First Published: Alive No 55, October 16, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In his letter in this issue, ex-CLMer Chris Faiers criticizes Alive for attacking Milton Acorn for being a drunk. He goes on to state that Acorn is not a drunk. In the September 28, 1976 issue of The Ontarion (student newspaper at the University of Guelph). Acorn is interviewed and this same subject is touched upon. He says: “But I am not a degenerate, as that magazine Alive seems to think. I had an alcohol problem in my thirties, but when I realized I had it, I managed to taper off and become quite a normal drinker... I have definitely never crawled on the floors of taverns, even in the days when I was an alcoholic. My feet were very steady. I could move around lithefully on my feet and be (to all appearances) completely normal, when I was actually totally unconscious, in a blackout. So that thing in Alive about me crawling on the floors of taverns is not true....”
Nowehere in that interview does Mr. Acorn mention the CLM with which he has been closely associated for several years. However, other ex-CLMers have joined, verbally, with Chris Faiers in expressing concern that Alive has attacked Mr. Acorn, and they have described him as “a hero to the Canadian people”. We have promised these ex-CLMers that we will print a qualified retraction for those who assumed that we had attacked Milton Acorn for being a drunk, crawling around on tavern floors.
The article “Degenerates Are Not Heroes” in Alive 49 pointedly referred to the fact that Milton Acorn had lost his “People’s Poet” medal in Reuben’s Tavern in Toronto, where it stayed (in the cash register) for a year and a half. If Mr. Acorn truly deserved the “People’s Poet” medal surely he would have been justified to crawl around tavern floors looking for it! Our point was not that Mr, Acorn is (or is not) a drunk but that only a degenerate poet would accept something called the “People’s Poet” medal from the likes of Zionist Irving Layton. Further, and to put it bluntly, we apologise to all those who thought that we called Milton Acorn a drunkard. We called him a degenerate, and that is not the same thing. We also called htm “a thorough-going national chauvinist” and a “gutter crawling collaborator with the likes of Zionist Irving Layton” These charges do not seem to have offended either Acorn or those others who are just emerging from the murky shadows of that national chauvinist and social-fascist organization called the “Canadian Liberation Movement”.
In May 1973, Milton Acorn wrote to the editor of another Canadian literary publication.
Addressing that man he said:
You dirty bastard / You son of a bitch / You piece of shit.
Sometime ago, if your memory reaches into your nefarious past for more than a week you begged me to publish a letter of mine in which I stated my politics as regards Canadian Literature and my position in it. You got that permission and published the letter. The letter was a bit personalistic as I stood alone at the time, was not yet a member of the Canadian Liberation Movement, otherwise there was nothing wrong with it.
So our paths parted for a while. I saw your poems printed in ALIVE, run by a bunch of rats fooling with politics but having no political conscience but didn’t consider that meant more than that you had sent poems into them. Two issues ago, alive, unable to forgive the vicious wrongs they had done me in the past – after the fashion of vermin of that sort – printed a review of More Poems for People which was a vicious distortion from end to end, and even claimed 1 was an armchair Socialist when they know to the stinking depths of their rotten souls that I was an activist.
What do I find you doing? No protest against the slander of a man who has not only been a fighter in peoples causes all his life, but has sided with you personally. Instead I find you engaging in friendly debate with them about just what runic letters the turds of American liberal poets and Canadian Yanksuckers make. You are obviously a rotten siinking opportunist, as indeed I did suspect when I first read your outpourings. And the Canadian People will drink your heart’s blood.
Now, in view of the unfolding story of the death of CLM, a national chauvinist, social-fascist, absolutely degenerate organisation, why is Milton Acorn not carrying on a campaign to denounce the very “Movement” to which he gave a shade of credibility? The young people who have written to Alive of the horrors of life under the Perlyite clique in CLM can be excused because: 1. they were innocents outweighed by an expert social-fascist; and 2 because they are stepping forward to denounce that organisation, its degenerate practice, its whole politics and their acceptance of its line, for a period of time. Acorn, though, has been around for decades! If he is not a degenerate then: 1. how did he get hooked up with such an outfit; and 2. why has he not raised the loudest howl since its death?
Alcoholism is a disease, degeneracy is a crime! We ask again, what kind of hero is this!