As an undergraduate university student at the end of the Cold War, I beheld my Marxist college professors as muddleheaded dreamers at the very best, criminally complicit in the murders of untold millions during this century at worst. To this day, I think the best commentary on Communism to be the life-sized statues of Karl Marx and Frederich Hegel I encountered in Alexanderplatz Park in East Berlin not long after the Wall fell when I was there in 1991: the local Germans had painted the hands of the statures red, the blood symbolically covering the hands of the "saviors of the proletariat" and then dripping onto the ground below. How could my supposedly intelligent college professors be so on the "wrong side of history"? How could they have written abstract treatises apotheosizing the "historical dialectic" while ignoring what was happening in real life in the countries of "socialist brotherhood"? Were they too smart for their own good ? Were they book brilliant and common sense dumb? I sat in the lecture hall as a young man and stewed with anger against these clueless proselytes of the "vanguard party," rejecting in mind almost everything they told me.

More than a few years out of school now and with Communism a discredited ideology and supposedly relegated to the ash heap of history, I look back with different eyes on my old teachers. Sure, they might have been naive as hell and obviously had allowed wishful thinking and willful ignorance and ideology to color their thinking, but that is not everything. I recognize now that I have more of a natural affinity for them than I do the narrow-minded, go-for-the-throat business executives whose cupidity and lack of imagination make them appear little different to me than the machine-like commissars of Bolshevism. This is a curious epiphany. And how did my professors feel now that history had seemingly passed them and their ideas by? What did it feel like to watch the world choose something and someone else? Old men by now, did it break the hearts of those who fought the "good fight" to see their life's work so thoroughly defeated? It must be difficult to be an American and accept failure, to take a permanent place on a failing team in such an intensely competitive country.

Nowadays I feel a tug of affection and tender pity for my "politically committed" teachers of old, preaching the logos of the working class to students year after year and writing books few people read. Losers? Maybe. Clueless? Often. Ignored? Almost always. But the below poem is in honor of my former college political science professors, men whose hearts were in the right place even if their conclusions were not.

January 27, 1999

for the loneliness of an author

Perhaps these thoughts of ours
           will never find an audience
Perhaps the mistaken road
           will end in a mistake
Perhaps the lamps we light one at a time
           will be blown out, one at a time
Perhaps the candles of our lives will gutter out
           without lighting a fire to warm us.

Perhaps when all the tears have been shed
           the earth will be more fertile
Perhaps when we sing praises to the sun
           the sun will praise us in return
Perhaps these heavy burdens
           will strengthen our philosophy
Perhaps when we weep for those in misery
           we must be silent about miseries of our own

Because of our irresistible sense of mission
We have no choice.

by Shu Ting
translated from the Chinese by Carolyn Kizer

Back to Communism: Opiate of the Intellectuals Page