Friday, September 26, 2003


The New Yorker has a review of an autobiography by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, which concludes with the unkind words "The fact that you’re the last one left doesn’t mean you have to turn out the light." I read that last night after a conversation in which I wanted to use the phrase "let a hundred flowers bloom" (I couldn't remember whether it was a hundred or a thousand). I knew it came from Chairman Mao and I associated it with the Cultural Revolution and felt it had turned out to mean the opposite of what I meant.

So I found myself being defensive about having been attracted to communism when I was a college student and graduate student (mid to late 1970s). Feminism ended up more important to me, but I did see myself as in the community of fellow-travelers. I remember defending sometimes the Soviet Union and China, and that leads to my current embarrassment about those views.

In principle... Is principle possible? In principle I am attracted to direct democracy--let the voters make the decisions. It is another way of valuing the people on the bottom. Living in the south I know the problems of that--around here voters are definitely pushing us in what I consider the wrong directions (the Southern Baptist Church is another example). I do believe that the government should provide more basic social services, starting with universal health care. I suppose the basis of my sense that I no longer hold the views I did when I was in college is that while I am a critic of big business, I do conclude that a centrally planned economy proved to be a bad idea.

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