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A Perspective on American Communism


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Review of the new edition of Vivian Gornick's memoir-history, the Romance of American Communism.

Inspirational verse: "When one interviewee describes witnessing the Centralia massacre of Wobblies in 1919 we begin to suspect that communism seemed viable enough to put one’s hopes in precisely because it was as ruthless and efficient as the powers that crushed milder reform movements."

Recollection of hidden anti-capitalist sentiment reminiscent of Orwell's 1984: “[Communism] gave me a home inside myself [...] Inside. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/01/the-romance-of-american-communism-by-vivian-gornick-review-a-flawed-masterpiece

Edited by David Andrews
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Thanks for posting this, David.

It's a subject that I've been brooding about a lot recently-- the historic collapse of the Popular Front (and the labor movement) in 20th century America.

Two references on the subject that I have been studying (and re-studying) this week are the Oliver Stone/Peter Kuznick text and series on The Untold History of the United States, and Princeton historian Sean Wilentz's Bob Dylan in America, which explores the subject of the Popular Front in relation to Aaron Copland, the Beat poets, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan in the 20th century.

Ironically, Sean Wilentz published a negative review of The Untold History in the NYT-- accusing Oliver Stone and Kuznick of whitewashing the sins of Stalinism.

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23 hours ago, W. Niederhut said:

Two references on the subject that I have been studying (and re-studying) this week are the Oliver Stone/Peter Kuznick text and series on The Untold History of the United States, and Princeton historian Sean Wilentz's Bob Dylan in America, which explores the subject of the Popular Front in relation to Aaron Copland, the Beat poets, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan in the 20th century.

Ironically, Sean Wilentz published a negative review of The Untold History in the NYT-- accusing Oliver Stone and Kuznick of whitewashing the sins of Stalinism.

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States gives one the period flavor, almost as much for the lengths it doesn't go to as for those it does.  Good ol' Lefty reading.

Is that some appeasement of Putin on Stone's part?  Speaking of the lengths one doesn't go to.

Edited by David Andrews
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6 hours ago, David Andrews said:

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States gives one the period flavor, almost as much for the lengths it doesn't go to as for those it does.  Good ol' Lefty reading.

Is that some appeasement of Putin on Stone's part?  Speaking of the lengths one doesn't go to.

David,

     Not sure what your take was on Kuznick and Oliver Stone's Untold History, but mine was that they were getting at the central historical tragedy of 20th century America-- the destruction of the public welfare (at home and abroad) by vulture capitalism and our imperialist military-industrial complex.

     They may have glossed over the sins of the Soviet Union, to some extent, but they did a brilliant job describing the destruction of progressive, social democratic ideals by the laissez faire capitalist oligarchs who now control the U.S. government.

      JFK's murder was merely one chapter in that lengthy Robber Baron saga.

Edited by W. Niederhut
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I've recently been rewatching Untold History episodes...  the Democratic Party establishment's removal of Henry Wallace as VP in 1944 was very similar to what the current establishment did with Sanders back in March. Wallace's warnings of the likely consequence of ginning up a cold war with the Soviet Union, as well as his analysis on why such cold war was completely unnecessary have been proved largely correct. Yet he is mostly forgotten.

Writer John Nichols, connected with The Nation, has a new book on Wallace and the Dem party coming out next week.

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20 hours ago, W. Niederhut said:

David,

     Not sure what your take was on Kuznick and Oliver Stone's Untold History, but mine was that they were getting at the central historical tragedy of 20th century America-- the destruction of the public welfare (at home and abroad) by vulture capitalism and our imperialist military-industrial complex.

 

My mistake: I confused Untold History with Stone's more recent Putin-centric films.

I'm looking at the "Cold War" episode of Untold History now.  Since the Stalinist atrocities and political purges were a cause of division among American communists (particularly once pressure by Congress and FBI forced a choosing of sides), it doesn't undermine any historian to discuss them, and humanitarianism requires it.

As a younger man I met Eli Wilentz (briefly, uneventfully) and shopped at his bookstore in New York.  Sean Wilentz may be to his father as Rand Paul is to his own.

Edited by David Andrews
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This is what I was just talking about in the other thread.

The mediaocracy we have deliberately limits the spectrum.  WIlentz is an establishment guy.  

He knows that if he praises UH, he won't get his ticket punched.

I thought that UH should have made more of the RFK murder in 1968.  That really put the kibosh on the Kennedy wing of the Democratic party, which is what Bobby said he was doing by running for the senate in New York.  If RFK does not get assassinated, Chicago does not happen and Nixon does not win.

It has always struck me how in the pantry of the Ambassador, when people started punching Sirhan, there were shouts of, stop, we don't want another Dallas.

To me that indicated a Jungian psychic bridge.

 

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