From 11 Versos (Writer’s Trust of Canada Margaret Laurence Lecture May 2012)
Controversy, against the turn, against the furrow
I finally joined the Communist Party of Canada when it was almost at the end of its existence. Party meetings were long bureaucratic procedures where many papers were read and intense eyes directed at the people who had encyclopedic brains full of Marx and history. I joined the artists. There were artists of all kinds in the club, we were writers and painters and actors, and there were even puppet-makers and comics. These meetings were possibly the most boring meetings we ever attended. None of us ever had a meeting perhaps to do anything that we did as artists. There were photographers and musicians too and proofreaders, and bookshop owners. And if we did have meetings they would never be this dreary. The meetings were deadly, tedious meetings discussing things I can’t remember now. I loved these meetings. There was a conversation there that we never had to have about what we were doing. In the muddy meetings there was clarity about our love. The same love as Lorca and Neruda, Saramago and Carpentier.
A poet friend of mine, two in fact, who were not in the party asked me once why I was a Communist. I was taken aback. I said what else would I be? They stoned me with Stalin, I pelted them with Sartre. I said I’m a Communist because I’m not a capitalist. They said this was simplistic. I said yes but it’s clear. It was an evening in Massachusetts, we were going to a reading, they said what had communism done for Black people, I said what had capitalism done, they brought up the pogroms, I brought up slavery. They said but you’re Black, I said but you’re Black too. They said these isms are only there to hoodwink Black people. I said most likely but I had never thought of being anything else, for me it was simply logical, organic, I come from the working class. One of them so annoyed with me asked was I going to call Gromyko to ask him what I could say that night. I said you call Reagan, I’ll call Gromyko. We went silent and walked diagonally separated toward the reading. I read an erotic story about some teenage girls in love with their French-language mistress, we parted company, the diametric widened.
From Brick 90