By Ben Sears
This note is inspired by Norman's of July 24: "Political Affairs in the Worst of Times." I very much appreciated his effort to do what is not easy for us, even today. The fact is that the '50s were not good times for the Left in the US and, of course, for the CPUSA especially. It was a time when a lot of folks who considered themselves of the Left appear to have felt that they could have a movement without a Communist Party. This proved to be, as is now obvious, an attempt to find an "easy way out" or "wishful thinking" maybe, but an idea that would not stand the test of time or class struggle. So looking back at what was being said by those with the persistence and courage to stay with the Party as they contemplated and debated the way forward is a most valuable historical endeavor. Not without some pain, perhaps. But that is why the Party is able to make the special contribution that it does.
All this does not mean that the '50s were entirely barren. Developments, such as the Civil Rights Movement, for which the ground had been prepared by the Party's earlier work, show that progress does not stop dead in its tracks, even in the hardest times. And maybe some readers have seen the film about the life of Paul Robeson which includes a short clip of Robeson--standing on the steps of the Supreme Court I believe--pointing out that the Court (and Chief Justice Warren specifically) acknowledged the importance of international opinion [which was particularly influential at that point with the existence of a bloc of socialists countries] in driving the momentum toward the Brown decision.
On the Hungarian "uprising" of 1956, I don't see how it can reasonably be called a "social democratic" revolution, given the international situation. The most destructive war in history, which saw fascism spread over virtually the entire continent of Europe before being defeated, had only been over for a decade, and the hopes of so many for a secure peace were being undermined by US imperial policies and Dulles "brinkmanship". I remember seeing an on-line article by Eric Hobsbawm about Hungary that made some of the points--not all--that Norman did. I think it was in the fall of 2006, which would have been the 50th anniversary of the events in Hungary.