Friday, November 02, 2007
The various uses of scary quotationsA classic from the days when the "reds" were Communists, not Republicans
It's not often for me that a Bush speech inspires some actual reflection. But something keeps nagging me about the conservative fondness for the idea that the Bad Guys of History somehow expose their secret evilness in writing and that if you just read the appropriate passages you've discovered the inner workings of their dangerous minds.
It made me think of what we can safely say is an obscure book, Toward Soviet America (1932) by William Z. Foster. Foster was one of the leaders of the US Communist Party (CP) for decades. In 1932, he was their Presidential candidate and got a million or so votes, the CP's highwater mark in its history for electoral influence in the United States. In 1961, some conservative group republished it, and it actually got more circulation in that version than the original ever did. If the current Wikipedia entry is correct, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) published it themselves.
It contains passages of purple prose like, "The capitalist class, like an insatiable blood-sucker, hangs to the body of the toiling masses and can be dislodged only by force." (p. 130) That one has a certain so-bad-it's-good kitschy literary quality about it. Or, "The Negro masses will make the very best fighters for the revolution." (p. 225) I'm sure that scared a few white folks in 1961 who thought integration of the public schools would be the end of civilization.
That was an example of this conservative thing about discovering the hidden truth. The idea in the 1961 republication was to show the secret Real Goal of the Commies. Because by then, what was left of the CP had stopped using some of the, uh, less mainstream formulations of 1932.
But there's something a little odd in this notion. If the point was to show how sneaky and devious the conniving Communists were, why should we think that what they published in 1932 was the true story? It could be seen as kind of a "testimony against interest", I guess.
But mainly, for rightwingers to be obsessing over this little book in 1961, when the influence of the CP was all but non-existent, was just an exercise in "fear itself". (I talk more about the text in an expanded version of this post.)
Tags: marxism, toward soviet america, william z foster
| +Save/Share | |
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
[Tip: Point cursor to any comment to see title of post being discussed.]
SEARCH THIS SITE
News & Media Links