Kenneth Rexroth: Comrade

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KENNETH REXROTH: Remember the word 'Comrade'?

We live in an age of counterrevolution by television. Social protest becomes widely negotiable only when it can be stamped with the face and signature of an hallucination publicitaire.

The taxpayers are saving a lot of money. The police, the industrial insurance companies and the business associations no longer have to hire agents provocateurs. They are secreted by the mass culture as a dying cell secretes an enzyme that destroys it, and they are so much more efficient than the old time stool pigeon.

If you require proof, look about you. We have come through a decade of colonial revolution and social and moral breakdown in the metropoles. We are now entering it with no efficiently functioning organizations whatsoever.

All the organizations of the New Left are in chaos, many of them are dead, and the Old Left has nothing to offer. This is not only true of the Left; the Republicans, the Tories, the Christian Democrats are all in an organizational crisis, and the Democratic Party--well, you live in California--what an ignoble ruin!

During the past year, Women's Liberation, which has been around for a long time, suddenly acquired an Image and became the talk of the town. The Media had discovered some to feed into the tube, and Woman became a Hot Commodity.

The debauching of women's liberation is of the greatest significance; freedom and equality of women is the measure of the health and even the economic efficiency of a modern, as of a primitive, society. The subjection of woman is another term for the primitive accumulation that has characterized most societies since the Neolithic. This is why, incidentally, women have always been comparatively free in the highest and lowest strata, especially of urban society.

Since a revolutionary struggle is meaningful only insofar as it is building a new society within the womb of the old, the sexual equality in a revolutionary movement is an accurate measure today of just how revolutionary it is.

Therefore, the appalling, masochistic self-subjection of women amongst hippies and Yippies reveals that these people are a sickness of the ruling class, not a new revolutionary class. There is no essential difference except physical filth between the country club, Venice Biennale, horse show, or musical beds set, with their uppers to get up and their downers to lie down and their alcohol to turn on and their nicotine to commit suicide and their sons and daughters playing voluntary poverty.

The economic crisis we are running into is going to be a different thing than the 1929-39 one. The vulgar economists called that one a crisis of overproduction and underconsumption.

To this one will be added the exhaustion of the economic environment, most especially in the metropoles, and the irreparable destruction of the environment everywhere.

We face a decade that calls for ruthless organization, discipline, stamina and the construction of a movement which will be a genuine counterculture, an alternative society for people who want to be adults living at their fullest potentials, not for people arrested at preadolescence who just don't want to wash the dishes and who want lots of free Alice B. Toklas candy bars.

One measure of the kind of alternative society that can win over the long reach of history is the genuine equality of man and woman, white and black, united and free.

Remember the word "Comrade?"

--from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, December 23, 1970

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