polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
Still let me not wax too pious on
That point about behaving as kindly or lovingly as we can
Toward those in our own family or clan,
Or those – lovers especially – with some foregone
Claim on our affection. Truth is, I
Messed up in that respect and certainly won't try
To act the part of one who shone
As an example that good socialists can hold high
With pride. I treated not a few
Of my own best comrades, women included, worse than
I'd care to admit here in front of you.
Then there's the other side, the way
I so often misjudged things in the political-strategic line.
Just ask those old comrades of mine
Who'll confirm this auto-critique by having lots to say
About my many and well-known faults
Of didacticism, lack of empathy, and constant assaults
On those who'd sit through a Brecht play
And find nothing that exalts
The human spirit or yields, as Aristotle taught
Ancient Greek and modern bourgeois audiences, the fine
Idea of tragic catharsis that kills critical thought.
So – my point in all this – I'm no
Role-model or source of 100% reliable advice,
Whether it's a matter of being nice
Enough to other people or getting stagecraft to go
Along with dialectics, yet managing to grip
Your audience without having the whole thing tip
Over into bourgeois pathos. Still I’ve some wisdom to show
For the portions of my life that weren't just an ego-trip
But spent fighting fascism in the two, very different forms
It took during my lifetime, making me twice-
Over the right weather-man for these latest political storms.
First Nazi Germany, then the US post-war
With McCarthyism rampant, witch-hunts everywhere,
And talk of the red scare
Thrown at us artists and thinkers who dared to explore
The resemblances – though of course the differences too –
Between what we experienced in our new
Place of domicile and what we remembered from before
Our going into exile, as the Nazi menace grew
And the hate-word 'communist' took its place,
Along with 'gypsy', 'trade-unionist', and – most lethal – ‘Jew',
In the House-Painter's plan to get his Volk more living-space.
Chris Norris is a philosopher at Cardiff University and lives in Swansea. He has published many books about philosophy, literary theory, and music along with several collections of poetry including For the Tempus-Fugitives (Sussex Academic Press) and The Winnowing Fan (Bloomsbury), both in 2017.
Now you've this bunch of gangster-types
Who sound, from what you say, like they're nearly as bad
As some of those swine we had
To cope with back then even if the leopard's stripes
Have somewhat changed since even fascism has to adjust
Its strategies to changed circumstance and must,
For a while, make sure it pipes
Tunes of the well-known and popular sort it can trust
The Fox News viewers to go along with until
Its power-base is strong and the brainwashed majority glad
To blink at any evil in the name of the popular will.
'Well, that was a tough one while it lasted,
But don't rest on your laurels yet, you men.
Although we all stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.'
That's from 'The Resistible Rise
Of Arturo Ui', the parable-play – OK, the didactic Lehrstuck – I wrote
About Hitler in the guise of a cut-throat
Two-bit Chicago gangster whose violent rule and eventual demise
Are shown as having come about solely through
The too-long failure to do
Anything decisive about it by a whole bunch of victims wise
After the event but so convinced they'd screw
Up any effort to get shot of him along with his fellow thugs
And their protection racket that they failed to organize
Any collective resistance and were taken for mugs.
In some ways you've got the worst
Of bad situations: not just a strutting fascist moron
Whose ranting you can shut the door on
Temporarily but, in this man Trump, perhaps the first
In a whole new breed
Of mass-mediatized demagogues claiming to lead
And speak for whatever grievances are nursed
By large sections of a populace guaranteed
To revile everything that reminds them of an old,
Decrepit 'liberal' order that they've declared war on,
And to cheer those scheming bastards by whom they're thought-controlled.