Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel and the old, old left

Studs Terkel died last night. Here's an obituary. A master of "the rich art of taking the vernacular, and making it eternal."

I (sort of) met Studs Terkel once. He was speaking at a university where I worked, and where my co-workers and I were trying to organize a union. During the question and answer period, in a shameless ploy to advertise our efforts at this (hopefully sympathetic) gathering, I essentially asked him what he thought about this. He didn't hear very well, he didn't catch any of the particulars, but he waved his arms about a bit and lectured the crowd on the great benefits of the labor movement, and made a great show of signing the authorization card I handed him and putting on one of our buttons.

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My high school friend P was from England — he moved to the heart of the "red states" in junior high. The Labor Party was still marginally socialist in those days before the famous TONY BLAIR, MP = I'M TORY PLAN B anagram. The guy probably never read a word of Marx in his life, but he came with this basic, English working-class understanding — predating even the "old left" of the Communist Party and the Russian revolution — that capitalism benefits the rich, socialism benefits the workers.

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