Interview with Andrej Grubacic and Staughton Lynd
Can you tell ZNet, please, what is The Staughton Lynd Reader about? What is it trying to communicate?
Andrej Grubacic: This is an exciting collection of what I call ‘fugitive’ or hard to find pieces, essential works and unpublished material from arguably the greatest living American radical. My work as editor of this collection grew out of my friendship with Staughton, as well as out of my recognition of the importance and contemporary relevance of his ideas.
Staughton Lynd: FROM HERE TO THERE: THE STAUGHTON LYND READER is
about my efforts over the past sixty-five years to figure out how to
get from Here (the capitalist present) to There (the libertarian
socialist future). We have known, or should have known, since 1914
that Social Democratic parties based on the trade union movement are
not going to do it. On the other hand, what might be termed anarchist
efforts — Russia 1905, Spain 1935-1937, Hungary 1956, France 1968,
Poland 1980-198l — haven’t worked either, indeed have often been
drowned in blood. And so?
Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
Staughton Lynd: About half of the twenty-five pieces are articles published in obscure periodicals such as Liberation that are no longer readily accessible. The other half are hitherto unpublished talks, the conversational tone of which I have sought to leave intact. My friend Andrej Grubacic, an anarchist from southeastern Europe, has written an Introduction setting forth the themes that run through all the pieces. The three talks that make up the final section, “Conclusions,” were talks about William Appleman Williams, selective objection to participation in particular wars, and getting from Here to There, that I delivered in Fall 2009.
Many essays in this selection will resonate, quite profoundly, with
our present situation. I have included essays that speak to our
condition, of what is left of the Left in the United States, a
condition that is pretty dismal. While many readers already familiar
with Staughton’s work will be pleasantly surprised by new and
“fugitive” material, younger activists will encounter debates and
dilemmas that feel very familiar. Violence and nonviolence, vanguardism
and direct democracy, invisible leadership and student movements,
Leninist sectarianism and participatory movement…..all of these
resonate with current union organizing, student occupations, radical
are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or
achieve politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the
book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy
about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was
worth all the time and effort?
Staughton Lynd: The
present scene on the Left in the United States is a disaster. We have
the greatest economic collapse of United States capitalism in three
quarters of a century (it will be recalled that Newsweek had a cover
early in 2009 saying something like, “We are all socialist now,” and the
Nation had a series on the same theme). Further, Obama was elected
President by an enormous network of youthful, grassroots volunteers. Yet
there is next to no radical pressure from below on his
Administration. Say what? The Left in this country has unquestionably
lost its way. I do not have a map for it. But I have some
well-seasoned thoughts about what in the backwoods is known as
“orienteering,” that is, figuring out a route when you are unsure where
Andrej Grubacic: What we need to do, as I wrote in the Introduction to this Reader, is to revive the tradition of the anarchist socialist movement in North America, to infuse it with new energy, new passion and new insights.
To discover libertarian socialism for the 21st Century. To rekindle dreams of “socialist commonwealth,” and to bring socialism, that “forbidden word” into a new and contemporary meaning. It is my belief that the ideas collected in this Reader present an important step in this direction. They suggest a vision of a libertarian socialism for the 21st century, organized around the idea and practice of solidarity.