Marxist Theory's Contribution to Feminist Theory: "the personal is the political"
Marxists and Marxist Feminists often say, "the personal is the political." They mean that political ideologies are not abstract things one studies in a college political science class or reads about on Wikipedia; political ideologies are in our brains, lives, loves, and careers. To help you understand the human cost of the "theory wars" for Marxist critics, browse this list of events from an oral history of Reed College's faculty and students' experience of the 1950s anti-communist campaign led by the House Unamerican Activites Committee (HUAC). ttp://comradesofthequest.org/excerpt_chapter18.html This was the "historical situation" and the "material conditions" when I was growing up.
During the late 1950s and early '60s, in California, Massachusetts, and other state university systems, legislators successfully pressured boards of trustees to fire tenured professors associated with Marxist thinking. Though membership in the American Communist Party was not illegal, even rumored association with members became a cause for dismissal, as did taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incriminating testimony before the Senate committee. Some famous people were involved. Film and Broadway director Elia Kazan "named names" of friends he said were communists and they were "blacklisted," unable to work for decades. His former friend, playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman), refused to testify and was blacklisted for doing so. Pete Segar, who recently died, was a folk musician who refused to testify against himself or his friends about "associations" with current or former members of the American Communist Party, and as a result he was unofficially banned from television during the folk music revival of the 1960s that led to the Newport Folk Festival, the rise of protest music and its link to the Civil Rights and Student Movements, etc.
That's where these events hit me personally. When I participated in the "Spring" movement that shut down Lehigh by strike after the Cambodia bombing and the Kent State Massacre in April 1970, even professors who supported us were afraid to be seen with us. The ones who would have stood by us had been fired, had not been given tenure, or had left on their own. Famous medievalists like Margaret Schlauch, with family in then-Communist Poland, fled the country for fear of "guilt by association." Overt resistance was fatal. Charles Muscatine, an important Chaucer scholar, and 30 other tenured professors, were fired by the University of California for refusal to sign a "loyalty oath," a decision later ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court. Other medievalists whose work I have learned much from, like Shiela Delanay (now at Simon Fraser in Vancouver), saw their careers stagnate as they were fired and had to restart at the bottom of the tenure ladder. Even today, saying one is a "Marxist" or "neo-Marxist" critic is often avoided. Instead, scholars will say they are socio-historical economists, or that they practice "New Historicism" (see later in the syllabus), often a code for practicing culturally taboo critical methods. So much for "academic freedom." I'm nearing retirement so I can take some belated risks in a theory course that studies the period. As an untenured assistant professor, I never would have typed these words.