[Marxism] Utopia in the Catskills | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 28 15:33:01 MDT 2013

In assembling still photos to be included in a video I am doing on a 
trip up to my hometown in the Catskills in August, I could find nothing 
on the net that showed Woodridge in its prime. A visit to the Sullivan 
County Historical Museum in Hurleyville turned up the intriguing first 
page of a PM article dated July 20, 1947 with the title “Utopia in the 
Catskills”. I eventually tracked down the full print version at the New 
York Historical Society that I scanned in for the results below. PM was 
a leftist newspaper with heavy Communist Party participation that was 
published out of NYC from 1940 to 1948 and funded by Chicago millionaire 
Marshall Field III, a scion of the Montgomery-Field department stores. 
They don’t make millionaires the way they used to.

In a nutshell, the article was as much of a find for me as the Ark of 
the Covenant was for Indiana Jones. It told me who I was and where I 
came from.

The title of the article refers to the strong left sympathies in the 
village and the importance of co-op’s. My grandfather Louis, who died 
around the time that this article was written, was president of the 
Workman’s Circle that is referred to in the article as follows:

"The dominating political view among the people of the Workman’s Circle 
was socialist. The Circle carried out its idealistic aims along three 
lines of endeavor: 1. Mutual aid in time of need and misfortune. 2. 
Education for membership. 3. Organization of workers’ co-operatives."

There are lots more that I can say about this article but do not want to 
interrupt the flow with my observations. As you read through it, you can 
find my elaborations on both personal and historical matters by clicking 
various links, starting with a longer introduction on Woodridge and the 
left here.

PM July 20, 1947
Utopia in the Catskills
Story and Photos by Croswell Bowen

The station platform at Woodridge, which opens on to the town’s main 
street, is extra large to accommodate summer population of 30,000

Refugees who wanted to be farmers made Woodridge, N.Y., into a 
prosperous farm-resort town with five co-ops

West of the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie and Highland, beyond the 
Shawangunk (pronounced shongum) Mountains toward the Alleghany Plateau 
is the rocky, hilly country of Tom Quick, the Indian killer, and the now 
virtually extinct Irish tanners., The New York, Ontario, and Western 
Railroad threads its way among the foothills and mountains of the 
Catskills and these days its Diesel locomotives sound foghornlike 
warnings when they come to road crossings and towns.

Twice a day passenger trains stop at the town of Woodridge (population 
300 in winter, 30,000 in summer), which looks like most of the other 
combination farm and resort country towns which sprinkle the Catskill 

Actually, Woodridge is unique among the neighboring communities, because 
it possesses five highly successful consumer co-operatives, owned and 
operated by their members. Three of the five comprise one large 
intercounty co-operative association. All five are loosely connected 
with national co-operative groups which furnish over a billion dollars 
in services and goods to more than 2,500,000 member-owners throughout 
the United States each year. In practice, the Woodridge co-ops follow 
along the lines of the Rochdale pioneers. The prices are competitive, 
that is, in the same range as nonco-op establishments. But the co-op 
members realize savings through a system of rebates or dividends paid 
out of what in nonco-op businesses is chalked up as profit and loss to 
the consumer. In the co-ops the profit is returned to members after 
small sums are set aside for reserve. Most of the citizens of Woodridge 
have small chicken farms and take summer boarders. If you were such a 
citizen, would, in Woodridge, have your farm and buildings insured at 
the Associated Co-operative Insurance Companies.

full: http://louisproyect.org/2013/09/28/utopia-in-the-catskills/

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