The Staughton Lynd Reader on ZNet

From Here To There: The Staughton Lynd Reader

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Andrej Grubacic: This is an exciting collection of what I call ‘fugitive’ or hard to find pieces, essential works and unpublished material from arguably the greatest living American radical.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  The other half are hitherto unpublished talks, the conversational tone of which I have sought to leave intact.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.     

Andrej Grubacic: 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 community activism.

What 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 you are.

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.

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