Raya Dunayevskaya 1953

The Evolution of a Social Type

Source: Correspondence, Oct. 3, 1953. This piece appeared in the first issue of Correspondence as the debut of Dunayevskaya’s unsigned column, “Two Worlds: Notes From a Diary.” It is included in The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, microfilm numbers 9328 and 9329.

The invitation from CORRESPONDENCE to write a column is the more welcome since I have had an opportunity over the years to study and observe social types in the union and political movements in both the United States and Europe. I understand your correspondents are mostly young people, and some of the events I mention will sound “dated,” but for my first column in any case I can begin with a story which is not so much past as present, not so much European as American.

Today everybody knows the Communist Party as the agent of the greatest barbarism on earth – Russian totalitarianism. But in those days, when the Russian Revolution had overthrown the Czar and established workers rule, the Communists were men of high principles who stood for a new social order, a totally new way of life, for tens of million of people who hoped to rule themselves in production and in politics.

The problem in the American Communist Party was that the backbone of it was immigrant stock. Jay Lovestone was a new type in the early days of the Communist Party. He was not a hardy proletarian type. He was a college boy, or, as the phrase then went, “a petty-bourgeois intellectual.” But he was American.

“Training Organizers”

He built up a whole theory of American “exceptionalism.” That was quite a chauvinistic theory. It meant that America was so exceptional it need not follow any principles of independent workers’ activity, but could “get there” (to a new social order), through all sorts of fantastic schemes, playing around with liberals etc. Thus, just as his successors in the 1930’s fell for the New Deal, he went hook, line, and sinker for La Follette’s Farmer-Labor Party. [1] But that was not his worst feature. I am told, that the part which the rank and file of the Communist Party of those days hated most of all about his rule was his conception of “training organizers.”

Before Lovestone’s leadership in 1925-27, Communist organizers would go into the sweat-shops and learn from the workers their conditions as one of them, and with them, see whether the shop could be unionized. Lovestone’s idea was quite different: he trained his organizers to work with the top leadership of the union. And suddenly there grew up the new type of organizer who was not of the workers but “for” them. The needle trades thus swarmed not only with regular labor bureaucrats, but the special “consultants” supplied by the Lovestoneites. That is how a new type, a combination “leader,” union organizer and general debater arose. Here is the story of one such person I knew personally.

Not A Production Worker

She is still somewhere around, in Pennsylvania, I believe, as a union organizer. She was, at first, a terrific little activist and organizer of the same type as the immigrants, only she was American. Then she became Lovestone’s secretary. A transformation occurred. She had learned to go to the shop not as a production worker, a floor girl or a pinker. No, from the start she was especially trained to be an operator. That assured her a skilled position immediately upon entering the shop, and of a place in the union as a “leader.”

Thus, separated from the workers on the line, she would then proceed to orate to them at the meetings. The workers were supposed to “love” her for just teaching them how to turn the switch off, as if they did not know how to turn the switch off. She was the anticipation, and only the anticipation, of both the Communist Party organizers of the totalitarian period and the C.I.O. bureaucrats of this period. Now she and her ilk are around everywhere; selling “the American way of life.”

Two Types of Bureaucrats

In Europe at this moment there are two types of American labor bureaucrats. Both wear fancy ties and smoke fat cigars and try to sell the “American way of life” as if that were one world, instead of two. One, like Reuther, is the roving kind. He comes to deliver a speech at a hand-picked labor congress, rides in a U.S. Army jeep. He ends up by telling the American workers how much better off they are than the Europeans, after had had just told the West German workers how much better off they are, with their unemployment, than the East German workers who must come for bread to the West. Then, through the Voice of America, he has the audacity to tell the East German workers who dared challenge their rulers at the cost of their lives, that they need “to believe in democracy.”

The other, like Irving Brown, is the stationary kind. He is the international representative of the A.F. of L. who lives in Europe, is always there to meet the roving kind of bureaucrat, but at the same [time] distrusts him. You see, he knew Reuther when he was the fair-haired boy of the Communist Party, and knows that he still is the planner, always ready to pull out of his pocket as many Five Year plans as any totalitarian bureaucrat and therefore resembles too closely for Irving Brown’s comfort the Communist fellow-travelers who are always “giving the line.” Moreover, as one who has himself been the fair-haired boy of a former leader of the Communist Party, Jay Lovestone, he knows that he must sell Europe something more genuine than that all Americans are millionaires and that the American worker who is always wildcatting just loves his labor bureaucrat. He knows that this is the epoch of total crisis, including the crisis of the mind. He knows he cannot win the mind of the European masses who are struggling for a totally new way of life with such vulgar sales talk. So he welcomes them. He is also looking for some European names to fight the deep anti-Americanism here.

Plan and Planners All Around Us

To know the type Irving Brown is, let’s take a second look at his leader, Jay Lovestone. As we have seen, he was a leader of the Communist Party in America in 1925-27. Now he is a highly-paid consultant to the American labor bureaucracy (I.L.G.W.U., I believe), who must be sophisticated enough to work with the European labor bureaucrats. At the end of the war he came to Rome, kissed the Pope’s ring, then went into consultation with Bertram D. Wolfe, [2] who is bureau chief in the Voice of America. He too is selling “the American way of life” and he was Lovestone’s co-leader in the C.P. in the 1920’s, as Irving Brown was the fair-haired boy in the Socialist Party days in the late 1930’s. Now the point is none of them has changed any basically. That is why I went into their past, which, to all appearances, seemed so different. The leader type in those days anticipated in all essentials the labor bureaucrat of today. It doesn’t matter that the C.P. produced them first; the age of state-capitalism produced them all – the plan and the planners. They are all around us now.

Before your readers say: “Yes, but the European workers should at least know that we have no use for ‘our’ labor bureaucrats, much less their consultants. Our way of life is quite different from theirs. We wildcat against management and the labor bureaucracy all the time, and the consultants are impotent.” Before your readers say this, let me say: I know that. I know that the American worker has to keep his nose to the grindstone to make ends meet. He does not have either the money or the leisure to go on European junkets to tell them of “The American way of life.” That is the way of the bureaucrats. But the European masses do not know that. [3]

1. Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette (1855-1925) was sympathetic to the Farmer-Labor Party, which was formed in 1920. [Transcriber]

2. Bertram Wolfe (1896-1977) was a Lovestone ally who became a conservative scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He published a history of the Russian Revolution, Three Who Made a Revolution, in 1952. [Transcriber]

3. The published version of the column contains an additional sentence from which a word or words was omitted, rendering it unintelligible. [Transcriber]