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Irving Howe

Labor Action Replies to Christian Science Monitor

(April 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 14, 5 April 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following letter has been sent to the editor of the Christian Science Monitor:


Dear Editor:

May I, as managing editor of Labor Action, one of the periodicals attacked in E.H. Markham’s article in your issue of March 26, 1942, say a few words in reply?

I do not wish to comment on Mr. Markham’s general thesis other than to say that it is a dangerous denial of the basic liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights – There is nothing incongruous about radicals fighting to preserve civil rights, such as freedom of speech, while simultaneously attacking the capitalist economic system; on the contrary, we believe that the capitalist system is a hindrance to and eventual destroyer of democratic liberties and that it is only in the struggle for socialism that such liberties may be fully realized.

I am here, however, concerned with matters of far graver importance. It seems to me both slanderous and an instance of questionable journalistic ethics (especially for so generally careful a newspaper as the Christian Science Monitor) to assert that Labor Action takes a “neutral attitude” toward fascism, Hitlerism or Japanese imperialism.

Labor Action and its supporters were struggling against fascism when many others advised an ostrich policy. We were in the lead in the famous anti-Nazi demonstration at Madison Square Garden in February 1938. We were fighting against fascism when Winston Churchill was saying: “I have always said that if Britain were defeated in war, I hoped that we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful place among nations.” (Speech of November 6, 1938) We were fighting against fascism when the American press was filled with praise for Mussolini because “the trains were running on time.” And we were opposed to Japanese imperialism when American business interests were shipping scrap iron to Japan (now landing in American bodies) and when that policy was well-nigh universally approved.

We have, it is true, a different analysis of the cause of fascism and a different proposal as to how to destroy it than does Mr. Markham but that hardly warrants his saying that we are “neutral.”

Nor is it true to say that Labor Action “ is devoted to denouncing everything everywhere and always.” There are plenty of things we are FOR; your reporter could have discovered them very easily had he approached his assignment with a modicum of fairness.

He would have discovered that we have a positive program in defense of labor’s rights, a positive program on how to destroy fascism, a positive program on taxation, a positive program in respect to racial discrimination But to show that he would have had to do more than quote one sentence out of context.

But your reporter was more interested in wisecracks – and slanders.

He was more interested in making such utterly lying and vile statements – more fit for Der Deutsche Beobachter than for the Christian Science Monitor – as his statements about the Militant and the Socialist Call, whose anti-fascist integrity we defend despite our political disagreements with them. It is a slander to say that the Call tries to persuade anyone “that the better course for Americans now is to accept the teachings of pro-Nazi Americans and do nothing.” Or that one gets “exactly the same impression, from a file of the Call that he does from a file of any Nazi periodical published anywhere.”

If Joseph Goebbels were Mr. Markham’s employer, he would pat Mr. Markham’s cheek for this kind of slanderous amalgam, but what does the Christian Science Monitor have to say?

I request immediate publication of the above letter in order to reply to the utterly false assertions made in Mr. Markham’s article.


Sincerely yours,
Irving Howe,
Mng. Ed., Labor Action

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