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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(23 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 35, 23 May 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Time Marches On!

“Socialism and jingoism seem to mix very well in England. During the last general election, one of the biggest guns on the Tory side was the German war-scare letters, written for the Daily Mail by Robert Blatchford, who is easily at the head of Socialist journalism in Great Britain. More recently, the big-navy cry has been raised by that veteran leader of uncompromising British socialism, H.M. Hyndman. The aristocratic Morning Post is the medium in this case.

“Socialist Hyndman is explicit. In the first place, England must have a Navy in order to safeguard her food supply. In the second place, she must have a Navy to safeguard the right of asylum for political refugees from other countries. In the third place, England has in her charge the liberties of the smaller nations, who look to her as their protector. Finally, England must be in a position to defend her own freedom. For these reasons, Socialist Hyndman is at one with those Tories who want a special loan for warship building, which is strange company, indeed, for the best-known English advocate of international socialism.” – (From The Nation, July 21, 1910)

C.I.O. and W.P.A.

When President Roosevelt several weeks ago asked Congress to reduce the W.P.A. rolls from 3,000,000 to 2,000,000, a deep silence spread over a large part of the labor and left-wing press. Had anyone dropped a pin in the editorial offices of The Daily Worker, the echoes would have been deafening. Nor did The New Leader consider the episode worthy of any major headlines. This is perhaps hardly strange, considering the political commitments to the New Deal of such groups. But John L. Lewis and his C.I.O. have less definite commitments and a more immediate interest in a big W.P.A. appropriation. And yet The C.I.O. News was as silent as The Daily Worker on the subject of the President’s message. Reading the News, indeed, one would not even know that the President had sent the message to Congress at all. The paper has a regular department called, apparently without irony: “YOUR W.P.A. JOB.” The week the President’s message appeared, this department was entirely devoted to a description of the beauties of a new plan for reorganizing relief activities which had just come out of the White House – but not a word on the one-third cut which had also just come out of the White House. Elsewhere in the same issue, the News had an indignant story about the pending W.P.A. cuts. This stated that 200,000 workers were about to lose their jobs “as a result of the cut in W.P.A. funds engineered by Congressional Tories” – but, again, not a word about the 1,000,000 W.P.A.’ers the President had just proposed to cut off the rolls.

I had almost lost my faith in The C.I.O News when, in the issue of May 15, it finally came out boldly against cutting W.P.A. to 2,000,000. On the front page was a big headline: “LEWIS URGES W.P.A. JOBS FOR THREE MILLION.” The YOUR W.P.A. JOB column begins: “The C.I.O. has fired the opening gun in its national campaign to make the W.P.A. adequately serve the needs of the unemployed during the next fiscal year.” This opening gun is a letter from the pen of John L. Lewis himself protesting against any cut in next year’s W.P.A. appropriation and giving in bold and stirring language a number of excellent reasons why the 3,000,000 figure must be kept as a minimum. A really splendid letter! But Mr. Lewis’s secretary must have gotten the address wrong. It is addressed not to “The Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, The White House,” but to “The Hon. Edward Taylor, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, House of Representatives.”

Mountain Labors, Bears Mouse (Dead)

At long last the group of intellectuals of which Professor Sidney Hook is the leading spirit has made its public debut. The group began in a small way last fall as “The League Against Totalitarianism.” It has been gathering recruits ever since, and now it comes out in the N.Y. Times as “The Committee for Cultural Freedom” with a ringing denunciation of all tyranny and despotism wherever it may rear its ugly head, whether in Fascist Italy and Germany or in Soviet Russia. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and anti-totalitarian, bourgeois liberal politics makes the strangest of all. Among the ninety-six members of the Committee are such mates as Walter Damrosch and John Dos Passos, Louis Adamic and Henry Hazlitt, Sherwood Anderson and Willi Schlamm, James Rorty and Dorothy Thompson. I hesitate to quibble over a document signed by so many eminent names, and it seems odd that one should have to bring the point to the attention of so justly renowned a Marxist as Sidney Hook, but it seems to me that there are only two social bases from which one can fight totalitarianism, whether Red or Black, namely: the workers or the bourgeoisie. The Committee’s manifesto is silent on the question of socialism and social revolution. And so it plays the game of the bourgeoisie, and its denunciation of Stalinism takes on a reactionary character. As I recall the Honorable Martin Dies has also put himself on record against all forms of dictator ship, whether Fascist or Communist. And the headline-writer of the N.Y. Times shows that he grasps clearly enough the “point” of Professor Hook’s Committee – the “point”, that is, in relation to the objective line-up of social forces, regardless of what the left-wing members of the Committee may hope and believe they are accomplishing – when he writes the sub-head: “96 SCHOLARS AND ARTISTS LED BY JOHN DEWEY REVOLT AGAINST FAILURE TO DENOUNCE REDS.”

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