Clay Left Feet

Apsken at Apsken at
Mon Dec 6 09:19:06 MST 1999

    Michael Pugliese seems obsessed with dissecting leftwing writers'
political genealogies, and rummaging through their personal laundry bins and
trash heaps. I think this is silly, and contributes precious little to
political debate, although it surely flaunts his passion for minutia (when
he's right; sometimes he isn't [I pointed out to him that he had confused
Debbie Nathan with Martha Nathan, M.D.], and in those instances it flaunts
his own penchant for unsupported leaps). If the aim is to boast of being
well-read in sectarian byways, I'd say my own hobbies are more interesting.
    Here is my alternative view. The sixties and seventies were periods of
insurgency and activism, to which intellectuals of many colors were honorably
or opportunistically attracted, in hopes of joining and/or influencing the
course of events. Some of their contributions were useful, and were embraced
by the mass movements. Some were attempted, and found to be wanting, but were
worthwhile experiments. Some were plainly wrong-headed, and were properly
opposed. Some (perhaps useful as examples for the ongoing LBO-talk discussion
on clarity) were impenetrably obtuse, and were ignored. Some were wacky, and
were ridiculed.
    Often early heroes were later sellouts. Sometimes early opportunists
became later comrades. None of Michael's interventions acknowledge, let alone
draw intelligent insights from, such biographical material; instead we are
repeatedly treated to titillation packaged as marxicology.
    How does Michael's own dedication and engagement measure up to Stokely
Carmichael's leadership of SNCC and the AAPRP over two generations of
struggle? or to the Rosenbergs' martyrdom? to take just two objects of his
sneers as examples.
    Over the course of time, nearly every real activist has written or said
something she or he regrets upon reflection, or in the context of later
events. These points are seized upon by demagogues (some of whom write for
The Nation; others join the Spartacists), usually absent their contexts, as
slippery forms of ad hominem, beneath which to impute undue honor and
political wisdom to themselves.
    To me, comradeship is not measured by the correctness of one's political
line, nor by one's demonstrated political infallibility. A comrade is someone
who is on our side when the chips are down, in person, and who can be relied
upon to stand and fight, not to cut and run, and not to avoid engagement
while explaining and defending higher truths.

Ken Lawrence

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