Let Me Tell You About Communization

S.Artesian

Tell you what I think about “communized” and communization.

Back in the day I was living in the SDS collective in Detroit, and working at Great Lakes Steel. There were maybe 20-25 in the collective, and maybe 10 of us had jobs at that time, pooling the money to support our “projects” in Detroit.

Given the relatively low rate of pay in steel (compared to auto), I worked “doubles” (consecutive 8 hour shifts, the second one at time and one-half, plus a meal allowance) whenever I could. I worked in the coke ovens of the mill– dirtiest, nastiest job you could have, scraping, literally, the tar that formed around the doors that sealed each cell of the “coking battery” where coal was baked into coke.

Scraping  put the scraper’s body about 3 feet away from the 1000 degree heat of the cell. We had asbestos jackets, sometimes.  Asbestos coveralls, once in awhile.  Gloves, always. Hard-hat with face shield, always. Nothing in the way of respirators.

The door had to reseat after the “pusher” machine pushed the coke out of the cell and into railroad gondola cars (wagons), which would be hauled to the “quencher” and dowsed with thousands of gallons of water to put out the fires.

Once the door was properly aligned and had resealed the cell, the cell would be recharged with more coal and a new batch of coke would be underway.

If the scraping was not performed, the residue would solidify, disrupting the seal.

After the double, I showered at the mill to get the coke off my skin, changed clothes, and did what everyone on the double did after the end of the work– hit the nearest bar to pound down a couple of beers and shots with eggs and sausage and french fries and more beers and shots and more fries, drinking as fast as I could, mindful that I had to get home, get some (3 hours was enough) sleep, and be back at work at midnight, hoping for another double.

I got back to the collective around 7 PM and I’m lit up like a fucking pinball table. I stagger in, and everyone is seated neatly and quietly while Bob Avakian is relating his great experience of the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China.

Avakian is talking about how he personally witnessed Chairman Mao “communize millions of Chinese,” using this considerable enthusiasm in the attempt to recruit the SDS collective to his Bay Area organization.

Not caring too much for Mao, or Avakian, or the so-called Cultural Revolution, and being a bit exhausted,  I thought, “What the fuck? I don’t even know what communization means. What is that?  Like a baptism?  A circumcision?  Getting a decoder ring?  I wanted to know how many millions, Bob? Just one or was it more than one? Was it ten millions? Twenty millions? And who did the counting? Were the counters already communized before they started counting? Or are they included in the millions?”

Being more than a bit intoxicated, I didn’t quite realize I was thinking out loud.  Out very loud.

When I did realize that I was thinking out loud, it was all right with me.  More than all right, it sounded perfect.  Really perfect.  So I repeated it all, word for word, slur for slur, and much louder.

Avakian tried to ignore me but I persisted and he said: “It was several millions, that’s for sure.”

I didn’t find that satisfactory so I kept at it, to the discomfort of Avakian’s acolytes and the horror of almost all my SDS comrades.  They had always regarded me with suspicion and now were convinced I was a petty-bourgeois individualist.  Which I was, as I reminded them every time the issue came up, but at least I was holding down a job, I also reminded them.

“Well, comrade Bob,” I said, “Tell me. How did he communize these millions? Did he do it in a big open air stadium? Or maybe by radio? Did he tell all those millions to put their hands on the radios, like, you know, evangelist preachers do in the US?”

No answer.

Then it dawns on me. I snap my fingers and announce “I got it, I know how he did it.”

“I know how he communized all those millions of people. He used fortune cookies. Fucking fortune cookies. He had 1 billion fortune cookies baked, each one with a fortune tucked inside that read ‘You are communized.’ Fucking genius that Chairman Mao is.”

I wasn’t immediately expelled from the SDS collective.  After all, I still had my  job.  But my future in the collective was not exactly so bright I had to wear sunglasses.   I think I left voluntarily several weeks later, heading for Chicago.

 

 

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