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International Socialist Review, Summer 1962


Maria di Savio

Periodicals in Review


From International Socialist Review, Vol.23 No.3, Summer 1962, pp.93-94.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Root and Branch

The purpose of this periodical, stated in an initiatory editorial under the heading Why Another Magazine? is one of youthful rebellion against the present-day “American Left.” Today’s Left, charge the editors, is old-fashioned; it acts “as if the world has not changed since the 1930s – the same categories are used in analysis, the scope of problems defined as important has not changed, and the same labels are mechanically applied to political opponents.” The old-timers find “it is too easy to dismiss an argument by calling it ‘Stalinist’ or ‘Revisionist.’” These young intellectuals “want to re-open the dialogue,” on the basis of the 1960s, not the 1930s.

Two of the more outstanding articles, dealing with Cuba, are by Maurice Zeitlin. The first, A Cuban Journal, is a combination of intelligent observations and solid analysis. Zeitlin offers “critical support” to Cuba; that is, he wholly supports the Revolution and the Castro leadership, but attempts to deal fairly with what he feels needs improvement in Cuba: workers’ democracy and the “paradox of Soviet friendship.” The second article, An Interview with ‘Che’, asks some forthright questions, and gets some forthright answers from the revolutionary leader. (See The Militant, issue of April 9, 1962.)

Another excellent article is The American Economy, by Cyril Wolfe Gonick. He presents a Marxist analysis of the “Keynesian Revolution” in much the same scholarly (but far more readable) way as Paul Baran. While this article is praiseworthy, it is interesting to note that it is not the dramatic new version of political theory advocated in the editorial statement. (Because, unfortunately, the world is basically the same as in the thirties, and Keynesian economics is merely a new twist to an old boost to capitalism.)

A disturbing article is The Black Negro, by Donald Warden. This essay damns one and all, some deservedly, some not, but offers no answer. There are numerous quotations, “proving” that white leaders (including Marx) were – and are – anti-Negro, but there are no sources given for these plentiful quotes – a peculiar lack in a scholarly essay in a theoretical journal! What is important in this article, however, is the tone that correctly mirrors the attitude, whether justified or not, of many of the more militant Negroes today.

Other items include two dull articles on Ghana and Canada; many cartoons, most of which are well-done, biting satire, but others are poorly executed. There are also some poems, most interesting, but one extraordinarily bad by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (labelled “his first poem” with a facetiousness that backfires – it indeed reads like a first poem). Also included are excellent photographs and some thought-provoking reviews. An article that could have been eliminated is a muddled bit of prosiness called The Question About Meaning, which reminds one of Swinburne’s poem The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell, which ends

“God, whom we see not, is; and God, who is not, we see;
Fiddle, we know, is diddle; and diddle, we take it, is dee.”

While there is more than just a grain of truth in their castigations of the American Left, it is an unfortunate fact that the periodical does not do any better than the old folks; it offers no new solutions, or even new aspects of old problems. On the whole, it is an uneven production, offering some excellent (but hardly new) analyses and reporting, and some examples of old-fashioned muddled thinking. Finally, like the Left that it criticizes, this group of intellectuals is isolated, bringing with it isolation a lack of faith in the proletariat.

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Last updated on 21 May 2009