Is the history of human progress a story about losers?
I am enjoying a book, “American Dreamers” by historian Michael Kazin. He describes the “leftists” of American history. For each of them, Kazin adds in the reasons that they didn’t succeed. The Industrial Workers of the World were too radical, the People’s Party wasn’t radical enough, etc.
I can see why a historian would think we’re all losers. After all, none of us ever became President of the United States, and lots of us, like Frank Little, were lynched.
What’s a Leftist Anyway?
I’ve never cared much for terms like “leftists” or “right-wing” or “conservative” or “liberal.” They’re not very clear. I prefer “progressives” for people who want to see the human race better off and “reactionaries” for those who would like to see our conditions worsen. But I’ll admit before God and Mr Kazin that we progressives never achieved a perfect world, nor even one that could be called socialism in stability.
What’s a Success?
I wrote a song about George Meyers once. It’s somewhere on Youtube I think. Meyers was a lifelong American Communist. He had a quirky slanted smile that pretty well took over his face most of the time. I never knew anyone happier than George Meyers.
And yet, he had been reduced from being a top union leader and someone who hobnobbed with the best of history. He had been a top officer of one of the most powerful and respected communist parties in the world. They had tens of thousands of members. But nearly all of that was taken away by the witch hunt before I met him.
He’d spent years in prison. When I knew him he was old and scraping by on almost no income. His health wasn’t so great. I never knew anyone happier.
My song said, “They never stopped his smiling/ no matter how they tried/ because in his heart he always knew/ he was on the winning side.
In my fifty years of progressive activism, I’ve known a lot of old-timers like George Meyers who were still in the struggle, and I never knew a happier bunch of people. It seems to me that they enjoy better health and live longer than other seniors who aren’t doing anything socially worthwhile.
Success isn’t achievement. Ask Alexander the Great, who wept after he conquered the entire world. Success is feeling good about yourself every day. We progressives, we have that down!