so wrong and so right in many respects. He believed socialism could be achieved through the most humane methods. He was aware of ruling class ruthlessness when it came to hanging on to their goodies. Yet he underestimated just how ruthless the capitalists would be when confronted with even the remote possibility of socialism. In The Socialist Reconstruction of Society (1905) he said the capitalist is but a bully and a swindler who would run away at the sight of an organized working class. I think Jack London got it more right in The Iron Heel. Anyway, along with sections like the one you published you'll also find plenty of blood and guts in Real Time. Real Time shows what human ways socialism might be achieved and what I fear will be the hell humankind will have to pass through before real socialism is achieved.
. Let's admit this, anyway. Insurrection is war and any war is hell. Before we knock the capitalists into the ashbin of history, violent revolution means workers killing workers. It may ultimately mean red flags flying over the stock exchange but it will also mean the bodies of our working class sisters and brothers littering the streets and flies crawling through their eye sockets.
. Whatever we do, we must expect violence from the ruling class. The general industrial lockout can be an effective alternative to barricades (if done right). Whatever happens, workers will need to operate the means of production and distribution. Crops will need to be harvested, babies clothed and fed, the mail delivered, the sick mended. Real Time isn't a manifesto, a how-to manual for making socialism. Ultimate answers like that are beyond my poor imagination.
. I wish socialism could be brought with a handshake, a la Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. Possibly a De Leonist style revolution is realistic in Scandinavia and in countries like Holland. (Marx in 1871 said in Den Haag that the Dutch and the British might use the vote. ) In a place like the U. S. -- I despair. At best it's a crap shoot. In third world dictatorships -- now becoming the first world's industrial centers -- I see no alternative to barricades.
. At any rate it's a race between the total breakdown of capitalism and environmental collapse.
. Well, so much for my blabber, Tim. Good luck with the next issue. If it is going to be anything like this last one you have got a real gem flashing away there in Detroit.
Alex (Shishin)

. Alex is happy about what he calls the "open spirit" of Struggle's enthusiasm for his novel, which he states has ideas from a whole bunch of sources. He seems a little surprised, and that is quite understandable considering the distortions and mis-representations that Marxism-Leninism (my politics) has been subjected to. But just look at how Lenin wrote about Tolstoy's fiction, or Marx and Engels about Balzac or Shakespeare. While never abandoning their critical proletarian class viewpoint, these Marxist writers welcomed the liberatory impulses and artistry and the historical insights present, sometimes inadvertently, in these works. It is a misunderstanding that Marxism simply slams everything that it is critical of. The socialist and over-all scientific and democratic traditions are incomparably rich. Genuine Marxism examines them, learns from them, subjects them to analysis, tries to preserve and deepen their best aspects, all that which contributes to the liberation of the proletariat and oppressed humanity, while criticizing bourgeois and opportunist view-points. I might, for example, oppose anarchism as a political program while appreciating the desire for liberation that drives many of its adherents as well as the insights some have revealed.

. Alex's has misunderstood my comments about the university in his novel. I didn't say that his university did not seem to represent modern Japanese society as a whole; I said it seemed to be much more backward than other Japanese universities must be, and his description of it above as a "mom n' pop" college seems to confirm my comments. Still, I think that his imaginary campus provided a lively scene for a revolutionary outbreak. Alex goes on -- in the letter above -- to link his description of professors to corporate middle managers, calling them both workers. I think this is seriously misleading. It singles out the factors of job insecurity and working for a paycheck from all others, ignoring the much higher rates of pay these folks normally make, their many opportunities for other forms of income and their roles in administering the oppressive system of capitalism. Sure, some of them may participate in a revolution -- they don't have to be workers to do that. But let's not forget the other factors or we run the danger of pinning our hopes on these levels of society and being confused when only a few individuals from there take up a fight against the system.

. Alex discusses at some length the question of revolutionary violence. Wistfully, with I think a bit of nostalgia for the lost, peacefully-votable socialism of his SLP youth, he wishes that a revolution in a country like the U. S. could be accomplished without violence, but he is too realistic to ignore the brutality that the capitalists use against any potentially revolutionary organization of the oppressed class, or even against trade unions or civil rights organizations, when they wage a serious fight. The assassinations of African American leaders of the 1960's is a well-known example of this violence.

. The capitalists will eventually force the working people to make a revolution. Its exact form and inspiring issues cannot be foretold. They may be, as Alex says, economic collapse or environmental destruction. But a general strike, which will likely be part of the upsurge, cannot alone oust the capitalists, nor can industrial take-overs and the running of production by the workers. Because the capitalists have their armed state machinery (military, FBI, local police, etc. ) and it will have to be smashed, beaten by the masses in fighting, broken up by defections of working youth from the military, and so on. No revolution has ever see the rich fight the poor; the rich have always fooled or compelled a part of the poor to fight for them. The cops and the soldiers come from the working class. Some will defect, with soldiers far more likely to side with a revolution; unavoidably, the rest will have to be fought.

. As Kropotkin Tsuda in Alex's novel points out, the capitalist state is essentially a dictatorship of the rich, even where some democratic rights have been won (precariously and with much struggle) by the working masses. This dictatorship will have to be overthrown and a workers' power established which will of necessity be a dictatorship over the bosses, but this very use of force will place the means to infinitely fuller democracy (printing presses, computer networks, etc. ) in the hands of the workers. A historical period of the suppression of the capitalists will take place during which the whole population will govern and learn to administer industry and agriculture. Capitalists and the methods, institutions and ideology of all class domination will gradually disappear and with them the need for a state apparatus altogether and humanity will emerge into Alex's Real Time. This is the vision that a Marxist fights for.

Another Challenge from Anarchism

. Mike Catalano, another contributor to last issue, writes a letter that raises some interesting questions. Here's Mike:

Dear Tim --
. Thanks for your latest double-issue of Struggle. It's quite an honor having my poem "Politicians" on the back cover. I can sympathize with the struggle of the poor and the oppressed against the rule of the wealthy and the so-called privileged. Perhaps I'm not the most-qualified to comment on ideology -- after all, it's been 25+ years since I was a "radical" student of the later sixties and early seventies. But here goes:
. As an avowed anarchist, I have lost faith with all government. So often in Struggle you dissociate yourself with the aberrations of the Marxist-Leninist regimes (i.e. , China, the Soviet Union) and their iron-fisted rule over the workers. I remember Solidarity of Poland flourishing under Lech Walesa until General Jaruzelski, in keeping peace with his Soviet bosses, crushed it and imprisoned Walesa under house arrest. And this is my argument, short of objection to you. The problem with Marxism-Leninism is a problem of identity.You can be apologetic all you want but if you asked the average Joe Blow about Marxist-Leninism, the proletariat, the class struggle, etc. , they will mention the Soviet Union, commies, et al, in a heartbeat. Seems to me you cloak yourself in the old terminology of the 19th century, when the 21st century in all its totalitarian machinery looms larger. Short of being a "revisionist," come up with a new name. If African-Americans can emerge from black, from colored, from Negro, then what about you, the Marxist-Leninist?
. To the question of the "workers' paradise. " That's all well and good, but who will lead? The union leaders? Gawd, every one I've known is as crooked as a three-dollar bill! Who? As anarchist, I have made my stances known against corrupt businesses. For six years I've boycotted Exxon publicly as a protest to Valdez and their "clean-up cover-up. " My teenage daughter has boycotted Tyson Food Products because in the late 1970's, the owners locked the workers inside a factory plant and toodle-oo, it caught fire and hundreds perished. That's a personal protest. If more people started at a grass-roots level, then maybe it could spread nationally.
. As for Clintonism, I am appalled that he could ramrod tighter airport security after Flight 800 without a whimper. They can now search and seize one's belongings. It's more than overreacting. It's government interference into personal liberties. When will it stop? It won't. With Oklahoma City and Flight 800, I believe the next major national disaster will result in martial law and the end of the so-called "republic" as we now know it.
Keep the faith, Tim. Someone has to fight the system.
Mike Catalano

. Mike raises at least three questions here. Let's take the question of terminology -- what Mike calls "identity" -- first. Mike correctly observes the discredit that has come to the terminology of Marxism-Leninism due to the oppressive nature of the Soviet and Chinese regimes. He knows that we oppose them in the name ofMarxism and Leninism, but he suggests that we cannot escape an indelible guilt-by-association between these regimes and the terminology of communism. This is no small problem and it has been faced by the groups I have been associated with and others many times over the past 30 years. The answer my trend (today the Communist Voice Organization, publishers of the theoretical journal Communist Voice) always comes up with is that the original, full, dialectical use of the Marxist terminology is a system of terms and meanings that is truer and more scientific in its approach to social reality than any other. This system of ideas has been grossly distorted -- revised -- by the state-capitalist rulers of China and the Soviet Union. But the termin-ology which expresses this system of ideas cannot be dropped or replaced with a substitute without destruction of its basic concepts. Genuine Marxism is the only theoretical system which is fundamentally opposed to the capitalist system at every juncture. It is the polar opposite of capitalist theory in all its forms and it leads to a social system -- socialism culminating in communism -- which is the only radical alternative, the only realalternative, to the capitalist system. Conservatives are well aware of this: no matter how some on the left may try to re-name this alternative, the right correctly recognizes its true opponent and cranks out the anti-communist slanders for the benefit of Mike's "Joe Blow" (incidentally, having spent a lifetime among workers and 30 years raising communist concepts, I have found that rudimentary communist ideas are everywhere and that Joe Blow-ism is an adoption of ruling class rhetoric which often proves superficial in the face of class-conscious argument and the experience of real struggle).

. The answer to Mike's dilemma is not easy. It involves re-affirming the essential theo-retical content of classical Marxism, criticizing and repudiating its distortions and revisions by Stalin, Mao, Khruschev, Deng and others, and extending and developing its application to contemporary problems. If Marxism is scientific and provides answers to these problems, and if energetic revolutionaries study and apply it, it will eventually overcome its stigma. Already some of its main attackers in the post-structuralist, post-modernist intellectual trend are finding that Marxism bounces back from their philosophical slap in the face. Jacques Derrida, a skilled attacker of Marxist materialism, recognized its resilience in his 1995 book Specters of Marxism (evidently a specter was haunting Jacques Derrida!).

. Mike also raises the much-debated question of how a workers' revolution can be prevented from becoming a dictatorship over the workers by a new bourgeois class, as happened in the Soviet Union. First, there are no guarantees either way. Should a revolutionary quit simply because the possibility of betrayal exists? No. Despite its betrayal, the Russian Revolution stimulated many of the great advances of the working people in the 20th century, including the liberation from colonialism, industrial unionism leading to massive workers' education and literacy, a more powerful anti-racist tradition, and others.

. But it is also necessary to formulate a theoretical answer to the revisionist road of betrayal, an answer from the standpoint of Marxism itself. This my organization, the CVO, is attempting to do, and a step is taken in the latest issue of Communist Voice, which contains an article on the anarchy of production under Soviet state-capitalism. The struggle against revisionism goes on at every point. Drawing the masses of workers and oppressed directly into political activity both before and after the revolution is a key. Theoretical contestation, lessons drawn from actual experience in class struggle, the spread of genuine Marxist consciousness among the workers and intellectuals -- all this contributes.

. This leads directly to the third question Mike raises: who will lead a revolution? Quite rightly he rejects the present union leaders. Obviously they are against a revolution, as they are against even a serious reform struggle such as a hard-fought strike (witness their shame-ful misleadership of the Detroit newspaper strike). These leaders are part of a bureaucrat-ized stratum of workers that has reached a collaborative accommodation with the capitalists.

. The leadership of a revolution must come from a combination of workers and other ordinary people who passionately want to overturn the system with those workers and intellectuals who have grasped the course and tactics of revolution by studying Marxism and throwing off its distortions and revisions. The extreme brutality of the bourgeoisie toward its serious opponents requires that we build an organization of leaders coming out of, linked to, mixed with, the working class and oppressed masses. The Marxist-Leninist theory of a proletarian party -- as practiced by the Bolsheviks under Lenin's leadership when the party was turbulent with mental effort and creativity and led all the practical struggles -- is the starting point for such an organization. In What Is To Be Done? Lenin wrote of building such an organization around a newspaper which acted as a tribune of the oppressed workers and poor. Perhaps that will be the path again. Whatever it takes, this will not be an organization which suppresses its debates or ignores them in the interest of unprincipled unity; it will be an organization forged and developed through the most arduous intellectual and practical efforts of the most revolutionary people of our society.

Is This Factionalism?

. To close this editorial, we confront a challenge by a powerful poet of the workers' struggle, Al Markowitz, whose poems appear on pp. of the present issue. Al is a critical supporter of the former Soviet Union. Here is Al's letter:

Dear Tim,
. I am glad to have received the latest issue of Struggle. As for your note -- I was a bit irritated by your apparent failure to understand what I was saying and by your retreat to didactic factionalism.
. I agree that many of the deviations and crimes of Stalin did more harm than good to Socialism in the USSR, however, as a Communist I also realize that the foundation of that society was still socialist and thus "fixable. " (Unlike Capitalism which is corruption in practice and cannot be fixed. ) So rather than join the bourgeoisie and their Trotskyite friends in condemning the Soviet system, I would give it critical support. I stress critical because it is our duty to criticize as well as support efforts to build Socialism -- that is dialectic materialism in practice as well as class loyalty. I feel we must examine the experience of the USSR the way Marx examined the Paris Commune so we can learn from our mistakes and our successes.
. I fully support the idea of proletarian revolution and dictatorship as described by Marx and Lenin, however, the people must make the revolution. We must get them to that point by building class consciousness and a revolutionary socialist outlook. Militant breastbeating and preaching a parochial simplistic "formula" for revolution which ignores our own historic moment and cultural experience, which uses terms which alienate workers will not get us there. The writing in Struggle will do more to advance this consciousness than the Communist Voice. Propaganda is an art and must be done creatively without sacrificing principle.
. It would be more constructive for us to work out our differences than to categorize and condemn each other and I am always willing to do so as I feel we are much in agreement on most things. .. .
In Solidarity,
Al Markowitz

That's a pretty direct challenge. My critique of the betrayal of socialism, the con-struction of a state-capitalist order in the Soviet Union, is called "didactic factionalism. " According to Al, "the foundation of that society was still socialist. " Well, I plead guilty to "didactic" -- and nothing else. Incidentally, it is Al whose position resembles that of the Trotskyists, most of whom hold that the Soviet Union was fundamentally a socialist economy capped by a "degenerate workers' state. " They -- and Al -- agree that socialism equals state ownership, regardless of the nature of that state. By this criterion, the Scandinavian countries are socialist, France and Italy used to be pretty socialist, the Canadian health system is socialist and the U. S. post office was, before its quasi-independence of the government, a bastion of socialism!

. But the question of socialism cannot be separated from the question of the nature of the state, the nature of the government. Only a truly workers' state can be proceeding towards real socialism. In the Soviet Union the Civil War of the early 1920's, in which reactionary Russian armies and foreign imperialist troops ferociously attacked the revolutionary regime, left the revolutionary proletariat which made the Bolshevik Revolution decimated. The participation in governing by the workers as a conscious class was dying as the former party of Lenin (he died in 1923) was being transformed, under Stalin's leadership, into a bureaucracy separate from the masses. This bureaucracy jelled into a class; controlling the state, it owned the means of production. The working class and poor peasantry were not aroused to proletarian class-consciousness and drawn into the administration of society, as Lenin had hoped; they were shoved aside and those who posed a potential conscious threat to revisionism were murdered.The new bourgeoisie lived well, increasingly rising above the workers. It led the modernization of the country and the victory over nazi Germany. But it was a bourgeoisie in communist disguise.

. This is too large a question to be swept under the rug as "factionalism" as Al wishes. The Soviet Union since the 1920's did not represent the socialist ideal I am fighting for. It had certain beneficial reforms, such as guaranteed employment, but lacked others such as freedom of speech and assembly and the right to strike. Al speaks of "building class consciousness and a revolutionary socialist outlook. " Such a difference as ours over whether one the world's largest countries was or was not socialist for 70 years is certainly not merely a question of factionalism;it is a fundamental class question, a large determinant of exactly what "class consciousness" and a "revolutionary socialist outlook" really means. To consider the Soviet Union as socialist is precisely not to have a "socialist outlook" but to have a state-capitalist outlook, not a proletarian class-consciousness but a bourgeois class consciousness. To twist Marxism into this deformed state is revisionism.

. Of course, this is not the whole story with Al's outlook; if it was, he wouldn't be able to write powerful proletarian poems. And this is not a personal question, but a question of political program and principle. Its influence on literary questions is profound, for literature is permeated with outlook and ideals. While encouraging all genuine sparks of rebellion against the bourgeoisie, Struggle encourages their development toward a genuinely socialist outlook.

* * *

Here are two more short letters, which need no comment:

December 11, 1996

Dear Tim:
. I thoroughly enjoyed the latest issue of Struggle, I was especially pleased to see the poem by Carol Williams on the use of the word "nigger. " She wisely pointed out that White bigots have no word for White people that equals the one they have for the Blacks they despise. If only more Blacks would embrace this fact. . . .
. Keep up the great work and I can hardly wait for the next issue of Struggle.
. Onward!
Norm R. Allen, Jr.
African-Americans for Humanism

March 23

Dear Struggle,
. I hope someday to be a contributor. I love this magazine. It fills me with hope and pride to be a working person. The depth and texture of proletarian culture is vastly energizing.
M. Nutt

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