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This article is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

Southerners and Marxists H. L. Weatherby

IT IS interesting to learn from David Levy's "Twilight Ideology" (PNR 8, p. 22) that still another Marxist, John Fekete, is taking an interest in Southern literature and particularly in the work of the Vanderbilt Agrarians. Fekete joins the company of Eugene Genovese and Raimondo Luraghi in what seems upon initial consideration a highly improbable attraction to the American South.1 The region's well-known conservatism, especially in regard to property, and its distrust of futuristic ideologies, would seem to preclude the sort of sympathy that the Marxist writers bestow upon it; and certainly the principal spokesmen for the South from antebellum until Agrarian days would have been less than pleased with a Marxist endorsement.

What Genovese and Luraghi like about the South is, expectably, its "pre-bourgeois" or "pre-capitalist" complexion; and Genovese interprets the Agrarian movement as an unsuccessful effort to preserve that complexion. The Critical Twilight has not yet found its way to the home of the Agrarian movement; but I gather from Mr. Levy's remarks that Fekete offers what might be called a futuristic (and more characteristically Marxist) version of the same argument. Genovese is frankly reactionary and very hard on the Agrarians for not being more so: "If you will the world to be thus; then you must will the social relations that alone can make it thus." By "social relations" he means the master-slave relations which in his judgement were responsible for the Old South's anti-capitalism; and his objection to the Vanderbilt group is that ...


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