Archive: Democracy as the Guiding Star

Editor’s Note: Max Shachtman (1904-72) [1] was one of the great platform orators.
Irving Kristol recalled he could ‘argue at a high pitch of moral and intellectual and
rhetorical intensity for two, three, even four hours.’ [2] Irving Howe, in his brilliant
memoir, Margin of Hope, drew a sketch of Shachtman at the podium. ‘[He] gave
startling displays of virtuosity, some of it theatre but some real thought. He excelled
in destroying an opponents use of citations from holy texts by restoring them to
their proper context; he was devilish in his mockery of pretension and false learning.
His shrill voice would rise to flourishes of passion, then suddenly bank to an utterly
Jewish taste for the ridiculous. Even his opponents could not always suppress their
delight in his skills.’ [3]

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