[William F. Warde]

For Political Ornithologists

(Summer 1958)

Source: International Socialist Review, Vol.18 No.3, Summer 1958, pp.106-107.
(William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.)
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Memoirs Of A Revolutionist
by Dwight Macdonald
Farrar, Straus And Cudahy, New York 1957. 376 Pp. $4.75.

Dwight Macdonald is a bird that will fascinate students of political ornithology. He has varicolored plumage, lays many eggs but hatches few, eats his young, constantly preens himself and is fond of viewing his reflection in the water. He never perches long in the same spot.

In 1941 he observed:

“The swing back to bourgeois values ... has caught up almost all the old intellectual leaders of the left. Lewis Corey, whom we once looked to as the outstanding Marxist economist, has discovered ‘the industrial capitalist virtues – however imperfectly realized – of production for welfare, democracy and peace’. (Nation, May 19, 1941) Louis M. Hacker, once the ‘coming Marxist historian,’ has also discovered the virtues of ‘industrial’ as against ‘finance’ capitalism (as Hitler did years ago) and now regards Rockefeller as ‘a great industrial innovator’ who ‘conformed to the pattern of the enterpriser of classical economies’ (Nation, Dec. 7, 1940). Sidney Hook, once the leading Marxist philosopher, has swung away from Marx towards John Dewey and celebrates all kinds of extremely vague beauties in capitalist bourgeois democracy (New Leader, passim). John Dos Passes, the ‘irresponsible’ chronicler of the last war, flies to England, fittingly accompanied by Thornton Wilder, to help the bellicose PEN Club win this one. Max Eastman, the hero of the old Masses trial, the gay rebel, the original American Trotskyist, writes war propaganda and publishes an attack on socialism which Wendell Willkie implores every good American to read and which is the low-water mark to date in such affairs for vulgarity and just plain silliness (Readers Digest, June, 1941).”

In 1957, after flitting through the corridors of Luce journalism, liberalism, pro-Stalinism, Trotskyism, anarchism, pacifism and humanitarianism, Dwight Macdonald is calling for “the revival of a true, principled conservatism.” In his pretentiously titled book “flighty Dwightie” gives a lively review of these political transformations and gyrations. The bulk of the volume consists of essays on political topics and personages mostly written during his libertarian phase when he was conducting a one-man band in his magazine Politics.

Unfortunately he didn’t include his article on The Treason of the Intellectuals published in Partisan Review in 1939 which castigated the ex-radical writers who were shrilling the pipes for the Second World War. It was one of his truest and most memorable contributions to radical journalism.



Last updated on: 11.2.2006