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December 14, 1940 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1940-12-14

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Page Twelve

PERSPECTI VES

I

- r l Y a ii i I V V

BOOKS IN SEASON

'emark4 dr e tarx
(Continued from Page Eleven)
Marx rejected Hegel's divine spiri-
tualization of the world and the his-
toric process; he declared the funda-
mental reality to be solid, stubborn,
unconscious, and unconsoling matter.
And then he proceeded to read into
that matter the very essence of the
Divine Spirit as ithad been conceived
in Hegel' consoling system, its self-
active motion by an inherent logical
necessity, the necessity with which
in a debating mind the conclusion
follows from the premise, toward an
ideal end. The end was different, and
so were the actions and emotions of
one who participated in the process,
but the conception of the universe was
essentially the same.
Nevertheless Eastman does not alto-
gether reject Marxism for he points out
that in both Marx and Lenin there
was enough of the scientific temper, or
at least enough hard-headedness, to
enable them to see the world as it is
and to think and act realistically. Given
the problem, namely, how to achieve the
emancipation of the proletariat, Marx
saw that it would be necessary first to
describe accurately existing society, i.e.,
to discover the laws of motion of capi-
talist economy, and then to determine
the direction of that motion. Marx dem-
onstrated that while production is co-
operative, ownership is concentrated in
the hands of a small class which must be
expropriated to enable the masses to en-
oy the fruits of their labor. To effect
a change, it was necessary that control
be shifted into" .. . the hands of the
producers collectively organized." This
was Marx's contribution to the theory
of revolution; it remained for Lenin to
put the theory into practice, to work
out the technique of revolution.
With Eastman's account of the per-
nicious influence of the dialectical meth-
od on Marxism, there can be, I think,
no quarrel. The inability of Marxists to
distinguish between dialectics as a meth-
od of investigation on the one hand and
as the conclusions reached as the result
of the application of the same method
on the other hand eventuated in the
failure of Marxism to make any signifi-
cant contributions to the physical
sciences to date. Moreover, modern
Marxists have failed to rid themselves
of the misconceptions which Engels took
over from nineteenth century science
and incorporated in the dialectics; En-
gels' Dialectic and Nature is still con-
sidered as the foundation upon which
the Marxist approach to the sciences
rests, yet so far as the most recent
studies in physics, mathematics, genetics,
and logic are concerned, the work is
hopelessly out of date, and any attempts
to bring the new physics and mathemat-
ics in line with Marxism as it is now un-
derstood is to force them into the Pro-
crustean bed of an a priori system. As
Eastman shows, dialectics and scientific
method are opposed to each other, both
in aim and technique.
A better case can be made out for the
Marxian theory of history. Marx's eluci-
dation of the relationship between the
economic base and the cultural super-
structure of a society must be considered
as one of the seminal insights in the
history of history writing, but it remains
at best a guide for investigation. Once
one selects a particular aspect of the
relationship for intensive analysis, it
soon becomes apparent that the tie-up
is not as simple as the Marxian approach
would have one believe, and as soon
as exceptions are made and complexities
added, as Engels himself was compelled
to do, the Marxian theory of history
loses much of its force. It is one thing
to assert that Shakespeare expresses the

ideology of the rising bourgeoisie; it is
quite another matter to prove it, if it can
be done at all.
One of the greatest omissions of
Marxian scholarship has been the failure
to apply the Marxian method of histori-
cal analysis to Marxism itself. Marx was
the first to express clearly and apply
systematically the theory of ideology,
that is, the view which maintains that at
any given period men will hold to a com-
plex of related ideas which is ultimately
a reflection of their class needs and his-
torical position. One possible reason for
this failure is not far to seek since, if
Marxism is to be considered as a uni-
versal aim and method, it cannot be
tied down to a particular group with its
necessarily historical limitations. Yet, it
seems to me, it is precisely along these
lines that the prestige of Marxism can
be re-established.
Indeed, one wonders if the greatest
failure of Marxism has not been its re-
fusal to emphasize its strong moral con-
tent. Perhaps no contemporary move-
ment has greater potentialities for the
creation of the new ethic which is being
demanded on all sides at present than
Marxism, and it is unfortunate but not
necessarily fatal that the moral bias
which was implicit in Lenin should have
been disregarded by Stalin. The essence
of Marxism is its definition of justice.
not in abstractions, but in concrete, spe-
cific terms as the emancipation of indi-
viduals, and the Marxian emphasis is
always on the individual, from a form
of society which does not permit the full-
est exercise of abilities. Because the Sov-
iet Union has gone the way most of us
had hoped is no refutation of Marxism;

it is rather a challenge to us to solve
the problem of the use and abuse of pow-
er. Eastman's insistence on the applica-
tion of scientific method to Marxism is
salutary but it is still, in the hortatory
stage. What is needed is a union of the
moral values of Marxism with the un-
dogmatic temper of scientific method.
The current. interest in the meaning
of democracy and the latest attempts to
democratize democracy require both the
values and realistic approach of Marx-
ism. All the singing of patriotic songs,
all the waving of flags, all the shouting
of super-nationalistic slogans will not
advance the cause ofdemocracy one bit
if we do not clearly define for ourselves
the problems we are trying to solve and
the solutions we intend to offer, and
in these efforts Marxism is of the great-
est help. It points out that a society
which permits a few individuals to exer-
cise arbitrary power over many indi-
viduals cannot lay claim to the name
of democracy no matter with what trim-
mings it is decorated. It points out too
that a society which wishes to call itself
democratic must take care of the needs
of all its members, and not by means
of war booms either. Finally, it sug-
gests that until power is actually vested
in the hands of the people only a sham
democracy, and hence an immoral de-
mocracy or no democracy will exist, and
it indicates the way that power is to be
controlled. At a time when fascism
seems to have the upper hand over
democracy, Marxism offers no small aids
to the rehabilitation of the theory of
democracy, and, much more important,
to. the practice of democracy.
- Martin Anderson

/9e1'6pectiwe-d
Editor................................................... Ellen Rhea
Fiction Editor ... . ........................ . ........Jay W . McCorm ick
Joanne Cohen, Gilberta Rothstein, Emile Gele, Barbara Richards.
Essay Editor .......................................Richard M. Ludwig
John Baker, Betty Whitehead, Frances Patterson, Laurence
Spingarn, M. M. Lipper, Bruce W. Forbes
Poetry Editor .......................................... John Brinnin
Carol Bundy, Betty Baer, Bertha Klein, Joan Clement
Book Review Editor ,.............................. .....James Green
Mort Jampel, Gerald Burns, Edward Burrows, Ray Ingham
Art Editor............................ ........ ...Tristan Meinecke
Publications Editor ....................- -.........Shirley W. Wallace
Joan Siegel, Joan Doris, Jean Mullins, Will Raymond, Erath
Gutekunst, Rose Ann Kornblume, Barbara DeFries
Advisory Board:
Arno L. Bader, Herbert Weisinger, J. L. Davis, Morris Greenhut,
Allan Seager, Emil Weddige

Amerika
By Franz Kafka
New Directions Books, $2.50
This book is not properly a novel, nor
does it have anything to do with Ameri-
ca. According to Klaus Mann whb writes
the preface, the story is to be costeived
of as a gigantic miracle pla in wich
God and the Devil fight for tli posses-
sion of the soul of man. The actual lo-
cation of the struggle is of little im-
portance, for puny man, bowed be-
neath the original sin and faced by Di-
vine Justice, has small chance of hap-
piness whether he be in the New World
or the Old. Just how such a broad,
spiritual idea is worked into the pat-
tern of Amerika is hard to say. Franz
Kafka, an office-clerk in Prague, died
in 1924 at an early age. He knew noth-
ing of the United States except the
writings of Whitman, Franklin and
others. His hero Karl Rosman,. a
young German, arrives in a mythical
New York to start life anew. His uncle,
a senator, takes him under his wing,
introduces him to the city and teaches
him English. Karl visits a country home,
is deserted by his uncle, wanders for
a time on the open road and is finally
befriended by two tramps, a Frenchman
and a German. These two itinerants
alternately wallow in poverty or roll
in wealth. They succeed eventually in
making a slave of Karl. At this point
the story breaks off and a fragmentary
last chapter is appended in which Karl,
escaped from his oppressors, seeks hap-
piness in the "Nature Theatre of Okla-
homa."
The America of Franz Kafka is fan-
tastic. Occasionally the broad carica-
ture of a fat business man or a jiu-jit-
su-practicing college girl strikes home,
but the caricatures are obviously not
based on observation. They are twice
removed from reality. New York tene-
ments are dotted with wide, European
balconies. The country house is a Gothic
palace. The two companions are not
American workingmen; they are rogues
out of Fielding. This dream country is
pleasing at first, often anusing, but
its fantasy soon grows wearisome, even
irritating.
One can picture introverted genius,
cut off by circumstances from partici-
pating in a full life, nourished only
by literature and the conversation of
a select coterie, polishing and repolish-
ing his one gift, exquisite style. The
world of the imagination is a profound
and important one, but placed in the
service of such a craftsman and unre-
lieved by the realities of physical life,
it becomes a bloodless shadow, it de-
stroys its own worth. Franz Kafka
never realized that his own life in
Prague, in a country already torn be-
tween fascism and revolution, his life
as a struggling writer, his life as a Jew,
was worth a thousand mythical Amer-
icas and might have served as material
for one novel alone worth endless frag-
ments of soul-searching and mental
play.
Auden and the poets and recorders
of the Age in Munich have given high
praise to Kafka and his contemporary
experimentors. His influence upon the
style of modern English writers has
been tremendous, they claim. Upon the
tide of such praise Kafka has risen
to popularity. But with the decline of
Auden and Co. it is more than possible
that this popularity will vanish. The
hard facts of the Grapes of Wrath may
be challenging or distatsteful, but they
are the reality. Franz Kafka's picture
is illusion, an adolescent's dream.
Edwin G. Burrows

did btujf
(Continued from Page Eleven)
However, In the Money\is the sequel
to White Mule, in which Williams was
predominantly concerned with the lives
of the children of Joe and Gurlie. There-
fore it is indeed regrettable that In the
Money should be lacking in that direc-
tion and unity that the child-theme af-
forded the first book. Obviously, Wil-
liams has neither the understanding nor
the outlook necessary for dealing con-
vincingly with the cutthroat racket side
of big business. His tycoons are stock
stuff. Their slang, their problems, and
their methods of procedure read like
something Williams himself might very
well have read about, but never have
known. It is further regrettable that,
without the childen and the family
scenes, the whole book is quite lacking
in both reading interest and literary
value. In the telling of how Joe Stecher
gets into the money, Williams fails in

everything but his knack for dialogue,
which does manage to rear a promising
head every so often, only to find it-
self in most unpromising territory. Thus,
remembering that Williams had the
children all to himself in White Mule,
when we discard as mediocre the story
of Joe Stecher in the sequel, we leave
William Carlos Williams, MD, very little
excuse for having written that sequel.
As a concluding note of criticism is
the fact that what little action there is
in the piece is left dangling at the end.
One has the sneaking suspicion that
someday there may be a Stecher trilogy,
perhaps just as soon as the good doctor
can find a few minutes away from the
clinic. Now we know that every book,
whether a novel or a sustained diary, has
a beginning. And we know that every
book, and especially one which lays
claim to being a novel, should have a
definite, logical point of termination.
In the Money does not. It may be quite
interesting to note what the kids art up
to in the next one.
- Ray Ingham

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