Você está na página 1de 6

MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1962 239

gone which must make many people reflect, and Spain, to try for a solution without the forces
not only Spaniards. The anti-Communist policy represented by the Communist Party, would be a
of the bourgeois and right wing social democratic dangerous adventure for those who supported
leaders has had, in the course of time, the result such a policy. We are reaching a point where the
not of weakening but of strengthening the mass participation of the Communist Party amongst the
influence of the Communist Party; not of forces which in a new situation will govern the
strengthening but of weakening the bourgeois and country, will appear not only as the essential
social democratic forces. We have reached a posi- guarantee for the working class and the progres-
tion where whoever tries to exclude the Com- sive forces, but as the condition for political
munist Party will only cut himself off from the stability, for the continuity and development of
people, will only be deceiving himself. This is the economic life of the country and for the peace-
already clear, after the strikes, to many of those ful nature of every change in the direction of
who before were trying to exclude the Com- democracy. And this is of concern not only to the
munists, and it will become still more clear as the working class but to all sections and classes who
situation develops. To attempt a movement in oppose Franco.

Hugh MacDiarmid's Poetry


Barbara Niven

T HIS month, August 11th, Hugh MacDiarmid,


alter ego Christopher Murray Grieve, is 70.
Celebrations of his birthday, in the Edin-
burgh Festival, will include presentation of his
forces of the growth cycle at work, and the special
qualities of the soil.
This movement, from the National to the inter-
national, is central to MacDiarmid's work and life.
portrait by a galaxy of his friends and admirers, Central, in fact, to all progressive discovery in this
to go in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery century, in the arts and in politics. MacDiarmid's
and (most fitting), discussions between internation- adoption of Thomas Hardy's declaration that
ally-known European writers, including those "Literature is the written expression of revolt
from the Soviet Union, in which he will take his against accepted things" is, in him, organic and
controversial part. indivisible. His own explanation of it, when he
Hugh MacDiarmid is one of the great sparking- rejoined the Communist Party at the end of 1956,
points of this century's vast current of human was—
change and forward-moving power.
He is ours to rejoice in, since it is mainly "I am a Nationalist because life as we know it
Marxists, with a few others, who can have their is always specific—specific in time and place. It
is of when and where it is, and of no other when
eyes wide open to the complexities of the mostly- and where.
unexpressed genius of the peoples in this imperial- "I am a Communist because life is always, and
ist combination of England, Scotland, Wales and has always been, individual. There is no question
a bit of sliced-off Ireland. Or who can, as yet, of a universal man, and Communism, I am con-
understand the necessity for roots plunged deep vinced, is the only guarantee of individuality in
in the local soil of national experience to be the modern world. Socialist society alone offers a
furiously at work beneath any flowering tree of firm guarantee that the interests of the individual
the creative arts in this century which can spread will be guaranteed."
its branches wide and far beyond its own land. It is logical, and also inescapable, that one of
Does the image of a flowering tree sound over- the great voices of this century should be saying
calm for the man who claims— precisely this. As logical as the Spaniard Picasso's
A' man's institutions and maist men's thochts reasons for joining the Communist Party in 1944.
Are trying for aye to bring to an end Compton Mackenzie has called him "the most
The insatiable thocht, the beautiful violent will. powerful intellectually and emotionally fertilising
The restless spirit of Man, the theme o' my sang. force Scotland has known since the death of
Only too calm, I think, for those who forget Bums". Journalist William Power has written:
the myriad swarming of the fertilising insects, the "MacDiarmid's influence is due simply to the fact

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
240 MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1962

that his high poetic powers are organically identi- Creatively to the front.
fied with the whole history and life of his own Poverty merely hinders the coming
country." Alex Neish has recently written of him Of the new Necessity
in The Guardian as a "living legend, a colossus Which leads us to the End and Aim
straddling the gulf between the old Scottish poets Of our spirit and of the world,
and Scotland as it stands today". And, as a Will make us steep and electric
journalist, writing of MacDiarmid's great poem And produce by force a new race
"In Memoriam James Joyce" published in 1955, Of mariners on new and dangerous seas . . .
he has thus defined MacDiarmid's own change— Today we are ripe to put an end to Poverty.
"instead of stripping bare the soul of Scotland as Or this exact, ironic, yet loving image of Im-
a young man saw it in the '20s and '30s, gleefully petus—in "The Salmon Leap"—
feeding the entrails to his protagonists, he has I saw one shadow shoot up and over
developed into wider, more intellectual fields— While ten failed to make it again and again,
leaving some other writers obsessed with Lallans But most of the salmon without an effort
or Scots till they look like curious monoliths from In the bottom of the pool all day had lain.
the past". And MacDiarmid's own view? "Time Suddenly, effortlessly, like a flight of birds,
Up and over I saw them all slip.
is past when we should work merely within a The secret, I think, was the melted snow
national framework. I want to make the Scottish Coming down and flicking them like a whip.
voice heard in v/orld terms." The majority of people make no attempt
Bitterly, on his behalf, Alex Neish writes that In life to explore the infinite.
the intellectual content of his poetry has repelled But who can tell what Death's cold touch
many. "Intellectual is a dirty word in Scotland May prompt the lazy louts to yet?
today, almost as dirty as Communist. . . . It was Or his Communist's cry at the end of a poem
—and is—^his misfortune that he happened to grow on Glasgow, where its darkest corners are pene-
into an intellectual, and a Communist, and a trated and displayed in his white heat of anger
Nationalist." And so, MacDiarmid, who knew for the long-suffering people in them—
long ago in his life that Open Glasgow up! Open it up. It is time
"Today something is beginning, as if the seed It was made sun-conscious. Give every house
Were losing itself in the bud" Ceilings and roofs of iridescent glass, windows for
—who knows that "The human mind is part of a walls,
tide of change which in its insistence has been Let great steel-framed windows bring in the blaze
Of the sky into every room . . .
running like a mill race", has had his voice con- Let the eye be bewildered trying to identify
fined within a network of limits of print and The new aspects of familiar materials "bravely
distribution only fully broken now, in the United coming out of the ether."
States, where the New York Macmillan Company
Then there is a long poem "The Battle Con-
have published Collected Poems, to be followed
tinues" on which he began work at the time of
by publication by Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, of
the Republican war in Spain. It is a furiously
Collected Poems, around his 70th birthday. This
polemical poem, provoked by his ferocity of hate
is not to say that discriminating and determined
and grinding contempt for Roy Campbell's
publishers have not been found for many volumes
"Flowering Rifle" (in praise of Fascism against
of his poetry now already out of print. It is
the Mob), and by a great love for the Spanish,
emphatically not to say that he has not taken
the International Brigade, and for all they fought
steps, through his journal The Voice of Scotland
for. Such scarifying polemics have not been heard
and massive and challenging correspondence, to
since Byron; but with MacDiarmid there is the
bring the weight of his anger, satire, vituperation
full light of his love for the working class for
to bear on his political and intellectual opponents.
contrast.
Nor is it to say that he is not honoured as poet
This poem is perhaps the clearest expression of
and man, in the Soviet Union, China, Bulgaria,
his hundred-facetted belief in the people, of his
Czechoslovakia, France, the United States. But it
conception that the poetry of the coming age must
is, partly (only partly) the reason why many who
come from the working class:
do not close their minds to the power of poetry
and for whom he would open the door to a world But tenderness, heroism, endurance
of extended vision, only know his name and not Still want their voice; it must come from the class
a line of what he has written. On poverty, for Whose observation is at first hand.
instance: Who speak fresh from nature's heart.
What has poetry to do with our Working Class?
The call is to intoxicated, burning lavishness. Men of work! We want our poetry from you,
Nothing now can bring poverty From men who will dare to live

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1 9 6 2 241

A brave and true life. But indeed An my eerie memories fa"


Poetry and the cause of the people are one Like a yowdendrift.
And in Spain the menace to the people Like a yowdendrift so"s I couldna read
Menaced the entire national culture too. The words cut oot i the stane
Poetry can have nothing to do with that Had the fug o fame
philanthropy An history's hazelraw
Which only means the master throwing crumbs No' yirdit thaim.
To quiet the growling servant. {hairst—^harvest; ceinis—insecure; yowdendrift—swirl
But Poetry shall cry: "Woe unto them of snow from the earth; hazelraw—lichen.)
That join house to house, that lay field to field,
Till there be no place, that they may be placed I first met M a c D i a r m i d , in M a n c h e s t e r , in the
Alone in the midst of the earth." early '30s. T h e University A r t s F a c u l t y h a d a
And Poetry shall cry: "They are waxen fat, they n u m b e r of keen a n d progressive men at that time,
shine; a m o n g t h e m Barker Fairley, Professor of G e r m a n
Yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked. a n d great G o e t h e scholar. It was his enthusiasm
They judge not the cause. for M a c D i a r m i d ' s p o e t r y — a l r e a d y entering upon
The cause of the fatherless. a wider phase of fascination, with the exact quali-
Yet they prosper;
ties of w o r d - m u s i c and w o r d - q u a l i t y — t h a t swept
And the right of the needy
Do they not judge." M a c D i a r m i d before a packed meeting of staff a n d
The side that poetry is on students to talk a b o u t his poetry. His i m p a c t was
Is never in doubt for a moment. astonishing. Slim then, with white face a n d enor-
And it is not the side m o u s forehead, his m a n e of hair stood u p like
You have chosen, Campbell. flames from it. In w h a t seemed to be only the
Not rhymes and rhythms constitute poetry lower half of his face were great eye hollows, in
But only this passion. which his eyes, also, b u r n e d , completed b y a pug-
Wherever it is, there is poetry. nacious chin on a continuously forward-tilting
Without it, no poetry is.
javvline. His long a n d finely f o r m e d h a n d s with
Young poets, the height and depth of your
outward-curving fingers, sawed the air. W h a t he
writings
said and the way he said it was new, electrically
Will be measured by the extent to which,
.Sir Thomas Inskip permitting—or not, so. convincing to m a n y a n d infuriating to s o m e .
The dialectics of our era find expression T h e n , in the days after, in one house or a n o t h e r ,
In the artistic imagery—how widely, forcefully, talk vAth him flowed on a n d I h a d m y introduc-
clearly tion to wave after w a v e of his poetry. Fairley read
The burning contemporary problems are expressed it, others read it, M a c D i a r m i d himself read it. A n d
in it, in fact it is twice itself, as all true p o e t r y is,
Class tendencies, the struggles and ideals through being read a l o u d (as those w h o h e a r d
Of the proletariat, bent on changing the world, readings of it over the air in the '50s, by E w a n
And consequently on changing human nature. MacColl and J a m e s M c K e c h n i e , will appreciate).
It is impossible to think of the p o e t that M a c -
D i a r m i d ha.s become without knowing h o w he At this time M a c D i a r m i d was living on Whal-
say, a small island in the Shetlands, on very nearly
began, since this Scots poet has savoured a n d ex-
nothing, in order to write, a n d writing e n o r m o u s l y .
plored the exactness a n d creative quality of w o r d s
T w o kinds of poems were e m e r g i n g : the Shetland
from his first writing—^from the local ones out-
lyrics, close to men's life on the island, like " W i t h
w a r d s over the world. H e explains this in " T h e
the H e r r i n g F i s h e r s " —
kind of poetry I w a n t " . T h o s e w h o k n o w his river
poetry, his " W a t e r M u s i c " in particular, where "I SEE H E R R I N ' . " — I hear the glad cry
the sounds of the r u n n i n g stream a r e b r o u g h t And 'gainst the moon see ilka blue jowl
into w o r d s , will u n d e r s t a n d it with yet m o r e In turn as the fishermen haul on the nets
delight. And sing: "Come, shove in your heids and growl."
T h e rich clear colour of his early lyrics comes, "Soom on, bonnie herrin', soom on," they shout
in p a r t , from his exact a n d k n o w i n g vision of his Or "Come in, O come in, and see me."
own countryside, a vision as s h a r p as a n all-over "Come give the auld man something to date
view of a gigantic Persian carpet, a n d — a l r e a d y — It'll be a braw change frae the sea."
of t h a t sense of the w o r l d as a w h o l e which O it's ane o' the bonniest siohts in the warld
deepens a n d crystallises t h r o u g h his entire w o r k . To watch the herrin' come walkin' on board
As in, for instance, the " E e m i s - S t a n e " : In the wee sma' 'oors o a simmer's mornin'
As if o' their ain accord.
r the how-dumb-deid o the cauld hairst nicbt
The war! like an eemis-stane For this is the way that God sees life.
Wags i' the lift; The haill jing-bang o's appearin"

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
242 MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1962

Up owre frae the edge o' naethingness That flower-bed is like the true life that wants to
—It's his happy cries I'm hearin'. express itself
"Left, right—O come in and see me" And does—while we human beings lie cramped
Reid and yellow and black and white and fearful.
Toddlin' up into Heaven thegither He was working then on the long poem "The
At peep o' day frae the endless night.
Kind of Poetry 1 want", only recently published
"I see herrin'," I hear his glad cry, in full, though passages have been appearing for
And 'gainst the moon see his mucklc blue jowl. many years, in Lucky Poet and various journals.
As he handles buoy-tow and bush-raip There is no way of explaining its challenges, its
Singin': "Come, shove in your heids and growl!" range, its delights, its sharp, irreverent, dialectic
The other, deep in new and expensive forms of changes of mood, other than by breaking off
language, includes such poems as "On a Raised pieces from a thousand-sided solid whole (using
Beach", written after MacDiarmid had spent days the word solid in its purely geometric sense).
and nights on one of the small outermost islands:
The poetry of one the Russians call "a broad
I must get into this stone world now. nature"
Ratchel, striae, relationships of tesserae. And the Japanese call "flower-heart"
Innumerable shades of grey. And we in Scottish Gaeldom, "io'nraic",
Innumerable shapes. The poetry of one who practises his art
And beneath them all a stupendous unity. Not like a man who works that he may live
Infinite movement visibly defending itself But as one bent on doing nothing but work—
Against all the assaults of weather and water, A learned poetry wholly free
Simultaneously mobilised at full strength From the brutal love of ignorance;
At every point of the universal front, And the poetry of a poet with no use
Always at the pitch of its powers. For the simpler forms of personal success.
The foundation and end of all life. Seeking to do justice to the discrete
I try them with the old Norn words—^hraun As well as to the organically integrated aspects of
Duss, ronis, queedaruns, killyarum; Society
They hvarf from me in all directions To the disruptive as well as to the cohesive
Over the hurdifell—klett, millya, hellya, hellyina forces , . .
Bretta, A poetry, since 1 am writing of the country.
Hellyina wheeda, hellyina gro, bakka, ayre— That like a wrestling bout on a village green
And lay my world in kolfref. Divides the people and wins only those
On that island of Whalsay, in the late '30s, my Who are honest, strong and true
husband Ern Brooks and 1 twice visited Mac- Those who admire the man
Diarmid and his wife Valda. By day we two Who has the faster mind
painted ; at night, in the white nights of summer The faster, suppler, better-governed body—
up there, we listened and talked, often leaving him, For there is not only a class war
But a war in the working-class itself
late, embarking on an all-night stretch of work. Between decency and self respect on the one
The last of the piping McCrimmons was on that hand
island, a doctor in practice. One clear summer day And a truckling spirit, seeking self-gain, on
we all took boat to the outermost island and there the other.
McCrimmon prowled up and down the rocks A poetry at the worst adept
playing the great pipe music, the pibrochs. All a In the artful tessellation of commonplaces
part of our grasp of that immense richness of the Expressed with so exact a magnificence
roots of the Gaelic arts, we came close also to That they seem—and sometimes are—^profound.
MacDiarmid's poetry on the Great Music: A poetry full of cynghanedd, and hairtrigger
relationships
Flowers. A fiower-bed like hearing the With something about it that is plasmic,
bagpipes . . . Resilient, and in a way alarming—^to make cry
The bagpipes—they are screaming and they are "I touched something—and it was alive."
sorrowful. {cynghanedd—complicated device in Welsh poetry.)
There is a wail in their merriment and cruelty in
their triumph. In that cottage, white walls, walls of books,
They rise and fall like a weight swung in the air bright red wherever red could be, MacDiarmid,
at the end of a string. with his great unruly mane, his hands perpetually
They are like the red blood of those peonies. in search of some fresh piece of evidence, sat
And like the melancholy of those blue flowers. always in his appointed corner. Now, in his
They are like a human voice—no! for the human
voice lies! Lanarkshire cottage, the appointed corner seems
They are like human life that flows under the extraordinarily the same, as he does, with all the
words. flow of ideas and of people to and from it, to

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1 9 6 2 243

most parts of the world, in all those years. There And vibrate in the memory as the song
wasn't much, from Canada, America, or most Of no other bird—not even
places, that didn't reach him in the Shetlands, and The love-note of the curlew—can do!
now there is even less. There he sits, or stands, or Intimately connected with his all-inclusive atti-
writes—whichever you will—committed, engaged tude to language is his extraordinary power over
beyond the power of most understandings. But, as fact, inward and outward, no barriers and no
he says-- boundaries. Diverse, discrete, exact, contemporary,
It is simple enough. At the bottom of every choice of the images of his thought is celebrated
genius in this (extract);
There is, as Stendhal said, a fund of good logic.
Nothing more is needed than its application THE PUFFIN
To the false ideas with which men's minds are In my dealings with facts I resemble
beset. One of the puffins we see in the Shetlands here.
"Joyce is hard but so is life" he remarks at the The puffin flies in from the sea
beginning of his huge poem in Joyce's memory, With as many as ten little fish
which carries his movement outward over the Held sideways in its beak
entire world and his search inward into the con- And the fish are usually arranged
volutions of men's minds further than before. With head and tails alternating.
Because he passionately holds the view of I. A. I have the knack
Richards on language, Ihat it is "the supreme Of dealing with facts as the puffin with fish
organ of the mind's self-governing growth", and But I cannot tell how I do it
because James Joyce was himself an innovator of Any more than the puffin can.
genius in language, this is a poem on linguistics. From his life's devotion to Scotland, as he
MacDiarmid himself says of it that it is "not true desires to see it becoming, stems his quarrel with
to say that it marks a retreat from my earlier England. Recently in The Guardian he spoke of
standpoint. It is more obviously a natural develop- the debate going on in Scotland about the en-
ment from my first work, before 1 began writing croachment of the English educational system
in Lallans, but the argument behind it, which isn't upon the old Scottish one. with its broad human-
an esperanto but an interpretation of all langu- istic basis. He said: "1 want to preserve that
ages, accommodates the Lallans movement and highly intellectual character of the distinctive Scot-
similar movements in various European countries. tish system. I don't want it diluted." And he added
I'm looking for a diversity in unity, not a unifica- his confidence that the Nationalist movement in
tion of languages". Scotland will prevail—"We are still being used as
the milch cow of English iinperialism."
It is of great importance to understand Mac-
Diarmid's attitude to language—that of a Marxist In "Why I Became a Scots Nationalist" he
to a living process. With him it is never words for shows his love for Scotland.
words' sake, always words for man's sake. Gie me Scots-room in life and love
It is the Scot, above all the Scot, who uses And set me then my smeddum to prove
contradiction to explain his freedom of choice in In scenes like these. Like Pushkin I,
My time for flichty conquests by,
writing, as in "The Caledonian Antisyzygy"; Valuing nae mair some quick-fire cratur
I write now in English and now in Scots Wha hurries up the ways o n'atur,
To the despair of friends who plead Am happy, when after lang and sair
For consistency; sometimes achieve the true lyric Pursuit you yield yoursel to me.
cry. But wie nae rapture, cauldly there.
Next but chopped-up prose; and write whiles Open but glowerin callously,
In traditional forms, next in a mixture of styles. Yet slow but surely heat until
So divided against myself, they ask: You catch my flame against your will
How can I stand (or they understand) indeed? And the mureburn tak's the hill.
Fatal division in my thought they think {smeddum—quickness of apprehension, spirit.)
Who forget that although the thrush
Is more cheerful and constant, the lark Do these passages, all stemming from deep
More continuous and celestial, and, after all. sources in this indivisible man's lifelong struggle
The irritating cuckoo unique and vision, seem to hold inconsistency? Is the
In singing a true musical interval. braidbinder not at one with the unceasing fighter?
Yet the nightingale remains supreme.
The nightingale whose thin high call What Marxist would think so? For those who
And that deep throb. hold the perfectibility of man, and the "mill race"
Which seem to come from different birds towards it, at their hearts' core, these two are one
In different places, find an emotion in a dialectic process. The greatest thing that

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
244 MARXISM TODAY, AUGUST 1962

MacDiarmid, with his thousand flashes, has to habit, a process. Not an easy one: ought it to
give, is the power to deepen that understanding be? Is any hving knowledge acquired at the drop
in this world and country of the sharpest of of a hat or without the full involvement of the
Twentieth Century contradictions. reader, the participant? Surely not. But its value
And as for the reading of poetry, his poetry, should be sounded with trumpets from the house-
any poetry worthy of the name, this too is a tops and—^people should read it aloud.

Problems of
Soviet Agriculture
Jack Dunman

A LL problems do not disappear with the


estabhshment of working-class power; and
the experience of the socialist countries
suggests that the reorganisation of agriculture, and
1/6/62). The reasons for the decision were simple
ones, and throw some light on the underlying
problems which were referred to at the 22nd Con-
gress at some length, and in still greater detail in
the rapid increase of food production, are among Krushchov's "Report to the Central Committee,"
the most obstinate that remain. There is the tech- 7/3/62.1
nical problem of speeding up an industry which The prices had to be raised quite simply be-
is uniquely dependent on natural processes of cause the costs of production on the collective and
growth, and on the weather; and there is the state farms for meat and miik "considerably
political problem of dealing with people who exceed the prices at which the state is buying these
before the revolution were nearly all small pro- products from them."
prietors, with no really large scale productive The prices paid to the farms for beef, pork,
units. For this reason the great majority of those mutton and poultry are to be raised by 35 per
now engaged in it operate under the co-operative cent; no mention is made of milk and butter at
form of public ownership (collective, or otherwise what might be called the "wholesale" stage. This
co-operative, farms) rather than the nationalised will increase the income of the collective farms by
form (state farms). This creates theoretical ques- 1,000 m. roubles (£ 450 m.) which is about one-
tions O'f the highest interest on the relationship fifth of the total collective farm income in 1953.
between the two forms. As well as this massive aid, it is pointed out in the
Our agriculture in Britain took historically a "Call to Workers in Soviet Agriculture" that in
different course, and wage workers, rather than the last year, prices of agricultural machinery,
small proprietors, form the majority of the people spare parts, fuel, and building materials were
in it. But we shall one day face the same technical lowered, and favourable income tax terms fixed,
problems as the socialist countries are facing ; and which gave them 1,360 m. roubles (£612 m.) more
we have now to deal with an industry in which than originally planned.
the productive units are extremely small by The money for the increases is to be provided
capitalist standards, and which is exploited as an by increases in the retail price of meat and meat
industry by the big monopolies. The experiences products, averaging 30 per cent, and of butter,
of the sociahst countries are thus of much more 25 per cent, although at the same time the retail
than academic interest to us. prices of sugar, staple fabrics and articles made
from them are to be reduced. Although consequent
Meat and Butter in the Soviet Union increases in the prices of canteen and restaurant
A very sharp example of the continued existence meals are to be very small, the general tenor of
of these problems has been the decision of the the "Address" makes it quite clear that some
Soviet Government to raise the price of meat and lowering of living standards is involved.
butter, dealt with in the Address of the Party and
Government to the Soviet people {Soviet News 1 Soviet News Booklet, No. 89, one shilling.

PRODUCED BY UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED