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International Socialist Review, Fall 1957


After Investigating


From International Socialist Review, Vol.18 No.4, Fall 1957, pp.106, 135.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Among the items that have reached our desk since last issue, we would like to single out a circular signed by George Larrabee, Organizational Chairman of the National Committee for a United Socialist Alliance, which is headed by the Rev. Hugh Weston of Boston.

Larrabee, who is deeply interested in the regroupment of socialist forces in America, says that as a young worker of twenty-three, he became engaged in the unity movement among radical youth rather than in the adult movement after recently leaving Boston and coming to New York.

He reports encouraging developments in America’s largest city. The Left Wing Caucus of the Young Socialist League, together with youth around the Socialist Workers party and sympathizers of The American Socialist have organized the Young Socialist Forum. Its first public discussions “have been highly successful, attracting youth of myriad tendencies, LYLers [Labor Youth League] and even some just becoming interested in the issue of socialism.”

He urges “unstinting support” for the Young Socialist Forum and asks those who are interested to write Tim Wohlforth, 305 E. 21st St., New York City.

“On the adult plane of the Left regroupment question,” Larrabee continues, “since I have been in New York I have been more and more drawn towards the idea of building unity around some one of the existing parties, one with a clear and honest program, with a serious and determined policy, rather than a mere plea for unity in the abstract, on a vague and programless call for unity. We have just about passed the stage where we have to call for a discussion of unity ... those who have made up their minds for or against it by and large are not going to change. So now the questions of who we can actually unite with, rather than who we WANT to unite with, have come to the fore, and on what basis, on what principles.”

In Larrabee’s opinion a radical party is needed, “made up of several similar groupings, in the democratic American tradition, but completely united on the important questions that really count.”

The tradition Larrabee would like to see embodied in the new party begins with Thomas Paine, Sam Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln, includes Marx, Engels and Lenin, and ends with Debs, Luxemburg and Trotsky.

“For guidance in 1957 we should look to the modern adherents of Lenin and Trotsky and investigate the ideas of such anti-Stalinist (anti-bureaucratic degeneration) Communists and Left Socialists as George Lukacs (Hungary, now in exile within the Soviet orbit) and Wolfgang Harich (Communist professor imprisoned by the East German regime) and Milovan Djilas of Yugoslavia, whose new book The New Class is being falsely hailed as a work against Communism.” Larrabee declares that he “might not agree on everything with them” and that “all such theorists and leaders who have recently broken with Stalinism (or Rightist Socialism, for that matter) should be measured against those ORIGINAL Bolsheviks who stood up against Stalin while at the same time refusing to capitulate to the Right, the Trotskyites.”

To Larrabee, Peter Fryer, “who broke with Stalinism in the midst of the Hungarian revolt as a Daily Worker reporter in that country ... symbolizes the world-wide coming together of principled Left Socialists with Communists and Soviet sympathizers breaking with Stalinism, taking up the banner so long upheld by a comparative handful of isolated and vilified Trotskyists.”

After investigating. Larrabee says that he changed his mind about the Socialist Workers party, which represents the Trotskyist viewpoint in America.

“I previously regarded the SWP as a hidebound, dogmatic, moss-grown and sterile little sect, but I have changed my views on it, and can see that between the pro-Democratic Party Stalinist-dominated sect called the Communist Party and the respectability-seeking reformists called the ISL and SP-SDF, it is the only clear-cut and substantial party worth rallying to.”

Larrabee urges

“all socialists who are honest with themselves to seriously take up and study the literature of the Trotskyist movement if they would like to make genuine contributions to the unity process and the creating of an eventual mass party of Socialism. I do not say this as a Trotskyite myself, for ... I have not had the opportunity to study the vast works of Trotsky as I would like to.

“I have merely been able to read a little and talk with members of the Socialist Workers party enough to become certain that here we have the opportunity to find the answers to many burning questions and that here we have serious-minded and dedicated people to work with toward common goals. SWP members are sincere and devoted people with firm ideas, not being marked by cynicism and ‘sophistication’ that we find in other socialist circles, not concerning themselves with clever schemes for ‘advancing’ Socialism via Norman Thomas and the Democratic party, quiet Fabian societies or other allegedly ‘realistic’ methods.”

“For further clarification on these questions, I suggest that you read How to Build an Anti-Monopoly Coalition in the summer issue of the International Socialist Review ... The article begins ... with William F. Warde’s The Rise and Fall of Progressivism but I found the second part ... by Joseph Hansen, What the Job Takes, the most enlightening. Both Warde and Hansen are expert Marxists, and people who have been reading only The Worker, the National Guardian, or the Monthly Review are depriving themselves of some really penetrating thought if they have not been reading the International Socialist Review. A debate between Harvey O’Connor and the editors in the spring ISR is another article that I suggest reading.”

While he holds that the SWP is still too “narrow and purist” and not the “broad Lenin-Debs party that I want to see,” Larrabee believes that “it is flexible and democratic enough to eventually become a party” attractive to varied types.

We are willing to admit that we found Larrabee’s report pleasing as well as instructive. We especially liked his enthusiasm over what the Trotskyist movement has to offer. We hope the account of his experience will help convince others of the need to investigate this much misrepresented movement as he did.

* * *

Our Toronto correspondent writes us that the Labour Progressive (Stalinist) party is in a “very bad way.” The Salsberg opposition to the old Stalinist leadership failed to develop a genuine socialist program and carried on in an unprincipled way. Tim Buck, the William Z. Foster of Canada, was able “to effectively label their hesitant probings and expressions of doubt as revisionist, anti-Leninist and anti-Bolshevik and swung the old loyal patty elements away from Salsberg.”

But the “Anglo-Canadian and the Jewish section of the party is virtually gone and Buck is down to the old hard core of the Ukrainian-Finnish cadre.” These appear “tired, worn out and demoralized.” The financial drive in Toronto for the press reached only a third of its goal; circulation is at an all-time low; the Tribune admits that it is “struggling for its life.”

Unlike the Communist party in the United States, the Labour Progressive party managed to weather the Kremlin’s suppression of the Hungarian workers without a great public crisis. This appears to have been due in part to the Canadian government’s policy of admitting large numbers of refugees.

“There is a widespread tendency amongst leftists to be against anything that the class enemy promotes; the Liberal government is reactionary; it wouldn’t be bringing in radicals; these Hungarians must all be a bunch of fascists – so the argument goes.”

Poland’s resistance to the Kremlin’s domination had a much bigger impact. In fact the “first reaction of the LPP executive during Poland’s October was to express sympathy with Poland and opposition to the Kremlin’s threats.” Buck succeded in having this reversed, but it became one of the big issues in the internal dispute.

Now has come the downfall of Malenkov, Molotov and the others. It is the opinion of our Toronto correspondent that “the end of the myth of collectivity of leadership and rule by law will have a big impact” on what remains of the LLP.

* * *

Our Vancouver correspondent reports that the general decline of the Labour Progressive party in Canada has been highlighted in British Columbia where the party publishes a paper for the province. The editorial policy, particularly after Buck cleaned out all opposition at the convention, has been to “support the Kremlin with energy.” But the staff has been reduced from eight to two. “Their latest financial drive, they admit, was a hopeless failure after going on for six weeks after the deadline.”

* * *

Art Preis, the veteran labor editor of The Militant, praised our new typography as “much superior” to the old.

“In the contents, I read everything in two evenings with real enjoyment. My impression is that the standard of writing and editing made reading smoother and easier. I especially appreciated Swabeck’s article on Beck, and Warde’s article on the rise and fall of progressivism and found Petrov’s revelations on Trotsky’s murder fascinating.

“Cannon’s review of The Roots of American Communism is extremely stimulating, and I, for one, am going to read Draper’s book as soon as I can lay my hands on it. Hansen’s article was of interest to me mainly as a demonstration of the way in which the ‘Anti-Monopoly Coalition’ concept can best be presented from a class-struggle point cf view rather than the Stalinist Popular Front version.

“And I’d like to say again that Evelyn Reed’s article Anthropology Today in the spring issue of the ISR is a major contribution and one of the finest articles ever to appear in our magazine.”

* * *

We will close by thanking our correspondents from New York, Chicago, San Francisco and points in between for their congratulations on the last issue of the ISR and their many excellent suggestions for further improvements. This month we feel the lack of space keenly, for many of the points raised by our correspondents have a general interest and we would like to have printed every letter.

The moral is short: we need funds to expand. So do what you can to increase our circle of readers as a necessary preliminary to increasing the size and frequency of publication of the International Socialist Review.

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Last updated on: 23 April 2009