Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Painful Contradictions

Famous Marxist historian's grown daughter says she has recovered memory that he abused her sexually. The result is a red house divided and much soul-searching by his disciples. Can the work stand if the man falls? If the public life is devoted to revolt against institutionalized repression, and the private life intimate slavery?

And then the small wreck of one life on the Old Left begins to merge with the larger one of the whole faction in the middle of the last century.

The motif of Intimate Politics that personal life has public implications, however, would seem to make a thoroughgoing reconsideration of Herbert Aptheker inescapable. That moral inventory would necessarily include not only his treatment of his daughter but also the incongruities of the midcentury Communist project he championed, with its admixture of authoritarianism and liberation. Along with paeans to black freedom, Aptheker penned a host of pro-Soviet apologetics, justifying, for example, the crushing of Hungarian workers' councils in 1956. Even his African-American histories found their critics. C.L.R. James regretted his works as "weapons in the Stalinist propaganda armory." Harold Cruse objected to "the sentimental slave hero worship of the Aptheker cult."

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