When Trotskyism was hip

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Nov 22 07:14:39 MST 1995


"It's the spring of 1949 and I'm thirteen and a half. With my best
friend Maria, I am sitting in the very front seat of the top deck of a
double-decker bus as it makes its way down lower Fifth Avenue
toward Greenwich Village, which I've been assured is the very last
stop--thus impossible to miss. Suddenly we see it, the famous arch
that's supposed to be the entrance to Washington Square and to lots of
other things--perhaps a life of romance and adventure--that I've heard
about from four older, very knowledgeable Trotskyite girls whom I've
met in the basement of Hunter College High School. Juniors who
disdain the bourgeois cafeteria upstairs, they lunch secretly on yogurt
deep in the locker room. They carry bags of knitting under which there
are copies of the Militant, which they hawk around Fourteenth Street
nearly every day after school. They have Trotskyite boyfriends whom
they make sweaters and argyle socks for and endlessly discuss. They
never quite explain to me what Trotskyite is, but it seems that if you
are one, you're headed for trouble not only with the fascists but with
detestable teen-age Stalinists who've been known to harass sellers of
the Militant and even beat them up. I admire the daring of these girls
tremendously, their whole style, in fact--dark clothes and long
earrings, the cigarettes they smoke illicitly, the many cups of coffee
they say they require to keep them going. Friendly as they are,
however, they never invite me on their rounds. With Olympian
disinterest, they delineate a territory that it's up to me to explore for

(From Joyce Johnson's memoir "Minor Characters", about her
marriage to Jack Kerouac and life within the Beat Generation)

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