[Marxism] Trot-diaper baby biography: Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 31 16:46:09 MDT 2009

Adam Richmond wrote:
> Memoir review: 'When Skateboards Will Be Free' 
> Lee Thomas, Special to The Chronicle
> Tuesday, March 31, 2009
> When Skateboards Will Be Free
> A Memoir of a Political Childhood
> By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
> (The Dial Press; 287 pages; $22)
> Playwright Saïd Sayrafiezadeh's first book, "When Skateboards Will
> Be Free," describes growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1970s and '80s,
> amid the swirl of the socialist movement. The title looks forward to a
> post-capitalist era when no money need change hands for the skateboard
> young Saïd desperately wants, or anything else for that matter.

I read an excerpt from this stupid book when it appeared in Granta and 
posted this comment on it to the swp yahoo (these 2 terms really sort of 
go together, don't they?) mailing list:

I can’t remember anything leaving such a bad taste in my mouth as Säid 
Sayrafiezadeh's “When Skateboards will be free”. It was almost enough to 
make me reapply for membership in the SWP. Almost.

Although Said is not a rightwinger (at least for the time being), it is 
clear that he is trying to pull off something like this excerpt from 
David Horowitz’s “Radical Son”:

 >>The powerful early chapters of the book introduce his parents and 
recount his youth as a red-diaper baby. For his father, communism 
provided the certainty, self-confidence, and sense of mastery of fate 
that he lacked; it promised an end to the alienation that he felt from 
his country and, indeed, himself. This made for a strange childhood: 
"Almost all conversation in our household was political, other than what 
was necessary to advance the business of daily life." Horowitz was 
warned off baseball, "a form of capitalist exploitation," and especially 
the Yankees, "the ruling class of baseball": "To root for the Yankees," 
as Horowitz furtively did, "was to betray a lack of social consciousness 
that was unthinkable for people like us."<<

In fact, the real model for this is the witch-hunt movies of the 1950s 
in which the Reds were virtually indistinguishable from the pod people 
in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Although I didn’t really know 
Said’s parents, I truly doubt that they were as one-dimensional as they 
were depicted in his memoir, which I assume is an excerpt from a 
full-length book.

If David Horowitz is denied baseball, so poor Said is denied a 
skateboard. His mother who seems to have taken a vow of poverty doubts 
the need for such a trifle, especially since it would set her back $10 
or so. Frankly, this sounds fabricated like much else in this memoir. No 
matter how poor his mother was, it seems dubious that she couldn’t 
scrape up such a paltry sum. His whole purpose, of course, is to create 
a dichotomy between his own desire for normalcy and his parents’ robotic 

It is not even reliable as a guide to life inside the SWP, which by this 
time had taken on certain “odd” characteristics to put it mildly. Said 
informs us that his mother was attending a forum on “Trotsky and the 
Fourth International.” As a forum director of the SWP for a number of 
years, I can say that anybody who proposed such a topic would have 
raised eyebrows. This is especially true in the period that Said covers, 
which was marked by a growing disaffection from Trotskyist traditions.

But the worst thing about this venal exercise was the charge he made 
about being molested by a baby-sitter while his mother attended the 
forum. Said writes that this man “put his hands in my pants and gently 
ran his fingers over and around my dick and balls sending a Shockwave 
coursing through my four-year-old body.”

When Said’s mother calls the SWP headquarters to tell them that her son 
had been molested by a party member, she supposedly is told that “Under 
capitalism everybody has problems.” According to Said, “it was left at 
that.” So, here we have it. The SWP not only forces children to go 
without skateboards, it shrugs it shoulders when they are buggered. What 

Try to imagine such an incident occurring. I can’t. Whatever the faults 
of the SWP in this period, it was not likely to tolerate child 
molestation. Male SWP members of long standing were expelled for using 
violence against their female companions so it is doubtful that sexual 
abuse of a four year old would go unpunished.

If the SWP was guilty of anything, it was turning into such a 
suffocating cult that the child of two of its members would turn into 
such a vengeful fabricator. Let’s hope that in the revolutionary party 
of the future we can create an environment where parents and children 
can relate to each other normally. I should qualify that by saying as 
normal as can be expected in bourgeois society, which the revolutionary 
party has to operate in.

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