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Shane Mage

In Short

(Winter 1961)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.22 No.1, Winter 1961, pp.28-29.
Transcribed &marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Portrait of the Military?

The Professional Soldier
by Morris Janowitz
Free Press, Glencoe, 111. 464 pp. 1960. $6.75.

This “social and political portrait” of the upper echelons of the US military hierarchy is a fairly typical product of American academic sociology. “The social backgrounds and life careers of more than 760 generals and admirals appointed since 1910 were studied; opinion data were collected by means of a questionnaire administered to approximately 550 staff officers on duty in the Pentagon; and 113 officers were intensively interviewed as to their career and ideology.” In addition to interpretation of this data there is a great deal of theorizing on the nature of the US military and its proper role, all couched in that leaden, humorless style, his rejection of which is in itself sufficient reason for C. Wright Mills’ status as a deviant heretic and outcast among American sociologists.

Janowitz starts by presenting five “hypotheses” to be investigated, but by the close of the book it has become very clear that these are not hypotheses but conclusions, which have not been put to serious test. They are:

  1. the organizational structure of the military has de-emphasized “authoritarian domination” in favor of “manipulation, persuasion, and group consensus,”
  2. the specific skills required of military leaders have become more like those of civilian administrators,
  3. the officer corps is “undergoing a basic social transformation” from a representative of a social elite to become “more representative of the population as a whole,”
  4. the path to top military status is more likely to be by “unorthodox” rather than “prescribed” military career patterns, and
  5. the military has come to regard itself more in terms of political and ideological criteria.

Of these only (3) is not either trivial or evident and here, despite a very misleading “social class” arrangement, the best “proof” he can introduce shows eighty-four percent of the sample of high officers studied coming from proprietary and professional classes.

Among the worst features of this book are its apologetics (tossed off in passing) for the Jim Crow nature of the officer corps, which fiercely fought off all attempts at racial integration until the Korean War forced it on the army; and its complete omission of any referencs to the military “security” program which the federal courts have ruled involved gross violations of the civil liberties of draftees.

In sum, by criteria both of content and of style, this is a book without serious interest.

The Untried Case
by Herbert B. Ehrmann
Hopkinson, London. 237 pp. illus. 1933. 7s 6d.
Vanguard Press, New York, xiv, 15-252 pp. 1933. $2.00.

When, thirty-three years ago, Sacco and Vanzetti were murdered by the state of Massachusetts, the issue of their guilt of the crime for which they were killed was a “controversial” one – controversial not in the sense that a fair-minded person familiar with the facts of the case might believe even in the possibility of their guilt, but that a considerable and vocal group was determined to defend and justify their execution. Even today, judging from the protests against the Metropolitan Opera’s commissioning a score on Sacco and Vanzetti, the refusal of the Massachusetts State Legislature to pass a resolution “exonerating” them, and Robert H. Montgomery’s recently published book, Sacco-Vanzetti, The Murder and the Myth, the issue is still “controversial” in this sense. Therefore the re-edition of Herbert B. Ehrmann’s The Untried Case, first published in 1933 and long out of print, is particularly welcome.

The Untried Case is not a study of the trials of Sacco and Vanzetti nor of their personal history. It is the story of a particular aspect of the case: the discovery of the actual perpetrators of the South Braintree murders. Starting with a scribbled note from a convicted murderer, Celestino Madeiros, “I hereby confess to being in the South Braintree shoe company crime and Sacco and Vanzetti was not in said crime,” Ehrmann and senior associate, William G. Thompson, were able to trace the crime to the Morrelli gang, specify the identities of the five participants, and accumulate overwhelming proof of the actual facts. But of course the case against the true murderers was destined to remain “Untried,” thanks to the determination of the judicial, executive and legislative branches of the State Government to get rid of those “anarchistic bastards.”

The Untried Case is not merely an essential aspect of the historical record – it is in its own right a fascinating and exciting book written with the pace of a good detective story and the reasoned clarity of the great lawyer’s argument to the jury. It remains eminently worth reading or even rereading.

Creation of Women
by Theodor Reik
G. Braziller, New York. 159 pp. illus. 1960. $3.75.

In this book Reik seeks to unravel the mysterious and contradictory Biblical account of the creation of the first woman. Like all his books, this is ably and humorously written – nevertheless it is disappointing.

First of all the book has a certain “blown up” quality, as if a great deal of it was included only to stretch it out to book length – in particular the first half of the book is largely irrelevant to the main thesis. Secondly, this thesis itself is never presented in a really coherent and rigorous way, and tends to place greatly disproportionate emphasis on what is at best a secondary aspect of the question.

More specifically, Reik is fully conscious of the main point behind the Eve Myth: “that Eve is originally the figure of a goddess ... of the great mother goddess of the ancient Orient.” The violent degrading of the figure of the goddess represents “a spirit of hostility to women,” and the myth of Adam’s rib is linked to the initiation mysteries in many primitive societies, rituals whose function is to maintain male supremacy by terrorizing the women and enforcing a total separation from their sons. This last point receives the main emphasis (and represents the only thing not already familiar in Reik’s thesis). What makes this all so dissatisfying is that Reik leaves off where the real question begins: the degrading of the mother goddess figure in the mythologies of Hebrews, Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians et. al. represents more than the growth of “a spirit of hostility to women.” It is certainly associated with a transformation in the very essence of the structure of ancient society, a transition from a matriarchal to a patriarchal organization. What was the nature of this transition? When did it take place? How? As a result of what causes? Reik cannot be reproached for not answering these questions – the trouble is that he doesn’t ask them.

The reason for this failure, I believe, is that Reik, despite his ability to maintain a critical attitude toward “Freudianism,” cannot free himself from the belief that the final answer is provided by the “incest taboo.” The myth “has the obvious meaning of denying the incestuous nature of the Adam and Eve affiliation.” And again, more generally, “In a violent reaction against the pagan cults in which goddesses and their divine sons become lovers, the figures of the divine mothers together with their son-consorts were eliminated.” But it is the origin of the incest taboo which itself must be explained, or rather, is merely part of the general process which must be explained if we are ever to have an approach to a satisfactory understanding of this pivotal stage in human history.

Die Dreigroschenoper (A recording)
Chambers Record Corp., New York. 1960. No. 02S201. $8.00 stereophonic.

Die Dreigroschenoper is one of the very few musico-dramatic masterpieces produced in our century, but until now no satisfactory recording of it has been available. The old original cast performance, recorded in 1930, is unsurpassable for the etched-in-acid bitterness of its style; but it contains less than half of the complete score and the recorded sound is hopelessly dated. Of the two more recent recordings, one is of a Viennese operatic cast whose misinterpretation of the work is so complete as to be absolutely ludicrous, and the other, better only by comparison, is of the New York Theatre de Lys production with an English translation of uneven merit and in a style often closer to Broadway than to Berlin.

Now, at long last, Columbia has released a modern high-fidelity recording of the complete score, made in Berlin under the supervision of Lotte Lenya (who, of course, also sings the part of Jenny) by performers who really grasp and project the authentic spirit of Brecht and Weill.

This is in all ways a handsome production. Along with the records the album provides the complete text of the lyrics with a first-rate English translation (superior on all counts to the Blitzstein version). In addition, the analytical article by David Drew brilliantly points up the revolutionary message basic to the music-drama.

This Columbia recording of Die Dreigroschenoper belongs in every library.

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