[Marxism] Jim Zarichny introduces himself to Marxmail on July 11, 2003
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 2 07:17:03 MST 2013
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 didn't know I needed permission
to pass out leaflets on campus.
In 1948 (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 Youth Club)
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 General Studies.
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.of L-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 Manhattan’s 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 Piranha Club. Buddy Grace who draws the strip
took the photo of myself that I sent to Les.) Jim
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 person.
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