Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Fred Jerome

A Review of the Left Student Press

First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 2, no date [1963]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

A new element has appeared during the first three years of this decade in the spectrum of socialist-radical activity in the United States: the independent student left magazine.

Studies on the Left, New University Thought, Sanity, Reflections from Chapel Hill, Root and Branch and at least half a dozen other smaller or larger, student or semi-student, left, liberal-left, radical-left, or something like that; quarterly, thirdly, or as often as possible; have all arisen and (in most cases) grown rapidly since the Fall of 1959. And more may be expected.[1]

Let me say at the outset that I do not intend – I do not presume to be able – to dissect all or any of the above mentioned publications, nor even to give a thorough evaluation of any of them. Each issue of each publication is so varied and so full of different, sometimes even contradictory, articles, that each publication itself (if not each issue of each publication) could be the subject of a lengthy evaluation. I hope simply to indicate some general reasons for the growth and variety of these publications, as well as to make some general comments on their contents, direction, and potential.

First, at the risk of offending almost nobody, let us say that the appearance and growth of these magazines – until now – are good things. Not good in the liberal’s absolute good that anything which increases discussion anywhere is good (although that criterion would apply here, too), but good in the revolutionary’s good that they have helped create and spread an intellectual ferment on the left which is necessary to the growth of a revolutionary party in this country.

To say that these magazines are good is not enough. It is less and less enough as the magazines become more and more. Can they all be good? Is every printed page with somewhat left-wing messages good? Is there a point of diminishing returns in this left press? Are some better than others? Although we can say that all the magazines until now have been good because they have helped create and spread an intellectual ferment necessary to a revolutionary movement, we have to look a little more closely at that ferment. A revolutionary movement does not grow from intellectual centers like branches from a trunk. The relationship might more accurately be described as one in which the revolutionary movement is a river with the intellectual contributions as important tributaries. When, as now, there are many such tributaries (and the river is still small), we naturally want to know which tributaries are clear and which are muddy, which have the strongest currents, which are flowing forward and which are drying up.

This article will not attempt to make any final judgments but will suggest some answers to the following questions:
1. Why did all these magazines spring up at this time? Why so many of them?
2. What are the similarities, the common attitudes, the general subjects which these publications share?
3. What are the differences among some of the more established of these publications?
4. Where (if anywhere) are they going or could they go?

Besides the fact that all these publications describe themselves as socialist, radical, or left to some degree, their most important common characteristic is their independence. This is not just a formal, organizational independence, but a conscious ideological attempt at a New Leftism.

The editors and writers of these magazines come, for the most part, from the “silent generation” of college students of the 1950’s. In reality, these students were far from silent. There were the two Youth Marches to Washington in which tens of thousands of students participated; the National Student SANE movement was organized on dozens of campuses and involved thousands of students in peace marches and militant pro-peace actions; left student political parties (like SRP at the University of Chicago) developed around the country; integration fights for equal housing took place at many campuses; a liberal-left caucus was formed in the NSA; a student exchange program with the socialist countries was developed as early as 1951, when the first United States’ student editors visited the Soviet Union; thousands of southern students, Negro and white, marched and protested for integration years before the sit-ins (remember Georgia Tech?); and, perhaps most significant, scores of battles for free speech and academic freedom were fought on campuses from Washington State (Reed) to Texas (University of Texas – suspension of student editor), from California (attack on YSA) to New York (membership lists and the speaker ban at the City Colleges). These free speech battles date back to the widespread Green Feather movement of the early fifties, one of the most effective anti-McCarthy drives organized in the midst of that hysterical time.

No, it was not a silent generation; but neither was it really coherent. Probably the single factor most impressed on the impressionable left-leaning undergraduate of the 1950’s was the weakness, the fragmentation, the instability, the unreliability, the factionalism, indeed, the (apparent) futility of the U.S. left. Organizations and “leaders” who had announced themselves as indispensable leaders of the “movement” suddenly disappeared. The opportunist actions or inactions of the Communist Party and the dissolution of the Labor Youth League (and almost of the CP, too) left thousands of students who had either belonged to, or expected some leadership from these groups, with something less than complete confidence in organizations. Add to this the general disarray of the left here following the 1956 Khrushchev speech, and it is not difficult to understand the skepticism towards any organization or movement or “old left” ways.

Being honest, these students could not or would not simply abandon the struggle. They took a look at the runaway leaders (the “vanguard of the vanguard”) and they figured, correctly, that they could provide just as much leadership as these onetime “leaders.” Only this time, no organizational strait jackets, no taking orders from anybody, no old dogmas, no old anything, in fact, nothing but the freest discussion and debate of new concepts, free as air, clean fighting, let the best brains win, and eventually some positive change would come from it:

Studies on the Left has been characterized as a theoretical organ for the New Left in this country. Yet we do not see a significant, or even an identifiable movement in the United States that could be characterized as the New Left. Thus, we can only be considered New Leftists in the sense that we are striving to free ourselves from the dogmas and myths which have paralyzed the old left, and to put behind us the history of fratricidal warfare on the left.[2]

They saw the total lack of any theoretical understanding by the old leaders, for all their ist and ism phraseology, and they decided that this time we will get the ideas down straight, the understanding first, and then once we are thoroughly grounded in this, we will think about organizing.

Not too surprising, then, that all these publications sprouted up from the same decade’s graduating classes. The undergraduates who were caught in the confusion of the 1950’s are now graduate students, willing to speak and write eloquently for themselves. And not surprising, either, that each little group in each part of the country (and sometimes even two groups in one place like Madison) began to put out its own separate and unaffiliated publication. Even if there were no significant differences among these groups, this likely would be the case. The mistrust, the skepticism, the fear of organization, bureaucracy, and dogmatism would not allow a merging even had there not been political differences, which there were.


With this background and non-organizational approach, what subjects did the new left press decide to deal with? Of course the magazines were and are open to articles on any and all subjects. They have contained literary and art criticism, some poetry, and articles ranging freely from the ethereal meaning of meaning to the role of the Kennedy administration in controlling Pakistan’s policies. Yet even a casual glance at the various numbers thus far published will show a concentration of articles on certain topics, a concentration which may give us a further insight into the role of these magazines.

If one were to make a list of topics in order of space devoted, enthusiasm of debate, and amount of energy put in, based on the material published to date, the list would probably read, in this order: Cuba and the revolution in Latin America; the “Negro question”; the peace movement; and the U.S. student in general. Significantly missing, for the most part, are articles dealing with the U.S. labor movement and the Soviet Union, two matters once at the center of socialist interest.

That Cuba should come first is not surprising, and actually confirms what we have already observed about the young men and women publishing the new press. For here is revolution, dramatic, courageous, and above all successful, within arms reach of the U.S. where the “revolutionaries” have been so confused and divided. Here is David standing up to Goliath, and David is a student, an intellectual – what could be more inspiring?

Besides everything else, the Cuban revolution has been “unorthodox.” It has not followed the “traditional” Marxist pattern wherein the Communist Party takes the initiative from the start and plays the “vanguard role” throughout the revolution. To students weary of the weary leaders, mechanical phrases, and presumptuous attitudes generally associated with the CPUSA, Cuba was living proof that revolution and socialism can come without the old ways or at least without some of them. If the new magazines have tended to play up those aspects of the Cuban revolution which fit into this newness and to play down or to ignore those more traditional Marxist-Leninist aspects of the Cuban proletarian-peasant dictatorship, it is hard to blame them. (Some, older and ought-to-be-wiser men like I. F. Stone and professor W. A. Williams, still insist that Castro is not really a communist – he only thinks he is.) That all the major new left student magazines have so far stood fast in their support of the Cuban revolution, in spite of the ideological sell-outs by the liberals, is to their credit.[3] We will take a closer look at some of the specific attitudes expressed on Cuba below.

The “Negro question,” like the Cuban revolution, has a certain obvious attraction to leftwing graduate students. Here, again, is bold, courageous activity to achieve equality; here, again, are eloquent spokesmen; here, again, is a leadership made up mostly of students. Here, again, the movement is non-orthodox and full of new tactics and approaches not necessarily recommended by the Communist Party. If the Negro movement is not yet revolutionary, it is packed with revolutionary potential, and certainly presents today’s most dramatic challenge to the U.S. status quo.

The Negro movement today poses certain serious ideological and tactical problems with ramifications for the entire left, which are still open for debate. The militant nationalism of the black Muslims, challenging the whole concept of integration into a racist society (challenging even the use of the word “Negro”), has presented a serious, although not necessarily valid, alternative to those dissatisfied with the turn-the-other-cheek, Forgive-them-Father attitudes of the King-CORE groupings. Within this debate, the Negro, advised and counseled and advised and counseled some more by white advisors and counselors, is emerging on his own, fighting, with his own organizations, his own rules of battle, and, yes, his own advisors and counselors, too, as freedom fighter exposing the sickness of white bourgeois society, embarrassing the President, and throwing a challenge to white radicals to do something too.

Little wonder, then, that the new student radicals should try to pick up this challenge. All have dealt extensively with the nationalist-integrationist debate, and most have indicated a leaning towards the nationalist and Robert Williams meet-violence-with-violence positions.

The peace movement and the student movement are natural topics for student publications, for the peace movement has always been and still is built largely around students of all political positions.


Any attempt to assign a particular political position to any one of the radical student magazines must proceed with caution. First, the oldest of these publications have published little more than eight or so numbers, each dealing with a wide variety of topics and viewpoints. Second, the student editors are young men and women of developing minds, thinking and writing at a time when some of the world’s most mature minds are undergoing changes of opinion. Third, it is difficult to place these magazines into a political position precisely because that is just what the young editors are trying to avoid. They will be called radicals, socialists, pro-peace, if you will, but beyond that, they would be searchers, and would probably reject all other labels.

Nonetheless, certain differences in their approaches are evident, even at this early stage, and since these differences may have an important effect on the magazines’ future – if there is to be one – they deserve some examination. For this purpose, we have decided to look at three of the magazines – Studies on the Left, New University Thought, and Sanity. These are the most established of the new group, have so far been publishing most regularly, and seem to have the best chance of continuing to publish regularly.

Among the others, Root and Branch and Reflections from Chapel Hill are easily the most attractive. The layout, artistry and humor in these two surpass anything in the others, but Root and Branch has so far published only two issues because of financial troubles: Reflections, too, has had great financial troubles causing a most irregular-publishing schedule and raising some serious doubt as to whether it can continue to appear as an independent publication or at all. Half a dozen other, smaller student publications (New South Revue, for instance) are joining in the discovery that it is easier to start a magazine than to continue one.

The three magazines we will refer to here, then, are not considered for style or layout. They have all sought scholastic sobriety with such success that at times, except for the covers, they appear downright dull. But they are not. Nor are they sloppy. All three publications contain a good number of articles, well-written, well-researched, often from primary sources, and well-documented.

What do they say? How does each of these three consciously, publicly, view its radical role? Then, how does each live up to, fall short of, or surpass its own projected purpose? In particular, how do they stand on exposing the role of the capitalist state here at home – the anti-labor, anti-Negro, oppressive brutality hiding behind the liberal capitalist state’s pose as a nonaligned force in the class struggle? This question has become critical since the Kennedy administration has refined hypocrisy almost to a science, even while raising reactionary policies to their most dangerous level. How do these publications stand, if at all, when it comes to exposing the role of the capitalist state on a world scale – the war danger, the intensified imperialist oppression, the “grand strategy” of world domination through military force which the Kennedy regime has put forward? Finally, and perhaps most important, how do these three alien themselves with the working class of the United States, and with the revolutionary potential of that class?

Describing their goals, the editors of Studies on the Left declare:

It was largely in response to a growing feeling of frustration, to a feeling of irrelevance as intellectuals who desired to help change society, that we conceived and organized Studies on the Left in 1959. The development of that body of analysis and social theory so necessary to the emergence of a new and meaningful radical movement in this country was and is one of our fundamental purposes.[4]

In a parallel statement for editors state:

We want to develop a coherent way of looking at society which can provide a rational basis for a political program for the 60’s and 70’s.

They speak of utilizing a radical mode of analysis. Then, in their next issue they propose their publication as a means— for intellectuals to translate their work and fields of interest into meaningful and relevant connection to the world at large and the great issues of the times.[5]

The difference between these two rather general statements may seem trivial, but in view of the comparative content of the subsequent issues, I think it is important. Studies speaks most definitely of “the emergence of a new and meaningful radical movement” as one of its goals. (It is the only publication of this type to date which makes that statement. To be true to that pledge, the editors should, and in the main do, present certain very sharp articles which may serve as the beginning of an informal discussion of program for such a movement. Without such a stated goal, other magazines (like NUT) are free to wander – and they do.

A word here about Sanity. This magazine is devoted exclusively to the issue of peace, and thereby eliminates itself from more general discussions on such topics as the road to Socialism, general economic development, etc. Its first issue statement of purpose broadly declares: “The most important issue is not political, economic, or ideological. The basic issue is the survival of society, itself.”[6] Despite this “limited” field, Sanity, through dealing with the question of peace, has had to face the role of the Kennedy administration, the whole basis of the cold war, and – particularly when discussing such specific points as Cuba and Viet Nam – has put forth radical analysis which contradict (perhaps explain would be more generous) the statement above that the issue “is not political, economic, or ideological.”

From the very first issue, Sanity’s Managing Editor, Richard Ward, links the achievement of disarmament to the end of the cold war:

Even within the disarmament movement there are very few voices raised for an end to the cold war itself. The unwillingness of the disarmament movement to face this issue squarely is the chief barrier to its success.

Persons who reject some of the methods of the government but support its cold war aims are upholding a position that is logically indefensible… The solution to this dilemma is really quite simple; disarmament and the ending of the cold war must go hand in hand. Of course, a rejection of the cold war involves a rejection of the view that the U.S.S.R. is trying to conquer the world...[7]

This courageous stand has been the basis of every issue of Sanity, and the magazine has not let the issue rest there; it has consistently attempted to place responsibility for the cold war where it belongs – with U.S. imperialism. Here, let us cite just a couple of invaluable Sanity articles along this line:

*“The Political Economy of Armaments” by Michael A. Lebowitz:

For those currently reaping the profits of defense contracts, peace and disarmament pose a genuine threat; it is unlikely that comparable profits will be available elsewhere. Can we expect these groups to use their power and influence to work for a government position which can lead to effective disarmament? More important, can peace and disarmament really be won as long as these groups retain their stake in the continuation of the war?[8]

*“Nuclear Testing and the ’Forward Strategy’” by Isidore Ziferstein, M.D.:

The evidence points ominously to the conclusion, that contrary to the wistful hope.. .the Kennedy administration has in fact been following step by step the strategy outlined. ..[9]

*“World Peace Congress: 1962” by Richard E. Ward:

... the American peace movement has not given much attention to the problem of eliminating the causes of the cold war. However, it is cold war with its latent and ever-present possibilities of actual conflict, that magnifies the dangers of nuclear weapons into incredible proportions.[10]

*“U.S. War In Viet Nam” by Arnold Lockshin:

It is difficult to find any plausible justification of the U. S. intervention in terms of traditional American concepts of freedom, government with consent of the governed, and self-determination.[11]

This article also includes a reprint of a valuable declaration of the South Viet Nam National Front for Liberation.

In line with all the above, perhaps the most significant statement from the editors of Sanity was their response to Kennedy’s act of war in the Cuban blockade and its aftermath. The editors are not taken in by the “peace” we have been told followed the U.S. aggression or by the already-withdrawn “no-invasion” pledge:

The danger of an invasion of Cuba has not disappeared. It remains the paramount threat to peace. The United States still maintains its invasion force in readiness. The United States has not altered its position of implacable hostility to Cuba. Already the seeds of a new invasion pretext are being formulated... The present task of the peace movement is to prevent an invasion.[12]

And on the facing page, a headline reads: PROTEST KENNEDY’S WAR-LIKE ACT!

Sanity is not an avowedly socialist publication. It is a peace magazine. Yet it is truly radical in the sense that it has gotten to the root of the issue of peace. It has surpassed its own rather platitudinous introduction, and leveled its accurate peace-guns at the root of war: World imperialism led by the Kennedy administration. Whether its editors have done this as conscious socialists or simply as honest young people seeking the true road to peace is not important. They have done it. To those who frown and groan and cry “Sectarian!” Sanity can answer: Truth!

Sanity, however, does not propose a solution to this situation other than urging the peace movement to face up to the above realities. For a more comprehensive solution – within the framework of a new radical organized movement – one must look to the other two magazines. Unfortunately, looking does not necessarily mean finding.

New University Thought, while wider in scope than Sanity, does not come close to the latter’s consistency in radical approach. The first thing which rubs wrong about NUT is a quote on the cover of every early issue from none other than Adlai Stevenson. This is placed together with a quote from C. Wright Mills, presumably as some sort of “Words to Live By” adopted by the editors. True, after the Bay of Pigs invasion and Stevenson’s total exposure there as a Kennedy stooge, the NUT editors tactfully replaced Adlai’s quote with one from Albert Einstein. Still, one would have thought the editors, who are by no means inexperienced students, could have understood Stevenson’s character earlier.

Or was it that they were simply trying to be “broad”? This conclusion is encouraged by an examination of NUT’s approach to key foreign policy problems such as Viet Nam and Cuba.

The first issue of NUT leads in a variety of directions: An anti-communist article by David Reisman; a pro-peace article by Linus Pauling; a good, careful analysis of “American Investment in Cuba” by editor, Don Villarejo; and a general piece on Latin America by editor, Otto Feinstein, who recommends all kinds of steps towards solution of the problems of that continent, excluding only one: Revolution.[13]

This last piece, it turns out, was most representative of what was to come in NUT. It is as if the editors were advising the U. S. capitalist state – particularly the State Department – on how best to deal with the revolutionary movements around the world. In a later piece on Cuba, for example, Albert Sciaky proposes Cuban neutrality “guaranteed by the UN, and even if necessary by the U.S...#8221;[14] With a little luck, the Kennedy klan could turn Cuba into another Congo!

Still later, dealing with Viet Nam, the editors carry this anything-but-radical outlook even further. After describing the horrible dictatorship of the Diem regime (which even Newsweek and the New York Times have detailed), the editors propose:

.. .there must be a conscious effort to support honest politicians in South Vietnam in bridge toward an eventual rapprochement out of the present bind without disaster, first and most essential task for the U, bypass Diem and aim for the creation which will begin to pay attention to the Vietnamese people.[15]

No question but that this is a “broad” position. Newsweek’s Francois Sully proposed exactly the same thing in meetings with State Department officials after he was expelled from South Viet Nam by Diem. But Newsweek is one thing, and a radical student magazine is – or should be – another. Just what do the editors of NUT mean by a “rapprochement which can get us out of the present bind without disaster”? Who is “us”? What is “our present bind”? (Not being able to win, while being exposed before the world in our support of a fascist dictatorship?) And what would constitute “disaster”? (Losing the war to the Viet Namese people?)

Most important, the NUT editors in no way challenge the right of the U.S. to intervene in another nation’s internal affairs. While Sanity says, “It is difficult to find any plausible justification of the U.S. intervention,” NUT does not even attempt to justify it. NUT accepts it as a reasonable thing without question. The NUT editors simply suggest a different kind of U.S. intervention! Can the editors really believe that U.S. imperialism would install a Viet Namese ruler who “will begin to pay attention to the problems of the Viet Namese people”?

The NUT editors conclude that reunification of Viet Nam is inevitable, and that in the end the U. S. “will have to swallow a government far to the left of the Laotian coalition.” But, with a hopeless tone, they add, “What else can be done?”

This backing into support for a revolution is broad, indeed! If the editors of NUT fail to recognize their error in not opposing the principle of U. S. intervention in Viet Nam (even opposing it from the liberal, rather than radical, point of view) NUT is finished as a radical publication. Without a serious change NUT might just as well join its lost leader, Stevenson.

In fact, the same Viet Nam article takes a further step in that direction. Ironically published only weeks before Kennedy’s Cuban war-acts, NUT, through its editors, declares: ”Since President Kennedy has presumably rejected the call of the extreme right for ’total victory,’ it must be assumed that reduction of Cold War tensions is an aim of his Administration’s policy.”[16] For that kind of ludicrous thinking, there are already enough NUTs in the publishing business.

Perhaps Kennedy’s war moves against Cuba, the increasing evidence of U.S. aggressive policies, and criticism from their readers will help steer the NUT editors towards real radicalism. Certainly, the magazine has had valuable contributions. It would not hurt the editors, in fact, to reread the article they published on “Pakistan: the Burden of U.S. Aid” by Hamza Alavi and Amir Khusro, in the same issue as the Viet Nam editorial. More of this, and less of “The Lesson of Guatemala” reform-type pieces calling for Alliance for Progress “reforms” to prevent revolutions.[17] And less, for that matter, of pieces by Charles Jones on Negro voting.[18] Surely, the editors could have found someone more worthy (and almost as “broad”) to write on that subject than a man who was a cooperative witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee.[19] Let us hope for depth to match the breadth.

About Studies on the Left we could write many a page –mostly of praise. We could quote extensively and say, “We agree,” but, the magazine speaks for itself. Studies has consistently attempted to live up to its declared goal of helping to develop “a new and meaningful radical movement.” Its editors and contributors have repeatedly opposed and exposed the war maneuvers of the Kennedy administration and its liberal supporters. As far back as their third issue – devoted almost entirely to the Cuban revolution – they declared, “Radicals must take the lead in exposing the sham battle between ’freedom’ and ’communism.’”[20]

Every issue of Studies has contained challenging articles and serious book reviews. Just to mention a few recent pieces: “Intellectuals and Social Change” by Robert Wolfe; “McCarthy and the Liberals” by John Steinke and James Weinstein; “An interview with Robert F. Williams” by John Schultz;[21] “The Anti-Imperialists and Twentieth Century American Foreign Policy” by John W. Rollins; and “An Interview with Carlos Fuentes” by Lee Baxandall.[22]

Of special importance is the discussion Studies has opened up on the “Negro question.” The editors point out that “in recent years, the struggle for ’integration’ has not been the only program of positive action instituted by Negroes. The rapid growth of Negro separatist and nationalist organizations, rejection of non-violence and passive resistance, and the espousal of socialism by militant Negroes all have appeared as definite and distinct reactions...”[23] With that, they present an article by Harold W. Cruse, “Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American” which has since become the center of a heated debate. Cruse presents an eloquent challenge to the integration movement, and more important, to the radical left to recognize “the inherent right accruing to individuals, groups, nations and national minorities, i.e., the right of political separation from another political entity when joint existence is incompatible, coercive, unequal, or otherwise injurious to the rights of one or both.”[24]

Neither in this first piece, nor in the next issue of Studies where the debate is continued, does Cruse offer any concrete answers to his challenges.[25] But the questions must come before the answers, and Cruse has certainly raised at least some of the questions. New University Thought and, to a lesser extent, Root and Branch, have joined in this debate with serious pieces,[26] but Cruse’s articles remain the most impressive.

For the rest, Studies on the Left is its own best report. It is essential reading for serious students of society. Hopefully, it will succeed in helping to build a new radical movement in this country.

There remain, however, two general omissions from the contents of these magazines – including Studies – which need some discussion.


The absence of articles on the Soviet Union (except for Sanity’s Peace Congress report) in these magazines cannot be considered a serious omission. We have already explained why Cuba is such an attractive socialist example to these student editors. Furthermore, angels have fallen where once we worshipped, and while socialism remains and understanding has replaced faith, there is a natural avoidance of the old “Look-at-Russia!” attitude. Add to this the complexities of the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute, and we may even conclude that it is a wise thing they do, when these editors stick to more local topics.

The omission of any serious discussion of the American working class, however, cannot be dismissed so lightly. In the first place, as radical students the editors of these publications fully realize (or they should) the quite conscious effort on the part of the University administrations, often aided by the NSA, to keep students isolated from the “outside world.” “Students in their role as students!” Campuses are often walled-in places where men and women look continuously into books to find out what’s outside the walls. And this often right in the heart of a big city slum area (Columbia University, for example). Of course, the books must be looked into, but true students would spend some time going beyond the walls as well. For radicals, breaking through this isolation is a crucial task. Crucial, that is, unless one believes that revolutions can come without the workers, that somehow radical students and their friends can win over enough bourgeois intellectual forces so that by the sheer weight of their wordiness they can conjure up some socialism. Yet, this is precisely where radical students are led when they ignore the working people of their own country. Whether they want to think this way or not, these students are soon saying things like, “The workers can’t understand this,” or “The working class is too conservative”(!) “The working class has sold out to the capitalists” (then, surely, we are fighting against insurmountable odds) or “It will be ten years before the workers will be hungry enough to listen to me, so why should I bother with them now?”

Thereby, the best-intentioned radical student can go on talking to himself for years, completely oblivious to such present struggles as the recent longshore strike, the unprecedented printers strike, and the strike of miners in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Kennedy’s foreign policy, which some of these publications see so clearly for the war-hawking it is, is only one side of his reactionary coin. The other side is his anti-labor, ban-the-strike drive. Unless one sees this, the reactionary foreign policy must appear to be something irrational. Clearly, the base of imperialist oppression abroad is a reactionary regime at home.

New University Thought did have one piece by Richard Ward on automation and some valuable material by Don Villarejo on stock ownership and corporation control, which did not, however, deal directly with the working class. Ward astutely points out that “A reason most of the unions have not acted with sufficient resolution (on automation) is that until recently unemployment had its greatest effects upon Negroes, Puerto Ricans, unskilled workers, and others whose interests are not effectively represented by the trade unions.” Ward then criticizes the “almost automatic support of the Democratic Party by unions,” calls for a reduced work week to provide 2 million new jobs, full unemployment coverage at higher rates, a retraining program, and finally he questions the whole nature of the U.S. economy.[27] An important piece – but it was never followed up.

True, too, that Studies on the Left had an article on “The Teamsters and Hoffa” by Kermit Eby. Eby praised Hoffa’s leadership, explaining ”(he) has made the old organizing struggles and spirit come alive once again....”[28] It is a worthwhile piece, but again, one not followed up.

In both the above cases, the articles on labor were written not by the editors but by non-regular contributors. The editors, in general, have been silent on the problems and activities of the American working class.

In a recent editorial, Studies on the Left showed some signs of the misdirection which may stem from an inadequate concern with and knowledge of the real conditions of American workers. The editorial states at one point, “Since 1946 the maintenance of the domestic consensus has depended upon a program of gains for all major classes or interest groups, in the context of more or less continuous economic expansion.” This is written in 1962 in the Midwest of the United States, not far from Detroit or Chicago, less far still from Milwaukee, close enough to enough unemployed workers and mortgaged farmers to know just from conversation (if the students would take the time for it) if the statistics of our economic crisis are not available to these editors, close enough to know better. Certainly, for the past six years at least one cannot speak of “gains for all major classes.”

The same editorial speaks of the administration’s “alliance with labor.” Here there seems to be some confusion between an alliance with all of labor and an alliance with the trade union bureaucracy, which is quite another thing. The editors write:

With automation and economic stagnation adding to an already embarrassing number of unemployed, enforcement of the guidepost formula can hardly strengthen the alliance with labor.

Evidently, the editors do see some “less” in the “more or less continuous economic expansion.” But what is the “alliance with labor”? Can this be the alliance that caused the militant steel strikes, the wildcat longshore strike, the mine shut-downs around the nation, the airline strikes, the Teamsters strikes, the transport workers strikes, the Auto wildcats, the railroad strikes, the telephone workers strikes, the textile strikes, and the growing number of strikes by government employees, to mention just a few strikes which have taken place in the past 12 years?

To be fair, the editors go on to say:

Such widely felt needs as the substantial shortening of the work week clearly cannot be met within the framework of the three percent wage gain formula proposed by the administration. Of course, this does not constitute an abandonment of the labor bureaucracy by the administration, but it does presage an increased alienation of union leadership from the rank and file, as the growing rate of contract rejections suggests.[29]

In the most constructive sense, we would suggest more articles about and by workers in all these magazines. The radical movement cannot grow without them and neither can these magazines.

They are – all – a hopeful beginning. With apologies for the sketchy nature of this essay, we wish them continuing growth in both outlook and income, and hope they will join in the development of a class-conscious, revolutionary approach “that makes sense as an alternative to those whose interests, morality, or sensibilities are done violence by the liberal cold-war state.”[30]


(For brevity, Studies on the Left is referred to as Studies and New University Thought as NUT).

[1] Spectrum Left, a publication of the University of Michigan Socialist Club, was due to publish its first issue on February 15.

[2] Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 5.

[3] See especially Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3.

[4] Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 4.

[5] NUT, “Statement of Purpose,” Vol. 1. Second quote: Vol. 1, No. 2.

[6] Sanity, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 2.

[7] Ibid., p. 10.

[8] Ibid., p. 8.

[9] Sanity, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 5.

[10] Ibid., p. 12.

[10] Ibid., p. 17.

[10] Ibid., p. 3.

[10] NUT, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring, 1960.

[10] NUT, Vol. 1, No. 4.

[10] NUT, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 13.

[10] Ibid, pp. 8-9.

[10] Ibid., article on Pakistan starts page 14; for reference to preventing revolution through reforms, see page 57.

[10] NUT, Vol. 1, No. 3.

[10] Jones testified before HUAC in February, 1960, naming names of people who had, according to him, attended the Vienna World Youth Festival. The subject of the committee’s investigation: Communist Youth Activities.

[20] Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 3.

[21] Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 63 and p. 51.

[22] Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 9 and p. 48.

[23] Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 5.

[24] Ibid., p. 24.

[25] Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 57-71.

[26] NUT, Vol. 2, No. 1, “The Road to Wig-out Pier” by Frank Kofsky – lively, well written – rips to shreds the prevailing middle-class, white, liberal student attitudes. No solutions offered, but a very good piece – hard to swallow for white liberals. Also see a rather weak reply in NUT, Vol. 2, No. 2. Also see Root and Branch, Winter, 1962.

“The Black Negro,” by Donald Warden – a rather confuse, undocumented, psychotherapeutic statement of black bourgeois nationalism (“self-hatred, fatalism... and lethargy... constitute the ’real Negro problem.’” and, “The real economic plight of the Negro is that he belongs to a working class and has little drive to improve his lot. ”), not without some fresh ideas worth reading.

[27] NUT, Vol. 2, No. 2.

[28] Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3.

[29] Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 6-7.

[30] Ibid., p. 8.