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Max Eastman et al.

Hypocrisy for Art’s Sake in the New Masses

Correspondence between Max Eastman, Walt Carmon, Mike Gold

(July 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 27, 26 July 1930, pp. 4 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following letters are virtually self-explanatory. They arose out of a letter sent to Michael Gold, editor of the New Masses, by Comrade Max Eastman. In this letter comrade Eastman enclosed the article by Trotsky (printed in this issue of the Militant) and demanded the publication of the latter in the New Masses, in view of the slanderous attacks made by Gold and Earl Browder against the Opposition in general, and Trotsky and Rakovsky in particular, in a previous issue of that periodical. The first reply to Eastman’s letter was in the affirmative from Walt Carmon, managing editor of the New Masses, followed by a cowardly negative reply from the editor, Gold, which is answered by comrade Eastman. The three letters are printed below. – Ed.


112 East 19 St., New York, N.Y.

July 7, 1930

Max Eastman,
Chilmark, Mass.

Dear Max Eastman:

This will acknowledge receipt of your note and article by Leon Trotsky. We are certain to use this in the coming issue. Mike Gold is not in town. Back in a few days. You will probably hear from him as well on his return.



* * *

312 E. 19 St., New York, N.Y.

July 16, 1930

Dear Max:

I’m sorry, but I really don’t think we should print this in New Masses. We reviewed Trotsky’s book, because it was “literature”, but all of us here agree that the mag. shouldn’t become an organ of political discussion and if we give up a lot of space to this Trotsky fight from now on – we immediately lose our function as a literary vehicle –



* * *

July 18, 1930

Dear Mike Gold:

Your pretense that you will not publish Trotsky’s rejoinder to your cheap attack on him because your magazine is too “literary” is an insult to my intelligence. The article to which Trotsky makes this rejoinder was written by an active head of the Workers Party and was a political attack from the first word to the last.

Moreover it was a[n abject] abandonment of the policy of your paper, which had been to pussy-foot on this whole issue of the Left Opposition. You refused to let me write about it as a member of your Executive Board, even with an answer by a Stalinist in the same number. When I resigned, the pussy-foot policy was carried to the point of not printing my letter of resignation. When I stated this fact in a communication to The Nation, suggesting that this was not a shining example of “brave thinking’’, you replied justifying yourself on the ground that “We none of us used the magazine to express our opinions”. (I quote this confession of yours from memory.)

Moreover about a year ago when I met you on 7th Ave. and asked how the magazine was getting on, you volunteered the information that, “We’re through with the Party, we’ve learned that much anyway.” (Here too I am quoting from memory but my memory is good.) It struck me strange that you should offer me this piece of inside information, when all previous negotiations with me had been conducted under the pretense that the magazine was independent of the Party – a “free revolutionary magazine” as it advertised itself. Upon reflection I wondered whether this gratuitous declaration of independence might now mean that you are now directly subsidized by the International.

Whether because you are subsidized, or because you depend upon the party for sales, the fact is that in publishing these attacks on Trotsky and Rakovsky you have at last shown your political colors. You are now overtly what you were before under cover, a Stalinist organ. And yet you have the brass to tell me that you won’t publish Trotsky’s rejoinder because you are too “literary”.

And you have the folly to add, “All of us here agree etc.,” although you know that ten days ago I received a letter from your associate Walt Carmon stating – what any courageous and independent editor having viciously attacked one man and slandered another would state – that “We are certain to use this in the coming issue.”

What happened during these ten days?

Do you really expect any grown person to believe that having attacked a political leader with a page and a half of vituperation written by a political opponent, you refuse to publish a brief rejoinder because you are literary? Even people who renounce thinking through a passion for “literature”, do not necessarily renounce honorable and decent editorial conduct.

What is your real reason?

Either you backed down because you are too cowardly to print Trotsky’s classification of you, or else you consulted your masters, the bureaucrats of the Workers Party, and they forbade you to print the letter.

Either position marks off your paper completely from The Masses, from which it borrowed its name. And yet I notice you have chosen just this moment to get out a new line of publicity giving what you call “the autobiography of the New Masses”, in which you falsely pretend that it is a mere continuation of the Masses and The Liberator. Have you forgotten that your publicity when you started the magazine was to the opposite effect? What is the reason for this change? Is this one more trick suggested by your bureaucratic masters for grabbing prestige at the expense both of sincere ideals and real facts? Did it not once occur to you while you were composing that sweet history, and using my name in advertising your magazine, that it might be honest to mention among those other charming incidents the fact that I resigned from the Executive Board of New Masses stating that I despised its sly pussyfooting policies and total lack of intellectual and moral courage?


Yours sincerely,

P.S. I offer this letter also for publication.

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