[Marxism] the ISO and Sam Farber
lshan at bcn.net
Mon Jul 12 18:23:38 MDT 2004
I knew Sam Farber at the University of California (Berkeley) in the
early 1960s. It probably was in 1964 or 1965. He was a member of the
International Socialist Clubs, which at the time had broken away from
Max Shachtman, in part because of his notorious discovery that there
were some old trade unionists among the Bay of Pigs invaders, thus
justifying his support for that invasion. The ISC maintained the old
"Third Camp" position that had previously served them so well.
However Farber was a special case. His hostility to the Cuban
Revolution was intense, even taking into account that the International
Socialist Clubs of those days considered the Cuban Revolution either
not a socialist revolution or Stalinist. If Farber was around, any
discussion with an ISCer immediately turned into an attack on the Cuban
On more than one occasion I attempted to get him to acknowledge the
positive gains of the Cuban Revolution, pointing out that even when
Trotsky criticized the Soviet Union in "The Revolution Betrayed," he
began with pointing out the great strides that the revolution had made
in transforming the country. (An unnecessary adaptation, but by trying
to find a common ground, I hoped to show Farber up.) Farber would have
none of it. There was never any acknowledgement of any beneficial gains
of the Revolution.
At the time, it was difficult to refute him. He was after all a native
Cuban who followed every development, ignoring the gains, but
hysterically raising every conflict as antidemocratic and
antisocialist. There really was no point in arguing with him,
especially because the only people interested in the argument were
themselves ISCers, none of whom, by the way, ever expressed any
differences with Sam.
Here is Louis's early take on Solidarity, Sam Farber, and Joanne Landy.
Here is what I sent to Marxmail last May (2003) regarding Sam Farber
and the statement attacking Cuba organized by Joanne Landy.
I think that the key to the Solidarity people signing onto this attack
on Cuba is the presence of Sam Farber. Knowing some of people on the
list and the importance of the defense of the Cuban Revolution to any
fight for socialism in the United States, I could not can not see how
they can associate with Sam Farber. And despite the recent posts
regarding the differences within Solidarity, I believe that this is a
litmus test for its other members.
FROM HIS BRIEF BIO: Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba. He
obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in
1969 and has been at Brooklyn College since 1978. He is the author of
Revolution and Reaction in Cuba. 1933-196O, A Political Sociology from
Machado to Castro (Wesleyan University Press, 1976), and Before
Stalinism: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy (Polity Press/Basil
Blackwell and Verso, 1990). His latest book is Social Decay and
Transformation. A View From the Left (Lexington Press, 2000).
Farber is an extremely knowledgeable authority on every error that
could every have been made during the course of the Cuban Revolution.
He is a native Cuban and has specialized in attacking the Cuban
Revolution. At Berkeley in the early 1960s, every word he spoke about
the Cuban Revolution was an attack, "including the 'ands' and the
'thes.'" He was so rabid that he made other members of the large U.C.
Berkeley Schactmanite club look pro-Castro. In short, I never once
heard him express one word of solidarity with any of the gains of the
List readers should note one of Farber's books in particular: "Before
Stalinism: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Democracy." Farber places a
great deal of emphasis on the terror of the civil war and he has no
excuses for Bolshevik ruthlessness. Historically, however, we should
consider what the immediate prospects would have been had the
Bolsheviks lost the Civil War. Lenin had the example of the Paris
Commune. We have even better examples in Italy, Hungary, Spain, and
above all Germany. More recently, there are the examples of Chile and
As I recall, one of the first moves of the Russian Revolution was to
outlaw capital punishment. Lenin criticized this. He had no illusions
about what was in store. His honesty made him seem ruthless. Many of us
are like those revolutionists who first outlawed capital punishment.
Capital Punishment is one of the great evils of a class society.
However, under the pressures of U.S. imperialism, in light of what is
happening today in Iraq, how can the Cuban Revolution forego this
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