Proclaiming, “I am not a Marxist," Ginsberg expresses his views on communism as part of his request to Ira Cohen (1935-2011) to help Yevtushenko (1932-2017). Ginsberg thought that a declaration about Yevtushenko's influence on turning Westerners towards communism would loosen the Kremlin’s travel ban on the poet whom the Russians sometimes favored and sometimes censored. Ginsberg starts his dense letter on a personal note complaining about not writing and needing to settle someplace to "unscramble what I can…." In the second paragraph he begins his discourse on communism, Yevtushenko and more. "I am not a Marxist because present practice of Marxism everywhere seems to involve bureaucratic state monopoly control of art...if the bureaucracy is so far off in its evaluation of associational poetry, Jazz, abstract art, dodecaphonic music, general human thinking & feeling processes etc[sic] there's no guarantee the same mistakes aren’t being made in agriculture horticulture physical culture etc. It is the very nature of the rationalistic thinking processes involved which is either a byproduct [sic] or built into or a misinterpretation of Marxism. I'm not read enough in Marxism to know. It's the moralism involved which is so objectionable, the self righteousness [sic], usually by-product of petty thinking...."
He refers to a previous letter in which he addressed the same topics: "two points 1)Jazz is negro common peoples social protest folk music so it should by theory be kosher marxist 2) the effect of Yevtushenko's visit to NY was to mobilize pro-marxist pro communist pro russian [sic] pro cuban [sic] feelings among the younger intelligentsia that I knew ,and so Sholokov's [sic] statement that Yev was bad propagandist is inaccurate...." Mikhail Sholokhov (1905-84) was a Russian novelist awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in Literature. Ginsberg asks Cohen to ask their friends to, "write privately" to people they may know to help "the situation." "They're misjudging there on basis of mass media [reports] rather than delicate knowledge of the actual scene...large public statements will only confuse the situation but some private factual communication explaining that Yev was good commie propagandist & catalysed political activity among certain previously a-political scum beatniks, might help. In fact a public declaration that Yevtushenko turned everyone to Marxism if it were gentle & Funny (not ironic) enough might alleviate some of the misery...." Ginsberg suggests that Yevtushenko could represent a positive example of Marxism, a system which produced, "such fine human beings...& such good poetry...to disabuse ourselves of the evils of the Capitalist system, and catalysed in many of us...defense of the Cuban experiment...so we submit that the misinformation or mal impression created by the inaccuracies of mass media is Hereby corrected by our testimony of the direct effect on us of Yevtushenko's visit...."
He ends the letter declaring, that Yevtushenko is the best Propagandist for Russian communism that we in our postwar lifetimes ever encountered...." and a second time asks Cohen to "do anything organized in this direction...." Then he writes in pencil in his hand, "Peter [Orlovsky] signed above also." A final typed sentence requests, "Well maybe you can publish this paragraph of manifesto." He also signs in pencil, "Allen." Ginsberg wrote from Varanasi (Benares), India, where he had been living from early 1962 to July of 1963 while Cohen was living in Tangier, Morocco from about 1961-1964. Our research has not indicated that a declaration on behalf of Yevtushenko followed.
Condition: Typed on an aerogramme showing the frayed edges from opening.
Ginsberg was accused of being a member of the Communist party but was not as he clearly writes here. At varying times, the Soviet government censored Yevtushenko's poetry then at other proclaimed his greatness. At this particular moment, Ginsberg sought to help him out with a statement about the pro-communist influence of Yevtushenko's work. While a few Beatniks may have been converted, it was not enough to sway the Soviet government from banning his work. Yevtushenko could not leave the Soviet Union between 1963 and 1965.