Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

OLD MEN FORGET


Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day
. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King,
Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V, Act iv, Scene 3

The rapprochement between Washington and Havana has stirred half-forgotten memories, and like the aged men who waited all those years earlier to go into battle with Prince Hal at Agincourt, I remember with advantages the little deeds I did more than half a century ago. 

On April 17, 1961, a band of Cuban exiles, longing for the return of the defeated dictator Batista, and funded by the CIA in one of its less successful attempts to overthrow a progressive government, were unleashed by the newly elected John Kennedy in the misbegotten Bay of Pigs invasion.  Three days later, it was all over and the survivors slunk back to Miami to begin their long, vastly more successful and lucrative effort to warp domestic American politics.

The failed invasion forced me, and others like me, to face the fact that we were not Democrats, for Jack Kennedy was a Democrat --  not even liberal Democrats, for Jack Kennedy was a liberal Democrat --  but something else.  Some of my colleagues at Harvard in those days had read Marx and knew that they were Socialists, but the best I could do was to call myself a Radical -- anything to make clear that I did not, I could not, continue to support the Harvard graduate whose election I had greeted with such elation.

Six days after the collapse of the Bay of Pigs CIA fiasco, a group of us put on a Cuba Protest Rally at Harvard.  We met in Emerson D, the large lecture room at the back of the first floor of the Philosophy Building where Raphael Demos had for so many decades taught "Phil 1."  The three co-sponsors of the rally were H. Stuart Hughes, Nadav Safran, and myself.  I served at the podium as chair.  The class act of the three of us was clearly Hughes, a senior member of the Harvard History department, grandson of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, and later co-director with baby doctor Benjamin Spock of SANE, the leading anti-nuclear weapons peace organization of that era.  Safran was a Middle Eastern scholar, later implicated in and much tarnished by the CIA's covert funding of academic meetings and publications which they hoped would promote pro-American Cold War policies.  [Those who are really clued up on Cold War gossip will recall the scandal surrounding the CIA's underwriting of the journal of opinion Encounter.]

Although we drew a pretty good crowd to the rally, we were overshadowed that same night by a throng of raucous students outraged at Harvard's announced intention henceforward to print diplomas in English rather than the traditional Latin.

It being Harvard, the new president's alma mater, our rally hit the newspapers, and some time later I received a batch of cablegrams from young Cuban poets, musicians, and academics thanking me for my support.  It was one of my finest hours in a life that has, for the most part, been quiet and uneventful.

Susie has expressed a desire to visit Cuba [because her parents once did, long before the Revolution].  I wonder whether any of those artists and academics are still around.

2 comments:

Jack Samuel said...

Recently I've come across two different articles in which the author speculates about the effect of McCarthyism on the development of analytic philosophy in the latter half of the 20th century, in particular the hegemony of Rawlsian liberalism in political philosophy and more generally on the ``scientistic'' or ``realist'' pretensions of M&E, language, and mind. As a radical who went on to read Marx, wrote against liberalism and in defense of socialism and anarchism, and eventually left philosophy for Africana Studies, I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

If you're interested, the first is Brian Leiter's recent paper against a moralistic reading of Marx (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2642058), in which he only briefly comments on the effects of McCarthyism on cultivating bourgeois moralism, and the second an older article by John McCumber on specifically this issue (http://mtw160-198.ippl.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/diacritics/v026/26.1mccumber.html)

Wallace Stevens said...

"I wonder whether any of those artists and academics are still around." Indeed. The regime has not been kind to independent academic inquiry and thought, or to free creative expression, although in those early days, and given how bad the previous regime was, you can understand their initial enthusiasm. I never supported the embargo and I think that the Castro regime was ridiculously demonised. There are lots worse places--Iraq under Saddam, when he was a US ally against Iran, for just one example. But still. The good things that the regime did in health and education were transformative, but really no more "progressive" than what any middle of the road liberal democratic (or even 1960s Republican) government would have done. And the rest of it, I think the Cuban people could have done without.