Exchange With Ronald Radosh
From "Letters," THE NATION, March 12, 1990
New York City
Daniel Singer's meanspirited attack on Lech Walesa (Singer writes that Walesa, rather than helping workers "defend themselves against exploitation," "is ready to sell that birthright...for more than a fistful of dollars") is truly obscene ["After the Wall, a New Socialism?" Dec. 25, 19891. The fact is that Walesa has not sold out the Polish people and Polish workers. As Walesa told the A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention, "I would not like anybody to think that I made an about-face. Nowadays in Poland the defense of workers is not based on demanding more money, which in our country has no real value and for which one cannot buy anything. At present defending workers means building a normally functioning economy that would allow increasing production and letting people earn more money. Such an economy can only be built together with the trade unions; it cannot be built against them.... That is why Solidarity is still indispensable for Poland." And while in this country, Walesa taped TV commercials in favor of labor solidarity and organizing efforts in the United States.
Singer misses the point that Walesa and the Polish people do not have to be told by Singer about the supposed merits of "really existing socialism." Writing from the vista of his expensive dwelling in Paris, Singer dares to speak in the name of the Central European peoples, who are expected, despite their own experience of "socialism," to continue to carry the torch in order to rescue the dreams of Singer's youth. This attitude, of course, is classic Leninism redux, in which the Marxist intellectual imposes his own utopia on the people, who have to learn their role in history from the vanguard's representative. Walesa, speaking for those who have come to understand the necessity of a mixed market economy, represents the future; Singer, speaking in the name of "the left," dons the stance of the classic reactionary, urging a move backward to an unthinkable past.
Ronald Radosh visited my "expensive dwelling in Paris" years ago when he brought me his book in which, among other things, he described how [the anti-Communist union] Force Ouvrière was set up after the war with American money. Those were his "radical" days, when he co-wrote, with Louis Menashe, a book called Teach-Ins U.S.A. The villain in that story was the American Federation of Labor, great champion of the cold war. He has since changed his views about that labor union and about capitalism--sorry, I should have said "mixed market economy." His conversion is his own affair as are his problems with his family background or with his mirror. But for someone even vaguely acquainted with my writing to suggest that I was preaching to the people of Eastern Europe "the supposed merits of 'really existing socialism' " is to reveal his intellectual nothingness. I am glad that the rest of his argument is on the same mental level because, while I love heretics, I despise renegades, and it would have been very unpleasant to have to debate with such a contemptible turncoat.