VISITS TO OTHER WORLDS have often been thought of as difficult, even traumatic experiences. Through the fantasy of spatial travel, the visitor would try to confront elements within his thought or feeling he had previously hesitated to acknowledge. But, apparently, the stress need not always be a critical one, for Sidney Hook recently paid a visit to the other world which left him completely cheerful and reassured. So much so that he promptly wrote it up for The New Leader of May 2, 1955.
Most of his visit seems to have been spent in conversation with Karl Marx. Hook asked him a series of questions concerning the relationship between Marxism and Stalinism, which Marx— very patiently, we thought—proceeded to answer. (Marx made it clear that he didn’t approve of Stalinism.) The answers were somewhat on the rudimentary side, but then the questions weren’t so sharp either. In any case, it appears that since his death Marx has become a quite reasonable fellow who, on all the important questions of our day, agrees entirely with Sidney Hook. “Capitalism and socialism as they were traditionally conceived,” Hook happily reports Marx as telling him, “are today irrelevant abstractions in understanding social reality.”
One must envy Sidney Hook. Most of us, even the ferocious Dissenters, can feel little certainty these days, and even the handful who still think of ourselves as in some sense Marxists must nonetheless wonder exactly what relationship our modulations, changes and shifts of opinion have to Marx’s system of ideas. But now Sidney Hook, who surely cannot look back to his Toward the Understanding of Karl Marx without some uneasiness, proceeds—malicious tongues would say with an absurd complacence, but we know it to be a modest assurance—to inform the world that Marx has learned to accept in toto his (Hook’s, that is) views. And what is still more of a 285 miracle, Marx, who once had a rather vitriolic pen, seems now to have taken over Hook’s style as well—so that he writes almost as if he were Sidney Hook. Rumors have reached us that if Marx continues on good behavior and learns his lesson about the nature of “social reality,” Hook may go so far as to propose him for membership in the American Committee for Cultural Freedom.