Editorial Notes

The Affair at City College

(May 1931)

Written: May 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 9, 1 May 1931, p. 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The recent flare-up in New York City College is an event of interest to the revolutionary labor movement. Ten members of the Social Problems Club – a student organization for the discussion of social questions – were suspended for distributing a leaflet attacking the administration and demanding the reinstatement of Max Weiss, a Communist who had been expelled previously. In their leaflet the students demanded the restoration of "extra-curricular" rights for their organization which would give them the right to discuss questions outside the limits prescribed by the school authorities. This is nothing more than a demand for the ordinary democratic rights of citizenship.

Our sympathies are warmly with the insurgent students and we hope their courage will not fail them. It is gratifying to see that student organizations from a number of other colleges and universities have already declared their solidarity with the suspended students of City College. But the issue has a wider interest. The labor movement has a very good reason to champion the rights of the students in general.

and in this case, which involves a struggle to put social questions on the agenda for free discussion without arbitrary professorial supervision, the workers have a particular concern. Workers’ organizations, and those under Communist influence in the first rank, ought to come forward in support of this demand.

The case is interesting from another angle. It indicates the revival of a radical trend among the young intellectuals. Such a development is not without importance. It was natural for the first signs of a student awakening to be manifested in such a place as City College. This is a great popular institution supported by public funds. The students from proletarian families, striving to rise out of the working class, meet there the small bourgeois elements slipping down into it. Among students of this type the social question will acquire an increasing importance.

This will arise inevitably from the fact that avenues of escape from the working class are becoming fewer and narrower, even for those who manage in some way to acquire what is called an education. The professions are overcrowded. Only last week the New York Bar Association began to collect facts through a questionnaire with the object of reducing the number of law students. There are 4,700 would-be school teachers on the New York waiting list, with only 500 appointments in prospect during the year. Such department stores as Macy’s are employing college graduates exclusively as salesladies, so great and so cheap is the supply. The number of college trained young men and women who can’t find a job is mounting by the thousands. Education is a drug on the market.

The more these conditions accumulate and confront the class of intellectuals as a barrier to their individualist aspirations, the more compellingly will social questions engage their attention. It is to the interest of the revolutionary labor movement to encourage and assist every tendency in this direction.

Last updated on: 27.12.2012