Mike Bartell/Milt Zaslow
altman_d at SPAMhotmail.com
Sun Dec 26 14:13:19 MST 1999
In an earlier posting I mentioned that Milt Zaslow, who under the party name
"Mike Bartell," was a major leader of the "Cochranites" in the fifties, had
applied to rejoin the SWP in 1972. This discussion has brought back some
memories of that time.
I first became acquainted with Zaslow/Bartell in 1972 when I first
transferred to Los Angeles from an outlying YSA local. He had moved out to
LA some time in the 50s or 60s and had remained politically active since the
1953 split. In the late '60s he founded a group called "Friends of the
Panthers" which was a "white support group" for the Black Panther Party. In
this regard they contributed quite a bit to the legal and financial support
to the BPP, who as many list members know, was the target of a sustained
disruption effort by the FBI & other state agencies.
When the Panthers faded away, the "Friends" transformed themselves into the
"Liberation Union," which was quite a force on the LA left, involved in all
kinds of activities. They had a socialist, and rather non-sectarian
character. A number of members of LU were involved in the movie &
television industry in Hollywood, as was Zaslow, I believe.
By the time I got to LA, Zaslow & LU were working quite closely with the LA
branch in building the National Peace Action Coalition, the "mass action"
wing of the anti-war movement. NPAC was engaged in a battle with the LA
affiliate of the Stalinist-led People's Coalition for Peace and Justice,
basically to keep the movement oriented toward "the masses" and away from
politically supporting the Democratic Party. Zaslow & the LU were good
allies in this fight, and we were all on friendly terms. At this point, LU
formally dissolved, and about half of the members joined the LA branch as
individuals. The sticking point for the rest was the SWP's hesitance to
The former LU comrades were really a great bunch, who went all out to build
the party, heading up sales of "The Militant," forums, fund-raising, etc.
I must, say, too, that as an 18-year-old party member, I found them a lot
more likeable and interesting than some of the younger party "hotshots" (of
course, the LA branch had a number of older comrades, too, who had a wealth
of interesting stories to tell and contributed a lot to my political
These amicable relations ended, however, when the branch, with the support
of the Political Committee in NY, definitively refused to let Zaslow back
into the party. This had everything to do with the differing evaluations of
the 1953 split (it's no coincidence that "Speeches to the Party" was
published in 1972, which also had a lot to do with the impending faction
fight in the Fourth International). At this point the former LU comrades in
the party went into "opposition" and those outside the party reconstituted
themselves as the "Socialist Union [!]" The SU was basically an
inside/outside faction of the SWP, with Zaslow leading the whole operation.
The "insiders" aligned theselves with the Internationalist Tendency, which
supported "The Europeans" in the ongoing factional battle in the FI.
Looking back on all this, it's obvious that the SWP leadership in New York
never had any intention of letting Zaslow back in, as he wasn't about to
admit that he was wrong in 1953. My feeling then and now was that this
shouldn't be a permanent barrier to membership. The problem, though, was
that Zaslow had a full-fledged CULT operation going. The LU/SU members all
followed Milt's lead slavishly. There was no way, then, that they could
ever be truly integrated into the party. Of course, they were all tossed
out with the rest of the IT in July of 1974.
In the following years, Zaslow & the "new" Socialist Union continued with
their activities & recruited several good activists in the local Chicano and
Black movements. In 1978 the SU was involved in the short-lived "Committee
for a Revolutionary Socialist Party" with Clara Frasier and Murray & Myra
Tanner Weiss. With Clara's & Milt's huge egos involved, there's no way that
I don't know what ever happened to Milt's followers. I take it Milt and his
wife Edith died several years ago. Their son, Mike Zaslow, who was never
politically active, became a quite-honored soap opera star before dying of
Lou Gehrig's disease a year or two ago.
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