Stopping in again briefly with a coda to yesterday's post regarding the PEN World Voices Conference. A while back I read this illuminating piece on Vaclav Havel by the leftist writer Michael Parenti. Havel of course was the playwright and leading front person for U.S. imperialism in working to bring about the counter-revolution in Czechoslovakia. After that effort succeeded, Havel served as president of the new Czech Republic. Now dead, he's pretty well achieved sainthood standing as he does for freedom, democracy and art all tied up together in a pretty bow.
The truth, as Parenti points out, is that Havel was the scion of a wealthy family and a fighter above all for his own class interests. He hated the workers' state, hated the struggle to build socialism in Czechoslovakia--because it expropriated his family's wealth, wealth that was created by and had been stolen from workers. He fought hard to overturn that system so he and his lot could get their riches back.
In 1992, writes Parenti, "while president of Czechoslovakia, Havel, the great democrat, demanded that parliament be suspended and he be allowed to rule by edict, the better to ram through free-market 'reforms.'
"That same year, he signed a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to eight years imprisonment." How's that for free speech?
So anyway, Philip Roth's great revelation at last night's PEN gala was that he spent a lot of time in the 1970s boosting Havel. He brought him money! He arranged contracts to have his books published in the United States! He soothed and supported Havel and his cronies who, Roth claims, were forced to actually work for a living. Work! Manual labor! What horrors! What nerve the socialist state had, refusing to pay these fine artistes a salary for fomenting counterrevolution! What antidemocratic anti-art baddies! All of this, Roth's service to U.S. imperialism, he portrayed in his talk, as far as I can tell from reports, as his own personal endeavors, but it's an absolute certainty that Roth carried out his mission in cahoots with the State Department. That's how this stuff works.