Glossing over Wellman
Re: “Comrade in arms” (Metro Times, May 18), if hagiography — the lives of the saints — is the most banal form of literature, why shouldn’t we judge cinematic efforts similarly? If all there was to the film Professional Revolutionary: The Life of Saul Wellman was solely a feel-good video for the faithful, probably no more than a slight grimace would be in order. However, the attempt to build a left-wing superman mythology around a man who embodied the most authoritarian politics of his era begs to be criticized.
Wellman, like many other people of his generation, experienced the Depression, war, revolution and intense engagement in left politics. But to extract an individual from the social context in which he operated and to neglect the consequences of the politics he promoted tells barely half the story.
Wellman was not just an average Communist Party hack, but a middle-level party functionary that, here and abroad, enforced the opportunistic twists and turns of Stalin’s ever-changing party line. To be an uncritical supporter of Stalin and the Soviet Union then meant keeping on one’s ideological blinders. Information was available to all that Russia was a totalitarian police state run by one-man rule that ruthlessly suppressed all internal opposition. Everything about the Soviet Union from its planned mass starvations, its gulag system, its police state with its exquisite tortures, its purges, its show trials, its pact with Hitler, its lack of workers’ democracy, was known to anyone willing to look at what was presented by liberals, Trotskyists or anarchists. Wellman was one of what Chomsky calls today in a different context, the “willfully ignorant.”
The film’s endless, giddy endorsements of Wellman by a host of barely reconstructed ex-CPers and New Leftists who gained his favor by fawning over his experiences refer to the commissar as their “mentor.” What was his advice to them? Kill your political opponents? Spread vicious calumny about them? Never think independently, but faithfully follow a party line no matter how much it confounds reality?
The Wellmans of the world have greatly retarded the cause of revolution, not advanced it. Their allegiance to a police state and authoritarian politics have made what was to be capitalism’s negation into something understandably reviled and feared by the workers of the world. A better title for the film would have been Professional Counter-Revolutionary.
—Peter Werbe, Ferndale, email@example.com
Coolness not enough
Re: “Contrived Cool” (Metro Times May 4), frankly, I couldn’t agree more with the article and I’d like to thank both the author and Metro Times for publishing this piece.
Although I believe that our governor means well, and I appreciate the endorsement of Michigan’s cities at the highest level of the state’s government, I find the marketing approach to be fatally flawed. For one thing, Detroit already is a cool place. The trouble is that it is not a very good city. If the state feels a need to attract young people (or any people for that matter) it need only to focus on making cities and tackling the relevant issues such as public transportation, schools, crime, or maybe even mundane bureaucratic stuff like zoning reform. Make the city work for everybody and then we’ll have more than enough people in town, including cool people.
Moreover, if you want people to live in towns and commit to localities, then stop providing free highways that allow for such easy access out of the cities.
Any number of governing strategies could aid our cities but we actually have to embark on them rather than waste time trying to define a protean concept like “cool.” —Brian Buchalski, Ann Arbor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nature or nurture?
Re: “A mother worth honoring,” (Metro Times, May 11), this article by Mr. Lessenberry was wonderful. It put a human touch on a great and capable candidate. I applaud his mother, also, for her fortitude in the face of adversity. Mr. Hendrix has that same stamina and that will be necessary to restore this city. Could it be that our present mayor lacks such integrity because he was spoon-fed on the public dole? —Patricia Ann Curry, Detroit
The bull pulpit
Loved Berl Falbaum’s article “Our Major Export” (Metro Times, May 4). Reminded me of the cliché, or variations thereof, “Don’t try to bullshit a bullshitter,” or “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”
Thanks for the chuckle, Berl! —Judy Lessl, Fraser
Poverty of the mind
Re: “Dyson disses Cosby cause” (Metro Times, May 4), the white poor uneducated are just as bad, if not worse. I think the common factor is education, when the poor lost their willingness to learn basic skills, that is when we lost an entire economic group. Why is it that a poor immigrant family can arrive in the United States and, within one generation, overcome poverty? We have families that have been here for generations, and they are never going to overcome poverty? It’s education! —Sam Navetta, Grosse Pointe Woods
Listen to Palestinians
Thanks for publishing the story, “Bucking for Change” (Metro Times, May 11) by Braden Ruddy. We so often, through our media outlets hear about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and we are left with a negative impression on the side of the Palestinians. I feel this is because very few people have taken the time to listen to a Palestinian. This story was a small step in the direction of the other side. It allowed the reader to see the human side of a Palestinian, a side saddened by the events that continue to occur, allowing us to relate on a personal level to a culture which has endured so much loss. You have done a wonderful job in portraying the Palestinian with a human face, not the face of a villain, which tends to be the norm in many news reports about the conflict. —Mariam Arraf, Roseville, email@example.comSend comments to firstname.lastname@example.org