Season of the Weird & Letters
Kicking Tricky Dicky Around One Last Time

BY TIM PATTERSON

     Would you buy a used government from this man?
     The opportunity to comment on the demise of as big a
slug as Richard Milhous Nixon only comes around a couple of
times in any writer's working lifetime. And when it does,
even if the whole subject makes you want to puke, you pretty
much have to go for it.
     In my case, as a California boy pushing 50, I've been
dealing with this maggot-grade sumbitch for my entire life.
My parents bought our first TV set just in time for the 1952
elections, burning the image of Nixon's cadaverous eyes and
canine jowls into my young mind forever. (Indeed, this first
trip to the spectacle of democracy may have been decisive in
turning me into a life-long ranting red...). I saw Nixon
debating JFK in 1960, and marveled at how he had managed to
surround himself with handlers who forgot to remind him to
shave.
     Everyone has probably seen by now the famous clip of
Nixon, ready to kill after losing the race for Governor of
California to Pat Brown in 1962, grousing to the press that
they "won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more"; I
saw it live.
     Those of you with long memories and an eye for trivia
may remember that I have previously confessed in these pages
that I actually once voted for Nixon, during the 20 minutes
or so that I really believed that "worse is better," Well,
it wasn't.
     I was glued to the tube one afternoon in 1974 when
Alexander Butterfield explained to the Watergate committee
that Tricky Dick had it all on tape -- the beginning of the
end. When Nixon was driven from office, I saved the front
pages of the New York Times from the final days. I stuck
them in a drawer for 20 years, pulled them out when he died,
and tacked them up on a wall at work as a small educational
exhibit for the younger generation.
     If I seem obsessed with this creep, it's because he
contributed more then any other single person to the rampant
and perhaps terminal degeneration of political culture in
the United States. His career took off on the basis of
anticommunist demagogy, from the polluted campaign that
first elected to Congress to his crusade against Alger Hiss.
Richard Nixon is the man who redefined "law and order" so
that every waking white person in the country knew it meant
undoing the changes wrought by the Civil Rights movement.
In a thousand different ways, from the secret bombing of
Cambodia to the "enemies list" to a million-dollar White
House slush fund, he set a standard for presidential
contempt for the Constitution. (If Reagan and Bush later
raised the bar even further, it wasn't for Nixon's lack of
trying.)
     So, it was naturally hard for me to keep my meals down
when the press and the power boys found so many creative
ways to eulogize this racist war criminal. And it ruined my
day when everyone -- including straight-up crooks like Spiro
Agnew and Gordon Liddy, not to mention our beloved leader of
the moment -- trooped to Yorba Linda for the smarmy funeral
of a well-known pathological liar.
     But I found more than a little solace in the fact that
Nixon took his trip to the worm farm the same week Nelson
Mandela and the ANC took over the government of South
Africa. And ever since, I've been humming a little ditty the
Red Star Singers put out in 1974, a simple, direct, eloquent
tune that says it all:
     "Pig Nixon, you're never gonna kill us all;
     Pig Nixon, your genocide is bound to fall!"

Best Strategy:
Ethical Marxism

BY RICHARD BELL
     Recent CrossRoads articles have attempted to refine or
redefine modern Marxism's relevance within contemporary
society and have brought many of Marxism's inherent
weaknesses into relief. Some of those weaknesses are those
not of its analytical form, but the inherent limitations of
its 19th century conceptual vocabulary.
     Our view of ourselves as individuals and our place
within a greater system as well as the imagery used for
expressing those views have changed from those of the time
of Marx. A prominent weakness of traditional Marxism is
reliance upon an industrial age model of society and history
that likens human interactions to a machine whose cogs, if
well engineered, might run smoothly and efficiently. Part of
the reason Marxism now struggles for acceptance is that
imagery. While vital and meaningful to Marx and his
contemporaries, the mechanistic model appears woefully
flawed today.
     Industrial age theory emphasized the primacy of
efficiency and a presupposition that rational, algebraic
understanding and manipulation of social and economic forces
was possible. Through the century and a half as the single
most important image of its age, the industrial model was
responsible for incredible strides in the development and
distribution of food, clothing, housing, tools and a myriad
of other consumer and industrial goods. But, true to the
fundamental premise of Marxism, as the limits of the image's
ability to effect meaningful changes in the world were
approached, its usefulness as a conceptual tool decreased
and its failings became more apparent.
     As we approach the 21st century we lean toward
conceiving ourselves within environmental, cultural,
political and social ecosystems. Diversity and uniqueness
are more popular images than interchangeability and the
smooth intermeshing of parts. Using the ecosystems of nature
as a model we now value sustainability more than efficiency
and recognize the broad ranging damage mono-culture and
radical interventions cause.
     Following the "ecosystem" image, society adapts
economic and social strategies to match evolving niches.
With this paradigm there can be no "perfect" model of social
or economic organization because we must constantly balance
ourselves within a dynamic equilibrium. Sustainable systems
are incredibly varied and never static, and changing
conditions may demand a range of strategies for survival.
     Social diversity, once accepted, leads to political and
systemic diversity as inevitable extensions. In today's
philosophical climate, socialism sold as a "near perfect"
system has all the appeal of a "near perfect" factory in
which to raise our children and live our lives. Our function
within our society's industrial engine is not of prime
importance to the identification of the post-industrial
individual.
     Diversity, admittedly, implies acceptance of
inequality, but if "honoring diversity" is a concept in
ascendancy, perhaps we should focus upon mitigating the
abuses of inequality and not put forth visions of "planned"
social or political systems. In the present era, engineered
mono-culture systems, whether agricultural, political, or
economic suggest systems without the flexibility and
sustainability of the incalculable niches that bring
vitality and freedom to life.
     Though class remains a basic determining factor to
society, modern class distinctions are blurred and race,
gender, culture, language, religion and geography are often
felt to be more significant. As recognized by the general
public, class lines are not felt to be co-terminus with
those of power, income, access, adequate housing and other
differences. Either the class aspect of society must be
effectively "sold" or we should de-emphasize it in our
rhetoric in exchange for more widely recognized divisions.
Discussion of class distinctions often sounds dated and
irrelevant in the popular press.
     The political implications of these evolving metaphors
must be acknowledged if Marxism is to be palatable and
meaningful to 21st century culture. One vehicle for this may
be the reinclusion of ethics and an acceptance of diversity
into our discussion of Marxist thought.
     The Communists of the 1930s, with their soup lines and
clothing distribution and communal values, were among the
more ethical groups of that time, but ethics have long been
divorced from theoretical discussion of Marxism. "The ends
justifies the means" dispensed with ethical objections to
the efficient (mechanical) implementation of our socialist
dream and we have never recovered from that mistake.
     Marx's political and economic philosophies were based
upon his ethical belief that deplorable conditions should be
corrected. His ethics led him into economics and political
theory, not the other way around. The theories he developed
of economics, social history, and politics were necessarily
products of their time. If we seek to be true to his legacy
perhaps we should be guided by our own sense of ethics and
allow ourselves to be products of our own unique point in
history. Perhaps we should seek out the issues of most
significance and devise appropriate strategies through which
to address them rather than treat Marxism as a revealed
religion that must be true to the written word.
     Social ethics, as a political tool, can both embrace
diversity and speak to a great range of social and cultural
divisions. It may provide the "overall strategy for social
change" many of us feel is of great importance to meaningful
politics. Perhaps such a philosophic re-setting of sail,
leaving behind our outdated "industrial" social imagery for
the softer metaphors of social ecosystems and ethics, can
breathe new life into the recently sunken chest of Marxist
thought.
     Richard Bell is a writer, environmental toxicologist
and red diaper baby living in Portland.

DANGER ON THE RIGHT
     Thank you for Tom Patterson's "An Idle Left Is the Far
Right's Workshop" ("Season of the Weird," CrossRoads No.
39). Every once in awhile we need a reminder that while the
left is trying to chart new directions for the future the
religious right in America is out there with a very definite
blueprint.
     I have no problem with Patterson poking fun at some of
the, what I imagine to be, huge amounts of right-wing
fundraising appeals that he receives. But looked at in
another light, it is rather incredible the number of
organizations that exist, the number of new ones being
created and the kind of grassroots fundamentalist organizing
that the right is carrying out.
     In light of several much-publicized recent events --
the dropping of Alice Walker's story from a California
statewide public school test, the conviction of Michael
Griffith for the murder of pro-choice doctor David Gunn, the
Christian Coalition bringing its one-millionth member into
the organization, the school board takeovers throughout the
nation by "stealth" and not-so-"stealth" candidates
supported by Raymond Simmonds' Citizens for Excellence in
Education, and the growing onslaught of anti-gay initiatives
throughout the country -- the left needs to be better
informed about the political and social agenda of the
religious right.
     CultureWatch is a newsletter published by the
DataCenter in Oakland that provides activist individuals and
organizations with up-to-date, readable and interesting
information on all of these issues. Published 10 times in
1994, subscriptions are available from the DataCenter, 464
19th Street, Oakland, CA 94612. If any CrossRoads readers
are interested, please drop us a note and we will send them
a free sample copy. --Bill Berkowitz, Editor, CultureWatch,
Oakland, California

TOWARD HUMANE THEORY
     In recent articles, you have examined the relationship
(if any) between Marxism and post-structuralism. May I offer
you a few pre-post-structuralist ideas of my own? 
     The first lesson that all Marxists need to learn is the
lesson that Socrates learned: We have to learn how to say "I
don't know." Marx was a human being, not a god, and did not
know what the future would bring. Science is based on not-
knowing, on openness. By now it is probably trite to mention
Einstein, who dared to question Newtonian mechanics: his
questions led to a revolution.
     Dialogue requires openness of the participants. It is a
joint exploration: we gain tentative ground in some areas
and cede tentative ground in others because we realize that
the other person's experience is as valid as our own. No
matter how great the injustice, it can never be great enough
to justify the closing of our minds.
     What then is the role of theory?  Theory is not a guide
to action: it is a guide to perception. Marxist theory
enables people to see the world in a new way -- to see and
imagine.
     Theory is valuable to the extent that it serves as a
framework for imagination. For example, a Marxist who knows
something about Imperialism does not find it difficult to
imagine the U.S. as a global aggressor. Unfortunately, our
leftist theories make it difficult for us to imagine certain
other things: for example, we cannot imagine the U.S.
playing a constructive role in Somalia or in Bosnia. Thus we
become complicit in the destruction of numerous Bosnian
lives.
     There is a need to reground the possibility of human
dignity and freedom: Restore Life to its proper place at
center of the universe! We must overthrow Copernicus, but
not out of adherence to some new obscurantist dogmas: We go
forwards to an age of Life, not backwards to an age of
superstition. Go beyond "People Before Profits": Imagine
"People before Planets!" In other words, attack the whole
pattern of thinking that capitalism takes for granted. --
Charles Obler, Farmville, Virginia

YOU HYPOCRITES
     A friend of mine sent me a December '93-January '94
copy of your magazine. I found your criticism of the left
very thought provoking and I agree with much of what you are
saying. However, it reminds me of a psychiatrist trying to
heal himself. You understand the problem, the miserable
failure of the left to communicate, but you are too close to
the problem to heal yourself.
     I am working class and come from working class parents.
I remain working class by choice because I rejected the
values, ethics, and goals of other classes at a very tender
age and have found no reason to change my mind.
     I was attracted to the ideas of the Left in the '60s
and have become even more convinced since that time that
Socialism offers the only hope for a civilized human
society. However, I also became convinced that the organized
left generally doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of
communicating those ideas to the people who need them the
most -- the poor and working people.
     The problem, as I see it, is rooted in a sick culture
which none of us escapes. We are nurtured by a culture that
is (1) highly competitive; (2) teaches us that we are not
good enough and must struggle to become something, and (3)
the most complex and destructive problem, we all have two
religions -- one we believe in and another which we
practice, and we rarely acknowledge this dichotomy.
     We workers find this same hypocrisy in the Left. We do
not resent your hypocrisy, that is a human problem. We
resent your morally superior attitude when, in fact, the
religion you practice is no better than the religion we
practice.
     The left was and is organically a working class
movement. The intellectuals entered this movement in droves
after the Russian Revolution, and the workers left it. I
suspect they left it because they did not need or want
intellectuals to lead it for them. We do not need your
condescension. We get all of that we need from our bosses.
     When and if the intellectual left truly sees itself and
the working class as equals, the Socialist movement may be
able to make headway, but not until. --Gary Cox, Northglenn,
Colorado

GOOD WORK -- BUT STAY AWAY
FROM THE SPINELESS MAGGOT
     On the occasion of your 40th issue, I'll take this
opportunity to congratulate you for your good work. Your
articles have upped the levels of consciousness and
conversation a couple of notches (among those interested)
here in F block at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, IL. Also
I want to thank you all, and especially whoever was
responsible for putting me on your mailing list. When the
day comes that these folks see fit to transfer me to a
prison where I can earn a few bucks, I will gladly pay for
my subscriptions.
     As it is, the only work available here is doing
electronic cable work for U.S. military killing machines,
and that, I will not work at. I'm imprisoned in the first
place for bombing U.S. military installations/facilities and
"defense=war" contractors, in opposition to U.S. policies.  
And lastly, I hope Tim Patterson is being facetious when he
says Jeff Gillooly is on your board of advisors. That
spineless maggot is the classic white misogynist,
opportunistic, self-pitying Amerikan male who will only
contaminate anything he comes into contact with (except,
maybe, a Louisville Slugger contacting his high Anglo
forehead at high velocity!)
     Anyway -- I'll continue to look for you at mail-call.
The Struggle Continues! --Tom Manning, Marion, Illinois

     Editors Note: Tom Manning is a political prisoner
sentenced to 53 years as part of the Ohio 7 convictions for
political bombings. Tom's address is: #10373-016 PO Box 1000
Marion, IL, 62959.