Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 3, 2018

Young Marxist intellectuals and the Democratic Party

Filed under: DSA,two-party system — louisproyect @ 5:29 pm

Adam Hilton: McGovern + Marx = democratic socialism

The “democratic socialist” movement spawned by Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign has led to an interesting development. Highly educated and self-described socialists in the academy have written erudite articles making the Marxist case for voting Democratic. Even if they are wrong, I am impressed with the scholarly prowess deployed on behalf of obvious casuistry.

These articles often appear in Jacobin, which has managed to repackage arguments made by Irving Howe a half-century ago in the snazziest of graphics. In 2016, for example, Seth Ackerman, a Jacobin editor and dissertation student at the highly prestigious Cornell University, wrote “A Blueprint for a New Party” that advanced “new electoral strategies for an independent left-wing party rooted in the working class” but in fine print recommended running in Democratic Party primaries. Jacobin followed up with another such article by Eric Blanc but couched in terms of a “dirty break” from the Democratic Party as opposed to the “clean break” advocated by Marxist dinosaurs like me. Such a “dirty break” was adopted by the Nonpartisan League in the early 20th century, when it ran candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties (a case can be made that the Republicans were the lesser evil at the time). Blanc, who is a dissertation student at NYU, is even more steeped in Marxist lore than Ackerman. One supposes that this is a prerequisite for convincing congenitally radical young people to work for Democratic Party candidates when disgust with the party is at an all-time high.

The most recent occurrence of this special pleading can be found in the 2018 Socialist Register. Adam Hilton, a visiting lecturer at Mount Holyoke, takes up 31 pages in consideration of “Organized for Democracy? Left Challenges Inside the Democratic Party” that is based on his 2016 dissertation “Party Reform and Political Realignment: The New Politics Movement in the Democratic Party”. Essentially, Hilton points to the “New Politics” movement of the late 60s and early 70s as an experiment that might have produced a European style Social Democracy if George McGovern hadn’t gotten clobbered by Nixon. For an unrepentant Marxist like me, the nostalgia is over 1917 Bolshevism rather than 1972 left-liberalism. For that I make no apologies.

Hilton has defended pretty much the same thesis in six different scholarly journals and another four more easily accessible magazines, including two for Jacobin. One gathers that there is a booming market now for “democratic socialism” in both high and low venues. Since most of you don’t have access to the paywalled Socialist Register, my advice is to read one of the Jacobin articles, with this one best for understanding my critique.

My interest was piqued by Socialist Register publishing an article defending work in the Democratic Party since the editorial board virtually constitutes the high priesthood of Marxism, with York University’s Leo Panitch earning pride of place as a long-time advocate of class politics, resistance to bourgeois parties and all sorts of other good things. Maybe he included an article defending voting for Democrats as a courtesy to Hilton, who was his dissertation student. Let’s hope so since the Democratic Party would be the last party in the world I’d expect Panitch to promote.

For me, this pandering to the oldest, still-functioning, capitalist party in the world by smart young things is a novel experience. Ever since I got into Marxist politics in 1967, the only people on the far reaches of the left who advocated voting Democratic were in the Communist Party. You were not likely to find references to the Nonpartisan League running in Democratic primaries a century ago in their party press. Instead, it was more like vote for Hubert Humphrey or else we get WWIII.

If Hilton has a scholarly grasp of what was going on in the Democratic Party in 1972, he seems a lot less knowledgeable about the broader dimensions of a debate that has been going on since the 1930s when for the first time in history the Communist left in the USA supported the Democratic Party under the ideological umbrella of Georgi Dimitrov’s Popular Front.

In the second paragraph of his article, he states that “amidst the Great Depression, the Democratic Party under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal successfully integrated insurgent farmer and labour groups, after which independent third-party vote shares in US elections declined and never recovered.” Declined and never recovered? This almost makes it sound organic, like a zinnia dying after the first frost in autumn.

In fact, there was widespread support for a labor party in the 1930s but it was quashed by the same people who told you to vote for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. In 1980, Mike Davis wrote an article in New Left Review titled “The Barren Marriage of American Labour and the Democratic Party” that anticipated his classic 1986 book “Prisoners of the American Dream”. Describing the hunger for electoral alternatives even with a friend of labor in the White House, Davis writes:

In ‘feudal’ steel towns, as we have seen, political mobilization for democratic rights was a virtual precondition for union organization. Similarly in auto centers, the sitdown strikes spurred UAW militants to campaign against corporation-dominated local governments. In Lansing and Jackson, Michigan, for example, UAW ‘flying squads’ did double duty on picket lines and ballot counting, while in Flint and Saginaw the union stewards were also organized on a residential basis, creating a powerful ward organization. Local after local of the auto, electrical and garment workers voted support for the concept of a labour party in a groundswell of political independence that discomforted Lewis and Hillman. A Gallup Poll conducted in August, 1937, following the sitdown wave, showed that at least 21% of the population supported the eventual formation of a national farmer-labour party.

What if the Communist Party had thrown its weight behind the formation of a labor party, especially after working-class ire was raised by FDR’s “plague on both your houses” statement during the Little Steel strike? In 1937, Chicago cops opened fire on a Memorial Day parade organized by the steelworkers that left ten dead and hundreds wounded from gunfire or clubs. The mayor who ordered the attack was a Democrat named Edward J. Kelly who had been endorsed by the CP. Afterward, Kelly met with the CP-led steelworkers union and promised to keep the cops on a short leash if it would endorse him once again in 1939. Not only did it agree, a worker who lost an eye in the massacre did a radio spot for him during his re-election campaign.

There was one independent left party in the 1930s and early 40s, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, but the CP succeeded in merging it with the Democratic Party in 1944. While the party was shaky at best, taking a hostile position toward the Trotskyist-led Teamsters Strike in 1934, it was something that could have been made more effective by the presence of an organized and supportive socialist component—in other words, the sort of thing the DSA is up to in the DP. Writing for CounterPunch in 2014, Graeme Anfinson referred to Stalinist elements within the party, who had been instrumental in bureaucratically shutting down any disagreeing voice from the unions, being at the forefront of the merger.

So, the independent third-party vote did not die of natural causes during the New Deal. It was killed.

Targeting moldy figs who still view the Democratic Party as a bourgeois party, Hilton assures us that it cannot be bourgeois since it has intimate ties with the trade unions. He writes:

Even though, as will be developed below, Democratic Party organs have rarely served as centres of community life, the party apparatus did develop structural links with trade unions in most large industrial states in the 1930s as well as at the national level in the process of presidential nomination and campaigning. In some states, such as Michigan, these institutional linkages of elite brokerage fused into tightly integrated party-union relationships. In other states, through the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ political action committee (CIO-PAC) and, later, the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), organized labour engaged in voter registration, door-to-door canvassing, literature distribution and get-out-the-vote drives for unionists and non-unionists alike.

Seeing my wife go through the ordeal of getting tenure, I understand how dissertation students have to be monomaniacally focused on their topic but surely Hilton must have heard somewhere along the line that there are bourgeois parties everywhere that have such links to trade unions. Christian Democratic trade unions have been around forever in Europe. As a London School of Economics article points out, they were bigger in the Netherlands than unions connected to the social democracy:

Unlike in the UK, trade unionism in the Netherlands has never been an exclusively left-wing operation. In fact, all current Dutch trade unions have part of their roots in Christian-democratic trade unionism. Until the 1970s there was a Catholic, Protestant and socialist trade union. Their members voted exclusively for the Catholic, Protestant and labour party, and the leadership of these trade unions and parties was strongly intertwined.

For that matter, although I don’t have much direct knowledge of European trade unions, I am quite sure that they have many more connections to the grassroots than American unions. Hilton refers to voter registration drives, etc. but working-class disaffection from organized labor is at an all-time high just as it is for the DP. What’s missing today is any sense of a labor movement. Proof of that was the wildcat teachers’ strikes that only took place because the union bureaucracy had left the rank-and-file teacher to his or her own device.

Finally, let me turn to the “New Politics” movement that is the subject of Hilton’s dissertation. I know a bit about this since I was forced to contend with the McGovern campaign in 1972 as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. In 1968 and 1972, the antiwar movement declined because many young people understandably acting on a pragmatic basis hoped that the election of a Eugene McCarthy or a George McGovern would end the war. Indeed, when I was facing the draft in 1966, I was praying that someone like Senator Fulbright would save the day.

The New Politics movement was launched by Fred Harris, who was the head of the Democratic National Committee. He convened a commission led by George McGovern and Minnesota Congressman Donald Fraser that would propose changes to allow greater membership control and officeholder accountability. These reforms were meant to assuage “segments of the civil rights, student, antiwar, and feminist movements, as well as the labour-left”, according to Hilton.

Certainly, there were such segments, most of all people like Sam Brown and David Hawk who set the Vietnam Moratorium in motion. Their intention was to organize protests that would sheepdog people behind “peace candidates” like George McGovern, as Bruce Dixon puts it. Unfortunately for them, the Socialist Workers Party and its radical allies shanghaied the Moratorium and turned into a mass action calling for Out Now.

McGovern promised to withdraw US troops within 90 days of being elected but Nixon’s withdrawal was set for only 90 days longer after being re-elected. Since he was an incumbent and had practically invented the demagogic tricks of Donald Trump, he had no problem beating McGovern. Would McGovern’s election made much difference on the ground? Speaking for myself, I saw the antiwar demonstrations and the Vietnamese resistance as the only guarantee of peace.

On the more fundamental question of whether the New Politics movement could have made much difference resisting the neoliberal turn that arguably began in 1973 with the overthrow of Allende, one has to see the last 45 years as a function of capitalist contradictions rather than the ill-will of party bosses who hated McGovern. It was not the dominance of centrist Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton that led to capitalist austerity. Rather it was capitalist austerity that made Carter and Clinton necessary.

Capital has a remarkable instinct for self-preservation. In his 1972 acceptance speech, McGovern stated:

We must also make this a time of justice and jobs for all our people. For more than three and half years we have tolerated stagnation and a rising level of joblessness, with more than five million of our best workers unemployed at this very moment. Surely, this is the most false and wasteful economics of all.

Our deep need is not for idleness but for new housing and hospitals, for facilities to combat pollution and take us home from work, for better products able to compete on vigorous world markets.

Better products to compete on vigorous world markets? What is that except another way of saying make America great again? In both the Democratic Party left and the Republican Party right, there is this mythology of a return to a Golden Age based on an expanding economy and rising wages. For the past forty years at least, the trend has been toward us returning to a previous era but one resembling the Grover Cleveland administration rather than the New Deal.

Combatting the two-party system is going to require much more than elections. It will require the kind of strikes carried out by teachers, the Black Lives Matter protests, the Occupy Wall Street movement and a thousand other types of resistance to the status quo. For that struggle to move forward, it will require a revolutionary party that can coordinate and defend the mass movements. As it advances, it will eventually run up against the brick wall of resistance that every ruling class mounts when it is pushed back on its heels. When push comes to shove, we will need an American Lenin steeled in struggle to lead the movement toward socialism rather than a Bernie Sanders whose socialism stops short of even making the simple statement that capitalism is the source of all our problems. Based on our traditions, it will certainly be a democratic socialism that no capitalist power would be emboldened to attack it. After all, Cuba’s tight controls were a function of the Bay of Pigs more than anything else.

It is doubtful that such an outcome can be gestated out of the Democratic Party. Nay, precluded.

August 1, 2018

A Party with Socialists in it

Filed under: electoral strategy,Great Britain,Labour Party — louisproyect @ 7:18 pm

For American leftists wrestling with the question of whether the Democratic Party can be remade into an instrument of “democratic socialism”, I recommend Simon Hannah’s newly published “A Party With Socialists in It: a History of the Labour Left” even though there is not a single word about Bernie Sanders. Since many on the left view the Democratic Party and British Labour as essentially the same, an excursion through Labour Party’s history would help to validate or falsify that claim.

Ironically, Corbyn himself lends credibility to the comparison by openly admitting that he got his ideas from Bernie Sanders. Playing Gaston to Corbyn’s Alphonse, Sanders saw Corbyn’s efforts to transform politics and take on the establishment as parallel to his own campaign.

There is also the close affinity between the two politicians whose neoliberalism helped to fuel leftist rebellions in both parties. Just as Corbyn and Sanders saw each other as kindred spirits, so did Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Blair’s New Labour turn and Clinton’s reshaping of the Democratic Party to conform to the Democratic Leadership Council’s precepts were cut from the same cloth. Seeking middle-class support, particularly among those voters benefiting from the technical and financial sectors, the DP and Labour saw blue-collar workers as expendable.

All of this is indisputable. However, one cannot gloss over the class differences between the DP and Labour or their institutional and organizational distinctions. Reading Simon Hannah’s history of Labour will make you acutely aware of their differences.

The title of the book is carefully chosen since it is written from the perspective of those who have struggled for more than a century to turn the Labour Party into a genuine socialist party. To understand the dialectics of this struggle, you have to go back to the party’s formation that combined contradictory elements. From the Fabians, it got the idea that socialism could be achieved through piecemeal reforms. In essence, they were Britain’s Eduard Bernsteins. It is not hard to understand why Germany and Great Britain would be susceptible to reformist illusions. As two of the most advanced economies in the late 1800s, workers would find revolutionary socialism a risky proposition. Why build barricades when the ballot would serve your needs?

Even the trade unions in England bought into the gradualist schemas, or more accurately the trade union officialdom. As counterparts of Samuel Gompers, they saw their role as mediating between the boss and their dues-paying membership.

At the conference that launched Labour in 1900, the only participants that could be mistaken for Marxists were those of the Social Democratic Federation led by Henry Hyndman, an eccentric businessman who formed the party after reading the Communist Manifesto. If Ramsey MacDonald had ever read the manifesto, it certainly didn’t show. His concept of socialism was based on the idea that workers and bosses were part of the same organism and that it was Labour’s job to prevent either class from becoming too greedy. Nobody at the conference had spent much time analyzing the British state, including Hyndman.

Another leftist component of the Labour Party was the Independent Labour Party that despite the similarity in name was closer to Hyndman politically. When WWI broke out, the ILP took an antiwar stance just like Eugene V. Debs. However, its internationalism only went so far. When the Easter Rebellion broke out in Ireland, they lined up with Ramsey MacDonald in calling for its suppression.

In 1917, the Russian Revolution shook up the left everywhere, including England. A Communist Party was formed in 1920 that immediately took up the question of its relationship to Labour. Those of you familiar with Lenin’s essay on ultraleftism know that the young Communist Party held a sectarian position. After reading about Ramsey MacDonald in both Richard Seymour and Simon Hannah’s books, I understand their position better even if it was wrong.

Meanwhile, the ILP continued to be the main socialist organization in England, electing a number of MP’s from Glasgow in the 1920s who scandalized the rightwing of the party by singing “The Red Flag” outside of Parliament each morning.

When the miners launched a general strike in 1926, the ILP provided much of the support while MacDonald and his likeminded MP’s did everything they could to sabotage it. Among the ILP activists was a very young Aneurin Bevan from Wales who dropped out of school at the age of 14 and went into the mines to work alongside his father. Eventually, he became an MP and devoted to the working class cause. In the 1950s, he was the Corbyn of his day. Indeed, when you connect Bevan to Tony Benn and then Benn to Jeremy Corbyn, a persistent red thread becomes apparent, one that has no equivalent in the Democratic Party.

When the Great Depression hit England, MacDonald proposed a coalition government with the Tories that so antagonized Labour voters, it resulted in the party not winning an election until after WWII. Unlike the USA where FDR carried out Keynesian economics, Great Britain was effectively ruled by their version of Herbert Hoover, with Labour offering no alternative.

Fed up with Labour reformism, the ILP disaffiliated with some members going on to form the Socialist League that included Harold Laski, Ralph Miliband’s professor, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot. Hannah writes that the League was the first theoretical challenge to Labourism. Unlike the ILP, it remained affiliated to Labour and hoped to influence party policy through books and articles written by its intellectual cadre.

In 1932, Socialist League member R.H. Tawney published an article in the Political Quarterly (coincidentally an issue containing one by Trotsky titled “Is Stalin Weakening or the Soviets?”) titled “The Choice Before the Labour Party” that articulated the choice that remains before us up until the present day:

Yet the objective of a socialist party, and of the Labour Party in so far as it deserves the name, is simplicity itself. The fundamental question, as always, is: Who is to be master ? Is the reality behind the decorous drapery of political democracy to continue to be the economic power wielded by a few thousand—or, if that be preferred, a few hundred thousand—bankers, industrialists and land-owners ? Or shall a serious effort be made—as serious, for example, as was made, for other purposes, during the war—to create organs through which the nation can control, in co-operation with other nations, its own economic destinies ; plan its business as it deems most conducive to the general well-being ; override, for the sake of economic efficiency, the obstruction of vested interests ; and distribute the product of its labours in accordance with some generally recognised principles of justice ? Capitalist parties presumably accept the first alternative. A socialist party chooses the second. The nature of its business is determined by its choice.

For many, the Clement Attlee government of 1945 to 1951 seemed to be the second alternative. Through its nationalization of much of the economy and the creation of a National Health Service, socialism was on the agenda at last. But this was no utopia. In the winter of 1946-47, a coal shortage left many homes without heat and light. This led some leftist MP’s like Michael Foot and others to form a group called Keep Left that was similar to the Socialist League, seeing itself as a pressure group on Labour. They wanted more state planning and a more forthright commitment to working class needs. In addition, they also opposed Labour’s growing ties to American imperialism in the early stages of the Cold War.

Discontent with Attlee’s government also helped to spawn the Socialist Fellowship, launched by Ellis Smith and Fenner Brockway, former ILP members. Brockway helped to recruit people to fight for the Spanish Republic, including George Orwell, an ILP sympathizer. Like Debs, he was imprisoned for his antiwar activism during WWI. At the time he co-founded the fellowship, he was a Labour MP. If his profile resembles any Democratic Senator or Congressman you know of, please drop me a line so I can follow up. Maybe I should even offer a $50 reward for finding a needle in a haystack.

Smith and Brockway consciously sought to include Trotskyists in their group, including Gerry Healy, as well as left MPs. They started a newspaper called Socialist Outlook that reached a circulation of 10,000 in 1951 during the depths of the Cold War.

In the 1950s, a bitter struggle broke out in the Labour Party between the old guard MacDonald-like rightwing, including the labor bureaucrats, and the leftwing led by Aneurin Bevan. Like Corbyn, Bevan was popular with the party’s base but reviled by the upper crust in Parliament and the unions. Despite reining in Bevan, who was seen as undermining the party’s chances in elections, Labour kept losing to the Tories for a 13 year period until Harold Wilson’s election in 1964,

In a bid to expand its base and throw a bone to the left, the party leadership formed the Young Socialists in 1959 but kept it on a tight leash. They were ordered not to invite any Keep Left people to speak at their meetings. Ted Grant and Tony Cliff both adopted entryist tactics into the YS that worked to their advantage. Meanwhile, Gerry Healy approached the group with his typical sectarian bombast and was told to get lost.

Battles resumed after Wilson’s election. Like Attlee, he turned out to a major disappointment especially on foreign policy. Hannah describes how someone in the Socialist Fellowship/Keep Left tradition responded to Labour’s failure:

The experience of the Labour government of 1964-70 had a profound effect on Ralph Miliband. He saw that too many of the left MPs had been bought off with opaque phrases or vague promises of socialism and peace. They confused the rhetoric with the reality and grasped at each left nod from the party leadership as a new principled turn. By the time the second edition of Miliband’s Parliamentary Socialism came out in 1972, his conclusion was clear enough: Labour was finished as a vehicle for any kind of socialism. Even its Fabian perspective of gradual, incremental moves towards socialism had been abandoned by the party leaders’s Now it was a mere shill, a prop for the ruling class, and the Labour left was a busted flush, made up of isolated ‘pathetic figures’ able to mount ‘episodic revolts’ but nothing more. Miliband proposed ‘moving on’ from Labour, building something new. Nevertheless, the years following the publication of the second edition of Parliamentary Socialism heralded a renaissance for the left of the party, which went on to achieve breakthroughs in both politics and constitutional arrangements that changed the future of Labour.

Robin Archer is the Director of the Ralph Miliband Program at the London School of Economics. He is also the author of the author of Economic Democracy: The Politics of Feasible Socialism (Oxford, 1998) and Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States? (Princeton, 2010). In June, he wrote an article for Jacobin titled “Is Corbyn the Future of the Left?“. It is worth noting his analysis of the Democratic Party:

But it would be a mistake to overstate the similarities between Britain and the United States. In most respects, British party politics remained fundamentally different. The Labour Party is not merely a label (or a brand) which enables supporters to engage in candidate selection, but an ongoing membership organization for which the unions that founded it continue to provide vital ballast. And the parliamentary nature of the political system in which it operates leaves Corbyn in a far stronger position than a defeated candidate in the United States, by giving him a clear, ongoing, constitutionally recognized role as leader of the opposition (the Prime Minister in waiting) at the head of a government in waiting (the Shadow Cabinet). Moreover, at present this influence is further accentuated, both within the Labour Party and in parliament: within the party because Labour’s unexpectedly strong electoral performance in 2017 has stabilized Corbyn’s position among previously hostile MPs; and within parliament because the election has left the governing Conservative Party, even after reaching an agreement with the small Northern Ireland Unionist Party of the late Ian Paisley, with an extremely narrow parliamentary majority.

Something tells me that Robin Archer’s Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States? is worth reading.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, when Ralph Miliband wrote his article, Labour’s death was being greatly exaggerated. Not only was there to be another fracas with Tony Benn taking on the rightwing, there would finally be Corbyn himself keeping alive the militancy that was present, even if only a flicker, at Labour’s birth.

Looking back at the 100 years of struggle in British Labour described by Hannah, I can see nothing comparable in the Democratic Party except the peace candidates of the 1960s, the Jesse Jackson campaign, and the Sandernista tendency now at work. That being said, the differences being fought out in the Labour Party were over fundamental questions of whether the party would fulfill the promise made in Clause IV of the 1918 constitution of the Labour Party and. No debate like this ever took place in the Democratic Party:

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

Despite the Fabian origins of the Labour Party, Corbynism represents the ripening of contradictions in the party that took a century to reach fruition. A hollowed out economy that has left millions of British left out and suffering can no longer be represented as one capable of being reformed. Despite the rather bland rhetorical style of Corbyn, the Labour Party can conceivably become a powerful vehicle of social change. It certainly won’t serve as a vanguard party but it is a necessary first step in coalescing the British left into a well-organized and powerful force that will fight to transform society in first country ever to become capitalist. Who knows? Maybe it will be the first to become socialist.

Munsee Democracy

Filed under: indigenous,New York — louisproyect @ 12:15 am

I’ve begun to read Robert Grumet’s “First Manhattans: A Brief History of the Munsee Indians” as background for the segment of the documentary I am working on about the Catskill Mountains. The Munsees were the native peoples who lived in Manhattan (from the Munsee word meaning “the place where we get bows”) and up through the Catskill Mountains, including along the Neversink River that the drone pilot filmed last Wednesday. Grumet’s introduction is a model of anthropology, history and powerful writing as illustrated below:

Sachems [chiefs] like Tackapousha could maintain authority, however, only by demonstrating skill and ability. They were authoritative, not authoritarian. As William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, put it 1683, Indian leaders were moved “by the breath of their people.” Those capable of demonstrating leadership won their people’s support. Those that did not could swiftly lose followers, who were free to vote with their feet and move elsewhere. Relying more on the power of persuasion than on the persuasion of power, sachems worked together with councilors to hammer out community consensus. Consensus in Indian societies in the region did not mean unanimity. Rather, it meant consent, sometimes grudgingly given, from those who elected to stay and relocation elsewhere for those who dissented.

When I read this paragraph, I thought immediately of the scene in John Boorman’s 1985 “Emerald Forest” about a British boy named Tommy who is kidnapped by Indians in the Amazon rainforest and raised as a member of the tribe. When his father finally learns that he is alive and fully socialized as an Indian. When his father tells the chief that he should order the tribe to release the son back to his father, he replies along the lines of Munsee democratic norms. From my review:

Tommy’s father has never lost hope that he can discover his son and organizes an expedition into the heart of the rainforest. He runs into a war-party of the “Fierce People,” who pursue him. He eventually lies exhausted near a river, after having been wounded by one of their spears. There he meets his son, who manages to rescue him from his attackers. The two make their way back to the “Invisible People’s” camp.

After his father recovers from his wounds, he tells Tommy that he wants to take him back with him to the city, but the youth explains that he has been in “the World” too long. He belongs there now. Then the father turns to the chief and asks him to order the boy to return with him. The chief shrugs his shoulders and says that if the boy wanted to return, he would have agreed to do so. Furthermore, he would not be chief any longer if he told members of his tribe to do something that “they did not want to do.” This admission gets to the very heart of the difference between “primitive” society and our own. In our society, it is normal for the state, employer, teachers and religious officials to order us around every day of our lives. The high price of civilization is repression.

 

 

« Previous Page

Blog at WordPress.com.