[Marxism] Ding Dong, the Witch is dead a song for the picket lines

DCQ davecq at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 13 20:20:51 MDT 2013

You might be using "allegory" in a different sense than I am. I mean the "1-to-1" "this=that" idea. A classic children's example is C. S. Lewis's Aslan in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe...he's the son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea, and is betrayed, killed, and comes back to life, an act which ends the rule of the witch. The equation of Aslan with Christ is incontrovertible and follows Christ's action precisely, and those actions have the same repercussion in Narnia as they do in Christian theology. That's an allegory (at least how I'm using the term).

Baum certainly has politics in his stories. Dictators, revolts, wars, invasions, etc. And certain characters are archetypal or have archetypal qualities (I actually think art cannot really avoid this, but that's another topic). He may even have consciously modeled the Lion on or found inspiration in WJB (I've seen this and the Oz thing mentioned before, but not any first-hand admission), as something of an "in-joke." But the stories and characters don't mirror the careers or trajectories of their supposed allegorical others in the way Aslan does Christ's.

Newsinger's matter-of-fact end-of-debate statement that the scarecrow=farmers, woodsman=workers, lion=WJB, WW=capitalism (why?), and WoOz=gov't is a reductionist view that robs the story and the movie of much of their power and charm. Moreover, it implies that art that socialists should like should employ precisely this kind of sledgehammering allegory, an
implication I resent both because I disagree with it and because I think it is profoundly dull, pedantic, and contrary to experience. 

My point is that the "man-behind-the-curtain" metaphor is far more politically potent than any supposed working class allegory flying under the radar. In fact, I think his stated attempt to bring fairy tales "up-to-date" for modern American industrial capitalism (Tik-Tok as a modern rumplestiltskin?) is far more radical and avant garde and interesting than that, even if it were true or truly intended. 

As for Baum's politics, I'm pleased his populist and suffragist politics informed his works, just as I'm equally pleased his genocidal anti-Indian politics didn't. :)


On Apr 13, 2013, at 6:24 PM, Mark Lause <markalause at gmail.com> wrote:

> ======================================================================
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
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> While nothing an author writes can determine anything about how the book is
> read, Baum most certainly did write a political allegory, though he made it
> into an entertaining children's book . . . I don't know much about the
> movie or is makers.
> He is often said to have had Populist sympathies, but he clearly mistrusted
> the judgement of the Scarecrow and the cowardly William Jennings Lion.  His
> politics on woman's rights reflected those of his mother-in-law, Mathilde
> Joselyn Gage, a left-wing suffragist for many years.  His politics were
> more of the old style "Progressive" than anything else.
> Certainly, his sense that power is a matter of smoke and mirrors still
> flashes across my mind every time I wind up confronting it.
> ML
> On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 5:54 PM, DCQ <davecq at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> ======================================================================
>> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
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>> While this is certainly "an" interpretation, it is not "the"
>> interpretation. Baum wrote a children's book. While he did have some
>> connection to the radical republicans (through his mother iirc), he wasn't
>> writing a political allegory and smuggling it into the children's lit
>> section of libraries. (And even with allegories, I think the only wise
>> thing to do when one's find out what the author's intentions were is to
>> make a note, add the author's interpretations to the list of others, and
>> move on. Authors don't control of determine the meaning of their works.) In
>> any case, Newsinger gets the "standard" political interpretation slightly
>> wrong: the lion was supposed to be soldiers, and the wizard Bryan. (Or
>> maybe I got the wrong "standard.") But why the film should care about the
>> bygone Bryan, which was given a modern dust-bowl setting, is a mystery.
>> There is a whole host of very interesting things to say about Baum and his
>> series and the tradition of popular children's fiction. Were Newsinger's
>> deterministic interpretation correct ("the" correct one), then I think it
>> would be a poorer and shallower work. (Indeed, if "correct" interpretations
>> of literature/art were possible, I don't think I would see the point in art
>> at all.)
>> On the subject of the song, what the whole Thatcher thing has reminded me
>> of was how fucking great it was to celebrate the death of an oppressor who
>> so obviously deserved it. Seriously, the munchkins dance on her grave!
>> Offscreen, munchkins are pissing on her socks and posting pics to FB. We
>> need to revive that kind of unapologetic moral culture and I'm glad it's
>> happened with/to Thatcher. My only regret is that the parties we had when
>> Reagan finally croaked were small, private
>> "ha-ha-wink-wink-aren't-we-radical" type of affairs. Though I wonder what
>> would have happened had the pretzel actually finished GWB back in the day,
>> I think Obama has rehabilitated him and his policies to the point where few
>> would openly celebrate. We can always try though. :)
>> soli,
>> DCQ
>> On Apr 13, 2013, at 4:31 PM, En Passant with John Passant wrote:
>>> The Wizard of Oz is a film about politics, celebrating liberation. It is
>> a reworking for the 1930s of L Frank Baum's novel, The Wonderful Wizard of
>> Oz, published in 1900. In Baum's children's book, the Tin Man represents
>> the working class, the Scarecrow the small farmer, the Cowardly Lion the
>> populist leader, William Jennings Bryan, the Wicked Witch is big business
>> and the Wizard himself is the US government. In the novel, Dorothy has
>> silver shoes, the populist panacea, but in the film, her shoes are red. One
>> of the film's anthems, "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead", was to be sung on
>> picket lines.
>> http://enpassant.com.au/2013/04/14/ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead-a-song-for-the-picket-lines/
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