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February 16, 1969 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-02-16

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Sunday, February 15, 1969

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

PQ

Sunday, February 16, 1969 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Pc

journalism

for

Trots kyite

oet

r olutionaries

by PHIL BALLA
Untimely T h o u g hit s, y
Maxim Gorky, translated by
Herman Ermolaev. Eriksson,
$6.95.
A famous woman writer once
said that a thousand years from
now no one will read Gorky,
but everyone will remember the
man.
Orphaned at an early age,
Gorky grew up along the Volga
boat docks amid the tramps
and the destitute who people
his writing. Russia in the last
part of the nineteenth century
was an unhappy p.ace and Gor-
ky, a pen name which means
"bitter", knew its dregs. Liter-
ature and culture became his
hope to affirm and awaken hu-
manity.
By his death in 1936 Gorky
had become as powerful as Sta-
lin -himself: Russia's literary
tsar. The letters and essays he
@ wrote in horror and aghast at
the Revolution in 1917 may
surprise those who already
knew that a dozen years ear-
lIer Gorky was an ardent Bol-
shevik and that he launched
Soviet Realism with his 1905
novel Mother-which he began
in New York while serving as a
Bolshevik representative.
Untimely Thoughts is a ser-
ies of articles that Gorky wrote
in his newspaper between May

of 1917 and June of the next
year. Their purpose is singular
and blatant: the defense of cul-
ture and humanity against the'
excesses of the Revolution. The
first few articles seem too re-
petitious and too hyperbolic to,
be good writing or even fair
journalism, Continued reading
convinces, however, that Un-
timely Thoughts is wonderfully
Russian writing, historically
apocalyptic, polemical, ' folksy,
morosely anecdotal, pop-eyed,
bombastic. woeful, hair-pulling,
and redundant inquiry into the
mysterious Russian soul emerg-
ing with Revolution's chaos.
In one of his articles he ad-
mits the futility of trying to
untangle his pplitical contra-
dictions, for to ' achieve har-
mony would be to kill that part
of him "which most passionate-
ly and painfully loves the liv-
ing, sinning, and-forgive me-
pitiful Russian man."
Gorky says in prose what his
countrymen were doing in fact:
"We Russians are anarchists by
nature, we are cruel beasts, the
poisonous inheritance of t h e
Tartars and of serfdom . -
There are no words that one
could not use in cursing t h e
Russian."
Except' for the obvious differ-,
ference in Pasternak's aristo-
cratic restraint, much of the
time Gorky is saying what can
be found in a line from the

journal of Dr. Zhivago, that the
pursuit of perfection may not
be worth the sea of blood it
costs, Gorky is much closer to
the flood of barbarism and Un-
timely Thoughts reflects that
immediacy.
"Where can we find a justi-
fication for this unprecedented
crime against world culture?"
He lists examples and repeats,
"Will we not choke in the mud
which we so diligently pro-
duce?"
Although the overall sensa-
tion is rich in flair, Gorky turns
his attention to specifics which
cannot fail to impress today's
readers with historical insight.
With Tolstoyan moralists par-
ticularly in mind, he attacks all
those with "anxieties about
their personal self-perfection"
because "this kind of pursuit
creates an especially dense and
stifling atmosphere of hypo-
crisy, lies, and bigotry."
He attacks Lenin on the same
grounds: in the pursuit of so-
cial perfection Lenin "is only
performing a certain experi-
ment" on the skin and blood of
the working class.
No one is safe from Gorky's
polemics. When the proletariat
succeeds in achieving power on
the conduct of the war with
Germany artists are ordered to
the front and put into battle
without straining. Gorky calls
this "as wasteful and stupid as
to put gold horseshoes on a
dray horse."
Another article attacks the
imprisonment of publisher Sy-
tin.
He urges establishment of an
"Institute of Chemistry" be-
cause, "The countries with in-
dustrial culture look upon Rus-
sia as upon Africa, a colony
where they can dispose of any
kind of goods at a high price
and from which they can
cheaply export raw materials
that we are unable to process
ourselves due to our ignor-
ance and laziness."
He condemns Russians who
allow American money to buy
up priceless art treasures.
Even when he advocates an
"Institute of Biology" he can-

parables. Sometimes he simp-
ly says, "Dead, arise!" But his
wit is unbounded: "The awe-
some Jewish God saved a whole
city of sinners because there
was one righteous man among
them; those who believe in the
gentle Christ think that all the
Jewish people should suffer for
the sins of two or seven Bol-
sheviks."

Gorky refers cynically to the
mad archpriest Avaakum. fam-
ous in Russian literature for in,-'
jecting personality into his
account of his seventeenth cen-
tury persecutions. His own Un-
timely Thoughts bear striking
resemblance to Avaakum.
Where the mad archpriest rails
in venomous rhetoric against
the tsar and then becomes sen-
timental and meek over t h e
chicken that laid eggs for his
children, Gorky mixes his ac-
counts of terror in the streets
with humorous anecdotes.
When he says that the revolu-
tionaries "have made m a n y
serious, depressing errors," he
next says that "God also er-
red in making all of us m o r e
stupid than necessary.'
While Gorky's language re-
mains high-strung, his analo-
gies remain folksy: Comparing
revolution to childbirth he says:
"You women . . howl like
beasts at the moment of birth
and you smile the happy smile
of the Virgin, pressing the new-
born to your breast."
The singular and striking '4-
theme of Untimely Thoughts is
respect for culture and individ-
ual humanity being so abused
in the Revolution that Gorky
himself had hoped for. When
he says, "On the road to free-
dom, love and concern for man
cannot be left somewhere along
the way," he is arguing for the
same kind of beauty that Pas-
ternak elevated above the con-.
structions that men pursue with
such disastrous violence.
For Gorky saw that, "In striv-
ing to change the external forms
of social existence the revolu-
tionary for today is not capable
of filling the new forms with
new content, and brings into
them the same emotions against
which he fought."

While Gorky advocates a no-
ble ideal, his own style and flair
both enlivens and debases his
argument. He knows how deep
and liable is the Russian soul
and resigns himself to whatever
beauty can be found and created
along the way. As he says, . .
"having put man into a pigsty,
it is stupid to demand that he be
an angel."
Untimely Thoughts may not
-be good literature, nor even fair
journalism, but it is certainly
wpnderfully Russian. It would
appeal most to a historian like
Arthur Mendel, whom the Uni-
versity pays to be a professor of
Russian Intellectual History, but
is in face, as Trotskyist Robert
Bernard says, a frustrated poet.
Today's writers
PHIL BALLA is a senior in
the Literary College who plans
on entering the army as an in-
terpreter in Russian upon grad-
uation.
HOWARD KOHN, Daily As-
sociate Editorial Director, is a
senior journalism major, a n d
part-time philosopher - theolo-
gian.
SHERMAN DREW is also a
literary college senior and a re-
cent contributor to the Books
Page.
Litter doesn't throw
itself away; litter
doesn't just happen.
People cause it--and'
only people can prevent
it. "People" means you.
Keep America Beautiful.
Aadvertising contributed
for the public good

K,
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Gorky rrcv, n to :Russ 99

Won't you give
a buck. to Christ?9
By HOWARD KOHN

"The Religion Business," by Alfred Balk. John Knox
Press, $3.00.
Matthew, a reformed Roman tax collector, writes that Jesus
Christ chased the moneychangers and merchants out of the
temple of Judah. "Ye have made this place into a den of thieves,"
said Christ.
Clergymen ever since have searched Christ's behavior for
a lesson in amorality. Almost unanimously they have decided
that day-to-day bartering with the obviously mercenary was a
petty and sordid affair.
Subsequently they have refined economic tastes, flavoring
them with corporate aesthetics of legitimate bigtime business.
"America's religious community is rich-richer than any
counterpart in recent history," explains Alfred Balk, a reformed
journalist, "richer than even most ecclesiastical leaders are will-
ing to admit."
The value of their "visible" assets is estimated at $79.5 bil-
lion-or almost double the combined assets of the nation's top
five industrial corporations. Our clerical barons have built this
empire with thoughtful investments in American gold mines
like TV-radio stations and bra and .girdle manufacturing com-
panies.
Balk, of course, is not as Much concerned with the societal
influence of this clerical craze for materialism as much as he is
uptight about their legal evasion of $1.6 billion in taxes each
year.
He quotes Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, of the liberal National
Council of Churches on the wizardry of their anti-tax lobbying:
"When one remembers that churches pay no inheritance tax
(churches do not die), that churches may own and operate
business and may exempt from the 52 per cent corporate income
tax, and that real property used for church purposes (which in
some states are most generally construed) is tax exempt, it is not
unreasonable to prophesy that with reasonably prudent man-
agement, the churches ought to be able to control the whole
economy of the nation within the predictable future."
This then is the contingency Balk has set out to prevent,
tacking his 95 theses on the church doorstep in the Martin
Luther tradition.
- Balk mimics the liability-asset, dollar-cent attitude in his
short-paragraphed invectives: black-white tangents devoid of
any mitigating overtones.
But his evangelism is honest. And the sad truth is that
Congress has incessantly referred the review of sancte-sanctus
religious privileges to 'a dead-ended committee- the Supreme
Court has consistently washed its hands of the issue.
Balk's major failure lies in his closeting of the substance
behind the issue, the Christian credo of materialism. Simply
updating the tax laws and converting cathedrals into civic cen-
ters can cure only the symptoms of the disease.
The social gospel which preaches the godly miracle of multi-
plying shares of AT&T and three small bonds into a pile so able
and so unwilling to feed thousands upon thousands is not pre-
dicated simply on George Bernard Shaw's theory that "the only
thing wrong with Christianity is that no one practices it."
In Christianity, more than in any other organized religion,
the Golden Calf doctrine of ostentation leads directly to the
tenet of private property. Although once committed to the onus
of owning a House of the Lord, the Monopoly game is now
pragmatically reformed.
Reformation of the church's obsession with wealth, even
forcing the clergymen to drink the molten gold of their idols
as Moses once did, does not strike at the belief that giving your
tithe outweighs giving your soul on heaven's scale.
Neither does dooming the church to perfunctory ceremonies
(weddings, funerals, christenings, etc.), since the Christian mania
is rooted in the economic value of such ceremonies. ,
If Christianity is, indeed, timeless and infinitely self-re-
newing, then more property, more privilege and more materialism
is the very instrument of the church's salvation. Take them away
and Christianity becomes as banal as the Satanic creed.
Alfred Balk, unfortunately, has not recognized them as the
very bowels of the Christian organism, thinking them only
needless excretions. His book then is so anti-Christian as to be
anti-American and/ should immediately be banned and burned.

not refrain from wild pamph-
leteering. Between paragraphs
he writes one word -"Citi-
zens!" His calls for action are
based not only on emotions,
but vivid portraiture: "Half of
all peasant children die of var-
ious diseases before the age of
five. Almost all the women in
the village suffer from women's
diseases. The villages are rot-
ting with syphilis."
In another article, G o r k y
solicits funds for a woman phy-
sician who is starving to death.
If this sounds strange one
might recall that Herbert Hoov-
er rose to international fame
for his role in speeding emer-
gency relief supplies to a starv-
ing Russia, and that the fame

of Gorky the man arose not so
much from his writing, but
from the numbers of other writ-
ers he saved from despair, dif-
ficulty, and even death. Among
these are Grin, Isaac B a b e 1,
Ivanov, Zamyatin, and Bialik,
the father of modern Hewbrew
poetry,
(Some speculate that Stalin
poisoned Gorky in 1936 to clear
the way for the purge trials the
next year, although Stalin him-
self headed the 800,000 people in
Gorky's funeral procession.)
One may look for historical
documntatio - in ntimely
Thoughts but it is a taste of
peasant crusade that sustains
the articles. Interspersed a r e

i
"o V.

,

GUILD HOUSE
802 Monroe

Towardia
By SHERMAN DREW individual nations. Through bai- more than 10 per cent over whe periods, there is no case

MON., FEB 17

Noon Luncheon 25c

In

PROF. MARSTON BATES, Prof. of Zoolog,:
"The Biological Future"

The Lopsided World, by Bar-
bara Ward. Norton, $3.95.
Western civilization has effec-
tively insulated itself from the
rest of mankind. Throughout
history, the gap between rich
and poor has been widening .
until now, to 80 per cent of
humanity, poverty is the only
teality.
Today, however, this other 80
per cent is beginning to think
about disrupting economic in-
ertia. And the question arises
whether the affluent can afford
this lopsided state of affairs.
Barbara Ward, the British
economist who is one of theI
world's foremost authorities on
the economics of underdevelop-
ed nations, says in her new
book, The Lopsided World; that
the situation is dangerous in
very practical terms. It does
not "pay."
The 20 fully or chiefly de-
veloped nations produce 80 per
cent of the world's industrial
products and dispose of the
same portion of its income.
Moreover,rtheir share is rising
and th gap between them and
the Tinderdeveloped nations is
widening.
The major parts of Asia, Af-
rica, and Latin America are
economically frozen, their fate
dtermined. In these areas any
occurrence of increased produc-
tion is offset by population in-
creases, resulting in a zero mark
on the savings-for-investment
side of the ledger.
Yet these same poor lands are
sources of primary products
and potential markets. Miss
Ward maintains that the failure
of the rich nations to give one
per cent of their GNP to the
poor ones, and of their capital-
,ists to invest a matching amount
each year endangers the ceo-
nomic and political stability of
the world.
The urgently needed develop-
ment must be continuous and
conform to the plans of the

grams, the rich nations have
learned how to advise, train, and
give aid. The techniques are
available. Miss Ward simply
urges us to act on this crucial
issue of appropriating financial
aid and maintaining what
amounts to a great deal 'of
patience.
To a great many people, Miss
Ward's proposal seems to be a
realonable answer. To me, it
does not.
The entire argument rests on
a proposal made by, economic
historian and Washington ad-
visor Walt W. Rostow. Rostow
maintains that if a nation could
boost its savings and investment
from less than five per cent to

lateral and multilateral pro-
total output in the economy
(i.e., at least a twofold increase
in the rate of capital forma-
tion), it would be possible fr
an economy to become self-sus-
taining and "take-off." The
Rostow argument has been the
basis of many of our foreign aid
programs.
Along the same line,. Miss
Ward feels that if wet were to
give one per cent of our GNP
we could raise the rate of sav-
ings and investment enough to
get these countries off e
ground. This is just not tre.
In all of the historical studies
done on advanced nations due-
ing their critical "take-off"

which capital formation even
approaches a doubling of value.
Therefore, I think it is wrong
to assume an increase in our
aid would ipso facto induce ad-
vanceme t. It is true that aid is
needed, but it is not certain that
aid alone will become a patent
panacea for the problem of in-
ternational economic imbalance.
Miss Ward's book is stimulat-
ing not for the solutions it
offers-which are, to be sure,
less than perfect-but for the
manner in which it addresses
itself to one of the monumental
crossroads in history.

TUES., FEB. 18

Noon Luncheon

PROF. SHERIDAN BAKER, JR., English Dept.,
Editor of the Michigan Quarterly Review:
"Requirements in General

It is important that
are beginning to care.

people

REFER ENCE

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