Up To Now: Later Development of Michelism

Up To Now by Jack Speer, 1939

Michelism and the Third Convention«« »»lPO

The period of secrecy for the Michelists was over; now they discharged all their accumulated broadsides thru every available channel, and for months they had the argument to themselves. In accounts of the Convention, in the SFFan and the SFCollector (this was before Baltadonis and Wollheim became enemies), Wollheim took a great deal of space to praise the new movement.

In an ill-starred article for Novae Terrae, Wollheim committed the program to advocacy of support for the Communist International.

Unfortunate for them, too, was the formation of the Committee for the Political Advancement of Science Fiction, which, it appears, never got to be officially going. Two issues of their publication, the Science Fiction Advance ("vance") were published, full of angles on and repetition of their ideology. The CPASF was composed of the New York group of Young Communist Leaguers, plus Richard Wilson for reporter, as editor of the weekly Science-Fiction News Letter. The fact that the other members were Young Communists all, their flagrant advocacy of Communism, and Wollheim's Novae Terrae article convinced the great majority of fans that the object of the movement was to Communistize fandom. The initials CPASF were interpreted "Communist Party's Agitators in Scienti-Fandom", and Baltadonis cartoons thus depicted them — very unflatteringly.

Nonetheless, during these months the Michelists made a few half­ conversions. Most unexpected of these was Wollheim's rapprochement with Ackerman. Some kind of a feud had long existed between them, apparently over nothing more serious than Ackerman's advocacy of the internationalanguage Esperanto, and his bent toward playing with words, as in puns and scientificombinations. Ackerman, like Rothman and others, had socialist leanings, and was willing to be a fellow-traveler with the Michelists and extend them aid.

The leading English readily accepted the appellation of Michelists, tho they were far from advocating the Communist program, and their pages were laid open to Michelism.

Despite all this, the movement couldn't seem to get going, and by Spring, 1938, opposition began to take form. Speer, tho perhaps as socialistically inclined as any, elected to defend Fascism in some of its aspects and, gradually becoming better acquainted with Communism and Communist strategy, adopted harrying tactics in his FAPA publications, correspondence, and elsewhere. In the Los Angeles publication, Imagination!, Frederick Shroyer haphazardly denied the allegations of the Michelists, and for a few issues a hot exchange of articles took place between him and Wollheim, others joining in. Rothman, tho friendly with the Michelists, preferred to raise objections to many of their statements, and occupied a no-man's-land all his own.

Then the second type of opposition became more vocal, with articles denouncing the introduction of 'politics' into 'stf', published in magazines of Taurasi, Moskowitz, &c.

We can now trace the various points of departure from the slender line of Michelist reasoning. In the first place, several fans refused to take them seriously. There is so much of mimic seriousness, insincere feuds, in fandom, that they looked upon Michelism as an invention for the purpose of keeping Wollheim in the public eye. Second, the largest group, perhaps half of fandom at that time, questioned the assumption that fandom must needs have any other purpose than the amusement derived from it. Those who did not fully accept this nevertheless had their assurance weakened, and encountering more flaws further along the Michelist line, dropped the more readily. Another not inconsiderable bloc granted that fandom might have an object beyond that, but claimed that it was success in the professional field bye and bye, self-expression, or the encouraging of fans to pursue scientific careers or perhaps just to teach them more science, in sugar-coated form, than the average man knew. Even among those who accepted the view that science fiction must help create a better world, there were many who did not subscribe to the declaration that the only justification for the activities of fandom was working for a scientific-socialist world state. And of those that did, some so disliked the Michelist methods and Wollheim personally that they refused to cooperate. Many who believed in Michelist ideals rejected the hope that fandom could do anything toward furthering them.

At times the Michelists seemed to be saying that their only object was to awaken interest in things sociological.Wollheim made a belated effort to relax the restrictions somewhat when, in an article in the deluxe SFA quarterly, Tomorrow, he stated that the lines had been extended to those fans who worked for progress in any form — Esperanto, peace movements, etc, even tho they were not advanced enough to accept Communism as yet. But the damage had been done, and by the fall, 1938, it was felt that Michelism, tho it had left a permanent mark upon fandom, was a thing of the past, and had failed to attain its objectives. The old guard of the Michelists, refusing to admit defeat, continued to plug away.

Michelism and the Third Convention«« »»lPO