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Tim Wohlforth

Periodicals in Review

(Spring 1960)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.21 No.2, Spring 1960, pp.62-63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From Out of the Academy

The intellectual resources of the radical movement in this country are not very large. Intellectuals that are active radicals have many pressing demands on them and little time for scholarly pursuit. There are some radical and semi-radical intellectuals who are so situated in the universities that they are able to devote themselves more fully to scholarly pursuit. While most of their work has limitations, almost all of it has value. The Marxist movement should utilize what is valuable in this work in order to add to its understanding of the modern world.

It is with this view in mind that we approach Studies on the Left, a scholarly journal published by radical graduate students largely from the University of Wisconsin. (See the February Young Socialist for a discussion of the strength and weaknesses of this publication.)

By far the most important article in this new journal is, From New Deal to New Frontiers: 1937-1941 by Lloyd Gardner. The author contends that “when the recession of 1937-1938 struck down the superficial progress of the New Deal,” the Roosevelt Administration, “forsook viable domestic remedies and readied itself for the pursuit ... of world frontiers as its solution to the crisis of the 1930s.” In other words when Roosevelt was unable to save the capitalist system through domestic reform he turned to world economic domination. Among the foremost advocates of a turn to what we socialists call imperialism was none other than Henry A. Wallace, according to Gardner.

This search for foreign markets brought the New Deal into sharp conflict with the Axis powers who were attempting to establish economic footholds in Latin America and to freeze out American interests in Europe and Asia. Gardner quotes the Henry Wallace of this period: “I think we ought to face the fact that with Hitler controlling the exports, imports and exchanges, it is impossible to get an adequate flow of exports from the United States.” Gardner concludes from this: “Could there be any doubt that the Administration and the business community would accept self-containment unless it was forced on the United States by an Axis victory? Surely this was part of the reason why Great Britain’s cause was ‘our’ cause in the war ...”

Gardner brilliantly sums up the economic forces which brought an end to the Great Depression but only at the cost of embroiling the US and the world into another colossal war:

“American leaders had to face German and Japanese opposition to their goals ... There is no attempt to state here that the New Deal wanted or promoted American entrance into the Second World War. Instead the evidence shows that Administration leaders tried to convince the Axis powers that ‘liberal’ trade programs and the Open Door were more productive of international well-being than Axis bi-lateralism. But the New Deal would not back down in the face of threats to liberal trade and the Open Door. Thus the clash became inevitable.”

This confirms the revolutionary socialist view of World War II as an imperialist war flowing out of economic rivalry. Needless to say the author’s reservation that the US did not want war is not important for no country ever wants war. Each country would prefer for the enemy to peacefully bow out and allow it to dominate the world. But, since the enemy wishes the same of it, “the clash became inevitable.”

The Khrushchev Ike Likes

It is difficult to get from the press – left or right – a realistic picture of the Soviet Union and the role of the Khrushchev regime’s policy in world affairs. The capitalist press, liberal, conservative and reactionary, invariably conjures up the image of a Red Ogre aiming at enslaving the world through a Kremlin-directed world revolution. The social democrats repeat the Red Ogre myth of the capitalist press, adding only a bit of friendly advice to the US State Department on how to combat the Ogre more effectively. The Communist party presents us with an idyllic picture of a Soviet policy which at one and the same time champions socialism and wins the warm friendship of the worst enemies of socialism.

Isaac Deutscher in the Jan. 21 issue of Reporter, ignores both myths and considers the actual role of Khrushchev’s line in world politics.

Deutscher’s thesis is that under the slogan, “we are fighting for the preservation of the international status quo,” the Stalinist movement everywhere is being tamed to the needs of the detente with the West. In Italy, he notes, the CP greeted President Eisenhower with the chant, “We too like Ike” and the Communist parties of the other Western European countries followed suit.

Even more disastrous was the impact of Khrushchev’s peaceful coexistence line in the Middle East. Describing Iraq, where the CP stood within inches of establishing worker’s power, Deutscher says,

“In the summer, the Communist offensive was suddenly called off – on urgent demands from Moscow, where reports about the rising revolutionary temperature of Iraq had caused alarm. Khrushchev refused to countenance a Communist upheaval in Baghdad – he feared that this would provoke renewed Western intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean, set the Middle East aflame and wreck his policy of peaceful coexistence.”

Khrushchev accomplished this switch in the Iraq CP line by direct intervention.

“A bill of indictment against the Iraqi Communist leaders was drawn up in Moscow and the Party was ordered not merely to make its peace with Kassem but to surrender unconditionally with only a minimum of face saving ... Since the far-off days in the middle 1920’s when Stalin ordered the Chinese Communists to serve as the ‘Koumintang’s coolies,’ no Communist Party has ever been exposed to quite as abject a humiliation.”

The general outline of this development was sketched by Shane Mage in his article, Will Another Deal at the Summit Bring World Peace? in the Summer 1959 issue of the Young Socialist. In this article, written prior to the events Deutscher describes, Mage said:

“For the sake of ‘coexistence’ Khrushchev agreed to use the CP of Iraq to contain the Arab revolution within capitalist limits.”

Part of this same pattern, Deutscher points out, is Khrushchev’s support to De Gaulle’s Algerian policy, a view which with great difficulty Thorez forced upon the French CP. Also significant was Khrushchev’s refusal to support China in its border dispute with India even though the latter country has been acting more and more as a US tool.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking contribution of Deutscher in this article is his view of China’s reaction to the Khrushchev-Eisenhower love-match. Peking feels, “that in pursuing his summit diplomacy Khrushchev has been needlessly sacrificing revolution in Asia and had come close to betraying proletarian internationalism,” according to Deutscher. In concluding, Deutscher strikes an interesting historical note:

“In all these differences there is stuff for a grave controversy in which one may see reproduced, in a new context, some of the motifs of the Trotsky-Stalin controversy of the 1920s.”

In this historic struggle Trotsky urged that the USSR continue the policy it conducted under Lenin of supporting the coming to power of the working class in other lands. The victory of the workers in Western Europe was important, he felt, not only in itself but as a solution for the isolation and economic backwardness of Russia.

Stalin, by contrast, formulated his “socialism in one country” thesis. He subordinated the Communist parties in all countries to the diplomatic maneuvers of the USSR through which he sought, in vain, to establish “peaceful coexistence.” This is still the fundamental issue facing the Communist movement: should socialists struggle seriously for socialism or should they prop up the existing capitalist regimes hoping that these regimes will be “friendly” to the USSR? It is to Deutscher’s credit that he spotlights these issues in a journal which is widely read.

Mainstream on the Block

It now seems clear that the Communist party has decided to axe Mainstream. Mike Newberry declares in the Jan. 3 issue of the Worker, “The progressive movement is hardly now large enough to support such a rarefied, specialized magazine, not at this time.” The reasons for the CP’s campaign against Mainstream and the way in which it has been conducted give us an insight into the relationship between Stalinism and culture. What is especially interesting is that this relationship seems to be as true of a little isolated Communist party in the world’s most powerful capitalist nation as it is of Stalinism in power.

It all began with a love poem titled Morning Departure by Hershel Horn which appeared in the July Mainstream. Mike Gold, Worker and People’s World columnist, utilized this poem to launch a hatchet job on Mainstream for printing “unintelligible, irrational, deathly stuff, the metaphysics of an expiring class.” Mainstream, seeing in Gold’s attack an attack against the whole publication, printed in its October issue a stirring answer to Gold, Hands Off the Imagination by John Condell. Condell attacks Gold’s ruminations as being “nothing but a barrage of reactionary infantile leftisms.” (See Clean Up That Poetry by L.P. Wheeler in the January 11, 1960 Militant for a good running commentary on the controversy.)

It soon became clear that Gold’s attack was officially inspired by the CP, for suddenly the Worker opened its pages to the controversy and, through the agency of Mike Newberry, “defends” Mainstream only to open an even more sinister attack, putting into question the whole character of the magazine and suggesting that it is a luxury today. It is clear that the CP, to the extent that it is able, is now proceeding to deal with Mainstream as they did with the Daily Worker – let it die of financial strangulation (a process which they helped organize) and then replace it with a completely tamed creature of their own.

But the Gold-Mainstream controversy brings to mind other memories: the rebellion of the intellectuals – their demand for “Hands Off the Imagination” – which provided the spark for the Hungarian Revolution. The crushing of the Revolution in Hungary and its ebb in Poland was accompanied by reinsti-tution of thought policing of culture – although not as thoroughly as preceding the Revolution.

The reorganization of the shattered and reduced American CP by the Stalinist old guard is also being accompanied by a policing of the artists; and this is the meaning of the anti-Mainstream move. We understand why an authoritarian regime in power which rules in the interests of a privileged bureaucracy cannot tolerate free expression anywhere – even in the field of poetry. What we learn from the Mainstream, controversy is that a Stalinized party out of power which does not determine its own policies, but slavishly support those of the Soviet bureaucracy, likewise cannot tolerate free inquiry within its ranks or periphery. Only those who determine their own policies and are not alien to the working class have nothing to fear from free inquiry in the arts or any other field.

We will hate to see Mainstream go – even with all its weaknesses. The radical movement is too culturally starved to blithely allow any cultural institution to be destroyed. Possibly others feel likewise and the CP will not be able to accomplish its goal.

The Crusader

Evelyn Sell, a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review, has been following The Crusader, a small mimeographed newsletter published weekly in Monroe, North Carolina, by Robert F. Williams. Evelyn sent us the following comments on this interesting publication along with some typical extracts from it:

“The past decade presented a bleak terrain to many American radicals and militants. During this same past decade, however, the militancy of the Southern Negroes stood out as an inspiring and instructive exception to the general rule of hesitancy and fear.

The Crusader is of particular value to those removed from the actual social battlefields in the South who want to get a feel of what is going on in the minds and lives of the front line combatants. The thirty-five year old Williams brings to its pages the lessons taught him as a Negro born and bred in the South, as a Marine, as a Detroit auto worker and as a president of a local NAACP branch.”

Here are some typical quotations culled from several issues of the Crusader:

On US Foreign Policy:

“We see by the papers that Red China has been barred from the universal, respectable, august body called the United Nations ... They say exponents of the land of Mack Parker and Emmett Till called the Chinese, ‘murderers,’ and all sorts of other dirty names in public ... The quickest way for the Chinese Reds to be accepted at the UN is for her to become as potent a mass murderer as the pious Christian nation that first used the ghastly atom bomb against mankind.”

On Political Action:

“When will the average Negro wake up to the fact the two party system is a farce? In the realm of civil rights and social justice the two party lines are the same ... The Negro must transform his vote into a new independent political force ... If the two major parties want our votes, we must demand that they earn them.”

On the Labor Movement:

“The only avenue to a higher standard of living in the South is labor unions ... It is time for labor to roll up its sleeves and enter the arena of combat politics ... The labor movement as a whole has nothing to lose by establishing a labor party and entering its own slate of candidates ...”

On Colonial Revolutions:

“Oppressed peoples everywhere are demanding human dignity and the right of self-determination. The darker colonials are moving toward freedom. The American Negro must identify himself with the new world order ... Any struggle anywhere in the world for freedom is related to the American Negro’s struggle for human dignity. The fight in Africa, Cuba, South America and Asia is one and the same fight.”

Random Notes

The Nation continues to be the most stimulating liberal periodical published in this country. We read Ira Wolfert’s Monster in the Mine in the Jan. 2, 1960 issue and the story still haunts us. Here is a realistic, well-written, moving bit of fiction which makes abstract terms like “automation” breathe with life ... The Winter 1960 issue of Anvil is no longer missing in action. The last issue of this sporadic annual was Winter 1959. Interestingly, this publication, an unofficial organ of the Young People’s Socialist League, calls itself “a student socialist magazine.” The current issue does not contain a single article written by a student – or for that matter anyone under 30. The only socialist article in the magazine is The Two Souls of Socialism by Hal Draper, a rather good attack on the “socialism from on top” viewpoint, e.g., those who run the party Draper belongs to ... Venture, a rather obscure publication of the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) came across our desk recently. It is put out by graduate students who seem to be more preoccupied with “fighting Communism” than even the State Department is. If you are interested in a junior New Leader this is your meat.

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