Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The anti-left literary pile-on

We live in the world headquarters of capitalism. Naturally, then, here where we live the capitalist class has a lock hold on all forms of expression including artistic expression. Intentionally or not, the only exceptions being the result of extreme intentional effort to break away, art under capitalism is imbued with bourgeois ideology. Literature perhaps most of all. I've written about this before, especially in a series of posts in January and February, as have others more eloquent than I. It's on my mind again now as it seems to me that lately a rash of anti-communist and/or anti-struggle books are being heavily promoted. There's Yiyun Li's The Vagrants, the latest in a never-ending parade of books trashing the great Chinese Revolution while of course nothing written in China defending the revolution ever gets translated and published here. There's Zoe Heller's The Believers that skewers an imagined family of committed leftists while you'd be hard pressed to find a current novel with sympathetic protagonists on the side of the working-class struggle. Now, as if fiction isn't an effective or direct enough medium of the anti-struggle message, here comes a memoir, which is a much more popular form, to tell the tale directly.

It is When Skateboards Will Be Free, Said Sayrafiezadeh's book about being raised by parents who belonged to the Socialist Workers Party. The moral of his story: socialists make bad parents. (Bad people, one might be expected to extrapolate.) What a hard life this fellow had, dragged to meetings, protests, forced to swallow crazy ideas like equality and justice along with his PB&J sandwiches. Poor little tyke couldn't even ask for a toy without being subjected to a lecture about how unfair it is that toys are commodities built for profit, not for children's fun, and therefore most children around the world can't afford them--which is the anecdote from which the title is lifted.

Now prepare yourself for the shock of all shocks: everyone loves this book! The author is being toasted from coast to coast!

Me, I have no love for the SWP. The group to which I belong, Workers World Party, actually split from the SWP 50 years ago. However, when the SWP or any group is attacked from the right, as is currently happening via the chorus of hosannas being showered on Mr. Sayrafiezadeh's memoir, I have to go on record as disassociating myself from the lit pack's pile-on.

I feel sorry for the author's parents. From what I can tell, they were admirable people who don't deserve the ridicule to which their son is subjecting them. The success of this book is cheap, easy and unsurprising. Hey, gang, everybody after the Reds!

I'm moved to try something new. Many of my WWP comrades have children who are now grown, ranging in age from 18 to 40. I'm going to see if any of this younger generation has the time or inclination to read this book and if so if she/he would like to write a review here at Read Red. If not--and really, why would they want to--perhaps I can get one of them to guest blog about her/his own experience being raised by communists. A mini-memoir of sorts.

You know, about the horrors of such an upbringing. Party newspapers piled by the door! Posters of Che hanging on the walls! Parents who can't afford to buy them fancy things, not because they come from poverty but because they devote their life to the struggle and so don't make much money, the scoundrels!

If I can recruit a memoirist, it won't be for the big bucks. Unlike the young fellow who'll soon be raking in lovely royalty checks for his anti-left memoir. Anyway, I can't promise this will come to pass. Everyone I can think of to ask is pretty busy taking part in the struggle for socialism. Compared to that, this favor I'll ask is a low-priority task.