[Marxism] Hunter Bear on Jake Rosen

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 22 08:04:21 MDT 2011

(Jake was Milt Rosen's younger brother. Back in 1967, when I was 
shopping around for a left group to join, I went to a talk given by Jake 
in his living room in Washington Heights. I was impressed with all the 
talk about the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and so on but decided 
to join the SWP because it was the backbone of the antiwar movement, 
something that had paramount importance for me.)

Checking out my "favorites" list early this morning, I noted on Marxmail 
the passing of Milt Rosen, long identified with the Progressive Labor 
tendency -- a Maoist split from the American CP. 

As I indicated in a post awhile back responding to some good points by 
Sam,  I never had a problem working with most CPs and principled ex-CPs 
in common cause.  I kept the "Russian Question" on a far back burner and 
didn't fret much one way or the other about that.  The CP people I knew 
were mostly very hardworking and effective union staffers who drew very 
modest salaries -- or thoughtfully creative writers and other 
artist-types.  I didn't know many people of Trotskyist background but 
had no problem with them [e.g., I was on the letterhead of the Committee 
to Aid the Monroe Defendants, headed by the good Berta Green of SWP.]

For a number of reasons, it would be impossible for me to get too close 
to Maoism.

I never knew  Milt Rosen -- but I did have a little contact with Jake 
Rosen, his younger brother  -- and also a PL leader.  In late August, 
1963, and the brand new SCEF [Southern Conference Educational Fund] 
field organizer, we arrived in North Carolina to set up a base at 
Raleigh.  We stopped at Chapel Hill to see the Zunes family, which we 
knew from Tougaloo [Stephen was then about eight], and via them met an 
elderly Episcopal priest, Father Parker. [A few months later, he and I 
shared a jail cell together with other arrestees, including JV Henry and 
Buddy Tieger, in the Chapel Hill demonstrations.]

We had no sooner moved into our home in a modest all-Black residential 
area on the edges of Raleigh, when Father Parker arrived with a young 
man -- even younger than I -- named John Salter.  He was an Anglo from 
South Carolina, was PL, had been to Cuba, and was dodging a HUAC [House 
Un-American Activities Committee] subpoena.  Father Parker wondered if 
we'd be willing to hide him out at our house for a few days.  We were 
certainly glad to do so and while the FBI and US Marshals whirled around 
the Raleigh setting, the "other" John Salter was safely within our 
modest home eating Eldri's bountiful fare.  He was a likeable guy [and 
eventually , much later, became a Quaker and an anthropologist, doing 
good work with an Indian tribe.]  When the Federal heat had waned, I 
took him late one night to the railroad station where, under an assumed 
name, he went north to Massachusetts.  HUAC never got him.

A few months later, about a dozen PLers arrived at our door, led by Jake 
Rosen.  They were  trying to build a base in long embattled Monroe 
County, NC -- scene of armed  Black resistance to Klan attacks a few 
years before [Rob Williams, Mae Mallory et al.]  The PLers were all 
Anglos, most very young, and Jake Rosen did virtually all of the 
talking.  It was an implicitly strained meeting, there in our small 
living room.  Rosen struck me as a rather "tight" and humorless fellow 
-- trying to gauge my precise ideological perspective. [No one, 
including myself, has ever been able to do that.]  At one point he said, 
rather desperately, "My parents know Irving Dichter."  This was a 
reference to the very sharp and creative International Secretary 
Treasure of Mine-Mill.  I nodded very approvingly.  They eventually left 
--  almost as small herd, guided by their shepherd.

Jake came to a small SCEF staff meeting in Louisville.  I developed a 
tooth ache and, to his credit, he offered to drive me to a dentist.  But 
our junket in his car was marked by the smallest of small talk.  He was 
one of the few people I've met where no common spark survived.  In 
contrast we were always glad to see George Meyers, the CP labor 
secretary who occasionally came south and stayed for the night at our 
Safe House.  From Baltimore, he was an avid gardener and he and Eldri 
often talked far into the night about that.  He also had a sense of humor.

And, of course, all sorts of activists of various persuasions came by 
and touched base.  But Jake and his group never tried us again.

Fight on,

Hunter Bear

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