The Treason of the the Intellectuals

Submitted by Matthew on 29 February, 2012 - 11:44

“I have, I suppose, a sneaky hope for a few of these pieces, but in general I make no claim that this is poetry. That belongs to an altogether higher order of things. This is workaday political verse — politics understood in its broader social sense, to include the politics of such things as religion and emigration from Ireland. It is the sort of verse that was once very common in socialist and other publications and is now rare.

“Political verse nowadays tends to be dismissed as a contradiction in terms. Of course, it was not always so. Politics, the overall running of society, shapes and reshapes all our lives. Politics, and to the point here, the emotional or private experience of political events, is a perfectly proper subject for verse (and, if one could manage that, for poetry). All questions of quality aside, these pieces belong to the sort of verse I encountered as a child in Ireland.

“The politics here is working-class revolutionary socialism, in the tradition of the ‘thin red line’ of international socialist resistance to both Stalinism and the bourgeoisie. That line runs through all the catastrophes of defeat and self-transformation that engulfed 20th century socialism.

“Some of these pieces explore feeling and political nuance; some are self questioning. People of my politics had ardently wanted that, but now Stalinism gave way not, as we had hoped and believed it would, to a new working class socialism but to a re-born capitalism.

“The same sort of perplexed and bitter self-questioning, edged in painful disappointment and sometimes in guilt, went through the minds of many socialists then. For those of us who had fought Stalinism in the labour movement and advocated a working class revolution against the ruling bureaucrats in the Stalinist states, it was mysterious guilt. A few were written as political self-interrogation after Russian Stalinism. They were a by-product of a spiritual-political crisis. One of the advantages of verse is that it can deal in such things. But bits of one-sided insomniac’s verse are not rounded political statements. My straightforward, political response to these events appeared in articles, of which there were quite a few, in the weekly Socialist Organiser, the magazine Workers Liberty and Solidarity.”

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