J.R. Johnson

Max Eastman Dives Into Jingo Waters

So Perish All Traitors!

(26 May 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 21, 26 May 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Max Eastman has finished his long fight against Marxism by ending up in the imperialist war camp. Is he finished? Time will tell. These gentlemen don’t know that fascism is waiting for all those who reject socialism.

What is interesting about Eastman is the tripe that he puts forward as “arguments” for this new “policy.” He sounds like a professor of ethics, an evangelist who once studied elementary logic or a Buchmanite. Listen: he divides the warring nations into two groups. The fascists are the criminals and their chief crime is totalitarianism, which leads to anti-intellectualism. Anti-intellectualism “becomes a public policy.” It becomes a religion, destroys science, liberty, art, truth, beauty – everything that is valuable in human life.

It purges enemies, it is soaked in blood.

The anti-intellectualism of totalitarianism does all these things. SO IT DOES. But WHY does it do these things? What force drives Germany and Italy? Eastman, the intellectual, the proud scientist, has not got one single word to say on this in three full columns of the New York Times (May 6). He is as devoid of analysis as is Walter Winchell.

In reality, this intellectual is just on the same level as the lowest propagandists of fascism. They say “the democracies and the intellectuals commit crimes against blood and race.” Eastman shouts back: “These anti-intellectuals commit crimes against truth and liberty.”

But the imperialist democracies, it seems, are the guardians of intellectualism. Is it their defense of intellectualism that caused the war of 1914-1918? Or was it that both intellectualists and anti-intellectualists were grabbing for colonies in Africa, and industrial areas in Europe and elsewhere? Was it the conflict of intellectuals and anti-intellectuals that caused the economic crisis of 1929 and the German catastrophe which put Hitler into power? What sends Roosevelt and American capitalism into a life and death battle with Japan for the Chinese market? What is Britain doing in China? Fighting Japan to prevent the totalitarianism of anti-intellectualism? Is that why Weygand guards the French colonial empire?

The democratic imperialisms had the whole world (except Russia) to do what they wanted with it in 1919. What did they do? What do they propose to do with it now if they win it?

Neither Asks Nor Answers

Eastman could have answered these questions once. Now he doesn’t ask them! He produces instead this scientific explanation of modern society: “The totalitarian mania is easily spread ... because it appeals, beneath the whole fabric of learned attitudes and modes of behavior which constitute civilization, to those blind instincts of the tribal savage which survive in all of us.”

God above us! This is Max Eastman’s contribution to the analysis of society.

We are all tigers below. I have no hesitation in saying that on a Sunday morning, in the hundreds of thousands of churches in this country, I doubt if you could get 20 per cent of the preachers who would sink so low.

A Familiar Case

No. Eastman is a familiar case. He lost faith in the proletariat for his belief in socialism was not rooted bankruptcy of capitalism. He does not believe in the permanent revolution. The end of socialism in Russia becomes the end of intelligence in Eastman. Like the intellectual who has lost one social basis, the proletariat, he spins round and round and, as a crisis approaches, frantically seeks another. There is only one other – the bourgeoisie. And the case is that this intellectual, defending intellectualism, has to drop all the achievements of the human intellect for centuries and go back to the most primitive conceptions of the ills of human society – the savage in all of us, or, as Christianity has it. the doctrine of original sin. The conscious enemy of the Marxist religion becomes the unconscious protagonist of religion. So perish (intellectually) all traitors!

Last updated on 27.12.2012