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Loyola, Lenin, and the road to liberation.

LOYOLA, LENIN, AND THE ROAD TO LIBERATION

The daydream of a better life, here on earth or in heaven, in the near future or on a faraway island, runs like a golden thread through the history of Western civilization. Often that dream was the expression of an attempt to escape from unbearable reality, away from hunger, toil, and oppression. Next to the fantasies about a return to a golden age or some miraculous intervention, there were those utopias which were considered reachable through religious conversion or social and political action. For the latter category the term "utopia' (no place) could be more properly translated as "that which has not-yet taken place.' Without this semantic shift we cannot understand the dynamic role of utopia in the moral, social, and political thought of the West.

In order to avoid the trap of an ahistorical utopian "modus,' authors like Frank and Fritzie Manuel1 propose a structural approach, in which the various utopias are grouped within a particular historical period, so that their differences illustrate the spectrum of possible reactions within one and the same era. Furthermore one has to distinguish between authors who create a theoretical counter-model (More, Campanella) and utopian activists who try to turn this model into reality (Plato, Owen). In his study of seventeenth-century utopian writings, J.C. Davis points out the closed character of these ideal societies, for which survival and internal cohesion go together with isolation from the rest of the world or, as in the Millenium, with the previous destruction of "the others' (the unbelievers, the counter-revolutionaries).2 Jost Hermand, on the other hand, defends the necessity of a new form of utopian thought as the only escape from the pessimism, the conformity, and the many false utopias of the present generation.

Thus, 450 years after Thomas More the debate about the use and the dangers of utopia is still raging.3 The undeniable authoritarian character of many historical utopias should suffice to push these dreams of a better society aside as suspect and dangerous thinking, if at the same time they did not have a liberating function, "the dream' as the first step on the path to liberation.4

This insight, that utopian thinking is always a "transcending' of narrow intellectual horizons or of oppressive conditions, leads us to a most difficult point, the question of the path between an existing reality and "the realm of freedom' or "the kingdom of God on earth' the utopians are striving toward. At the beginning of the bourgeois era, almost simultaneously with Luther's Reformation and More's Utopia, Loyola founded the Society of Jesus. And at the end of that period Lenin translated Marx's ideas into the founding of the vanguard party which assumed the task to bring about the new socialist society. In order not to commit the sensationalist mistake of trying to create affiliation between the Basque saint and the Russian Bolshevik based upon a number of superficial similarities, I intend to question each of these movements about their utopian character and to come to some hypotheses that are structural rather than substantial and historical. That this is hardly an academic exercise is illustrated by the attitude of some military dictatorships in Central America today which without much ado equate "Jesuits' with "Communists' and exile or persecute them as such. This equation indicates the confusion in the minds of some who feel just as threatened by the religious utopian as by the political utopian--and who will say that they are totally wrong?

Loyola and the Militia Christi

In his autobiography Inigo de Loyola speaks about the enlightenment which taught him that the devotion of the saints in God's service is a much higher ideal than the knightly service to which he had hitherto committed himself. This contradiction between a glorification of the religious past and the fundamental renovation of religious life of which he was to become one of the main architects is not the only one we shall find in the life and work of Ignatius. Another striking feature is the balance between a mystical, often overwhelming emotionality (visions, tears) and a never failing rationality which enables him to distinguish between bad and evil "spirits' (ideas, feelings). Very early Ignatius was already aware of the importance of control over our insights and motives. Does a particular decision still hold after the excitement of the initial moment has disappeared? Furthermore, there is the almost natural transition from the personal to the political: from the personal experience of the time of his conversion (1521-1522) and the studies in Spain and Paris (1524-1535), the conviction grows that more is at stake than his own salvation or the imitation of the saints. Influenced by Augustine's De civitate Dei, he came to regard his experience as part of God's overall plan for the world. All these sources feed the utopian river that must carry us to a new Christianity in a new world. In itself this could be considered a modern version of the traditional teachings of the Church, if Ignatius had not developed the instrument with the help of which he wanted to reach that ideal, the Society of Jesus.

Here we ought to stress the connection between the Spiritual Exercises and the emergence of the Jesuit order. These exercises formed the spiritual basis for the training of the first collaborators, with whom Ignatius would later found the Society. Only those people who, after a thorough and critical inquiry into their entire previous life, after weeks of meditation and prayer and with the help of the "distinction of the spirits,' have come to a fundamental choice for a life in the service of God and His church, will be able to follow the rules according to the letter and, especially, the spirit. Since it is impossible to summarize the Constitutions (200 pages), we shall limit our presentation to a few outstanding points, without destroying the logical cohesion of the whole.

(1) Hierarchical structure and democratic input. The order that would defend the Ecclesia militans was structured in a military way. God's authority, exercised by the Pope, was delegated to the General Superior of the order and, through him, to the national, regional, and local superiors. Unconditional obedience to this authority is one of the first preconditions for the functioning of the order. This absolutism, however is moderated by a remarkably high degree of input and discussion, considering the time. The Constitutions regularly refer to preceding discussions and even to the right to challenge an already taken decision. Furthermore, there is also the right to vote for the delegates to the national and general congregations, who select the new superior and make binding decisions on important matters.6

(2) Unity of doctrine and image. Ignatius soon realized the danger of a weakening of the Society's unity as a result of the georgraphic spreading and the variety of personalities involved. The rules are very clear: discussion is possible, but no text shall be published that has not been read and approved by the superiors. This rule protected the order against the interference of the church inquisitors, and it stengthened the image of an efficient, internationally structured monolithic organization, an image that has given occasion to the familiar accusations of a "Papal mafia' and the like. Article 664 says that anyone seen as a cause of dissent should be immediately relocated or even dismissed "as a pestilence which can seriously infect if a cure is not applied at once.'7

(3) Permanent training of the members. First of all we should understand this emphasis on study and intellectual formation in the context of the theological and especially scientific poverty of the clergy at the time of the Reformation. This unusually thorough training helped Ignatius to strengthen the ideological striking force of the Catholic camp, and it assured an important influence of many Jesuiut spiritual advisors of kings and princes.8

(4) Private property is sin. Inspired by Saint Francis's "sacred poverty' and shocked by the lifestyle of many clerics, Ignatius decided that the members should protect themselves against the seduction of wealth through a vow of poverty. This did not prevent him from realizing that one had to distinguish between the order as such and those houses where young Jesuits were being trained and for which he adopted a limited form of collective property. Thus he combined the evangelical rejection of private property with the later expressed demand that "each should receive according to his needs.' Thus he achieved a difficult equilibrium between poverty and equality as virtues in themselves on the one hand, and the collective use of wealth and money as means to a higher end on the other.

Ignatius' dream remained the same, but the path to the new kingdom became very precise and detailed. In place of the revolt of poor peasants he put the long-term, in-depth activity of an elite corps of specially selected and thoroughly trained militants possessing the knowledge to translate their mystical commitment into efficient action. In contemporary terms, we may speak of the first successful example of a functional vanguard party.

Lenin and the Party of the New Type

The dream Lenin nurtured--and he used that expression repeatedly9--went much further than the toppling of tsarism. Old Russia was only the first link in a movement that would turn Europe and the colonial world upside down and end the by now out-lived "prehistory of humanity.' This realm of freedom and equality would be the final victory of the age-old longing of the oppressed and the poor of all times, and of the ideals of the Russian rebels since the revolt of te Decembrists in 1825. Lenin succeeded in linking this vision of liberation to a realistic strategy for the seizure of power and the construction of a new society. The carrier of this revolution is still the "proletariat,' but this vague entity will be replaced by a party that will be fundamentally different from all former socialist organizations. Inspired by the radicalism of the Jacobins and the heroic leaders described in Chernychevsky's novel What Is to Be Done? (1862), Lenin comes to the conclusion that it will be necessary to build a specially trained organization of professional revolutionaries. This insight is the core idea of "the party of the new type,' the model of the Communist parties of the Third International. Without going into the history of these parties or of the differences among the many "Marxist-Leninist' organizations, we shall try to highlight the structures of the vanguard party as a means to turn the revolutionary vision into reality.

(1) An elite corps of professional revolutionaries. The masses are led by a carefully selected core of militants who are totally and unconditionally committed to the cause. This demands a devotion one cannot expect from the larger masses of the people. The elite is neither a privileged caste nor a new ruling class, but a sort of knightly order that excels through loyalty, service, and leadership qualities.

(2) Democratic centralism as the decision-making model. After discussion and through internal elections, leaders are selected on all levels of the party to guard over the unity of theory and action. This model is democratic (election, discussions) and centralist (unanimous carrying out of majority decisions). Thus the "obedience' of the members is based upon a voluntary acceptance of this structure and upon informed participation in the decision-making process.

(3) Continuing education and self-study. Once a candidate has been accepted into the party, a training process is started through a cadre school, regular study sessions, and the reading of important new books, articles, and Congress documents. The image of the loyal militant who does not need more than a handful of slogans does not fit the ideas of Lenin or the historical reality of Marxism-Leninism. Useful work and active participation are only possible through this ongoing education.

(4) Private property and bourgeoi luxury are counter-revolutionary. Without adhering to collective property or sacred poverty, these "materialists' usually consider luxury dangerous to the commitment of the revolutionary and therefore level the personal income of the party cadres down to that of average workers. This almost-religious measure strengthens the credibility of the militants in the eyes of the masses, as well as their personal commitment. It creates a bond between the intellectuals with their bourgeois background and those members that come from the ranks of the working class. This in turn contributes to the elitist mentality and the spirit of sacrifice.

(5) Our kingdom is not of this (capitalist) world. The militant of such an organization is ipso facto a subversive threat to the society in which he/she lives. Legality and illegality of the actions taken are in themselves irrelevant categories, since the laws of the existing society serve, among other things, to protect the established order. Within the context of this structural approach, the similarity between the religious martyrs and the tortured revolutionaries is not accidental. It is, in fact, the rationally accepted ultimate consequence of the spirituality (social commitment) which is the foundation of the chosen way of life. Neither Loyola nor Lenin encouraged self-immolation--on the contrary; but neither of them avoided the possible consequences of this commitment.

We have deliberately limited ourselves to a few essential aspects that have enabled both formations to play a historical role on a world scale. That history would not unfold the way the founders and hoped has to be ascribed to external situations and internal developments, as well as to the problems that were already built into the very model. Only after we have analyzed these problems can we take a new look at the larger question, that of the path to the kingdom of freedom.

The Dead-end Street of a "Democratic Elite' Elite'

Just as it is superfluous to comment extensively upon the obvious differences between the above-mentioned models, it is equally unimportant to look for a direct link between the ideas of Ignatius and Lenin's development, even though the Jesuits played a prominent role in Russian public life in the nineteenth century, from the protection by Catherine II to the polemical attacks in Dostoyevski. Lenin, a student of Russian literature and history, must have been aware of the historical role and image of the Jesuits, but without further proof this often-made link between him and Loyola remains rather superficial. It is, however, striking that both of them were aiming at the welfare and freedom of all the people: for Ignatius, first of all God's people in the church and, through conversion, the whole of humanity; whereas Lenin saw the liberation of the proletariat as the first and necessary precondition for the liberation of all classes. There is no doubt that both of them were essentially democratic in their intentions (though the very concept sounds somewhat anachronistic for the time of the Renaissance), something that is manifested in Ignatius's rules for the lay brothers, while Lenin speaks of a future society "where the kitchenmaid as well will be able to govern.' Yet, in spite of their repeated emphasis on the salvation/liberation of all people both opted, probably for different reasons, for the building of a militarily structured, disciplined elite organization as the only efficient tool to reach this general humanistic aim. This form of organization was to be expected from the aristocratic, military Ignatius, who saw a confirmation of the values of discipline and order in the negative example of the wild, anarchistic peasant revolts against "authority' and the dangerous egalitarian agitation of the millenarians around Muentzer. But also Lenin, the passionate Marxist despite his glorification of the past revolutionary tradition, had little patience with radically anarchistic or, in present-day terms, ouvrieristic tendencies which according to him were bound to end up in either reformism or senseless terrorism. This leaves us, in hindsight, with the following dilemma: the path to the liberation of the people cannot be found by the masses themselves, but will have to be blazed by a "democratic elite' that will provide direction and leadership through its theoretical knowledge, its pedagogical qualities, and its unselfish commitment to the good cause. The creation of this elite corps, however efficient and original it might have been, has turned out to be historically speaking, the first and easiest step. To what extent has the organization succeeded in taking the second step, the one toward the people? For there is, indeed, qualitatively little difference between the culturally well trained Jesuit teachers (or spiritual advisors) and their aristocratic, later bourgeois students, pupils, and "spiritual children.' The question remains whether this transfer of knowledge and training also included the core--the inspired spirit of Christianity or socialism--and whether this core ever reached the masses of the people, thus enabling the once necessary elite to gradually wither away? Historical evidence tells us that this is, unfortunately, a rhetorical question, and after 400 (or 80) years it no longer suffices to talk about a lack of experience. Within the scope of this essay we do not intend to put the entire history of the "vanguard' model on trial, but we cannot but reflect upon the contradiction between the proclaimed aims the results achieved. Or ought we to consider these aims as abstract utopias (in the sense of Ernst Bloch)--as the eternally unreachable, always receding horizon of human yearning--and therefore just be satisfied with the progress we have made thus far? Which would mean that we decide to close the debate about utopia once and for all, something neither Christians nor Marxists could ever accept.

Before we take a look at recent attempts to supersede the problem of "democratic elitism,' we ought to search somewhat further for the deeper causes of this dilemma. Do we have to take into account the social stratification and the level of development of the majority of Christians in Ignatius' time and the population of Russia at the beginning of this century? This would suggest that a dream that proved to be impossible in an agrarian, intellectually hardly developed society could become a realistic expectation in a society with a high degree of literacy and education. This argument is often heard, and more often misused, to explain "the deviations and mistakes' of the Stalin regime, an excuse that reminds us of the explanation for the often degrading treatment of "the natives' in the traditional missionary approach. Or is it the simple fact that an elite, however committed, can never bridge the gap between itself and the people, and is thus condemned to stay forever in a stage of friendly (or impatient) patternalism? This paternalism, which with the founding fathers was still hidden behind the charismatic elan (Weber) of the new vision, becomes highly visible as soon as the movement gets institutionalized in order to work more effectively. The success and growth of the organization turns into a substitute for its original objectives, and the larger part of the available energy is used to ensure the continuation of this success. In other words: did the founders underestimate the force of their own personalities and did they think that an organizational model that was completely tailored to their character and commitment could be transferred onto others without major problems? These three aspects--the backwardness of the population, the difference between founders and followers, the built-in elitism--illustrate the real problems of the vanguard model, but do not take away the fact that it has not lived up to expectations. On the other side, the partial success tells us that we cannot simply consider it to be historically outdated. What lessons can be learned from this mixed experience?

The Dialectics of Freedom and Order

In Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope), Ernst Bloch contrasts the liberal ideal of freedom in More's Utopia with the order reigning in Campanella's Civitas Solis. He concludes that each of these imaginary societies embodies an essential aspect of a future possible utopia.

Without individual and collective freedom, "order' is an authoritarian or totalitarian form of society; and without a sensible order, "freedom' degenerates into shapeless chaos, an anarchy where eventually the right of the strongest will prevail once again. When we use this dialectical relationship of order and freedom in our analysis of sociopolitical and religious movements, we are coming closer to a possible alternative for the vanguard model.

(1) The failure of Leninism. Not only did the Leninist party not succeed in carrying out the "radical transformation' (Freire) of society, but even in those countries where such vanguard parties have come to power, through their own actions or via the Red Army, one cannot speak of a successful socialization of society. From an orthodox viewpoint people have tried either to ignore this fact or to find numerous expanlations that avoid questioning the purty of the model or the correctness of the strategy. Of course military interventions, the Cold War, and the systematic anti-Communism of the bourgeois states played an important role, while the personal ambitions and abuses of certain leaders (from Stalin to Pol Pot) led to grotesque and tragic caricatures of "socialism,' but one cannot forever deny reality: the triumphant vanguard party has not succeeded in bridging the gap between its military or political victory and the better, freer socialist society it had inscribed on its banner and for which its members often heroically struggled. In a number of countries there has been a spectacular progress in social welfare, education, and the standard of living, but that progress has happened within the framework of a strong state, or an order achieved at the price of many democratic freedoms which the progressive bourgeoisie and the working class had already gained under evil capitalism. This failure is all the more painful because we start with the assumption that Lenin and his followers were indeed striving toward the total liberation of the oppressed and exploited. But in the structure of the liberating instrument itself, the ruling party, order had already been built in an unconscious and unchangeable way, and there was no mechanism to transfer that power to the people. On the path to the utopia of a communist society the party of the new type collided with the wall of its own logic; and as long as the socialist countries stick to this model, they will be condemned to close off every honest attempt at liberalization with a new phase of consolidation and repressiveness.

(2) The failure of anarchism. From a utopian perspective the failure of anarchism is even more painful, for whereas Marxism-Leninism, following Engels, always rejected utopianism, libertarian socialism invariably remained loyal to its utopian origins. Because they did not believe that one could reach the goal of a society free of authority with an authoritarian, often undemocratic instrument, the anarchists fought from the very beginning against strictly structured party models. This lack of organization was one of the reasons why they almost always lost the political battle against the followers of Marx and, later, Lenin. In spite of the central role they had played in the revolution of 1905 and their participation in the October Revolution, they were swiftly and brutally eliminated in the new Soviet republic; and during the Spanish civil war they were considered to be "enemies within the progressive camp' and thwarted by the Leninists of the Commintern.

Thus it was no surprise that the spontaneous youth revolt of May 1968 was attracted to anarchism and other nonorthodox tendencies and traditions rather than to pure Marxism-Leninism, which that very same year had shown once again that it could not possibly allow the development of a freer, more democratic form of socialism. The invasion of Prague by the Warsaw Pact troops made every further discussion about the Leninist way to socialism irrelevant.

Now that this century-old debate had been solved, the path to "total freedom' seemed to be opended. And precisely at this moment in the history of utopian thought and action, the inner weakness of anarchism was revealed, even though it took years before the participants in this libertarian revolt could realize that they too had strayed into a dead-end street. It became clear that this revolt was essentially taking place inside the heads of a declassed intellectual middle group that, in spite of all its Franciscan declarations of love for "our brothers and sisters from the working class,' was mostly engaged in a brilliant dialogue with itself. Where the libertarian revolt really came in touch with social and political reality, it was either reintegrated by the ever flexible ruling powers (the hip junior executive with stylish long hair and designer jeans) or driven into the desert of the world of pseudo-religious sects, where one utopian project after another was doomed to fail. One may mitigate this verdict, but I don't think that one can cover up the failure of the May revolt. Of course the defenders of the traditional vanguard model interpret this as a proof that they were right after all, and the conservative pessimists find a new argument for their conviction that it is better to leave this utopian "realm of freedom' to poets and preachers, while qualified and sober technocrats and sociologists will take care of the small, gradual improvements of the existing system. This conservative pessimism coincided remarkably with the later analyses of the Frankfurt School, which after a partial and short moment of empathy with the revolt (Marcuse) returned to its insight into the growing closedness of contemporary society.

(3) The secularization of Loyola's counter-reformist ideal. It is more difficult to measure the success of an essentially spiritual movement, because the eventual goal is literally "not of this world,' however realistically a founder such as Ignatius had envisioned that goal. Yet the increasing secularization of the industrial world not only broke the medieval hegemony of the Catholic Church, but also had its effects upon that order which was striving first and foremost for the reunification of Christianity around Christ and His church. The fact that this goal has not been achieved is of course due to more factors than the flaws in Ignatius' model of a spiritual knighthood. This evidence, however, should not prevent us from looking, in this case as well, at the relationship between the ideal and the means. To avoid misunderstanding: this critique is in no way related to the traditional accusations against the Jesuits as they have been expressed by authors such as R. Fuelop-Miller and others, who with great journalistic power of insinuation talked about Machiavellian conspiracies and ultramontane freemasonry.10 Such representations have been rejected so often by serious historians that it would be wise to relegate them to the same oblivion that one should do with the formerly dangerous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion' and other sensational "revelations.' If there is any talk about Machiavellism in the usual and greatly distorted sense of the word, then we should look for it in the actions of those scarcely religious princes and rulers who for ages have thankfully used the pedagogical and ideological apparatus (Althusser) that the order presented them with, but have clearly used them ad majorem Regis gloriam.

At the same time, this regularly repeated use of a religious elite corps by a thinly veiled secular power points to a structural weakness of the organizational model. It looks as if Ignatius' order, on the way to the (counter-reformist) reformation of the entire Christendom, got necessarily stuck within the narrow borders of the social and political ruling classes which either used religion to legitimize their dominant position or made a selective distinction between those elements they considered useful or harmful to their power. The evangelical values such as poverty, equality, and spiritual autonomy have thus always been considered unwelcome and subversive. As a result, the remarkable structure, built as the most effective model to spread these values, has historically been a weapon in the hands of those forces that wanted to stop their dissemination.

(f) Father Naphta and the base communities. In The Magic Mountain Thomas Mann created one of his most fascinating characters with Naphta, the Jewish Jesuit father and Communist, a slightly distorted and hence unfair portrait of Georg Lukacs. As the opponent of the liberal bourgeois enlightenment-humanist Settembrini, who represented the best, the most respectable, and at the same time the most outdated bourgeosie culture, Naphta embodied the explosive force of the dedicated, fanatical, self-destructive, and principled revolutionary. Within the context of this essay, he also symbolizes the flaws of the vanguard party model in its spiritual and sociopolitical forms. Against this fictitious, but on that account no less real, Father Naphta I would like to put a new type of concrete utopianism, the result of a remarkable cooperation between Christians and socialists. These workers in the Latin American "base communities' often come out of the tradition of the Jesuits or of revolutionary Leninism, but in both cases they have had to relinquish essential aspects of the former model. This is a qualitatively different form of cooperation compared to that of Christians and Marxists in the resistance movement of the Second World War or during the period of the worker priests. These base communities are only possible through the integration of individual spirituality with realistic (i.e., materialistic) social responsibility, something that could not be achieved by a tactical coalition. As is to be expected, the resistance against these new groups comes from the orthodox Marxist-Leninist parties as well as from the conservative wings of the order and the Church, because they are well aware that much more is being questioned here than the mutual distrust between two opposed and competing ideologies. The orthodox Leninists rightly fear that this kind of political activity threatens to make the trusted model of the vanguard party superfluous and that makes them understandably nervous. And the conservative Jesuits and clerical superiors share a similar fear of the autonomy of Christians who have learned to speak out for themselves.

The tensions within these new forms of religious and sociopolitical organization indicate that we are only at the beginning of a possible new path, especially since up to now this movement seems only viable in countries of the third world, and therefore in societies that are constantly in danger of being neutralized or destroyed by the power blocs. Hence it is much too early to speak of a successful synthesis of freedom and order, of a historically unexpected and structurally creative breaking through the dilemma which until recently seemed to plague every organization. The test that should of necessity follow this stage is the proof that this model of the base community can also be developed in the highly industrialized developed societies. For the time being this is not much more than a pious (utopian) wish.

NOTES

1. Frank E. and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979).

2. J.C. Davis, Utopia and the Ideal Society. A Study of English Utopian Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

3. Jost hermand, Orte. Irgendwo. Formen utopiachen Denkens (Koenigstein: Athenaeum Verlag, 1981).

4. Ernst Bloch, for whom real philosophical thought had to be utopian, wrote: "Denken heisst Ueberschreiten' ("To think is to cross the border, to transcend').

5. The main works consulted for this section were San Ignacio de Loyola, Obras Completas (Madrid: Biblioteca de autores Cristianos, 1963); Constitutiones Societatis Iesu (Rome: Typis Vaticanis, 1984); The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, translated, with an Introduction and a Commentary by George E. Ganss, S.J. (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesus Sources, 1970).

6. Constitutiones, parts VII and VIII.

7. Constitutiones, part VIII, chap. 1, par. 5.

8. As a contrast we have the rule that the lay brothers of the order were not supposed to continue their intellectual development, since they had joined for quite different reasons.

9. V. I. Lenin, "What Is To Be Done?', in Robert C. Tucker, The Lenin Anthology (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975), pp. 106-107.

10. R. Fuelop-Miller, Macht und Geheimnis der Jesuiten (Leipzig, 1929).
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Title Annotation:Ignatius Loyola, Vladimir I. Lenin
Author:Abicht, Ludo
Publication:Monthly Review
Date:Oct 1, 1984
Words:5320
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