FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saul Landau: Make It Better

by

I would like to add my voice and memories to the recognition and honors paid to Saul Landau, a Cuban, a North American, and universal man of many talents who was friend, poet, writer,  popular teacher, university professor, documentalist and filmmaker, a radical, a humanist, a defender of just and democratic causes, an iconoclast, a journalist, a radio worker, a historian, an athlete, a father, a grandfather, a friend of thousands and certainly an example to all.

He was also a master of the pen, the microphone, the TV camera, the pulpit, and friendship. He wrote novels; he organized and established organizations like the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Security Archives, the Center for Cuban Studies, and Holland’s Transnational Institute. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and wrote a remarkable master’s degree thesis. He also went to Stanford. He published 14 books and 50 documentaries and films, and wrote more than 500 articles and as many book reviews. And he was mentor to hundreds.

José Martí once said at Hardman Hall, in New York, on October 10, 1890: “A true man does not seek the path where the advantage lies, but rather where duty is found…” Saul, who was born just a few blocks from there, lived his life exactly as Marti suggested.

Saul was born on January 15, 1936 in the Bronx, New York, in a neighborhood brimming with Jews, Blacks, Catholics, Irish, Russians and Latinos. As a child, he saw his neighborhood demographically grow at a very rapid rate, almost as fast as the subway trains he used to take. Central and Eastern European Jews accounted for the majority of the population at a time when they were –politically speaking– the American left’s one of the most influential sector. Saul told me that he didn’t remember his father, who owned a pharmacy, as a left-winger. However, his urban environment was.

The Jewish intellectual tradition joined the Black one –the “Harlem Renaissance”– precisely as Saul was growing up. As a high-school student he was already taking part in progressive actions. He was a young leftist when he went to study in Wisconsin. Together with other personalities such as Tom Hayden, James O’Connor and Lee Baxandall, he created what would be known as the new left, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and other organizations.

He founded the journals Studies on the Left and Ramparts. He helped C. Wright Mills with his book Listen, Yankee and together they edited the book The Marxists. But Mills was not the only renowned sociologist that Saul collaborated with when he was barely 23. There was also Max Weber’s best student –Hans Gerth– with whom Saul wrote a famous essay in 1960 about the integration of history and sociology. Gerth was already in his sixties.

Saul’s life deserves a detailed biography. The FBI, considered  Saul a bad example for the rest of humanity and accumulated over  15,000 classified documents on him.

I had the chance to talk with Saul every day over the phone, more than once. We did so every day for the last five years. He connected many of us, through his phone calls. We also wrote articles for CounterPunch and other venues. I remember the sequence for each article. He would start an article one week and I would do the same the following one. I remember that every time he sent me his draft  he would tell me, “Make it better”. Such was, basically, his daily philosophy: make the world better. To Saul, that was a DUTY. And that is how we should remember him.

[These words were read in Havana, Cuba, on December 18, 2013]

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Translated by Walter Lippmann, editor of CubaNews.

 

 

 

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail