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.