zarichny at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 10 23:55:15 MDT 2003
In a separate posting, I will write about the
conclusions about the Civil War reached by a study
group in 1958-59. Since a number of people have
mentioned that they would like to know a little of the
background of the writers, here goes.
I have been politically active for 67 years, so
it is impossible now to discuss all of the political
developments I have been involved with. For example,
in 1947 or 1948 I was the first and only witness
before the Michigan State Senate Committee on
un-American Activities. This resulted in a defeat for
the Committee and its chairperson,State Sen. Mathew
Callahan, failed re-election in the Republican
primary. Earlier, I had been placed on disciplinary
probation by Michigan State University for passing out
leaflets for an organization called American Youth for
Democracy. As a returned war veteran, I didnt know I
needed permission to pass out leaflets on campus.
In1948 (or 49) I was expelled from Michigan State
University. The local newspaper ran a story saying
that I attended a meeting off campus at which Carl
Winter spoke. The University deemed this a violation
of my probation. Carl Winter was the secretary of the
Michigan CP and under a Smith Act indictment at the
time. The Civil Rights Congress, with the very active
participation of Coleman Young (who later became mayor
of Detroit) organized a defense committee for me.
Among the people who lent their names to my defense
committee were Paul Robeson, WEB Dubois, and
Congressman Vito Marcantonio. The Civil Rights
Congress organized a national speaking tour for me.
When the case was appealed to the US Supreme Court,
they refused to hear it.
About that time, the people around William Z
Foster were organizing a drive to get their supporters
into industry. Just a few years earlier, under the
influence of Earl Browder, his organization had
attracted a huge number of students and middle class
people. I have heard an estimate, which I believe is
accurate, that about 10,000 people went into industry.
I went to work in the Chevrolet plant in my hometown,
Flint, Michigan. (In junior high school, I had been
president of the Junior Union, and in senior high
school, I had been secretary treasurer of the CIO
By 1950, the UAW was quite depoliticized. Out
of 10,000 members, only 2000 voted in Chevrolet union
elections. After the Korean War broke out, most of
the UAW politicians were afraid to work with us. So
we had to run our own slate with just ourselves and
our close friends. But we got 500 votes on a CP slate
(twenty five percent of the votes cast). We felt this
was pretty good in the middle of the hysteria around
the Rosenbergs and the Korean War.
A few years later, the Army-McCarthy hearings
were taking place in Washington. At exactly the same
time, the House un-American Activities Committee came
to Flint. I was subpoenaed, but never called to
testify. However, a number of the witnesses were
asked about me, and this was reported in the local
paper. At that time, the Chevrolet factory had hired
a large number of new workers. All of them were
Korean War veterans, and almost all of them were from
out of town. Somebody made the claim to these guys
that I had supported the North Koreans who had killed
their buddies in Korea. One of them implied to me
that the source was the FBI. I was attacked by the
veterans and badly beaten. Others who were named in
the HUAC hearings were also beaten. (The beatings
were widely reported state wide by all of the major
newspapers. Much to my amazement, the officials of
the Ford Motor Company ran a full page ad in the
Detroit Free Press deploring violence.) Chevrolet
told me that if I did not return to work, I would be
fired, but they offered no protection on the streets
outside their plant. I returned to work. After
several days, I learned that a new attack was coming.
I left the plant early, but Chevrolet fired me for
leaving without permission. The local union filed a
grievance on my behalf. Because Chevrolet refused to
settle, it went to a higher level where it was dropped
by the Reuther officialdom.
In 1956, the Khrushchev report to the 20th
Congress of the CPSU confirmed my worst fears. I knew
that a fresh start was needed. My friends in Flint
were too demoralized to do anything. New York seemed
to be the place where I could find people for the
project. In New York, I found a job and became a part
time student in the Columbia University School of
In 1958, about 20 young people centered around
Steve Max and Jim Brook left YSA to join an almost
dying study group that I was involved with. For more
than a year we met in my apartment every Wednesday
evening for a detailed re-evaluation of American
history and the role of the American left. We took
turns on giving a report and leading a discussion on
the topic of the day. In a separate article, I will
cover what I remember of our discussion of the
American Civil War. Gradually, people dropped out.
When we were down to nine members, another dropped
out. He said we were getting nowhere and he was going
to join the CP led youth group, which at that time was
called Advance. A few years later, he surfaced as a
paid informant for the FBI. He had been with us for a
year. I am still surprised that the FBI would plant a
paid informant in a small study group with only ten
members and with absolutely no connection to any
tendency. The only explanation I can give is that
they had a lot of money.
When Bayard Rustin organized the march for
unsegregated schools, most of our group went to
Washington to participate. There they met a number of
young New Yorkers who were looking for an
organization. Steve invited them to join our group.
Rachelle Horowitz from YPSL (the same Rachelle
Horowitz who later married Thomas Donahue, the
national secretary-treasurer of the A.F.ofL-C.I.O.
from 1979 to 1995.) also met the same individuals.
The new people could not decide which group they
wanted to join and proposed a debate.
About nine people came to my apartment to hear
Horowitz vs. Steve Max and Zarichny. We won
decisively. Overnight, we had an organization of 75
or 80 members. Suddenly we were being asked to do all
sorts of things. We were asked to organize picket
lines at 3 Woolworth stores in Manhattans Upper West
Side. When Martin Luther King came to speak at the
armory in New York, we were asked to furnish half of
the ushers. (it was the moment in history when the
Black church youth groups had collapsed and the Black
preachers could not furnish enough people.)
We were organized as the FDR-Four Freedoms Club.
Around that time, Al Haber and Tom Hayden were
transforming the Student League for Industrial
Democracy into the Students for a Democratic Society
(SDS). They approached us and asked that we merge
with them. We agreed. SDS had 120 members and our 80
brought the national membership to 200. But a problem
developed. JoAnne Landy and her then husband, Sy
Landy said we were Stalinoid, whatever that means, and
their group of 15 withdrew bringing SDS national
membership down to 185. Very soon, Steve Max became
the national traveler for SDS. He had the magical
organizational touch. Everywhere he went, SDS
chapters sprung up.
I was officially invited as a resource person to
the Pine Hill SDS convention in 1964. I attended the
SDS National Council meeting at the McBurney YMCA
after Christmas in 1964. It was there that Jim Brook
presented the resolution that SDS organize a march in
Washington against the war in Viet Nam. There was a
lot of opposition to the proposal. The debate was so
heated and so long that none of the other points on
the agenda were reached. The primary support for the
resolution came from people who had been in the Four
Freedoms Club. Jim, himself, had been a key figure in
our study group from the very beginning.
.30,000 people came to Washington when SDS had
only 3000 or 4000 members. It made national
television and SDS really took off.
(Incidentally, I am a character in the cartoon
strip, Ernie. Sometimes the strip is called the
Buddy Grace who draws the strip took the photo of
myself that I sent to Les.)
P.S. I later learned that Tom Hayden, who had
heard of me in Michigan long before he ever met me,
told his friends that he was disappointed in me. He
told them that he had expected a much more dynamic
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