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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(13 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 41, 13 June 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Inventory of an Armory

Two weeks ago I wrote the editors of Time a letter asking why they took so seriously the New Masses “exposure” of General Krivitsky and pointing out that the Socialist Appeal had revealed that General Krivitsky, when he broke from the Communist Party a year and a half ago, stated that his name was Samuel Ginsberg.

A few days later, I received the following letter, signed “I. Van Meter, for the Editors of Time”:

“Thank you for your critical note in regard to Time’s report on the New Masses’ recent exposure of General Krivitsky. What you say is quite true – as far as it goes. But there are a couple of big ‘guns’ that N.M. is still sticking to. We are planning to publish your letter in the forthcoming issue, together with an Editor’s Note giving an inventory of the N.M. armory.”

In Time for June 5, my letter was printed, followed by this Editor’s Note: “Says the New Masses: Krivitsky-Ginsberg never was in Russia, never was a Soviet official, is a fake. To these guns it sticks. Time sticks to no guns but its own.” Obviously, when Time called the New Masses, it found that the ‘armory’ of data about Krivitsky-Ginsberg was a myth. The one new allegation is that the General “never was a Soviet official.” This is definite and important, unlike the New Masses’ previous ‘charges.’

But the editors of the New Masses apparently have already forgotten – Stalinists must needs have short memories these days – that in their original ‘exposure’ they wrote: “You are just the kind of adventurer the infamous Yagoda would pick for his anti-Soviet dirty work.” They must now deny – and probably will do so without turning a hair – that the infamous Yagoda was ever a Soviet official. I can imagine Joseph Freeman scratching his head: Yagoda? Name sounds familiar. Who was that fellow anyway?

Indiana Harbor Episode

Comrade Herbert Martin writes from East Chicago, Indiana, about the Memorial Day parade in nearby Indiana Harbor, where Inland Steel and Youngstown Sheet & Tube have major plants.

“The parade,” he writes, “was organized and managed by the local post of the American Legion and was composed of all the local patriotic and chauvinistic organizations of the community. An added and most unexpected feature of this year’s parade was the inclusion of the Indiana Harbor section of the (Stalinist-controlled) International Workers Order. After all these years, the local Stalinists have finally achieved respectability enough to march in a patriotic, jingoistic Memorial Day parade along with the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National Guard ... The Stalinists, carrying American flags, marched right behind a contingent of Polish Legionaires. These Legionaires were in wartime uniforms and wore decorations from Pilsudski himself for having served in the army which fought with the White Guards, and particularly for having fought against the Red Army at the famous battle of Warsaw ... I am bringing this item to your attention for whatever interest it may be.”

The item has plenty of interest, I should say. And – speaking of the socialist movement in Poland – the Soviet press a year ago carried a number of articles slandering the memory of Rosa Luxemburg and her companion-in-arms, Leo Jogiches, actually going so far as to charge them with organizing the Social Democratic Party of Poland under instructions from the Czarist police. The general reason, of course, was that Luxemburg and Jogiches enjoy a prestige, most uncomfortable for the self-termed “heirs of Marx, Engels and Lenin,” as internationalists and revolutionists. The specific reason, I am told, was that at the time the Kremlin was preparing to rid itself, via the concentration camp and the firing squad, of a sizable group of Polish militants and revolutionists who many years ago had found sanctuary in the Soviet Union from the White Terror of Pilsudski.

The Axe Falls

In my column in this month’s New International I described the preparations of the ‘reactionary’ N.Y. State Legislature and the ‘progressive’ LaGuardia city administration to slash over $8,000,000 from New York City’s school budget. The Legislature has now done its dirty work, slashing an arbitrary 10% off the educational budget of every city and town in the entire state. What this will mean in New York City is clear from the statement of the local Board of Education:

“The elementary schools will suffer a cut of about $3,000,000 in services. In addition to the elimination of 200 supervisory teachers, 600 anticipated vacancies will not be filled and approximately 984 teachers will be dismissed. Kindergartens will be abolished ... Evening high schools and evening trade schools will be eliminated ... The day classes for adults in English and citizenship and the evening elementary schools will also be eliminated. Here we are terminating a long and honorable tradition of the school system in the Americanization of immigrants and the removal of adult illiteracy. The community and recreational centers and afternoon athletic centers which play such an important part in the fight against delinquency must also be abandoned ... Summer play schools and nature education will also be eliminated.”

According to the N.Y. Times, members of the Board of Education have stated that these cuts “will turn the educational clock back nearly 100 years.” Thus our capitalist society, its advance blocked by insoluble economic contradictions, begins to retrace its steps. When this sort of regression reaches a certain velocity, we call it ‘fascism.’

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