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The New International, June 1941


The Editor’s Comments

Max Eastman’s New Faith


From New International, Vol. VII No. 5 (Whole No. 54), June 1941, p. 101.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A FEW YEARS AGO, the editors of The New International conducted a series of polemics with Max Eastman on problems of historical method, the relation of Marxism to science, the inevitability of socialism, etc. To a casual observer it would have seemed a rather abstruse dispute on issues without immediate relevance to the problems of the day. Reality has once again shown, however, that as Eastman moved away from his original Marxist sympathies in the intellectual field, there was a constant correlative withdrawal on his part from the working class camp in the field of immediate social action.

Today Max Eastman, the firebrand who defied American jingoism in the famous Masses trial of the last war, has joined the camp of the “boobwahsie.” Just as his denial of every tenet of scientific Marxism – from the theory of class struggle and historical materialism to the need of an assumption to power by the working class to prepare the way to socialism – has been complete, so has his conversion to the cause of the bourgeois democracy. For a final demonstration of where Eastman stands today, the reader is advised to see his letter to the New York Times of May 11 and his article in the June Readers Digest entitled Socialism Doesn’t Jibe with Human Nature.

In his three-column letter to the Times, Eastman calls for an open declaration of war by American imperialism. The war, he tells us, is a struggle between two ways of life, the democratic and the totalitarian. As proof, Eastman lists 21 characteristics of totalitarianism which destroy the values to which civilization is accustomed. It is of some interest to observe Eastman’s method. He singles out, for example, “nationalistic emotion,” “anti-intellectualism,” “political lying and governmental hypocrisy adopted as a system,” “parodies of representative government” as the most despicable characteristics of totalitarianism. No one can disagree with that. But one has the right to inquire: Do not all of these characteristics find their origin in the senile state of capitalism whose contradictions give rise to the movements of the ruling class to institute a fascist regime? Does not Eastman see a wave of “nationalistic emotion” being spread by the American warmongers today? Is not “political lying and government hypocrisy adopted as a system” characteristic of the capitalist government in Washington, as well as of the totalitarian regimes? Does not the continued existence of the British Empire have some relation to the “way of life” about which Eastman waxes so rhapsodic?

Eastman is greatly concerned, for example, with what has happened to religion and the church under fascism, but he says little or nothing about what has happened to the working class organizations, political and economic. This is in keeping with the new Eastman.

In short, why does not Eastman discuss what he knows very well – every one of these characteristics of fascism exists in more or less developed form in the democratic bourgeois state and they find their fullest development when this democratic bourgeois state is transformed into fascism. Eastman keeps quiet about these things because he knows better, because he has surrendered, body and soul, to capitalism and to all its attendant lying and hypocrisy.

Eastman, the “social scientist,” denounces revolutionary socialists because “they have lost faith in democracy.” Eastman, of course, knows that it is not democracy in which our faith is wanting. We have no faith in the rotten system of capitalism! Nay, more. We wish to change this system and to establish a truly democratic society; we seek to prepare the way for socialism. But the level to which this “social scientist” has stooped is further evidenced by the fact that he analyzes the present war as a conflict between “democracy and fascism.”

The final touch is added in his article Socialism Doesn’t Jibe with Human Nature. No extended comment is necessary. One need only to quote a few typical lines: “... an intellectual genius named Karl Marx undertook to prove that, although it (socialism) had failed dismally in Indiana, it was inevitably coming true ... Marx was personally more impractical, more like what you’d call a crank, than Owen. While telling a planet how its future business was to be run, he threw up his hands at the comparatively simple task of earning his own living. He had to be supported throughout his life like a baby, and as though to compensate he grew an enormous beard ...”

Thus, Eastman has spoken – like a Babbit. Marx was a failure, he couldn’t support himself. And so on, ad nauseam! He who denounces Marxism as a religion now calls for “faith” in democracy. And, indeed, having turned his back upon socialism, what else remains for him but to adopt a new faith in the rotten, exploitative society which breeds poverty, hunger, unemployment and misery for the many hundreds of millions of people of the world. Yes, Marx did not make money, he did not live the easy life of bourgeois intellectuals with a “good start.” But, on the other hand, Marx wrote a book called ... Capital.

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