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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No. 6. April 10, 1974

Poisoning the people

Poisoning the people

Dear Roger,

I would like to reply to the other critics of my article on Solzhenitsyn.

1) Anthony Skipper (publish whole or not at all) is evidently a clever chap. I am sure that if he had a single fact to confirm his phrasemongering he would not have hesitated to use it.

With a sense of irony entirely his own. Skipper asks me: "Does accomplishment, quality, make a person 'bourgeois'?"

No, but this argument is bourgeois. In a class-divided society all literature and art belongs to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is no abstract criterion for "accomplishment" and "quality". From the proletarian point of view literature and art should serve the interests of the masses, particularly the working class. Form and content are not separated from each other.

"Some works which politically are downright reactionary may have a certain artistic quality. The more reactionary their content and the higher their artistic quality, the more poisonous they are to the people, and the more necessary it is to reject them." (Mao Tsetung, Talks at the [unclear: lan] Forum on Literature and Art)

That sums up the Marxist attitude to literature and art. What is at issue with Solzhenitsyn is not his technical abilities—but the reactionary character of his politics which is reflected in his writings.

Skipper may believe that Solzhenitsyn is "a far better communist, in the spirit of Marx and Lenin.... than 'recognised' Soviet writers", but I believe that anyone who denounces revolutionary and national liberation movements, particularly the Vietnamese revolution, who defends the South African racists, who advocates a return to peasant life, etc, is a thoroughgoing reactionary who has absolutely nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism.

Skipper asks: "What is Mao? What was Fanon? Was Lenin more 'proletarian' than Solzhenitsyn? Compare the experience of his life with that of the man you are classing as bourgeois."

Like the Trotskyists, Skipper cannot understand that whether they are aware of it or not, people can express bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideas while picturing themselves as proletarian revolutionaries. While in class society all kinds of thinking are stamped with the brand of a class, it does not follow that a person expresses the ideas of the class of which he is a member. Both Lenin and Mao, like Marx, Engels and Stalin, came from non-working class origins, nevertheless their teachings express proletarian ideology in concentrated form.

Skipper asks: "If Solzhenitsyn is fascist, what was Stalin—democratic? What was Hitler—pseudo-fascist? What is Kosygin? Book-based man, go back to your books and think again."

This kind of thinking would get Skipper good marks in political "science" at the University of Waikato, but it has nothing to do with reality.

Fascism is the open, terroristic dictatorship of monopoly capital. Those who support this dictatorship are fascists. When Stalin carried out the purges of the thirties, about which the Trotskyists never cease bleating, he was concerned with rooting out the counter-revolution. Whether the Trotskyists and Skipper recognise it or not, the Trotskyists, Bukharinites and Zinovievites executed by the Soviet state in the thirties were all counter-revolutionaries. Stalin's, concern was the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union. Any mistakes made during this period, and Stalin himself admitted that some had been made in his speech to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (B), were made in the process of protecting socialism.

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Louis Armstrong is alleged to have remarked: "All music's folk music; leastways 1 never heard of no horse making it." Antony Skipper uses this kind if thinking when he throws at me the following (to him ironical) charge: "Perhaps you class 'ppoletarian' as 'people'? What are the 'bourgeois'-sub-human?"

Wrong again! The "people" is made up of different social classes and layers according to the nature of the society. In a society in which the overwhelming majority are oppressed and exploited, these layers constitute the masses of the people. In bourgeois society the working class and other labouring sections, who are oppressed and exploited by the bourgeoisie, constitute the "people". In socialist society the working class and its allies are the masses of the people.

Skipper quotes at length, but to no good purpose, from Solzhenitsyn. For example, "on war (p 26). 'Violence can only be concealed by the lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.' Is that pro-imperialist? fascist?"

No, Precisely because it is abstract, it can mean all things to all men addicted to phrasemongering, it is meaningless.

2) John Wilson says: "In China though, all decisions are made in secret, as at the 10th Party Congress last August." This is a standard assertion which has no validity. If it means that the Chinese take many of their decisions without bringing Mr Wilson, myself and other foreigners into their confidence, then he might be right. But the 10th Party Congress proceedings were no secret for the Chinese people. The main documents were discussed at great length before its convention. Delegates were chosen on the basis of mass discussion.

While I would like to know what was discussed at that congress in great detail, I do not think that the Chinese are doing anything reprehensible in not bringing me into their confidence. It is their party and their decision.

Terry Auld