CUNY'S COMMIES [unhappy comments in / by NY Post] -- with my comments

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Wed Nov 27 04:31:29 MST 2002

Note by Hunterbear:

Vito Marcantonio, life-long radical and long-time New York Congressman, was
a damn good man indeed -- and he made, under very grim and difficult
circumstances, a consistently positive difference. Whether one agrees or not
with his always congenial relationship with the CPUSA, no reasonably
objective, sensitive person could ever fault "Marc's" vigorous and enduring
commitment to the whole range of social justice issues:  labor, civil rights
and civil liberties, peace-with-justice and much, much more.  Given that --
his trail a far tougher one than Wellstone's ever was and his positions far
more explicitly radical -- it's not at all surprising that the forthcoming
CUNY celebration of Vito Marcantonio is pulling the usual coven of
Red-baiters, living and dead, out of their holes.  The NY Post -- extremely
unhappy with the doings at CUNY -- brings many of those creatures and their
fretting and fuming into this poisonous  and garbled article whose only
redeeming feature, other than its trip into the lands of antediluvian
zoology, is to underscore the comment made by Wobbly poet and editor, Ralph
Chaplin, when he was sentenced to 20 years in Leavenworth under the infamous
"Espionage Act" of World War I:  "I am proud to have climbed high enough for
the lightning to strike out at me."

For my part, I suggest that anyone interested in Marcantonio's life and
times -- replete with lessons for here and today -- hunt up and read Gerald
Meyer's Vito Marcantonio  Radical Politician  1902-1954  [Albany:  State
University of New York Press / Suny Series in American Labor History, 1989.]
I have it, right here, and it's a very fair and solid treatment of an
honorable and courageous human being.

New York Post ^ | 11/27/02 | ERIC FETTMANN

November 27, 2002 --

  FEW New Yorkers today will recognize the name of Vito Marcantonio - which
no doubt explains why the City University is actually paying tribute next
month to a man of whom U.S. Communist Party leader Earl Browder once
boasted, "He was our spokesman in Congress."

  At the Museum of the City of New York on Dec. 8, CUNY's John Calandra
Italian-American Institute is hosting a celebration of the centennial of a
man who, the Institute says, "fought an increasingly lonely battle against
the government's Cold War policies at home and abroad."

  John Calandra - a staunchly conservative state legislator and Bronx GOP
chairman - is probably spinning in his grave at the thought of Marcantonio
being honored in his name.

  Nowhere in the institute's publicity release does the word "communist"
appear. Apparently, even after the demise of the Soviet Union, it's still a
greater sin in academic circles to call someone a communist than to actually
have been one.

  Actually, Marcantonio always denied being a member of the Communist Party.
But during the 14 years he represented a heavily Italian and Puerto Rican
East Harlem House district during the '30s and '40s (as the heir and protégé
of Fiorello LaGuardia), he did his best to blur the distinction until it was

  Throughout his career, Marcantonio worked to secure a place in mainstream
political debate for the Communist Party. It was, he maintained, "an
American party operating in what it considered to be the best interests of
the American working class and people."

  Widely acknowledged as the most successful radical pol of the pre-60s era,
Marcantonio was more than that. In the words of historian Harvey Klehr, no
congressman "so consistently defended and articulated Communist positions"
indeed, "The Communists had no better friend in Congress."

  Marcantonios positions on nearly every issue were indistinguishable from
the CP's. He may never have joined the party, refusing to bow to party
discipline, as his defenders argue. But his own discipline was just as
doctrinaire and just as uncritical of anything emanating from Stalin's

  Most shamefully, in 1940 he co-founded (with such hard-line party allies
as Paul Robeson and John Abt) the misnamed American Peace Mobilization - a
CP-controlled antiwar group formed after the Hitler-Stalin pact put an
abrupt end to the Left's anti-fascist struggle.

  Once Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, of course, Marcantonio and the CP
immediately switched back, become the most fervent supporters of the battle
against Germany and demanding "victory over Fascism."

  In their history of the U.S. Communist Party, Irving Howe and Lewis Coser
recall Marcantonios speech to the convention of the Communist-controlled
Progressive Party, which launched Henry Wallaces 1948 presidential campaign.

  "As he rose to speak," they wrote, " he began with a lusty 'Com-' [meaning
to hail his listeners with the CP salutation "comrades"] - and then, in
embarrassment, shifted to "Fellow delegates."

  Honoring someone with Marcantonio's record as an Italian-American hero is
problematic enough. Deliberately soft-pedaling his record is rank academic

  The Dec. 8 event would do better to hear the editorial that appeared in
this paper after Marcantonio's death in 1954. Written by Jimmy Wechsler, one
of liberal anti-communisms most eloquent voices, it saw Marcantonio as he
really was.

  Marcantonio, he wrote, "was a prisoner of the Communist bloc for most of
his political life" and a "melancholy victim of the Communist machine he
served so long. For it inexorably destroyed his political character."

  Though hailed for his opposition to special interests, wrote Wechsler,
Marcantonio's "independence vanished when he was confronted with sudden
shifts and outrageous immoralities in Soviet policy. . . . He often spoke
out passionately for civil liberties in the U.S., but he never protested
Communist oppression anywhere in the world."

  Rather than celebrate Marcantonio, CUNY's Calandra Institute should ponder
what Wechsler saw as his sorry legacy: Not that of a hero, but "another
dramatic example of the proposition that there can be no honorable alliance
between American progressivism and Communist totalitarianism; and that men
who seek to preserve such a tie must ultimately become broken captives,
losing their own identities as they compromise the principles of justice and
freedom which originally inspired them."

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