Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

A Critic of NM

First Published: The New Masses, Vol. 56, No. 4, July 24, 1945.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Your editorial of June 26 was profoundly discouraging. Instead of the title, “NM Evaluates Its Course” it would have been far more accurate to caption it “Once Again NM Underestimates Its Errors.” The editorial contains no genuine criticism of the magazine. It merely summarizes (second hand) the criticisms of Foster and Duclos of the revisionism which took place in the Communist Political Association. This goes on for column after column: a fluent well written summary, to be sure, but one to which NM seems to attach itself somewhat casually. When the article finally reached its last paragraph, the editors took stock of themselves; briefly, most generously, and with a smugness that was mighty hard to take.

In previous months, there have appeared in the Readers’ Forum many sharp criticisms of the magazine by Pollack, DeGraaf, L.L. and others. To interpret these objections to the editorial policy merely as “a lack of full clarity and vigor” is incomprehensible. Either you refuse to take such criticism seriously, in which case you have learned nothing in this period, or you disagree with it, in which case you should attempt to defend yourselves. But to pass it off as you do is deliberate misinterpretation, and, in my opinion, intolerable.

Such an attitude is bound to lead to the next neat bit of phrase coining. Having done your “duty” by outlining the errors, you go on: “the period following the end of the European phase of the war is the one in which the non-Marxian conceptions adopted by us would have proved most damaging.” With that cheery conclusion, which showed that it wasn’t really so bad, you continued your spectacle of intellectual acrobatics, somersaulting happily to the position “our work was a formidable plus” and with a final coy wave of the handkerchief, flipped yourselves right on the “high road again.”

You may be on the high road again, but from where we stand, you’ve landed, not on your feet, but flat on your backs. The “high road” which you cherish is a sorry illusion, a dream cloud. If you’re there, you’re there alone. The rest of us are down below, in the mass of the debris, examining the extensive damage, preparing to work our arms off to the elbows, hoping to clear the wreckage, which might take years, to get back on that high road. We stand in awe before those who can do it in one easy editorial. This much I know: if you stay up there while we’re working below, the twain will never meet again.

Evidently you’re so high on the road you can still make such glaring errors as the one which appears in the same issue of the magazine on the page directly opposite your editorial.

You give almost three columns to a gentleman named F.J. Meyers (which is proper enough) to explain why he considers Browder’s position correct. He wrote the letters, but you wrote the caption. Now this letter could have had any number of captions. It could have been headed, “Upholds Browder Position,” “Disagrees with Foster,” etc., etc. But, no. On the page opposite your editorial which deals with your new found conclusions that Browder was in error, you title an article upholding Browder, “The Marxist Road Today.” At least if you had put a question mark after it, to prove you meant what you said in your editorial.

Further: is there such paucity of material today, or was it impossible for you to find anything more to say about the errors of the magazine during the last period that forced you to devote space for a lengthy article, plus an editorial, plus a special boxed editorial, on the momentous discovery that Hearst is a pro-fascist? That Hearst has discovered the “big” lie? This is not news, just because it hits an editor of NM. It could have been, and should have been disposed of in a box, announcing that Ruth McKenney has joined the long list of people who are suing Hearst for libel. But to blow it up as a sensational “discovery”! May I suggest that editors sit down around a table and start a serious discussion and not feel they have completed their work with one happy little editorial?

If NM is going to meet the great responsibilities which lie ahead, it must change its policy. It can no longer be a house organ, nor a pipeline for the policies of others, automatically and unthinkingly accepted, rewritten slightly and passed on. Once again NM must become a hard hitting, critical Journal. Use your abilities, not to prove that others are correct, but to determine whether or not they are correct. Let’s have fewer eulogies of historical figures and more searching examination of current history, less slick phrasemaking and more hard hitting facts, less “write-a-letter-to-your-Congressman” and more “throw-the-rascal-out.”

Get out of that misty, rosy-hued cloud and come down here amidst the wreckage and meet your readers.