Talkin' about my generation by G. William Domhoff

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jul 17 08:24:29 MDT 2003

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> Can Radicals Be Liberals, Too?
> By G. William Domhoff

Dear Bill,

I hope you don't mind me writing you out of the blue like this, but
scruffy sans-culotte Marxists like myself don't have much other recourse
besides the Internet when it comes to answering Professor Emeritus types
like yourself.

In the last few days you have come into my radar screen twice. I assume
that you are the same Bill Domhoff who wrote the classic "Who Rules
America," a book that influenced me greatly when I was coming around the
radical movement in 1966. With those kinds of credits, I was kind of at
a loss to understand why you were the most vehement supporter of the
lesser-evil at a debate on whether the Democratic Party can be reformed
at last weekend's Socialist Scholars Conference.

Not having attended that debate, I now understand where you are coming
from. On Denis Dutton's website "Arts and Letters Daily", which is sort
of an Ivory Tower version of the Drudge Report that typically features
links to articles extolling DDT, making Iraq the 51st state or
sociobiological defenses of old men lusting after younger women, one of
your articles showed up. Now I have to admit that I am suspicious when
Dutton features somebody with leftist credentials. Typically, it is
somebody like Meghnad Desai who wrote "Marx's Revenge", a Verso book
arguing that if Marx was alive today he'd be raising a champagne glass
to the IMF.

So when I saw that the link to your article that was in the same box as
links to Fareed Zakaria and Michael "Laptop Bombardier" Walzer, I had to
admit some trepidation. What would you be doing in such bad company?

Now that I've had a chance to look at the article titled " Which Side
Are We On?: Redefining Who's Us and Who's Them"
<>, which appears in
Jimmy Weinstein's "In These Times", I can say that Dutton's editorial
grouping makes some sense. In a tribute to class collaborationism that
goes against the grain of the current anti-war and anti-capitalist mood,
you write:

 >>In trying to bring about egalitarian social change, however, it
doesn't make good political sense to frame this picture of economic
concentration and class domination in terms of one social class against
another. Defining the "opponents" as "the capitalists" or "the rich" is
a strategic mistake.<<

How very interesting. I was under the impression that people began to
think in class terms because of war, unemployment, racism, and
environmental degradation. When the malefactors tend to belong to what
brontosaurus Marxists like myself call the ruling class, there is a
tendency to think of the capitalists as the enemy. That appeared to be
the way you once thought of them yourself, in your wild and woolly youth.

Most of the article goes along in this dreary vein and I certainly urge
the people on the listservs I participate in to read it. I will limit
myself, however, to one especially wrong-headed item that I have a
personal interest in. Referring to Jon Corzine, you write:

 >>But an attack on "the rich" or "the capitalist class," or worse, "the
capitalist pigs and bloodsuckers"? Then what about, for just one
example, New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, the multimillionaire banker who
has gone beyond his class interests to advocate a sharply defined
progressive agenda? This Democrat opposed Bush's tax cuts for the rich,
wants an "activist" government, sees a universal health care system as a
"basic right," and opposes the death penalty.<<

Since I was an employee of Goldman-Sachs when Corzine was the boss, I
have a slightly different appreciation of whether or not he "has gone
beyond his class interests". I was a 46-year-old computer programmer who
was given the message that the firm wanted to replace me, and others
like me, with younger and cheaper workers. I got the message and moved
on. Others were not so lucky. After arriving at work one morning, 25
long time employees of the firm, who had given flesh and blood to make
it profitable, were told to pack their belongings into a carton and were
then escorted by security guards to a string of cabs in front of 85
Broad Street, never to return. Eventually I ran into one of them at
Columbia University where he was a day laborer cleaning windows.

My only suggestion to you is to lay off the politics and society stuff,
where you can only do harm--not that any firebrand undergraduate is
likely to take your stumping for the Democratic Party and class peace
too seriously. Why don't you stick with dream studies? Until I did a
google search on you, I had no idea you were so involved with such an
esoteric subject. Your book "The Mystique of Dreams" earned this
cover-leaf accolade: "A fascinating strand of the human potential
movement of the 1960s." I guess we now know which exit you took off the
main highway.

Louis Proyect


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