Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Mike Gold

“These are my memories at the University of Oklahoma…”: From another person recollection…

I wrote extensively in my autobiography on the city of Norman and the University of Oklahoma during two periods of higher education. And here I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and am taken aback that Iranian author Azar Nafisi also studied and lived many years there, and may have joined the same demonstrations that I participated in…

Azar started her studies in English literature early in the 1970’s, when the US students were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam.

I arrived in the summer of 1975, and the Vietnam war had ended, and the demonstrations were headed by the Iranian student movements against the Shah of Iran, and I had started my MS degree in Industrial engineering…

What follows is Nafisi’s recollection (and whatever comments I might butt in are in parenthesis).

“Red earth and fireflies, singing and demonstrating on South Oval lawn, reading Melville, Poe, Lenin and Mao, reading Ovid and Shakespeare on warm spring mornings, singing revolutionary songs…

(I read all of Lenin, Mao, and even the North KoreanKim Il Sung in Lebanon before I left to the USA. The civl war in Lebanon had just started. On several occasions, I had to rely on the Red Cross for news on my family safety status, and mails were dispatched via Paris where I had relatives…)

At night watching new films by Bergman, Fellini, Godard, and Pasolini… (I watched their movies in Beirut, and kept watching all the European movies on Friday evening, organized by the film student association, usually in the microbiology department by the main library. It is in one of these Fridays that I saw what I thought was the most beautiful girl in the wide world…)

One of my radical professor David singing on his guitar:

“Long-haired preachers come out every night

And they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right

And when you ask them for something to eat…

Work and pray, live on hay, you will get pie

In the sky when you die.

That’s a lie!”

Four of my favorite English professors were of different political leaning. Dr. Yoch was conservative, Dr. Gross was a revolutionary, and the two liberal Dr. Veile and Dr. Elconin.

Taking over the administration building, occasional streakers running across the green toward the redbrick main library…

The suffering ROTC students trying to ignore our presence, while we were protesting against the Vietnam war. (After 1975, our demonstrations were mainly against the Shah of Iran, since most of the radical students were Iranians of the two Marxist factions of Mujahideen Khalk and Fedayeen Khalk…)

Later, I would go to parties with my true love Ted, who introduced me to Nabokov, and gave me “Ada”, writing on the flyleaf “To Azar, my Ada”

I reluctantly joined the Iranian Students movement: I was more of a rebel than a politics activist, and I never fully integrated into the movement…

In the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman, the Iranian movement was a chapter of the World Confederation of Iranian Students. The militant branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party RSB and the Third World Committee Against Imperialism were created later on.

The Marxist elements in the movement came to dominate the group and the male members wore Che Guevara sports jackets and boots. The women cropped their hair short, no makeup, and wore Mao jackets and khaki pants… I insisted on wearing long dresses, I didn’t cut my hair, and loved reading “counterrevolutionary” authors such as TS Eliot, Austen, Plath, Fitzgerald, Nabovov…and occasionally delivered speeches in rallies.

The Iranian students held study groups, reading Engels‘s “Origin of the family, Private Properties, and the State“, and Marx’s “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”.

The mood was revolutionary and the romantic atmosphere infectious, and the Iranian students were at the forefront of the struggle…(Eventually bringing Ayatollah Khomeini to power, who ultimately instituted a theocratic system… I was there as a few secular and radical factions supported the return of Khomeini, and I attended a few of their meetings)

In the fall of 1977, I got married with Bijan Nadiri, whom I met 2 years earlier at a meeting at Berkeley.

I felt nostalgic about places in Iran and famiyl, but the meetings mostly tried to reconstruct another Iran.

The movement started discouraging alcoholic beverages, dancing or playing “decadent” music during Iranian celebrations: They wanted us to avoid the “bourgeois” habits of studying

The most radical faction “The Confederation of Iranian Students” convened a conference in Oklahoma City. One of the members, a former running champion, was suspected of being a SAVAK agent (the Shah’s secret services).  This suspect war lured into a room at the Holiday Inn and tortured to “extract” the truth… He manged to escape.

The next day, several FBI agents barged into the conference. As the suspect reached the “culprit” or the leader, he broke down and cried and asked in Persian “Why did you treat me so cruelly?”, but he refrained to expose his tormentors, and left with the FBI agents.

The news were reported in the Univ. “Oklahoma Daily” and there were heated discussions engaged in coffee shops and the Student Union…Many boasted of the “power of the masses“. Many others quoted Stalin on the need to “destroy once and for all the Trotskyites, the White Guards, the termites, and poisonous rats…” Many defended the right of the masses to torture and physically eliminate their oppressors…

Azar warned: “Be careful what you wish for. The Islamic revolution will answer the wishes of the radical students and destroy the left-leaning and westernized citizens…Could my former comrades have predicted that one day they would be tried in a revolutionary Islamic court? Tortured, humiliated, put in jail, and executed as traitors and spies? They could not have predicted these outcomes, Not in their wildest dreams…”

I wanted to do comparative study of the American literature of the 20’s and 30’s.  I thought Fitzgerald represented the 20’s generations, but I had difficulty selecting a counterpoint in the 30’s, like Steinbeck, Farrell or Dos Passos..

And here I come across the real proletarians, whose spirit was best captured by Mike Gold, the radical editor of the popular literary journal “New Masses“. Gold was a big shot in his day: Even Hemingway took notice. Gold had called Thornton Wilder “the Emily Post of culture

What to expect from Iran Islamic Republic as “Ayatollah” Khomeini had proclaimed:

Ayatollah Khomeini, the original, not the current Khamenei, said: “Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against Human Rights.  Human Rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place, as it became known that they were criminals…

They (International Human Rights Organization) criticize us because we are executing the brutes… We all made mistakes: We thought we were dealing with human beings.  It is not evident: We are dealing with wild animals... We will not tolerate these criminal and corrupt elements anymore…”

And who are these criminal elements, the wild animals, the brutes…?

They were the “Westernized” citizens, brought up in a westernized family, having stayed too long in Europe and the USA to study, smoking US cigarette brands in Iran, displaying leftist tendencies in not wearing the traditional Islamic attires, reading subversive foreign books like The Great Gatsby of Fitzgerald, or Farewell to Arm by Hemingway, all those non-politically motivated, considered monarchists, employees who worked in institutions during the Shah’s regime…

Khomeini went on: “The turbaned (militias) are about to execute in public the corrupt elements and burn them, and the story will be over… The corrupt elements are not allowed to publish newspapers…We will close all political parties except the One (Hezbollah?), or a few acting in a proper manner…”

Ayatollah Shariatmadari was heading the most popular party of Muslim People’s Republic Party and this party was disbanded.  The second in command, Ayatollah Muntazeri was blown up in the hotel where his party convention was being held, along with a hundred of the leaders…The irony is that the Communist Tudeh Party and the Marxist Fedayeen Organization sided with Khomeini. Why? Khomeini was against the US imperialist!

And successive waves of makeshift trials executed thousands of Iranians, and the communists and marxists were diligently persecuted and massacred.

Women were forbidden to dance and sing in public, and going to movie theaters, and going out without veil and long nails…

Azar Nafisi wrote in her book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” a fitting similarity between radical ideals and their consequences when grabbing power.

Mike Gold, the American radical Marxist of the 20’s, wrote about his American dream in his newspaper New Masses: “The old ideals must die…Let us fling all we are into the cauldron of the Revolution.  For out of our death shall arise glories…”

Iran Islamic Republic “Revolution” applied Gold ideals, adopting exactly the mechanism that should lead to glory… and did much harm to Islam by manipulating the religion to its political ends…

For example, Mike Gold wrote an essay in 1929 titled “Toward Proletarian Art“:

“Art is no longer snobbish or cowardly. It teaches peasants to use tractors. gives lyrics to young soldiers, design textiles for factory women’s dresses, writes burlesque for factory theaters, does a hundred other useful tasks. Art is useful as bread…”

I was under the impression that this long statement was being utterly sarcastic: Gold was damned serious.

Compare the above proclamations with Conrad‘s description of the artist in his preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus:

The artist appeals to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives, to our sense of pity, and beauty and pain…and to the subtle and invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds men to each other, the dead to the living and the living to the unborn...”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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