Preliminary reactions to "Revolution in the Air"

Peter Frase pefrase at
Mon Aug 5 22:15:46 MDT 2002

>Elbaum says "the movement did not seriously consider trying to position
>itself within an informal popular front where it would both cooperate and
>contend with reformists in the McGovern and Congressional Black Caucus
>camps, sometimes inside and sometimes outside the Democratic Party." Gus
>Hall couldn't have put it better himself.

You'll find that later in the book, Elbaum sort of alludes to this
comparison himself. Line of March, the group he had a leading role in,
moved away from Maoism and toward a more CP-style politics--both in the
sense of supporting the USSR rather than labeling it "social imperialist",
and in the sense of being more reformist and popular-front oriented (they
were heavily involved in Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns). Max's
contention is that one reason LOM and the CPUSA stayed apart had to do with
the historical development of the groups and the generational divide
between them, and not with any insurmountable ideological chasm (although
the groups always did have strong differences on a number of issues, around
the centrality of anti-racist work and the character of Perestroika and
Glasnost, for instance).

Mind you, I'm not saying any of this to discredit Max--in fact I mostly
agree with his politics, and if I'd come from the New Communist Movement
milieu, I probably would have gone the same direction he did. I've learned
much more from the veterans of the NCM than from any of the 57 varieties of
Trotskyism, and Max represents the best of that tradition. Thus I find
Lou's posture of smug contempt both unwarranted and unearned. It's also
worth noting that Max is still quite active on the left--he, along with a
number of other ex-Line of March cadre, recently initiated War Times
(, an excellent national anti-war newspaper. That so many
of the ex-LOMers have managed to resist both the Scylla of cynicism and
withdrawal from activism, and the Charybdis of sectarian dogmatism, speaks
well of their tradition. I had dinner with Max and a number of other ex-LOM
folks at this year's Socialist Scholars Conference, and I must say I was
very impressed by all of them.

I do see Lou's point about the lack of really in-depth examinations of some
of the principal figures involved in the NCM. I suspect that this was a
conscious choice on Max's part, precisely because he wanted to demonstrate
that the New Communist Movement made serious contributions to the left
despite its fatal flaws, and was not, as Lou puts it, something to "poke
merciless fun at". As a rather obsessive sectologist, I certainly would
have liked some more juicy gossip, but I understand why Max didn't include
such details, and I don't begrudge him his choice.

Peter Frase

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