CLASS STRUGGLE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman by Bertell Ollman

CLASS STRUGGLE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman

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A few years back Ollman, a Marxist political scientist at NYU, invented and marketed a socialist board game, ""Class Struggle""; and, like a lot of other small businessmen, he went bust. The conclusions he draws don't exactly stack up, and the story is only sporadically funny--but it does have its unusual wrinkles. To Ollman, his failure proves something about capitalism, though he and his radical-prof partners didn't know enough about business to figure in overhead. At life's darkest moment, a would-be-savior shudders: ""You ordered fifty thousand games at a cost of one hundred sixty thousand dollars that you didn't have on the basis of no orders?"" Ollman & Co. had been warned, moreover, that a radical game wouldn't get shelf space in the hinterlands. And they, of all people, should have known that a Hollywood movie based on their story (one of the quick-saves that fell through) wasn't going to be Marxism incarnate. So the grousing rings hollow. The context does nothing, either, for Ollman's simultaneous failure to get a recommended appointment as head of the political science department at the U. of Maryland--which one president tabled and his successor vetoed. (Ollman sued, reasonably charging political discrimination, and unsurprisingly lost.) Two facets of Class Struggle, Inc. do stand out, though: trouble on the left and loss of internal cohesion. Some of those Ollman had considered natural allies held that ""class struggle is too serious a subject to play games with,"" and resented the publicity he got. (When he was scrambling for funds, they also thought he was a millionaire.) Strikers at a Brentano's store asked for a boycott of the chain, then the firm's #1 customer; turned down, they went public--another black eye on the left. Semi-internally, Ollman found himself locked in a nasty dispute with the games' manufacturer (which doesn't show O. behaving with great scruple); and, very internally, the close buddy who had put up most of the money (by committing all his assets) ""became such a drag on my own emotions that I began to resent him for his suffering."" What remains is a tantalizing glimmer: ""the game was making it possible for the capitalist press to write more freely about the class struggle."" Out of the closet, presented with humor, would socialism stand a better chance? It's an intriguing idea, still.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: Morrow