Information

Martin Abern


Martin Abern (né Martin Abramowitz), the son of a Jewish peddler, was born in Bessarabia, Russia, on 2nd December, 1898. The family emigrated to the United States in 1902, and settled in Minneapolis where Abern attended local public schools.

Abern developed socialist views and in 1915 he joined the Socialist Party of America. Soon afterwards he became a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. During this period he received two years education at the University of Minnesota.

Abern was totally opposed to the United States involvement in the First World War and the Espionage Act that was passed by Congress in 1917. It prescribed a $10,000 fine and 20 years' imprisonment for interfering with the recruiting of troops or the disclosure of information dealing with national defence. Additional penalties were included for the refusal to perform military duty. Over the next few months around 900 went to prison under the Espionage Act. Criticised as unconstitutional, the act resulted in the imprisonment of many of the anti-war movement. This included the arrest of Abern and other left-wing political figures such as Eugene V. Debs, Bill Haywood, Philip Randolph, Victor Berger, John Reed, Max Eastman and Emma Goldman.

The right-wing leadership of the Socialist Party of America opposed the Russian Revolution. However, those members who disagreed with this policy formed the Communist Propaganda League. In February 1919, Jay Lovestone, Bertram Wolfe, Louis Fraina, John Reed and Benjamin Gitlow created a left-wing faction that advocated the policies of the Bolsheviks in Russia. On 24th May 1919 the leadership expelled 20,000 members who supported this faction. The process continued and by the beginning of July two-thirds of the party had been suspended or expelled.

In September 1919, Martin Abern, Jay Lovestone, Earl Browder, John Reed, James Cannon, Bertram Wolfe, William Bross Lloyd, Benjamin Gitlow, Charles Ruthenberg, Mikhail Borodin, William Dunne, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Louis Fraina, Ella Reeve Bloor, Rose Pastor Stokes, Claude McKay, Max Shachtman, Michael Gold and Robert Minor, decided to form the Communist Party of the United States. Within a few weeks it had 60,000 members whereas the Socialist Party of America had only 40,000.

The growth of the American Communist Party worried Woodrow Wilson and his administration and America entered what became known as the Red Scare period. On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the revolution, Alexander Mitchell Palmer, Wilson's attorney general, ordered the arrest of over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists. These people were charged with "advocating force, violence and unlawful means to overthrow the Government". Palmer and his assistant, John Edgar Hoover, found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large number of these suspects were held without trial for a long time.

The vast majority were eventually released but Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer, and 245 other people, were deported to Russia. In November 1920, the US Department of Justice attempted to make Abern a test case for the deportation of alien radicals citing Communist Party membership as sole grounds for action. He was saved from deportation at the last minute by a court order obtained by his attorney.

James Cannon, the chairman of the American Communist Party, attended the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. While in the Soviet Union he was given a document written by Leon Trotsky on the rule of Joseph Stalin. Convinced by what he read, when he returned to the United States he criticized the Soviet government. As a result of his actions, Cannon and his followers, including Abern, were expelled from the party.

Abern now joined with other Trotskyists, including Cannon and Max Shachtman to form the Communist League of America (CLA). They also published the journal, The Militant. Cannon later recalled. "I never deceived myself for a moment about the most probable consequences of my decision to support Trotsky in the summer of 1928. I knew it was going to cost me my head and also my swivel chair, but I thought: What the hell-better men than I have risked their heads and their swivel chairs for truth and justice. Trotsky and his associates were doing it at that very moment in the exile camps and prisons of the Soviet Union. It was no more than right that one man, however limited his qualifications, should remember what he started out in his youth to fight for, and speak out for their cause and try to make the world hear, or at least to let the exiled and imprisoned Russian Oppositionists know that they had found a new friend and supporter."

According to Joseph Leroy Hansen: "It was not an easy decision. Cannon realized, perhaps better than anyone outside of the Russian Trotskyists, that it would mean ostracism, the breakup of old friendships, and the end of personal relations with many comrades he had known in common battles for years. However, it was politically necessary to make the turn. For Jim this consideration was paramount. Nothing personal could be permitted to stand in the way of moving ahead in defense of Trotsky's position and against Stalin's bureaucratic gang."

In December 1933, a group of radicals including Sidney Hook, Louis Budenz, James Rorty, V.F. Calverton, George Schuyler, James Burnham, J. B. S. Hardman and Gerry Allard formed the American Workers Party (AWP). Hook later argued: "The American Workers Party (AWP) was organized as an authentic American party rooted in the American revolutionary tradition, prepared to meet the problems created by the breakdown of the capitalist economy, with a plan for a cooperative commonwealth expressed in a native idiom intelligible to blue collar and white collar workers, miners, sharecroppers, and farmers without the nationalist and chauvinist overtones that had accompanied local movements of protest in the past. It was a movement of intellectuals, most of whom had acquired an experience in the labor movement and an allegiance to the cause of labor long before the advent of the Depression."

Soon after its formation of the AWP, leaders of the Communist League of America (CLA), a group that supported the theories of Leon Trotsky, suggested a merger. Sidney Hook, James Burnham and J. Hardman were on the negotiating committee for the AWP, Abern, Max Shachtman and Arne Swabeck, for the CLA. Hook later recalled: "At our very first meeting, it became clear to us that the Trotskyists could not conceive a situation in which the workers' democratic councils could overrule the Party or indeed one in which there would be plural working class parties. The meeting dissolved in intense disagreement." However, despite this poor beginning, the two groups merged in December 1934.

Martin Abern died from a heart attack in April 1949.

The Leninist-Stalinist-Trotskyist view was fatal to any notion of democratic socialism. It was fatal because it identified the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the Communist Party-and a minority party at that-over the proletariat, and all other groups and classes. The position is explicit in the canonic writings of Lenin and Stalin and in the practices of every regime that has come to power under the aegis of Leninism or of Marxism as Lenin interpreted it. In a long series of writings, I have shown the way in which this identification of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the Party prepared the way for totalitarianism and the Gulag Archipelagos of the world.

Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered that this identification of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the Party was shared, and sometimes militantly defended, by the other major factions of the Communist movement. The conception of workers' democracy became the watchword of the American Workers' party alone. The first surprise was supplied by the Trotskyists, who had won considerable sympathy among left-moving intellectuals by their criticisms of the repressive practices of the Stalinist regime. This brings me a little ahead of my story. After the American Workers' Party was launched, the Trotskyist Communist League of America proposed a merger of the two organizations. Burnham, J. Hardman, and I were on the negotiating committee for the AWP, Max Shachtman, Arne Swabeck, and Martin Abern for the CLA. At our very first meeting, it became clear to us that the Trotskyists could not conceive a situation in which the workers' democratic councils could overrule the Party or indeed one in which there would be plural working class parties. The meeting dissolved in intense disagreement.

On the eve of the merger between the two organizations (the Trotskyists changed their tune completely at subsequent meetings and hypocritically professed agreement with us), I published an article entitled "Workers' Democracy," which argued for a "commonsense democratic way out of the impasse of capitalism" and maintained that the ideals enshrined in the American revolutionary tradition, "equality of opportunity," "the equal rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," "peace and security for the masses" could best be realized under socialism. Despite this emphasis on democracy, it suffered from the old illusion that the fundamental conflict was between socialism and capitalism rather than between democracy and totalitarianism, but its emphasis on democracy, and the social and economic requirements for its fulfillment, were unmistakable. The article provoked a strong response from Will Herberg, the chief ideologist, after Bertram Wolfe, of the Lovestone Communist Opposition.

Herberg openly expressed the position that the outcome of workers' democracy could not be permitted to take its course if the consequences of that course, in the eyes of the Communist Party or its leadership, did not further the health of the revolution. It now became apparent why, to all Leninists, the spontaneous outcry of the Kronstadt sailors and their supporters, "The Soviets without the dictatorship of the Communist Party," was counterrevolutionary!
Although Muste claimed, after the merger with the CLA, to have been converted to the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist doctrine, I was never persuaded that he truly understood it or was motivated by it. He was first and foremost a moralist, not because he was a preacher or because of his religious training, but because he viewed human actions simply as right or wrong, regardless of context. To his credit he shrugged off expressions like "historically determined" or "organizationally necessary," but to be indifferent to what was possible or probable was something else again. He rarely thought through a position but would adopt one on moral grounds that were rarely affected by the facts in the case. He had been an ardent pacifist. When he became a revolutionary Marxist, he publicly abandoned his pacifism and, among us, his belief in Christianity. He could not have been very well versed in either one or the other, despite his religious training, for when he finally vomited up his hastily swallowed Marxism, he returned to his early beliefs with the passion of someone newly converted. It is very rare that, as individuals develop and abandon one position for another in a continuing series of progressions, they return to an earlier view. But it sometimes occurs. In Muste's case, his early abandonment of pacifism and Christianity could not have been very reflective.


I received the communication about your alleged expression “this means split” from Comrade Cannon. He wrote on December 28, 1939:

“Your document has already been widely distributed in the party. So far I have heard only two definite comments from leaders of the minority. Abern, after he had read the title and the first few paragraphs, remarked to Goldman, ‘This means a split.’”

I know Cannon as a trustworthy comrade and I didn’t have the slightest reason to doubt the veracity of his communication.

You say this report “is a lie.” I know by long experience that during the sharp fight, misunderstandings of such a kind are very often without bad will from one side or the other.

You ask me whether I made any effort to check the veracity of this report. None at all. If I had spread it in private correspondence as a fact known to me, it would not have been loyal. But I published it with a remark “it has been reported” and so gave you the full possibility to confirm or deny the report. I believe this to be the best checking possible in a party discussion.

You say in the beginning of your letter: “I have disregarded in the past a number of false statements, but I note among other things, in your open letter. …” etc. What signifies here the phrase, “a number of false statements”? From whom? What signifies the expression, “among other things”? What kind of things? Don’t you believe that your expressions can be understood by inexperienced comrades as vague insinuations? If, in my article, there are “a number of false statements” and “other things,” it would be better to enumerate them exactly. If the false statements are not from me, I don’t understand why you introduce them in your letter to me. I can also hardly understand how one can “disregard” a number of false statements if they have any political importance: It could be interpreted as a lack of attention toward the party.

In any case I note with satisfaction that you categorically deny the sentence “this means split.” I interpret the energetic tone of your letter in this sense, that your denial is not a formal one, that is, that you deny not only the quotation, but that you consider as I do, the idea of split itself as a despicable betrayal of the Fourth International.


What Abern family records will you find?

There are 946 census records available for the last name Abern. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Abern census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 268 immigration records available for the last name Abern. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 170 military records available for the last name Abern. For the veterans among your Abern ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 946 census records available for the last name Abern. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Abern census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 268 immigration records available for the last name Abern. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 170 military records available for the last name Abern. For the veterans among your Abern ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.


The New International

Vol. I No. 1, July 1934
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editor:
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

REVIEW OF REVIEWS:

Vol. I No. 2, August 1934
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editor
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

THE CRISIS IN FASCISM:

DOCUMENTS AND DISCUSSION:

Inside Front Cover: For the Man on the Planet without a Visa
Inside Back Cover: At Home. An Apology

Vol. I No. 3, September–October 1934
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editor:
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: For the Right of Asylum for Leon Trotsky
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. I No. 4, November 1934
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editor:
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE OPPOSITION:

Inside Front Cover: Three Conventions
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. I No. 5, December 1934
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editor:
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
WILLIAM DUNCAN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: The New New International
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. II No. 1, January 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: The Readers Have the Floor
Inside Back Cover: The Press. At Home

Vol. II No. 2, March 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

The Housing Question in America:

Vol. II No. 3, May 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

Where Is France Going? (from La Verité, Paris) (different translation)

  • How a Revolutionary Situation Comes About
  • Immediate Demands and the Struggle for Power
  • The Struggle Against Fascism and the General Strike
  • Socialism and Armed Struggle
  • The Proletariat, the Peasantry, the Army, the Women, the Youth
  • Why the Fourth International?
  • Conclusion

Inside Front Cover: All Eyes on France!
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. II No. 4, July 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

Inside Front Cover: “United Front in France Wavers”
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Note by ETOL: * In the printed edition the titles of these two reviews have been swapped.

Vol. II No. 5, August 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

A Reply to Olgin, by John G. Wright and Joseph Carter

Vol. II No. 6, October 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A BI-MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

US Capitalism: National or International, by George Novack
A Critique of Lewis Corey’s The Decline of American Capitalism

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: A Bolshevik Fugitive
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. II No. 7, December 1935
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A BI-MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

  • The Marxist Theory of the Intellectuals
  • Non-Marxist Theories of the Intellectuals
  • Reaction and Anti-Intellectualism

Inside Front Cover: Sanctions and the British Elections
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. III No. 1 (Whole No. 13), February 1936
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A BI-MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

Once Again: The ILP, An Interview with Leon Trotsky

Vol. III No. 2 (Whole No. 14), April 1936
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A BI-MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: The Record of the League
Inside Back Cover: At Home

Vol. III No. 3 (Whole No. 15), June 1936
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL (With which is merged Labor Action) A BI-MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE WORKERS PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

Editors:
MAX SHACHTMAN
JOHN WEST

Inside Front Cover: Our Voices Must Be Heard
Inside Back Cover: The Press

Vol. IV No. 1 (Whole No. 16), January 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Hands Off in Spain! – Notes
Inside Back Cover: Clippings

Vol. IV No. 2 (Whole No. 17), February 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes
Inside Back Cover: Clippings & History by Scissors

Vol. IV No. 3 (Whole No. 17), March 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Vol. IV No. 4 (Whole No. 19), April 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes

Vol. IV No. 5 (Whole No. 20), May 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes
Inside Back Cover: A Gift for a Friend – Clippings

Vol. IV No. 6 (Whole No. 21), June 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes
Inside Back Cover: Clippings

Vol. IV No. 7 (Whole No. 22), July 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

DISCUSSION:
Once More: Kronstadt:

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes
Inside Back Cover: [Announcement] – Clippings

Vol. IV No. 8 (Whole No. 23), August 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

The Question of a Labor Party:

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home – Notes

Vol. IV No. 9 (Whole No. 24), September 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

The Two Party System, by George Novack
(Conclusion of critique of The Politicos, by M. Josephson)

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. IV No. 10 (Whole No. 25), October 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. IV No. 11 (Whole No. 26), November 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. IV No. 12 (Whole No. 27), December 1938
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

ARCHIVES OF THE REVOLUTION:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 1, January 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

Intellectuals in Retreat, by James Burnham and Max Shachtman

CORRESPONDENCE:

Vol. V No. 2 (Whole No. 29), February 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

A Letter and Some Notes, by Victor Serge and The Editors

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 3 (Whole No. 30), March 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
MAURICE SPECTOR
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 4 (Whole No. 31), April 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

Inside Front Cover: At Home
Inside Back Cover: Clippings

Vol. V No. 5 (Whole No. 32), May 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home
Inside Back Cover: Oktober

Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 33), June 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 7 (Whole No. 34), July 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

A Step Towards Social-Patriotism, by Editorial Board, Bulletin of the Russian Opposition

Inside front cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 8 (Whole No. 35), August 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home
Inside Back Cover: A Correction

Vol. V No. 9 (Whole No. 36), September 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
Business Manager:
MARTIN ABERN

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 10 (Whole No. 37), October 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
General Manager:
MARTIN ABERN
Assistant Manager:
SHERMAN STANLEY

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside Front Cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 11 (Whole No. 33), November 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
General Manager:
MARTIN ABERN
Assistant Manager:
SHERMAN STANLEY

CORRESPONDENCE:

Inside front cover: At Home

Vol. V No. 12 (Whole No. 39), December 1939
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
General Manager:
MARTIN ABERN
Assistant Manager:
SHERMAN STANLEY

  • The Negro and the French Revolution
  • The Haitian Revolution and World History
  • The Negro and the Civil War
  • The Negro and World Revolution.
  • From Slavery to Sharecropping
  • Extent and Character of Sharecropping and Tenancy
  • Wage Labor
  • Mechanization
  • Negro Landownership
  • Concentration of Landownership
  • Credit System

Inside front cover: At Home

Vol. VI No. 1 (Whole No. 40), February 1940
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY (Section of the Fourth International)

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
General Manager:
GEORGE CLARKE
Assistant Manager:
SHERMAN STANLEY

Resolution on Russia, A Statement of Policy by the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party

Inside front cover: At Home

Vol. VI No. 2 (Whole No. 41), March 1940
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL A MONTHLY ORGAN OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXISM OFFICIAL THEORETICAL ORGAN OF THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY (Section of the Fourth International)

Editorial Board:
JAMES BURNHAM
MAX SHACHTMAN
General Manager:
GEORGE CLARKE
Assistant Manager:
SHERMAN STANLEY

The Second World War and the Soviet Union, A Resolution Submitted by the Minority of the Political Committee for the Consideration of the Membership of the Socialist Workers Party
 


Footnotes

Abern's papers comprise part of the John Dwyer Papers held by Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. [8] A small collection of his correspondence with Leon Trotsky is also housed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. [9]

Abern was just 51 years old at the time of his death. [7] Abern continued to support Trotsky's unconditional defense of the

Death and legacy

Abern was elected to the governing National Committee of the WPUS at the time of its formation in 1940 and remained in the top leadership of that organization for the rest of his life. [2]

In 1938, Abern helped found the Workers Party of the United States (WPUS). The pair were expelled from the SWP by a Plenum Conference held in Chicago from Sept. 27 to 29, 1940. [6]

Abern was also a founding member of French turn" tactic, a brief interlude ending with their expulsion late in 1937.

Together with Jim Cannon and youth leader Max Shachtman, Abern was expelled from the Workers (Communist) Party in 1928 for supporting Leon Trotsky. [2] He was a founding member of the Communist League of America (CLA) in May 1928 and sat on the governing National Committee of that organization from 1931 to 1934. In this interval Shachtman and Cannon were increasingly at odds with one another, with Abern tending to follow Shachtman in matters of controversy.

Trotskyist years

during the bitter factional fighting that continued ceaselessly throughout the decade. Lore-Cannon-Foster Abern was a steadfast supporter of the majority faction of [5] Abern then took an important leadership role in the adult


Political career

  • Espionage Act of 1917
  • First Red Scare
  • American Defense Society
  • American Protective League
  • Seattle General Strike
  • The Communist Party USA and African Americans
  • Communists in the United States Labor Movement (1919–37)
  • Communists in the United States Labor Movement (1937–50)
  • McCarthyism
  • Smith Act / Smith Act trials
  • John Birch Society
  • Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Communist Party
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization
  • Freedom Socialist Party
  • Industrial Workers of the World
  • International Socialist Organization
  • Party for Socialism and Liberation
  • Peace and Freedom Party
  • Progressive Labor Party
  • Revolutionary Communist Party
  • Socialist Action
  • Socialist Alternative
  • Socialist Equality Party
  • Socialist Organizer
  • Socialist Party
  • Socialist Workers Party
  • Spartacist League
  • Students for a Democratic Society (2006 organization)
  • Workers World Party
  • World Socialist Party
  • Social Democracy of America
  • Socialist Labor Party of America
  • Social Democratic Party of America
  • Socialist Party of America
  • Social Democratic Federation
  • Democratic Socialist Federation
  • Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee
  • Social Democrats, USA
  • Farmer–Labor Party
  • Proletarian Party of America
  • Communist League of America
  • American Workers Party
  • Workers Party of the United States
  • American Labor Party
  • Puerto Rican Socialist Party
  • Black Panther Party
  • White Panther Party
  • Youth International Party
  • Weather Underground
  • Communist Workers' Party
  • Maoist Internationalist Movement
  • New American Movement
  • Students for a Democratic Society
  • I Wor Kuen
  • Brown Berets
  • Young Lords Organization
  • Young Lords Party
  • American Left
  • Anarchism
  • Anarchism in the United States
  • Socialism
  • Utopian socialism
  • Scientific socialism
  • Marxism
  • Marxism–Leninism
  • Labor history
  • Labor unions
  • Libertarian socialism
  • Labor laws
  • Minimum wage

The young man was radically inclined from an early age, joining the Socialist Party of America's youth section, the Young People's Socialist League in 1912, [2] the Socialist Party itself in 1915, as well as the Industrial Workers of the World. He attended the University of Minnesota for two years, starring on the football team. [2] The radical Abern staunchly opposed World War I and following American entry into that conflict he refused induction into the military on political grounds. [2] This refusal to join the military resulted in his expulsion from the university and ultimately led to a six-month prison term. [2]

Abern seems to have been a member of the Communist Party of America at the time of its establishment in the fall of 1919 or shortly thereafter. In November 1920, the US Department of Justice attempted to make Abern a test case for the deportation of alien radicals citing Communist Party membership as sole grounds for action. [4] He was saved from deportation at the last minute by a court order obtained by his attorney. [5]

Abern was a delegate to the 2nd World Congress of the Young Communist International (YCI), held in Moscow in June 1921, where he was made a member of the Executive Committee of the YCI. [2] He also held a seat on the governing National Executive Committee of the Young Workers League of America (YWL) from May 1922 and was reelected by the convention of that organization held the following year. Abern served as Secretary of the YWL from May 30, 1922 to October 19, 1922, ostensibly resigning for reasons of health.

Abern was also sent to Moscow to attend the 4th World Congress of the Comintern late in the fall of 1922. [2] Upon his return he was made a member of the Central Executive Committee of the now legal Communist Party, the Workers Party of America, where he would develop a close ideological affinity and working relationship with James P. Cannon, a leading light of the legal party. [2]

Abern also briefly was part of a three-person Secretariat running the Young Workers League in the summer and fall of 1924 before being replaced as National Secretary on October 15 by John Williamson. In 1925 Cannon became the National Secretary of

  • 1898 births
  • 1949 deaths
  • Jewish American politicians
  • Members of the Socialist Party of America
  • Industrial Workers of the World members
  • Members of the Communist Party USA
  • Members of the Communist League of America
  • Members of the Workers Party of the United States
  • Members of the Socialist Workers Party (United States)
  • Members of the Workers Party (U.S.)
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers football players
  • American people of Romanian-Jewish descent
  • Bessarabian Jews
  • Imperial Russian emigrants to the United States
  • Wolfgang Lubitz and Petra Lubitz, "Martin Abern," Lubitz TrotskyanaNet. Revised edition, November 2009.
  • Finding Aid for the John Dwyer Papers, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.

The Man Who Saved Orwell

T he American sentry I had been talking to had started forward. "Gosh! Are you hit?" People gathered round. There was the usual fuss—"Lift him up! Where’s he hit? Get his shirt open!" etc., etc. The American called for a knife to cut my shirt open. I knew that there was one in my pocket, but discovered that my right arm was paralyzed.

—George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

In the hazy photo, a group of men and one woman pose for the camera behind a wall of sandbags, with their weapons at hand. They do not have the look of regular soldiers, and there are no uniforms. One individual stands literally head and shoulders above the rest. It is none other than George Orwell, or as he was known then, Eric Blair, his real name. The scene is the Spanish Civil War, and the photograph includes "the American" who came to Orwell’s aid when he was shot: Harry Milton. A small but interesting collection in the Hoover Institution Archives records Milton’s time in Spain, including his encounter with the future author of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Milton collection sheds light on Orwell’s political development in the crucible of Spain and underlines the role played by American volunteers in Spain who were not members of pro-Moscow Communist Parties and who chose to serve in formations other than the largely Comintern-recruited International Brigades, which received much more attention.

Group photo of the POUM militia, with George Orwell. Orwell’s wife, on a visit to the front at the time, is in the picture. Harry Milton is just behind the barrel of the machine gun, holding a rifle in his hands.

Orwell’s vivid description of being wounded on the front lines near Huesca occurs near the end of his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia. Many years later, Harry Milton, describing the incident to a reporter in California, attributed Orwell’s misfortune both to his height and to his somewhat reckless habit of looking over the top of their unit’s fortified position: "I heard the crisp sound of a high velocity shot and Orwell [toppled] over. He landed on his back." Milton recounts giving first aid, as Orwell waited to be taken to the hospital. In another article about the shooting, Milton claims only a modest role for himself: "I simply stopped the bleeding." Milton does, however, claim some credit for influencing Orwell’s political consciousness as it developed during his time in Spain.

Spanish Civil War posters in the collection of the Hoover Institution Archives. The top two are from the anarchist movement, the CNT/FAI. The Catalan slogan at top reads "They shall not pass" ("they" being Franco’s forces). The date in the middle poster commemorates the day on which the Civil War and the ensuing social revolution began. The bottom poster is from the defense of Madrid the legend reads: "The Bear of Madrid Will Destroy Fascism." Nazi Germany and fascist Italy sent military forces to aid Franco in the Civil War.

Orwell’s Spanish experience shaped his subsequent worldview in many ways. A committed democratic socialist, Orwell had come to Spain to fight against Franco’s fascist forces. On his arrival in Catalonia he found himself in the midst of a social revolution with which he felt an immediate sympathy. In the opening pages of his memoir of Spain, he describes his impression of Barcelona: "It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. . . . There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."

The revolution Orwell encountered in Barcelona was unique in European history. It had been initiated, in response to the fascist putsch, by the large Spanish anarchist movement (the CNT/FAI), with the support of an independent and anti-Stalinist Marxist party, the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista), in whose militia both Orwell and Milton had enlisted. It was a revolution organized from the bottom up, with worker and peasant collectives taking direct control of the Catalonian economy. It was also a process independent of the Spanish Communist Party, occurring without direction or support from Moscow. A revolution in marked contrast to the Soviet model, it incurred the deep enmity of Stalin, who moreover at that time was pursuing foreign policy aims that had no place for such an event.

In Spain, therefore, Orwell and Milton found themselves in the heat of both battle and a sharp political struggle on the left. Behind the Republican lines, a kind of civil war within the Civil War was taking place, one which pitted anarchist and Marxist revolutionaries against Stalinist elements—including agents of the Comintern and Soviet security forces—who sought to stifle precisely those forces of the Spanish left that were not controlled by Moscow. Stalin was determined to curb the power of the anarchists and to destroy the POUM, which was branded as "Trotskyist." In this, he had an ally in the Spanish republican government, whose own powers had been challenged by the revolutionary movement unleashed in July 1936.

In an armed confrontation in Barcelona during May 1937, the pro-Moscow forces emerged strengthened, forcing those who supported the social revolution to abandon their barricades. Anarchist and POUM militants were arrested and, in some cases, assassinated. It was this repression that Orwell describes at the end of Homage to Catalonia, and that solidified the anti-Stalinist views informing later works such as Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Harry Milton had been active for a number of years in the American Trotskyist movement by the time he came to Spain. His political experience was therefore considerably greater than Orwell’s, and Milton later claimed that he had helped Orwell to better understand the nature of Stalinism. The Milton collection in the Hoover Institution Archives contains letters Milton exchanged with Trotsky and with prominent American Trotskyists, including Martin Abern. These provide glimpses into the dramatic scenes unfolding in Barcelona in the wake of the May events, with Milton describing the Soviet-organized repression of anarchists and the POUM, including their non-Spanish adherents. He writes to Abern on May 19, 1937: "Every foreigner not a Stalinist is suspect and scores and scores have been arrested."

Milton, who had to elude the dragnet of the GPU (Soviet intelligence) when he left Spain, went on to serve with the American army in World War II and stayed active in the Trotskyist movement for a time. Long after his militant period, Harry Milton remained keenly interested in Orwell and the events of the Spanish Civil War. He corresponded with Orwell’s biographer, Peter Stansky this correspondence, along with other material relating to the Orwell biography, can be found in the Stansky collection in the Hoover Archives.

A photo showing international volunteers, probably taken at the POUM barracks in Barcelona where Orwell trained in December 1936, before being sent to the front lines.

Some 65 years after its outbreak, the Spanish Civil War continues to interest historians, and a collection of documents from the Soviet archives has recently been published in English (Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, edited by Ronald Radosh et al.). Such documents buttress the arguments made years ago by the historian Burnett Bolloten in his book The Spanish Revolution. A large Bolloten collection on the Spanish Civil War, with extensive materials relating to the events described in Orwell’s memoir, is also housed at the Hoover Archives.

Special to the Hoover Digest. Photographs and documents courtesy of the Hoover Institution Archives.


A Letter to Martin Abern

First Published: Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, New York 1942.
Checked against: Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, London 1966, pp.188-189.

I received the communication about your alleged expression “This means split” from Comrade Cannon. He wrote on December 28th, 1939:

Your document has already been widely distributed in the party. So far I have heard only two definite comments from leaders of the minority. Abern, after he had read the title and the first few paragraphs, remarked to Goldman, “This means a split.”

I know Cannon as a trustworthy comrade and I didn’t have the slightest reason to doubt the veracity of his communication.

You say this report “is a lie.” I know by a long experience that during the sharp fight, misunderstandings of such a kind are very often without bad will from one side or the other.

You ask me whether I made any effort to check the veracity of this report. None at all. If I had spread it in private correspondence as a fact known to me, it would not have been loyal. But I published it with a remark “it has been reported” and so gave you the full possibility to confirm or deny the report. I believe this to be the best checking possible in a party discussion.

You say in the beginning of your letter: “I have disregarded in the past a number of false statements, but I note among other things, in your open letter …” etc. What signifies here the phrase, “a number of false statements”? From whom? What signifies the expression, “among other things”? What kind of things? Don’t you believe that your expressions can be understood by inexperienced comrades as vague insinuations? If, in my article, there are “a number of false statements” and “other things,” it would be better to enumerate them exactly. If the false statements are not from me, I don’t understand why you introduce them in your letter to me. I can also hardly understand how one can “disregard” a number of false statements if they have any political importance: it could be interpreted as a lack of attention toward the party.

In any case I note with satisfaction that you categorically deny the sentence “this means split.” I interpret the energetic tone of your letter in this sense, that your denial is not a formal one, that is, that you deny not only the quotation, but that you consider as I do, the idea of split itself as a despicable betrayal of the Fourth International.


John Dwyer Papers

Section 1: Work in the 1930s A. In the CIO B. The Socialist Party, the Spanish Civil War C. Debates on the Spanish Revolution Leading to the Expulsion of Trotskyists/Left Wing from the Socialist Party D. "The Spanish Revolution" E. From the Socialist Party to the Founding of the Socialist Workers Party -- Journalism and Activity The Moscow Trials

Section 2: Work in the 1940s A. "Stalinist Russia, A Capitalist State" -- Writings on Russia and Related Questions B. Creation of a State - Capitalist Tendency in the Socialist Workers Party C. International Correspondence on State - Capitalism D. Activity and Disputes in the Socialist Workers Party E. Journalism in the Post - War Period

Section 3: Trotskyism in the 1940s: World War II and the Post-War Period A. The Socialist Workers Party During World War II B. The Socialist Workers Party in the Post-War Period C. Post-War Trotskyism: The International Scene D. The Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Party -- Debates on Reunification and Other Questions E. Documents of the Workers Party

Section 4: Marxist-Humanism: Philosophy, Organization, Journalism A. Founding of News and Letters Committees B. Journalism of Peter Mallory (John Dwyer) in "News & Letters"

Part 2: Martin Abern Papers Section 1: Bolshevism in America: Early Documents of the Communist Party of the U.S.

Section 2: Early Documents of the U.S. Socialist Party

Section 3: Other Documents of the 1920s

Section 4: Development of Trotskyism, 1928-1940: In the U.S. and Internationally A. Expulsion of Trotskyists from the Communist Party Organization of the Communist Left Opposition B. Trotsky in Exile, 1930-33 C. Communist League of America D. The International Left Opposition E. Workers Party of the U.S. Debates on Entry into the Socialist Party F. From the Spanish Revolution to the Eve of World War II: Debates Leading to the Expulsion of Trotskyists/Left Wing from the Socialist Party G. Other Documents of the 1930s

Section 5: Founding of the Fourth International: Crisis in Trotskyism Over Defense of Russia


Keeping our socialist history alive

THANK YOU for the clear, wonderful article on Albert Goldman ("Defender of the movement").

I joined the Young Socialist Alliance at its founding convention in April 1960. Socialism on Trial was one of the first books I read soon after I joined. Larry Trainor, an "old timer" (at 55 years) taught that class.

He was the one who made sure we young students and workers were able to meet informally with Farrell Dobbs, Vincent Dunne, James P. Cannon-some of Goldman's "clients" and comrades in the first Smith Act Trial. All were leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and the great Minneapolis truck drivers' strikes Dunne and Cannon being members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, before being expelled from the CP as Trotskyists.

It was interesting to me that Goldman went along the same basic route, but joined the Communist Party after his membership in the IWW. The early Communist Party had a very good idea when they encouraged some members to become lawyers. Imagine having Trotsky as a "client." What a tremendous heritage!

I'm glad that you mentioned the origins of the International Labor Defense (ILD), which came out of discussions of Jim Cannon with Big Bill Haywood. Goldman worked with the ILD and its leaders, Cannon, Martin Abern and Max Shachtman, and was won over to their views by his own visits to the then-Stalinized Soviet Union.

We should emulate the comradeship of the ILD by defending those under attack now by the FBI and the use of a federal grand jury. A good companion to the article is Letters from Prison by Cannon. Thank you for this timely article!
Roger Sheppard, Waltham, Mass.


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