[Fwd: (William M Mandel) I'm on national Web TV Monday]

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Sun Aug 13 12:55:20 MDT 2000

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: I'm on national Web TV Monday
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2000 11:21:29 -0700
From: William M Mandel <wmmmandel at earthlink.net>

Monday 5:45 Eastern Time, 4:45 Central, 3:45 Mountain, 2:45
Pacific, I'll be interviewed on  www.PlayTV.com (the Alex
Bennett Show) about my autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER.
The interviewer focused on the period of McCarthyism and my
thinking and emotions leading to the sensational nature and
continuing interest in my testimonies, and the consequences
(I was portrayed under my own name in a play, "McCarthy,"
that ran seven months in Los Angeles 35 years after that
1953 hearing; in six documentary films that include the 1960
hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee
[the latest is just out], and at least a dozen national TV
specials including one this year. My book is described in
the "Foley's Books" column of the  current issue of the
online literary journal, Alsop Review. It reads:

    Creative Arts Book Company

    Let's drink a toast to all those farmers, workers,
artists, and intellectuals of the last one hundred years
who, without thought of fame or profit--not motivated by a
thirst for power--whose motivations were compassionate and
humanitarian--worked tirelessly in their dream of a
world-wide socialist revolution. Who believed and hoped that
a new world was dawning, and that their work would
contribute Wo a society in which one class does not exploit
another, where one ethnic group or one nation does not try
to expand itself over another, and where men and women lived
freely as equals. The people who nourished these hopes and
dreams were sometimes foolishly blind to the opportunism of
their own leadership, and many were led into ideological
absurdities, but the great majority of them selflessly
worked for socialism with the best of hearts. Their dreams
proved futile, and "actually existing socialism" became a
blight on the century almost equal to that of Nazism. What
we have now is nervous third world fundamentalism and
developed-world global greed. The failure of socialism is
the tragedy of the 20th century, and on this day, May Day,
at least, we should honor the memory of those who struggled
for the dream of what socialism might have been. And begin a
new way again.
            --Gary Snyder, "May Day Toast, for the Workers
of the World, for the year 2000"

            "[T]he only thing permanent in the world is
                    --William Mandel

    In 1960, summoned to appear before the House Un-American
Activities Committee (HUAC), author and Soviet affairs
expert William Mandel said,

    "If you think I will cooperate in any way with this
collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of
the United States Constitution, if you think I will
cooperate with you in any manner whatsoever, you are

    In 1953 Mandel had similarly stood up to Senator Joseph
McCarthy and Roy Cohn (like Mandel, a Jew). "I was," he
writes, 'a very angry man."

    Saying No To Power is a demonstration of far more than
Mandel's anger, though at times anger emerges as a primary
theme. A red diaper baby born in 1917 who narrowly escaped
being named "Karl Marx Mandel"--he is "William Marx
Mandel"--Mandel was both activist and observer of the
revolution which began in the year he was born: "Between my
father's interest in social change and my mother's in
culture...," he writes, "I chose to follow my father."

    Following his father meant not only following the path
of revolutionary activity but suppressing "creative
imagination...in favor of logic and disciplined thought."
The author's activism manifested early, and the chapters on
"kid power" are some of the most interesting in the book.
Even more importantly, from 1931 to 1932 the Mandel family
was in Russia, where the young William could learn Russian
and observe the Soviet experiment from close up. It was a
rich, determining moment in his life, and it placed him in a
unique position.

    If Mandel, following the logic of his father's
convictions, joined the Communist Party in 1935, he also
honored his mother's awareness of culture. Saying No To
Power is full of wonderful descriptions of growing up in
America. If you don't know what "stickball" and
"belly-whopping" are, this book can tell you. You will also
find discussions of Benny Leonard, "Legs" Diamond, Red
Skelton, Father Coughlin, and other more or less forgotten
figures. "Mickeys," Mandel tells us, is an ancient slang
term for "potatoes": he and his friends "roasted mickeys in
a can over a coal fire in an empty lot on Boston Road near
my junior high school in the East Bronx." Later, he gives us
a tremendous description of a demonstration following the
execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg--a set piece worthy
of some of the great moments of John Dos Passos' USA.
    Mandel's keen intelligence and powers of observation
hold him in good stead throughout the book, and the material
dealing with his career as an author and his thirty-seven
years as a radio commentator on Berkeley station KPFA (he
was "an expert on Soviet affairs") is fascinating. But his
central story is that of the loss of faith in what he
describes as a kind of religion: Communism. Like many who
have lost their faith, Mandel has nothing to replace it
with: "Until the collapse of the Soviet Union and, with it,
my faith in Marxist socialism, family was always secondary
in my consciousness. Trying to change the world came first."
Now, "there is no longer  a Utopian ideal I believe in."
Mandel would not endorse Gary Snyder's "May Day Toast"
description of "actually existing socialism" as "a blight on
the century almost equal to that of Nazism," however. Though
often critical of the U.S.S.R., Mandel has always been at
pains to point out the genuine accomplishments of the Soviet
regime--which is the burden of the wonderful radio piece,
included here, "If I Were Gorbachev."
    There are undoubtedly reasons to fault William Mandel.
The book is too long, and has too many commendatory letters
in it. Though Mandel is often brilliant in analyzing the
world around him--and is scrupulously honest in doing so--he
is less successful in turning the lens upon himself. He can
be arrogant, insensitive, extravagantly self-promoting, and
utterly blind to his own motivations. (At one point, in a
fury, he beat his daughter's head against the floor. One of
his sons had to remind him of the incident, which had
slipped his mind.!) The material in the book could be
scrutinized from a psychological point of view, and a very
different portrait would emerge. "I was out to cut his balls
off," he says of his encounter with Senator Joseph
McCarthy--not only veiled Oedipal feelings but equally
veiled castration anxiety, which occurs as well in some of
the author's early encounters with gays. (Mandel is
nevertheless entirely supportive of the struggle for gay
rights.) The book at times suggests that Mandel's
consciousness was entirely awash in what he calls "towering
rage," and he tells us he found "relief" from such feelings
in the terrors of hairpin driving. Unlucky the driver who
encountered him on the road at night! He can be sentimental.

    Yet, all that said, no one can deny William Mandel his
magnificent social passion and the sheer aliveness of his
consciousness. Saying No To Power is not only a moving
autobiography but a first-hand testimony to many of the most
significant events of the Twentieth Century. "Don't
oversimplify," Mandel writes: "Life, and politics, and
individual human beings are extremely complicated and
internally contradictory."

    At various moment, William Mandel offended everybody,
Communist and Capitalist. He was expelled from the Communist
Party in 1952, though he was not actually informed of this
and went on for the next four years trying to pay his dues
and attend meetings: "no one would accept the money and no
one would tell me where the meetings would occur." He
officially quit the Party in 1957. Though he published many
books, no publisher would touch him for the fifteen years
following 1946. He was fired from KPFA in 1995. Even in the
worst periods he managed to get his message out. We are vry
lucky to have had him, both on the page and on the airwaves.
The times he lived in perhaps made a hero of him, but it is
equally true that his insights focused the times in such a
way that we understand them far better than we would have
without his insights. Saying No To Power beautifully
articulates one of the deep myths of America. If Mr. Deeds
won't do it for you, Mr. Mandel will. He acted with courage,
intellligence, and flamboyance at a time when courage,
intelligence, and flamboyance were precisely what the
Establishment was trying to eliminate.

    It's too bad that William Mandel feels he no longer has
a Utopian ideal towards which he can strive. If one were to
arise before him--and it might--we can be sure that, even at
the age of eighty-three, he would move energetically towards
its realization. Indeed, despite his apostasy, he remains
what he has been throughout his long and fruitful carrer: an

     "Would to God that all the Lord's people were

by Jack Foley

Because of the need to rebuild my mailing list due to
inadvertent destruction, this may be going to some who
previously asked to be removed. My apologies. If you desire
removal, reply "Opt Out."

You may find of interest my website www.BillMandel.net

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