Cochran on U.S. Labor

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Jan 21 17:34:00 MST 2001

George wrote:
>I mentioned that my impression of Cochran's book was that it contributed to
>the anticommunism of the cold war. I remember that he  accused Philip Foner
>of being an apologist for the USCP's labor policy in his book.

I think it's important to deal with the Bert Cochran of the American
Socialist, not the Bert Cochran who functioned outside of any left groups
after 1959.

Keeping this in mind, the whole purpose of American Socialist was to move
past the kind of knee-jerk anti-CP attitudes that reigned supreme in the
Trotskyist movement. In fact the Cochran-Braverman group formed around
opposition to James P. Cannon's Stalinophobic intervention into the
Cochran-led auto fraction. At the 1947 UAW convention, the Trotskyists in
auto voted to support a candidate who ran against Walter Reuther's
hand-picked nominee. That nominee was a red-baiter of long-standing and his
nomination by social democrat Walter Reuther was symptomatic of changes in
the labor movement in the early stages of the Cold War.

The other key leader of the Cochran and Braverman group was George Clarke
who worked closely with Mandel and Pablo in Europe. The Europeans tended to
view Cannon's Stalinophobia as harmful to work with the CP'ers who were
viewed as objectively moving to the left under the pressure of events.
While I take no position on whether this was right or wrong, it must be
understood that the "Cochranites" were characterized as "soft on Stalinism".

Isaac Deutscher was a frequent contributor to American Socialist. His views
on Stalin--contained in a biography--were characterized by Cannon as
crypto-Stalinist. In reality Deutscher was simply putting forward the
notion that Stalin most often acted to defend the objective economic basis
for the workers state because this was where his privileges derived. Cannon
wrote a bitter diatribe against Deutscher's articles in the American
Socialist at the time.

Furthermore, the American Socialist reached out to "Stalinists" and WEB
DuBois was an occasional contributor. He had a falling out with the
magazine after they published an article supporting the Hungarian revolt.
It also wrote favorably about the election campaigns of the NY Labor Party,
which was controlled by the CP.

I might take out "Labor and American Communism" this week and scan in some
relevant passages. However, I must insist that when I speak as a
neo-Cochranite here, it is only in the context of the articles found in the
magazine from 1954 to 1959. Cochran's career after 1959 might be
interesting to a biographer but it does not really get to the heart of our

Louis Proyect
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