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International Socialist Review, Spring 1958


A Testimonial


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.2, Spring 1958, p.34.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Sometimes a denunciation serves as the best testimonial. We think that this can truthfully be said of an article by Eric Haas in the January 11 Weekly People attacking the “Trotskyites” in general and the Socialist Workers party in particular.

The Weekly People is the newspaper of the Socialist Labor party. It performs a useful service in republishing the writings of the great American socialist leader, Daniel De-Leon, and it often draws correct general socialist conclusions about today’s happenings. However, the SLP is well-known for its sectarianism, and that is where the testimonial comes in; for the Socialist Workers party has long been represented by the Stalinists as suffering from this disease.

According to Haas, what is really wrong with the “Trotskyites” is that they “play the opportunist game” and string “the workers along with radical-sounding reform demands.”

“Take, for example, the SWP national platform of 1956,” Haas says. “Although the SWP poses as ‘revolutionary,’ and even expressly denounces ‘reformism,’ this platform is filled with reform demands, cynically and opportunistically conceived. Many are the kind of reform bait ‘radical’ reformers have been using for generations in an effort to entice the support of the discontented. They include such demands as ‘adequate old-age pensions’ (page Dr. Townsend!), ‘free medical care and hospitalization,’ price supports for ‘small farmers only,’ ‘low-rent housing,’ etc.”

Another of the reforms “cynically and opportunistically” demanded by the SWP is “An escalator clause on all wages, unemployment compensation, pensions and other benefits, with taxes to be included in computing living costs ...”

An even more shocking example of the cynical opportunism of the SWP is the demand to “tax the rich and not the poor.” Haas asks, “What petty bourgeois reform outfit hasn’t used this one?”

The most crushing proof of the reformism of the “Trotskyites” is, of course, the fact that they “play along with the pro-capitalist unions” and that they call for “an independent Labor party based on the trade unions.”

Youthfulness is to be noted among the Trotskyites, Haas confesses. But a De Leonist, schooled in resisting the lures and temptations of “reformism,” can easily account for this. The SWP “offers a speciously ‘romantic’ attraction for youngsters who have become disillusioned with capitalism.”

We thought that Haas’s views, as an expression of expert opinion, were in refreshing contrast to the run-of-the-mill criticisms one hears around Stalinist-influenced circles about the “sectarianism” of the Socialist Workers party.

* * *

We should like to recommend the debate on psychoanalysis which apeared in the December issue of the Monthly Review (66 Barrow St., New York 14). D. Fedotov, Director of the Institute of Psychiatry of the Ministry of Health of the USSR, presents the official Stalinist position on Sigmund Freud’s contributions. The reply is by Norman Reider, Chief of Psychiatry, Mount Zion Hospital, San Francisco. Reider, in our opinion, scores an easy win.

Psychoanalytic theory is not new to the American socialist movement. In the pre-World War I period, such magazines as The Masses presented Freud’s views in popular form, underlined the importance of his discoveries and defended his materialistic outlook against the prevailing ignorance and prejudice.

Later, as Dr. Reider points out, socialist theoreticians were attracted to psychoanalysis “as dialectical materialism in psychology.”

This attitude changed under the dictator who was finally described by Khrushchev as suffering from “paranoia.” Stalinist-influenced psychologists attacked Freud with singular animosity, comparing in this respect only with some of the spokesmen of Catholicism.

Reider does not go into the reasons for the Stalinist condemnation of psychoanalysis; but Freud himself was undoubtedly in large part responsible. He did not care for the politics of sugar-coating the Stalinist regime. In fact, in the thirties he spoke the truth, from his viewpoint, about what was happening in the Soviet Union – the conversion of Marxism into a religion.

In the March issue of the Monthly Review Lawrence S. Kubie, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale Medical School, continues the discussion.

“Official Soviet psychiatry claims to derive its attitudes and its methods from the work of Pavlov,” he says. “It assumes further that there is an irreconcilable antagonism between Pavlov and the work of Freud. As our Soviet colleagues develop their position, however, they betray surprisingly elementary misconceptions not only about psychoanalysis but even about Pavlov and his works as well. Furthermore they never refer to the many studies which have been made of the remarkable agreements between Pavlov and Freud over basic issues.”

Dr. Kubie concludes that “there is no self-righteous chauvinism in pointing out that the Soviet view of psychoanalysis has been warped by irrelevant and inaccurate ideological considerations.”

We congratulate the editors of the Monthly Review on making available to American readers the views of Dr. Fedotov and the instructive replies by Dr. Reider and Dr. Kubie.

* * *

We are happy to report a steady increase in circulation for the past few issues. This has been most observable on newsstands.

Los Angeles shows the biggest jump in this respect. Credit is largely due Joe Kent, an ardent partisan of the ISR. He keeps an eye out for newsstands that should have the magazine on display. He thinks that the key to success is mainly just to be businesslike, especially in making prompt delivery when the new issue comes out and in following up from time to time to see if more copies are needed. The magazine sells itself, he says, as long as it is in the right area.

Joe admits that at first he felt somewhat hesitant about scouting for new places to put the ISR, especially after he was turned down by a dealer who carries other radical literature. But then the next dealer looked at the cover and the table of contents and decided that his stand could handle about 40 copies. That made Joe feel more confident about the possibilities.

His opinion now is that many dealers are aware of what is going on in the socialist movement and have their sympathies and antipathies even though they might consider themselves to be anything but socialist. One dealer, for example, was hesitant about taking the ISR until he knew “what variety” of socialism it represented. When he found out, his response was, “Well, Trotsky was proved right.” And now he gives a good display to the ISR.

* * *

We wish to close on a note of regret – over the manuscripts which have been squeezed out for lack of space. These include a study of long-range inflation, gleanings from the press in China, some new material on philosophy by William F. Warde, and two articles by Leon Trotsky translated into English for the first time. As our New York correspondent observed,

“The market for socialist literature is there, and we have the product. All we need is the funds to package it.”

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Last updated on: 29 April 2009