Obituary: Karla Rab, 1940-2017

Karla Rab died on September 15th at age 77 in her Somerville, Massachusetts home.

A fifth-generation socialist, she learned ‘by osmosis’ that the most worthwhile cause to struggle for is to wake up the working class to its enlightened self-interest — the immediate abolition of capital’s anachronistic employment system.

She imbibed the influence of a socialist family upbringing from her earliest years, and went on to make it her vocation on joining the World Socialist Party founded in 1916 by her grandfather Isaac Rab and others. She was a practical visionary who took an active organizing role in party activities; after some re-organization c. 2000, she performed her role as Postal Corresponding Secretary with gusto. In 2010, fulfilling a promise she had given Rab to ‘do something’ with his voluminous correspondence, she published Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior: The Life and Letters of Isaac Rab, a multi-faceted undertaking at once a biography, a history and a memoir. Her natural editorial talents were appreciated by all her collaborators.

Everything of any value, she knew, starts with the human imagination, independently of reality, as long as you plug it back into the real world. Karla grew up immersed in a culture of optimism. She knew she really could make the world a better place, not just in a moral sense but as an actual historical reality.

And there was a way to achieve this goal. All you had to do was get everyone to understand that the world humans have evolved, the terrible mess we have made of human society, has a tangible and specific cause. While we have improved some aspects of our existence, we have done so at the expense of our better nature, and the ‘progress’ we imagine is inherent in our civilization is a process of tying society in knots. Humans have gotten themselves into a progressively knottier condition, and the end results are beginning to look pretty grim.

Karla learned as a child that the way to cut the Gordian knot is to re-imagine a society that once again returned to a need-oriented model of human nature in which people everywhere understand the stake they have in each other’s well-being. This is something we all know how to do, but which ever since agriculture was introduced we have been educating each other to forget. But it takes only a little self-enlightenment to break this momentum.

Since there can be no limits to how this reawakening takes place, our destiny as humans is to do this re-thinking of ourselves on a global scale. We all have it in us to retrace our steps and ‘get back to the garden.’ It is emotionally and intuitively easy, if you just listen to yourself and keep the courage of your convictions.

Like her grandfather, she was an incurable optimist who believed humanity still has a future. Pessimism is merely the long shadow of ignorance. The choice is clear.


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