[Marxism] Bettina Aptheker: "Did I ever hurt you when you were a child?"
walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 19 03:02:26 MDT 2006
Responding to Kevin Lindemann's comments on Bettina Aptheker's
memoir. My copy arrived in the mail Tuesday and I must say that
I found it a page-turner. I could hardly put the book down because
of its remarkable and intrinsic interest. It's my intention to write a
longer appreciation of this book, but wanted to take up a few items
from Kevin Lindemann's discussion contribution. Aptheker's reports of
sexual abuse by her father, Dr. Herbert Aptheker, are naturally the
most dramatic elements in the book. They are the hook which garner
the volume such media attention as it's received to date. Hower,
much, much more can be found in the memoir than this one element.
While highly critical of the Communist Party, USA, of which she was a
member, and of whose National Committee she was also a member,
there's much, much more to the book than just those revelations.
I do want to make some quick comments here.
It's always amazing how much one can say, and not say, with a few
lines and a quick punch of the "send" button. Kevin Lindemann here
essentially dismisses Aptheker's memoir, even though he hasn't read
the book. Considering the haunting and powerful testimony which her
book presents, Lindemann's dismissive comments, based on a review,
not a reading of the book itself, indicates just how powerfully the
book resonates. I think, however, he misses most of the point in the
book, a work of healing, self-revelation and testimony to profound
personal injury and pain. It's a document in and of itself which
provides both a new narrative history of certain well-known
historical events from the vantage point of a participante in those
events. It's also an example of a kind of literature which the modern
feminist movement brought to light, and probably will continue to
bring to light, opening up a new area of individual experience into
the public sphere for discussion.
Let's remember: no one is being asked to determine whether or not
her father, a central leader of the Communist Party, USA, is guilty of
child sexual abuse. Since he's dead cannot be criminally charged, no
other response can be made than to assess the account which she
provides, since there cannot be any "corroboration" and to ask for it
essentially dismisses Bettina Aptheker's testimony. The book IS her
statement. There were no siblings, both of her parents are dead and
this is all the reading public is ever likely to get. The book, which
is fully 500 pages long, provides far more information covering far
more areas of her personal, professional and political life and
activities than were taken up in her Los Angeles Times essay and in
the review of the book by Christopher Phelps, which was sent out by
NY Transfer. Unless some kind of autobiography or journal is found,
this is about all we're ever likely to receive, and in my view that's
how it should be seen and assessed. She tells a gripping story and
We've no reason not to take her word for the account's authenticity.
While there were parts I'd like to have seen in greater detail, and
others with less, this is what we have. Period. It's simllar to the
movie critic who faults a director for having not made the movie
which the critic would have preferred the director to have made.
The book and account can only be judged on their merits, which are
considerable, in my opinion. Anyone who's been a left-wing political
activist during this period, and I'm approximately the same age as
Bettina Aptheker, particularly one who participated in an
organization with such structure and discipline as the Communist
Party, USA, will certainly appreciate the account she provides of
that history. Most of her judgements strike me as being sound, though
her enthusiasm for the Dalai Lama, to whom she refers as "His
Holiness" and the details of her Buddhist meditation practice and
academic activities didn't hold my interest. Nevertheless, I think
everyone can benefit from reading her detailed, compelling portraits
of the various individuals with whom she interacted.
Because the Communist Party, USA, was the largest and also the
most influential left party of the thirties, and because its influence
outside of and beyond its ranks proved so sustained, it's no wonder
that the group has generated an ongoing political and literary
production by some who have passed through its ranks. It's most
unfortunate that those who've passed through other similar groups,
such as the Socialist Workers Party, haven't produced anywhere near
the volume of written documentation which the CPUSA produced. I hope
perhaps some will. So far, the results in this area have been rather
few in number and disappointing in terms of quality.
A separate topic, which remains to be taken up, is how the reader
should now judge Herbert Aptheker's written work in light of his
daughter's deep and painful revelations. It's not something which she
takes up in the book, though its something which ought to be looked
at, at another time.
Los Angeles, California
KEVIN LINDEMANN wrote:
Like many on this list, I am sure, I am struggling with how to react to
Bettina Aptheker's allegations that her father sexually molested her
when she was a child.
On the one hand, I think it would be an injustice to her to totally
dismiss her allegations. On the other hand, I think it would be an
injustice to Herbert Aptheker to accept them without any corroboration.
Surely, I hope, most of us on this list believe that one is "innocent
until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Giving Herbert Aptheker
that benefit of the doubt does not mean that Bettina Aptheker's
allegations are not true. It just means that he should not be seen as
guilty without more evidence.
If Bettina Apthekers allegations are true, it is tragic; and, if they are
not true, it is tragic. Either way, we are dealing with a tragic situation.
LINDEMANN'S FULL COMMENT:
Christopher Phelps: Herbert Aptheker and the Contradictions of History
My Father the Icon; My Father the Molester
Daughter of Communist leader Herbert Aptheker
recalls the pain and reconciliation that led to
writing about her childhood abuse.
By Bettina Aptheker
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