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International Socialist Review, Summer 1958


F.J. Wells

Dubinsky as Hero


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.3, Summer 1958, pp.108-109.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The World of David Dubinsky
by Max D. Danish
The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York. 1957. 341 pp. $4.75.

Birth and childhood in the Polish ghetto. Involvement in the Jewish Socialist Bund’s attempt to organize the bakery workers. Arrest, exile to Siberia, escape. Next an emigrant landing in America. That’s the early background of David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. It is similar in most respects to the background of thousands of young East European radicals who found themselves working in the then expanding garment industry of New York during the first decades of this century.

Dubinsky, young, aggressive and militant, found himself in the socialist movement, taking an active part in political work among the Jewish workers on the lower East Side. He became a garment cutter and gradually began to assume a prominent place in the struggle to build a stable union for the garment workers.

In a period when unions are growing at an accelerated speed, young activists rapidly move into positions of leadership. Dubinsky was no exception to the rule. A member of Local 10 executive board in 1918, he became vice-president of the local in 1920, president in 1921 and one year later general manager of the cutter’s union.

In 1932 Dubinsky, then 40 years old, became president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

By 1933 his gradual metamorphosis from a socialist fighter to a conservative labor bureaucrat was complete. His resignation from the Socialist party at this point removed him from any pressure to conduct himself as a principled socialist and marked his rejection of a socialist solution for society. A “labor statesman,” collaborating with the capitalist ruling class, can hardly retain ideological ties with radicalism.

Max Danish, the biographer, for 33 years the editor of the ILGWU organ, Justice, presents this book not as a history of the garment workers’ union, but rather as the Horatio Alger success story of a poor immigrant who rises, in spite of adversity, to become a benign, kindly individual, dispensing justice and the distilled wisdom of experience to his fellow man.

Books of this sort have a special purpose. Showing the transition of the labor leader from radical to reformist, they convey the idea that the best working-class leader is the labor faker and that class collaboration rather than class struggle is the road to the workers’ emancipation.

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