[Marxism] Pathfinder Mural Quote

Mike Alewitz alewitzm at mail.ccsu.edu
Sat Dec 9 12:13:19 MST 2006

"The truth must not only be the truth, it must also be told."

The quote was, if I recall correctly, taken from a speech in one of the
Pathfinder-published Castro anthologies that had a solid red cover.  I
remember this because it reminded me of one of Helmsman (1) Mao¹s platitudes
from his little red book. (i.e. ³To be attacked by the enemy is a good
thing, not a bad thing.²) I didn¹t particularly care for the quote,
especially removed from it¹s context and slapped in the middle of the mural
by order of Helmsman (2) Barnes.

When I designed the mural, a central ribbon was coming off the press and
contained excerpts from the 1918 anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, by Eugene
Debs.  The address, protesting World War I, resulted in Debs being arrested
and imprisoned on charges of espionage.  The speech remains one of the great
expressions of the militancy and internationalism of the US working class.
(His appeal, before sentencing, included one of his best-known quotes  ³...
while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal
element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.²)

I included the following excerpt, that made sense both politically and
aesthetically: ³... they who are animated by the unconquerable spirit of the
social revolution; they who have the moral courage to stand erect and assert
their convictions; stand by them; fight for them; go to jail or to hell for
them, if need be ‹they are writing their names, in this crucial hour‹they
are writing their names in faceless letters in the history of mankind.²

I was in the process of lettering when I was stopped in mid-stroke and
ordered to remove Debs words and replace them with Fidel¹s ­ a disservice to
both of these revolutionary leaders.

Barnes action was criminal for a number of reasons, and in keeping with his
nature ­ a grubby and unimaginative bureaucrat.  But I began to appreciate
the ironic quality of the quote as I was airbrushed out of the mural and
it¹s history was re-written.  The quote about truth was, in fact, a lie.

Mike Alewitz
Marxmail Lurker

For those who may be unfamiliar with this chapter of SWP history, I am
attaching the text from an exhibition a few years ago:

The Life and Death of the Pathfinder Mural

            Inspired by revolutionary struggles in Cuba, Nicaragua and South
Africa, the Pathfinder Mural Project was initiated by Mike Alewitz in 1988
as an international collaboration of artists.  Dozens of artists would
eventually participate in what would be one of the largest political murals
in the world.  
            Pathfinder Press is the publishing house of the Socialist
Workers Party, of which Alewitz had been an active member for two decades.
In 1988 he began to receive a series of sectarian and sometimes bizarre
demands to paint the" right line."  This included convoluted political
demands (such as how big Trotsky's head should be) as well as strictly
aesthetic questions (what colors should be used.)  Alewitz responded by
writing an article in the internal pre-convention party bulletin criticizing
this policy of interference into artistic freedom.  The convention was
cancelled.  A short time later, Alewitz was expelled by the central
leadership of the party, and subjected to a slander campaign that included
charges of anti-Semitism, egotism, racism, homophobia, etc.  He was not
permitted to respond to any of these charges.
            The history of the mural was re-written, and Alewitz became a
non-person.  He was officially shunned by the party membership.  To this day
Pathfinder does not acknowledge his authorship of the project.  Following
his removal from the project, party officials altered the mural by removing
many surreal, humorous and autobiographical elements.  This included the
removal of the Kent State martyrs (where Alewitz was a student protest
leader), frame-up victim Mark Curtis, Nicaraguan birds, etc.  Brochures were
re-written with his photos removed.
            In their haste to have a ³correct² mural, party officials forgot
that the original mural proposal was for a changing piece that would be
repainted periodically.  In the years after its completion, the mural began
to fade into the wall, even as the revolutionary traditions of the SWP had
faded from the memories of its members.  The SWP abandoned more and more of
its past traditions, abstaining from the anti-Gulf War movement and
reversing its support for a Labor Party. Eventually the mural was completely
removed, clearly an embarrassment to the current organization.
Recently the Pathfinder Building was sold for millions of dollars. There has
been no public explanation of the disposition of the money.


Message: 13
Date: Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:24:30 +0100 (MEZ)
From: " L?ko Willms " <lueko.willms at t-online.de>
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Pathfinder mural question
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
    <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Message-ID: <1Grrkc-0IiQO80 at fwd26.sul.t-online.de>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

On Fri, 1 Dec 2006 17:15:50 -0800 (PST), Ivan D. Drury wrote:

> Does anyone know which speech / statement the Fidel quote on the
(former) Pathfinder press mural was from? In english, it's "The truth
must not only be the truth, it must be told"

  Mike Alewitz <alewitz at comcast.net> should know, he was leading the
project when it started.

  Otherwise one would have to find old documents on the mural, but I
don't know where mine are. "The Militant" of the mid 1980ies ...

Lüko Willms
Frankfurt, Germany
visit http://www.mlwerke.de Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotzki in

Ivan D. Drury  ivanddrury at yahoo.ca
Fri Dec 1 18:15:50 MST 2006

This may seem like a trivial question, and I apologize, but this is
seemingly impossible to find through the regular channels.

Does anyone know which speech / statement the Fidel quote on the (former)
Pathfinder press mural was from? In english, it's "The truth must not only
be the truth, it must be told"

I need a precise spanish version of this quote and need the original, not a

Thanks in advance;


>> Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project
>> ____________________________________
>> Art Department/ Central CT State University
>> 1615 Stanley Street/ New Britain, CT  06050
>> ___________________________________
>> Office: 860.832.2359/ Mobile: 860.518.4046

More information about the Marxism mailing list