R.I.P. Alexander Cockburn (1941-2012)

by wechslerh66

We lost not only a tremendous radical writer & thinker in Alexander Cockburn on Friday but also an underrated (and not unwarranted) optimist, someone willing to mock “pwogwessives” not out of bitterness or hopelessness but simply because he knew other options could exist, or actually existed. From his 1987 Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era (worth it just for the cover):

I open my mail. I find a letter from the International Socialist Organization. It begins:

Dear Sir or Madam,
The future looks bleak: Racist repression in South Africa. Mass starvation in Ethiopia. Near-record poverty rates in the U.S….Racist and sexist oppression is a fact of everyday life. Is there any way out?

What’s the matter with the left? How about:

Dear Sir or Madam,
The future looks great: White slavers on the run in South Africa. The opening of a revolutionary era in Ethiopia. Popular rage in the U.S. Racist and sexist oppression under attack everywhere.

You don’t get far by making people feel bad. My father used to quote sadly the old Communist Party recruiter back in the 1930s: ‘Brothers and sisters, even as I speak our comrades in Latin America are writing in the torturers’ thumbscrews, our comrades in India starving in the stinking jails of British imperialism, our comrades in Africa groaning under the boot of the oppressor. Brothers and sisters, join the Communist Party.’

Claud Cockburn died in 1981 at 77. Now his son is dead at 71, and the rest of us who halfway care are still occupying somewhere or other with some degree of temerity and tremulousness. The world is a vampire, quoth the Pumpkins, and it’s true, but we can never not ask, in the words of a fellow Brit expatriate, a recent Fluffyan no less, where’s the truth around here today?