[Marxism] the ISO and Sam Farber

Administrator 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 
Cuban Revolution.

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 
ultimate weapon?

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