Irving Howe 1920-1993

Irving Howe 1920-1993

Our friend and comrade Irving Howe is dead.

The world knew him as the leading intellectual of the American left, a voice (often, a voice in the wilderness) for democratic and socialist values.

We knew him differently. He was our voice (it’s our wilderness). And he did not only speak for us but also to us and with us. I know that voice; it’s in my bones. What I want to talk about here is its tone and timbre and its message. I don’t mean its ideological message, Irving’s doctrine, for despite his Marxist training, he was never doctrinaire, never an ideologue. “Socialism,” he and Lew Coser wrote in one of the early issues of Dissent, “is the name of our desire.” He was driven by a passion, not an ideology. He was politically committed like a man in love: attuned to the needs of the hour, to the actual experience of political life.