It’s odd watching a group of left-wing academics buck up each other’s spirits after they’ve encountered the cold, cruel world outside academe. Such a gathering was on display at the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting in Chicago this month whenever the Radical Caucus of the MLA met.
“The failure of communism did not result from Lenin, Stalin and Mao,” Grover C. Furr of Montclair State University told the group. “These were some of the greatest men in the world.”
“Socialism preserved the contradictions of capitalism, such as differentiations in pay. We should abandon the term ‘socialism.’ Marx and Engels did not write The Socialist Manifesto.”
Furr also says of the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest that “It turns out it didn’t happen.” Actually, we now have a copy of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s signature authorizing the assassination.
On the Literature and Life After Capitalism panel with Furr were fellow Radical Caucus members:
- Melissa Macero of the University of Massachusetts, who thinks that Zombies as a great way to characterize “the one percent;”
- John Maerhofer of Roger Williams University who saw “a symbiotic relationship between capitalism and globalism, racism and sexism;”
- Ben V. Olquin of the University of Texas who lamented that Latino and Latina science-fiction has a “reactionary tendency” with a “political critique that devolves into libertarian paradigm;” and
- Joe Ramsey of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, who was particularly proud that an article he wrote for the Journal in Socialism and Democracy was edited by Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted Philadelphia cop killer.
Note that though these folks may represent a fringe group within a fringe group, all have academic berths, as did the speakers at the other Radical Caucus sessions at the MLA. Although they only numbered four out of 810, these panels nevertheless featured 10 pedagogues from about as many universities including:
- Allan Johnston, DePaul Univ, “On the Soapbox: Kenneth Rexroth, 1919–27;”
- Brian Dolinar, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, “Radicals on Relief: Black Chicago Writers and the WPA;”
- Marie Buck, Wayne State University, “Margaret Burroughs, Gwendolyn Brooks, and the Anxiety of Political Organization in the Black Arts Movement,”
- Richard M. Ohmann, Wesleyan University, “Different from You and Me;”
- Marcial Gonzalez, University of California, Berkeley, “Where Do Social Inequalities Come From? Class Divides in Latina/o Literature;”
- Gregory Dean Meyerson, North Carolina A&T State University, “It’s Not Personal, It’s Business; or, How (Not) to Teach about the Rich.”
- Sue Rowe Doe, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins;
- Alice Emery, Southern Connecticut State Univ.;
- Marcia Newfield, Borough of Manhattan Community Coll., City Univ. of New York; and
- Emma Widener, Southern Connecticut State Univ.