Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 2, 2021

The Unrepentant Marxist comic book, chapter three

Filed under: The Unrepentant Marxist comic book — louisproyect @ 5:07 pm

The Unrepentant Marxist chapter three: Paul Boutelle, Arnie Swabeck and me

 Additionally, you can download the entire memoir from http://www.panix.com/~lnp3//UnrepMarx.pdf.

(Chapter guide: chap. 1, chap 2, chap 3, chap 4, chap 5, chap 6, chap 7)

To be continued tomorrow


  1. For this reader, the story runs into a problem here. It has held to the line of showing how its narrator educated himself. He gradually dispels his native fog and rejigs his understanding under the pressure of events, reading, and his feelings. We are learning how and why he moved toward certain conclusions. The necessary trick is to give us enough info to make sense of his changes of mind. Enough, but not too much, because a graphic story can’t support big blocks of printed words. Its panels have to stay close to what it can picture. Otherwise, it‘s mere illustration like a drawing of a log cabin in the Uncle Tom novel. Paul Boutelle, Arne Swabeck, and George Breitman are noble figures but knowing too much about them rips the narrative thread. Which way will further chapters wend?

    Comment by Peter Byrne — July 3, 2021 @ 1:50 pm

  2. Peter, you have to put the memoir into context. In all the other books on the left that Harvey did with Paul Buhle, none really have the comic effect that you see in his own writings about Cleveland. Yes, there are far too many words but my life has been mostly about both activism and theory. I wanted to clarify the question of what it means to build a “vanguard”, hence the business with Boutelle and Swabeck.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 3, 2021 @ 3:03 pm

  3. There aren’t too many words for me, because I’m interested in your particular trajectory. I wondered, though, if there weren’t too many for the graphic docu genre, which Paul Buhle once pointed out to me, with a slap on the wrist, has its own strict demands.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — July 3, 2021 @ 4:27 pm

  4. I’ts fascinating. Don’t stop! Don’t change the format.

    I think the broader question of interest is this: the SWP — and many similar revolutionary groups — had some of the ‘best and the brightest’ people in their ranks. Intelligent, committed, self-sacrificing … and, in the case of the Trotskyists, very aware of the history of a similar group which actually succeeded in seizing power, which then degenerated into what even the rival Stalinist groups acknowledged was a ‘cult of the personality’. And in their official internal rules, committed to party democracy, up to and including the right to organize factions. Yes, it was, in the case of the Bolsheviks, ‘objective conditions’ that did it … but then … the same thing happened to the Trotskyists in America, and if ‘objective conditions’ can be blamed again … well, then any conditions seem to be adequate to turn revolutionary parties into one-man cult-sects. (I suppose the exception is the late ISO, at least its American group.)

    So it would be interesting if the author would speculate a bit on why this seems to be almost an iron law of revolutionary groups: to end up being the personal property of a small clique, usually around one person, at the top, enforcing ideological uniformity on the — intelligent, committed, historically aware — ranks — …. who accept it.

    (A micro-footnote about Arne Swabeck: I believe he appears in Diego Rivera’s famous mural, Man, Controlerl of the Universe. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_at_the_Crossroads#Man,_Controller_of_the_Universe])

    Comment by doug1943 — July 3, 2021 @ 8:48 pm

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