Remembering Irving Howe

Remembering Irving Howe

What shall I, can I, say about a close friendship and collaboration that lasted well over fifty years, even if my fellow editors allow me some extra space? (I hear Irving’s voice in my ears, an injunction he ordered on just about everything we published: cut it!) This is not supposed to be about me but some—much—of myself has to enter—like a stab in the gut.

When did I first meet Irving? Probably in the famous City College alcove when, several years older, I went there to speak for a small Trotskyist, YPSL (Young Peoples Socialist League) club. Doubtless it was when the Trotskyists (having entered the Socialist party as part of what was called “The French Turn” —a subject I leave to historians) left the SP, along with the leadership of the YPSL. That would be about 1937, but the friendship did not take shape until the split in the Socialist Workers party where the “minority” of 40 percent—the so called Shachtmanites —left to form the Workers party, later the Independent Socialist League. (Shachtman himself never claimed “ownership.” At first, we—some of us anyway—might as well have been called Carterites, after Joe Carter—which is my backhanded way, of which I’m sure Irving would have approved, of introducing a much delayed “eulogy” for a dear friend and mentor about whom I never wrote a word because I didn’t know he had died until years after the event. We had lost touch.)

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Lima